Tuesday, November 23, 2010

47 years after JFK's assassination, crowds, theories gather at Dealey Plaza

by ERINN CONNOR / The Dallas Morning News

The Kennedy motorcade on Main Street. (Steve Mitchell)

You can always count on a few constants at Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22.

People grinning for photos on the white X, the approximate spot on Elm Street where President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963; visitors standing on the infamous grassy knoll; fingers pointing toward the so-called sniper's perch on the sixth floor of the old Texas School Book Depository.

But there are few constants when it comes to the theories surrounding JFK's assassination. No detail is too large or too small to bicker over. Everyone's got an opinion.

Those theorists were out in force again Monday, 47 years after the president's death, to argue and reargue their points.

"There are crowds here every year," said Anthony Caglia, who takes a day off work to come down to the plaza each year. "You get all these different stories and theories from all kinds of people."

Some, though, just come to remember.

For Jim Stewart, walking on the grassy knoll was on his bucket list.

"I've just always been fascinated by it," said Stewart, who was visiting from Calgary. "I think so much of the United States would've been different if he lived."

Stewart, 55, said he remembers being herded into his elementary school's basement after the assassination and then being sent home and watching the aftermath on TV.

After making the trip to Dallas, Stewart said the scene was different than he imagined.

"Isn't there usually a moment of silence?" he asked, checking his cellphone clock.

That traditionally comes at 12:30 p.m. But during that time, John Judge was making a speech disputing the Warren Commission's assassination findings, which, among other things, concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman.

Judge continued his speech until a young boy remarked, "That moment of silence was pretty loud."

Judge paused around 12:35 for a minute of quiet.

"This is a forum for crazies instead of reverence for what happened," Stewart said as he left the plaza.

For 13 years, Paul Noble has made the trip from Mansfield to join the crowds at Dealey Plaza. What he enjoys most year after year is the amalgam of theories.

"I talk to all kinds of people," said Noble, 52, as a man wandered past with a T-shirt that read: "Who Killed JFK?"

"They have all kinds of theories – that Oswald did it alone, that it was Lyndon Johnson, the CIA , Fidel Castro. Lots of different ideas."

Noble was 5 when Kennedy was shot. He doesn't remember the assassination, but he recalls seeing Jack Ruby shoot Oswald on an old black-and-white TV.

He's been intrigued ever since.

"I'll come here every year until I die," said Noble. "I can't wait till the 50th anniversary. There'll be lots of things going on, probably thousands of people. Maybe even some celebrities."

Standing near a portrait of Kennedy with six white carnations at the base, Tommy Sills still remembers that November day clearly.

He was 9 years old, standing with his father at the corner of Houston and Main streets. He had been allowed to leave school to watch the presidential motorcade.

Sills remembers the roar of the crowd as the car turned the corner.

"Then I thought I heard a motorcycle backfire and didn't think anything of it," said Sills, 57, of Irving. "But with the second shot, people started screaming and I watched the Secret Service agent crawling on the back of the limo."

Sills and his father left downtown right away. He said he had never seen his father that spooked. Curiously, as if nothing had happened, his dad dropped him back off at Otis Brown Elementary School in Irving.

Now a history teacher, Sills sometimes brings his students down to the plaza and gives them a firsthand lesson.

"They always have a lot of questions," he said. "Mostly about conspiracies."

Source: Dallas Morning News

Move grows for memorial to Dallas officer killed by Oswald after JFK assassination

by ROY APPLETON / The Dallas Morning News

Forty-seven years after Lee Harvey Oswald gunned down Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit in north Oak Cliff, the talk is getting serious about establishing a permanent memorial to the time, place and man.

Michael Amonett, president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, says he has begun researching what's required to get a state historical marker placed near the shooting site on 10th Street east of Patton Avenue.

"He gave his life for his city and his country," Amonett said. "If not for him, they might not have caught" Oswald. The accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy was apprehended at the Texas Theatre after the Tippit shooting.

"If we could get it done by the 50th anniversary [in 2013], that would be cool," he said.

Farris Rookstool, an authority on the Kennedy assassination, said he would gladly help with the project.

"I would see it as a wonderful gift to the memory of J.D. Tippit and the other officers who assisted on the case," said Rookstool, a former assassination records custodian for the FBI.

The neighborhood around 10th and Patton will soon have few physical ties to 1963. Homes have been built there in recent years. And the Dallas school district is clearing land for a new Adamson High School.

"There's not going to be any historical footprint to remember that time," Rookstool said. "With people dying and everything changing [in the area], a marker would be a fantastic thing."

And Amonett said school property could be a good place to put one.

Marie Tippit, the officer's widow, said she was approached about a marker not long after the shooting. She said she's not sure why the idea fizzled.

"I think it would be a wonderful idea," she said. "It's a piece of history, and that's where he was killed, and there should be a marker there."

Source: Dallas Mornng News

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dallas to honor man whose alert about Tippit death helped lead police to Oswald

by SCOTT K. PARKS / The Dallas Morning News

Temple F. Bowley's life changed forever when he came upon a Dallas police officer lying dead in an Oak Cliff street on Nov. 22, 1963
"You don't run upon a dead man every day," Bowley said.

J.D. Tippit was the dead officer. His killer was Lee Harvey Oswald , the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy 45 minutes earlier.

Bowley was on the way to pick up his wife from work when he discovered Tippit's body face down in the middle of East 10th Street. Without hesitation, he climbed into the officer's car and used the police radio to report the shooting.

Officers poured into Oak Cliff and quickly arrested Oswald at the Texas Theatre.

On Monday, 47 years after the most chaotic day in Dallas history, Bowley will be recognized for the small role he played in it. Dallas Police Chief David Brown will present him a Citizen's Certificate of Merit.

"I don't deserve the recognition," said Bowley, now an 82-year-old retiree living in East Dallas. "It was just the thing to do. The radio was there and it was connected to the Police Department, and that's who I needed to talk to."

The story of Bowley's connection to the JFK slaying saga ends with Tippit's death. But that's not where it begins.

It turned out that Bowley had spent several years in the 1950s moonlighting as a doorman for Dallas nightclub operator Jack Ruby, who made history when he shot Oswald to death on live television two days after the Kennedy assassination.

"I knew Jack well, but half the people in Dallas knew Jack," he said. "He was a tough little cookie, but he would give you the shirt off his back."

Bowley can't recall how many or exactly which years he worked for Ruby at the Silver Spur over on South Ervay Street. But ever since that time, he has worried that the connection somehow might cast suspicion on him.

"It crossed my mind, yes," he said.

'We've had a shooting'

In 1963, Bowley's main job was supervising a crew of telephone installers for Western Electric Co.

On Friday, Nov. 22, he and his family were about to head to San Antonio for vacation. He planned to go deer hunting in South Texas and was carrying three rifles in the back of his 1961 Pontiac Tempest station wagon.

First, he picked up his 12-year-old daughter, Kathy, from school. Then, he headed to pick up his wife at her office in Oak Cliff.

The car radio crackled with news about shots fired at the presidential motorcade as it passed through Dealey Plaza, on the western edge of downtown Dallas. Kennedy was dead, the reports said.

Bowley was nearing his wife's office when he saw Tippit's parked car pointed toward him – the driver's door wide open and the officer's body lying next to the driver's-side front tire.

"I stopped maybe 30 to 50 yards away and told Kathy to stay in the car," he said.

Oswald was long gone by then. But Domingo Benavides had seen the shooting a couple of minutes earlier and remained at the scene.

As Bowley approached Tippit's car, he instinctively knew the officer was dead. Later, an autopsy found four gunshot wounds – three in the chest and a kill shot in the temple.
Benavides was in the patrol car, frantically trying to call for help on the radio. Instead of running to a nearby house to use a landline, Bowley saved precious minutes by seizing control of the radio.

"He couldn't figure out how to key the mike," Bowley said. "I was familiar with the equipment, so I took it and made the call."

A recording of the dialogue between Bowley and dispatcher Murray Jackson was preserved for investigators.

"Hello, police operator!" Bowley begins.

"Go ahead. Go ahead, citizen using the police ...," Jackson says before Bowley interrupts.

"We've had a shooting out here."

"Where's it at?"

Bowley looks around to get his bearings.

"The citizen using the police radio ...," Jackson starts to say.

"On 10th Street," Bowley responds.

"What location on 10th Street?"

"Between Marsalis and Beckley. It's a police officer. Somebody shot him. What? What's this?"

Somebody at the scene tells Bowley the exact address.

"404 East 10th Street," he tells the dispatcher.

Kathryn Bowley Miles, now 59, remembers the excitement of that day – seeing the body on the street, her father's admonition to stay in the car and the subsequent frenzy around the scene. It surprises her, she said, that he is now willing to talk about the incident.

"He didn't even want to talk to his friends about it," she said. "He just never talked about it."

And he had never returned to the spot on East 10th until last week, when The Dallas Morning News asked him to be photographed for this story.

"Maybe this will finally be the end of it," he said, while posing for the cameras in the middle of the street.

'I just caught a glimpse'

History records the time of JFK's murder as 12:30 p.m. Investigators would later say the shots came from the Texas School Book Depository.

Oswald had left the building shortly after the shooting and caught a bus to Oak Cliff. He was walking down 10th Street when Tippit drove up.

Investigators believe Tippit had heard a description of the assassination suspect on his police radio, and the man on the sidewalk fit the description. Witnesses said Oswald leaned down to talk to Tippit through the passenger window.

Oswald must have said something to arouse suspicion. Tippit got out of the car and was shot about 1:15 p.m.

"By the time we got there, Oswald had already fled," Bowley said.

When police arrived at the Tippit murder scene, Bowley told them what he had seen and what he had done. Officers took his information and sent him on his way, saying he could be interviewed in depth later.

But Bowley didn't head to San Antonio immediately. He heard police sirens screaming and drove west on Jefferson Boulevard to investigate.

"I wanted to see what was going on like any other nosy person," he said.

The commotion in front of the Texas Theatre drew his attention. He parked and got out of his car just in time to see officers bringing the handcuffed Oswald out of the theater.

"I just caught a glimpse of them putting him in the squad car," Bowley said.

'His role is huge'

When you add it all up, what significance can historians place on Bowley's role in the assassination story? A life of 82 years consists of 29,930 days, or 718,320 hours. He spent 30 minutes of that life dealing with the Tippit murder on Nov. 22, 1963. And, yet, in some way, it has dominated everything else.

"I'm just damn tired of it," he said.

Farris Rookstool III is a former analyst for the FBI and a self-described expert on the Kennedy assassination. He campaigned for more than a year to get the Dallas Police Department to award Bowley its Citizen's Certificate of Merit.

Rookstool characterizes the Tippit murder as "the Rosetta Stone" that tied Oswald to the Kennedy assassination.

"The whole component of Bowley getting on the radio is what got the police headed in that direction and allowed them to close in on Oswald quickly," Rookstool said.

"His role is huge, in my opinion. And it's the right thing to do to honor him."

Source: Dallas Morning News

Friday, November 19, 2010

JFK Assassination Acoustics and the Photographic Record: Why the HSCA’s Acoustic Evidence of Conspiracy is Invalid


Flash 8 or higher is required to view videos accompanying this article. Get the free plugin now.

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that there was a “high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy,” and therefore, Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.” [1]

Their conclusion, which contradicted the 1964 Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald alone killed President Kennedy, was based largely on an acoustical analysis of an eight-second segment of a Dallas police recording made of radio transmissions presumed to have originated from a motorcycle within the presidential motorcade.

Although the static-filled recording contained no audible sounds that could be distinguished as being gunshots, two acoustic research groups concluded that the recording contained four impulse sounds, which they believed were probable gunshots.

According to these experts, three of the “gunshots” were fired from the sniper’s nest on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, while a fourth “gunshot” originated from the infamous grassy knoll. [2]

The acoustic experts also predicted that the motorcycle with the open microphone was located 120 to 140 feet behind the presidential limousine at the time of the shooting.

After a limited review of the photographic record, the HSCA identified the motorcycle officer with the open microphone as Dallas police officer H.B. McLain, who the committee alleged was “in the approximate position of the transmitting microphone, as indicated by the acoustical analysis,” and therefore was responsible for transmitting the gunshot sounds. [3]

The importance of the HSCA’s acoustic evidence cannot be over emphasized. It is the only hard, physical evidence ever offered in support of a conspiracy over the course of the nearly five decade assassination debate. Without it, there is no credible reason to believe that anyone other than Lee Harvey Oswald fired shots at the Kennedy motorcade.

It is equally important to recognize that the conclusions of the HSCA acoustic experts hinge on a very basic assumption – a police motorcycle, with an open microphone, was transmitting the sound of the gunshots from four very specific locations at the time of the assassination. In order for the HSCA’s acoustic evidence of conspiracy to have validity, a police motorcycle must be present at the four specific locations and times predicted by the acoustic analysis. If there is no motorcycle at the location and times predicted by their analysis, their conclusions are, by default, invalid – plain and simple.

Dr. James Barger, lead scientist with the acoustic team at Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Inc. (BBN) said as much in 2001, “…if it can be shown that there was no vehicle or person with a police radio near the trajectory where I found it to be, then, that is impeaching evidence.” [4]

G. Robert Blakey, Chief Council of the HSCA, told ABC News the same thing in 2003, “If you could prove to me that there was no police officer in the place where he had to be, you would falsify [the acoustics evidence].” [5]

In 2007, I released a graphic report – Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination – detailing my study of photographic evidence related to the acoustics issue. That 179-page report documented the use of computer technology to construct a synchronized photographic record of the shooting and determine the validity of the acoustic evidence.

That study proved beyond all doubt that neither H.B. McLain nor any other motorcycle officer was in a position to transmit the sound of gunshots over the Dallas police radio system as the HSCA postulated and consequently the committee’s acoustic evidence of a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination is invalid.

Nine months after the release of my graphic report, entomologist and part-time conspiracy theorist Donald B. Thomas, whose Science & Justice article “Echo correlation analysis and acoustic evidence in the Kennedy assassination revisited” grabbed headlines in 2001, promised to show that “the study by Myers contains serious errors that invalidate his conclusions” in an Internet article entitled, “The Bike with the Mike.”

Mr. Thomas’ promise turned out to be nothing more than a series of falsehoods and mischaracterizations that only managed to expose the faults and contradictions in his own hypothesis. All of it was detailed in the April, 2008, blog post, “Photographic Proof: H.B. McLain and Acoustics.”

Hear No Evil

Now comes Mr. Thomas’ masterwork, Hear No Evil: Social Constructivism & The Forensic Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination (Mary Ferrell Foundation Press, 2010), a 767-page tome that attempts to tackle all forensic aspects of the Kennedy assassination and presumably gives the entomologist yet another chance to address the serious problems with his acoustic hypothesis.

Those expecting a spirited rebuttal to the contradictions and gaffes I found in Mr. Thomas’ “Bike with the Mike” article will be disappointed.

Rather than addressing the problems raised by his 2008 article, Mr. Thomas simply restates them, lifting large extracts from the earlier article, as if there was no problem.

But, oh there is a problem – a very big problem and Thomas knows it.

The Bike with the Mike

Mr. Thomas understands very well that the photographic record is the heart and soul of the validity of the acoustics evidence for conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination.

Thomas acknowledges as much when he writes, “The filmed evidence provides a test of the acoustical hypothesis, in that a motorcycle with a stuck microphone had to have been where the test microphones recorded the matching test patterns at the actual time of the shooting.” [6]

A few pages later, Thomas postulates that “… McLain had to have been near Car-6 [the Mayor’s car], in which case he was exactly where the acoustical evidence predicts, or, he was back near Car-10 [Camera Car 3], in which the acoustical hypothesis is falsified.” [7]

And still later, Thomas reiterates that “… McLain’s motorcycle was either in exactly the right place at the right time, in the vicinity of the Mayor’s car, or way back in the motorcade, and no where close.” [8]

Mr. Thomas obviously believes that McLain’s motorcycle is near the Mayor’s car, a position that would be in accord with the acoustics evidence if it were true. So, what evidence does Thomas offer that McLain is exactly where the acoustics evidence predicts?

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Thomas argues that since no photographs or films show the area of the acoustic zones at the exact moment of the shots there is no photographic evidence to prove that McLain could not have been there as predicted.

That’s right, for Thomas, the lack of photographic evidence for his hypothesis is the evidence.

But of course, there is abundant photographic evidence that McLain is nearly a block from the acoustically required position and so Thomas is forced to spend eighteen pages attempting to knock down that evidence any way he can in order to keep the acoustic fantasy of conspiracy alive.

I have no intention of detailing (once again) every falsehood, mischaracterization, and outright lie about my efforts to reconstruct the photographic record that Mr. Thomas attempts to put over as fact in his book Hear No Evil.

Mr. Thomas’ acoustic fairy tale was all laid bare and demolished two years ago in the blog post, “Photographic Proof: H.B. McLain and Acoustics.”

But here are a few of the salient arguments rehashed by Thomas in the new book, and the truth of the matter.

Making Assumptions

“… built into Myers’ reconstruction was the assumption that the grassy knoll shot had missed, and thus he had placed the first acoustically determined shot as equivalent in time to Z-160 instead of Z-175. Resetting the first shot to Z-160 had the effect of lopping nearly a full second off of the time that McLain had to reach the acoustically required position.” [9]

Nonsense. Nothing was assumed in my analysis of the photographic record as it related to acoustics. As many people who have seen my work can attest, I lifted every rock, turned over every stone, and covered all the bases in spades – well above and beyond what would be required to make the point.

And as Thomas well knows, I set about testing the acoustic theory proposed by the HSCA, not the theory postulated by Don Thomas of Texas.

The HSCA concluded that four shots were fired at the equivalent of Zapruder frames 160, 196, 309, and 312. It was Thomas’ own resurrection and resynchronization of the original data that produced a new theory that five shots were fired at the intervals Z175, 204, 224, 313, and 326.

But here again, Thomas ignores the fact that the photographic record also fails to support his own five shot theory, as I pointed out in my 2007 report and again in my 2008 rebuttal to his article, “The Bike with the Mike.”

Thomas offers no argument in Hear No Evil because he has none to give.

Steady as She Goes

“… Another key assumption made by Myers was that during the un-filmed interval between the Hughes and Zapruder film, the motorcade on Houston Street traveled at a steady, even pace of around 9 mph.” [10]

This is a lie easily refuted by my 2007 report and again in my 2008 rebuttal to the same charge made in “The Bike with the Mike.” Read them.

Case in point, it is demonstrated in the report that the National Press car was moving at 9.5 mph during an unseen interval of 1.48 seconds, [11] that Camera Car 1 was moving at 8.7 mph during an unseen interval of 2.73 seconds, [12] and that Camera Car 2 was moving at 8.1 mph during an unseen interval of 3.28 seconds. [13]

Contrary to Thomas’ assertion, the motorcade is traveling on Houston Street at an uneven pace between 8.1 and 9.5 mph.

You’ll note that the time these vehicles are off camera is very short (between 1.48 and 3.28 seconds).

Mr. Thomas argues that a “snapshot” of the speed of these motorcade vehicles as seen in the Hughes film and their reappearance in the Zapruder film a few seconds later cannot be applied to the interval between the two films (Thomas calls this “an untestable assumption” in his 2008 “Bike with the Mike” article).

But Thomas fails to take into account that both films depict the motorcade moving north on Houston Street in a continuous fashion.

The motorcade is made up of a procession of vehicles, one following the other in a single line, as they make their way along the parade route in an undulating fashion. Even if some of the vehicles move off camera, we can be assured that they are continuing to move forward (and not stopping or slowing significantly, as Thomas suggests) simply because the vehicles which are in the camera’s view are seen moving forward in a normal manner.

And let’s not forget we are talking about a few seconds of time during which some vehicles are off camera, not minutes.

Thomas also argues that a vehicle moving at “an even pace of around 9 mph” cannot “sustain a 40% greater velocity” than a car ahead of it that is slowing to make the turn onto Elm Street. [14]

Here Thomas uses the Vice-Presidential Secret Service Follow-up Car as an example, claiming that it was only traveling at 6.4 mph as it made the turn (actually it was traveling at 7.0 mph as I pointed out in 2008). How then, Thomas argues, could the vehicles behind it sustain a 40% greater velocity?

The answer is obvious, they don’t sustain their velocity. They slow down just as all the vehicles do as the approach the turn onto Elm Street.

The Vice-Presidential Secret Service Follow-up Car is more than 70 feet ahead of the motorcade vehicles Mr. Thomas uses for comparison and well into the Elm Street turn. Six seconds will elapse before the trailing vehicles reach that same point in the turn.

Obviously there is enough time and distance for those trailing vehicles to decelerate from 9.0 to 7.0 mph.

Coaches in a Train

“The ‘coaches in a train’ analogy is an accurate description of the model used by Myers’ for his animation. The point is that in this crucial analysis Myers’ had relied on inference and assumptions, not measurements. Actual measurements show that the cars slowed through the turns and sped up on the straight-aways. A better inference would be, as anyone with experience with traffic jams knows, those in the back of the pack slow much more than those in the front.” [15]

This is another lie, again, easily refuted by my 2007 report and again in my 2008 rebuttal to the same charge made in “The Bike with the Mike.” Read them.

There are many examples of variations in speed among the motorcade vehicles presented in my report, and no doubt many more demonstrative examples available in the filmed record, assuming one has the inclination to measure and make the calculations.

All of these measurements show the motorcade vehicles accelerating and decelerating at various speeds independent of each other as one would expect in a motor vehicle parade of this type.

Ad Hoc Reasoning

“But it was not just the speed of the motorcade that Myers’ had inferred, it was the position of the cars. The exact position of Car-5 [the Vice-Presidential Secret Service Follow-up Car] as depicted in the Hughes film was particularly ambiguous. It was one of the contentious points that the ad hoc group had been unable to satisfactorily resolve.” [16]

Mr. Thomas explains that “Following the release of the [ABC] documentary in 2004 [17] an ad hoc group of researchers attempted to duplicate Myers’ analysis by synchronizing the Hughes and Zapruder films. The group failed to reach a firm consensus, there being no direct connection found between the films.” [18]

Really? Who are the members of this ad hoc group of researchers? What are their qualifications? What was their methodology? What were their conclusions? We’re not told.

Earlier in his book, Thomas described the term “ad hoc” as “Latin for bullshit.” [19] I agree.

Epipolar Geometry

“Myers claimed to have used an exacting process, labeled ‘epipolar geometry,’ to position the cars in his animation. Epipolar geometry is a method of stereo imaging. To do stereo imaging one has to have two different camera views of the same object, in this case, the cars on Houston Street. But because the objects are in motion, the stereo pair analysis requires that they be photographed at the same time, not at different times at different places. More importantly, the ‘epipole’ in the analysis is the depiction of the opposing camera in each respective image of the object being measured. But at no point does Zapruder appear in the Hughes film nor does Hughes appear in the Zapruder film. So there are no epipoles and therefore no epipolar line which is the baseline use in the triangulation process of an epipolar analysis. Meyers (sic) had not done an epipolar analysis, at least not in the key analysis involving the location of the cars on Houston Street.” [20]

Rubbish. Mr. Thomas completely mischaracterizes my use of epipolar geometry in resolving spatial issues related to synchronizing the Zapruder and Hughes films.

Yes, epipolar geometry is a method of stereo imaging. It’s also useful in the field of architectural design (dating back to the Greeks), visual effects realization, and many other applications.

And yes, the ‘epipole’ is the imaginary baseline projected between the depiction of the opposing camera in each respective image of the object being measured, however, the ‘epipole’ does not necessarily need to be depicted in the image to resolve the equation. Mr. Thomas would know this if he’d spent more than a few minutes exploring Wikipedia before expounding on a subject he clearly knows nothing about.

In my 2007 report, I explained how the angle of the Secret Service car seen in the Hughes film was determined by aligning the film with a computer model of Dealey Plaza using a method known as triangulation, writing:

“Triangulation is a highly accurate way of computing the six degrees of a camera’s freedom based on camera footage. This technique is based on epipolar geometry and is used by many of the world’s foremost motion picture visual effects masters to seamlessly match computer generated imagery with live action footage. Through triangulation, it is possible to determine a camera’s position in 3D space by taking any film or video footage that a camera has recorded; superimposing that footage over a three-dimensional model of the scene recorded; and triangulating three or more fixed points that are visible within its field of view. Because the technique applies to any motion picture footage, historic events can be explored using this method.” [emphasis added] [21]

Two important footnotes accompany this text: (a) “Epipolar geometry describes the geometric relationship between two optical systems viewing the same subject and can be used to locate points or objects in space. Because a moving camera offers a new view every frame, epipolar geometry works for a single moving camera as well, and each new view is understood as a separate optical system;” and (b) “[The manual process I used] has been largely replaced in the last few years by camera match-moving software like RealViz’s MatchMover, 2D3’s Boujou, SynaPix’s SynaMatch, and Autonomous Effect’s CameraGenie.” [emphasis added] [22]

What Mr. Thomas fails to acknowledge is that a multi-billion-dollar-a-year visual effects industry has been built on the highly accurate and reliable ability to triangulate the three dimensional position of objects in space using epipolar geometry as the basis for modern software solutions.

The fact that epipolar geometry solutions work for a single moving camera is the basis for match-moving software (which allows computer generated objects to be inserted seamlessly into live action footage shot from a single camera source) and the essence of how I was able to take multiple individual camera positions and reconstruct a continuous and highly accurate geometric timeline of the assassination event.

And having spent literally thousands of hours perfecting a manual solution and later working with modern-day match-moving software solutions, I can tell you that even the slightest inaccuracy will result in errors (seen as “slippage” between live action footage and dimensional objects positioned in space in relation to that footage).

Mr. Thomas’ attempt to characterize my use of the term “epipolar geometry” as inappropriate, or that my geometric reconstruction is somehow inexact, or that my methodology was not grounded in the use of epipolar geometry based on a very narrow reading of the definition of the term ‘epipolar geometry’ or the application(s) of this mathematical science, is not only false and misleading, it’s a flat out lie.

More important, Mr. Thomas was aware of everything you just read because it was published two years ago in response to the first time he made this ridiculous accusation.

Fixing the Hughes Camera

“…how had Myers located Car-5 [VPSS] on Houston Street? Presumably Myers had used simple ‘line of sight’ procedures to align the cars as seen in the Hughes frames with inanimate landmarks in the camera’s view in order to fix their positions on Houston Street. But the accuracy of such procedures depends heavily on an accurate placement of said camera. And while Zapruder’s position was known, Hughes’ position was not. Although Myers cites an exact position for Hughes at precisely 15.5 ft west of the center line of Houston Street and 8.8 ft south of the center line of Main Street, this was another inference and not one fixed by photographic evidence...” [23]

STOP right there. That’s a lie. I explained in my 2003 report that through triangulation, it was possible to determine a camera’s position in 3D space based on footage that it had previously recorded. Using computer software, the recorded footage can be aligned to a three-dimensional model of the scene recorded Aligning three or more fixed points that are visible within the camera’s field of view reveals the camera’s original position in 3D space. The exact location of the camera can then be extracted from the geometric model.

Hence, the camera position is not inferred, as Thomas charges, it is extracted directly from the photographic evidence. But then Thomas knew that since I wrote about it two years ago when I addressed this same accusation in Photographic Proof.

Incidentally, the use of “simple line of sight procedures” to fix objects in space isn’t any less accurate than Weiss and Aschkenasy’s use of pins, string, and a slide rule to fix the position of the motorcycle allegedly transmitting the sound of a gunshot being fired from the grassy knoll. [24] Sometimes the simplest approach is the best, you know?

“...Researchers have yet to find a photograph depicting Hughes. Although there is a consensus among analysts that Hughes was in line with the middle of the three lanes of east bound traffic on Main Street, Myers had arbitrarily placed Hughes in line with the inner most traffic stripe, that is, as far north as might reasonably be inferred. Others have placed Hughes on the opposite side of the lane, 11 ft away. Shifting Hughes’ position northward similarly shifts the projected position of the cars north, and effectively shortens the timeline...” [25]

STOP. The Hughes camera position wasn’t “arbitrarily” placed anywhere. Its exact position was determined using the method described above. But even without using computer software, the alignment of the camera with the northern-most eastbound white road stripe is obvious from the Hughes film footage itself. [See, Figure 1]

Figure 1. Hughes frame H223 showing Hughes’ camera position to be in-line with the white road stripe (arrow) immediately south of the centerline.

Furthermore, shifting the Hughes camera position 11 feet south would put Hughes behind a line of spectators [See, Figure 2] obstructing his view of the motorcade – something we know didn’t happen based upon his film footage which shows a clear view of the motorcade.

Figure 2. Bronson slide depicting spectators ringing the turn at Main and Houston.

Bottom line? Thomas is wrong again. But then he knew that two years ago when I made these very same points in Photographic Proof.

Circles on a Map

On page 671 of Hear No Evil, Mr. Thomas shows us a map of Dealey Plaza with five circles representing the location of the motorcycle at the time of each one of the five “gunshots” designated by the acoustic evidence. [See, Figure 3] Thomas notes that to be in accord with the acoustical evidence the motorcycle with the open microphone had to have been within 9 feet of each test microphone.

Figure 3. Thomas map depicting acoustic zones.

That’s true. James Barger, lead scientist with Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, Inc. (BBN), testified that placing the test microphones 18 feet apart assured that the motorcycle with the open microphone, if one existed, could be located within 9 feet of any given test microphone by matching test shots with the Dallas police recording. [26]

But look at the map. The circles Thomas uses have an 18 foot radius, not the 9 foot radius dictated by Barger’s acoustics test. This is easily demonstrated by noting the size relationship between the circles on Elm Street and the street itself.

Elm Street is 40 feet wide, yet the circles drawn on this map cover nearly the entire width of the road. How is that possible if the circles are only 18 feet in diameter (i.e., have a radius of just 9 feet)?

The same holds true for the circles drawn at the intersection of Elm and Houston. Houston is 60 feet wide, yet clearly the circles drawn at the intersection have a radius larger than 9 feet. In fact, all of the circles on the Thomas map are the same size – 36 feet in diameter (i.e., having a radius of 18 feet) – twice the size dictated by Barger’s acoustic test.

Why does Thomas show these acoustic zones at twice the dictated size? He must know that these acoustic zones are too large, because another map he publishes on page 584 to depict the 36 microphone locations used for the BBN test shows the acoustic zones considerably smaller, in fact, closer in size to the 9 foot radius described earlier. [See, Figure 4]

Figure 4. Thomas map showing BBN mic positions and the acoustic zones for his five shot theory.

The effect of using circles twice the dictated size makes it appear as if the entire intersection is blanketed by the acoustic zone. According to the Thomas map, the motorcycle with the open microphone could be anywhere on the left side of the street and still get caught in the array of test microphones.

The reality is much different. Figure 5 shows the true size of the acoustic test zones (i.e., acoustic zones with a radius of 9 feet around each test microphone position). As you can see, the hypothetical path of a motorcycle passing through the required acoustic zones would have to pass impossibly close to (and in some cases cross into the immediate path of) the motorcade automobiles driving down the center of the street. How is that possible?

Figure 5. Computer reconstruction depicting acoustic zones corresponding to Thomas’ five shot theory.

In a related matter, Mr. Thomas uses a photograph taken by James Altgens at the equivalent of Zapruder frame Z255 [See, Figure 6] to support his contention that the motorcycle with the open microphone would have been just outside of Altgens’ field-of-view had it been following its predicted path through the acoustic zones. But that would only be true if the acoustic zones were drawn twice the size dictated by the acoustic test, as Thomas had done.

Figure 6. Full frame version of the Altgens’ photograph corresponding to Zapruder frame Z255.

Again, the reality is much different. Figure 7 shows the true size of the acoustic zone at test microphone array 2(11). According to Thomas, this microphone position matches a gunshot fired at the equivalent of Zapruder frame Z224. Assuming that a motorcycle with an open microphone could pass through the southern-most portion of the acoustic zone without colliding with any motorcade vehicles, the hypothetical trajectory path of the motorcycle would almost assuredly place it within the field-of-view of Altgens’ camera 1.7 seconds later.

Figure 7. Computer reconstruction of the motorcade at the equivalent of Z255 depicting test microphone position 2-11 (green), Altgens’ field-of-view (red overlay), and Thomas’ hypothetical motorcycle trajectory (yellow).

This is especially true given the location of the acoustic zones for the next two shots which lie directly ahead. In particular, take a look at the presumed location of the motorcycle at the time of the alleged grassy knoll “shot” as determined by Mark Weiss and Ernest Aschkenasy. [See, Figure 8]

Figure 8. Computer reconstruction of the motorcade at the equivalent of Z255 depicting the hypothetical motorcycle’s probable location (red arrows) and its presumed location at the time of the alleged grassy knoll shot.

Weiss and Aschkenasy pinpointed the location of the motorcycle with the open microphone as being 95 feet south and 27 feet west of the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository (plus or minus one foot) at the time of the initial muzzle blast. [27] The motorcycle traveled another 6 feet along the path of the motorcade before all the trailing echoes reached the microphone. [28]

Plotting these positions on a computer model of Dealey Plaza shows the Weiss and Aschkenasy location to be within the 9 foot radius of the BBN microphone location, as it should be. (Thomas shows the motorcycle position to be about 4 feet southeast of where Weiss and Aschkenasy place it.)

The point here is that because the motorcycle with the open microphone would need to be within the area of the center lane on Elm Street at the equivalent of Z224, if indeed the acoustics evidence is valid, and would need to maintain a forward trajectory that places it squarely in the center of the center lane at the time of the alleged grassy knoll “shot” (the equivalent of Z313 according to Thomas), then the motorcycle with the open microphone would almost assuredly be in the Altgens camera’s field-of-view in between those two points (the equivalent of Z255).

By showing the acoustic zones at twice their actual size, Thomas makes it appear at least equally likely that the motorcycle could have avoided Altgens’ camera lens.

The Zigzagging Motorcycle

The map on page 671 of Hear No Evil also includes Thomas’ proposed hypothetical path for the motorcycle with the open microphone. The path is represented by the small circles. [See, Figure 9] According to Thomas, the motorcycle would have hugged the south curb of Elm Street as it made the turn from Houston, ventured slightly into the center lane (at the time of the grassy knoll “shot”), then returned to the southern-most lane.

Figure 9. Section of Thomas’ map depicting acoustic zones (large circles) and the hypothetical path of McLain’s motorcycle (small circles). Letter ‘b’ marks the motorcycle’s presumed location at the time of the alleged grassy knoll shot.

Using circles that are twice as large as dictated by the BBN test to represent the acoustic zones, Thomas makes it appear that his hypothetical motorcycle path will pass through each of the appropriate zones as determined by BBN.

When the acoustic zone circles are rendered at the correct size, we see the problems that Thomas is trying to avoid. [See, Figure 10]

Figure 10. Computer reconstruction of the motorcade at the equivalent of Z255 depicting seven acoustic zones (large circles), Altgens’ field-of-view (red overlay), Thomas’ hypothetical motorcycle trajectory (small yellow circles), and the actual motorcycle path required by Thomas’ five shot theory (solid yellow line).

First, if the acoustic theory is correct, the hypothetical motorcycle would have to travel further north on Houston before making its turn onto Elm in order to pass through the acoustic zones for the first two “shots.” Remember, if the motorcycle with the open microphone doesn’t pass through these acoustic zones then BBN doesn’t get a match between their test gunshots and the impulse sounds on the Dallas police dictabelt recording.

Traveling further north on Houston puts the hypothetical motorcycle on a collision course with the motorcade automobiles making the left turn onto Elm Street. The position of these automobiles is well established by the photographic record.

Traveling further north also means that the hypothetical motorcycle will not be hugging the south curb of Elm Street as Thomas postulates. The motorcycle would have to swing left in a much wider arch.

Second, the hypothetical motorcycle would have to enter the southern-most portion of Elm Street’s center lane in order to pass through the acoustic zone for microphone 2(11) – the BBN microphone position that Thomas contends matches the gunshot fired at the equivalent of Z224.

The acoustic match for this microphone position was rejected by BBN as a false alarm. Thomas resurrects this false alarm in order to have a “gunshot” that synchronizes with the reactions of Kennedy and Connally at Z223-224. This was necessary because Thomas is also postulating, in opposition to the HSCA, that the acoustic grassy knoll “shot” synchronizes with the head shot.

But if Thomas’ theory is correct, and the hypothetical motorcycle with the open microphone entered the acoustic zone designated by the test microphone at 2(11), the motorcycle would be on a potential collision course with either the Vice Presidential Secret Service Follow-up Car or the car containing Mayor Cabell and his party.

Both options seem dubious at best especially considering the fact that the hypothetical motorcycle could easily avoid both potential calamities by simply adjusting the sweep of its turn.

That, of course, is Thomas’ problem. If his hypothetical motorcycle does the obvious thing (i.e., avoids crashing into the motorcade vehicles traveling to his right) then it cannot pass through the appropriate acoustic zones at the required time in order to match the BBN test shots.

Third, as discussed earlier, Thomas’ hypothetical motorcycle must dart sharply south by Z255 to avoid being caught in the field-of-view of still photographer James Altgens’ camera lens.

Finally, the hypothetical motorcycle must cut back to the center of the middle lane – entering the path occupied by automobiles traveling in the motorcade – in order to be in position to pick up the sound of the last two shots. [See, Figure 11]

Figure 11. Computer reconstruction of the motorcade at the equivalent of Z313 depicting seven acoustic zones (large circles), Thomas’ hypothetical motorcycle trajectory (small yellow circles), and the actual motorcycle path required by Thomas’ five shot theory (solid yellow line).

You’ll note that Thomas’ hypothetical motorcycle path actually fails to pass through the acoustic zones designated for test microphones 2(5), 2(6), and 2(11) when the zones are scaled to their proper 9 foot radius. These positions equate to “shots” 1, 2, and 3 in Thomas’ five shot scenario. [See, Figure 10]

However, his hypothetical motorcycle path does pass through the acoustic zones for test microphones 2(8) and 2(10). Yet, no matches between the Dallas police dictabelt recording and the BBN test shots were obtained for the test microphone at position 2(8) and only one match with a low correlation coefficient was obtained for the test microphone at position 2(10). That match actually corresponded to the second “shot.” [29]

It should be obvious by now that the hypothetical motorcycle path proposed by Thomas contradicts his own data.

If you’re buying Thomas’ snake oil, then you also must buy into the idea of an out of control motorcycle zigzagging its way along the motorcade route – driving perilously close to the parade of cars (in order to pick up the sound of the first three “shots”), darting back toward the south curb of Elm Street (in order to avoid being seen by Altgens’ camera), then cutting back into the middle lane occupied by automobiles in the motorcade (to pick up the sounds of the final two “shots”).

Of course, doubling the size of the acoustic zones avoids having to deal with the zigzagging reality of Thomas’ hypothetical solution.

Direct Photographic Proof

It’s all pretty simple. Mr. Thomas cannot accept the simple truth that H.B. McLain couldn’t physically reach the position dictated by the acoustic evidence in the time allotted. Accepting that simple truth would kill the very thing he has fought to promote and defend for the last ten years.

He continues to hang his hat on what he calls “negative evidence” – that is, the so-called lack of photographic evidence that “McLain is not in the wrong position” to be the officer transmitting the sounds of gunshots. But, of course, this is demonstrably false.

Look, the photographic record is crystal clear on where McLain is immediately before the first shot. Hughes frames H631 through H648 show McLain’s motorcycle completing the turn from Main onto Houston – ending just as McLain’s front tire reaches the crosswalk.

Figures 12 through 14 depict a computer reconstruction of the motorcade at the equivalent of Hughes frames H631, H638, and H648 – a period of just 0.93 seconds.

Figure 12. Computer reconstruction of the motorcade at the equivalent of H631/Z133.

Figure 13. Computer reconstruction of the motorcade at the equivalent of H638/Z140.

Figure 14. Computer reconstruction of the motorcade at the equivalent of H648/Z150.

We know for a fact that these three Hughes frames align in time with Zapruder frames Z133, Z140, and Z150.

How do we know this? We know this for a multitude of reasons, supported by more than fourteen geometric and visual reference points: (1) The angle and position of the white 1963 Mercury Monterey (the Vice-Presidential Secret Service Follow-up Car) turning onto Elm Street forms a continuous motion path across both films, (2) five geometric reference points common to the Zapruder and Hughes films confirm the synchronicity between the Hughes and Zapruder films, and (3) nine additional visual reference points common to the Hughes, Towner, Dorman, Bell, and Martin films confirm the synchronicity between the Hughes and Zapruder films.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is absolutely no doubt that the last Hughes frame to show McLain’s motorcycle (H648) is equivalent in time to Zapruder frame Z150. This is not fantasy. It’s a fact.

And since the Zapruder film is a running clock on the assassination, we know that McLain has only 0.546 seconds to reach the acoustical zone for the first shot (assuming the first shot was fired at the equivalent of Zapruder frame Z160, as the HSCA concluded) or just 1.366 seconds to reach the zone (assuming the first shot was fired at the equivalent of Zapruder frame Z175, as the Mr. Thomas contends). [See, Figure 15]

Figure 15. Computer reconstruction of the motorcade at the equivalent of H648/Z150 depicting the distance McLain’s motorcycle would need to travel in 0.546 to 1.366 seconds to reach the Shot 1 acoustic zone.

In either case, in order to reach the acoustic zone in time, McLain would have to have accelerated his motorcycle to a speed significantly greater than it was mechanically capable of achieving.

In other words, there is direct photographic proof that less than 1.4 seconds before the first alleged shot, H.B. McLain, the only motorcycle escort in the entire motorcade who could possibly have been in a position to transmit the sound of gunshots, was 174 feet south of the required acoustic zone and therefore was incapable of being in the location necessary to validate the acoustics evidence.

And in case it’s not clear by now, the fact that McLain cannot reach the first shot location in the allotted time means he cannot make any of the other shot locations either, so all of the verbal gymnastics that Thomas marshals to present “negative evidence” that McLain is just out of sight of all the amateur cameras in Dealey Plaza as the remaining shots are fired is for naught.

Critical Reactions

There seems to be a general willingness to stick one’s head into the sand on this issue. Otherwise intelligent people want to pretend that my work on the photographic record as it relates to acoustics is either too hard to understand, doesn’t prove anything one way or the other, or doesn’t exist at all.

In 2003, Professor G. Robert Blakey, former chief counsel of the HSCA, told ABC News, “If you could prove to me that there was no police officer in the place where he had to be, you would falsify [the acoustics evidence].” [30]

This is, of course, in complete accord with the premise of the acoustics evidence and in keeping with what Dr. James Barger, lead scientist on the BBN acoustic study, wrote in 2001: “... if it can be shown that there was no vehicle or person with a police radio near the trajectory where I found it to be, then, that is impeaching evidence.” [31]

Three years after the Peter Jennings documentary aired on ABC television, and just before publishing the results of my study, I contacted Professor Blakey and offered to come to Notre Dame University (where Professor Blakey was teaching) at my expense and his convenience and show him why the photographic record is unimpeachable with regard to the question of whether any motorcycle actually exists at the location specified by the acoustics evidence. He declined to accept my offer.

Why? He stated that he would not understand it without having an expert present who understood what I did. I assured him even a five-year-old could understand my simple methodology and the abundant visual record. He still politely refused to look at the evidence. (Not that Professor Blakey is alone in this regard. When contacted by ABC News in 2003, Dr. James Barger, Mark Weiss and Ernest Aschkenasy also declined to look at the photographic record.)

Last August, I reiterated the offer to show Professor Blakey my work. He didn’t respond. Of course, Professor Blakey has no obligation to meet with me or review my work on this subject. Just the same, the offer stands.

Tightening the Truth

Last summer, a group of Internet based critics discovered an error I had made in calculating how one amateur film of the motorcade made by John Martin, Jr., synchronized with the Zapruder film. [32]

Their own diligence ultimately led them to conclude that the error was minor (I determined that the Martin film synchronization was off by 0.32 seconds) and did not affect the ultimate conclusion that no motorcycle was in a position to transmit the sounds of gunshots.

In the interest of accuracy, I spent the last few months re-examining the entire photographic record, correcting minor errors in the original report, and making adjustments where necessary.

The result is a revised and expanded report that strengthens the conclusion that the HSCA’s acoustic evidence of conspiracy is invalid.

It includes a new appendix documenting nine visual reference points common to the Hughes, Towner, Dorman, Bell, and Martin films and which confirm the synchronicity originally developed between the Hughes and Zapruder films. [See, Figure 16]

Figure 16. One of nine visual reference points confirming the synchronicity between the Hughes and Zapruder films. A man in a Stetson hat (No.1) can be seen in both the Towner and Bell films waving at the passing motorcade.

The newly revised report is available for download here.

The Scientist from Texas

One of the central themes of Hear No Evil is that over the last fifty years more than a few scientists and technical experts, whose work ultimately supported the thesis that Oswald acted alone, have tossed their ethics out the window and allowed political considerations to influence their judgment or have been co-opted by investigators with a political agenda. [33] In short, they’ve sold out and the public has been cheated out of an objective analysis of evidence in the Kennedy assassination.

But even a cursory reading of Mr. Thomas’ masterwork shows his own approach to the subject to be more ideological than objective, the same sin committed by many other conspiracy authors over the past five decades.

And despite noting that true scientists should “evaluate claims without respect to the social identity of those who make them,” [34] Mr. Thomas doesn’t mind heaping on the ad hominem attacks (referring to yours truly as “an uncredentialed amateur who was a long time critic of conspiracy theories”) when it suits him.

Of course, resorting to personal attacks reveals just how impoverished one’s position really is. And Mr. Thomas’ position is indeed bankrupt when it comes to the photographic record and acoustics.

Despite three opportunities in as many years to develop a coherent, factual refutation of my work and methodology, Thomas offers nothing more in Hear No Evil than a repetition of falsehoods, mischaracterizations, and outright lies that were long ago debunked.

As always, I am open to any new evidence that can help clarify the truth about the events of November 22, 1963.

I remain confident that the photographic record, as detailed in Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination, establishes beyond all doubt that neither H.B. McLain nor any other motorcycle officer was in a position to transmit the sound of gunshots over the Dallas police radio system, as postulated by the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations, and consequently the acoustic evidence for conspiracy is invalid. [END]

Special thanks to Todd W. Vaughan for his contributions to this article.


[1] HSCA Report, p.1

[2] Report of the Committee on Ballistic Acoustics, National Research Council, 1982, p.3

[3] HSCA Report, p.76

[4] Email group posting from James Barger, April, 2001

[5] ABC News, Peter Jennings Reporting: The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy, November 20, 2003

[6] Thomas, Donald Byron., Hear No Evil: Social Constructivism & The Forensic Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination, Mary Ferrell Foundation Press, 2010, Ipswich, MA, p.687

[7] Ibid, p.674

[8] Ibid, p.684

[9] Ibid, p.677

[10] Ibid, p.678

[11] Myers, Dale K., Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination, Oak Cliff Press, 2007, p.123

[12] Ibid, p.65

[13] Ibid, p.66

[14] Thomas, Op. cit., pp.678-679

[15] Thomas, Op. cit., p.679

[16] Ibid

[17] Note: The program referred to, ABC News, Peter Jennings Reporting: The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy, first aired November 20, 2003.

[18] Thomas, Op. cit., p.676

[19] Thomas, Op. cit., p.590

[20] Thomas, Op. cit., pp.679-680

[21] Myers, Op. cit., p.42

[22] Ibid, pp.42 (fn 109), 43 (fn 111)

[23] Thomas, Op. cit., p.680

[24] 8HSCA22

[25] Thomas, Op. cit.

[26] 2HSCA59, 70, 71

[27] 8HSCA10, 28

[28] 8HSCA28 Note: BBN reported the WA motorcycle position as being 5 feet southwest of microphone position 3(4).

[29] Two additional matches for the second “shot” – one with a high correlation coefficient - indicated that the motorcycle not at 2(10) at the time of the second “shot,” but was at microphone position 2(6), located 36 feet east of 2(10).

[30] ABC News, Peter Jennings Reporting: The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy, 2003

[31] Email group posting from James Barger, April, 2001

[32] www.jfkassassinationforum.com, “JFK Film Alteration Revealed – Bombshell Dropped,” April 28, 2010 to June 18, 2010

[33] Thomas, Op. cit., pp.7-8

[34] Thomas, Op. cit., p.7

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

JFK Secret Service Agents Speak Out After 47 Years

by PETER W. FULHAM / Politics Daily

Five former members of John F. Kennedy's Secret Service detail gathered at Georgetown University on Monday night for a public discussion of their time serving the iconic president.

The event, which included a preview of an upcoming Discovery Channel documentary (Nov.22, 9:00 p.m.; Nov.23, 12:00 a.m.) on the agents' careers, touched on the defining facets of the Kennedy presidency and ranged from lighthearted anecdotes about time with the first family to somber recollections of Kennedy's assassination in Dallas in November 1963.

Among the most powerful moments of the night occurred when Clint Hill -- famously visible in the Zapruder film of the assassination as he climbed onto the back of the president's limousine -- spoke about those first terrifying minutes in Dallas.

"When I got to the presidential vehicle, just as I approached it, a third shot rang out, hitting the president in the head, just above the right ear and left a hole about the size of my palm," Hill recalled, his voice halting. "There were blood and brains spewed about over myself and the car."

When Hill finally managed to get Jacqueline Kennedy off the trunk of the limousine, where she had climbed, the motorcade began speeding to Parkland Hospital, where the president was pronounced dead a half-hour later. According to Hill, there were few moments of cogent conversation during the brief trip.

"She said something about, 'Oh, Jack, what have they done? What have they done?' " Hill recalled of the former first lady.

For the agents, the chance to reunite for the documentary and a book -- The Kennedy Detail, co-authored by former agent Gerald S. Blaine and journalist Lisa McCubbin -- was part of a long-deferred healing process. For the film, the agents returned to Dallas and the scene of the shooting. "Going back to Dallas was an opportunity to let my emotions finally be released," Hill said.

"After the assassination, we had a responsibility to go to work," said Blaine, who was also on the president's Secret Service detail that day. "We didn't have trauma counseling or anything else. We decided we were probably going to have to resolve the issue within ourselves."

The agents also discussed life in the White House -- even addressing rumors of an affair between President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe (unfounded, as far as they knew). They also explained that, despite their rigorous training, they were often unprepared for the star-struck awe they experienced at presidential events with such Hollywood figures as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

The agents also recalled unexpectedly leaving a campaign stop in Chicago to head back to Washington in October 1962. The given reason was that the president had a cold, but the agents knew better. The Soviet Union, of course, was building missile sites in Cuba, igniting a standoff that took the United States and the Soviets to the brink of nuclear war for 13 days.

Blaine, who was with Kennedy for most of the crisis, recalled that the president was visibly strained during the negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. But when the threat had finally passed, Kennedy made sure to let his security detail know. "I was down in the Situation Room after he finished talking to Khrushchev," Blaine said. "He came out and said, 'Well, are you ready to go to Palm Springs?' So that's when we knew everything was going to be okay."

The agents also discussed more lighthearted moments with the first family, whom they liked personally.

"She was a closet smoker," Hill, now in his late 70s, said of Jacqueline Kennedy. "A lot of times we'd be riding in the car going to Middleburg and she'd say, 'Mr. Hill, can I have a cigarette, please?' . . . And I'd get in the backseat and light the cigarette and give it to her. Nobody knew that. And as soon as anybody showed up, the cigarette was put in my hand very quickly." Hill laughed. "I became the smoker."

Besides personal healing and an obligation to history, the agents said they had another reason for speaking out 47 years after Kennedy's assassination. With the book and the documentary, they hope to set the record straight -- and put assassination conspiracy theories to rest.

"Most of history today has been written by what I call a cottage industry called 'conspiracy,' " Blaine said. "If we didn't speak up and give a balance to this, history would never know exactly what happened."

Source: PoliticsDaily.com