Rankin: ‘We have an explanation there in the autopsy that probably a fragment came out the front of the neck’

“We have an explanation there in the autopsy that probably a fragment came out the front of the neck.”

— Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin, in an executive session of Jan. 27, 1964. The official autopsy report contains no such statement, though there are some indications in the record that an early conclusion was that JFK’s throat wound was caused by the exit of a bullet fragment from the head shot. Autopsy witness Richard Lipsey, for instance, told the HSCA that the autopsy doctors discussed this.

There are reasons to believe that the original autopsy report was rewritten, and may have disappeared with the president’s brain and other materials while in Robert Kennedy’s hands. See this discussion by Assassination Records Review Board senior staffer Douglas Horne (part 1 and part 2). Later in the same session, Commissioner Richard Russell aptly observed of the medical evidence: “This isn’t going to be something that would run you stark mad?”


  1. Jonathan says:

    Little of what you write makes sense to me.

    — The autopsy doctors could form no opinion as to the neck wound,
    because it had been obliterated.

    — The Parkland doctors who opined were of the clear opinion the
    neck wound was a wound of entrance.

    — Even if the autopsy docs, under whatever orders they were
    operating, wrote that the anterior neck wound was a wound of
    exit, why would they re-write their conclusion, which supports
    the SBT?

    • leslie sharp says:

      The alteration of the autopsy report has been debated thoroughly, with emphasis on RADM Galloway’s role. What I can’t find (quickly) is the chain of command from Galloway to his superiors. Who was on the ground with him, and who was influencing him? I see that he was born in Wyandotte, MI, eleven miles from Detroit. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense – Galloway’s ultimate boss – and former president of Ford Motors whose foundation chairman at the time was John Jay McCloy was with Jacqueline Kennedy at Bethesda. Watch out for that rabbit hole.

      But who was in between. The Secretary of Navy post was in a state of flux; Paul Fay had been acting secretary since Nov. 2, following Fred Korth’s abrupt resignation; and Paul Nizte replaced Fay who resigned immediately after the assassination on November 28. We know that Fay was a friend of Kennedy’s so it could be that he was entirely ineffectual beginning on the 22nd. Apparently the assistant secretary post had been dispersed across the department in 1954.

      What is important is to follow what happened immediately after. Whoever Galloway was succumbing to would have most assuredly retained some level of power in the days and months following the autopsy.

      Nitze was the brother-in-law of Walter Paepke, whose wealth originated from the family company, Chicago-based Container Corp of America (on whose board sat Gaylord Freeman, Sr. Exec at FNB Chicago where James Hosty began his career) and who teamed with former members of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division to build Aspen Ski Resort and Aspen Institute. Twenty-seven years later, Margaret Thatcher would be preparing to speak at the institute just as Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Thatcher a guest of Henry Catto, long term Trustee and future Vice Chairman of the Aspen Institute.

      Nitze himself would later act as a leading member of “Team B” the intellectual think tank that contributed to the build up of arms against the Soviet Union because it was believed that the Russians were developing weapons of mass destruction. That estimate was later deemed to have been exaggerated. Does this sound familiar?

      What this proves: is that the direct trajectory of major political and military events – from the day John Kennedy was murdered – can be drawn across the following fifty years, and involve the very same, like-minded individuals. And it can be safely speculated that Calvin Burrel Galloway was under someone’s influence.

  2. Eric Hollingsworth says:

    I’ve always thought that the neck wound was an entry wound. A low velocity round, maybe, that entered the neck and penetrated the skin of the back, but didn’t exit. Hoover told LBJ that a whole bullet had rolled out when JFK was being given a heart massage. He claimed that it was the bullet from the head wound, but that doesn’t seem logical; a bullet that does such massive damage to a human skull is likely to fragment. On the other hand, a bullet that only goes through soft tissue is likely to remain intact.

    A marginal shooter, say, someone who had been given second-rate training for the invasion of a small nation, might have failed to take the incline of Elm St. into account while aiming at JFK’s center mass and hit high, in the throat.

    Of course, CE399 suggests that had there been another shooter, he would also have been using 6.5mm ammunition, which seems improbable. However, the provenance of CE399 is dubious at best, and according to Seth Kantor and another, Jack Ruby was in Parkland Hospital when it would have to have been planted.

  3. Jonathan says:

    I’d like to see a study of possible locations for the neck shot.

    A shot from the front through the windshield always has seemed a poor choice to me. Too many obstacles in the possible paths to JFK. Too great a chance of deflection. OTOH, I’ve read the sound of a high-velocity round striking windshield glass is that of a firecracker.

    • Eric Hollingsworth says:

      I’d like to see such a study myself. Comprehensive views of Dealy Plaza including the surrounding area at the time seem to be in short supply. The Triple Overpass and the South Knoll are likely locations in my view. The South Knoll especially was virtually uninhabited and afforded a lot of cover.

      Also, from what I’ve seen, there were buildings in existence at the time that might have been good candidates, but most contemporaneous views of Dealy Plaza are truncated at the Triple Overpass. So it’s hard for me to say.

      I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I think the throat shot might have been over the windshield. That might account for the downward angle between the neck and back wounds. I think a realistic distance from which a shot might have been fired would have been between 500 and 1000 yards. That is consistent with the range of a good rifle.

      The subsequent shots I think were taken in desperation.

  4. Brian LeCloux says:

    It’s worth repeating what I have posted on this site before:
    Dr. James Carrico told the dean of the first generation of critics, Harold Weisberg, on Dec. 1, 1971, the bullet hole in the front of the president’s throat was a wound of entrance (and above the necktie with no hole in the president’s shirt or tie).
    On the same date, in a separate interview, in the same hospital (Parkland), Dr. Malcolm Perry also told Weisberg the throat wound was one of entrance.
    Further, Perry’s informed comments about the president’s head wound (from a varminting round) and Connally’s wounds (more metal in Connally than missing from 399) were also destructive of the official theory.
    This information is summarized by Weisberg in his Post Mortem: JFK Assassination Cover-up Smashed! pp. 374-379 (1975).
    Unlike Lipsey these two doctors were right on top of JFK performing procedures just after he was brought into Trauma Room One.

  5. Bill Pierce says:

    After all these years, I’m not sure I’ve ever read Lipsey’s interview (January 18, 1978). It’s fascinating in so many ways. Did the HSCA whitewashers try to reconcile Lipsey’s firm recollection of “three separate wounds and three separate bullets” with the Warren Commission’s magic bullet scenario? Oh, never mind.

  6. Jean Davison says:

    Rankin says “the picture shows the bullet came out in the neckband of the shirt in front.” This can’t be an early autopsy report because the clothes weren’t at Bethesda. Rankin is looking at the FBI Supplemental report that discussed the autopsy and included photos of JFK’s clothes. Rankin is confused because the FBI version didn’t match Hume’s. Sibert and O’Neill hadn’t reported the neck wound, thus this report implies that the shirt hole may’ve been caused by a fragment from the head shot. Lifton discussed this in Best Evidence.

    The HSCA believed Lipsey was mistaken about the wounds. See footnote 95 on this page:


  7. Jean Davison says:

    Should be Humes’, not Hume’s — sorry.

  8. leslie sharp says:

    Reports of the chain of command during the autopsy vary and it has been debated ad nauseum; Was Burkley in charge, issuing directives pursuant to the Kennedy family’s wishes? Did Admiral Galloway acquiesce in every instance? Or was Galloway following orders from his immediate and/or ultimate superior Robert McNamara who was with Jacqueline Kennedy on the 17th floor of Bethesda or someone in between?

    I find it hard to believe that a career navy officer like Galloway would have broken from the chain of command when he tampered with the autopsy report which initiated the controversy over the throat wound.

    The Secretary of Navy post had been in a state of flux for a least a month when Fred Korth resigned abruptly and Kennedy appointed close friend Paul Fay as interim. If Fay was emotionally ineffectual that evening, could the procedures at Bethesda have been influenced by a holdover from the controversial Korth, or the impending appointment of Paul Nitze by McNamara (assuming Johnson was intending to honor Kennedy’s deal with McNamara that he would be allowed to make final choices)?

    It seems to me that the “official” cover-up on a Federal level began at Bethesda.

  9. common sense says:

    None of the Dallas doctors comments about the nature of the neck wound’s origin can be accepted as anything but uninformed speculation. The fact is that NONE of them knew that he had a back wound. HE WAS NEVER TURNED OVER. The first time that Perry learned that JFK had a back wound was when the Bethesda pathologist told him on November 23. Despite all of the hue and cry about the autopsy the basic findings have never been refuted. To claim that an ER physician under great stress (note the huge tracheostomy incision) with a DOA patient whom he never even turned over could give accurate testimony about the bullet’s path or ballistics is ludicrous.

    • leslie sharp says:

      I failed to elaborate that Galloway’s interference referred to the wound in the throat which he identified as a trach incision. Whether or not doctors turned Kennedy over at Parkland (which I find difficult to understand but if you are stating the fact emphatically I presume you have it well researched) is a mute point given the obvious footage of Kennedy grabbing his throat on film.

      The further issue with Galloway is the method of handling the final report, easily searched online.

  10. “note the huge tracheostomy incision)” – It was not a huge incision at all. What you see in that photo is a butcher job made *after* the ER attempts to revive a DOA JFK. It was probably made in the course of fishing out a bullet, in order to make it appear that all shots to JFK came from the rear by one shooter.

    Reporter Connie Kritzberg, alive today, interviewed the Parkland doctors on 11/22/63 and they told her JFK was shot in the throat.

    Click on this link and read what the FBI added to Connie’s copy on the night of 11/22/63: A DOCTOR ADMITTED THAT IT WAS POSSIBLE THERE WAS ONLY ONE WOUND.” Those are FBI words, not the reporter’s words.

    The title of her story in the paper Dallas Times Herald, dated 11/23/63 was:

    “Neck Wounds Bring Death to President”


  11. Leslie: Admiral Galloway was working closely with the CIA at the time of his participation in the autopsy. Felix Rodriguez, in his book Shadow Warriors, mentions how Galloway was the go-to guy for the CIA’s anti-Castro Cubans.

    • leslie sharp says:

      Thanks Lisa. I’m also looking for a personal bio on Galloway to review his official affiliations.

    • leslie sharp says:

      btw Lisa, you and I spoke briefly a number of years ago when I phoned you regarding Richard Bartholomew’s work focused on the Rambler.

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