Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Suspicious Minds: A Son Defends His Father – David Atlee Phillips


Ten months back, I got a telephone call from Jacob M. Carter, a young man who said he was working on a book he hoped would straighten out the “complete mess” that the JFK assassination had become for his generation.

Carter, a social media manager and counselor at a drug and alcohol treatment house, acknowledged that most of his generation couldn't give two hoots about the deeds of November 1963 – ancient history to them – most of them put off by the really wacky conspiracy theorists or seeking to avoid the informed, elite researchers who have carved out a niche for themselves and refuse to let anyone intrude into their kingdom.

I consented to an interview and so did ten others. I’m glad I and they did.

The result is Before History Dies: The stories surrounding the JFK assassination that stripped America of her innocence (Wordcrafts Press, 2015), an engaging collection of conversations with researchers from both sides of the assassination debate that could sit alongside Larry Sneed’s No More Silence: An Oral History of the Assassination of President Kennedy (University of North Texas Press, 1998) – one of the five best books on the subject, in my opinion.

On pages 146-47 of Carter’s book is something every conspiracy theorist should read before they point an accusatory finger at another person whom they never met and know literally nothing about, yet accused of being responsible for such a heinous crime as the one committed in November, 1963.

David Atlee Phillips is only one such character in the conspiracy theorist’s quiver these days but one that is tossed out again and again without any real evidence – certainly nothing remotely close to the mountain of physical, forensic, and eyewitness testimony that permeates the case against Lee Harvey Oswald – or any thought about the repercussions that such accusations have on his children and grandchildren.

It’s easy to charge the dead who can neither sue nor defend themselves and so I’ve often wondered what close relatives of those accused thought about it all.

Jacob Carter does us all a favor by giving us a peek at just one such individual. And I have it on good authority that there are many others – a long conga line of relatives and descendants of those who have been accused over the years who would like to give those theorists who are quick to point a finger a piece of their mind – and maybe even a poke in the nose.

With Mr. Carter’s kind permission, I’ve reproduced below the entire response he received from Dave Phillips, son of David Atlee Phillips, when he was approached about the subject of his father and the allegations made against him.

Simple food for thought for a new generation of researchers:

Dave Phillips

In light of the talk about David Atlee Phillips, and his possible role in the JFK assassination, I wanted to give his son a chance to give his views on his father. Here is what he had to say. 

You’re not the first person to contact me, and my attempts at dialogue have left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The usual contact is from a conspiracy theorist who is looking to validate his theory, and who refuses to accept any fact that detracts from his intellectual package. You will have to do with a brief statement, and here it is.

My dad thought of his life as an adventure, and I think his autobiography captures that side of him well. He was also a caring father, and a good and fair man in general. He admired John Kennedy and was appalled to have been named as part of the supposed assassination conspiracy. Like other CIA employees I grew up around, he didn’t join to be part of a government mafia; they were there to continue serving the United States, the way they had during World War II. The weakness in their devotion was the quasi-military sense that they should do what the president ordered them to do, even when they thought it was the wrong course of action. Which is how one winds up with the Bay of Pigs, for example. But, if you think about it, this devotion to the commander-in-chief is the polar opposite of the idea that the CIA would do in the commander-in-chief. If there was a conspiracy to do in John Kennedy, my guess would be that it was orchestrated by Havana. But my actual guess (nothing more) is that Oswald really did act on his own, after getting the polite brush-off from the Cubans. We’ll never know until the Cuban intelligence files are declassified.

As for why my dad got tagged: for any horrible, incomprehensible act, there are those who make it comprehensible by turning to a conspiracy theory. (And what satisfaction there is in constructing a neat, tidy answer to something that had been so messy and disturbing.) The conspiracy theorists needed someone to hang the conspiracy on, and when my father retired and went public he inadvertently provided them with a target. Interesting how quick people are to defame someone they never met, and about whom they know nothing.

End of statement. Good luck with your book.

Dave Phillips

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fifty-two years of coming to terms with Oswald


Lee Harvey Oswald never had his day in court, as we all know. But, it’s a historic fact that the crimes committed on November 22, 1963, lie at his feet alone.

Fifty-two years of argument about the evidence against him hasn’t moved the ball one inch, and more than five decades of digging by an army of investigators—both private and official (an unprecedented effort by any standard) —has failed to uncover one believable scrap of undeniable evidence that anyone else committed either crime that day or that others were involved.

Let that sink in for a moment. Fifty-two long years, and still nothing to exonerate Oswald or uncover the so-called “true conspirators.” Is there any other case in America (or the world for that matter) that comes remotely close to that level of scrutiny?

Yet, over the past year, and more importantly the past few months, we’ve been treated to headlines that would make anyone climbing out of their DeLorean time machine question whether Oswald was involved at all or whether anyone claiming to be a journalist has ever been to library, read a newspaper, or god-forbid, conducted a Google search.

Cover-up in Mexico City

Author Philip Shenon told Politico that David Slawson, a retired University of Southern California law professor who, 51 years ago, was the Warren Commission’s chief investigator searching for evidence that might have pointed to a foreign conspiracy in JFK’s murder, told him that he (Slawson) is now convinced the commission was the victim of a “massive cover-up” by the CIA and other agencies to hide evidence that might have identified people in Mexico City who knew and encouraged Oswald to carry out his threat when he returned to the United States.

While Shenon’s interview with Slawson was new, the allegation is as old as the Warren Report itself. Read it. Among others, Commission attorney Burt Griffin has said for decades that the Commission was stonewalled by the CIA.

The CIA Killed Kennedy

In September, The Washington Times gushed (and multiple news agencies regurgitated headlines stating) that the CIA told President Johnson three days after the assassination that Oswald had visited the Cuban and Soviet Embassies in Mexico City in late September, 1963. That information too was published in the Warren Report over fifty years ago.

In October, Philip Shenon was back with the ultimate Politico headline grabber: “Yes, the CIA Director Was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-up.” According to Shenon, a once-secret report  written in 2013 by the CIA’s top in-house historian and quietly declassified in 2014, acknowledges what others were convinced of long ago: that former CIA Director John McCone and other senior CIA officials were “complicit” in keeping “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission.

Shenon’s “once-secret report” turns out to be a chapter from CIA Chief Historian David Robarge’s book “John McCone as Director of Central Intelligence, 1961-1965,” published by the Center for Study of Intelligence in 2005, and reprinted in the September, 2013, issue of Studies in Intelligence (Vol.57, No.13) —available since 2014 from George Washington University.

Shenon reports that McCone was at the heart of a “benign cover-up” at the spy agency, withholding information from the Warren Commission that the CIA was in cahoots with the Mafia to assassinate Fidel Castro. Without this information, Shenon tells us, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.

Oooooo. None of this “secret” information is new of course. The CIA-Mafia plots were headlines back in 1975 (that’s forty-years ago for those of you keeping track). And McCone wasn’t the only one who knew about the CIA-Mafia plots back then.

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy was made aware of previous CIA-Mafia efforts in May of 1961 and by all accounts led the 1961-63 U.S.-based anti-Castro efforts to overthrow Castro (including assassination) with the tacit approval of his brother, the president.

Instead of straight facts, the world press published outrageous tabloid-style headlines like: “Uncovered Report: CIA Admit That They Killed JFK,” “Declassified CIA report concluded director led ‘cover up’ of Kennedy assassination investigation,” and “CIA: Yes, We Covered Up the JFK Killing.”

The mastermind

It didn’t take long for the true mastermind of the “JFK plot” to be revealed in October of this year courtesy of author David Talbot and his new book, “The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of the American Secret Government,” in which Talbot claimed that former CIA Director Allen Dulles orchestrated the Kennedy murder from a secret CIA facility in Virginia, where he remained for the weekend – during which time the “suspect,” Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed, and a vast machinery began to create the “lone gunman” myth that has dominated our history books to the present.

What was Kennedy’s crime for which a high profile, daylight murder was the only option? Answer: Kennedy allegedly forced Dulles to resign his CIA post in the wake of the Bay of Pigs disaster. (The reality though is that Kennedy didn’t want his resignation, and in fact initially resisted it, but after political pressure, Kennedy reluctantly accepted Dulles’ resignation, and even later defended their relationship.)

Never mind that Dulles was a longtime friend of the Kennedy family (and remained so even after his resignation), or that JFK surprised Dulles with a National Security Medal—the highest honor—after Dulles’ resignation, or that JFK wrote a heartfelt letter to Dulles the day after the presentation in which he penned, “I am sure you know you carry with you the admiration and affection of all of us who have served with you. I am glad to be counted among the seven Presidents in whose administrations you have worked, and I am glad that we shall continue to have your help and counsel…”

Even Robert Kennedy acknowledged that his brother liked Dulles, telling historian Arthur Schlesinger, “He [JFK] liked him [Dulles]—thought he was a real gentlemen, handled himself well. There were obviously so many mistakes made at the time of the Bay of Pigs that it wasn’t appropriate that he should stay on. And he always took the blame. He was a real gentleman. JFK thought very highly of him.”

Letters between the Kennedys and Dulles, available in the Dulles collection at Princeton University and at the JFK Library, give overwhelming evidence of their close friendship—a friendship that endured until the end of their lives. And has anyone bothered to query Dulles’s children about this alleged hatred between their father and the man he used to join on vacations in Palm Beach?

As I pointed out in Drums of Conspiracy, critics are always quick to pounce on JFK’s reported comment that he threatened to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds” (The exact person this was reportedly said to has never been determined. The New York Times, which reported the alleged quote in 1966, only said that Kennedy made the statement “to one of the highest officials of his administration.”) as a motive for his murder, but can they show one – just one – quote from either JFK or Allen Dulles in which they expressed any animosity toward one another? No, they can’t.

Former CIA Director William Colby later wrote, “The fact of the matter is that the CIA could not have had a better friend in a President than John F. Kennedy. He understood the Agency and used it effectively, exploiting its intellectual abilities to help him analyze a complex world, and its paramilitary and covert political talents to react to it in a low key way.” [Colby, William, and Peter Forbath, Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978, p.221]

How good a friend was JFK to the CIA? A 1996 CIA study that was never intended for public consumption, unearthed by author Gus Russo, revealed that the CIA’s relationship with Kennedy was not only a distinct improvement over former President Eisenhower’s relationship with the agency, “but would rarely be matched in future administrations.” [John L. Helgerson, Getting to Know the President, CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952–1992, CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, May 22, 1996, p.26, http://www.cia.gov/csi/books/briefing/cia-6.htm]

So much for Kennedy’s hatred of the CIA – and hence their supposed motive for murdering him. Other documents obtained by the National Security Archive point out that, far from splintering the CIA, JFK actually doubled its budget.

Dulles held many Kennedy secrets, including the brothers’ involvement in the plots to kill Castro, a fact that no doubt led to Robert Kennedy’s recommendation to Lyndon Johnson that Dulles be assigned to the Warren Commission. It guaranteed that the Kennedy interests were looked after. Robert Kennedy later told William Attwood that a heavy lid must be kept on the investigation “for reasons of national security.”

All of this is laid bare in two excellent treatises by Gus Russo on the Kennedy’s, Castro, and events surrounding the JFK assassination: “Live By the Sword” (1998) and “Brothers in Arms” (2008) with Stephen Molton.

But, oh no. Instead of facts, we get still more globe-circling headlines like: “Did CIA Director Allen Dulles Order the Hit on JFK?”, and my personal favorite, “CIA Boss Planned JFK Assassination!

Science proves what we already knew

Amid all the rhetoric about the CIA’s guilt in the JFK plot, we get news that there is a new scientific breakthrough proving the authenticity of the so-called “backyard photographs” —the images showing Oswald brandishing the rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository shortly after the assassination and what appears to be the revolver used to kill J.D. Tippit.

Never mind that Oswald’s wife, Marina testified in 1964 (over fifty years ago) that she took the photos at Oswald’s request, or that the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations Photographic Panel determined with absolute certainty that the images were authentic and taken with Oswald’s reflex camera just as Marina testified.

Apparently in today’s world of journalism there is no time for basic research.

Can it get any crazier? I’m afraid so.

Happy birthday

In New Orleans in October, conspiracy advocates gathered around a cake with candles and sang “Happy Birthday” to their hero, 76-year-old Lee Oswald – the man who admitted his attempt to murder General Edwin A. Walker and who history has deemed was responsible for the murders of John F. Kennedy and J.D. Tippit.

He was also the man who pulled a trigger two inches from the head of Officer Nick McDonald (while “not resisting arrest”), wanted to murder Richard Nixon, and beat his wife, according to numerous sources in Russia, New Orleans, and Ft. Worth.

Oh, and what about Governor John Connally, who died thirty years later from “a progressive scarring of the lungs,” likely initiated by the horrific gunshot wounds caused by guess who? The birthday boy was nothing less than a wannabe serial killer.

The Holy Grail

And then, there is the Holy Grail among conspiracy devotees: the pending October 2017 release of documents withheld from public scrutiny by the National Archives, mandated by the 1992 JFK Records Act (although the government agencies that created the documents can still appeal directly to the president to keep them hidden).

Despite the fact that sources at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) who have seen the documents say there is no smoking gun, and that the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) who also reviewed the documents in the 1990s and reiterated that there is no smoking gun, conspiracy advocates cling to the belief that proof of Oswald’s innocence lies within.

Ergo, acclaimed career U.S. archivists and esteemed Federal Judge John Tunheim must be liars, and very likely part of the conspiracy. Or they just aren’t as smart as the conspiracy theorists—an arrogance that has permeated that movement since its inception.

It should be obvious that those who blew out Lee’s birthday candles have more brainpower than the man [Tunheim] who restructured the Kosovo judiciary and re-wrote that country’s constitution. Additionally, according to a bio of Tunheim:
“His international work also includes extensive efforts in Uzbekistan in recent years and the development of a good relationship with leaders. His five trips to Uzbekistan have helped the country implement important changes in pretrial criminal procedures intended to significantly improve the human rights record in Uzbekistan. He is currently involved in a major effort to train all criminal court judges in the Republic of Georgia to implement an adversary system and jury trials for criminal cases. He lectures frequently on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has supervised elections in Kosovo and Macedonia. Judge Tunheim has worked on rule of law development projects, not only in Kosovo, Uzbekistan and Georgia, but also in Russia, Montenegro, Jordan, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Lithuania. He has frequently hosted foreign judges in the United States, and has twice taught intellectual property law to judges from the Balkan countries. He also helped develop an extensive course on judicial ethics to be taught at the ABA/CEELI Institute in Prague.”
 But he’s just not smart enough to catch that document that says the CIA murdered JFK. Only the internet trolls possess that ability.

What do you think will happen when the conspirati discover that the documents were withheld because they contained information that was considered “security classified” or to protect personal privacy, tax and grand jury information, or “because information in the document reveals the identity of an unclassified confidential source,” as NARA officials who have seen the documents have told us?

More importantly, what do you think will happen when some documents are petitioned to be withheld indefinitely because they reveal living sources or ongoing intelligence methods?

Let me guess: Conspiracy fans will cry foul and continue to claim what they’ve always claimed in spite of evidence to the contrary—that the cover-up continues.

Year after year, we’re treated to a litany of unsubstantiated and in many cases irrational “reasons” why we’re supposed to ignore the fact that fifty-two years ago a disgruntled sociopath left his rifle behind on the sixth floor of his workplace along with three spent cartridges, fled the scene, armed himself with his own 38-caliber revolver, then used it to murder a police officer who stopped to question him, and finally pulled the same pistol minutes later in a darkened theater and attempted to shoot arresting officers as they closed in.

I guess I’ll never understand why it’s so hard for some people to accept reality.

The passing parade

Brushing all the nonsense aside, the real news this year—and every year—is the continuing parade of individuals who have left this world taking with them their knowledge of and passion for the assassination story:
  • C. Ray Hall (Dallas FBI agent, who died at 96 in February)
  • Clyde A. Haygood (Dallas police motorcade cyclist, died at 83 in March)
  • William F. “Bill” Alexander (Dallas County assistant DA in 1963, died at 95 in April)
  • Bill Slater (who interviewed Oswald in New Orleans in August, 1963, for WDSU, died at 87 in April)
  • Bert Shipp (legendary Dallas broadcaster, died at 85 in April)
  • Bobby Joe Dale (Dallas police motorcade cyclist, died at 82 in April)
  • James C. Wright, Jr. (Texas Congressman who rode in motorcade, died at 92 in May)
  • H.B. McLain (Dallas police motorcade cyclist, died at 87 in June)
  • Vincent T. Bugliosi (prosecutor and author, died at 80 in June)
  • Gary Mack (Sixth Floor Museum curator and longtime researcher, who died at 68 in July)
  • Richard S. Schweiker (U.S. Senator, who died at 89 in July)
  • Louis Stokes (HSCA chairman, who died at 90 in August)
  • Dr. James “Red” Duke (physician who treated Governor Connally’s wounds, died at 86 in August)
  • Kent Biffle (Dallas Morning News reporter, who died at 82 in August)
Add to that list two of my closest friends Robert Jack Christopher (J.D. Tippit’s brother-in-law and lifelong best friend), and his daughter Linda Chaney, who both died of cancer this year. They opened wide the door into J.D.’s personal life and contributed mightily to a greater understanding of the man behind the badge and the tremendous sacrifice made on November 22, 1963.

I was proud to know them, to be considered a member of their family, and grateful that they trusted me to include their story in the 2013 edition of “With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit.”

Sweet dreams, Jack and Linda—and to all who have fought hard to understand the past so that we may secure our future. [END]

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Long legal fight brings Lee Harvey Oswald’s tombstone back to Texas

by STEVE BLOW | Dallas Morning News

Lee Harvey Oswald’s wandering tombstone is finally back home.

Well, not home home. It’s not back in the cemetery, but it is back in Texas and in the hands of the guy who rightfully inherited it from the people who found it under their house.

Shall I explain?

Three and a half years ago, I wrote about David Card and the legal quest he had begun to reclaim Oswald’s original tombstone.

If Card’s name rings a bell, it’s because he’s Poor David, the owner of venerable Poor David’s Pub. And he’s even poorer now after almost four years of legal wrangling over the stone.

Oswald’s tombstone went missing from Fort Worth’s Rose Hill Cemetery on Nov. 22, 1967, the fourth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. It was taken as a prank by some Oklahoma teenagers.

The stone was recovered soon enough, but Marguerite Oswald decided to give her son a plainer, less tempting stone instead. The replacement says “Oswald” and nothing more.

Jump ahead to the 1980s. Card’s father and stepmother bought the Fort Worth home that had belonged to Marguerite Oswald. A few years after moving in, they were amazed to discover her son’s original gravestone in the crawlspace under the house.

The Oswald family made no claim on it. So the stone went into the hands of Card’s cousin for safekeeping. But after he died, his wife suddenly cut off communication with the family.

By accident, the family discovered on the Internet that the stone had been sold to an eclectic private museum in Illinois.

And that’s where Card drove last week — to Historic Auto Attractions in Roscoe, Ill. — to claim the stone after a legal settlement was finally reached.

“Feel that!” Card said Tuesday, placing his hands on the gravestone, displayed for my benefit in the dark, daytime emptiness of Poor David’s Pub.

“You touch it and it’s like you’re reaching 6 feet down and right into Oswald’s coffin,” Card said.

I pressed my palm against the light gray granite and felt Marguerite instead. I felt the love of a mother, the only person who would have chosen pretty engraved flowers and a large cross for the grave of such a notorious killer.

The confidential legal agreement with Historic Auto Attractions owner Wayne Lensing prevents Card from disclosing any details or disparaging anyone. And my phone call to Lensing’s lawyer was not returned.

But the 75-year-old Card can sure talk about his excitement at having the gravestone back.

“It’s got a wow factor to it,” he said. “Think about it. It’s the original tombstone of the most famous assassin in the history of civilization, except perhaps for Cain, who killed Abel.”

Card said he has hoped all along that The Sixth Floor Museum will want to acquire and display the tombstone. But its clouded legal status has prevented any serious discussion till now.

In the meantime, he’s considering what he called a “Day of Display” at Poor David’s or some other Cedars area location. “I’d like to do it to thank the many people who supported me on this,” he said. “They knew the stress and financial strain I was under.”

He won’t disclose his legal fees. “Just say it was brutal,” he said.

But Card said he never wavered in his determination to get the stone back to Texas and to Dallas. “I was the only one with the legal standing and the financial means to fight for it,” he said.

Reflecting his hopes, he said, “Everyone who goes into The Sixth Floor and sees it and photographs it will be grateful it is where it is.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and nationally known authority on JFK assassination, has died

by MICHAEL GRANBERRY | Dallas Morning News

Gary Mack, longtime curator at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, died Wednesday. [File 2013 / DMN Staff Photo]

Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and a nationally known authority on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy who once influenced a congressional inquiry on the subject, died Wednesday. He was 68.

He had been suffering a “rare and aggressive” form of cancer, according to his wife, Karin Strohbeck, with whom he lived in Arlington.

Mack joined the museum in 1994 after a long career in radio and television. He had long professed a belief, or at least a suspicion, that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in killing the president.

“As conspiracy theorists like to say, you’re either a lone-nutter or you’re a CT — conspiracy theorist,” Mack once told The Dallas Morning News.

Even so, those who believe Oswald acted alone were among Mack’s staunchest admirers, who respected his open-mindedness and the fact that he embarked, often aggressively, on detailed missions to debunk conspiracy theories as the best way of reaching the truth. That alone left him at odds with many in the conspiracy community.

“I doubt if anybody anywhere knew more details about all aspects of the JFK assassination and aftermath than Gary,” said Hugh Aynesworth, author of November 22, 1963: Witness to History, who at the time of the assassination was a young reporter for The Dallas Morning News. Aynesworth is among those who believe Oswald acted alone.

Mack “helped debunk some of the more ridiculous offerings,” Aynesworth said. “His work at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza was beyond exemplary and will be sorely missed. Within hours of his death I had three phone calls from European newsmen who were stunned and planning coverage.”

Gerald Posner, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in writing perhaps the definitive book on the assassination, Case Closed, said he had known Mack for 23 years.

“He was always a remarkable source of information about the case and a wise guide who helped me avoid the many investigative pitfalls and black holes of JFK’s murder,” Posner said. “That we did not agree on the role and sole culpability of Oswald did not prevent him from always finding the time in his otherwise busy schedule to answer my many queries. His top priority was simply searching for the truth in the case. And his solid stewardship at the Sixth Floor was fueled by his passion about the case. The one thing about which I think both conspiracy theorists and ‘Oswald alone’ proponents can agree is that Gary Mack has died far too early and he will be missed by many.”

Dave Perry, a former insurance adjuster and one of Mack’s closest friends, collaborated often with him in debunking those conspiracy theories.

“The Sixth Floor was absolutely a dream job for Gary,” said Perry, who called it “the job of his life.”

With Perry’s help, Mack proved in the early 1990s that a story naming a deceased Dallas police officer as the grassy knoll gunman was bogus. A young man named Ricky White said he could prove that his late father, Roscoe White, had fired the final, fatal shot as part of a conspiracy acted out with Jack Ruby, who gunned down Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police station two days after the assassination. Aynesworth later credited Mack and Perry with one of the more important put-downs in the history of assassination research, saying, “Dave and Gary disemboweled the Ricky White story.”

Many credited Mack with knowing more basic facts about Kennedy’s death than anyone.

“It’s not that he’s academically, archivally trained,” the late Jeff West, then the Sixth Floor director, said in 1999. “Its just that his expertise is amazing. Somebody can bring in a shoe box of old photographs, and just by looking at them, he can tell you the time, the location and who the people are in the pictures. He has so much in his head, I’d like to figure out a way to download his head. Gary’s knowledge of the subject is nothing short of encyclopedic.”

Mack’s reputation extended well beyond Dallas.

“While it’s fair to say that Gary leans toward a conspiracy, I never thought he was paranoid about it or fixed on one theory to the exclusion of all others,” G. Robert Blakey, the chief counsel and staff director of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, once told the Morning News.

“A lot of conspiracy theorists focus on one subject and then exclude any consideration of any other subject. They assimilate the evidence in light of their thesis, and any evidence inconsistent with that thesis is largely ignored. Gary has never been that way. He’s tended to apply the same thesis whether the evidence is consistent or inconsistent. He has the attitude of a scientist.”

Blakey once credited Mack with playing a key role in putting together evidence that, in 1979, prompted the committee to conclude with a “95 percent or greater” degree of probability that a conspiracy existed. The finding had to do with recordings found in old Dallas police files. Mack came up with the theory that the assassination might have been recorded by Dallas police and brought it to Blakey’s attention.

Although it remains controversial and was later refuted by the National Academy of Sciences, Mack’s idea led to this: A recording taken from a microphone strapped to an officer’s motorcycle in Dealey Plaza and transferred to a Dictabelt machine at police headquarters indicated there were four shots fired at the president, according to the acoustic sound study conducted by the House committee.

That prompted the committee to conclude that, of the four shots fired, three came from behind and one from the grassy knoll — which missed. If four shots were fired, the committee reasoned, there had to have been two gunmen.

The Warren Commission concluded that only three shots were fired and that all came from the $12.95 Mannlicher-Carcano mail-order rifle owned by Oswald and found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building, which now houses the museum.

The best lesson he ever learned about the assassination, Mack said, “is not to get locked into anything … There’s a lot of nonsense out there about the Kennedy assassination. Part of our job is to clear away some of that stuff and get some straight answers.”

Born in Oak Park, Ill., Mack was given the name Lawrence Alan Dunkel. During his days as a disc jockey, he changed his name to Gary Mack at the request of a radio station program manager, who felt it would be more catchy.

Family members say Mack inherited from his father, a salesman for Ohio Match Co. and then LaChoy Foods and Tasty Foods, a speaking voice worthy of an anchorman.

Mack is survived by his wife, his sister Susan Coleman of Las Vegas, Nev.; his son, Stephen Dunkel of Arlington, Va.; and his grandchildren, Nolan and Violet Dunkel. Details on services are pending. [END]

Source: The Dallas Morning News 

[Editor's Note: I first met Gary Mack thirty years ago at KXAS-TV during one of my many trips to Dallas. He could be stubborn and opinionated at times, especially when defending the Badge Man image or the acoustics evidence but no one ever questioned his passion for or his vast knowledge of a case he spend the better part of his life researching. He was a go-to source for all things JFK and will be sorely missed.]

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Holland’s Deflection: Ballistics and the Truth


Former WFAA radio reporter Pierce Allman points toward the lamp post in front of the Depository (left) and toward the position of the president's car at the time of the first shot (right) in this composite image from a 2013 interview. [www.everythinglubbock.com]

During a recent speech at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, author Max Holland said that he feared “that someday I’m going to turn into one of those people in Dealey Plaza who has laminated photographs trying to persuade everyone of my view of what happened.”

It would appear that his “nightmare” has come true, albeit minus the laminated photographs.

At the invitation of the museum, Holland presented his belief that Oswald’s first shot struck a traffic light mast pole and was deflected down toward the Triple Overpass where it wounded bystander James Tague – a belief that has no basis in fact as shown again and again on the pages of this blog.

See these previous articles for all the scoop:

After showing his audience the evidence that supposedly supports his thesis – evidence that has been thoroughly dismantled – Holland insists that you don’t have to believe his conclusions, although from his perspective, if you don’t you’re clearly an idiot.

“Now let me just point out here that our explanation of what happened is the plausible one – we believe,” Holland said, “in fact the only plausible one for why the bullet didn’t hit its mark when it was fired and where it went – but you don’t really have to believe it.

“You can believe that Oswald fired in the air to scare the pigeons off the roof. You can believe he had a bad case of buck fever and that he fired errantly into the asphalt but somehow no one saw the kind of volcanic little eruption that would have occurred if a bullet traveling at that velocity hit asphalt.

“But what you do have to believe is that the Zapruder film only captured the second and third shots. By his own account Abe Zapruder only heard two shots, he only saw two shots, and he only filmed two shots.” [Holland, Max, “From Rorschach Test to Time Clock: The Zapruder Film,” The Sixth Floor Museum, May 7, 2015, 55:02; 55:42]

Did you catch the circular logic? Zapruder only filmed two shots, according to Holland, because he only heard two shots and only saw the result of two shots. Seriously? 

Another new witness

I’ve become used to Holland’s irrational logic, mockery, and disdain for the truth but just in case you find yourself succumbing to this latest dish of ego-laden drivel consider the only new revelation in Holland’s ongoing effort to convince everyone of his brilliance – yet another newly uncovered witness “supporting” Holland’s alleged traffic light pole deflection.

“…I developed other eyewitnesses. In fact, I’m still developing eyewitnesses,” Holland told the museum audience. “Take for example Pierce Allman. This is a still from the Dorman film…

Holland slide of Dorman frame showing Allman [Sixth Floor Museum]

“Pierce Allman is the man on the right. Now if you look again at that still from the Secret Service restaging you have two men standing almost exactly in front of the steps where Pierce Allman and his colleague from WFAA were standing.

Holland slide of SS restaging and Allman's 2013 statement [Sixth Floor Museum]

“And in 2013, an enterprising journalist asked Pierce Allman to stand in that same position and describe what had happened – what he had seen – and he said to that journalist, ‘At the time of the first shot, they were right about with the lamp post.’

“Well, there’s a lamp post not three feet from the black and white sign that Amos Euins had identified.” [Holland, Max, “From Rorschach Test to Time Clock: The Zapruder Film,” The Sixth Floor Museum, May 7, 2015, 41:47, 42:18]

Fact not fiction

As the 2012 article “Mr. Holland’s Opus” showed in spades, Amos Euins’ contemporary statements clearly refer to the R.L. Thornton Freeway sign further down Elm Street, not the U.S. Highway sign cluster at the head of the street as Holland suggests.

Now, Holland trots out former WFAA radio reporter Pierce Allman and insists that he too confirms an early shot. But that’s not true either, is it, Mr. Holland?

Pierce Allman points to where the limousine was at the time of the first shot. [Sixth Floor Museum]

In the 50th anniversary interview Holland cites (available here), Allman said this:

ALLMAN: “The first shot they were right about, you know, with the lamp post [gesturing to his left] and – you know – you hear it and it was coming from straight in front and above [gesturing to his right-front] – and – you know – your reaction is ‘That - that’s not a shot. That doesn’t happen in your hometown….”

Allman points toward the TSBD, the source of the shots, and Holland's lamp post. [Sixth Floor Museum]

So in fact, Allman points to an area that is past his position when referring to the location of the limousine at the time of the first shot – not the lamp post in front of him and slightly to his right.

Location of the lamp post (red circle) Allman (red arrow) pointed to and the lamppost (yellow circle) Holland claims he indicated. [Sixth Floor Museum]

The lamppost that Allman is referring to is located at the former location of the R.L. Thornton Freeway sign. Gee, what a coincidence. Allman places the limousine at the same location indicated by Holland’s two other star witnesses – Amos Euins and Patricia Ann Donaldson; the moment after the limousine passed under the traffic light mast pole but before it passed under the Live Oak tree branches.

The real question is how Holland can look at the filmed interview of Allman and not know that he’s pointing to area considerably west of the lamp post he describes to his audience?

Eight years of deflection

It’s been eight years since Holland first proposed his theory of an early missed shot, fired before Zapruder began filming, and despite oodles of publicity he has yet to substantiate his theory with one verifiable fact.

Not only are his eyewitness accounts twisted like a pretzel to fit his preconceived notion, but by his own admission there is not one bit of physical evidence to support his deflection contention. 

Indeed, late last month, a few weeks after Holland’s Sixth Floor Museum presentation, ballistic expert Luke Haag showed over 450 forensic scientists attending a conference in Dallas his peer-reviewed ballistic investigation into Holland’s theory which demonstrated that each and every one of Holland’s assertions about the potential deflection of one Oswald’s bullets by the traffic mast pole was physically impossible. It didn’t happen. It couldn’t have happened.

One has to wonder, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, why Holland continues to cling to a false history of his own making?

He told the Sixth Floor Museum audience that the reason he started focusing on the first shot miss was because Secret Service agent Win Lawson was so insistent that there was a noticeable pause between the first shot and the second and third shots.

Yet, Holland has never explained why his own timing of the supposed shot sequence sounds like three evenly spaced shots?

Here’s the mp3 audio clip the authors sent to Holland eight years ago without a response: 

Once again, we invite – no, we insist – that Holland listen to this clip and then publicly go on record stating whether or not he thinks this sounds like the last two shots are bunched together. Bet you won’t hear a peep out of Max.

Where’s the glory?

In the end, what difference would it have made even if Holland’s theory proved to be true (which of course, it hasn’t)? How would the fact that Oswald might have had an extra second or two (that’s a second or two more than we already know he needed) to fire all three shots alter our understanding of the assassination?

Holland proposed to his Sixth Floor audience that the entire history of the controversy over Oswald’s guilt and the criticism of the Warren Report would have been smothered.

“…the Warren Commission had to answer three questions – why hinged on who, and who was contingent on how, and how was the only one that the Commission had the complete power to absolutely resolve,” Holland said. “That they didn’t, eroded their credibility.”

Yet, Holland well knows that criticism of the official account of the assassination began long before the Warren Commission released their report with newspaper and magazine articles by Richard Dudman, Mark Lane, and others; and even entire books by Nerin E. Gunn and Joachim Joesten. This is basic JFK Assassination 101!

Does anyone believe that conspiracy theorists would have gone to sleep for five decades had the Warren Commission simply proven that Oswald fired an early missed shot? And on what factual basis would the Warren Commission have resolved the disposition of an early missed shot?

Hell, even Holland can’t muster up any evidence that can withstand the most basic peer review fifty years after the fact! Yet, we’re supposed to believe that all the controversy that followed in the wake of the Commission’s final report was because they muffed answering that one question. Now that’s classic Holland “logic.”


For eight years, Holland has been claiming that we’ve all been too mesmerized by the Zapruder film, that we’ve been unable to think outside the box, and that only he has managed to figure out how it all happened.

Unfortunately, there are many media outlets far too eager to embrace unvetted musings about the assassination like Holland’s so long as it draws an audience.

From where we sit, Max Holland’s theory of deflection is less about an errant bullet and more about deflecting the truth. [END]

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Vincent T. Bugliosi, author of ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Reclaiming History’, dies at 80


Vincent T. Bugliosi, a prosecutor who parlayed his handling of the Charles Manson trial into a career as a bestselling author, has died, his son said Monday night. He was 80 years old.

Bugliosi, who had struggled with cancer in recent years, died Saturday night, June 6, at a hospital in Los Angeles, his son, Vincent Bugliosi Jr., told The Associated Press.

Bugliosi Jr. said his father had "an unflagging dedication to justice" in everything he did.

As an author, Bugliosi Sr. was best known for “Helter Skelter,” which was his account of the Manson Family and the killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others by followers of the cult leader, Charles Manson.

Bugliosi had prosecuted Manson and his female followers, winning convictions in one of America's most sensational trials.

Vincent Bugliosi was born in 1934 in Hibbing, Minn. He attended the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Fla., on a tennis scholarship and graduated from the law school of the University of California, Los Angeles.

After the Manson trial, he wrote “Helter Skelter” with collaborator Curt Gentry, and it became one of the bestselling true-crime books of all time.

He tried running for public office and lost, tried his hand on practicing defense law but ultimately returned to writing books.

He wrote a dozen books, including the true-crime books, "Till Death Do Us Part," and "And The Sea Will Tell." His non-fiction efforts, which took on controversial subjects, included "Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away With Murder," and "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder."

Bugliosi Jr. said his father was most proud of his nearly 2,000-page examination of the Kennedy Assassination, "Reclaiming History," which took over 20 years to write.

But Bugliosi remained most associated with the Manson case for the rest of his life. Reflecting on it 40 years later, he said, "These murders were probably the most bizarre in the recorded annals of American crime...Evil has its lure and Manson has become a metaphor for evil."

Bugliosi and his wife of 59 years, Gail, had two children, Wendy and Vince Jr.

Sources: Associated Press, Washington Post, Fox News

[Editor's note: I knew Vince quite well having assisted him on his 2007 book, "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy." He was cantankerous, volatile, and brilliant. His comprehensive book on the Kennedy case, despite the occasional and inevitable flaws, is easily the best single volume on the assassination saga ever written. His unwavering support of my own work over the years was much appreciated. For that, I remain truly grateful.]

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Shot That Missed JFK: A New Forensic Study


The respected father-and-son forensic team of Luke and Michael Haag has been debunking popular conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination for the better part of two years using 3D laser scanners, Doppler radar, and other high-end forensic equipment.

In 2013, the duo hit the national stage when they used the latest technology to re-examine the idea that one bullet hit President John F. Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally for the PBS series Nova in a documentary called “Cold Case: JFK.”

In the year and a half since that broadcast, these two forensic scientists have continued to add to our knowledge of the assassination case with a high level of expertise.

The father-and-son team

Lucien C. “Luke” Haag has had more than 100 peer reviewed articles published since 1974 in The AFTE Journal, the official publication of The Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners.

Here’s a small sample of some of the titles:
  • “Bullet Ricochet: An Imperical Study and a Device For Measuring Ricochet Angle” (1975)
  • “The Use of Ballistic Calculations in the Solution of a Crime” (1976)
  • “The Forensic Use of Exterior Ballistic Calculations” (1979)
  • “A Preliminary Inquiry into the Application of Sound Spectography to the Characterizations of Gunshots” (1979)
  • “The Measurement of Bullet Deflection by Intervening Objects and the Study of Bullet Behavior After Impact” (1987)
  • “Bullet Penetration and Perforation of Sheet Metal” (1997)
  • “The Sound of Bullets” (2002)
  • “Sequence of Shots Through Tempered Glass” (2004)
  • “Muzzle Flash: One Witness Sees It, the Other Does Not” (2007)
  • “Firearms Sound Levels and Measurements: An Impulse Sound Control Source for dB Measurements of Gunshots Parts 1 & 2” (2009)
  • “The Exterior Ballistic Performance of Ricocheted and Destabilized Bullets” (2013)
  • “The Production and Persistence of Gunpowder Tattooing and Stippling of Living Human Skin” (2014)
  • “Bullet Entry Holes in Fabric: Fibers, Facts, and Fallacies” (2014)
Luke’s son, Michael G. Haag, has also established himself as one of the southwest’s leading forensic experts covering a wide-range of related subjects including firearms and tool mark identification; firearm design, operability, defects, alterations, conversions and modifications; cartridge manufacture; external and terminal ballistic calculations and determinations; gunshot residue deposits; and more.

A forensic investigative series

Beginning in the spring of 2014, The AFTE Journal published three outstanding articles detailing Luke and Michael Haag’s investigation into the forensic aspects of the JFK murder. The first in the series, “Tracking the ‘Magic’ Bullet in the JFK Assassination” (2014 Volume 46, Number 2, Spring, pages 104 thru 113) took readers through a step-by-step analysis of the so-called ‘magic’ bullet, its seemingly amazing journey and an evaluation and interpretation of its physical condition with the end result that there is nothing magic about the ‘magic’ bullet once one acquires an understanding of this novel bullet’s exterior, terminal and wound ballistic properties.

The second in the series, “President Kennedy’s Fatal Gunshot Wound and the Seemingly Anomalous Behavior of the Fatal Bullet” (2014 Volume 46, Number 3, Summer, pages 218 thru 223) examined the differences between the two wounds suffered by President Kennedy – the non-fatal neck wound and the fatal headshot. Haag points out that the Western Cartridge Company 6.5mm Carcano bullet that produced Kennedy’s second and fatal gunshot wound exhibited very different wound ballistic behavior than the WCC full metal-jacketed 6.5mm Carcano bullet that produced his first gunshot wound. This perforating wound through the President’s upper right back left no bullet fragments along its nominal 6-inch wound track and left a small, round exit wound in his throat. In contrast, the subsequent fatal head wound produced massive disruption of the President’s brain and skull along with fragmentation of the bullet. This article explains the seemingly contradictory behavior of the very unusual and uncommon 6.5mm Carcano bullets involved in this historic case.

The third in the series, “President Kennedy’s Fatal Head Wound and his Rearward Head ‘Snap’ ” (2014 Volume 46, Number 4, Fall, pages 279 thru 289) offered an explanation based on the laws of physics for the abrupt, rearward movement of President Kennedy’s head in the fractions of a second after he sustained his fatal head wound. While there may be other factors involved or explanations for the rearward head ‘snap’, a frontal gunshot wound proposed by a number of conspiracy advocates is not one of them.

All three of these articles are sobering, instructive, and a must read for anyone interested in the science behind bullet ballistics and in particular, the JFK case.

The latest installment

And now comes the fourth article in the series, “The Missing Bullet in the JFK Assassination” (2015 Volume 47, Number 2, Spring, pages 67 thru 78) whose forthcoming publication was mentioned in the December 2014 blog post “Ignoring Evidence: Fifty-one years of deception and lies in the JFK assassination.”

This time, the Haag team tackles the shot that missed the President. Ballistic evidence clearly supports the proposition that Oswald fired three shots from the sixth floor, southeast corner window of the Texas School Book Depository building with his 91/38 6.5mm Carcano rifle. Two of these three shots struck President Kennedy. The bullet from one of these two shots also struck Texas Governor Connally.

Unaccounted for is the fate of the bullet from the missed shot, its order in the three shot sequence and its flight path. This outstanding article presents a step-by-step forensic review and analysis of the assassination, as well as the exterior and terminal ballistics of the 160-grain 6.5mm WCC Carcano ammunition.

The Haag team’s conclusion? The missing shot was the first shot fired and self-destructed when it struck the asphalt of Elm Street at a relatively steep angle.

Luke Haag not only builds a solid, scientific case for these conclusions, but forensically destroys the theory that the first shot ricocheted off the traffic mast pole at Elm and Houston and went on to superficially wound bystander James Tague – a theory proposed by writer Max Holland and which has gotten considerable mainstream attention over the past seven years despite being debunked again and again on the pages of this blog.

And no, I don’t believe for a minute that the debate over this issue will come to an end in the wake of Haag’s lucid and expert analysis. For some people, headlines (even if they are fairy tales) are more important than reality.

If you’re new to the arguments surrounding the missed shot, you can catch up here:

http://jfkfiles.blogspot.com/2007/06/max-hollands-11-seconds-in-dallas.html http://jfkfiles.blogspot.com/2007/12/holland-dj-vu_27.html
http://jfkfiles.blogspot.com/2008/12/cherry-picking-evidence-of-first-shot.html http://jfkfiles.blogspot.com/2012/01/mr-hollands-opus-max-holland-and.html 

In a nutshell

If you prefer to cut to the chase, here are the Haag team’s latest conclusions in a nutshell:

Oswald’s first shot, fired shortly after the presidential limousine turned from Houston Street onto Elm Street, failed to strike the President, the limousine, or any other occupants of the limousine. 

No physical evidence has ever been found that this first bullet struck the traffic signal, the traffic signal back plate, or the traffic signal support pole. Had a 160 grain 6.5mm Carcano bullet struck one of these objects in any substantial way, it would have produced obvious and lasting damage. No such damage was ever reported or found in the weeks, months, or even years following the assassination.

Holland’s hypothesis destroyed

Author Max Holland suggested in the September 2011 National Geographic television program The Lost Bullet, that the metal back plate of the traffic signal might have been hit by the bullet and been deflected.

The Haag team tested that hypothesis by shooting at duplicate aluminum and steel back plates. These tests quickly revealed that whether aluminum or steel, the bullet damage (in the form of elliptical holes and missing paint) was obvious and would have been noticed in the weeks, months and years following the assassination. The bullets that emerged from the aluminum backing plates remained intact but destabilized with minor deflection angles of about 0.6 degrees. Perforation of the steel back plates consistently resulted in the bullet breaking into two pieces producing a pair of deflection angles totaling 2.3 degrees (+/- 1.7 degrees).

Consequently, according to the Haag team, even if the first shot struck the traffic signal backing plate (and again, there is not one minute piece of evidence that it did), the exiting bullet or bullet fragments would likely have struck the presidential limousine or one of its occupants, including the President. Bullet damage to the limousine would have been easy to find given the bullet/fragments high residual velocity. More important, and central to Holland’s hypothesis, neither a bullet or bullet fragments could have emerged from the backing plate with an angular change of 40-degrees which would have been required for any bullet or fragment to go on to strike the area near James Tague.

According to the Haag team, Holland’s initial hypothesis (as presented in The Lost Bullet) was “easily disproved with just a little testing and basic understanding of exterior and terminal ballistics. In fact, he had an excellent assistant in this television program; Larry Sturdivan, who had a degree in physics and a lifelong career in wound ballistics, and who undoubtedly pointed out the fallacy of Mr. Holland’s hypothesis.

“Mr. Sturdivan’s statement on page 143 of his book, The JFK Myths, is worth committing to memory because it is so true: ‘A bullet traveling at moderate to high velocity (e.g., 600 fps and above) cannot abruptly deflect and remain intact.’ Mr. Holland either failed to understand this, or simply could not let go of his idea…” [Haag, Lucien C., “The Missing Bullet in the JFK Assassination” (The AFTE Journal, 2015 Volume 47, Number 2, Spring), page 73]

Holland returned with a revised hypothesis in the November 28, 2014, issue of Newsweek magazine. His passion to explain Tague’s injury by a deflected first shot (and thereby substantiate his claim that Zapruder failed to capture the entire shooting sequence as nearly everyone has surmised) now focused on the cylindrical steel support beam from which the traffic signal was suspended.

Fortunately, the support beam still exists. Holland and retired FBI metallurgist Frank DeRonja examined it in a storage facility owned by the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department. They never found any physical damage to the support beam that was consistent with the impact of a 160-grain WCC Carcano bullet, but nevertheless went on to opine that a very slight graze, which did not deform the metal, might no longer be obvious given the considerable passage of time and re-painting of the support beam.

The Newsweek article alludes to tests conducted on “exact replicas” of the support beam at the H.P. White Laboratory, however no specifics were given, no photographs of the “replicas” were shown, nor were any means to measure deflection angles and velocity loss presented by Mr. Holland. Yet, Holland provided a “trajectory reconstruction” illustration in the Newsweek article purporting to show a post-impact flight path from the traffic signal support beam to an area near and in front of James Tague.

“Notably missing from this [reconstruction illustration] and the text of the article,” Haag wrote, “are the angular components of the 6th floor bullet’s intercept with the steel support beam, its departure angle and the angular change (degree of deflection) that would have to occur to justify Holland’s [reconstruction].” [emphasis in original, Haag, “The Missing Bullet in the JFK Assassination” page 74] 

Luke Haag also personally examined the original steel support beam housed by the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department. His own tests on similar support beams demonstrated “that an impact by anything other than the most shallow of grazing strikes by a 6.5mm Carcano bullet would leave obvious and lasting physical damage – none of it evident in the actual steel support beam that was present on the day of the assassination.

Haag wrote that while he did not fault Mr. Holland and his thought process in trying to account for Oswald’s first shot; “it is his unfounded and undemonstrated conclusion that are very bothersome. Indeed, a reading between the lines of his own testing very likely disproves his hypothesis, and a full disclosure of the H.P. White shooting tests should confirm this.

“This writer wishes that the bullet did strike the beam and leave a dimensional record of its flight path,” Haag continued. “Had it done so, the mystery surrounding Oswald’s first shot would effectively be solved. But there is absolutely no evidence that it did strike the steel support beam, and Mr. Holland’s [reconstruction illustration] in the Newsweek article is a failed notion lacking in facts, supporting data, or any published test results. Indeed, as a scientific proposition, it is excluded by some fundamental laws of physics and the ballistic testing carried out and illustrated by this writer.” [emphasis in original, Haag, “The Missing Bullet in the JFK Assassination” page 74]

Deflecting tree branches?

The Haag team considered the possibility that Tague’s superficial injury was caused by the first shot striking and being deflected by one or more branches of the Southern Live Oak tree as it interrupted Oswald’s view of the presidential limousine and its occupants.

However, the testing performed and presented by the Haag team showed small deflection angles, minor velocity losses and very obvious and lasting damage to bullet-struck branches effectively eliminating this explanation for Tague’s injury. In fact, even if an errant shot struck the branches of the Live Oak tree, it would have remained intact but destabilized and gone into the Elm Street asphalt with sufficient velocity to self-destruct.

Probable fate of the missed first shot

The only reasonable remaining choice for the fate of Oswald’s first shot, which also has a sound basis in terminal ballistics, is that his initial shot went directly into the asphalt of Elm Street, where the bullet underwent total self-destruction and the crater produced by this strike quickly morphed into nothing more than a vague depression in the asphalt.

This hypothesis can be and was tested by the Haag team. Utilizing a 3D laser scan of Dealey Plaza, the team determined that the intercept angle with Elm Street at the time of the first shot would have been 30 degrees.

Multiple shots were fired into sections of roadway asphalt set at that angle with the same surprising result: The Carcano bullets were completely and totally destroyed with not one single, recognizable bullet fragment to be found in the nominal 1-inch deep impact craters. 

“This may seem difficult to believe,” Luke Haag wrote, “but the answer and reason lies in the extreme ‘g’ forces acting on the bullet during the deceleration process. This phenomenon of total bullet destruction has been studied and explained in a previous article by this writer. [Haag, L.C. and A. Jason, “Where are the Bullets?” AFTE Journal, Vol.44: No.3, Summer 2012, pp.196-207]

“In this case, a bullet traveling approximately 2100 f/s (1,432 miles per hour) comes to a complete stop in about 1 inch of travel in asphalt. A rough calculation of the decelerating forces acting on this bullet, expressed as gravities (g), yields a value of 1.6 million g. The relatively soft copper jacket disintegrates into minute fragments and the very soft lead core essentially vaporizes.

“The next surprise,” writes Haag, “is the relatively confined, conical ejection of the pulverized asphaltic material that departs the surface of the asphalt along an angle that is orthogonal to the surface. This cone of debris is so tightly confined, that a person or object could be standing within as little as 2 feet of the impact site and not be struck by any of this ejected debris.” [emphasis in original, Haag, “The Missing Bullet in the JFK Assassination” page 75] 

Obviously, any efforts that might have been made in an attempt to locate bullet fragments near any “fresh” damage site in the asphalt on the day of the assassination would have been doomed to failure.

So, what of Tague’s superficial injury? The Haag team concluded that Tague’s injury was likely due to a bullet fragment ejected from the headshot – the only remaining, viable explanation.

Full circle

And so once again, we come full circle regarding the events in Dealey Plaza: One errant first shot and two hits made by one shooter in the Texas School Book Depository.

What’s old is new again – this time with considerable more forensic bite, thanks to the groundbreaking forensic efforts of Luke and Mike Haag. No fairy tales needed. [END]

Luke Haag will present his forensic findings in the JFK case at the 46th Annual AFTE Training Seminar and Conference in Dallas, Texas, on Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

Sources: The AFTE Journal