A. Warren Commission Findings

  1. The Warren Commission concluded that three bullets had been fired at the Presidential limousine from the sixth floor, southeast corner window, of the Texas School Book Depository. Finding that the first pierced the President's neck, the Commission also indicated that "[although * * * not necessary to any essential findings * * *, there is very persuasive evidence from the experts to indicate that [this] * * * same bullet * * * also caused Governor Connally's.
    A second bullet caused a massive and fatal wound to the President's head; (13) a third bullet was believed to have missed the car and its occupants. (14)

  2. The Commission was unable to establish conclusively which of the three bullets missed, and hence the precise timespan of the shots was not definitively determined. By studying the Zapruder movie film, it found that the President's back wound occurred between frames 210 and 225, and that the head wound occurred at frame 313. (15) Based upon the 18.3 frame-per-second average rate of speed at which film was exposed in Zapruder's camera, the Commission then calculated that "there was an interval of from 4.8 to 5.6 seconds" between those two shots. (16) If the second bullet were the one that missed, then this interval was the timespan for all the shots. If, however, either the first or third bullet missed, the minimum timespan would have been 7.1 to 7.9 seconds (derived from the previous calculation of 4.8 to 5.6 seconds plus 2.3 seconds, the minimum time in which Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle could be fired). (17)

  3. To support its conclusion that the President's and Governor's wounds were caused by shots that were fired from the sixth floor, southeast corner window, of the Texas School Book Depository, the Warren Commission relied on an FBI reenactment. Using the Zapruder film as the point of reference, the FBI placed the limousine and its occupants in their approximate positions at the time of the shots and then determined the angle from the wound entry point on President Kennedy to "the end of the muzzle of the rifle positioned where it was believed to have been held by the assassin." (18) The average resulting angle of 17(deg) 43'30, allowing for a downward street grade of the street.
    It was concluded by the Commission to be "consistent with the trajectory of a bullet passing through the President's neck and then striking Governor Connally's back * * *." (19)

  4. Although each of these findings has been criticized, the Commission's statement that the bullet which caused President Kennedy's neck injury was also responsible, for Governor Connally's wounds has caused the most controversy. Warren Commission critics have asserted that in the Zapruder film, Governor Connally first reacts to his wounds at frames 234 or 238, 0.5 to 1.5 seconds after the President (who the (14)Commission found was struck between frames 210-225) and, therefore, could not have been hit by the same bullet. Moreover, given the 2.3 second minimum firing time for a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, they assert that another gunman must have been involved in the assassination. (20)

  5. Critics have also questioned the Commission's "single bullet theory" because they find that, given the wounds, the relative alinement of the President and the Governor within the limousine was inconsistent with the path of a single bullet. (21) They claim that the Commission's trajectory analysis was self-serving, since it assumed a particular location for the gunman and then merely sought to verify that the angle from rifle muzzle to the limousine occupants was consistent with the trajectory of a bullet passing through the two men.

    B. The Panel's Analysis


  6. In an effort to determine the number, timing, and source of the shots that were fired at the Presidential limousine, the Photographic Evidence Panel conducted the following studies:

  7. (a) The Zapruder film was studied for evidence of reactions to gunshots by both the limousine occupants and Dealey Plaza witnesses, and to determine whether the relative alinement of John F. Kennedy and John B. Connally within the limousine was consistent with the single-bullet theory. Still photographs pertinent to the singlebullet theory controversy were also reviewed;

  8. (b) The blurs in the Zapruder film were analyzed to determine if they could be attributed with precision to the cameraman's reflex reaction to the sound of gunshots;

  9. (c) A trajectory analysis was conducted under the direction of an aerodynamics engineer from NASA; and

  10. (d) Photographs of the Dealey Plaza environs in which it has been alleged that gunmen can be seen were subjected to photographic enhancement and analysis.*


    (a) Issues

  11. The Panel was requested by the committee to address, at a minimum, three questions:

  12. (a) When did Kennedy first show a reaction to some severe external stimulus?

  13. (b) When did Connally first show a reaction to some severe external stimulus?

  14. (c) Was the relative alinement of Kennedy and Connally within the limousine consistent with the single-bullet theory?
    *The results of this study are discussed at 241-346. infra.
    ** This section prepared under the direction of C.S. McCamy, Frank Scott and Bennett Sherman. For the related public hearing testimony of C.S. McCamy, 9/12/78, see HSCA-JFK Hearings, vol. II, pp. 142-54, 349-72.

    (b) Materials and procedures

  15. The Zapruder film was studied with care at each of the panel's conferences? At the final conference, which took place in July 1978, the film was closely scrutinized by more than 20 photographic scientists who were either members of the Panel or contractors responsible for much of the committee's laboratory work (i.e., photographic enhancement, restoration, etc.). At the Panel's request, a specially enhanced version of the Zapruder film had been obtained which stabilized and enlarged the images of Kennedy and Connally. The Panel was also given access to four frames which showed the Presidential limousine going behind a sign; these had previously been spliced out of the original Zapruder film. (22) Finally, computer assisted enhancements of relevant frames from the Zapruder film were made available to Panel members, but these were not reviewed until later.

  16. In total, the Zapruder film was viewed by this group on a frame-by-frame basis and at various speeds approximately 100 times.(2)A special analytical projector was used to facilitate this task. Because the quality of most of this film generally precluded analysis of facial expressions, primary emphasis was given to attempting to detect gross changes in body movements. As each frame was analyzed, proper consideration was given to the Zapruder film's exposure rate through the camera of 18.3 frames per second. (23) In this manner, changes in body movements between frames could be better understood and, at times,

  17. After completing its review of the film the Panel took a vote
    with regard to each of the issues that had been raised by the committee.(3) The Panel's vote focused on those reactions to severe external stimuli that may have been suggestive of impacting bullets.

    (c) Conclusions

  18. (a) By a vote of 12 to 5, the Panel determined that President Kennedy first showed a reaction to some severe external stimulus by Zapruder frame 207 as he is seen going behind a street sign that obstructed Zapruder's view.

  19. (b) By a vote of 11 to 3, the Panel determined that Governor Connally first showed a reaction to some severe external stimulus by Zapruder's frame 224, virtually immediately after he is seen emerging from behind the sign that obstructed Zapruder's view.

  20. (c) By a vote of 5 to 1. the Panel determined that the relative alinement of President Kennedy and Governor Connally in the limousine was consistent with the single bullet theory.

  21. (d) At least, two shots, spaced approximately 6 seconds apart, were fired at the Presidential limousine. Nevertheless, based only on review of the reactions of persons shown in the Zapruder film, there was insufficient evidence to reach any conclusion concerning additional shots.

    For references to Zapruder frames discussed heroin, see JFK exhibits F-209 274, HSCA-JFK Hearings, vol. I. pp. 69-97.
    It is difficult to state this figure with precision because various segments of the film were continuosly replayed while others received considerably less attention.
    Because the film was not viewed simultaneously by all participants, some of whom occasionally had to leave the room to perform other tasks. and as the voting was conducted at different times for each issue, the same number of votes was not cast on each issue.

    (d) Analysis

  22. The first reaction by any of the limousine occupants to a severe external stimulus begins to occur in the vicinity of Zapruder frames 162-167.* At this time, Connally is looking to his left, when his head begins a rapid, sudden motion to the right. In quantitative terms, he turns his head approximately 60 (deg) to his right in one-ninth of a second (a rate equivalent to a 540 (deg) rotation per second). He pauses momentarily and then executes a further 30 (deg) turn to his right, within an eighteenth of a second (again, a rate equivalent to a 540(deg )rotation per second). This initial rapid motion, in which Connally has apparently turned Iris head to look behind him, is accompanied during the next approximately 20 frames by a more gradual 60(deg) shift to the right of his upper torso. Although it is apparent that none of the limousine occupants has been shot at the time that Connally initiates this movement, the Panel considers these actions to be particularly significant because they were consistent with his Warren Commission testimony that he turned in response to having heard the first shot and was struck almost immediately afterwards.

  23. During the period of Connally's initial rapid movement, however, no one else shows a comparable reaction. The President does not appear to react to anything unusual prior to Zapruder frame 190. The Panel observed, however, that at approximately this time, a young girl who had been running across the grass, beyond the far curb of the street where the limousine was traveling, suddenly began to stop and turn sharply to her right, looking up the street in a direction behind the limousine.

  24. At approximately Zapruder frame 200, Kennedy's movements suddenly freeze; his right hand abruptly stops in the midst of a waving motion and his head moves rapidly from right to his left in the direction of his wife. Based on these movements, it appears that by the time the President goes behind the sign at frame 207 he is evidencing some kind of reaction to a severe external stimulus. By the time he emerges from behind the sign at Zapruder frame 225, the President makes a clutching motion with his hands toward his neck, indicating clearly that he has been shot.

  25. Connally's movements as he emerges from behind the sign at Zapruder frames 222-224 also indicate that he is reacting to a severe external stimulus. He appears to be frowning. and there is a distinct stiffening of his shoulders and upper trunk. Then there is a radical change in his facial expression. and rapid changes begin to occur in the orientation of his head.

  26. In the subsequent frames, Kennedy and Connelly appear to show simultaneous, reaction-type movements. There is less than a three-frame (0.16 second) delay in their movements.

  27. At frame 313, approximately 6 seconds (based on the 18.3 frames per second exposure rate of the Zapruder camera) after the President disappears behind the sign, his head is seen exploding from the impact of a bullet.
    *Because this reaction was not perceived as a response to an impacting bullet, it was not adopted as one of the panel's conclusions.

  28. Having noted the virtually simultaneous reactions displayed by Kennedy and Connelly, the Panel proceeded to consider whether the two men's relative alinement in the limousine was consistent with the single-bullet theory. In this regard, the President is observed, between frames 170-190, to be sitting well to the right side of the limousine. Specifically, his right arm is extended over the chrome strip that runs along the side of the limousine. Governor Connally's rightward body orientation is clearly seen during these same frames. His body is situated much more toward the center of the limousine, as demonstrated by the amount of the rear seat that can be seen between President Kennedy and Governor Connally.

  29. This visual analysis was confirmed stereoscopically when computer enhancements of Zapruder frames 187 and 193 were examined in three dimensions as a stereo pair. Pairs of photographs, taken moments apart, may on occasion be viewed in a manner that gives rise to a three-dimensional image. When this occurs, the photographs are said to constitute a stereo pair.

  30. Stereoscopy may be explained as follows: Because human eyes are a short distance apart, each sees a slightly different aspect of any object within a distance of about 50 feet. These slightly different visual images are interpreted by the brain as clues to the relative distances of various parts of the object. This is called "stereopsis" or "stereoscopic vision? The two eyes see a single near object alined with different distant objects. This is known as parallax. This effect also contributes to the perception of depth.

  31. If two photographs are taken of the same nearby still scene and the camera is moved horizontally about 3 inches between the two exposures, the camera will record what would have been seen by two eyes (spaced about 3 inches apart), had they been in the same two places as the camera had been. When these photographs are viewed separately (so that one eye sees one photograph and another eye sees the other) by means of an optical device called a "stereoscope" or "stereo viewer," the visual system and the brain interpret the scene in depth, just as though the original scene were being viewed directly.

  32. The identical effect can be achieved with individual frames of a motion picture film such as the one taken by Zapruder. A motion picture film consists of a series of still photographs. A slight movement of the camera (that is, by about 3 inches) can result in individual frames being viewed as stereo pairs. In addition, even if the camera is held relatively still, a similarly slight movement by the object may give rise to stereo pairs of photographs. This is because, in relative terms, the effect is that of the camera moving in relation to a still object.

  33. When this technique was applied to the Zapruder film, the relative depth of Kennedy and Connally within the limousine could be carefully examined. On this basis, their relative alinement was found to be consistent with the single-bullet theory.

  34. The panel's conclusion of the relative alinement of the two men received further corroboration by an examination of still photographs and individual Zapruder frames.* It is further supported by the trajectory analysis described in the following section.
    *In this regard, the Panel adopts the analysis set forth in 158-165 infra.

3. The panning error--blur analysis of the Zapruder film