One reason why the Warren Commission’s medical evidence was unconvincing

“In March 1964, one hundred days after the assassination of President Kennedy, Rydberg was summoned to the office of Captain John Stover, the Commanding Officer of the Navy Medical School. It was explained to him that Commanders Humes and Boswell, two of President Kennedy’s autopsy surgeons, were about to testify before the Warren Commission and they were in need of his special talents. He was put under secret orders to prepare medical illustrations of the wounds sustained by President Kennedy.”

via For the Sake of Historical Accuracy | Assassination of JFK  .

Harold Rydberg drawings
Harold Rydberg’s drawings compared to the Zapruder film

35 thoughts on “One reason why the Warren Commission’s medical evidence was unconvincing”

  1. At Bethesda photos and x-rays were taken of JFK’s injuries, yet the best illustrative material available for scrutiny at the Warren Commission hearing would be an artist’s drawing that was sketched on the basis of recollection and the descriptions provided by Humes and or Boswell. Why were the primary illustrative resources unavailable to view and translate? If as has been said the photos were considered too shocking to veiw, what of the x-rays?
    Do the following events have anything to do with the fact that neither Humes, Boswell or the Warren Commission considered that the primary illustrative evidence was necessary?
    The Secret Service confiscated all of the photos and x-rays of JFK at Bethesda. The photo’s had not even been developed yet at Bethesda before confiscation.
    Was Humes given ample opportunity and access to this material on the day of the autopsy? Was Humes afforded ample opportunity and access to this evidence subsequent to the time of the autopsy?
    We are aware that the brain disappeared; that the pathology slides disappeared; that Humes destroyed his original notes of autopsy, and that tampering of evidence was clearly evident at or near the time of autopsy. What chain of circumstance characterised the handling of the photographic and x-ray evidence and to what degree did this influence the fact of the absence of this evidence at the hearing?

  2. Warren Commission – Testimony Of Clinton J. Hill, Special Agent, Secret Service (description of the President’s head wound):

    Mr. SPECTER. What did you observe as to President Kennedy’s condition on arrival at the hospital?
    Mr. HILL. The right rear portion of his head was missing. It was lying in the rear seat of the car. His brain was exposed. There was blood and bits of brain all over the entire rear portion of the car. Mrs. Kennedy was completely covered with blood. There was so much blood you could not tell if there had been any other wound or not, except for the one large gaping wound in the right rear portion of the head.

    1. “Mr. HILL. The right rear portion of his head was missing.”

      This is vague. The Parkland used the proper medical terminology of “Occipital-Parietal”. And it is significant that they did not use the term “Occipital Protuberance”.

  3. Humes. Nice man who had no clue as to what he was doing. End of Story. However, as poor a job as they did, it doesn’t change the fact that LHO, alone, pulled the trigger 3 times and killed JFK. HIs gun. His movements. His lying on ‘demand’ attitude. His actions on going home, leaving money and his ring, his signature, his PO’s, and just about every scrap of valid evidence puts him just where he was when the moment came. Peace.

  4. Those medical illustrations always appeared so stupidly constructed to deceive, now to find out that’s exactly how and why they were drawn. They weren’t even trying, were they?

    1. [bogman:]

      “Those medical illustrations always appeared so stupidly constructed to deceive, not to find out that’s exactly how and why they were drawn. They weren’t even trying, were they?”


      Initially (WC) they were pressed for time and had no idea about the level of scrutiny -and derision- to which their illustrations would be subjected.

      Next time around, during the HSCA, they were much more careful and chose a top artist (presumably in a competitive process).

      As we know, artists enjoy an “Artistic License”, from LN hired brushes all the way to Oliver Stone.

  5. A lower (rear) entry wound doesn’t appear to make any sense either. If we are only arguing over four inches and not the direction of the bullet/s it is harder to make a case that the corrected position is wrong. I mean, who could have fired a rear-entry shot at such a low trajectory.

    1. [Opinionator:]

      “If we are only arguing over four inches and not the direction of the bullet/s”



      You may be looking at this in an incorrect fashion, when you claim that 4″ does not make a difference, and that the direction is the relevant factor.

      The 4 inch range *determines* the direction.

      Visualize, if you will, a laser beam inserted in Kennedy’s back, pointing to the TSBD. The most minute tilting on the target’s side results on the shooter being located anywhere between underground level and the 16th. (inexistent) floor of the TSBD.

      1. Additionally -and more important- the [variable] height of the entrance hole has the potential to make the Adam’s apple exit hole [constant] an impossibility.

      2. I understand all that. My point is that if an autopsy entry wound was ‘changed’ upwards four inches to retrofit a lone gunman theory then what (conspiracy or otherwise) scenario/trajectory fits with the so-called original autopsy entry finding of a wound just above the hairline? It doesn’t fit with any scenario, because JFK couldn’t have been struck at such a low profile from anywhere.

          1. Anyway, according to the Parkland doctors wasn’t the back of Kennedy’s head supposed to have been blown out. That being the case, are the corrected drawings a cover-up for the first ‘covered up’ drawings (which didn’t calculate the correct trajectory). See, it all looks silly, especially after viewing the Zapruder film which doesn’t show a rear head wound – unless it is accepted that that was altered as well. Oswald may have had helpers but I don’t think they were the medics.

        1. [Opinionator:]

          “it all looks silly, especially after viewing the Zapruder film which doesn’t show a rear head wound”


          Of course it shows it! See these 3 images:

          Abnormal Protuberance:

          Same, but closer:

          The last one includes my “Simplified Disk Theory”. The red part is bone and the blue is “glue” (the bone cells attempting to stay intact). That glue is what pulled a heavy adult body back and to the left in a fraction of a second.

          That disk is otherwise known as “The Harper Fragment”

    2. There is a possible origin for a rear entry wound at low trajectory.
      There are many reports from people behind the president’s motorcade vehicle, at ground level who smelt gunpowder at the time of the fatal shot. There are suspicious circumstances about the Secret Service at the motorcade that were not adequately explained by the Secret Service when questioned about their actions by the Warren Commission. When questioned about weapons in the motorcade the Secret Service head refused to answer (the question re the assault rifle). The firearm of particular interest disappeared from view (as well as Secret Service operations after that day).
      The Secret Service has conveniently destroyed many of the files relevant to 11/22, and further compromised the chain of evidence.
      Many people dismiss or refuse to believe that the fatal shot could possibly have originated from a secret service rifle accidentally or otherwise. Some people become extremely dismissive of this theory and try to silence anyone who might entertain this as a possible origin of the fatal shot that killed Kennedy, despite various evidence that deserves further investigation.

  6. Rydberg provides confirmation, as if any were needed, that Humes lied about the wounds and maintained the lie.

    I don’t know what kind of person Humes was other than that he was intelligent. Was he fundamentally honest? Was he of ordinary courage? Did he care about others?

    I believe he did not care about others and that he was fundamentally cold and calculating. His haughtiness is one clue to his essential nature. It reveals contempt for others, a self-centeredness. What a good person to lean on, to convince to tell lies. Telling the lies he told was in his self interest.

    Just my amateur analysis, but no other explanation makes sense to me. After all, by the time the ARRB came along, he could have told the truth without fear of reprisal.

    1. I’m sure Humes felt like he was the Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good Men, and that the rest of us “couldn’t handle the truth.” He knew, after all, that men like Specter (and possibly Ford) had lied their heads off and been rewarded for it. He probably saw the country as corrupt and not worth fighting for. In that, I think he was a pretty average American. No better or worse than most others. My two cents.

      1. On today of all days to make a comment like that about a decorated Veteran of the United States Navy who deferred monetary gain to serve his country is inexcusable . Again Pat, if only you had served.

        1. You never served, and you’re not a doctor, so stop playing, will ya?

          And besides, for all we know, Humes used the military to get free training, so he could make more money down the line.

          And yes, that’s the pitch used to get many if not most volunteers to enter the military. And I oughta know, because I was almost one of them. A pitchmen for the military offered me a full four-year scholarship to any university in the country–they specified Stanford, USC, and Harvard–in return for my serving two years as an officer. It was probably the right “move,” but I just couldn’t see myself with a crew cut, and spewing “Yes, sir!” to men I thought were idiots.

          1. Captain Humes was in the V12 program in WWIi. It was accelerated college program to train naval officers for the Fleet, often at different universities- in my uncle’s case Princeton and Harvard. Graduating the new junior officers went directly to operational billets in time of war, with a good chance of getting killed or wounded-hardly comparable to 1980 era ROTC programs that you are describing. Humes was undoubtably an impressive individual as he went on to Medical School and graduated in 1948. At that time there was no Health Professions Scholarship Program nor the Berry Plan-although he may have received GI Bill funding as a veteran.
            I guess that you never made it into USC, Stanford or Harvard. Neither did I, although I was offered a faculty position at USC.

          2. A friend of mine who was an Army Air Force pilot in World War Two used the GI Bill after the war to get his medical degree at Dartmouth Medical School. I have the impression that any honorably discharged veteran at that time could get GI Bill funding to go to medical school if he could get admitted to a medical school.

        2. To take one notoriously incompetent and evil officer, MacArthur’s intelligence chief Charles Willoughby received all kinds of medals: Distinguished Service Cross, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, and on and on and on.

          Would you seriously maintain that he cannot be criticized?

    2. The Rydberg drawings were nothing but schematic representations of the wounds, not anatomically precise and never designed to be taken as literally as some here think that they should have been.
      They were an attempt to explain wound trajectories and locations to the general public without revealing the true horrible nature of the wounds.
      ” Telling the lies he told was in his self interest”. What lies? What self interest? He called them as he saw them- even if he was mistaken at times. The fact that people have to resort to claims of faked photographs, faked radiographs and non-physician autopsy witnesses should tell you that the Bethesda autopsy team did the best that they could under difficult circumstances. To impune the character of an honorable man respected in his field simply because you do not like his conclusions is an unfortunate trait far too common among conspiracy theorists. May be if you had ever met a pathologist you would not find his ” cold and calculating” personality so unusual.

      1. Photon – are you aware that the ARRB determined that “Under oath … Dr. Humes acknowledged under questioning – in testimony that he had destroyed his notes and the first draft of the autopsy report” – Humes said “That draft I personally burned in my fireplace”.

        Are you aware that Richard Dudman wrote an article published on Dec. 18, 1963 entitled “Secret Service Gets Revision on Kennedy Wounds” that clearly states that “Two SS agents called last week on Dallas surgeons who attended President John F. Kennedy and obtained a reversal of their original view that the bullet in his neck entered from the front”.

        It is quite clear that the early primary evidence from trained medical experts at Parkland & Bethesda did not support Mr. Hoover’s conclusion of all the shots emanating from the rear – otherwise explain why Humes & the SS needed to burn an early draft & revise the doctors initial conclusions.

      2. [Photon:]

        “To impune the character of an honorable man respected in his field simply because you do not like his conclusion”

        See old post of mine below:


        After all has been said and done about the two medical teams, the following remarkable difference remains unexplained:

        (a) Parkland doctors, nurses and coffin personnel.

        Always available for interviews, articles, conferences, pictures, fan clubs, poster signings, twerking, etc. No fear here. If there was any, they defeated it.

        (b) Bethesda doctors.

        Reclusive. Publish ONE article, safely protected. Escape to discrete anonymity in Switzerland. Fear is distinct and undeniable.

      3. Geez, Photon, throw away the script, will ya? Humes was a liar, no matter how you slice it. No matter who shot Kennedy. In 1967, he reviewed the autopsy photos, saw that the wound was on the back, and told Dan Rather the photos showed a wound precisely where it is shown in the Rydberg drawings–at the base of the neck. He was lying. You know it and I know it. Now, if you want to cut him some slack, seeing as he was told to lie by the Johnson Administration, well, be my guest. In my conference appearances, I have been known to express sympathy for Humes, Boswell, and Finck. I am sincere in this. I don’t think they ever KNEW there was a conspiracy. But they KNEW they were supposed to say there wasn’t one…and followed orders.

  7. Rydberg’s drawing demonstrate the weakness of the lone gunman case.

    The original autopsy physicians placed the rear entry wound in JFK’s head near the hair line behind the right ear, a position the autopsy physician’s maintained. This makes the TSBD shot unworkable.

    However, the House Assassinations Committee (HSCA) moved the rear entry head wound up four inches which if true, would make a TSBD shot plausible. To support this notion, Commander Humes, who led the autopsy, eventually caved under pressure in public testimony before the HSCA in 1978, saying he was in error that the wound was actually four inches higher, agreeing with the HSCA version (he had continued to insist it was near the hairline until that point before the HSCA medical panel). The other two autopsy physicians held to their original beliefs that the entry wound to the head was near the hairline. Then in 1996, Humes went back to his old position and told the AARB, he was certain the entry wound in the back of the head was where the autopsy physicians placed it near the hairline, thus essentially invalidating his public HSCA testimony.

    So how credible is a high rear head entry in support of a TSBD shot? Not very. Other than Humes’s temporary change of heart in public testimony, no other doctor or witness saw an entry wound high in the back of JFKs head.

    1. There was no change of heart on Humes’ behalf. In Cornwell’s book he revealed that he was planning on treating Humes like a hostile witness if he didn’t say the bullet hole was in the cowlick. Even worse, he admitted that someone–apparently Baden, but possibly Petty–warned Humes ahead of time and got Humes to play along. If you read Humes’ testimony with a keen eye, moreover, you’ll notice that every time Humes starts to waver, Cornwell cuts him off. This gives away the game, then, that Humes’ testimony was designed to sell the cowlick entry and get the Clark Panel off the hook for moving the wound in the first place. If the HSCA had really wanted to get to the bottom of it, after all, they’d have compiled a list of EVERYONE who saw the wound, as opposed to harassing Humes into putting on a show for the cameras.

  8. Arlen Specter’s concern that future critics may question the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings was prophetic, and within a few short years the criticism required something of an official reply or rebuttal. CBS News, through its 1967 series The Warren Report, provided the forum and Commander Humes agreed to appear on national television and claim that he reviewed the autopsy photos and could attest to the Rydberg drawings’ accuracy. It’s quite a segment, aided and abbetted by Dan Rather.

    starts at about the 25 minute mark:

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