Dr. Robert McClelland, the surgeon who oversaw the effort to save President Kennedy’s life in 1963, died earlier this month at age 89. In his interviews, you sense a man of considerable dignity, humility, and integrity. It comes as no surprise that he self-published an anthology of writings on surgery to which thousands of doctors subscribed. He was both a teacher and doctor, an instructor and a healer. And it is those qualities that make McClelland one of the most important witnesses to JFK’s assassination.
In 1963, McClelland was 34 years old. He had just become the chief of surgery at Dallas’s Parkland Hospital. When the mortally wounded JFK was brought to Trauma Room One, McClelland stood over the dying president and participated in the efforts to save him. He observed the president’s fatal head wound for about 10 minutes from a distance of less than two feet.
“My God,” he recalled saying to his colleagues. “Have you seen the back of his head. There’s a wound in the back of his head that’s about five inches in diameter.”
There was no large wound in the right face. The president’s wounds were a small entrance wound in the pre-tracheal area, a large exit wound in the posterior inferior cranium and bullet entrance wound in the back at T3, 10 centimeters to the right of the spinal column.
In his recent 6th Floor Museum talk, scholar Max Holland invokes what he calls a “consensus” of “rational” people about the origins of the gunfire that hit President Kennedy. As this interview with Dr. Robert McClelland of Parkland Hospital shows, there is no such consensus.
On the Monday following the tragic and astonishing events in Dallas, President Kennedy’s body was laid to rest in Arlington cemetery. A host of foreign dignitaries took part, including British Prime Minister Home, French President Charles de Gaulle, and many others.
Meanwhile the federal government’s response to the assassination was taking shape. Read more