Physician talks about what he saw at Parkland Hospital

A fascinating account from one of the first three medical providers to attend to President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, reported by Canyon News in Texas.

I had never heard of this man’s account before.

From the story:

“[Dr. Don] Curtis reported that each senior physician, and there were several in the room by then, looked at Kennedy’s head.

“Curtis also looked, and he told the audience ‘the posterior part of his head was blown out.’

“Curtis, who had become very familiar with entrance and exit wounds during his trauma room work at Parkland, said that there was no doubt in his mind that the exit wound on the president’s head was at the back.”

See also:

JFK doctor explains: ‘It was not just one shooter (JFK Facts, Sept. 25, 2013)



135 thoughts on “Physician talks about what he saw at Parkland Hospital”

  1. Hmmmm…Just where exactly did Malcolm Kilduff point to when he made the official public announcement…?

    I would expect that the statement would have to have been approved.
    And why is it that very few clips show that segment of the announcement…?

    What happened to the entirely dissimilar bullet that was said to have been lodged near JFK’s ear as discussed in the FBI memo of Belmont to Tolson regarding a conversation he had at 9:18PM with SAC Shanklin…

    That bullets existence has been attested to by Phyllis Hall recently.

    Certainly would explain the need for post-mortem skull surgery.

  2. When you look at the video of the head shot, there is no doubt that the second shot came from the front. His head jerked backwards violently and the piece of his head that was blown off ended up on the back of the car. It was a monumental cover up.

  3. Anyone who has any doubts concerning Dr. Curtis is invited to read his testimony to the WC (it was taken at Parkland Hospital by Arlen Specter on the morning of 3/24/64).

    Quite obviously, he was in the emergency room tending to the President just as he says he was (in fact his testimony is very consistent with what he is quoted as saying in that newspaper article almost 50 years later). Also note that it was apparently the practice of the hospital to have an oral surgeon on call for ER duty at all times. So unless you’re willing to argue that the Warren Commission was scammed by a dentist with delusions of granduer and a vivid imagination, you must acknowledged that he was there, that he belonged there because it was hospital policy to have someone with his specialty there, and that he did what he says he did and saw what he says he saw.

    1. Fearfaxer, thank you for highlighting this. I was wrestling with the time it would take to emphasize how misleading Photon’s argument in particular has become. It is disconcerting to think that revisionists like him may be successful in taking over this particular discussion on this particular site.

      1. He’s clutching at straws, and the straws are all part of the stawmen he’s created. Jean Davison has done a much better job of arguing the pro-Warren Report POV. Of course, JD’s taken the time to actually provide some backup to what she says, and present things in a measured tone. At least Photon’s given up on the “HE’S A DENTIST!!!!” claim. Perhaps he’s lucky enough to never have required the services of an oral surgeon, and thus had no idea of what they are and what they do.

      2. Leslie writes:
        “how misleading Photon’s argument in particular has become”

        Photon’s logic: There’s absolutely no evidence that Oswald was a ballistics expert. Therefore he could not have used bullets to murder JFK.

    2. Obviously you do not understand what “on call” means. It specifically does not mean that an oral surgery resident was always in the ER, it means that someone is available for ER consultation if requested. It does not appear that Dr Curtis was on call for the ER that day as he stated that he had clinic duties and elective surgery that day. He was not called in by the ER staff; there certainly was no need for oral surgical services for JFK.He went by his own volition and apparently misrepresented himself to a policeman who thought that he was a physician. His story does not match the descriptions of the other physicians in the room; his claim to see an “embolism ” is bizarre- particularly since he doesn’t even mention where it was.Of course, if he meant a pulmonary embolism it becomes even more bizarre- as that diagnosis can’t be made just by looking at someone. Lastly, his claim of seeing brain tissue on JFK’s pants leg while doing a cutdown is ludicrous-JFK’s clothes were cut off and bagged before any procedures were done. He could no more see the pants leg during the cutdown than Dr. Crenshaw could see the unaltered neck wound when he arrived in the ER after the tracheostomy incision had been made.

      1. I never said that he was “on call” at that moment. I merely point out that at Parkland it was standard practice to have an oral surgeon on call for ER duty at all times, at least according to Dr. Curtis’ testimony. But then you have a habit of either not understanding what other people say, or deliberately ignoring it and making things up. For instance, your claim that Dr. Curtis “misrepresented himself to a policeman” is ridculous, and there is no evidence supporting it. And if he was the unwelcome presence in the ER you are trying to portray him as, why didn’t the other doctors present tell him to get out? As to the business about an embolism, it was simply an educated guess he made (and is described as such in the story), and not the least bit germane.

        BTW, you seem to be saying that Dr. Curtis’ testimony is contradicted by that of the other physicians. Notice the link I provided? Just click on it. You’ll find his WC testimony there, and you can easily navigate to find that of the other ER doctors who treated the President at Parkland. Please read it, and provide proof of these alleged discrepancies. If you decline to do so, well, you don’t have much credibility left, failure to do this won’t improve the situation.

  4. I posted the following as a specific reply to one of those ridiculous claims that Dr. Curtis was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill dentist. I think it’s helpful to further explain his specialty:

    More like a dental surgeon. Read the description of this specialty in the story: “Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology and Surgery.” Here is a partial description of what such a person does, taken from the website of just such a specialist, which I found in a Google search: “Perform[s] facial reconstructive trauma surgery to treat and/or repair traumatic injuries to the face[.]”

    Obviously, such a person is much more than just “a dentist.”

    Here is a link to the website:“

    Just as a side note, a few years ago I met someone who was concentrating in this specialty, and who was called up in the Army Reserves. He spent about 6 months working with soldiers who’d suffered traumatic head injuries from roadside bombs in Iraq. He did a lot of work helping to reconstruct their jaws, cheekbones, ears, noses, etc. A fair number of these soldiers had suffered brain injuries so severe they were no longer sentient.

    1. Thank you, Fearfaxer. I would like to see Photon try to weasel his way out of this point that you make, which I think is valid when examining Curtis’ position on that day.

      1. To begin with, Curtis came to the ER unaccompanied and probably had no business there as he wasn’t on any ER rotation. His version of events is contradicted by every other MD in the Trauma room. He claimed that he saw a piece of brain on JFK’s pants leg as he did the cutdown, forgetting that JFK’s clothes were cut off before any procedures were started, making his observation impossible. He claims to have seen a swelling, possibly an embolism. Where? A pulmonary embolism? Nobody else reported that.
        He claimed that a doctor told everybody to stop resuscitative efforts including a tracheostomy in progress and the cut down that he was working on. But the only doctor that would have made that statement was Kemp Clark, who came into the trauma room long after the tracheostomy was completed.

        1. Had no business there? His specialty included reconstructive trauma surgery. Of course he had business there, he was a resident (not an intern as you keep mistakenly claiming) who’d had experience treating gunshot wounds. Besides, seeing the sort of wounds JFK had suffered would add to his expertise, if nothing else. That’s part of the learning process doctors go through.

          You’re making a lot of wild claims in this comment thread, and especially in this particular post. Please provide backup for some of them. Otherwise, it’s safe to assume you’re merely spouting hot air.

  5. And at this point they decided to quit pumping blood and air through his system since he had been brain dead since dealy plaza.

  6. Central to this thread and others is photons opinion that the Emergency Room Doctors could not see into the wound in the back of JFK’s head. The “blowout’ depicted in Dr. McLelland’s diagram, agreed upon by multiple witness in ER1, and verified by early witnesses at Bethesda. It’s been said they could not see the wound because he was flat on his back. “They never lifted his head”.
    Perform this experiment. Lay down flat on your back in the floor. Place your right hand over the area depicted in the diagram. Look straight up. Would someone above or to your right rear be able to see the wound? Please remember, if memory serves me correct this wound was described as the size of a grapefruit or softball. If you tilted the head slightly to the left or squatted down slightly to the right rear and looked up could you see a good part of his brain missing?

    1. Ronnie,

      McClelland testified that he “looked down into” the head wound while he was standing, not squatting:

      “Then, as I took my post to help with the tracheotomy, I was standing at the end of the stretcher on which the President was lying, immediately at his head, for purposes of holding a tracheotom, or a retractory in the neck line. [….]
      As I took the position at the head of the table that I have already described, to help out with the tracheotomy, I was in such a position that I could very closely examine the head wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been extremely blasted. It had been shattered, apparently, by the force of the shot so that the parietal bone was protruded up through the scalp and seemed to be fractured almost along its right posterior half, as well as some of the occipital bone being fractured in its lateral half, and this sprung open the bones that I mentioned in such a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself and see that probably a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue, posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue had been blasted out.”

      He should’ve had no problem looking down into the head wound seen in the Z film and autopsy photos, but in this one…?

      McClelland’s original hospital report mentions only “a massive gunshot wound of the head” and “a gunshot wound of the left temple”:

      Obviously I’m not saying that McClelland lied, but memory plays tricks on people.

  7. Another Parkland witness who pokes whole In OS.

    Of course In all the MSM coverage of the 50th annivarsary you will hear nothing about this.

      1. When Photon—-BEFORE the first press conference at Parkland on November 22, or afterwards, when they were visited by the Secret Service and FBI agents?

        1. How could they agree or disagree with a report that had not even been written?
          As you continue to ignore published medical studies that highlight the inaccuracy of initial medical interpretations of bullet wounds in the ER and ignore the qualifying statements the physicians made during those press conferences that emphasized the incompleteness of their exams and the priority of basic resuscitative procedures over even the basic maneuver of turning the patient over I must assume that you have no interest in learning the truth about the ER treatment of JFK.
          It is telling that Perry didn’t want to say anything further to the press after his Nov 22 press conference because much of what he said was misinterpreted by a medically ignorant press corps. Unfortunately that medical ignorance seems to be persistent even today.

          1. How can anyone ignore the back of someone’s head being blasted out? That’s preposterous. The fact is, under pressure (political pressure I might add) most of the Dallas doctors folded, and changed their testimony, or shut up about what they saw. Oh, and of course, according to YOU, they never saw anything, even though they were trained to deal with gunshot wounds.

            The back of JFK’s head was blown out, Photon. That’s a FACT.

          2. Never been in an ER, have you JSA? It is amazing how many people who claim to be experts on what goes on in an ER have never even been in one.

          3. “They never saw anything , even though they were trained to deal with gunshot wounds”.
            Except completely miss a potentially fatal wound in the back.
            How can you explain that without completely impeaching your point of view?

          4. Obviously Photon, you have been in an ER many times. No doubt because you were on the receiving of something? Seriously, I keep asking for your credentials and all I get is some vague kind of renaissance man answer, as if you’ve been a soldier of fortune, a doctor and a forensics expert all in your spare time.

            I realize that the Dallas ER docs only had JFK in their trauma room for about 40 minutes. But where I would agree with you regarding the difficulty of assessing gunshot trajectories, etc. I can’t for the life of me see how the doctors couldn’t see: A) an entrance wound in the trachea which they enlarged to insert a breathing device; B) a small bullet entry in the temple and C) the top of JFK’s head intact, though bloody and all of the blood and brains coming out on the bottom of his head when he was in the supine position for emergency care.
            You asked that I provide some documentation to support my assertions. Here it is:

          5. Since when is a C.V. documentation for what a witness reports? Apparently your source for this press kit was Gary Shaw, who basically disappeared from the conspiracy community. Did he have a Geraldo-like revelation and go over to the Oswald alone side?
            I have posted facts. Claiming that there was a small bullet wound ” in the temple” is not a fact; if you claim that there was prove it by posting some evidence- not some janitor’s perception or some political science student’s theory or some ” covered up CIA memo”. Document clear,precise medical evidence posted in the post-mortem record.

      2. Well, someone needs to do a bit more research about all the people who saw an exit wound in the back of JFK’s head:

        Then there’s the SBT, which was not accepted by two Parkland doctors (Shaw and Gregory), not to mention the three Bethesda doctors and Joseph Dolce of Edgewood Arsenal.

        And I’m reminded of this 6/24/1964 memo from McCloy to Rankin expressing many doubts about the SBT: “The statement concerning the bullet which was found on the stretcher is not particularly persuasive because there is no indication that the ‘stretcher bullet’ was in fact the bullet which caused the [Connally] wrist wound.”

  8. The discrepancy between what was seen by dozens of eyewitnesses, many of whom were medically trained, and the existing autopsy materials is probably the most contentious issue of the case. While faltering witness memory can be cited, what is distinctive is that these eyewitnesses all remember the same thing i.e. a blowout in the rear right portion of the skull. So if they are all wrong, they are wrong in exactly the same way. This seems statistically improbable. As well, they also all remember what they didn’t see – as noted by the eyewitness here – which is damage matching what is seen in the autopsy materials.

    These are not decades old memories either. The HSCA encountered exactly the same issue, but stated in its final report that the mistakes occurred only at Parkland, as all witnesses at Bethesda corroborated the autopsy materials. One of the revelations from the ARRB was that the HSCA final report was completely incorrect on this matter – as the classified interviews, on release, showed that many Bethesda witnesses saw exactly what was seen at Parkland: a blow out in the back of Kennedy’s head.

    When reviewing this controversy it is hard to escape the fact that misinformation and falsehoods have been almost exclusively the domain of those claiming the authenticity of the autopsy materials.

    1. As I have stated the head was never moved before JFK was pronounced dead. It was position on the external occipital protuberance during that time. The posterior head could not be seen.

      1. Yeah, it never moved, right? It magically floated into the trauma room from the limousine, then it magically floated away, out the door, but first magically floated into the casket, and while it was magically floating, everyone covered their eyes so they wouldn’t have to look at it. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

        1. There is no evidence that any physician lifted up the head until the body was moved to the casket. Several physicians including Dr. McClelland have admitted this. As all of the Physicians save Dr. Clark drifted away from the room after the death pronouncement it becomes apparent that none of them actually observed any aspect of the head in the area of the external occipital protuberance, ergo they actually never saw the posterior aspect of the head.
          If you can show any evidence that contradicts that statement please feel free to post it.

          1. The only MD who actually saw the back of JFK’s head before he was placed supine on the gurney was OB-GYN resident William Midgett, who helped get the body out of the limo and moved it to the ER.
            He never supported the claims of a wound in the back of the head ; he seems to have been the last medical professional who actually SAW the back of the head off of the sheet of the gurney.

          2. That is absolutely FALSE. Most of the doctors saw the back of JFK’s head, because it was lifted up temporarily while surgical procedures were administered, to get an analysis of what the hell the surgeons were up against. Your assertions that the Parkland doctors never saw the back of JFK’s head is total, complete B.S.

          3. Is your argument that Kennedy’s head did not suffer a massive wound? Or are you creating red herrings alleging discrepancies in the testimony from the Emergency Room? Kennedy’s head was either severely compromised or it was not. Whether or not he was supine during the exam or turned over for examination, the right side of his head was obliterated.

            Have you revisited the very first interview of Abraham Zapruder when he is extremely animated in his description of what he saw from the knoll … that the right side of John Kennedy’s head had been blown to bits?

          4. Actually none of the doctors lifted the head while surgical procedures were done, because no surgical procedures were done on the head.
            TRL states that the first thing doctors and nurses do when a gunshot victim comes to the ER is to check for critical wounds. That isn’t true ; the A-B-C of resusitation is the first priority. Having stated that, I suspect that what you mean is that a physical exam is done to identify wounds.
            That exam was obviously incomplete as the ER docs never knew that he had a potentially fatal wound in his back. As the patient was DOA the limited exam is understandable. Non-physicians seem to have trouble accepting that a limited,incomplete exam was done. They also seem unable to come to grips that the head was never moved until the body was placed in the casket. There is no documentation that it was ever moved by any physician present.

          5. So essentially what you’re saying Photon, is that Drs. Crenshaw, McClelland, and former intern (now dentist) Curtis all were LIARS.
            Can you please state that for the record?

          6. In the case of Dr. Crenshaw I don’t have to, as Dr. Perry already did to the point of contemplating suing him.
            I believe that Dr. McClelland sincerely believes that he saw what he describes- although his NOVA 25th Anniversary program appearance where he agreed that the autopsy photos he saw matched his recollection seems to undercut his later statements. As he is the only principle attending surgeon to disagree with the autopsy photos he must be considered an outlier- that doesn’t make him a liar, only that his interpretation would be unlikely.
            As for Dr. Curtis, the “embolism” claim is clearly a problem-as no physicians present make any mention of this.The claim that a physician at the head of JFK told everybody to stop resusitation efforts is another problem- as everybody present stated that Dr Perry was in charge of the resuscitative efforts and by standard practice would make the call to suspend efforts to continue medical care.

          7. Photon – none of the Dallas doctors were actually shown the autopsy photos.

            The point is – dozens of persons in multiple locations saw exactly the same thing. You seem to want to wish away that fact by indulging in supposition about what happened in Parkland Hospital.

            Last week you were making authoritative claims about neck wounds, until it was shown that the medical literature you presume to refer to demonstrated that you were simply blowing hot air. That’s okay – every JFK board has its Photon, and you play your role exactly as should be expected.

          8. Well that is probably the craziest thing you have posted. You totally ignore a PBS program seen by millions on national television where several of the Parkland doctors saw the autopsy photos. I did refer to the medical literature, it did support my contention that a previous poster’s claims about neck wounds were simply in error. Perhaps you do not wish to accept the Journal of Trauma,Injury,Infection and Critical Care as a reliable source.
            As it is recognized as one of the benchmark publications of and for American Trauma specialists I and most experts in trauma do accept it as such. That is why I referenced its study of 110 neck wounds. Jeffc, how big is your series?

          9. In 1988 Drs. Dulaney ,Peters,Jenkins and McClelland were taken by the PBS NOVA program to the National Archives to see the JFK photos. After privately viewing the photos for an unlimited period of time each physician was interviewed on film about the process. Each one agreed that the photos accurately portrayed what they saw. The results were broadcast nationally.
            As such jeffc how can you possibly claim that “none of the Dallas doctors were actually shown the autopsy photos”?
            Why make a false claim when it can so easily be debunked?

      2. Really Photon? When they lifted his body out of the car, put it on a stretcher, lifted it onto a table in the ER, prepared it to be put in the casket..?

        The first thing doctors and nurses do when a gunshot victim comes into the ER is to check the body for critical wounds. Where are they bleeding from? What are they dying from? The throat wound was not critical. Hence, they checked the head and found the hole in the right-rear.

    1. That’s not true. Go back and look at the positions of the occupants of the limousine. The shot that hit JFK’s head appears to have hit from in front, pushing pieces of his skull and brain matter onto the BACK of the car. The First Lady was on his side, not directly behind his head.

      1. Exactly where in the back of the car? Why did Connolly see a piece of brain tissue on his leg if the matter was going backwards? Why are the two skull fragments going up and anteriorly in frame 313?

        1. Why did Jackie reach back to grab a piece of her husband’s skull and brains before Clint Hill pushed her back into the car? Why did Clint Hill say that the back of JFK’s head (the back not the front or top) was blown out?

          1. Are you sure that she did? Her original statements were that she had no recollection of getting out of the car. Their is no debris visible on the rear of the limo in the Zapruder film. Being the chivalrous gentleman that he is Mr. Hill supported her later statement; it is more probable that she was just trying to get out of a killing zone,particularly after Connolly screamed “My God, they are going to kill us all!”.
            Mr.Hill’s perception of the head wound did not stop him from accepting the conclusions of the Warren Commission; perhaps you have misinterpreted exactly what his comments actually meant.

          2. “it is more probable that she was just trying to get out of a killing zone,”

            It is clear from the Z film that Jacqueline Kennedy is reaching for specific matter on the trunk. She is not trying to get out of the moving limousine; if she had been, she most likely would have succeeded.

          3. No it isn’t. She was so intent on getting out that she kicked JFK’s head in the process-entirely understandable considering the circumstances.
            There is no debris on the trunk in the Zapruder film.

          4. FALSE!!—I’m citing the direct source.

            Photon, you will have to take this argument up with Clint Hill. He was there. YOU WERE NOT. I think you owe me credit and an apology for being wrong. Here is what he said about the car, about Mrs. Kennedy jumping out of her seat, and about how it happened:

            Hill said he was approaching the presidential vehicle when a third gunshot was fired.
            “I heard it and I felt it because it hit the president in the head. It was so explosive in nature that blood and brain matter and bone fragments all erupted right out of the wound. It came over the back of the car, onto Mrs. Kennedy and onto myself,” he said.
            That’s when Jackie Kennedy famously crawled onto the back of the limousine.
            “Why did Mrs. Kennedy come up in the back of the car? Because she was trying to gather some of the material that came off the president’s head and was on the back of the car,” Hill said.
            At that point, Hill said he realized just how grave the situation had become.
            “I could see the president’s eyes were fixed and there was a hole in his skull. I could see through that hole and there was no brain matter left in that whole area of the brain, so I assumed it was a fatal wound. And I turned and I gave a thumbs-down to the follow car crew to let them know just how serious the situation was,” he said.

  9. See, what I don’t get is why this isn’t headline news? Someone would have talked, well this guy’s talking. What I found most compelling was James Barrington of Canyon News writing of Dr. Don Teal Curtis:

    ‘He detailed the…the intimidation tactics used by Arlen Specter, the counsel for the commission that interrogated him and the other medical staff, essentially forcing them into compromising their testimony to make it fit the “official version” …’

    I mean this guy’s a doctor and he’s saying he and his colleagues were intimidated into lying about what they saw. And, these people are completely ignored by the popular media. It’s so frustrating!

      1. I think it’s more that the media just really isn’t interested unfortunately. This is not enough of a smoking gun for them.

        1. You have a point, Kelley. In other topics such as the lead up to the Iraq War in 2002/03, even the NYTimes seemed to fall behind Judith Miller’s completely bogus claims that Saddam Hussein had potential nuclear WMDs either in production, hidden, or in some late stage of development. When you look at Watergate, you also see a pattern of indifference amongst the American public at large in 1972, until the sh-t really hit the fan, in the summer of 1973 and then leading into 1974, up until Nixon’s departure that summer. In fact, the Watergate story almost got missed, except that Woodward & Bernstein persisted and had assistance from folks like editor Ben Bradlee and Kay Graham, who supported their journalistic investigation. Global warming is another topic that largely has been ignored by the general pubic, a large proportion of which is either ill informed or in denial about the severity of it.

          1. He is a dentist . The article claimed that he was a medical intern. This is clearly impossible as he is not an MD or DO. If they get something this fundamental wrong how can you believe any of it?

          2. Look, he now is a dentist. He was in training as an intern at the time, and was considered qualified by Perry and Carrico to help out. Therefore he observed the President’s head wound, as he stated. The Warren Commission took him seriously and interviewed him. What’s your point?

            You keep playing the dentist violin — Jack Benny wants his instrument back!

          3. That is complete and utter nonsense.He was not in training as a medical intern at the time; he was a dentist in an oral surgery residency program.Obviously you know nothing about Postgraduate medical training.If Carrico and Perry thought so highly about him why did they direct their own surgical residents to do a cutdown- a procedure that Dr. Curtis was unsuccessful at?
            More to the point, why wait 50 years to make the claims reported when he was given every opportunity by Specter to amplify his perceptions in 1964?

          4. You keep ignoring the fact that Curtis was IN THE TRAUMA ROOM AND ASSISTING THE SURGICAL TEAM. Are you now saying that he wasn’t there? Did he not see what he says he saw? Why in the hell would he lie about this? Were you there? Oh, you weren’t? Okay…

            As for Arlen Specter, he pushed and lead like the trial lawyer that he was. His job was to seal up the case, even if he had to bend the ballistics to make it happen. Curtis wasn’t alone in saying that his testimony before the Warren Commission was stressful and that he felt he was being led to say what they wanted, with very selective questions, ignoring certain answers after pretending to care about everything, etc. It was like being in the O.J. trial where truth took a back seat to pre-conceived prosecuting attorney, leading questioning.

  10. Is there any reason to disregard what the actual neurosurgeon who actually attended JFK said about the head wound? I’m no expert, but I do have the impression that neurosurgeons are supposed to have some knowledge in these matters. In fact, I might be disposed to forego the opinions of oculists and laypersons, with or without advanced degrees, in favor of someone like Kemp Clark, who is as far as I know unimpeachable. It’s worthwhile to read what he put into the record.

    1. I agree, no reason to disregard Dr. Kemp Clark (Director of Neurosurgery), from his statement:

      “There was a large wound in the right occipito-parietal region, from which profuse bleeding was occurring. 1500 cc. of blood were estimated on the drapes and floor of the Emergency Operating Room. There was considerable loss of scalp and bone tissue. Both cerebral and cerebellar tissue were extruding from the wound.”

      Key anatomical features, occipito-parietal region and extruding cerebellar tissue, designate a blast-out in the back of the head… Other attending physicians describe similar features representative of the type of exit wound indicative of a shot from the front… When you begin counting up these testimonies and statements from witnesses at Bethesda (ARRB-released documents), there are too many to discount…

    2. Just as significant as Dr. Curtis’s comments about the head wound is his statement that the Warren Commission used “intimidation” tactics to get people to say what they wanted them to say. This is a common theme and makes the Warren Report a biased report that is anything but an objective account of the assassination.

  11. It is hard for me to believe that these Parkland doctors are accurate in their reporting? Wouldn’t there have been bullet fragments on the other side of the President’s head if the head shot had indeed come from the Knoll? The x-ray revealed on the CBS special from this past Saturday night does not indicate that.

    1. There were bullet fragments in both the front and back of the skull. There were at least 40 fragments in total. It’s interesting that the same ammunition that produced 7 wounds a few seconds earlier and emerged with only 2-3 grains missing would then explode like this, no?

        1. The WC had tests done at the Edgewood Arsenal where 6.5 mm rounds were fired directly into the wrists of human cadavers. None of these cadavers showed that kind of fragmentation, despite impacting a very dense bone at high velocity. Instead, the rounds were mostly intact except for the hugely flattened noses (as you’d expect). The head wound appears as if it was made by different ammo, as the authors of the Edgewood Arsenal report acknowledge.

          1. Jason, please tell me who you’re quoting on the Edgewood Arsenal report.

            When the M-C was test-fired at Edgewood, bullets fired directly into cadaver wrists got flattened noses, those fired into skulls broke apart (the pieces looked like the two limo fragments). There are photos of these results online.

        2. Once again we have the Super Magic Slow Bullet that can break bones and emerge looking like it was fired into a tank of water, while the other bullet fragments just like…like an unjacketed fragmenting bullet!

          1. Yep, studies have proved that it happens. And you simply can’t accept the fact that your perception of what an Italian 6.5 mm round can do is false. Ignore experimentally proven facts if they get in the way of a good story.

  12. Having been sitting in a Spanish classroom less than an hour’s drive from Amarillo/Canyon at 12:30 pm November 22, 1963, I am stunned to read this account by Dr. Curtis.

    We are all connected by degrees.

    I’ve spent countless hours in Panhandle libraries and the Panhandle Plains Historic Museum studying the history of the region, in particular as it related to the assassination of President Kennedy.

    (My grandmother was a caregiver to Ol’ Lady Bivins, and I’m wondering if Dr. Curtis may in some degree be related to the Teal Bivins family of Amarillo?)

    I’m going to risk a purely parochial statement: We should listen carefully to what Dr. Curtis says.

  13. This is fascinating. His witness testimony seems to back that of McClelland’s and Crenshaw’s, reporting that the doctors in the trauma room saw the back of Kennedy’s head, which they said was blown out. It’s also interesting how he supports what others have said about Arlen Specter’s bullying tactics, trying to get people to fall in line with the politically-important ‘single bullet’ story line.

    I think David Lifton had it right when he described alteration to Kennedy’s brain and skull done by Humes just prior to the official autopsy at Bethesda.

    1. So now Humes altered the body? When the first time he saw it he was in the company of about a dozen other individuals in the autopsy suite?
      How? Do you realize that would have been physically impossible unless he was working on the body in the ambulance from Andrews behind Jackie and RFK?
      You really jumped the shark on that one.

      1. I didn’t jump anything, Paul. You haven’t read Lifton’s book, “Best Evidence” have you? Nor did you actually bother to watch and listen to the video clip that I linked which explains the post-mortem butchery behind the altered x-ray images of JFK’s skull. The body may not have arrived in the bronze casket with Jackie and RFK—it could have been switched to a shipping casket and delivered in advance. Again, you have to read Lifton’s book to understand this theory. You can’t just shoot down something without reading—-that’s being intellectually lazy. Shark my as–.

        1. I read that fable years ago. It was one of the first books that published some of the autopsy photos. The hypothesis is absolutely insane, but some folks simply can’t accept that either Jackie Kennedy or Godfrey McHugh were with JFK’s body from the moment that he was declared dead until the moment it was placed on the catafalque in the White House. The only time that Jackie left the body on AF-I was to witness LBJ taking the oath; McHugh had no desire to see that and stayed with the casket.
          How anybody at this date could even consider that tripe is beyond me. It is symptomatic of the lengths that conspiracy theorists are willing to go to escape reality and common sense and to even implicate Mrs. Kennedy as being part of a conspiracy.

          1. As I recall Lifton included the picture of the top of JFK’s head looking down toward his feet. He claimed that a portion of the corpus callosum was a surgical clip. Why anyone who secretly “surgically” altered JFK would leave a clip in to be seen at autopsy is never explained. Not only was Lifton totally ignorant about anatomy and surgical techniques he left his common sense at the door.

  14. Jeff, get your facts straight. Dr. Curtis is not a physician. Your headline is misleading and is obviously an attempt to give more credence to a witness not based on his expertise, but on his perception of events. He couldn’t even get an IV in the President.

    1. Paul,

      Don Curtis is listed in the Canyon News article as a “Physician”. He was an intern at Parkland, and was officially part of the team working on President Kennedy. Those are facts. They are straight.

          1. What’s your point? Was he or was he not present and able to identify the head wound? Even Audrey Bell, a “mere nurse” as well as Clint Hill, a “mere secret service agent” saw and said they saw the back of the President’s head blown out.

            Your cheap smear tactics don’t apply here, Paul.

          2. My point is this- the article posted several false statements- he is a physician, he was a medical intern,etc.
            Why should you believe anything in the story?
            More to the point, if you are going to claim that Clint Hill’s description of the head wound is so contradictory to the autopsy findings why does he support the Warren Commisision’s conclusions?

          3. More like a dental surgeon. Read the description of this specialty in the story: “Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology and Surgery.” Here is a partial description of what such a person does, taken from the website of just such a specialist, which I found in a Google search: “Perform[s] facial reconstructive trauma surgery to treat and/or repair traumatic injuries to the face[.]”

            Obviously, such a person is much more than just “a dentist.”

            Here is a link to the website:

          4. >>More to the point, if you are going to claim that Clint Hill’s description of the head wound is so contradictory to the autopsy findings why does he support the Warren Commisision’s conclusions?<<<

            Gee, maybe because Clint Hill worked for the same Secret Service that worked for LBJ?? Ya think?? Many people who tried to play the political lone nut, Warren Commission line still said things that contradicted that line. Just read what Governor Connally said about being hit by a different bullet than the one that struck JFK (which by stating so automatically rules out a SBT). Yet Connaly, a friend and ally of LBJ, said that he supported the Warren Commission findings of a lone gunman. See what I mean?

          5. Not shameful at all. Rather than wrap the flag around myself, I prefer to look at what really happened, good and bad. Clint Hill doesn’t want to impeach the Warren Commission, his former SS boss, or Lyndon Johnson. Okay, fine. But he’s wrong if he says only Oswald shot the President. He was trying his best however to save the First Couple from a bad situation, and he saw what he saw of JFK’s head. My point about Governor Connally stands to back up my point, which I noticed you ignored. Shameful.

          6. No they are not false, he was interning as a physician, he was going to school as a dentist and became an oral surgeon later in life. Even though none of these are relevant to the lack of professional knowledge needed to recognize someones blatant injuries.

    1. I wouldn’t necessarily say his testimony was different. They only allowed one brief answer on the head wound in his testimony, and in a very general way, his answer is consistent with a blow out in the back of the head.

      He apparently detailed intimidation tactics on the part of Specter to conform his testimony to the pre-ordained outcome, something we’ve heard a lot before. I’d like to hear him give more details on that.

      1. Specter asked Curtis open-ended questions, such as:

        “Mr. SPECTER – During the course of your presence near President Kennedy, did you have any opportunity to observe any wounds on his body?
        Dr. CURTIS – After I had completed the cutdown, I went around to the right side of the patient and saw the head wound.
        Mr. SPECTER – And what did you observe there?
        Dr. CURTIS – Oh–fragments of bone and a gross injury to the cranial contents, with copious amounts of hemorrhage.”

        That’s all he said about it, even though at the end Specter asked:

        “Mr. SPECTER – Do you have anything to add which you think would be helpful to the Commission in its work?
        Dr. CURTIS – No; I don’t think so.” END QUOTE

        Curtis now believes that the autopsy photo of JFK’s head wound wasn’t what he saw. I suggest that his memory has changed, not the photo. Anyone who thinks that’s not likely should Google “eyewitness memory.” For instance, the Wikipedia article that comes up says:

        “Witnesses can be subject to memory distortions that can alter their account of events. It is of particular interest that the memory of an eyewitness can become compromised by other information, such that an individual’s memory becomes biased. This can increase eyewitnesses’ sensitivity to the misinformation effect. Individuals report what they believe to have witnessed at the time of the crime, even though this may be the result of a false memory. These effects can be a result of post-event information.” See also this link to “misinformation effect”:

        I believe Curtis’s memory was probably affected by “post-event information.”

        Here is his 1964 testimony:

        1. Dr Perry described the neck wound as a wound of entry in the press conference at Parkland.
          Did he have post event information too?

          And Dr Robert Mclelland who described a large gaping hole in the rear of JFK’s head.
          Post-event information?

          1. George,

            Perry assumed it was an entry wound because it was small and he hadn’t seen the corresponding bullet hole on JFK’s back.

            McClelland told the WC that he closely examined the head wound while standing at the head of the gurney holding a retractor during the tracheotomy, and that from this position “you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself and see that probably a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue, posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue had been blasted out.”

            He also said that JFK was on his back the whole time and that his head wasn’t lifted:

            Mr. SPECTER – Did you observe the condition of the back of the President’s head?
            Dr. McCLELLAND – Well, partially; not, of course, as I say, we did not lift his head up since it was so greatly damaged.

            Here’s JFK on his back (graphic autopsy photo):


            Here’s the so-called McClelland drawing:


            Now you tell me, how could McClelland have possibly looked “down into” such a head wound when he was standing over JFK, who was on his back?

            I think it’s more likely that McClelland looked down into the large wound on the TOP of JFK’s head, which would’ve been visible to him, and that he later remembered this opening as being on the back of his head.

            McClelland’s testimony and original handwritten hospital report are here:



          2. “I think it’s more likely that McClelland looked down into the large wound on the TOP of JFK’s head, which would’ve been visible to him, and that he later remembered this opening as being on the back of his head.”

            This skirts on the outrageous … to assign to a physician (who was there, when you were not) what you personally think he more likely saw.

          3. Why don’t you mention that Perry admitted that if he had been aware of a back wound his initial perception could have been different?

        2. No, what Curtis is saying is that the head wounds that HE saw at Parkland didn’t match the archival autopsy photos and x-rays. There’s a good reason for this: JFK’s body was tampered with after it arrived at Andrews AFB. Sometime prior to the official autopsy, the President’s skull was opened up, the entry wound in the right front temple was cut out to look like an exit wound, bullet fragments were removed from the head, and the brain was gouged/altered to look like JFK was hit from behind and not from the front. David Lifton shows how this would have been possible in his book, “Best Evidence.” You can also see a good argument supporting this argument here:

          So the official autopsy results of course don’t match what was seen in Dallas. JFK’s body had to be removed from Dallas at gunpoint, then stealthily switched to a shipping casket and taken to Bethesda before the empty bronze casket could arrive with Jackie and Robert Kennedy. This explains why the Dallas doctors were perplexed about x-rays and autopsy findings that totally ran counter to an obvious rear of the skull blast out exit wound that even an intern and nurse (Audrey Bell) could see in Dallas.

        3. Jean, Application of this method must be applied equally. How many witnesses (particularly those who support your theory that Oswald was a lone assassin) would you subject to this academic scrutiny with regard to memory, beginning with Howard Brennan who in fact became far more confident as the weeks and months passed.

          1. Most people who think Oswald was guilty don’t place a lot of weight on eyewitness testimony, including Brennan’s. I believe Brennan saw Oswald only because of all the other evidence against Oswald.

            Brennan didn’t “become more confident”; he said that after he heard news reports about Oswald’s background he was afraid there was a conspiracy and that he might be in danger if he ID-ed him.

          2. Jean, Dr Mclelland was experienced with bullet wounds, I think there’s a chance he may know what he is talking about, and that he may be right.

            But going back to post-event information, that’s a bit far fetched isn’t it? And can we also apply this rule to other witnesses?

          3. That is a rather bizarre admission, that eyewitness testimony is cavalierly disregarded. Of course it should be scrutinized, but to place little weight?

            What then do you base your hypothesis upon – Oswald shooting Kennedy in a vacuum? Kennedy being taken to the hospital where those with the skill and training to possibly save his life would not also have the common sense and ability to accurately recount the events?

            Further, why did the police rely on Roy Truly to identify that Oswald was not present at the roll call? Why take his eye witness word for it? Perhaps Truly merely overlooked Oswald standing in some corner.

          4. Howard Brennan must be viewed as a highly unreliable witness.
            He initially stated that he could not make a positive identification.
            Then in his testimony to the WC it was revealed that he had poor eyesight.

            I get confused when the lone nut theorists claim witnesses are unreliable for one reason or another, and yet find Brennan credible.

          5. Why? He gave a very plausible reason for not conclusively identifying Oswald on Nov 22, 1963.Of course you don’t mention that he identified the 2 black gentlemen who were on the fifth floor .After police took them into custody Brennan identified them as innocent bystanders and helped secure their release. How could he have done that if his vision was impaired as some have claimed?

          6. Photon, when it comes to Brennan you expose your inconsistency.

            Many times on here you have labelled a witness as unreliable because they changed their testimony.

            Brennan initially stated he could not make a positive identification, so using your standards he should be classed as unreliable.

          7. Brennan knew of other witnesses who saw the gunman so his excuse for not IDing Oswald is unconvincing. Nearly all the witnesses who saw the gunman on the Sixth floor said he was a white male so I don’t see how Brennan’s exclusion of the Black men on the fifth floor was worthy of note.

            Brennan initially gave a vague description of the gunman and he later admitted that he couldn’t be sure of whether or not seeing Oswald on TV influenced his ability to ID Oswald as the shooter.


            Mr. Belin: What is the fact as to whether or not your having seen Oswald on television would have affected your identification of him one way or the other?

            Mr. Brennan: That is something I do not know. (3H148)

    2. Jean,

      Where did Curtis change his testimony? I reread his WC testimony, and it corroborated fairly well with what he told Arlen Specter. Here is what he said about JFK’s wounds in the testimony back in 1964 which stood out for me:

      MR. SPECTER. During the course of your presence near President Kennedy, did you have any opportunity to observe any wounds on his body?

      DR. CURTIS. After I had completed the cutdown, I went around to the right side of the patient and saw the head wound.

      MR. SPECTER. And what did you observe there?

      DR. CURTIS. Oh—fragments of bone and a gross injury to the cranial contents, with copious amounts of hemorrhage.

      —————————————At this point, Specter doesn’t ask more details about the head wound but moves the query on to “other wounds” which Curtis said he didn’t see, other than the “mass in the pre-tracheal area” discussed earlier.

      So what Specter is doing is moving the query AWAY from discussion of the head injury, getting back to the trachea and then wrapping things up. Why is he not asking in more detail about what Curtis saw with respect to the head injury? That was pretty important. Curtis DID see the wounds to the back of the head, as did the other doctors present, as he said years later. This never got discussed by Specter in 1964—-because Specter cleverly avoided it. Years later, Curtis felt he had been intimidated by Specter and by the Warren Commission, a feeling that others also felt. This fits into a pattern with respect to the Warren Commission’s tactics.

    3. The head wound was one of the greatest areas of contention following the assassination, and yet Specter asks Dr. Curtis only one question pertaining to it. The glaring issue here is that Dr. Curtis witnessed the gaping wound; the subtle issue is Specter’s failure to pursue further testimony pertaining to the wound, and yet spent minutes on President Kennedy’s color, tracheotomy, and who was in the room. This is a pattern of inquiry one reads throughout the Warren Report, and not exclusive to Arlen Specter.

      1. Specter questioned numerous other witnesses about the head wound, and Curtis had the opportunity to say more, at the end:
        SPECTER: Do you have anything to add which you think would be helpful to the Commission in its work?
        CURTIS: No; I don’t think so.

        This quote from the article, if accurate, shows that Curtis’s memory was not perfect:

        “As he was beginning the cut-down procedure and another doctor was beginning the tracheotomy, a third doctor moved around to the president’s head and lifted it so he could examine the president for any wounds that were not visible from his position, lying on his back. As soon as the doctor lifted the president’s head, he said, “Stop resuscitation….”

        1. McClelland testified that the head was NOT lifted, and so far as I know, no other witness has ever made this particular claim.

        2. The testimony is unanimous that the resuscitation efforts didn’t end at the beginning of the cut-down or trach procedures, but continued for some time after that.

        I’m waiting for someone to explain how McClelland could’ve looked down into this wound when JFK was on his back:

        Did McClelland have x-ray vision?

      2. Leslie, I didn’t say that I “disregarded” eyewitness testimony or gave it “little” weight. Eyewitness IDs of strangers have been shown to be unreliable, and Brennan’s testimony *ALONE* would not be enough to convince me personally of Oswald’s guilt. The other evidence against Oswald convinces me, not Brennan’s ID.

        George, Brennan testified that his eyesight was excellent on the day of the assassination. Whoever told you otherwise is not a reliable source.

        1. “Most people who think Oswald was guilty don’t place a lot of weight on eyewitness testimony, including Brennan’s.”

          Jean, Not to mince words, but I read your statement as indicative of your personal position regarding eyewitness testimony, i.e., that you do not place a lot of weight on it which I think implies a cavalier disregard for witnesses present at a scene.

          Can you clarify: do you trust the eyewitness testimony of Brennan – who was yards away from the depository window? And if so, how does that weigh against your lack of faith in statements made by a physician standing at Kennedy’s side as he died?

          1. Brennan gave his description of the gunman immediately. When did McClelland (and Curtis) first describe a blown-out back of the head?

            Remember, Specter asked McClelland, “Did you observe the condition of the back of the President’s head?” And did McClelland reply, “I sure did, there was a big hole there”??

            No, he did not. He said, “Well, partially; not, of course, as I say, we did not lift his head up since it was so greatly damaged.”

            The most surprising thing I’ve learned in researching this subject is that memories CHANGE. The older the memories are, the less reliable they become. Memories can be influenced by hearing the accounts of other witnesses, among other things. That’s just a fact — you could look it up.

            Are you saying you accept Brennan’s ID of Oswald, Leslie? After all, “he was there,” right?

        2. Jean, Dr.Curtis gave his description of the head wound when he was asked, officially. Do we know whether or not he attempted to report the head wound prior to that? Would it have ever occurred to him or any of the doctors that there was the slightest question about what they saw in the ER? Why would they have thought it necessary to step forward to insist that there was a massive head wound? until of course the Warren Commission called them to testify, and that is when the intimidation began according to Curtis.

          I still challenge your authoritative statement regarding memory. Ask most Americans where they were at the moment of the assassination, and they can describe their experience in accurate detail. I have reached out to those I remember being near during the first 20 minutes after the announcement, and to a person, we all remember virtually every detail in sync. Time has not altered the memory, and in fact it has enhanced it. There is an intellectual arrogance in your claim that you know what Dr. Curtis saw.

          The question was why would you trust Brennan’s testimony and not Dr. Curtis’s; because it aligns with your hypothesis? I’m not sure that memory is at issue here as much as obstinance, perhaps on both sides.

          1. Have you ever heard of “the Challenger study”? Here’s one account from a blog on neuroscience/psychology:


            Funny stuff happens when people think about the past. Sometimes, they replace reality with fiction. This is because we have poor episodic memories – a well-established fact in psychology. Consider the famous study done by Ulric Neisser. The day after the Challenger disaster he asked Emory University undergrads to write a description of how they heard of the disaster – the time of day, what they were doing, how they felt about it, etc. Neisser then asked the same students the same set of questions two and a half years later and compared the two descriptions. He found three things. First, the memories of the students had dramatically changed: “twenty-five percent of the students’ subsequent accounts were strikingly different from their original journal entries. More than half the people had lesser degrees of error, and less than ten percent had all the details correct.” Second, people were usually confident that the accounts they provided two and a half years later were accurate. And third, “when confronted with their original reports, rather than suddenly realizing that they had misremembered, they often persisted in believing their current memory.”

            The study, which is now known as the Challenger study, has been replicated with several notable events such as 9/11 and the Reagan assassination attempt.


            It’s not merely my opinion that memories change. It is a well-established fact. Do the research and you’ll find that’s true.

        1. He was a participant at Parkland working on President Kennedy. It didn’t take a medical or forensic “genius” to know when the back of someone’s head was blasted out.

          1. So why have an autopsy? Again, total ignorance of documented medical studies of wound perception in the ER. What is it about the medical literature on this subject that you do not understand? Do you feel that you know more about ER techniques and physical diagnosis than board-certified medical researchers on the faculties of some of the most prestigious medical schools in the country?
            If you can’t accept the medical literature, put forth some serious research to contradict it.

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