Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ignoring Evidence: Fifty-one years of deception and lies in the JFK assassination

by DALE K. MYERS and GUS RUSSO, with TODD W. VAUGHAN

Illustration by Brendan Kennedy

This year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Warren Commission Report on the assassination of President Kennedy, and if you’ve been following the internet coverage of this historic event you’d swear the Commission got it all wrong.

Not that it matters one wit to today’s college-age crowd.

While most, if not all, students could tell you on which television show Snooki appeared, to whom Brad Pitt is married, or to whom Brad Pitt was previously married, they’re lost when it comes to the name of the current Vice President (Do we have a Vice-President?), or who won the Civil War (Who fought it?), or even when the Civil War took place (1965?). If you don’t believe us, check out the historically challenged college-age students here.

When it comes to the JFK assassination, the younger set knows next to nothing. Consequently, it is pretty easy to pass off conspiracy buff supposition, speculation, and outright lies as fact.

Consider these headlines that appeared on State of the Nation, a self-proclaimed “alternative news and commentary” website, on November 22, 2014:
Lee Harvey Oswald: Unsung Hero Who Alerted JFK To 'Assassination Plot' In Chicago

[Oswald] Framed By The CIA Because He Infiltrated Their Assassination Conspiracy

Proof That Lee Harvey Oswald Was Trained By The CIA And Worked For ONI

Oswald Worked Directly For Robert F. Kennedy Who Authorized His Return From The USSR To Conduct Domestic ‘Counterintelligence’
The author of this nonsense claims that Oswald was simply “a very young and simple guy who was grossly misrepresented by the government, law enforcement and the media,” and that “whatever you have heard about Lee Harvey Oswald has most likely originated with the ultra-secret CIA Assassination Team which oversaw every aspect of President Kennedy’s assassination.” (He never mentions that this “simple guy” tried to murder General Walker, wanted to kill Richard Nixon, beat his wife, wanted to hijack a plane to Cuba, murdered a Dallas police officer, tried to murder another by pulling the trigger inches from his face, and murdered Governor Connally–whose 1993 death was in part attributed to Oswald’s bullet ripping his lung apart thirty years earlier. See here. Not to mention assassinating JFK! A more accurate description of Oswald might be “a simple serial murderer.”)

He explains that “thanks to the internet, there is now a wealth of information and data available concerning both the assassination and the cover-up,” reminding us that it is “imperative to suspend any and all judgment” concerning Oswald while reading the author’s authoritative account.

It seems that, like the character Sergeant Schultz in TV’s classic “Hogan’s Heroes,” we know nothing.

And what is it exactly that we’ve been kept in the dark about for the last five decades?

Apparently, Oswald was hired by the Kennedy brothers to infiltrate the CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro. You see, Oswald was a CIA agent working for the Office of Naval Intelligence. (The author offers “proof” of this by exhibiting what has become known in research circles as the McCone-Rowley document – an obviously fake document being passed around by the internet crowd.)

The brothers Kennedy reviewed Oswald’s official file, according to the author, and realized that Oswald “presented all the right qualifications and necessary credentials required by the Kennedys for such a dangerous mission. That’s why they chose and thoroughly trusted him.”

Well, of course! And here’s the kicker:

“At the end of the day,” the writer concludes, “Lee Harvey Oswald will become highly regarded for performing valiantly, under extreme duress, in the defense of his country. He bravely honored his oath to defend the Constitution. By sacrificing his life in service to the US Attorney General and for the protection of the President of the United States of America, he ought to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, posthumously.”

You’ve got to wonder what reporters like Jim Ewell, Hugh Aynesworth, Mary Woodward, Kent Biffle, Harry McCormick, Carlos Conde, and many others who were actually there in 1963 and covered the story think of the absolute bullhockey published online and passed off as truth and journalism on a populace largely ignorant about and surprising uninterested in their own country’s history?

This particular claptrap was picked up by The Peoples Voice – another looney website aimed at fighting for truth, for the good of the people.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. It’s a trend – a constant and unceasing push to rewrite the history of this case and shove that new narrative down the throats of forthcoming generations – all for the good of the people.

Some of the rewrites are minor, some are major, but all seek to twist the narrative into something that supports a personal ideology.

Dallas death trap

For instance, in an internet article entitled, “JFK Assassination Theories 51 Years Later, Was Oswald The Lone Gunman?” Secret Service agents are portrayed as escorting Kennedy into an obvious right-wing death trap.

“Considering the animosity Kennedy received in Texas,” the author writes, “it is shocking that the top was allowed to come down and that an agent wasn’t standing guard behind the couple as they waved to onlookers.”

Animosity? Has the writer looked at even one of the hundreds of photographs taken by amateurs and professionals along the parade route? By some estimates, nearly a quarter of the population turned out to warmly greet the Kennedys. Even Nellie Connally acknowledged the friendly atmosphere when she said to the President, “You can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you.”

Apparently, the photos have all been doctored and what we read at the time was all an illusion – the crowds were actually mobs of right-wingers grinding their teeth, itching to get a few rounds off given the chance.

To be sure, there was a right-wing element in Dallas at the time (H.L. Hunt and General Walker, to name two), but they were completely overwhelmed by the Dallas moderates who actually favored JFK in recent polls. By the way, not one word was said about Oswald’s self-proclaimed Marxist-Socialist ideology, or the many interviews with Kennedy insiders who attested to the fact that it was the President who wanted the bubble top removed and the security detail kept at an unsafe distance.

As for Oswald’s role in the shooting, we’re told (once again) that his feat was near impossible given “the fact that the limousine carrying the First Couple was moving at a significant speed…”

Significant speed? The limousine was actually moving at 7 to 12 mph as it came out of its turn onto Elm Street! Ten-year-old Rosemary Willis was able to run alongside for nearly 100 feet! Most drivers have to ride the brake to keep a car moving at less than 12 mph. If that is significant speed, We’d be curious to hear how this author describes the limo’s 80 mph dash to the hospital a few seconds later. Warp speed?

The magic limousine stop

Then there’s former Minnesota-Duluth professor James Fetzer, who continually manages to grab Internet headlines with ridiculous allegations. Consider the description of a November speech given by Fetzer and covered by a reporter from Minnesota CBS affiliate WCCO who proudly proclaimed four decades in broadcast journalism.

According to the report, “Fetzer points to newly uncovered interviews of officers in the motorcade who claim the president’s limousine stopped to set up the shooting. That’s not what’s in the official production of the Zapruder film, which shows the limousine moving while shots were fired.”

“This is all absolutely stunning stuff,” Fetzer tells the reporter. “It was such a blatant indication of Secret Service complicity and setting him up for the hit they had to take it out. So if you watch the extant version of the Zapruder film, you’ll find none of this.”

They had to take it out? How – exactly – did they take it out? By magic? We’re never told. Apparently, the timid reporter was unable to muster one question or present one fact to challenge Fetzer’s ludicrous claims, despite forty years of experience.

And so, once again, we get lies and deception presented as a news story – and an old one at that.

Where we come from, they call that propaganda. It’s very effective in controlling the masses. Just ask any one of a host of history’s dictators and tyrants.

Unbiased truth

We got a chuckle out of the New Historian’s November 22nd article entitled, “Fifty One Years Since the Death of JFK.” The New Historian claims it “does its best to provide an unbiased, apolitical viewpoint. You can trust us to tell you the truth to the very best of our ability.” [emphasis added]

The article then goes on to refer to Lee Harvey Oswald as “Harvey:”
“…Harvey was only caught after critically wounding a Police Officer, J.D. Tippitt (sic)…” [Tippit is spelled with two Ts and two Ps]

“…As Harvey was brought through the jail of Dallas Police Department on 24th November, he was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby…” [Oswald was actually shot in the basement garage.]
 Apparently the New Historian’s ability to be truthful and accurate is fairly low.

Mafia hitmen and other culprits

We again read how mafia hitmen killed JFK – including the thoroughly debunked James Files who suckered an obscure cable channel into giving him airtime so he could once again “confess” to the killing.

In the UK’s Daily Mail we got, “Who killed JFK? 51 years of conspiracy theories,” in which the Mail explained that the Warren Commission “came up with the 'single-bullet theory' to explain how Oswald did so much damage with just three rounds [in fact, the single bullet theory actually sought to explain what happened to the bullet that entered Kennedy’s back and exited his throat – without it, conspiracy theorists would have truly had a “magic” bullet, one that vanished after hitting JFK in the back]; and that the list of potential conspiracy candidates – the CIA, the Mafia, the KGB, LBJ, the Illuminati, little green men, Jackie Kennedy, the Umbrella Man, the driver, and friendly fire – is long and familiar.

The Daily Mail was happy to keep the conspiracy pot boiling for another year.

Passion and feelings trump truth

No matter who conspiracy theorists believe killed Kennedy – it couldn’t possibly be Oswald, of course – their convictions continue to rest upon passions and feelings likely sown when they were impressionable teens in the Sixties, rather than evidence.

One conspiracy theorist, commenting on a news story about one man’s belief that Oswald did it alone, wrote: “What incredibly good luck it was for that small but wealthy and powerful minority of Americans who despised President John Kennedy for so many self-serving reasons that a ‘lone nut’ without a motive, said to be a poor shot by witnesses in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, and using a poorly-manufactured, vintage carbine (not a rifle) shot and killed the president in a moving car and changed the course of history. And who profited most from this very public execution but the very man who hated JFK most and who just happened to replace him in the White House.”

Another conspiracy theorist, commenting on the People’s Voice article, tweeted: “Most serious Kennedy assassination researchers now believe CIA was the primary mover in the JFK assassination. Set up Oswald in advance.”

Of course, there’s not one shred of truth to either of these comments. But what does that matter, when feelings and passion are involved?



Newsweek’s sham

Take for example Newsweek’s November 20th cover story, “Three Bullets: Exploding JFK Murder Myths – The Truth Behind JFK’s Assassination,” by Max Holland.

No less than four extensive critiques of Holland’s 2007 theory (that a first shot fired before Zapruder began filming struck a traffic pole and ricocheted down the street striking bystander James Tague) have appeared on the pages of this blog.

We have no intention of repeating ourselves yet again. If you’re interested in a critical examination of Holland’s theory, read them for yourself:
Over the past seven years, Holland has steadfastly refused to respond to our rebuttals, or to address the basic question of where is the evidence that supports his theory?

Until now, Holland has put forth a dozen excuses as to why his theory should reshape the history books, regardless of the fact that his supportive evidence has either been seriously called into question or stripped away altogether. Among those excuses: critics of his theory have a vested interest in their own theories, no one can think outside of the box, and the Zapruder film has mesmerized everyone.

Following the Newsweek publication, Holland was again asked to comment on our past critiques. This time Holland wrote: “I read the rebuttal; I found it unconvincing but decided not to respond. I’m content to let people make up their own minds, based on the variety of evidence available.” [1]

With that in mind, here’s a brief update to everything we’ve written before – which we continue to stand behind.

According to their 2011 report “Technical Investigation Pertaining to the First Shot Fired in the Kennedy Assassination,” Holland and forensic metallurgist Frank S. DeRonja contend that “a bullet deflection from the mast arm of minus 6 vertical degrees” would be required to send a fragment down toward the manhole cover/concrete skirt approximately 325 feet away” and that such a vertical deflection could be achieved if the bullet fired from the sniper’s nest window struck the mast arm at point approximately 1/8-inch past the top centerline of the mast arm surface. (The vertical degrees mentioned above refers to the angle of declination between the top of the traffic light mast arm and the manhole cover on Elm Street.)

"Such an impact would be expected to create only a light indentation in the steel pipe surface," Holland-DeRonja write, "because of the small bullet contact angle and the relative hardness of the steel metal."

The most important angle in their argument is the angle of lateral deflection needed to send a bullet off its original trajectory and westward toward the sewer cover. Holland and DeRonja claim, however, that it was impossible to know that exact lateral angle due to several factors, but that "a lateral deflection to the right [i.e., westward] would place the bullet on a path in a general direction toward the manhole cover/concrete skirt." [2] (More on this crucial lateral deflection angle in a moment.)

The final examination

In late July 2012, the original traffic pole was knocked down in a traffic accident and replaced. Holland and DeRonja traveled to the warehouse where it was stored and got a chance to look for evidence of the theorized bullet strike.

Holland reported in Newsweek that he had to face “the sobering realization that definitive evidence of a bullet impact could not be obtained. [emphasis added] Within the 30-inch area deemed critical, DeRonja did find a shallow surface disturbance and rusted area approximately 22 inches from the signal end of the mast, but rust corrosion resulting from the mast’s long exposure to the elements obliterated the possibility of a telltale bullet footprint.”

In short, there is no definitive evidence that a bullet struck the mast pole during the assassination as he believed – and surprisingly – continues to believe. Talk about having a vested interest in one’s own theory. Reminds one of the tendencies of the worst conspiracy buffs that Holland pretends to distance himself from.

Even after twisting the discovery of a rusted, surface disturbance into a pretzel and suggesting that it might have been evidence of a bullet strike, had it been looked at fifty-one years ago, one would think that Holland admitted defeat. Far from it.

Holland instead ignored his own findings and blamed the Warren Commission, writing, “If the Warren Commission had properly examined the traffic mast arm, it could have presented a clear, compelling account of the shooting sequence.”

Holland assures us that if the Warren Commission had simply presented his theory of three shots in a little over 11 seconds rather than three possible scenarios (one of which suggested three shots with two hits in six seconds – which critics pounced on) all would be right in the world today.

“All the evidence was right there in Dealey Plaza,” Holland writes in Newsweek, “if only it had been fully examined.”

But it wasn’t all there in Dealey Plaza – that is unless one takes as gospel that which Holland himself can’t bring himself to say: a surface disturbance on the mast pole was in fact caused by a bullet strike as opposed to just about anything else that might have caused it.

How Holland hoodwinked Newsweek’s editors into buying into his illogical conclusions is the real mystery here, because, in fact, he has not advanced the story one micron.

The missed shot

Contrary to his assertion, the Warren Commission did address questions regarding the number and order of the shots fired in Dealey Plaza.

The Commission noted that the consensus among witnesses at the scene was that three shots were fired. However, some only heard two shots, while others heard four, and some as many as five or six shots. The Commission further noted that the firing of a bullet causes a number of separate and unique sounds – the muzzle blast, caused by hot gases escaping the gun’s muzzle; the noise of the bullet, caused by the shock wave that builds up ahead of the bullet as it travels; and the noise of the bullet as it finds its target. Each of these three sounds can be quite sharp and may be perceived as separate shots. In addition to these three sounds, the tall buildings in the area can reflect echoes, further distorting each shot sound. [3]

Holland doesn’t seem to understand this basic point, as evidenced by his analysis of eye and ear witness testimony in Dealey Plaza.

The Commission concluded that the preponderance of evidence established that three shots had been fired, and that one of those shot missed. They then spent six pages of their report discussing each shot in an effort to determine which was the errant shot. [4]

In discussing the first shot as the one that possibly missed, they suggested that the assassin “perhaps missed in a effort to fire a hurried shot before the President passed under the oak tree, or possibly he fired as the President passed under the tree and the tree obstructed his view. The bullet might have struck a portion of the tree and been completely deflected.” [5]

We now know, of course, that the first shot would have been fired before the President passed under the tree (and hence, the tree would not have obscured Oswald’s view) and that the thin tree branches, even if they had obscured Oswald’s view, would not have deflected a bullet – more on that in a moment.

The Commission ultimately deemed it unlikely that the first shot missed because they thought it improbable that the same marksman would hit a moving target twice moments later, but miss the entire limousine when it was closest. [6] It doesn’t seem that the Commission considered that the hardest of the three shots was the closest when the car was moving left to right – a tracking shot – as opposed to the next two when the limousine (while further away) was moving away from the gunman in a relatively straight line. Additionally, an early shot, with the limo right below the shooter, would have added a severe downward angle to the mix– with a windowsill likely blocking his sightline.

After exploring the next two shots as the possible missed shot, and weighing all of the scientific evidence and conflicting testimony, the Commission concluded: “The wide range of possibilities and the existence of conflicting testimony, when coupled with the impossibility of scientific verification, [emphasis added] precludes a conclusive finding by the Commission as to which shot missed.” [7]

How has Holland altered this conclusion? He hasn’t. There are still a wide range of possibilities that haven’t been considered, and testimony that remains conflicting. More importantly, there is no scientific verification or reason to embrace Holland’s theory over any other. The bottom line: he hasn’t added anything to the Commission’s fifty-one year old declaration.

As to the total time span of the shots, Holland claims that if the Commission had only showed that the shooting sequence could have taken “slightly more than 11 seconds, with intervals of approximately 6.3 seconds and 4.9 seconds between the three shots,” all the controversy about Oswald’s shooting prowess with a bolt-action rifle could have been avoided. Furthermore, Holland assures us, “The misleading but sibilant meme first put forward in Life [magazine]—six seconds in Dallas—would have been debunked, an accomplishment nearly as important as proving that one of the three shots hit both Kennedy and Connally.”

Yet the Commission did exactly what Holland claimed they didn’t do. Apparently, Holland missed this key passage on page 117 of the Warren Report during his twenty-five year-plus examination of every facet of the Commission’s work:
TIME SPAN OF SHOTS

“Witnesses at the assassination scene said that the shots were fired within a few seconds, with the general estimate being 5 to 6 seconds. That approximation was most probably based on the earlier publicized reports that the first shot struck the President in the neck, the second wounded the Governor and the third shattered the President's head, with the time span from the neck to the head shots on the President being approximately 5 seconds. [Editor’s note: This is a reference to the Life magazine article and others suggesting a six second time span.] As previously indicated, the time span between the shot entering the back of the President's neck and the bullet which shattered his skull was 4.8 to 5.6 seconds. If the second shot missed, then 4.8 to 5.6 seconds was the total time span of the shots. If either the first or third shots missed, then a minimum of 2.3 seconds (necessary to operate the rifle) must be added to the time span of the shots which hit, giving a minimum time of 7.1 to 7.9 seconds for the three shots. If more than 2.3 seconds elapsed between a shot that missed and one that hit, then the time span would be correspondingly increased.” [emphasis added] [8]
In other words, the total time span of the shots could have 9, 10, 11, 12 seconds or more depending on which shot missed and how quick the gunman could work the bolt.

Finally, as if that weren’t enough, in the conclusion section of their analysis of the number of shots, the Commission wrote that “one shot probably missed the Presidential limousine and its occupants, and that the three shots were fired in a time period ranging from approximately 4.8 to in excess of 7 seconds.” [emphasis added] [9]

The Commission covered all the bases and took it as far as scientifically allowed – minus all the speculation, supposition, and innuendo that Johnny-come-lately pundits like Holland seem to prefer.

Again, Holland has added nothing to the work of the Commission.

The science of deflection

As far as the scientific viability of Holland’s missed shot deflection – it has no basis in fact.

Larry M. Sturdivan, a wound ballistics expert who has spent a lifetime studying the characteristics of bullets in flight and their behavior as they strike solid masses or penetrate the human body, and who provided expert opinion for the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, told us in 2011 that Holland’s theory was “pure fantasy.” [See; Reality Check]

Sturdivan said that any bullet that barely grazed the surface of the mast pole would be deflected as an intact bullet, but that the deflection angle would be small. A more direct strike to the mast pole would cause the bullet to shatter into small fragments like those found in a catch box at a shooting range – minute fragments and dust. In any case, no fragment could travel far enough to strike the area near Tague.

If that wasn’t enough, Lucien C. Haag and son Michael G. Haag, two of the most well respected shooting scene and ballistics experts in the world and authors of a textbook on shooting reconstruction, recently tested Holland’s theory and have provided the results that are soon to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The father-son team was prominently featured in PBS’s Cold Case: JFK, which aired in November 2013 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

Their investigation used some of the most modern tools for shooting incident reconstruction and ballistic analysis available, such as Leica 3D laser scanning and Doppler radar. Their live fire experiments utilized rifles and ammunition exactly like those used by Oswald. All of the major theories and beliefs about the assassination were evaluated from a physical evidence-based standpoint, just like any homicide or shooting incident reconstruction.


Figure 1. Haag team’s firing setup to test Holland’s theory.

In order to test Holland’s theory, the pair staged a scene wherein a Carcano rifle fired duplicate ammunition at a traffic light pole positioned at the same distance that Oswald would have encountered. They used Doppler radar to record the velocity changes in the bullet and its potential fragments. A witness board captured any deflected fragments and a laser was used to measure the angle of deflection.

While their forthcoming peer-reviewed article will provide more detail, here are the four salient conclusions:

(1) Shallow grazing strikes to the cylindrical steel support pole resulted in slightly deformed but intact and destabilized bullets that suffered only minor velocity losses – on the order of 103 to 162 f/s. Deflection angles were also small – 4.80 to 6.50 degrees in the expected direction. The impact sites on the cylindrical pole for these shallow strikes would be quite noticeable to a person familiar with bullet damage.

Deeper grazing strikes produced visible deformation of the steel, severe fragmentation of the bullet (with deflection angles between 9.9 and 16.0 degrees), and large velocity losses for the resulting fragments (between 500 f/s to 1000 f/s).

Direct strikes to the steel support pole produced obvious bullet holes with an orthogonal strike achieving complete perforation of the pole. This bullet broke into two pieces with deflection angles of 2.5 degrees.

These results demonstrate that a bullet strike to "the mast arm at a point approximately 1/8-inch past the top centerline of the mast arm surface" would not ricochet or deflect a bullet, as Holland-DeRonja claim in their report, but would result in an entrance hole in the mast, a possible exit hole on the opposite side, and multiple, greatly decelerated bullet fragments.



Figure 2. Photograph showing Haag team’s impact and deflection results.

(2) The ammunition used by Oswald could not have deflected off the traffic mast pole by more than 6.5 degrees – which means that it would have struck the asphalt lane immediately below the mast pole and to the front or rear of the limousine, depending on which side of the pole (east or west) was grazed. Had the bullet been deflected by the traffic pole and remained intact it would still have had enough velocity to strike the asphalt pavement with such force that it would have disintegrated upon impact, leaving no discernible fragments. It would have been pulverized into minute particles too small to be detected with a metal detector.


Figure 3. Michael Haag and Tony Grissim’s 3D laser scan of Dealey Plaza with angular components of Oswald’s proposed first shot.

(3) Measurements based on a 3D digital scan of Dealey Plaza demonstrate that a minimum 39 degree change in angle would have been required to send a deflected bullet or bullet fragment in the direction of bystander James Tague, located approximately 463 feet (154 yards) from the traffic mast pole.

Holland and DeRonja's claim that it was not possible to determine the angle of lateral deflection because of "numerous unknown factors," is simply not the case, as the Haag team demonstrated.

“The bullet would need an initial westward deflection in excess of 39 degrees off the mast arm, to have any hope of ever reaching the sewer cover or James Tague,” ballistic expert Luke Haag said. “Angle changes of this magnitude, as a consequence of ricochet or deflection by a steel mast pole, will result in near-total destruction of the bullet and leave very obvious, permanent damage to the mast pole.” [10]

Things only get worse for Holland & Company if the bullet fragments.



Figure 4. Doppler results depicting velocity loss of bullet fragments after impact with the steel mast pole.

(4) Ballistic tests demonstrate beyond all doubt that a deflected bullet fragment originating from a bullet fired from Oswald’s sniper position – which struck the traffic mast pole – cannot retain sufficient mass and velocity to reach Tague’s position.

In short, three well-known and respected ballistic experts agree – from a physics and ballistic point of view, the scenario Holland proposes simply couldn’t have happened.

Images of a homicide

An effort to support Holland’s seven-year-old, impossible thesis appeared recently in the form of a horribly flawed Zapruder film study.

In “Secrets of the Zapruder Film,” authors Kenneth Scearce and Brian Rozelle, promise to expose the awful truth that the Zapruder film “is not a record of the entire shooting” as long thought to be and “reveal the secret its images have always contained, hidden from us not by the film itself but by our own projections onto the film and our ignorance of its contents,” and thereby offer visual support for Holland’s theory.

And what exactly has been hidden from us due to our own projections and ignorance?

According to Searce and Rozelle, the HSCA’s observation that Governor Connally (JBC) turned sharply to his right at Z162 led to a consensus by Zapruder film analysts (like co-author Dale Myers) that a first shot was fired at around Z155-157.

They quote a portion of a 2007 article (“Max Holland's 11 Seconds in Dallas”) posted on this blog, which explains that the timing was based on an involuntary startle response time of approximately one-quarter second.

The timing Myers cited was a minimum estimate that he noted in the very next sentence (something Searce and Rozelle failed to reprint): “And yes, we can argue all day long about whether JBC reacted immediately (one-quarter second) or leisurely (2.6 to 3 seconds according to Holland-Rush’s theory). Given JBC’s testimony and experience as a hunter, I’m going with almost immediately.”

In his 1995 “Secrets of a Homicide” summary, Myers made the same point: “Zapruder frame 157 was selected as the likely time of this first shot based on Connally’s reaction a quarter-second later. Since this first shot apparently missed, the exact frame is unknown.”

In other words, there was no way for Myers or anyone else to know exactly how much time elapsed between the fired shot and Connally’s reaction to it. Myers cited the time of one-quarter second (an involuntary startle response time) as a minimum.

As it turns out, Searce and Rozelle do offer solid reasons why Connally’s reaction was more likely a voluntary response and not a startle response and thus would require more time to initiate – something on the order of 0.5 to 1.10 seconds after the first shot. (More on that, in a moment.)

Their chief argument, however, is that the movements of Governor Connally (JBC) and ten-year-old bystander Rosemary Willis strongly suggest a first shot fired prior to Z133 – movements that up until now have gone undiscovered.

The left-right head snap

In the case of the Governor, they claim that his leftward head turn between Zapruder frames 149-162 (and not his head turn to the right between Z162-167, as postulated by the HSCA and co-author Myers) represents his initial reaction to the first shot.
“Connally’s leftwards, then rightwards head turns are started and completed within one second,” write Scearce-Rozelle, “…both so rapid that both were probably a reaction to ‘a severe external stimulus.’ Although Connally spoke many times of turning to his right in reaction to the first shot, he was not always consistent; Connally’s first recorded statement was that he initially turned to his left.”
Scearce and Rozelle point to JBC’s November 27, 1963, hospital bed interview as evidence that the left turn was a reaction to the first shot.

During that interview, JBC told reporters, “And then we had just turned the corner. We heard a shot. I turned to my left. I was sitting in the jump seat. I turned to my left to look in the back seat. The President had slumped. He had said nothing. Almost simultaneously, as I turned, I was hit, and I knew I had been hit badly.”

Searce and Rozelle note that JBC only later added the right head turn as his initial reaction, adding, “We don’t know why Connally gave different descriptions of the direction – left, versus right – in which he first turned in response to hearing the first shot. Perhaps it was not until after his November 27 interview that Connally learned, or clearly grasped, that Oswald was positioned to his right rear; if so, this would explain the discrepancy, but it would also mean that Connally altered his explanation of the event to fit newly-learned information.”

None of this over-analysis is necessary, of course, if one simply reads what Connally said.

“We heard a shot,” Connally said on November 27. “I turned to my left. I was sitting in the jump seat. I turned to my left to look in the back seat. The President had slumped. He had said nothing. Almost simultaneously, as I turned, I was hit, and I knew I had been hit badly.” [emphasis added]

Clearly, Connally is not talking about his initial reaction to the first shot when he says he turned to his left. He is talking about the later moments of his reaction, which he consistently and repeatedly described during later interviews before both the Warren Commission and the HSCA.

In those interviews, Connallyturn to his right, to look over his right shoulder, in the direction that the sound came from. We see this happen at Z162-167 (the right turn continuing through Z193). It is critical to realize that this is the only time we see Connally turn to his right after the limousine turns onto Elm Street.

Connally said that he could not see the President out of his peripheral vision and fearing an assassination attempt then turned back to his left to look over his left shoulder into the backseat. It was during this leftward turn that he himself was struck in the right back-shoulder by a bullet. [11]

We see this leftward turn begin at Z193 and continue until he exhibits signs of being hit beginning at about Z223-24. This is obviously what Connally was talking about in his November 27 interview.

So, in fact, Connally didn’t turn to his left, then right at the sound of the first shot – as Searce and Rozelle insist – Connally turned to right as he has consistently stated.

Then what is one to make of that rapid leftward head turn at Z149-162?

Searce and Rozelle claim that the rapid head turn is “probably a reaction to ‘a severe external stimulus,’” which just happens to support their theory of an earlier shot.

Searce and Rozelle’s argument might have more bite if Connally had been facing forward throughout the entire forty-minute motorcade ride and then at Z149 suddenly began snapping his head left and right.

The reality is that Connally had been turning left and right, acknowledging crowds on both sides of the street, throughout the entire motorcade route. This is well documented by many photographs and films.

On Houston Street, just as they enter Dealey Plaza, we can see Connally looking left, then right. As the limousine makes the big sweeping turn onto Elm Street, Connally is looking to his right. When the Zapruder film starts a moment later, Connally is still looking right; then (Z149) turns left. Suddenly, his head snaps back to the right (Z162).

Searce and Rozell argue that the sudden left, then right head turns, are both reactions to the first shot. However, it could easily be argued that the leftward head turn at Z149 was nothing more than what one would expect to see given Connally’s actions leading up to that moment. After all, he had been looking to his right for quite some time. We almost expect to see him turn to his left and acknowledge the crowd at about that moment.

All things considered, isn’t that what we’re really seeing at Z149? Couldn’t it be that Connally, in his role as governor, is simply turning to his left to acknowledge the crowd when suddenly the first shot is fired and he snaps his head back to the right?

There’s no need to twist his testimony to conform to some preconceived theory. Connally’s acknowledgement of the crowd on both sides of the street was simply interrupted by a gunshot – and he reacted.

To add more zip to their argument, Searce and Rozelle include a stabilized Zapruder film sequence with their report showing the moment of Connally’s left-right head snap.

The sequence, however, doesn’t include full frames of 155, 156, 157 – three frames that were damaged in a splice that occurs in the middle of Connally’s leftward head turn (Z149-160). The effect, when viewed in real time, makes the leftward head turn appear 30% quicker than it actually was - a fact we pointed out seven years ago! [See; Connally's Head Turn] The reality is that JBC’s leftward head turn takes twice as long (Z149-160) as the rightward head snap (Z162-167).

More “new” evidence

In a section labeled “new evidence,” Searce and Rozelle discuss the actions of Rosemary Willis, seen running alongside the limousine in the earliest portions of the film. They point out that between Z138-143 Rosemary turns her head sharply to her right and toward an area that is somewhat behind the presidential limousine – strong, overlooked evidence, they claim, that the first shot was fired before Zapruder began filming.

Yet, we can see the young girl snapping her head to her right several times – both before and after Z138-143 – as she attempts to navigate the crowd and keep up with the limousine. Something definitely seems to be amiss by Z170-197 as she abruptly slows and stops. At Z202-206, she snaps her head to the rear, then back toward the president’s car at Z213-220. [12]

Which of these head snaps is a gunshot? All of them; some of them; none of them? Can anyone really know?

One thing is certain, Searce and Rozelle’s chosen head snap is no more compelling than any of the others; maybe even less so given the synchronicity of other reactions seen in the film. [13]

According to Searce and Rozelle’s report a typical voluntary reaction to an unexpected or surprise event might take 500 to 1100 milliseconds to manifest itself. That’s 0.5 to 1.10 seconds or 9 to 20 Zapruder frames.

They, of course, insist that Connally’s head snap to the left at Z149 marks the beginning of his voluntary reaction, which means that the first shot was fired somewhere between one-quarter of a second prior to Zapruder filming to about four-tenths of a second after he began filming (Z140).

On the other hand, if Connally’s head snap to the right (beginning at Z162) marked the start of his voluntary reaction to the sound of the first shot that shot would have been fired during the interval Z142-153 – just one to eight-tenths of a second before the period long postulated.

Exactly why Searce and Rozelle believe the first shot was fired during the quarter second before Zapruder began filming, as opposed to the nine-tenths of a second after, is never spelled out. They suggest that the first missed shot must have missed because it struck an intervening object and since the limousine had not yet passed under the oak tree during the interval Z133-140 it had to be some intervening object that eclipsed the limousine before Z133.

How could he miss?

We don’t know why there is this prevailing assumption that Oswald’s first shot missed because it hit an intervening object – isn’t it possible that the first shot missed simply because Oswald’s aim was poor, or his sightline momentarily blocked?

Just because Oswald’s last two shots were on target doesn’t mean that the first shot would also have been on target were it not for divine intervention in the form of an occluding object.

There are numerous reasons why a first shot could have been way off target, as any avid hunter will tell you. It may be that Oswald simply fired prematurely (buck fever anyone? Oswald had a history of that in Minsk). Or perhaps, Oswald intended to wait until the limousine was further down Elm Street to fire the first shot, but when the moment arrived, the target was so deliciously close that Oswald couldn’t resist firing earlier than planned and hurried that initial shot?

We know from the physical arrangement of the sniper’s nest and the steep downward trajectory that a shot fired as early as Searce and Rozelle suggest couldn’t be accomplished from the same shooting position as the last two shots. Oswald would have to stand. Did the half-open window interfere with Oswald’s line-of-sight for such a shot?

We also know that the first shot was the only left-to-right tracking shot in the entire shooting scenario. This is a key point. A tracking shot is one of the hardest to accomplish and even more difficult considering the cramped, closed quarters that were dictated by the arrangement of the sniper’s nest. Did the barricade of boxes interfere with Oswald’s attempt to track the limousine?

The authors don’t see a problem with the first shot missing, simply because of the difficulty of the shot. No divine intervention necessary.

Hardly compelling

Scearce-Rozelle (and of course, Max Holland) note that the only intervening object that comes between Oswald and the limousine prior to Z133 is the traffic light mast pole.

However, co-author Dale Myers’ computer reconstruction of the shooting event demonstrates that Kennedy’s limousine would have passed under the mast pole 1.13 seconds before Zapruder began filming.

Do Searce, Rozelle, and Holland really believe that Connally – who claimed to have immediately recognized the first shot as a high powered rifle shot – took two full seconds to initiate his response? Does Connally’s quarter-second head snap really look like it belongs at the end of that two-second interval?

We know two seconds is a very brief period of time, but take a look at your watch or better yet, count – BANG! One thousand, two thousand…

Frankly, we find it hard to believe that Connally took four times as long as what would be considered typical in a voluntary reaction to an unexpected event; or even twice as long as would be typical in a response to a surprise event.

No matter how you slice it, Searce and Rozelle’s arguments are hardly compelling, or unbiased.

Searce and Rozelle remind us that when it comes to the Kennedy assassination “accounts of witnesses are fraught with risk of error and that physical and photographic evidence rightly take preeminence over witnesses’ beliefs, recollections and idiosyncrasies.”

They tell us that by giving “the Zapruder film primacy over witness recollections” we can reduce the sources of error and come closer to the truth.”

Perhaps, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Zapruder film raises more questions than it answers. That’s because it is not the whole truth, as some mistakenly believe. It is only part of the truth – a narrow, silent window into a world beyond our reach that can easily be manipulated to reveal anything we want it to – and consequently any analysis involving the film should be weighed accordingly.

In the end, it is not the Zapruder film that Searce and Rozelle are elevating to preeminence; it is their own interpretation of the film they are using to give credence to a theory that seeks to split hairs over millisecond timed reactions that no one – and we mean no one – could possibly know for certain.

While Searce-Rozelle offer a compelling critique of the so-called “jiggle” analysis touted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations and a good summation of the differences between startle and voluntary reactions, they stretch credulity quite a bit in an effort to shoe-horn their analysis of the film’s images to fit Max Holland’s scenario of a pre-Zapruder first shot.

There are some theories that are worth considering and others that have no eyewitness or ballistic support to induce our belief – no matter how many times you run it up the flagpole, or, in this case, mast pole.

If his sloppy work on the shooting sequence is any indication, Max Holland’s twenty-five year quest to document the work of the Warren Commission (assuming it ever sees the light of day) will likely obfuscate history in a manner not unlike the misguided musings of one Mark Lane. Just what we need.

The AARC gathering

In late September 2014, the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC) organized a conference to cover the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Warren Commission Report.

Guest speakers included Cyril Wecht, Gary Aguilar, John Newman, Joan Mellen, Dan Hardway, Edwin Lopez, and many others. C-Span covered some of the presentations.

There was the usual conspiracy ramblings by the highly entertaining Dr. Wecht who went on and on about zig-zagging bullets as if his 1975 musings were still viable fodder.

Presentations laced with sarcasm (as if anyone not on-board the big conspiracy bandwagon was just not as smart as they) were the rule rather than the exception. It’s one of the least discussed curiosities about the buffs—their over-arching arrogance.

There were several fascinating discussions, though as an observer you really had to know a great deal of background about the case to know where the facts ended and the supposition and innuendo began. It was definitely not for the newcomer.

The hot topics – as always – were Oswald’s links to the CIA and Mexico City.

John Newman, author of Oswald and the CIA, told the audience that a dark operation was in play on the day of the assassination.
“Its intent was to play the JFK/RFK plot to topple Castro back against the president and his brother,” Newman said. “Its success depended on Castro being alive, not dead, after the Kennedy assassination. Castro, along with the Soviet Union, had to appear to be behind the president’s murder with Oswald as the shooter.”
 Wow! With an introduction like that, how could you not be intrigued?
“This dark operation in play did more than achieve the death of JFK,” Newman continued. “It was a malevolent and diabolical psychological warfare plot convincing Robert Kennedy he had just got his brother killed and set the stage for World War III, and in addition to that, terrorizing several august members of our government with the prospect that such a terrible event would befall the world unless they helped engineer a lone gunman cover-up.”
According to Newman, the Warren Commission was a cover-up and President Lyndon B. Johnson used the threat of World War III to coerce Earl Warren and members of congress into helping with the lie.

“I believe it is no longer conjecture,” Newman said, “but it is a fact that the World War III ground work had already been cooked in the CIA’s Oswald files before the assassination.”

Newman charged that CIA counterintelligence chief David Atlee Phillips “played an important role in the plot to murder President Kennedy.” Phillips, who died in 1988, successfully sued the Observer and others for making the same charge in 1980. Apparently, now that he can’t defend himself, he’s fair game.

Newman spoke about how he had spent the passed three years trying to identify various pseudonyms that Phillips had used. After nearly ninety-minutes of pontification on the subject (during which we must admit, even we got lost in the weeds!), including counting spaces in redacted documents to see if he could fit Phillips name into the spaces, Newman admitted a startling fact – there was no proof that Phillips or the CIA was behind the assassination! But he failed to admit that an almost infinite amount of names could fit into those spaces (including “Prof. John Newman,” perhaps?).

“If you cannot identify the characters [in the plot],” Newman said, “you can’t put the story together…Until you can do that, you do not know the story, and we are just kind of lost in space, trying to figure out who is doing what. When you talk about shots in Dealey Plaza and doing that side of the case, [that’s] one thing, but when you start talking about – especially who in the CIA might have known before the fact or what they might have done as part of it is difficult to do, until we get the [cryptos] and pseudos and the nicknames and all that stuff out in the open – and we need more [Freedom of Information Act] files and access to the documents to do it. The routing slips…all the internal distribution – those are things we need. Without those things – we’re not going to be able to get very far.” [emphasis added] [14]

Is he kidding us? Just ninety minutes earlier, Newman was spelling out the whole plot – how it worked, who was involved, what the motive and reasoning was – everything. Was all of that just a guess? Apparently so. [Note to the new reader: If this is you’re first time around with this kind of malarkey, don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. It goes with the territory.]

“There's a difference between saying that something is true and proving it's true,” Newman told attendees. “Stating opinions about the CIA is easy to do. Proving what the facts are is much harder work. We must begin with an underlying base of facts and details.” [15]

Well, said. But now that we know the conspiracy gurus don’t have any real facts to support their claims of a CIA plot, what exactly do they have – if anything?

Suspicions run amuck

In a nutshell, they have quite a bit of suspicion.

A letter from former House Select Committee on Assassinations General Counsel G. Robert Blakey and presentations by former HSCA staffers Edwin Lopez and Dan Hardway laid out these basics:

The HSCA’s investigation into Oswald’s ties with the Revolutionary Student Directorate (DRE) was allegedly stonewalled by the DRE’s former case officer George Joannides, who had been brought out of retirement to serve as one of the CIA’s liaisons with the committee. (No mention is made of Scott Breckenridge, the Agency’s chief liaison to the Committee.)

The HSCA never knew that Joannides, now deceased, was the Agency’s liaison to the DRE in Miami in 1963 and may have known about Oswald’s scuffle and subsequent radio debate with DRE member Carlos Bringuier in New Orleans in August, 1963, prior to the assassination.

From these basic facts, many in the so-called “research community” have succumbed to a narrative that goes well beyond what we actually know. To hear some tell it, Joannides was running Oswald as part of a CIA propaganda campaign to smear the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) and somewhere along the line the smear campaign turned into a plot to kill Kennedy and blame Oswald for the murder.

A lawsuit filed by Jefferson Morley to force the CIA into releasing files on Joannides has largely been a bust, although some personnel records have been released that establish that Joannides received commendations for his excellent efforts at “resolving complicated problems involving control of an [unnamed] unruly group” [16] and “the handling of a significant student exile group which hitherto had successfully resisted any important degree of control.” [17] Presumably, these are references to the DRE.

A 1964 personnel record on Joannides, covering the period in 1963 when Oswald encountered Bringuier, praises Joannides for the quality and quantity of his propaganda and political action programs and his “ability to translate policy directives into meaningful action by all of his assets.” [18]

Morley and others believe that Joannides’ propaganda and political action campaigns might have had something to do with Oswald’s encounter with DRE member Bringuier in August 1963 (a fact that Bringuier adamantly denies), which resulted in a good amount of publicity in New Orleans at the time, including newspaper and television coverage, and a radio interview and debate.

All of this information was released in the hours and days following the assassination and helped publicize Oswald’s links to Castro and the Soviet Union.

So far, there has been nothingzero – to tie the CIA’s DRE propaganda machine to the Oswald event except a lot of gut feelings that seem to be prevalent in conspiracy circles – hence the continued lawsuits.

What really bothers subscribers to this conspiracy narrative is one inescapable truth – none of the publicity generated before or after the assassination need have originated with a CIA directive.

Those involved – Lee Oswald, Carlos Bringuier, William Stuckey, and Edward Butler in New Orleans, and the anti-Castro Cuban exile members of the DRE in Miami – were willing participants in the publicity campaign.

If the CIA’s George Joannides, David Atlee Phillips, or anyone else had a hand in it, they covered their tracks very well. (Not to mention their motives.)

And therein lies the rub for conspiracy mongers who have been beating the drum about this so loudly over the last few years that you would think it was a foregone conclusion that the CIA was behind Oswald’s deeds, and hence, the murder of the President of the United States.

Due process

Before we organize a lynch mob, how about a thing called due process? And before anyone can render due process, might we suggest accumulating some real facts – not gut feelings, supposition, and innuendo – but real facts.

Personally, we find it hard to believe that career officers like George Joannides and David Atlee Phillips, a well respected, twenty-five year veteran of the CIA with credentials as long as your arm and only one of a handful of men who ever received the Career Intelligence Medal, were involved directly with Oswald or the assassination. Certainly no one’s proven it.

Others who claimed that Phillips was willing to chuck his reputation, principles, and a lifetime of work and put the agency and people he loved in jeopardy by murdering the President of the United States, haven’t fared so well.

In May, 1980, the Observer published two extracts from Anthony Summers’ book Conspiracy, which, based on information from one very dubious Cuban exile source and his chief promoter, HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi, charged that Phillips used the CIA cover name “Maurice Bishop,” and was involved in the assassination and subsequent cover up. Phillips sued and was awarded a substantial sum of money as well as a retraction.

At nearly the same time, authors Donald Freed and Fred Landis alleged that Phillips was involved in the 1976 assassination of former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt. Phillips sued both Donald Freed and Fred Landis for libel, finally prevailing in 1986 after five years of litigation. Phillips was again award damages and Freed and Landis signed a retraction.

In November 1980, The Washingtonian published Gaeton Fonzi’s own 80,000-word treatise, “Who Killed JFK?” which again charged that Phillips was “Maurice Bishop” and involved in the assassination.

In a letter to the editor of The Washingtonian, former HSCA General Counsel G. Robert Blakey described Fonzi as:
 “...so lacking in professional objectivity that I would never have employed him in the first instance. As an investigator for Senator Richard Schweiker he had come upon a lead that purported to connect Lee Harvey Oswald to the CIA. He was convinced he had the answer to the meaning of the President’s death. (Staff members derisively referred to him as an ‘Ahab’ and his quest as a search for ‘Moby Dick’.) Nonetheless, I decided to retain him because I thought that his obsession would help assure that his aspect of the Committee’s investigation (Mr. Fonzi was but one investigator on one of two teams of lawyers, researchers and investigators working on Oswald leads; he headed up neither team) would receive its full due. In fact, it consumed a significant portion of our resources – personnel, money and time. The Committee’s investigation failed to find Fonzi’s ‘Great White Whale,’ not because we – Fonzi and I – did not try, but because the evidence was not there.” [19]
Phillips again sued for libel, but three lower courts and the Maryland Court of Appeals dismissed the case. Because Phillips was a public figure it was unlikely he would be able to prove intentional malice – a prerequisite with a much higher standard in U.S. courts.

Now that Phillips and Joannides are dead, their alleged involvement in the JFK assassination is quickly morphing from water cooler chatter to historic headline as if it’s a substantiated fact – a rather disgusting turn of events.

Of course, all of this nonsense is derived from the 50-year-old delusion that the CIA and JFK hated each other. Nothing could be further from the truth. Former CIA Director Allen Dulles’ papers, including letters from the Kennedys, display a lifelong affection for each other; internal CIA studies show how JFK tripled the CIA’s budget during his term and how, of all Presidents, the Agency’s best relationship was with (DRUM ROLL) President John F. Kennedy.

Even if the CIA hated JFK, consider the logic of it all. When the CIA labored to murder Fidel Castro, they went out of their way to construct labyrinthine schemes in order to make his death appear accidental (through the use of exploding sea shells, LSD in his shoes, tainted cigars, untraceable poison injected by a Papermate pen, etc.) Yet when they decided that JFK had to go, they adjourned their final furtive planning session (at which ostensibly many dozens attended) with someone like Dulles pronouncing, “Hell, we’ll just shoot the mother------.” As we used to say in the Sixties, smoke another one.

In the wake of his 1986 victory in the libel suit against the Observer, David Atlee Phillips wrote an article for the Columbia Journalism Review entitled, “The Man Nobody Bothered to Call.” (We were reminded of the piece recently while going through Phillips’ personal papers, which include two large folders on the Kennedy assassination).

Phillips could have been talking about both he and Joannides (not to mention Allen Dulles, LBJ, Richard Helms, Frank Sturgis, Johnny Rosselli, and countless others) and the serious charges leveled against them by conspiracy advocates when he ended the piece this way:
“Although such long-fought-for victories are cheering indeed, the overall pattern of journalistic behavior is depressing. It certainly depresses me. And I suspect it will not induce a state of euphoria in the vast majority of journalists who do give people they write about a fair shake. Then why this jeremiad? I suppose it is because I feel the need to express some righteous indignation to an audience of professionals.

“I certainly don’t suggest any legislative action that would inhibit the free and robust discussion of public issues and public officials. But I do believe it is inexcusable that a few journalists and authors should conclude that they can libel – and, later, on talk shows defame – victims of their allegations without being called to account. Whatever happened to the Sigma Delta Chi Code of Ethics and its ‘The news media should not communicate unofficial charges affecting reputation or moral character without giving the accused a chance to reply’? How can there be robust discussion unless there is more than one party to the discussion? What excuse can there be for journalism that hangs a man without allowing him to speak in his own defense?” [20]
We seem to have a lot of that these days, Mr. Phillips.

Fifty years out, the youth of America are awash in the big lie that the Warren Commission covered up the truth, as a handful of buffs with heads harder than a full-metal-jacketed Western Cartridge bullet actively seek to rewrite history as they see fit – facts be damned.

But there’s some good news! No one is listening. One notable thing about the AARC’s conference in Washington is that so few attended. It wasn’t like the old days when many interested hundreds would flock to hear the latest revelations about the “secret government.” Today, the crowds are smaller, and older than they used to be.

There seems to be a general apathy about it all among today’s youth, who as noted above, have no interest in anything that predates the iPhone. Many of the conference attendees just don’t know it yet. We should count our blessings. [END]




Endnotes

[1] Max Holland, November 21, 2014

[2] DeRonja, Frank S., and Holland, Max, "Technical Investigation Pertaining to the First Shot Fired in the Kennedy Assassination, 22 November 1963," November 20, 2011, p.12. [Note: In 2011, SAM, Inc., a local surveying firm retained by NatGeoTV, established that the manhole cover was located approximately 327 feet from the mast arm at a vertical angle of approximately minus 6 degrees. This is the straight line* angle of declination required to reach the manhole cover on Elm Street from the 18.5 foot height of the traffic light mast arm. It is not the angle of lateral deflection needed to alter the flight path of a bullet moving between the sniper’s nest window and the top of the mast arm.

According to Holland and DeRonja, “The lateral deflection of the bullet striking the mast arm would be dependent on a number of factors, including bullet rotation, impact velocity, bullet shape, bullet hardness, and the ductility of the impact surface. A bullet with a right hand spin rotation, as would be the case with any bullet fired from a 91/38 Mannlicher-Carcano, will change its direction of travel to the right upon striking the mast arm surface. This lateral deflection to the right would place the bullet on a path in a general direction toward the manhole cover/concrete skirt. It is not possible to determine with greater specificity the angle of deflection because of numerous unknown factors.”

This is patently false. “The direction of bullet rotation in the situation of striking a steel mast has nothing to do with the direction of deflection of the bullet,” ballistic expert Luke Haag informs us. “It is where it strikes the mast and how deeply into the metal of the mast that the bullet penetrates that will determine post-impact behavior. Most of all, since the actual beam has no discernable physical damage, any strike that occurred to it would have been a graze so shallow that no deformation of the metal took place.”

According to ballistic reconstructions performed by Luke and Michael Haag, the lateral deflection angle would actually need to be greater than 39 degrees, substantially higher than the 6.5 degree deflection angles the Haag team was able to achieve during field tests.

“This is of critical importance,” Luke Haag insists, “because when a shallow graze occurs the deflection angles are small (as is the velocity loss). A small deflection angle of a few degrees will NOT allow a steeply downward moving bullet to change direction 39-degrees or more to head toward the late Mr. Tague.”

*Bullets, especially a deformed, destabilized, and decelerated bullet does not and cannot follow straight lines over such a distance. The slower their flight and/or the poorer their ballistic performance, the higher their trajectory arc would have to be to reach the 327-ft distance. This means that the vertical departure angle off of the traffic signal mast would have to be much higher than Michael Haag’s nominal 39-degree angle change from the downward trajectory of a bullet traveling from the 6th floor window to the support mast.

[3] WCR110

[4] WCR111-117

[5] WCR111

[6] IBID

[7] WCR117

[8] IBID

[9] IBID

[10] Email message, Lucien C. Haag to Dale K. Myers, December 10, 2014

[11] 4H133

[12] The Elsie Dorman film shows Rosemary Willis rounding the corner of the reflection pool wall immediately before Zapruder began filming; her head turned toward the limousine (D270-276). She looks away as she navigates around a spectator (D277-281; 294-300), then again glances back in the direction of the limousine (D305-315).

[13] See our previous articles for a detailed discussion.

[14] John Newman, “Oswald and the CIA,” AARC Conference, Washington, DC, C-SPAN, September 26, 2014

[15] IBID

[16] Joannides, George, “Fitness Report,” 01/19/1963, RIF 104-10304-1000

[17] Joannides, George, “Fitness Report,” 07/31/1963, RIF 104-10304-1000

[18] Joannides, George, “Fitness Report,” 05/15/1964, RIF 104-10304-1000

[19] Letter, G. Robert Blakey to John A. Limpert, November 25, 1980, p.2]

[20] “The Man Nobody Bothered to Call,” by David Atlee Phillips, Columbia Journalism Review, January-February 1987