Narrative-History with an Irish Flavor
An Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly
Regarding JFK’s 50-Year Old Unsolved Murder
James Francis Smith
Bill, I read Killing Kennedy. Then read it again, beginning from the back page by page, to make issues jump out, looking for proof positive. Proof—I found to be lacking. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald was involved, a player and likely to have shot Kennedy. However to have named him, “The Assassin,” he has had to have been the one who fired “The Kill Shot.” Therein lies the rub.
My sojourns into Kennedy’s assassination remind me of the fable, “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” Every time I delve into the assassination, I find myself examining a different part of the animal.
I call your attention to the ease with which you claimed Oswald handled the 23-year old Italian weapon, and the swiftness in which he fired three shots, all within approximately 8.4 seconds. You shared the following:
“…a four-power telescopic sight to make the target seem closer and easier to shoot with pinpoint accuracy.”
“Seeing his target clearly, Oswald exhales, gently squeezes the trigger, and even as he feels the recoil against his shoulder, he smoothly pulls back the bolt to chamber another round.”
“…Lee Harvey Oswald knows that he’ll have time for two shots, maybe even three if he works the bolt quickly enough.
But one should be all he needs.”
“Earwitness testimony in Dealey Plaza will later confirm that three shots were fired from the depository. One of the shots misses the President’s car completely, and decades later there is still speculation whether it was the first or third round. But the fact remains that two of the shots did not miss.
“The first impact strikes the President in the back of his lower neck. Traveling at 1,904 feet per second, the 6.5-millimeter round tears through the President’s trachea and then exits his body through the tight knot of his dark blue tie.”
I believe you should have considered the mass of available data:
The C2766 Mannlicher-Carcano rifle
You made Oswald’s gun appear to be a well-oiled weapon with a scope that functioned properly. The FBI said otherwise, even after they inserted three shims in a failed attempt to make the scope reliable:
“When we attempted to sight this rifle at Quantico, we found the elevation adjustment in the telescopic sight was not sufficient to bring the point of impact to the aiming point. …every time we changed the adjusting screws to move the crosshairs in one direction it also affected the movement of the impact in the opposite….”
Others called it a cheap Japanese salvage scope made for a .22 rifle, bought on a fire-sale of sorts by Klein’s, and then resold to Oswald.
In addition, you neglected to mention that the telescope was a hindrance to a left-hander, which Oswald was. Unless Oswald was skillful at firing right-handed, he’d have had to reach over the action to pull the bolt handle up before pulling it back, insert the bullet, push the bolt handle forward, and then down. This would have necessitated his taking his eye off the scope, before refocusing on a target within a vehicle heading down a slope, and contend with movement by passengers within the car. Frazier, an FBI ballistics left handed expert, when asked if it was necessary to take his eye away from the scope, when testing the rifle:
“Yes, sir, that was necessary. To prevent the bolt of the rifle from striking me in the face as it came to the rear.”
Furthermore in their testing, the FBI reported, “The pressure to open the bolt was so great that we tended to move the rifle off the target.”
To which I add, your admission that one of Oswald’s three shots missed. An indicator that all didn’t go well with his aim.
All the above hindrances would have reduced Oswald’s ability to get off three precisely aimed shots. A case of too many shots, too little time
Sound and Sequence
From what I’ve read, someone took the time to wipe the fingerprints off the shell casings that were found. In addition, there is no way to tell when these were fired … that day or a week prior.
In Killing Kennedy, you stated –The governor had turned his back just before Oswald fired the shot. From Mrs. Connally’s testimony to the Warren Commission, it sounds as though the governor didn’t begin to turn until after Kennedy was hit.
Nellie Connally: “I heard a noise, I didn’t think it was a gun shot … looked back and saw the president clutch his neck with both hands. John turned in the process of looking back …. Then very soon there was a second shot that hit John.”
The two men were only about three feet apart, and the bullet traveled at the rate of 1,904 feet per second. If the same bullet hit Kennedy before hitting Connally, to the human eye, it would have appeared to have hit the two men simultaneously.
Governor Connally supports his wife’s testimony: “… heard what I thought was a rifle shot … turning to look … never made the full turn.” The governor always contended he was hit by a separate bullet.
Secret Service Agent Kellerman: “… there was a report like a firecracker, pop … in the seconds that I talked a flurry of shots came into the car … those shots came all together … I’m going to say two and it was a double bang—bang, bang.”
Secret Service Agent Hill: “…heard a noise from my right, seemed to me to be a firecracker … there was another sound, which was different from the first.”
Secret Service Agent Hickey: “…heard a loud report which sounded like a firecracker … seemed to me to be at ground level. … At the moment he was almost erect, I heard two reports… completely different in sound than the first report and were in such rapid succession that there seemed to be practically no time element between them.”
It’s conceivable that shots from two different weapons were fired almost simultaneously, making it sound as though there was only one.
One final bit of information regarding the timing: A photograph (no.5) by Phil Willis, which corresponds to frame 202 of the Zapruder film, was taken a half second before the Kennedy car could’ve cleared the obstructing oak tree and became visible to a sixth-floor gunman. Willis, claimed he took the photograph in immediate response to hearing the first shot. If this could’ve been verified, it would prove there had to have been a second shooter.
Direction and Trajectory
For the single-shooter hypothesis to work in the time available, the number of bullets had to be limited to three. The Warren Commission and the FBI each agreed on the number three, but they chose different bullets. To make it workable, Arlen Specter was called upon to dream up a non-plausible explanation.
Shot #1 – Whether it’s first, last, or in between makes little difference. The “James Tague shot hit concrete several blocks away. This is included by the FBI, ignored by the Warren Commission.
Shot #2 – The Neck Shot occurred by frame 210 to make the single-assassin a workable hypothesis. Could it have come from the front? That’s within the realm of possibility and makes a lot of sense. Because of the tracheotomy operation and the extensive damage to his skull following the Kill Shot, we’re not positive if the Neck Shot’ wound is the entry or the exit.
We know the bullet did not exit “through the thick knot of Kennedy’s dark blue tie.” For if it had, experts then would’ve been able to precisely determine its direction and trajectory.
Under questioning, Doctor Carrico, who witnessed Kennedy’s throat wound before it was distorted by the tracheotomy and before the President’s shirt and tie were removed, indicated the bullet wound was above the knot of the tie. Whereas the Warren Commission placed it lower by an inch. Besides, there were no traces of copper on the tie’s knot.
Doctor Perry upon being questioned answered, “The neck wound could have been either an entrance or exit wound.”
One thing I find intriguing is that Kennedy reached toward his the front of his neck upon being hit. I would have thought if the bullet entered the back of his neck, he would have instinctively reached there.
Shot #3 – Back Wound – FBI Agents Sibert and O’Neill described a bullet wound in Kennedy’s back. According to Doctor George Burkley the wound was about the level of the third thoracic vertebra – four to six inches from the top of Kennedy’s shirt collar. The FBI Summary Report states the following:
“one of the bullets had entered just below his shoulder to the right of his spinal column at an angle of 45 to 60 degrees downward … there was no point of exit.”
This may have been the nearly whole bullet found on the stretcher.
Shot #4 – Governor’s Connally’s wound came from a bullet on a downward angle, shattering his 5th rib and exited below the right nipple. According to Connally himself, this bullet came after Kennedy’s Neck Shot. This occurred about frame 238 of the Zapruder film. Two eyewitnesses, Mrs. Connally and motorcycle officer James Channey concur.
Shot #5 – The nearly whole bullet found on the gurney at Parkland memorial Hospital had to have come from someplace. It’s not the Tague bullet, nor the large fragment that remained in Connally, nor the fragments remaining from Kennedy’s Kill Shot. This leaves one alternative, there had to have been a second shooter.
Shot #6 – According to the certified pathologist Doctor Humes, the Kill Shot entered “the right posterior portion of the scalp…situated approximately 2.5 centimeters to the right and slightly above the external occipital protuberance, which is a bony prominence situated in the posterior portion of everyone’s skull. The third obvious wound at the time of the examination was a huge defect over the right side of the skull…. However, the skull was intact completely past this defect…. …multiple minute fragments of radio opaque material transversing a line from the wound in the occiput to just above the right eye. …more likely moving in a direct line … missile struck the skin and skull at a more tangential angle than did the other missile.”
From all indications, this bullet traveled in an upward trajectory, an impossible task for an object moving in a “direct line” from 60 feet above and behind. Could it have been deflected? Only if one has a vivid imagination. O’Reilly describes the bullet:
“It barely slows as it slices through the tender gray brain matter before exploding the thin wall of bone as it exits the front of his skull.”
Keep in mind these were bullets, not guided missiles.
Have I counted any of these bullets twice—that’s quite likely—but which one or ones?
1) The nearly-whole bullet found on the gurney is a likely one to be eliminated. But which one did it duplicate?
2) Because of where it hit the ground, The Teague shot, had to be separate.
3) Kennedy’s Neck Shot, regardless of its direction had to be separate. From all accounts, it came far too early to be the shot that hit Governor Connally. Although it may have been the bullet found on the gurney.
4) Connally’s shot with its distinct downward trajectory and coming to late to be associated with Kennedy’s Neck Shot also had to be separate.
5) The Kill shot had to be separate.
6) Kennedy’s back shot and the bullet found at Parkland hospital may have been the same. Since it lacked an exit wound, it could not have been the bullet that hit Connally.
If we offset the gurney bullet against one of the above, we still have five shots remaining, that’s at least two more than Oswald could possibly have fired in the 12-seconds available.
Bill, in light of all the evidence to the contrary the following comment from your book befuddles me.
“There are still Americans who believe Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone….”
I will acknowledge, however, that Oswald and the one or more other shooters may have each been acting independently and not in concert. But no unbiased, logical person could possibly believe that Oswald did all the shooting on his own.
A proper investigation should be opened. Americans have the right to know who really killed their President.