Geraldo Rivera changed America


Last year, Chris Vogner, movie critic for the Dallas Morning News, reminded us how the first broadcast of Abraham Zapruder’s film of JFK’s assassination on ABC TV in March 1975 changed American popular culture.

The beautifully illustrated video that accompanies the piece reminds us why the impact of Geraldo Rivera’s journalism is so hard to acknowledge.

The piece mercifully never shows the Zapruder film itself. (It has been seen so often, it need not be shown again.) Less forgiveably, the video presents a version of the Warren Commission’s theory of the crime as the truth with barely any explanation of why the broadcast of Zapruder’s film so powerfully undermined it. The words “Back and to the left” flit across the screen, but that’s about it. To examine the issue in any more detail would detract from the elegance of the presentation.

And here we see the mechanics of cognitive dissonance as they shape media presentations of the JFK story. When the journalist’s professional imperative for factual certainty collides with the imagery that destroyed certainty, the professional imperative prevails over the evidence itself.

72 thoughts on “Geraldo Rivera changed America”

  1. Richard Bittner(from 10-14-13)wonders how a shot from above and behind hits JFK on the right side of his head. I think that’s the key issue here. The shot that struck JFK in the right side of his head came on a straight line, not on an angle from the TSBD. Someone else fired that shot, not Oswald. Oswald may have fired a shot that hit JFK, but not THAT one.

  2. This thread is extremely annoying.

    The video should not start automatically. It should also not force an advertisement onto the listener.

  3. Since this old thread was bumped… The discussion here of back and to the left, watermelons, neuromuscular reaction makes me think of the statement of one of the closer witnesses. I can’t remember who for sure, maybe Holland? “Of all the deer I’ve ever shot none have ever fallen towards me.”

    1. Ronnie, Jim Tague makes mention of that remark in a way(in his book), saying that he asked gun owners if any of their shots resulted in their targets fell back towards them-they all told Tague the targets fell backwards from the brunt of the shots.

  4. Arnaldo M Fernandez

    The Physics involved in the JFK assassination is not from high-school, but from college.
    A piece on terminal ballistics by the Denver Research Institute explains how a bullet breaks up depending on impact obliquity. If it is less than 20°, there is no break-up; from 20° to a maximum at 60°, the bullet breaks up and the fragmentation increases with the angle because of the increasing of bending forces. Over 60°, a rebound turns more likely.
    Thus, the fragments “like grains of sand scattered near the front head wound” remarked by Dr. Humes come from an oblique impact at 20° and 60°, which could not be possible for the shoots fired from the TSBD, since —do your math— the lateral angle is about 10° and the downward one, about 12°, but it could be possible from… the Grassy Knoll!
    The shear force is dominant when you shoot straight, and that’s why Bugliosi and others are pointless. Kennedy’s head was pushed backward more violent than usual because it was struck at around 60° obliquity —taking the Grassy Knoll as reference— and the compressive (pushing) force exceeded the simple sheer force. A nervous reaction is out of the picture, because no human reflex is faster than a bullet passing a human head.

  5. After a couple decades of debate @ published analysis of the Zapruder film the global public has mixed opinions of its authenticity. For those who believe the film was doctored by Government or Time Inc. operatives & mistrust the JFK autopsy & related photographic evidence, the truth of what happened to President Kennedy on Elm Street rests with the scattered eyewitnesses who watched it happen. Because the eyewitnesses have never uniformly agreed on what they saw & heard, a mysterious cloud continues to hover over the sordid event. Future generations will note that a huge effort to find the truth from suspect evidence was employed by those who lived thru the time of the assassination & the years that followed. That was the best they could do at the time.

  6. Jonathan, I respect and appreciate your explanation. For the first time in 20 years, thanks to you I better understand the forensics of the assassination as a layperson. Thank you a thousand fold.

    Isn’t it curious that Jean Davison and Photon reappeared at almost in sync, responding to a thread that encouraged debate about the forensics of the case. It’s as if they hover until they identify their prey. It’s my understanding that Jean Davison is a certifiable disinformation agent. Respectfully Jean, if you would like to challenge this assessment I would be willing to engage.

    I also continue to be perplexed by this site’s choice of topics . . . surely by now you know what the central issue is so why would you encourage a debate that takes the investigation back to square one.

    Having said that, given that forensics is ground zero for anyone who is new to the subject of the assassination, it would make sense for disinformation folks to monitor and comment on those sites when they incite debate about bullets and rifles and trajectories, injuries and braces and back-and-to-the-left dramatics. Is it to attract John McAdams, Jean Davison?

    This tactic serves to confuse new students of the assassination. It obfuscates by sewing seeds of doubt on the most fundamental level of the investigation. It turns 50 years of research into a circus. Why not pursue this debate from a defined point of reference, declare a victory – Kennedy was a victim of a cabal. That was the impetus of the website from the outset, wasn’t it? Why perpetuate the question rather than establish a baseline from which to pursue the perpetrators of the crime and cover up.

    If proponents of a single shooter, and that shooter being Lee Harvey Oswald, succeed in eroding the ground that has been gained by blood, sweat and tears of private citizen investigators as well as credentialed individuals merely on the grounds of highly suspect forensic evidence . . . if they continue to occupy the serious investigation with endless and unresolved questions as to precisely how John Kennedy died rather than why he died, notwithstanding where the final bullet originated, then the next 50 years are going to be quite similar to the last 50 years in our country.

    1. I think it takes away from the vitality of this forum if every time we are confronted with a contrary viewpoint it ends up being taken as a personal affront. The pattern unfortunately repeats itself: offense is taken, then the discussion gets bogged down in a miasma of character assassination (sometimes subtle, sometimes not), suspicion about agendas, etc., all with varying degrees of vitriol. It gets tiresome regardless of which side it comes from. The idea is to foster debate/discussion — not to preach to the choir. Some of us want to hear what the lone gunman folks have to say; we may not agree, but we have to hear all sides to get a better idea of what we’re talking about– to hone our positions. Let’s rise above and address the issues themselves, not the motivations of those putting them forth.

      1. PLV,

        Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion but not to his or her own facts.

        If someone is of the opinion JFK was killed by Harvey Oswald acting alone, fine, as far as I’m concerned. I may think the person is ill informed, but that doesn’t bother me. As the old saying goes, everyone’s got an opinion.

        On the other hand, if one assumes as a fact Oswald did it all by himself and then argues from that position, one invites a challenge and criticism. One is doing what the Warren Commission did: assuming the ultimate conclusion. This blog site is not about replicating the Warren Commission’s logically flawed mode of thinking. If it is, it might as well shut down.

      2. PSA, I know by responding to you that I might set in motion the precise dynamic you are cautioning against. However, I feel that I’m obliged to defend myself.

        It was an objective observation that the ballistics issue, which should have been resolved in the immediate weeks and months following the assassination – 50 years ago – freezes the debate and by doing so, freezes the investigation especially for young students of the assassination and creates a circus like/who dunnit caper in contrast to the critical and quite serious nature of the murder of a president.

        My subjective observation is that there are individuals whose motive is to do just that. If their motive is otherwise, if it is to uncover not only who shot Kennedy but why, then the ballistics evidence they present should not sit in isolation but should be followed immediately with the answer to the logical and legal question of Oswald’s motive. How do they answer this: if Oswald was the lone shooter, what was his motive? I believe they most often answer that he was a lone nut seeking fame and notoriety, to which the logical follow up question is, why then did he deny the murder? I respect the ballistics debate when it leads to and progresses the investigation which should lead to resolution. I question whether or not certain individuals have that as their goal.

    2. Ms. Sharp,

      I should probably ignore your silly charge that I’m a “certifiable disinformation agent,” whatever that is. But I suppose I’d better not leave it hanging, in case someone might think, “well, she didn’t deny it.”

      If you have any *evidence* that anything I’ve said is untrue, please present it. Not something you merely disagree with, or something you suspect, or speculations about my “motives,” but something demonstrably untrue. If you can’t back up your allegation with actual evidence, you should retract it, don’t you think?

      I’m sorry the discussion has gotten personal when it’s supposed to be about the JFK case, not the people posting here.

      1. Jean,
        I don’t believe that this is the first time you have encountered the allegation. That does not excuse my reaction to you, and it was not my intention to attack you personally but rather to challenge your motives.

        Would you be willing to share your theory specifically relating to the motive Oswald might have had to murder Kennedy in contrast to his behavior after the assassination while in the custody of the authorities? Can you also speculate as to how much time you believe Oswald expended in planning the assassination?

        I should be more conciliatory, but that’s difficult considering this statement: “Why would Witt lie about such a thing? He must’ve known he was seen in the Zapruder film, so his position was known. IMO it wasn’t a lie but rather an example of how memories change after 15 years.”

        You’re suggesting that you find it plausible that a man carrying an umbrella on a sunny day in November, deliberately walked a distance from his office in the Rio Grande National Life building far beyond what was necessary if he wanted to see the parade, and found himself within feet of the scene of the spectacular and obscene murder of the President of the United States, with the umbrella open absent rain, and he did not remember being in that precise spot? The uninformed might think that is rational and ask no further questions of you. Witt’s memory changed and with that, there should be no further suspicion of him or his actions. I think his claim and your support of it is illogical, and I think there is a strong possibility that Mr. Witt was under extreme pressure when he finally testified.

        You then fail to identify for the uninformed that Witt actually waited those 15 years (during which time his memory simply changed) before coming forward; you obscure the 15 year gap – or perhaps you’re not concerned that he waited? Further, you acknowledge that “he was seen in the Zapruder film, so his position was known,” but you fail to identify to whom that was known. You further fail to disclose that those who knew his position, meaning the authorities (or reporters in a position to inform the authorities) did not go looking for him. (I have often wondered why Richard Stolley did not dispatch a number of lead reporters the minute he watched that film, haven’t you?)

        “Witt came forward and memories change” is sensational enough to distract from the missing or obscured facts that he waited 15 years and that the authorities did not pursue him in a timely fashion. I consider yours to be a debate technique using a selective presentation of fact. A new student of the assassination most likely would not recognize that and would take your statement at face value. From there the water is muddied. This cannot be defended as simply your prerogative to express your subjective opinion and to weigh in on the debate. This is you misrepresenting the facts, and that in essence is disinformation, certifiable or not.

        1. Ms. Sharp,

          You write, “it was not my intention to attack you personally but rather to challenge your motives.” Amazing. Don’t you realize that challenging my motives is attacking me personally?

          Did you notice that you didn’t produce a single shred of evidence to support your allegation?

          The real “disinformation agent” here is your suspicion, which is lying to you. I make mistakes, but I’d never knowingly mislead anyone
          about this case.

          Whether Witt was a conspirator or not, it makes no sense that he’d lie about where he was standing, because the Z film shows exactly where he was standing. How dumb would he have to be to deny what the photographic evidence showed?

          I don’t have to prove anything to you, Ms. Sharp. You’ve in effect called me a paid liar. Would you like to withdraw that insulting allegation now? If so, maybe we can continue a conversation. Otherwise, forget it.

          1. Jean,
            “. . . it makes no sense that he’d lie . . .” Would you also agree that it is illogical to believe that his memory simply changed?

            How is one to construe this perplexing statement, “Whether Witt was a conspirator or not . . .?” Is your concern whether or not Witt was dumb, or is it whether or not Witt was a conspirator?

            At some point, I hope you choose to elaborate on Oswald’s motive in contrast to his behavior after the fact.

            I never said that I thought you were paid. I continue to wonder what your motives are, particularly if you feel no compulsion to “prove” anything.

  7. Robert Truitt

    At the 40th anniversary Pittsburgh conference Dr. Cyril Wecht, J.D. said the following: SHOW ME NOT 1000 BULLETS, SHOW ME NOT 100 BULLETS, SHOW ME NOT 10 BULLETS, BUT SHOW ME JUST ONE BULLET THAT REACTED LIKE THE MAGIC BULLET AND TURNED INTO A PRISTINE BULLET. He has never reported that anyone has showed him such a bullet.

  8. Robert Truitt

    My God, My God. I would hate to have any of the (LHO did it, alone & unaided) bunch, to be on a jury sorting though the State’s evidence WHERE I WAS ON TRIAL. Using reasonable doubt & to a moral certainty a solo juror would have to say to himself, “are the shenanigans & explanations that have occurred with the government & their associates, (LHO getting to 2d floor, x-rays not showing true wounds, washing away/hiding/falsify evidence, CIA memo on WC & using assets, going after Garrison et al, sitting in/disrupting Jim Marrs college history class, the behavior of Johnny Carson on T.V., officals such as Chief Curry changing his mind about LHO, allegations toward Henry Wade’s Office in death penalty cases, now known false leads, Parkland Doctor’s observations, CIA/HSCA/Joannides & Robert Blakeley’s turnaround, CIA’s inability to keep the safe safe & the Regis Blahut incident during the HSCA hearings, the suspect being shot to death while handcuffed… Get the idea…A juror seeing these things and knowing that virtually all of them are true has got to by virtue of the oath that he took to weigh the evidence against LHO say to himself that there is a very reasonable doubt that LHO killed anyone, but if he did, he certainly had help and lots of it.
    I was a foreman on a 5-day 1st degree murder trial. Our 11-1 hold out for conviction would not explain why he was voting that way. I asked him to explain himself because maybe he WAS RIGHT & the man was not guilty. Despite our urging, pleading, etc we were a hung jury. Several months later in Walmart, I saw another juror. He told me our lone hold out had gotten a $5. parking ticket while on jury duty. Although a brilliant man who worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground, he didn’t park in the far lot where the jurors were instructed to park. His misplaced anger/resentment toward receiving the ticket cost people a lot of time and money beside the fact that justice couldn’t be served. This lone holdout juror is very similar to our LHO “did it” mob. If the WC is so true then why are they compelled to DEFEND THE OBVIOUS? In addiction treatment literature, it may be simply explained as “an immature wish to be happy”, ie. a feeling that nothing can be solved. It’s far easier to go along with magic bullets, lighting speed, the omnipresence of LHO, 3 wallets, Jack Ruby’s mother’s teeth & Santa Claus than the responsibility of thinking for yourself.

  9. No witness within 50 feet died a violent death-except perhaps Merriman Smith, whose suicide had more to do with alcoholism noted decades before 1963. But I doubt that he was within 50 feet.
    The 6.5 mm Carcano round was capable of causing JFK’s head wound, as has been demonstrated over and over and over again. The round that hit JFK’s head did not explode-any rifle round traveling at a similar speed will tend to cause the same kind of wound to a spherical object filled with a lower density substance. That is just elementary ballistics.
    JFK was wearing a brace at the time, held in place with ace wrap bandages. It was responsible for keeping him upright for the head shot-had he not been wearing it the paralysis caused by the first hit would have caused him to collapse toward the left, as he was already doing. It would not have mattered, as the cervical shot would have been fatal anyway-disrupting the phrenic nerve and causing paralysis of the diaphragm. He never took another breath after the the first round hit the back.
    Still looks like this site is having trouble with easily verifiable facts.

    1. “It would not have mattered, as the cervical shot would have been fatal anyway-disrupting the phrenic nerve and causing paralysis of the diaphragm. He never took another breath after the the first round hit the back.”

      Which shot to the back? The one diagrammed with measurements on the autopsy face sheet? The shot that could not be probed more than a finger’s length?

      How do you know he didn’t take a breath after he was first hit in back? That’s an assertion and a pretty bald one.

    2. Read Orlando Martin’s book Analysis of a Shooting if you want to quote elementary ballistics. He’s a decorated Marine Drill Instructor and Expert rifleman.

      He contends that a FMJ like the WCC allegedly used in the MC would have exited JFK’s head on the left side or forehead. It would not have fragmented nor shatter the skull in many places or cause a particle cloud as shown in the right lateral X-Ray of JFK’s head.

  10. When Geraldo Rivera & his 2 guests bravely broadcast Robert Groden’s version of the Zapruder film all those years ago it was unthinkable that someone might have obstructed justice by tampering with that historical record.
    Today, with all the analysis and thought put into the Zapruder images and many suspecting it to be a fraud, if Geraldo Rivera were to broadcast the film for the 1st time I would hope he would have Bill & Gayle Newman sitting in the guest chairs and be asking them the hard questions that have not been asked them before as they view the Zapruder film: is this what you saw? Did the parade car stop? Where did it stop, approaching you, in front of you or as it passed you? Did you smell gunpowder? Where d it seem o be coming from?
    As more & more of the public finds the visual evidence untrustworthy the more the living witnesses who experienced this crime in person are invaluable in helping us understand, if not actually solving this crime.

  11. >> When the journalist’s professional imperative for factual certainty collides with the imagery that destroyed certainty, the professional imperative prevails over the evidence itself. <<

    The problem with this statement, Jeff, is that it assumes your interpretation of the evidence.

    Somebody well-informed might know that the medical evidence just flatly rules out a hit to the head from the right front.

    1. Professor McAdams, I have not spent my life studying this case, nor do I intend to, so perhaps I’m not the right guy to respond. But I don’t think you lend yourself a lot of credibility when you make such a definitive assertion, that “the medical evidence flatly rules out a hit to the head from the right front.”

      “Flatly rules out”? You don’t have to believe in a massive conspiracy to fake medical evidence (I certainly don’t) to come to the conclusion that the medical evidence is murky at best, and the handling of evidence from the body was amazingly shoddy.

      I’m someone who leans toward the conspiracy side, but I’m trying to get a handle on the various arguments. I think it’s conceivable that Oswald acted alone, but from what I’ve seen so far that appears less likely.

      But one thing I’ve learned to distrust is people on both sides who express certainty about the ultimate issues. The record obviously doesn’t lend itself to that. It’s what makes the case so fascinating. Have you become so weary of conspiracy theories (most of which are admittedly wacky) that you’re no longer interested in the ambiguities of this case?

    2. “Somebody well-informed might know that the medical evidence just flatly rules out a hit to the head from the right front.”

      What “evidence”? Evidence is that admitted into evidence by a judge at trial subject to the Rules of Evidence. There is no “evidence” in the JFK case — only assertions of facts having varying degrees of believability.

      Fact is, most of the Parkland and Bethesda medical witnesses as well as the embalmer reported, at least initially, a large blow-out in the back of JFK’s skull. You have seen, I’m sure, the famous photos of the Parkland docs holding their right hands to the rear of their skulls.

      Blow-out to the back means a shot somewhere to the right front part of the head.

      1. It should be noted that Professor McAdams has stated on his website that he thought Doctor Charles Crenshaw was lying when he (Crenshaw) asserted that he saw an entrance bullet wound to the front right temple of President Kennedy’s head, and a massive exit wound in the back (occipital perietal region) of that head. Instead of accepting that Dr. Crenshaw might have had something important to say, someone who was in the trauma room with the President, McAdams’ response is that of denial, that Crenshaw must be lying.

    3. What complete and total nonsense from Professor McAdams.

      The medical evidence in this case is sloppy, incomplete, confusing and contradictory. It is a very difficult task indeed to draw definitive conclusions from it; largely because of the way it has been mishandled in socially constuctive attempts by government-sponsered panels to support the unsupportable.

      All of that being said, the one thing, the one and ONLY thing, the medical evidence “flatly rules out” is the notion that all of the fragmentation and craniocerebral damge was the result of a single, full metal jacket, 6.5 mm Carcano bullet fired from above and behind.

      For those who are genuinely interested in an honest study of the skull wounds, I recommend starting with this article by neuroscientist Joseph N. Riley:

    4. “the medical evidence just flatly rules out a hit to the head from the right front.”

      Pray tell, where did you get the impression that Physicians know the first thing about Physics?

  12. Whenever the Z-film topic comes up my mind instantly takes me back to my 1967 and my sophomore year of high school and a history class book report & class speech I did on a book I had just bought with my paper route income, ‘Six Seconds In Dallas’. My teacher was not impressed and at times looked like he was experiencing labor pains.

    In the after class lecture I received on communist propaganda in literature & education he asked to see the book and the support materials I used, one being the Nov 1966 issue of Life that spawned SSID.

    Several weeks later my teacher talked to me at length again(after class) and told me he felt the people that had purchased the z-film had misrepresented it in order to sell magazines (Life) and books (SSID). He questioned why would anyone want to see a human being shot in the head anyway? Wasn’t what the WC and the FBI investigation it was based on good enough for me? Didn’t I have faith in my government & its institutions? Just who was I to question J. Edgar Hoover and earl Warren? I was advised to avoid this toxic topic (JFK assassination)and settle for the official explanation provided by the government.

    I obviously have not dropped the toxic topic nor accepted the official government explanation(s) of the crime which is why I come here to see what new progress has and is being made.

    One of the explanations I have heard over the years for the reason JFK’s head lurched backwards is frame removal on an optical printer. What was removed was the parade car stopped motionless on Elm Street and JFK being thrown violently forward. Two distinct, violent reactions to bullets hitting JFK were combined into one.

    To date, no human or his/her staff who would have been required to accomplish such film special effects have come forward claiming responsibility & explaining who told them to monkey around with the film.

    It took a lot of courage to show Groden’s version of the Z-film on TV. It caused me to invest in an expensive (at the time) Beta VCR just so I could record that broadcast and study the film.

    The more the global public studies the film, finds things strange about it and engages in sometimes heated debates I sometimes feel Geraldo would have done us all a big favor by not broadcasting the z-film that night and let sleeping dogs lie.

    Today, I rarely look at the film or it’s images because I believe the entire thing to be bogus and a waste of time.

    With events happening recently, I can’t help but wonder if Geraldo were to air the z-film today if he and his network would find themselves targeted by the IRS and AG….

  13. As we watch the sands run out on 50 years since the assassination, a majority of Americans who were ALIVE at the time STILL believe it was a conspiracy, NOT a “lone gunman” firing “magic bullets”! The travesty of the original investigation should never have been allowed, but sadly, the 1976 investigation stalled out, too, so I suppose we have to leave it to the ages. Whomever did it go away clean, and are most likely dead, by now, as unsatisfactory an ending as that is. Maybe in the release of the documents classified “Top Secret” for 50 years, we will find some resolution, but probably not. They’ve had plenty of time to hide their tracks.

    In watching the Zapruder film, too often, but in the interest of trying to figure out what had happened, what had gone so colossally wrong, I was convinced the “Umbrella Man” had some part to play, yet neither the Warren Commission, nor the Senate Select Committee bothered to follow up, to try to find out who he was. Notably, NO ONE has ever stood up and said, “I was the guy!”, confirming my suspicion he was involved. I would have liked for someone to beat their shoe on the table, until some agency applied their not-inconsiderable powers to determining the man’s identity, but, like so many things, he’s lost to time.

    As to the shots, the final shot that blew Kennedy’s head apart had to be from a different rifle than the Mannlicher-Carcano, which fired a subsonic round that would NOT have exploded on impact, as the round that hit JFK’s head did. That, too, should have been given far more scrutiny, but alas, that didn’t happen. OF all the mysteries, the head shot is the most telling, implying a forward-positioned shooter, with a different weapon.

    It’s telling that a great many of the eyewitnesses (those within 50 ft of the limo at the time of the shots) died violent deaths–so many, an actuary put the odds at astronomical numbers against the possibility. Further proof of a conspiracy, as if more were needed. What was needed, at the time, were leaders who weren’t afraid of the trail leading to the Russians, and who did not accept the lies and obfuscations of those who had guilty knowledge. Too many clues were lost, ignored or contaminated, leading to a slap-dash verdict that only the brain-dead, and those with an angle in the fire, would believe. The rest of us were ignored, our pleas for a valid and thorough investigation left unheard.

    1. You are flat wrong about the subsequent identification of “umbrellas man.”

      On September 25, 1978, Dallas resident Steven Louie Witt appeared before the House Select Committee on Assassinations and gave 24 pages of testimony in which he reluctantly admitted to being “umbrella man” as well as describing his actions and the motivations behind them. I believe it is safe to say that most serious researchers have long been familiar with this testimony in volume IV of the HSCA hearings and that a simple Google search makes this information readily available to the rest of us part-time, amateur researchers.

      The only remaining question is how this information has managed to evade you for the past 35 years?

      1. Witt lied to the HSCA. He testified he didn’t see JFK get shot, because he was walking toward Elm Street, fiddling with the umbrella, with umbrella held open directly in front of him.

        This is a lie because the Z-film shows him standing along Elm Street next to the limo as JFK passes, holding the umbrella upward.

        1. Why would Witt lie about such a thing? He must’ve known he was seen in the Zapruder film, so his position was known.

          IMO it wasn’t a lie but rather an example of how memories change after 15 years.

      1. His testimony is about as plausible as Jack Ruby’s contention that he killed Oswald to save Jackie the pain of a trial.

        After JFK is shot, the umbrella man and the darker skinned man sit on the curb, then after a minute get up and walk off in different directions casually. Not in the least bit suspicious.

  14. What is the most plausible explanation anyone has found for how Kennedy’s head could have snapped back as it did, if the shot came from behind?

    Never mind whether you find it convincing; what’s the best story that could be told for the other side? Simple high-school physics would seem to suggest that when momentum was transferred from the bullet to the head, the head would move in the same direction as the bullet was travelling. What’s the best answer to this?

    1. Somebody will be able to provide a more detailed answer but I have heard it was a violent neurological reaction that caused the head snap backwards even though he was hit from the back and that such reactions are not uncommon. Others have said the head moves forward slightly before snapping back. Either “explanation” asks us to put aside common sense and imagine the weird.

      Didn’t Zapruder himself say he thoughts shots came from behind him in the knoll area?

    2. The bullet transferred momentum to the head only between Zapruder frames 312 and 313, when the skull exploded. By Z313, the bullet was long gone. The backward movement began *after* Z313.

      Simple high-school physics suggests that whatever caused JFK’s body to lurch backward, it could not have been the bullet that caused the Z313 head wound.

      1. Ms Davison,

        Perhaps, then, you need to teach “simple high-school physics” to US Navy/NASA physicist G. Paul Chambers because his book, “Head Shot: The Science Behind the JFK Assassination”, postulates that JFK’s rearward movement was the result of a bullet fired from the right front.

        By writing that “The backward movement began *after* Z313” I can only assume that you are attempting to convey the idea that there was some delay between the explosion of JFK’s head and his rearward “lurch”. In reality the movement began in frame 314; 1/18 of a second later. Some delay.

        You write: “The bullet transferred momentum to the head only between Zapruder frames 312 and 313”

        Really? What’s your evidence for this assertion?

        You write: “whatever caused JFK’s body to lurch backward, it could not have been the bullet that caused the Z313 head wound.”

        Then by all means please enlighten us. What did cause that movement? Was it Larry Sturdivan’s theory of a neuro-muscular reaction – a theory that even he now rejects? Or perhaps Luis Alverez’s Jet Effect nonsense which was thoroughly debunked in Don Thomas’s book?

        In reality, the backwards movement is perfectly in keeping with a shot from the right front. Conversely, the pattern of fragmentation and craniocerebral damage seen on the autopsy X-rays is absolutely incompatible with a full metal jacket round fired from above and behind.

        The path of “missile dust” on the right lateral X-ray shows that a soft lead or frangible round struck near the right temple and exited through the right posterior parietal region, near the midline. We know this bullet was travelling front-to-back because the smaller dust-like particles are found near the temple and the larger ones are located in the upper right rear. This is because the larger fragments, having greater mass, have greater momentum and are carried further away from the point of entry.

        Just a little of that “simple physics” you alluded to.

        1. This was excellent and helpful analysis, thank you. I’ve always thought that the “lone gunman” side has to do a lot of fast talking when discussing that backward snap of the head.

          While looks can sometimes be deceiving, it just absolutely looks like a head responding in the natural and obvious way to a sharp blow from the front. And the fact that the bullet disintegrated in the head shows that all of those experiments involving shooting melons are completely useless. Whatever momentum that bullet had must have been fully transferred to the head. I’m sure I’m butchering the way a real physicist would word that, but it’s plainly true.

        2. Mr. Hay,
          I don’t understand how you think a backward movement starting in Z314 could have been a transfer of momentum from a bullet that entered and left the skull between frames 312 and 313. A bullet can’t push the body backwards if it’s no longer there.

          The HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel concluded “that the backward movement of the head following its forward movement [between Z312-Z313] occurred after the missile had already exited from the body and had created a large exit defect in the skull, and that it was most probably due to a reverse jet effect, or a neuromuscular reaction, or a combination of the two. The short interval between the two motions supports this explanation.”

          The “head snap” has misled many people because it certainly LOOKS as if JFK is thrown back by a shot from the front. But the truth is often counterintuitive, as it is here.

          1. Jean,

            Several comments.

            First, you write:

            “I don’t understand how you think a backward movement starting in Z314 could have been a transfer of momentum from a bullet that entered and left the skull between frames 312 and 313. A bullet can’t push the body backwards if it’s no longer there.”

            When a bat squarely strikes a fastball, driving it over the center field wall, the bat is long gone when the ball crosses the wall. The momentum imparted to the ball by the bat is lost over time due to air friction, but the ball’s momentum becomes zero only when the ball comes to rest.

            You quote the HSCA forensic pathology panel (FPP). The FPP’s work has been shown to be flawed in many ways by many researchers.

            See: A DEMONSTRABLE IMPOSSIBILITY: The HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel’s Misrepresentation of the Kennedy Assassination Medical Evidence
            by John Hunt

          2. Ms. Davison

            You write: “I don’t understand how you think a backward movement starting in Z314 could have been a transfer of momentum from a bullet that entered and left the skull between frames 312 and 313. A bullet can’t push the body backwards if it’s no longer there.”

            And therin lies your problem. You’ve made the erroneous assumptions that the bullet entered the back of the head at Z-312 and exited the side at Z-313 when the the best evidence (i.e. the autopsy X-rays in conjunction with the dictabelt) tells us that the first bullet that struck the skull was a soft lead or hunting type round that struck the right temple at Z-313 and fragmented extensively – leaving much of itself scattered throughout the brain.

            A neuromuscular reaction could not be responsible for the movement because, as Sturdivan’s own goat tests show, such a reaction is late onset and occurs after death. Kennedy was, of course, still techinically alive when he arrived at Parkland.

            A jet effect also could not be responsible because the supposed exit wound is located cheifly on the right side of the head. The jet effect would, therefore, have sent the head drastically leftwards and not rearwards. Additionally, the jet effect tests by Lattimer and Alverez said to prove the theory were rigged. Alverez used hot-loaded ammo of a much higher velocity than the kind Oswald allegedly used. And Lattimer was firing down on melons that were resting on ladders and was, therefore, achieving a rebound effect.

          3. Total rubbish. An exiting bullet travels much faster than the motion of the mass upon which it has imparted its kinetic energy.

            The Zapruder film unequivocally shows the reaction to a shot from the front.

            The ‘splash’ is blow back from a frangible bullet (the cloud of particles seen on the right lateral x-ray of JFK can’t be from a FMJ bullet).

            Even Clint Hill is shown on a recent documentary saying that Jackie retrieved a piece of the President’s head from the trunk of the limo, which was caused by a shot from the front.

            The FPP was pigeonholed.

          4. Addendum: Clint Hill doesn’t say a shot from the front, just that Jackie retrieved a piece of the President’s head (not the lone assasin factoid that she was summoning his help).

        3. Ramon F Herrera

          “Or perhaps Luis Alvarez’s Jet Effect nonsense which was thoroughly debunked in Don Thomas’s book?”

          Here’s the book:

          I would like to add that Dr. Alvarez stated the following: “I am not claiming that this is *how* it actually happened, only that it is theoretically possible” … or words to that effect.

          It sounds to me that he was ordered to come up with an expected result somehow. Additionally, I would like to tell my respected Dr. Alvarez, that people are not melonheads.

          No, I don’t have a cite handy. As soon as I find it, I will post it.

          1. Order Tink’s presentation on the alleged movement of JFK’s head between Z312 to Z313 for a further understanding of why it looks that way.

        4. I concur wholeheartedly Martin.

          18.3 fps is not fast enough to determine the instant at which the head/upper body of JFK moves back in the direction of the bullet or away from the GK shooter.

          Furthermore, how can a FMJ bullet like CE 399 allegedly come out virtually unscathed after smashing 10 cm of a rib and crashing through radial wrist bone, and yet break apart in pieces and minute particles when it hits skull bone (not to mention that a slice of its mid-section sticks to the rear outer table of JFK’s skull).

          Those bullets were certainly magically on many fronts it seems.

          (I’ve been a jury foreman before in a murder trial, and there’s nothing rational that the pro-WC camp could throw at me to convince me otherwise).

        5. all of these people start from the premise that the official gubmint story is the gospel. Then everything they do or think or write or speak comes from that. That is their truth, they’re not seeking truth, they’re defending what they believe to be the truth. There’s no point in discussing it with them.

      2. Eric Saunders

        This is one of the most unintentionally hilarious comments I have read in a while. An analogous statement would be: “Simple high-school physics suggests that when you punch someone in the face, the disruption of the surrounding gravitational field causes the target’s head to lurch toward the direction of the blow.”

        1. Jonathan,

          When a bat hits a ball, the ball continues in one direction. It doesn’t start out going forward, then do a U-turn and head another way.

          Z313 shows the effect a bullet had on JFK’s skull. Any momentum transferred to the head by *that* bullet would show up between Z312 and Z313, not afterwards. Physicist Richard Feynman, no less, once explained this to David Lifton (see Best Evidence).

          Scroll down here to see JFK’s head move forward between those two frames:

          1. Richard Feynman did not consider the distortion effect of blur in frames 312/313 and only took a simple measurement with a ruler.

          2. Addendum: God bless Professor Feynman’s soul. He found the truth behind the Challenger disaster and if he had the inclination or time and resources to investigate the JFK Assassination to a greater degree (than merely asked a simple question by a wide-eyed physics student), I doubt very much that he would’ve arrived at the same conclusion as Professor Luis Alvarez.

      3. You should have seen Josiah Thompson’s presentation at Lancer last November.

        The alleged movement forward from 312 to 313 is an OPTICAL ILLUSION.

        Tink demonstrated this by pointing out bright areas with sunlight reflection which were ‘stretched’ due to a blur.

        There is no neuromuscular reaction or jet effect. They are irrelevant.*

        *Tink showed us photos and test results by Luis Alvarez that he fudged his experiments to arrive at his pre-conceived jet effect. It did not work with materials that more closely matched human skulls.

    3. The head shap was almost certainly caused by a neuromuscular reaction.

      That’s what the Rockefeller Commission concluded, and the HSCA concluded the same thing.

      You can see that happening here:

      The impact of a bullet can’t blow somebody bodily backwards. That’s Hollywood ballistics. See “Mythbusters Revisited: Blown Away.” (You can find that on Amazon, for $1.95).

      Here is a scholarly paper saying the same thing:

      1. “The impact of a bullet can’t blow somebody bodily backwards. That’s Hollywood ballistics.”

        You apparently haven’t observed war up close. A high velocity round will blow off heads, limbs, parts of limbs; do terrible internal damage; and will knock human beings violently.

        A low velocity .45 caliber round will “blow somebody bodily backwards.”

          1. The .45 caliber pistol was developed for use against Huks in the American camapaign in the Phillipines in the early part of the 20th century.

            The Huks wrapped themselves tightly in some material and also imbibed some drug or alcohol that made them impervious to ordinary rounds.

            The .45 slug would physically knock the Huks backwards and down.

            The army officer’s sidearm today is a 9mm Beretta. In Viet Nam, it was the M1911 .45 caliber pistol, a far superior weapon in terms of stopping power.

      2. Eric Saunders

        This analysis and the “Magic Bullet” theory are excellent examples of what scholars call “ad hocery” – implausible explanations deployed for the sole purpose of maintaining the validity of a theory with diminishing credibility. Imre Lakatos described this phenomenon regarding theories of knowledge or systems of epistemology. This example shows its relevance in the field of forensics.

        Now we must construct a hypothesis to explain why so much of Kennedy’s brain and skull was also blown “back and to the left.” More ad hocery to the rescue!

        1. Jonathan,
          “Stopping power” is not the same thing as “knockback” which according to this article is “largely a myth” (scroll down):

          Mythbusters twice tested the proposition that “a person will be propelled violently backwards if hit by a bullet” and declared it “busted.” The segment was called “Blown Away,” which may still be online.

          Please check John’s link to that scholarly article, also.

          1. Jean,

            I speak from firsthand experience in Viet Nam.

            The weapons there were varied on both sides.

            You can be sure that a bullet of mass (m) traveling at velocity (v) may have a large momentum.

            Being hit in a kevlar vest, which spreads outward energy, is much different from being hit in the body by a high-energy round.

            You try hard, Jean. Problem is, you’re not trained in physics, law, and logic. Nor have you been in the army, experienced war, the intelligence school, and language school. That’s only a problem because of the pose you strike.

          1. In Tink’s presentation last November, he showed a slide using some sort of shadow or contrast analysis which clearly demonstrated that matter was blown almost 360 degrees.

            It was NOT a concentrated stream as proposed by the jet effect.

            I haven’t purchased the DVDs yet but took some photos and might post some of those slide pics here via links.

    4. EconWatcher,

      The physics here are neither simple nor at the high school level.

      True, the law of conservation of momentum means momentum from the bullet that is lost during its path through the head is gained by the head. True, too, that because momentum is a vector quantity — meaning it has both magnitude and direction components — momentum lost by the bullet in one direction (i.e., the x, y, or z direction) is gained by the head in the same direction.

      The bullet’s momentum begins to change the moment it strikes the head. The bullet passes through scalp, bone, dura, and brain; and maybe through additional bone or scalp. As it travels, perhaps even tumbling, or worse fragmenting, modeling its momentum loss becomes a very difficult problem.

      You’re right, however, to write: “…physics would seem to suggest that when momentum was transferred from the bullet to the head, the head would move in the same direction as the bullet was travelling.” The biggest loss of momentum of the bullet would occur as it encountered the hard outer surface of the head.

      Given that momentum = mass x velocity, the greatest loss of the bullet’s velocity (a vector quantity) would occur when it struck the head. After the bullet entered the brain, the change in velocity over time would continue but at a diminished rate.

      That’s a quick momentum analysis. A force analysis has to take into account Newton’s Third Law, which posits that when Object A exerts Force F against Object B, Object B exerts an exact opposite force F on Object A.

      Which means that in the brief interval of time when the bullet is exerting force against the skull, the skull exerts the same force against the bullet. When the bullet has fully penetrated the skull and begins to move through the brain, the head for an instant moves in the direction from which was struck. Reason: at the moment of penetration, the skull is pressing against the bullet. At that moment, according to Newton’s Second Law (Force = mass x acceleration), the Force exerted by the skull = Mass of the Skull x Acceleration of the Skull (acceleration is a vector quantity, having x, y, and z components).

      Hence, the slight forward movement of the skull before the violent snap-back.

      1. I will try to post Tink’s point about a blur giving the illusion of a forward head movement between 312 and 313.

  15. The video indeed neatly skips around the what and why of the 1975 showing’s visceral power: JFK’s violent movement back into his seat which cannot but appear as the reaction to a strike from the front. The generaL public did not experience a cognitive dissonance, rather this was powerful visual evidence that the powers that be had lied mightily to them regarding JFK’s death. The Zapruder film releases the genie from the bottle, despite decades of careful work by the mainstream media to push the genie back in (just the past decade has seen numerous Discovery channel documentaries propping up the official story, as well as ABC’s notorious “Beyond Conspiracy”). The implication in this video is that the Zapruder film had been withheld from the public due to concerns over the feelings of the Kennedy family. That canard has been trotted out over a number of issues.

    Considered through a contemporary lens, it should be remembered that the Zapruder film was not given an official screening on the Geraldo show – rather Robert Groden had a bootlegged (leaked) copy. Today, might not Robert Groden had been arrested for possession of classified or private material, and the source of his copy aggressively hunted down? And perhaps Geraldo’s communications been tapped and pored over. And, guessing, such a screening on a major network would never happen at all in today’s environment.

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