JFK: the truth about the first shot

While single-assassin theorists Max Holland and Luke Haag have an ongoing feud over whether the first shot fired at President Kennedy hit a street light mast, or simply hit the street, the strong probability is that both are wrong.

The vast majority of witnesses who saw President Kennedy’s reaction to this shot described a reaction consistent with his being hit by this shot.

JFK motorcadeTo be clear, the Zapruder film, accepted as authentic by both Holland and Haag, shows President Kennedy calmly waving to his right for a second or more after they claim the first shot was fired. Both Holland and Haag claim, furthermore, that Kennedy showed no reaction to the shooting for three and a half seconds or more after the first shot was fired.

And yet not one witness described Kennedy’s continuing to calmly wave after the first shot was fired.

Here’s a sample of what these witnesses actually said…

  • Witnesses from the President’s limousine:
    1. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (11-29-63 interview with Theodore White, notes released 5-26-95) “They were gunning the motorcycles; there were these little backfires; there was one noise like that; I thought it was a backfire. Then next I saw Connally grabbing his arm and saying no no no no no no, with his fist beating—then Jack turned and I turned.” [Only heard two shots, but thought her husband responded to the first one.]
    2. First Lady of Texas Nellie Connally (Notes written on 12-2-63, as reprinted in her book From Love Field, 2003) “then I heard a loud, terrifying noise…I turned and looked toward the President just in time to see him clutch his neck and see him sink down in his seat.”
    3. Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman (12-10-63 FBI report, CD7 p.3-11) (11-22-63 FBI interview) “he advised he heard a shot and immediately turned around, looking past Governor Connally…to the President. He observed the President slump forward.”
  • Witnesses from the motorcycles riding behind the limousine.
    Dallas Police officer James Chaney (11-22-63 interview on WFAA, as shown on Youtube) “We heard the first shot. I thought it was a motorcycle backfiring and uh I looked back over to my left and also President Kennedy looked back over his left shoulder.” (By saying the President turned to his left after the first shot–which only happens after Kennedy had obviously been hit–Chaney suggests he was hit by the first shot.)
  • Dallas Police officer Bobby W. Hargis (11-22-63 article in Dallas Times-Herald) “About halfway down between Houston and the underpass I heard the first shot. It sounded like a real loud firecracker. When I heard the sound, the first thing I thought about was a gunshot. I looked around and about then Governor Connally turned around and looked at the President with a real surprised look on his face…The President bent over to hear what the Governor had to say.” (Only heard two shots, but he saw the President respond to the first one.)
    Dallas Police officer B.J. Martin (4-3-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H289-293) “one of the agents got off of the car after the first shot…I looked to my right (after the first shot)…I looked at the President after I heard the (first) shot and he was leaning forward—I could see the left side of his face.”

The vast majority of witnesses who saw President Kennedy’s reaction to this shot described a reaction consistent with his being hit by this shot.

Witnesses from the follow-up car:

  • Secret Service agent Emory Roberts (11-29-63 report, 18H733-738) “12:30 PM: First of three shots fired, at which time I saw the President lean toward Mrs. Kennedy.”
  • Secret Service agent Sam Kinney (11-22-63 report, 18H732) “The first shot was fired as we were going into an underpass…it appeared that he (the President) had been shot because he slumped to the left.”
  • Secret Service agent Clint Hill (11-30-63 report, 18H740-745) “The noise came from my right rear and I immediately moved my head in that direction. In so doing, my eyes had to cross the Presidential automobile and I saw the President hunch forward and then slump to his left.” (Only heard two shots, but saw the President react to the first one.)
  • Presidential aide David Powers (5-18-64 affidavit, 7H472-474) “the first shot went off and it sounded to me as if it were a firecracker. I noticed then that the President moved quite far to his left after the shot from the extreme right hand side where he had been sitting.”
    Secret Service agent George Hickey (11-22-63 report, 18H765) “As 100-X made the turn and proceeded a short distance, I heard what seemed to me that a firecracker exploded to the right and rear. I stood partially up and turned to the rear to see if I could observe anything. Nothing was observed and I turned around and looked at the President’s car. The President was slumped to the left in the car.”
  • Secret Service agent Glen Bennett (notes written on 11-22-63, 24H541-542) “At this point I heard a noise that immediately reminded me of a firecracker. I immediately, upon hearing the supposed firecracker, looked at the boss’s car. At this exact time I saw a shot that hit the boss about 4 inches down from the right shoulder. A second shoot followed immediately and hit the right rear high of the boss’s head.” (The precise meaning of Bennett’s words are open to debate, but they do at first glance suggest he felt the first shot missed. Since he did not see Kennedy’s reaction to the first shot, but only saw him at the “exact time” he received the second shot, however, it seems possible the blood he observed was in response to the first shot.)
  • Secret Service agent Paul Landis (11-27-63 report, 18H758-759) “At this moment, I heard what sounded like the report of a high powered rifle behind me. My first glance was at the President, as my eyes were almost straight ahead at that time. I did not realize that the President was hit at that point. I saw him moving and thought he was turning in the direction of the sound.” (Only heard two shots, but saw Kennedy react to the first shot.)

There are, of course, many other witnesses to Kennedy at the time of the first shot. Some of these only heard two shots. Some seemed to think the first shot was the shot striking President Kennedy in the head. But none of them saw him calmly wave to the crowd at his right after the first shot was fired, and remain draped over the side of the limousine until a second shot was fired.

Holland and Haag’s theories regarding the first shot are thereby at odds with the evidence.



Suspicions about the CIA’s involvement in the JFK assassination have been circulatingCIA & JFK for decades, but Jeff Morley has more than suspicions. He has dug through countless sheaves of once-secret documents and interviewed so many spooks I’m surprised he’s not haunted.

Morley’s  new ebook CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files, available on Amazon, provides the fullest account of the role of certain CIA operations officers in the events leading to the death of JFK.

CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files

1 thought on “JFK: the truth about the first shot”

  1. Your reliance on witnesses as a rebuttal to Holland’s analysis is weak and misguided at best. Without any doubt the vast majority (81%) of 178 witnesses heard three shots in Dealey Plaza. Also, a majority of 62 witnesses identified the shot sequence as:
    the last two were closer together.

    The traffic mast pole that would deflect Oswald’s first shot. The bullet glanced off the pole, fragmented, and the ricochet went down Elm Street toward Dealey Plaza. Oswald must have thought he was cursed (which he was) because when he shot at General Walker on April 10, 1963, using the same rifle, his shot was deflected by a wooden sash lock in the window. This saved the General’s life. Unfortunately, Kennedy’s Irish luck would run out on Oswald’s last two shots.

    The oak tree would force Oswald to delay (pause) his second shot until the Presidential Lincoln came back into his sights. This shot would pass through President Kennedy and into Governor Connally. His third shot was fatal. NOTE: According to Stephen Fagin, Curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, the oak tree in front of the TSBD building is the same one present on the day of the assassination and is still there today. If only trees could talk!

    It’s a frustrating twist of history how Zapruder and Hughes both managed to miss Oswald’s first shot. But then, Oswald missed his first shot too. Hughes stopped his camera after the President’s Lincoln turned onto Elm Street and seconds before Oswald’s first shot. Abraham Zapruder, waiting in Dealey Plaza, initially started his camera when he saw the Dallas Police motorcycles in advance of the President’s car. He then stopped filming and only restarted his camera once he saw the Presidential Lincoln on Elm Street (Frame Z 133). By this time, he had already missed Oswald’s first shot.

    As for the timing of Oswald’s first shot, I’ll give you five eye witnesses to start with. All five have identified the moment when they heard the first shot, which corresponds with Holland’s analysis. First witness is 15-year old Amos Lee Eunis standing on the TSBD side of Elm St. Second witness is Howard Brennan standing directly across the TSBD on Elm St. (See photo below). The other three witnesses (James Jarman Jr., Bonnie Ray Williams, and Harold Norman) were all employees of the Texas School Book Depository and were watching the motorcade from the 5th floor window of the TSBD, directly below Oswald’s sniper nest. James Jarman Jr., Bonnie Ray Williams, and Harold Norman.

    And if you need an example of how unreliable the memory of a witness can be I submit Gov. Connally as Exhibit [A]. Oswald’s second shot went through President Kennedy and Governor Connally. It was on a straight line. It was a jacketed bullet. This was no magic bullet, only tragic.(190 feet distance to JFK). Connally was confused to his dying day. But you can hardly blame him. The entrance and exit of Oswald’s second shot (a jacketed bullet) passed through JFK and into Connally in a nano second. Only one other person or object in the limousine was struck by a bullet, and that was Connally, his 6-foot-plus frame shoehorned into a jump seat just inches in front of JFK.

    The fact is Holland’s analysis is correct. It was also the the biggest breakthrough in the JFK Assassination in 58 years.

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