White House doctor George Burkley on his patient

“I would not care to be quoted on that.”

– JFK’s White House physician Dr. George Burkley, when asked during a 1967 oral history whether he agreed with the Warren Report’s conclusion about the number of bullets that hit President Kennedy.

Intrigued? The tale of the “missing physician” is an incredible non-story in the JFK assassination.

24 thoughts on “White House doctor George Burkley on his patient”

  1. Clint Hill has recently written about what he SAW andthought pertaining to what Jackie was reaching for and Dr Ronald Jones and other Parkland staff have stated that Jackie handed skull and brain matter to them .

    First lady Jacqueline Kennedy stood in a corner of the room, not crying but looking grim, her husband’s blood still fresh on her pink wool outfit, Jones said. Earlier, when she first arrived at the hospital, she had handed another doctor a section of skull and some brain matter belonging to her husband that she had gathered from the limousine they were riding in, he said.

    Clint HIll In his new book, “Five Days in November,” he narrates in the present tense the horror of seeing Jackie lunging toward him.

    “Mrs. Kennedy, covered in her husband’s blood, her eyes filled with terror, is crawling out of her seat … she doesn’t see me, she doesn’t even know I’m there,” he writes. “Oh God, she’s reaching for some material that’s come out of the president’s head.”

    The limo driver, realizing JFK had been shot, stepped on the gas.

    “If I don’t get to her, she’s going to be thrown off the back of the car,” he writes.

    It had taken astonishing speed and strength for Hill to reach the step at the back of the car, keep his grip on the rear grab-handle as it sped up, and climb forward, grabbing Mrs. Kennedy by her right arm and shoving her back into the car.

    “My God, they have shot his head off,” he heard Jackie shriek.

    Hill was also covered in blood and gore. It was in his hair and on his face. He managed to spread-eagle himself to shield the Kennedys from any more shots as the car accelerated to 80 mph. He could see a large hole in the president’s head, JFK’s famously twinkling eyes now fixed.

    The limo was on its way to the hospital, but Hill knew Kennedy was dead.

  2. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

    “If there’s even a hint of extra gunshots there, would someone please point it out.”…here is a simple test anyone can do at home. Open your hand so it is flat (either one). Place the palm of your open hand against the back of your head, approximately midway between the top and bottom. The back of head was blown outwards. The area that your palm is touching is an exit point and this area blown out was quite large according to all witnesses. More importantly, this is indicated by the skull fragments blown off and found later. The entry point must precede the exit point, meaning that the bullet entered from a location forward from the spot where your hand touches your head, regardless of direction.

    1. Dusty,

      My point is that Burkley’s contemporary written report says nothing about a wound in the back of the head or anything else that even remotely suggests a conspiracy.

      Can you point to the back-of-the-head wound you describe in a Z frame or autopsy photo or x-ray? How about in the Moorman Polaroid?:


      Who should I believe — your witnesses or my lying eyes?

      Skull fragments were found in *front* of the limo’s location at Z313, not behind it. Harper, e.g., marked a location on this map:


      1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

        Jean…not to be rude, but frankly I tend not to pay much attention to half-truths. If you prefer to debate a point, that’s fine. However, I would be more apt to pay attention if the replies aren’t based on “selective” evidence instead of all evidence. I see these types of rebuttal’s far too often. But, let me respond…Burkley was not (thankfully) the sole witness to the autopsy. According to various testimonies…Burkley was directly involved in the manipulation of autopsy evidence. Something I think Mr. Horne might refer to as “obstruction of justice”, even if it was at the behest of RFK.

        Yes…actually I can point out the BOH wounds in the images of JFK…as much as possible with available images. I can even do a good deal more then that.

        Correction…a skull fragment (Harper), not fragments. See, this is one of those half-truths I mentioned. Please refresh my memory. Was it dandelions Mrs. Kennedy attempted to retrieve from the back of Limo? No…it was a piece of JFK’s skull, I’m sure you knew that. I’m sure you also know the back of the limo was washed off at Parkland. BTW, did you video tape the “Harper” fragment from the moment it left JFK’s head till the moment it was found. Do you have some unbroken chain of evidence no one has heard of? A crystal ball maybe? Something that actually shows the Harper fragment leaving JFK how it arrived at the location it was found? Of course you don’t.

        If you have a theory that includes all evidence, I’m all ears. Selective evidence…”meh”…not so much.

        1. No offense, Dusty, but the “half-truths” aren’t coming from me. The Harper fragment went forward, according to Harper. In addition, Dallas police detective Buddy Walthers (in the dark hat) said that he picked up a bone fragment at a location not far from the one Harper marked, i.e., forward of the limo at Z313, seen here:


          Speaking of theories that “include all evidence,” can you point to the blown-out exit wound you described in the Moorman Polaroid or in the autopsy material?

          Since this was an explosive head wound, debris went in all directions, but the Z film shows larger fragments moving up and forward.

          Obviously, we disagree!

          1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            How would Harper know? He wasn’t in Dealy Plaza on 11/22/63. More than 24 hours had elapsed before he found the fragment…again, where is the chain of evidence to prove how it landed where he found it? It doesn’t exist. You don’t speak in half-truths?
            First…you ask if I can point out the back of head wounds (as if it can’t be done, implying the wound didn’t exist). Then you turn right around and bring up the Harper fragment, (identified as being from the back of the head!)…that’s rich.

            Pointing out the wounds is a current ongoing project, which includes the back of the head and all other sides of the head. Some of this has already been done. If your interest is genuine…let me know.

            Btw, bullets struck JFK from the front and from behind (including his head). Some people may not want to believe that but evidence trumps beliefs.

          2. Let me remind you that I didn’t “bring up the Harper fragment,” you did:


            The back of head was blown outwards. The area that your palm is touching is an exit point and this area blown out was quite large according to all witnesses. More importantly, this is indicated by the skull fragments blown off and found later.

            Surely you weren’t talking about some *other* fragment that was “found later”?

            It’s parietal bone, not occipital, according to the HSCA forensic panel and other experts who’ve studied the issue.

            If there were a photo/x-ray showing the “blown-out” exit wound it should be easy enough to post a link, Dusty. But there isn’t one.

            Evidence trumps belief, I certainly agree.

        2. Was it dandelions Mrs. Kennedy attempted to retrieve from the back of Limo? No…it was a piece of JFK’s skull,

          That’s not at all clear. Clint Hill seems to believe that, but it’s apparently something he inferred, not saw.

          The best copies of the Zapruder film don’t show anything on the trunk, and the Altgens photos shows Jackie’s white gloved hand flat on the trunk, not grasping something.

          1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            “Mr.Spector:(to Agent Hill), Was there anything back there that you observed (on the limo trunk lid), that she (Mrs.Kennedy) might have been reaching for?
            Mr.Hill: I thought I saw something come off the back (of the limo), too, but I cannot say that there was. I do know the next day we (Harper) found the portion of JFK’s head.”

            As you suggest Agent Hill could not swear to what it was he saw come off the trunk but could swear they retrieved the Harper fragment the following day. Jackies hand was “flat” on the trunk because as suggested by Agent Hill and the Harper fragment, Mrs. Kennedy didn’t manage to catch the fragment in time.
            Mrs. J. Connally testimony–“…then after the third shot she (Mrs. Kennedy) said [they have killed my husband. I have his brains in my hands], and she repeated this several times.
            Mrs. Kennedy had JFK’s brains in her hands because per her testimony she was trying to hold JFK’s hair and skull together.
            So I will say it again…it wasn’t dandelions Mrs. Kennedy tried to retrieve from the back of the limo. Anyone is entitled to an opinion. I prefer the logical evidence based one.

        3. According to various testimonies…Burkley was directly involved in the manipulation of autopsy evidence.

          But you don’t explain how this was true, do you.

          It sounds more sinister when you omit information.

          In fact, Burkley helped cover up the fact that JFK had Addison’s disease.

        4. However, I would be more apt to pay attention if the replies aren’t based on “selective” evidence instead of all evidence.

          But you seem not to understand that your conclusions are in fact based on the selective evidence that conspiracy books and websites show you.

          You should welcome hearing about evidence from other sources.

          1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            John, you have no idea what my conclusions are based on, as we have never met.
            You seem not to understand that you are not the only one with access to testimonies and evidence from the Warren Commission, the HSCA, ARRB, NARA or the many other repositories of JFK assassination official records.

        5. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

          Okay Jean….look at your post in response to mine, between the “Quote” and “Unquote”. Please point out the phrase “Harper fragment”. You can’t, because it’s not there. I didn’t mention it. Harper found one fragment (singular), not “fragments”. However, the Harper fragment was not the only fragment.

          But to address the “Back of Head” wound location…I’ll start with these.

          (From “Where New Evidence Points” by Jim DiEugenio)
          “When Aguilar went through all the declassified reports from the Bethesda witnesses, they agreed (with Parkland witnesses) that there was a large avulsive hole in the rear of Kennedy’s skull. Aguilar has a table of over 40 witnesses in two locations who are now on the record as saying they saw this wound.”

          Testimony of Dr.Gene Coleman Akin (WC Hearings, Vol., VI.
          “Mr.Spector: Did you have any opinion as to the direction that the bullet hit his head (JFK’s)?
          Dr.Akin: I assume the right occipital parietal (right middle, back of head) region was the exit,…”.
          Links to images coming soon.

          1. Dusty,

            Please clarify for me what you meant by “More importantly, this is indicated by the skull fragments blown off and found later,” since I apparently misunderstood you. What fragment or fragments, found where?

            I’ll look forward to your links to images. IMO, there’s a hierarchy of evidence, with hard evidence like photos and x-rays at the top. If there was a “large avulsive wound” in the back of the skull, I’d like to *see* it for myself.

            Here’s a longer version of the quote from Dr. Akin:

            Mr. SPECTER – Have you ever changed any of your original opinions in connection with your observations of the President or any opinions you formed in connection with what you saw?
            Dr. AKIN – You mean as to how he was injured?
            Mr. SPECTER – Yes, as to how he was injured.
            Dr. AKIN – Well, no; not really because I didn’t have any opinions, necessarily. Any speculation that I might have done about how he was injured was just that, it was just speculation. I didn’t form an opinion until it was revealed where he was when he was injured and where the alleged assassin was when he fired the shots, so I didn’t have any opinions. It was my immediate assumption that when I saw the extent of the head wound, I assumed at that point that he had probably been hit in the head with a high velocity missile because of the damage that had been done. The same thing happened to his head as would happen to a sealed can of sauerkraut that you hit with a high velocity missile.
            Mr. SPECTER – Did you have any opinion as to the direction-that the bullet hit his head?
            Dr. AKIN – I assume that the right occipital-parietal region was the exit, so to speak, that he had probably been hit on the other side of the head, or at least tangentially in the back of the head, but I didn’t have any hard and fast opinions about that either.

            Searchable version here:

  3. Additionally, it is noteworthy that in 1982 Dr. Burkley told author Henry Hurt that, “he believed that President Kennedy’s assassination was the result of a conspiracy.”

  4. ARRB MD250: Isabel Starling states that she has no documents of her father’s (VADM Burkely) related to the JFK assassination.

  5. This is why we need to keep asking questions about the case. Dr. Burkley was present in Dallas and Bethesda, and saw Kennedy from a unique vantage point, pre and post-Dallas ER, and pre and post-Bethesda autopsy. If the ‘Lone Nutter’, “Case Closed” crowd is correct, Burkley should have no reservations about supporting the Warren Commission findings. Instead, he wavers and pleads “no comment.” Why?

    1. Here’s the report Dr. Burkley wrote 5 days after the assassination from the WC exhibits, starting on the right side of this page:


      If there’s even a hint of extra gunshots there, would someone please point it out?

      It’s clear from his report and other testimony that Burkley arrived at Parkland after the tracheotomy and therefore never saw the throat wound. He was in and out of the autopsy room. What unique information could he possibly have had? And if he was honorable, wouldn’t he have insisted on telling all he knew to the authorities or to the press?

      By 1967 Burkley may’ve formed an opinion about the shooting based on what he’d read about it, rather than on what he himself had observed. There’s a big difference between an opinion and actual knowledge.

    2. Jean is right about this.

      Paul Hoch bothered to ask his family members why he thought there was a conspiracy. Their response (in Hoch’s words):

      Dr. Burkley recently told a relative of his that he did think that Oswald must have been part of a conspiracy, because the way he and his family lived and traveled was indicative of financial support.

      This illustrates Hoch’s dictum: “Watch out for principals who have become buffs.”


  6. Perhaps the greatest shame of the Warren Commission is that it did not call George Burkley, M.D. as a witness. He was the the only physician to observe both the Parkland and the Bethesda proceedings.

    His exclusion from the Warren Commission was a conscious omission on Warren’s part. Warren thought he was serving the U.S. by saving 40 million Americans from a nuclear inferno. Instead, by lying, he led the U.S. into a future when lying to the American people became what presidents do.

    1. I believe Dr. Burkley to be one of the most important figures in the whole JFK Assassination saga. If we knew his full story, his true loyalties, and so forth, we’d probably know a lot more than we do now.

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