This section of the appendix to the hearings deals with the medical evidence relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the wounding of Governor John B. Connally of Texas. Section 1, introduction, presents a historical overview of the material, lists the issues addressed, outlines the investigative procedure of the committee, and briefly summarizes the content of the remaining four sections. These sections are: Performance of the autopsy (sec. 2); chain of custody of the materials acquired during the autopsy (sec. 3); authenticity of the autopsy photographs and X-rays (sec. 4); and the report of the forensic pathology panel (sec. 5).
Materials submitted for this report by the committee's forensic pathology panel were compiled by HSCA staff members Donald A. Purdy, Jr. and T. Mark Flanagan.
SECTION I. INTRODUCTION
- * John F. Kennedy was the fourth American President to be assassinated, the first in 60 years. In each case, pathologists performed an autopsy to determine the cause of death and the nature of the injuries. It is quite remarkable that despite major advances in medical technology, the autopsy of President Kennedy created more controversy than that of any of the others.
- In the case of the autopsy of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, physicians conducted the examination in the White House within several hours following the President's death. Those in attendance included several of the physicians who regularly treated the President, while a major dispute arose during the autopsy concerning the path of the missile through the Presidents head, the matter was finally settled. The pathologists forwarded an official autopsy report in a letter to the Surgeon General of the United States. The X-ray technology that could have assisted in resolving the dispute had not yet been invented.
- The autopsy of James Garfield in 1881 did not trigger any controversies. The autopsy surgeons, who likewise included several of the President's regular physicians, preserved certain physical specimens for later examination and issued a report, which included sketches to document the location of the wounds.
- The autopsy of William McKinley in 1901 was controversial. The problems began when his wife successfully halted the autopsy after 4 hours, even though the surgeons had not located the missile. The autopsy report indicated that this intervention prevented the physicians from removing all the portions of tissue necessary for proper examination. Interestingly, although Thomas Edison made available his newly invented X-ray machine the physicians refused to use it. After the autopsy a dispute arose over the path of the missile and gained so much momentum that the pathologists had to issue a statement in an effort to quell rumors.
- The autopsy of President Kennedy has been the most controversial. For example, it is the only one in which the physicians who normally provided medical treatment to the President were not in attendance.
- The handling of the emergency medical treatment and the autopsy of President Kennedy by the various physicians, the Warren Commission, and the President's family not only has generated more controversy than any other Presidential autopsy, it has also raised many questions regarding the assassination overall, more so than any other factor.
* Arabic numerals in parentheses at the beginning of paragraphs indicate the paragraph number for purposes of citation and referencing; italic numerals in parentheses in the middle or at the end of sentences indicate references which can be found at the end of each report or section.
- Confusion and speculation over the nature of the injuries to the President surfaced immediately in the wake of his emergency treatment on November 22, 1963, at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas, Tex., and his autopsy later that evening at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Md. The following summaries of news accounts from the New York Times in the first days after the assassination demonstrate the confusion:
November 24, 1963--the President suffered an entrance wound in the Adam's apple and a massive head wound in the head.
December 17, 1663---the FBI concluded that one bullet had struck the President in the right where the right shoulder joins the neck.
December 19, 1963--the pathologists had determined that a bullet had lodged in the back, a second had struck the right rear of the head.
- While the newspapers continued to chase rumors, the FBI compiled a report on the assassination, which Director of the FBI, 5. Edgar Hoover submitted to the Warren Commission on December 19, 1963. A supplemental report was also sent to the Commission on January 13, 1964. This report reflected the observations made by the FBI agents who attended the autopsy.
- By early February 1964, the single bullet theory the theory that one bullet traversed the upper back and neck of President Kennedy and then caused all the wounds to Governor Connally--began to emerge. During the next several months of 1964, the Warren Commission questioned most of the doctors associated with the medical evidence pertaining to President Kennedy and Governor Connally. There was no evidence that any members of the Warren Commission or its staff ever viewed any of the autopsy photographs or X-rays of President Kennedy. Nevertheless, in the fall of 1964, the Warren Commission concluded in its final report that President Kennedy had been struck by two missiles, as reflected in the autopsy report, and that the missile that exited the President's neck also caused all of Governor Connally's wounds. The Warren Commission also concluded that the missile that struck both the President and the Governor was the one discovered at Parkland Hospital.
- The next significant event regarding the autopsy occurred on April 22, 1965, when Robert F. Kennedy, then the Attorney General, authorized Dr. George Burkley, the White House physician, to transfer materials derived from the autopsy--autopsy photographs, autopsy X-rays, microscopic tissue slides and physical specimens such as the brain, which had been stored at the White House since the autopsy-to Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln, the former personal secretary to President Kennedy, who then had an office in the National Archives. On April 26, Robert I. Bouck, the head of the Protective Research Division of the U.S. Secret Service, where the autopsy materials were stored in the White House, and Dr. Burkley prepared an inventory list and transferred the materials. The photographs and X-rays from the autopsy, as well as the microscopic slides and other gross material, allegedly including the brain, were transferred at that time.
- Although Mrs. Lincoln had an office in the Archives, she was not an employee. Consequently, when the materials were transferred, they were not technically given to the National Archives.
- Over the next few years various critics continued to question the autopsy conclusions. In 1966, Edward Jay Epstein, in his book inquest, related that although the FBI had had access to the autopsy report of Dr. Humes, in its report of December 9, 1963, it had stated that the missile entering the President's upper back did not exist. Epstein concluded that this discrepancy cast serious doubts on the accuracy of the entire investigation of the Commission.
- In 1966, Mark Lane, an attorney from New York, also published a book, entitled "Rush to Judgement," which was critical of the Warren Commission. Lane questioned the theory that a lone assassin shot the President from the rear. He cited the initial comments of several Parkland Hospital doctors who characterized the throat wound as one of entrance. He theorized that if the President had been shot from the front, then more than one assassin had to have been involved. Lane also criticized vehemently the single-bullet theory, contending that the Warren Commission devised it m order to explain how one assassin could have inflicted all the wounds to the President and the Governor by firing three shots in the requisite time interval. Lane argued that the single-bullet theory was not possible and that consequently only one alternative existed: more than one assassin shot at the President.
- In November 1966, the autopsy pathologists reviewed the autopsy X-rays and photographs now in the custody of the National Archives. They did so at the request of the Department of Justice, which wanted to determine their consistency with the autopsy report.
- The pathologists had never seen the photographs previously. They agreed that the photographs and X-rays corroborated their autopsy report.
- These photographs and X-rays had become the property of the U.S. Government as a result of a deed of gift from the Kennedy family to the National Archives on October 31, 1966. All materials listed in the 1965 transfer from the White House to Evelyn Lincoln were to be included in this transaction, but the microscopic slides and the gross material, including the brain, were found to be missing. The disposition of these "missing" materials was not documented at this or any other
- As more persons published books critical of the Warren Commission, more issues emerged concerning the autopsy. In 1967, Josiah Thompson published "Six Seconds in Dallas," in which he proposed the theory that President Kennedy was struck in the head simultaneously by two shots: One from the rear and one from the front. Thompson based this on the rear head motion visible in the Zapruder film, the reports from the Parkland and Bethesda surgeons, and eyewitness accounts. This theory necessarily involves two assassins. Sylvia Meagher also published a voluminous work in 1967, entitled "Accessories After the Fact"; she further criticized the Warren Commission findings and advanced alternative theories.
- By 1968, as a result of criticisms and allegations surrounding the Warren Commission's conclusions, then-Acting Attorney General Ramsey Clark convened a panel of medical experts, commonly referred to as the Clark panel, for the first independent review of the autopsy photographs and X-rays. Although the panel confirmed the autopsy pathologists' findings regarding the number of shots that struck the President and their general direction through the body, it stated that the entrance wound on the President's head was actually 10 centimeters (about 4 inches higher) than indicated in the autopsy report. This conclusion generated even more confusion and doubt concerning the validity of the autopsy.
- In 1975, in the midst of mounting criticism, the Rockefeller Commission convened a group of medical and firearms experts to view the evidence. They concurred with the opinions of the Clark panel. Both the Clark and Rockefeller panels, however, conclusions were presented without supporting material. Doubts and rumors persisted.
- In 1976, the House passed a resolution establishing the committee and empowered it to conduct a full and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of President. Kennedy. The committee determined that it should examine, among other things, the major issues that had arisen over the years in connection with the autopsy of the President and related medical evidence. These issues included:
- How many missiles struck President Kennedy and Governor Connally, specifically, whether President Kennedy could have been struck in the head from behind and from the front simultaneously and whether the backward motion of the President's head, visible in the Zapruder film, is consistent with the conclusion that the President was struck only from behind;
- The feasibility that one missile entered President Kennedy's back, exited his neck, and then caused all of Governor Connally's wounds, with little damage to the missile;
- The origin and trajectories of the missiles;
- The number of wounds President Kennedy and Governor Connally received, their respective locations, whether they were entrance or exit wounds, and the reasons for those characterizations;
- Whether the nature of the wounds to President Kennedy and Governor Connally was consistent with the damage that would be caused by 6.5 millimeter caliber Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition and in particular a single bullet traversing two bodies;
- The accuracy of the opinions of the Parkland Hospital doctors concerning the location of President Kennedy's wounds and reasons for those opinions;
- The discrepancies in various reports about wound locations, especially those between the official autopsy report and the findings of the Clark panel and the Rockefeller Commission panel concerning the location of the rear head wound;
- The thoroughness, competence, and accuracy of the autopsy with respect to both the medical aspects and those bearing on possible future litigation in court;
- The location and fate of the microscopic tissue slides and gross materials, including the brain, which the pathologists retained for future study and which are now unaccounted for;
- The possibility that at some time the autopsy photographs and X-rays were doctored or that they were false or incomplete;
- Whether the autopsy was performed within the proper jurisdiction;
- What chain of custody was followed for the various items evidence; and
- Whether other procedures should have been followed and what procedures should be followed in the event of other assassinations.
- In addressing these issues, the committee decided to analyze some issues itself and to retain experts to examine others. Specifically, the committee prepared a report on issues relating to the performance of the autopsy and thoroughly traced the chain of custody of the "missing" autopsy materials.
- The committee consulted experts in the fields of forensic odontology, radiology, chemical engineering, and photography in examining the authenticity of the autopsy photographs and X-rays.
- Finally, the committee convened a panel of forensic pathologists to address the medical issues relating to the death of President Kennedy and the wounding of Governor Connally and to recommend procedures to be followed in the event of future assassinations.
- The panel of forensic pathologists consisted of two subpanels: One of members who had not previously reviewed the autopsy photographs, X-rays, and related material, the other of those who had not.
Panel members who had not previously reviewed the evidence were:
- John I. Coe, M.D., chief medical examiner of Hennepin County, Minn.
- Joseph H. Davis, M.D., chief medical examiner of Dade County, Miami, Fla.
- George S. Loquvam, M.D., director of the Institute of Forensic Sciences, Oakland, Calif.
- Charles S. Petty, M.D., chief medical examiner, Dallas County, Dallas, Tex.,
- Earl Rose, M.D., LL.B., professor of pathology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.
Panel members who had previously reviewed the evidence were:
- Werner V. Spitz, M.D., medical examiner of Detroit Mich.
- Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D., coroner of Allegheny County, Pa.
- James T. Weston, M.D., chief medical investigator, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, N. Mex.
- The chairman of the panel was Michael M. Baden, M.D., chief medical New York City.
- The committee asked that the two subpanels present their views in a single report, with the stipulation that any member could submit dissenting opinion that would be included with the report.
- The remainder of this volume contains the evidence developed by the committee and the findings and conclusions of the forensic pathology panel. It is divided into three sections: An analysis of the autopsy of President John F. Kennedy (sec. presentation of the efforts of the committee to trace the chain custody of the materials acquired during the autopsy (sec. 3); and, finally, the report of the panel on forensic pathology (sec. 4). Each section includes a statement of the issues addressed, the evidence considered, and the conclusions reached.
SECTION II.--PERFORMANCE OF AUTOPSY
PART I. INTRODUCTION
- Throughout the last 15 years, many critics have questioned the competency and validity of the autopsy of President Kennedy. The efforts of the U.S. Department of the Navy and other Government sources to insure privacy with respect to the autopsy procedures and other events that took place at Bethesda Naval Hospital have contributed in part to much of the uncertainty and skepticism. Included in these efforts was an order of silence issued to the participants in the autopsy. (1)
- Because of this skepticism and in accordance with its mandate to conduct a full and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of President Kennedy, the committee decided to investigate the performance of the autopsy. The focus was to be on the following issues:
- The possibility that someone ordered or otherwise strongly suggested that the autopsy doctors perform a limited or incomplete autopsy;
- The question of the competency and validity of the autopsy; and
- The documentation of the events that occurred, how they occurred, and when they occurred.
- The committee conducted a review of all documentary evidence and contacted almost all persons still alive who had attended the autopsy. The Department of the Navy agreed to rescind the orders of silence issued to the autopsy personnel.
- The following material relates the issues and corresponding facts chronologically (part II) and then presents the conclusions of the committee.
- The evidence indicates that while the pathologists were given authority to perform a complete autopsy, the autopsy was not complete according to established medicolegal standards.
PART II. FACTS AND ISSUES
- At 1:30 p.m., eastern standard time (e.s.t.), on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy and Governor Connally were shot while riding in a Presidential motorcade, through the streets of Dallas, Tex. The driver of the Presidential limousine, Secret Service Agent William Grier, immediately drove the limousine at high speed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas, Tex. arriving at approximately 1:35 p.m., e.s.t.(2) Having been alerted to the emergency by radio, Parkland Hospital personnel quickly escorted the wounded President and Governor into the emergency treatment facilities.
- Drs. Malcolm Perry and Charles J. Carrico were two of the first doctors to attend the President. In addition to a massive head wound, both observed a small, circular wound situated in the region of the neck below the adam's apple, which they subsequently characterized as an entry wound. (3) To combat the President's failure to breathe, Dr. Perry decided to perform a tracheotomy.(4) In doing so, he cut through the small, circular neck wound, making it difficult to identify the missile wound.(5)
- With respect to the head wound, Dr. Robert McClelland, another the doctors who attended the President, said in his testimony before the Warren Commission, that the right posterior section of the skull had been blasted. (6) Dr. Kemp Clark, who also assisted with the President, similarly described the wound as being in the back of the President's head--in the right posterior part. (7)
- The Parkland doctors soon realized their efforts to save President Kennedy were fruitless. Dr. Clark pronounced him dead at 2 p.m., e.s.t.(8)
- The total time that the doctors had observed or treated the President was approximately 20 minutes. They had been concerned only with administering emergency treatment. Their primary concern was to restore the breathing and stop the bleeding. None examined the President's back--and so did not discover any wound there. Further, none observed any wound to the head other than the one massive wound. Nor was their job to measure precisely the location of the wounds or to examine the body for all possible wounds. When the President died, the Parkland doctors' functions also ended. (9)
- Drs. Robert Shaw, Charles Gregory, and George Shires treated the wounds of Governor Connally. (10) In their medical reports, they described wounds to his chest, wrist, and thigh.
- Soon after Dr. Kemp Clark of Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Tex., pronounced the President dead, the Secret Service and other personnel proceeded to transport the body from Texas to Washington, D.C. While in flight, Mrs. Kennedy chose Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md., as the site for the autopsy, since the President had served in the Navy. (11)
- The Secret Service and the Navy Department made arrangements for the performance of the autopsy.(12) The surgeon general the Navy and the commanding officer of the Naval Medical School advised Comdr. James J. Humes, the director of laboratories of the National Medical School, (13) Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., that the Secret Service was transporting the body of the President to Bethesda and that he was to ascertain the cause of death. (14)
- The FBI authorities contacted their Baltimore field office and advised that arrangements should be made for Bureau agents to proceed to Andrews Air Force Base, Camp Springs, Md., to meet Air Force One and to handle any matters that would fall within FBI jurisdiction.(15) Consequently, Special Agents Francis X. O'Neill, Jr., and James W. Sibert proceeded to Andrews Air Force Base. Their specific instructions were to accompany the body at all times, ride in the motorcade to Bethesda Naval Hospital, witness the autopsy, preserve the chain of custody of any evidentiary material, and transport any bullets that might be recovered to the FBI Laboratory.
- On arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, a motorcade transported the body of the President to the Bethesda Naval Hospital, (17) with Special Agents Sibert and O'Neill traveling in the third car. (18) At Bethesda, the ambulance first stopped at the main entrance; Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy got out (19) and joined other members of the Kennedy family on the 17th floor of the hospital to await the conclusion of the autopsy. (20) The ambulance then proceeded to the rear of the building, arriving at approximately 7:35p.m.(21). Personnel carried the body into the hospital. (22)
- Dr. Humes chose J. Thornton Boswell, M.D., chief of pathology at Bethesda, (23) and Pierre A. Finck, M.D., chief of the military environmental pathology division and chief of the wound ballistics pathology branch at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Medical Center, (24) to assist him in performing the autopsy. During the autopsy, Special Agents Sibert and O'Neill recorded the names of what they believed were all the persons in attendance at any time. (25) In a report they submitted subsequent the autopsy, they included: (26)
- Adm. Calvin B. Galloway, commanding officer of the U.N. [sic] National Naval Medical Center;
- Adm. George C. Burkley, White House physician to the President;
- Comdr. James J. Humes, director of the laboratories of the National Medical School, Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.;
- Capt. James H. Stover, Jr., commanding officer of the Naval Medical School;
- John Thomas Stringer, Jr., medical photographer;
- James H. Ebersole, assistant chief radiologist at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center;
- Floyd Albert Riebe, medical photographer;
- J. Thornton Boswell, chief of pathology at Bethesda;
- Jan Gail Rudnicki, laboratory technologist, assisting Dr. Boswell;
- Pierre A. Finck, M.D., chief of the military environmental pathology division and chief of the wound ballistics pathology branch at Walter Reed Medical Center; (27)
- Paul K. O'Conner, laboratory technologist;
- Jerrol F. Custer, X-ray technician;
- James Curtis Jenkins, laboratory technologist;
- Edward F. Reed, X-ray technician;
- James E. Metzler, hospital corpsman third-class;
- Capt. David Osborne, chief of surgery;
- Brig. Gen. Godfrey McHugh, Air Force aide to the President;
- Lt. Comdr. Gregory H. Cross, resident in surgery;
- Gen. Philip C. Wehle, commanding officer of the U.S. Military District, Washington, D.C.;
- Chester H. Boyers, chief petty officer in charge of the pathology division;
- Dr. George Bakeman, U.S. Navy (the committee could not locate this person);
- Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman;
- Secret Service Agent William Greer; and
- Secret Service Agent John J. O'Leary. (28)
- Through its own investigation, the committee determined that the following persons also attended the autopsy:
- Richard A. Lipsey, personal aide to General Wehle;(29) and
- Samuel Bird,(30) in 1963, a lieutenant stationed at the ceremonial duties office, Fort Myers, Va., 3d Infantry Division.
- Additionally, Sibert and O'Neill reported that, following the autopsy, four persons from Gawler's Funeral Home in Washington, D.C., entered the autopsy room to prepare the President's body for burial. They were:
- John Van Haeson;
- Edwin Stroble;
- Thomas Robinson; and
- Mr. Hagen.(31)
- These persons, together with Sibert and O'Neill, were the only ones present at any time in the autopsy room with the body of the President.
- In their report, Sibert and O'Neill noted that the body of the President was removed from the casket in which it arrived and placed on the autopsy table.(32) They said that a sheet covered the entire body; an additional wrapping, saturated in blood, surrounded the head. (33)
- Dr. Humes had testified previously to the Warren Commission that the body was received in a casket, was wrapped in a sheet, and was unclothed.(34) James Jenkins, a student laboratory technician, whose normal duties included admitting a body to the morgue and conducting an initial examination, likewise stated that the body of the President was unclothed and that it may have been wrapped in a sheet. (35)
- A major issue in the initial stages of the autopsy was whether Dr. Humes had authority to perform a full or partial autopsy.
- The belief that Dr. Humes had authority for only a partial autopsy derived from several factors. Special Agent O'Neill told the committee that he recalled that Mrs. Kennedy had given permission for a partial autopsy and that Dr. Burkley, the President's physician, reiterated her remarks in the autopsy room. (36) He believed there was no question that Dr. Burkley was conveying the wishes of the Kennedy family regarding a full-versus-partial autopsy.(37) Special Agent Sibert told the committee that he, too, had the impression the Kennedy family was somehow transmitting step-by-step clearances to the pathologists.
- John Stringer, the medical photographer, likewise recalled some discussion at the beginning of the autopsy concerning the scope of the autopsy. He said he believed Dr. Burkley played a central role in the discussions and seemed to be acting on behalf of the Kennedy family.(39) He specifically recalled Dr. Burkley indicating to the doctors that they should not conduct a full autopsy, saying, "* * * (you) shouldn't do a complete one if (you) don't have to."(40)
- Adm. David Osborne (then captain) stated that at the beginning of the autopsy there was tremendous pressure to perform a "quick post" and to leave the hospital. (41)
*The scope of Dr. Humes' authority and the scope of the performance are two distinct issues. Dr. Humes may have had authority to perform a full complete autopsy, but may have performed a partial one.
- The evidence supports the above recollections. They reflect the general nature of the initial stages of the autopsy: somewhat confused at the beginning with discussions concerning the extent and nature of the autopsy to be performed. The evidence also indicates, however, that these observations do not reflect the total picture and that Dr. Humes ultimately received permission to perform a complete autopsy. The following memorandum is a primary source:
DATE: NOVEMBER 26, 1963.
From: SA's James W. Sibert and Francis X. O'Neill, Jr.
Subject: Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Following arrival at the Naval Medical Center and preparation of the President's body for inspection and autopsy, to be performed by Dr. Humes, chief pathologist and commander, U.S. Navy, Admiral Burkley, the President's personal physician advised that Mrs. Kennedy had granted permission for a limited autopsy and he questioned any feasibility for a complete autopsy to obtain the bullet which had entered the President's back.
At this point, it will be noted Dr. Humes, as the physician conducting the autopsy, stated it was his opinion that the bullet was still in the President's body and could only be extracted through a complete autopsy, which he proposed to do.
Special Agent Roy Kellerman, Secret Service, in conference with Special Agents Sibert and O'Neill, from an investigative and protective standpoint, advised Admiral Burkley that it was felt the bullet should be located.
At this point, Adm. C.B. Galloway, Commanding Officer of the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., told Commander Humes to perform a complete autopsy.
- Special Agent O'Neill corroborated the information in this memorandum in an affidavit and in his interview with the committee.(42) In addition, Admiral Osborne (the Captain) stated in a committee interview that Dr. Humes was successful in resisting pressure to perform an incomplete autopsy and that no one issued any orders limiting it. (43) Admiral Galloway also stated that no one transmitted any orders to limit the autopsy in any manner and that this memorandum was consistent with his recollections.
- For these reasons, it may be concluded that Dr. Humes possessed authority to perform a complete autopsy.
- During the initial stages of the autopsy, when the discussion over a full-versus-partial autopsy occurred, the pathologists conducted an examination of the exterior of the body and took photographs and X-rays before making any incisions. (45) This is when the pathologists observed that a tracheostomy had been performed on the President.(46)
- Stringer(47) and Riebe(48) took the autopsy photographs under the direction of Dr. Humes. Stringer told the committee that his equipment included a 4- by 5-inch graphic view camera that had standard lens and used film holders which contained one segment of film on each side.(49) He also stated that as he photographed the body, he would give the film to a Secret Service agent standing adjacent to him who later signed a receipt to Captain Stover to obtain formal custody of the film.(50) Such a receipt--from Capt. J. H. Stover, Jr., commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Medical School to Roy H. Kellerman, assistant special agent in charge, U.S. Secret Service--does exist. (51)
- Stringer also stated that a Federal agent took a camera from Riebe and exposed the film. (52) This apparently occurred because the agent felt Stringer was the only person authorized to photograph the body and that Riebe was only to assist Stringer and not take photographs on his own initiative.
- Special Agents Sibert and O'Neill confirmed that the pathologists had X-rays taken before and after making incisions.(53) Dr. Ebersole, the acting chief of the radiology department that evening, stated in a deposition to the committee that prior to commencing the autopsy he took several X-rays of the skull, chest and trunk of the body. (54) He stated that he used portable X-ray equipment (55) and did not take X-rays of the hands and feet.(56) Dr. Ebersole further told the committee that he hand carried these films in their cassettes to the fourth floor of the hospital, where a darkroom technician developed them and then returned them to him. Ebersole then hand carried them back to the autopsy room. (57)
- After completion of the autopsy, before releasing the X-rays, Dr. Ebersole received a receipt from Roy H. Kellerman acknowledging possession of them.
- Sibert and O'Neill observed that, on the basis of the preliminary X-rays, the pathologists concluded that:
* * * no complete bullet of any size could be located in the brain area and likewise no bullet could be located in the back or any other area of the body as determined by total body X-rays. (59)
- At approximately 8:15 p.m., e.s.t, Dr. Humes made the first incision. (60) In his Warren Commission testimony, he stated that he used a routine incision:
Which is a Y-shaped incision from the shoulders over the lower portion of the breastbone and over to the opposite shoulder and reflected the skin and tissues from the interior portion of the chest. (61)
- Dr. Humes then began examining the missile wounds. Sibert and O'Neill noted that he located the track of a missile that appeared to enter the rear of the head and progress forward. The X-rays of the skull revealed numerous minute fragments widely distributed throughout the skull, as well as two larger fragments. The pathologists commented that this indicated the missile had fragmented on passing through the skull. (63)
- Dr. Humes located the entrance of the missile track in the head as approximately 2.5 centimeters laterally to the right and slightly above the external occipital protuberance. (64)
- In the autopsy report, Dr. Humes described the exit as:
A large irregular defect of the scalp and skull on the right involving chiefly the parietal bone but extending somewhat into the temporal and occipital regions. (65)
He further stated that:
[i]n this region there is an actual absence of scalp and bone producing a defect which measures approximately 13 centimeters in greatest diameter. (66)
- Sibert and O'Neill observed that Dr. Humes removed two fragments from the right side of the skull; one 7 by 2 millimeters in size, the other 1 by 3 millimeters.(67) Special Agents Sibert and O'Neill signed a receipt for custody of these fragments and immediately following the autopsy transported them to Special Agent Kurt Frazier at the FBI Laboratory. (68)
- The receipt for the fragments has been a continuing source of controversy. It states that Bureau agents received a "missile," (69) as opposed to two fragments. Chester H. Boyers, the corpsman who typed the receipt,(70) submitted an affidavit to the committee which stated that the receipt was for two fragments that Dr. Humes removed from the skull, despite the receipt's caption of "a missile." (71) Boyers emphasized that he gave Sibert and O'Neill only missile fragments. In affidavits and committee interviews, Sibert and O'Neill also stated that Dr. Humes had retrieved two fragments and that they received these fragments and not a missile. (73)
- The evidence indicates that the receipt was in error and that Boyers transferred only fragments to Sibert and O'Neill.
- Sibert and O'Neill next observed in their report that Dr. Humes examined a wound situated below the shoulders and 2 inches to the right of the middle line of the spinal column.(74) In the autopsy report, Dr. Humes characterized this wound as an entrance wound and located it 14 centimeters from the tip of the right acromion process and 14 centimeters below the tip of the right mastoid process. (75) Dr. Humes probed this wound with his finger and concluded that the missile had only traveled a short distance because he could feel the end track with his finger.(76) During the autopsy, Dr. Humes stated that he and his colleagues opened the chest cavity and carefully examined the lining of the chest cavity and both lungs.(77) Admiral Galloway told the committee that the pathologists examined the brain and all of the internal organs and structures. These included the liver, heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, and adrenal glands.(78) The autopsy protocol and supplemental report state that the doctors examined the chest cavity, lungs, heart, abdominal cavity, skeletal system, liver, spleen, kidneys, and brain, but did not list the adrenal glands.(79)
- In regard to the examination of the chest cavity, Dr. Humes told the Warren Commission and the committee that he specifically remembered the photographers taking Kodachrome photographs of the interior of the President's chest. (80) Stringer, one of the photographers, stated that he also thought he had taken some interior photographs of the President's chest. Dr. Burkley, however, told the committee that no one took any photographs of the interior of the chest. (82) There is no evidence that such photographs exist.
- By this point in the autopsy, the pathologists had closely examined the body and had still not located any missile, particularly the one which entered the back. They could not explain why they could not find any bullets.(83) They then began speculating about bullets which fragment. Special Agent Sibert decided to call Special Agent Charles L. Killion at the firearms section of the FBI laboratory to inquire about fragmenting bullets.(84) On receiving this call, Killion informed Sibert that Secret Service Agent Richard Johnson had forwarded to the laboratory a bullet which reportedly had been found on a stretcher in the emergency room of Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Tex. (85) Killion described the bullet as a 6.5-millimeter rifle missile with a copper-alloy full jacket.
- Sibert and O'Neill stated in their report that during the autopsy Dr. Humes, concluded on the basis of this information and knowing that the Parkland doctors had performed cardiac massage that they may have forced the bullet out of the President's back. (87) This theory would account for a missile track with no bullet.
- During the latter stages of the autopsy, authorities sent from Dallas three separate fragments of skull bone (88) found in the Presidential limousine. There is no evidence to show who sent these fragments to Bethesda. The pathologists concluded they were from the skull. Dr. Humes directed the X-raying of these fragments(89) and observed that one of the fragments contained minute metallic fragments along a line which corresponded with the large defect in the skull of the President.(90) This particular bone fragment alone exhibited beveling of the outer table which Pierre Finck said indicated that a missile exited at that point.(91) Both Dr. Humes and Dr. Burkley informed the committee that these fragments were placed back in the skull of the President. (92)
- By the termination of the autopsy at approximately 11 p.m.,(93) the pathologist had formulated the following general conclusions:
- One missile entered in the rear of the skull of the President and exited in the front of the skull; and
- One missile entered the back of the President and was apparently dislodged during cardiac massage at Parkland Hospital.
- Admiral Galloway corroborated these statements before the committee, saying that an assassin or assassins shot the President from behind with two shots. (95)
- After completing the autopsy, Dr. Humes remained to assist the morticians in preparing the President's body. (96) Secret Service Agent Kellerman said that after the morticians had prepared the body, the Secret Service agents and the Kennedy family left the hospital at 3:56 a.m. and went to the White House. (97)
Additional issues arising from the performance of the autopsy
- Although Dr. Humes had authority to perform a complete autopsy, the committee still had to resolve the issue of the actual scope of the autopsy. Specifically, Dr. Humes may have decided on his own initiative to limit the autopsy in certain respects or, despite the initial grant of authority, some factors may possibly have surfaced during the course of the autopsy which may have impinged on the independent decision making of Dr. Humes.
- Dr. Pierre Finck, one of the pathologists, asserted in a sworn statement to the committee that he believed the autopsy was incomplete. Because of the restrictions I suggested or said I felt it was not complete, but Dr. Humes then said that the autopsy had accomplished the purposes as stated-the number of wounds, the direction of the projectiles and the cause of death so I was actually satisfied. (98) Dr. Finck later stated that restrictions from the family (were) the reason for limiting our actions. (99) Specifically, Dr. Finck contends that someone ordered them (the pathologists) not to dissect the missile track that began in the upper back and progressed forward into the neck region. When questioned about the source of this order, Dr. Finck stated:
I cannot say that it was this army general, I can't recall that precisely. I remember the prosecutors and Admiral Galloway. As far as saying now so and so told me that or didn't tell me that, it is extremely difficult. There was an army general in that room and I cannot readily pinpoint the origin of those instructions to comply with those family wishes. (100)
- The committee determined that it was Dr. Humes and not any army general or other person who made the decision not to dissect the back entry wound. The following exchange between one of the medical consultants for the committee and Dr. Humes supports this conclusion:
Dr. BADEN. Now, for example, not exploring the wound from the back to the neck, that was not done. I mean, cutting it open completely. That wasn't done specifically; was that because somebody said, "Don't do it"?
Dr. HUMES. Now wait a minute, that wound was excised.
Dr. BADEN. The back wound?
Dr. HUMES. Yes, sir. The back of the neck, and there are microscopic slides of that wound.
Dr. BADEN. I see. The skin was taken out. And then was --
Dr. HUMES. It was probed.
Dr. BADEN. Was it opened up?
Dr. HUMES. It was not laid open.
Dr. BADEN. Now that was your decision as opposed to somebody else's decision?
Dr. HUMES. Yes. It was mine. (101)
- The committee also investigated the possibility that the Kennedy family may have unduly influenced the pathologists once the autopsy began, possibly by transmitting messages by telephone into the autopsy room. Brig. Gen. Godfrey McHugh, then an Air Force military aide to the President, informed the committee that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Kenneth O'Donnell, a presidential aide, frequently telephoned him during the autopsy from the 17th floor suite. (102) McHugh said that on occasions, Kennedy and O'Donnell asked only to speak with him.(103) They inquired about the results, why the autopsy was consuming so much time, and the need for speed and efficiency, while still performing the required examinations. (104) McHugh said he forwarded this information to the pathologists, never stating or implying that the doctors should limit the autopsy in any manner, but merely reminding them to work as efficiently and quickly as possible.(105)
- While General McHugh or others may not have stated or implied that the doctors should limit the autopsy, their remarks no doubt caused consternation, although they may not have substantively affected the autopsy. The following passage explains this view:
- Dr. HUMES. There were no questions but we were being urged to expedite this examination as quickly as possible, that members of the President's family were in the building, that they refused to leave the premises until the President's body was ready to be moved; and similar remarks of the vein which we made every effort to put aside and approach the investigation in as scientific a manner as we could. But did it harass us and cause difficulty--of course it did, how could it not!
Dr. BOSWELL. I don't think it interfered with the manner in which we did the autopsy.
Dr. HUMES. I don't either. (106)
* There was a telephone in the autopsy room.
- Dr. Boswell further stated that there were no constraints. (107) Dr. Ebersole, the radiologist, likewise informed the committee that "to the best of my knowledge there were absolutely no restrictions and it was Dr. Humes' decision as to the extent of the autopsy."(108) Stringer, one of the medical photographers, also could not recall anyone issuing any orders. He stated specifically that while McHugh manifested a great deal of emotion, he did not issue any orders. (110)
- This evidence indicates that:
- Commander Humes had full authority to perform a complete autopsy, and indeed, that Admiral Galloway told him to do so;
- Commander Humes, not anyone else, made any decision that resulted in a deviation from a complete forensic autopsy; and
- The remarks of others to expedite the autopsy were probably the reason for the decision to perform a less than complete autopsy.
- In a committee telephone interview with Admiral Osborne, another issue arose. He stated that he thought he recalled seeing an intact slug roll out from the clothing of President Kennedy and onto the autopsy table when personnel opened the casket and removed the clothing from the body of the President. (111)
- The committee reviewed thoroughly all documents and recontacted those persons who moved the body of the President from the casket onto the autopsy table and then prepared the body for examination. Paul K. O'Connor, who along with James Jenkins, had the duty of preparing the body for the autopsy, said the body had arrived at about 8 p.m. and was wrapped in a body bag, the head in a sheet. (112) O'Connor said he assisted in unwrapping the sheet(113) and could not recall any foreign object, specifically a missile, being discovered during the autopsy or while unwrapping the sheets. (114)
- Jenkins likewise said he could not recall any foreign objects being discovered or discussed and specifically could not recall any missile or fragments of a missile falling out onto the autopsy table or floor. (115)
- Throughout the committee's investigation, no one had ever mentioned the discovery of a missile in Bethesda Naval Hospital. The only bullet recovered was the one discovered at Parkland Memorial Hospital.
- Following this investigation, the committee recontacted Admiral Osborne and informed him that the body of the President had not arrived in any clothes, but was wrapped in sheets,(116) and that no one else recalled anything about the discovery of a missile.(117) Admiral Osborne then said that he could not be sure he actually did see a missile and that it was possible the FBI and Secret Service only spoke about the discovery of a missile. He did say he was positive only one bullet was ever recovered, whether it was discovered at Bethesda Hospital or Parkland Hospital. (118)
- On Saturday morning, November 23, Dr. Humes informed the committee that he fulfilled a religious commitment and then met with the other two autopsy pathologists in the late morning to discuss the preparation of the autopsy report. Dr. Humes said he then called Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas to speak with the doctors who had administered emergency treatment to President Kennedy.(120) Dr. Perry, one of the first physicians to see and treat the President, told the committee that Dr. Humes called him twice, separated by about a 30-minute interval. (121) During the first call, Dr. Perry told Dr. Humes that due to the President's failure to breathe, he had determined a tracheostomy was necessary, then or never, and therefore made a transverse incision straight through the bullet wound in the anterior aspect of the neck at approximately the second or third tracheal ring. The second call involved a discussion of chest incisions made on the President at Parkland. (123)
- As a result of these telephone calls, Dr. Humes concluded that the missile which had entered the upper back had traversed the body and exited in the anterior portion of the neck,(124) although he had not observed the remains of any such hole during his examination of the body.
- Following the telephone calls with Dr. Perry, Dr. Humes went home and rested until late that afternoon and then proceeded to write the autopsy protocol (autopsy report).(125) He told the committee that after writing the report he destroyed the original notes because they were stained with the blood of the President and he felt it would be "inappropriate to retain [them] to turn in to anyone in that condition" (126)
- In preparing the autopsy protocol, Dr. Humes did not have access to the autopsy photographs or X-rays. (127) (This was also the case with respect to his Warren Commission testimony.)
- After completion of the autopsy protocol(128). Dr. Humes hand-carried the document to the Office of the White House Physician at approximately 6 p.m. that evening.(129) The general conclusions were that:
- One missile entered in the rear of the skull of the President and exited in the front of the skull; and
- One missile entered the back of the President and exited in the front of the neck. (130)
- The pathologists completed a supplementary report approximately weeks later and delivered it to the White House Physician on December 6, 1963. (131)
PART III. CONCLUSIONS
- The two major issues connected with the autopsy are its scope--full versus partial--and the competency with which the prosectors performed it. Despite allegations that the Kennedy family or other authorities ordered a partial or limited autopsy, evidence shows that the pathologists were given authority to perform a complete autopsy. The autopsy was not complete, however, according to established medicolegal standards. A combination of strong Kennedy family desires to finish the autopsy quickly, a military environment that hindered independent action, a lack of experience in forensic pathology among the prosectors, and a lack of established jurisdictional and procedural guidelines all contributed to the pathologists' failure to take certain measures essential to the completion of a thorough medicolegal autopsy and to competently perform the autopsy.
- The measures essential to a thorough medicolegal autopsy that the pathologists failed to take are
- Conducting the autopsy in an atmosphere free from the presence of individuals not necessary to any medical or investigative aspects of the autopsy. Aside from the Secret Service and FBI agents, it was not necessary for other military personnel to be in the autopsy room who were not performing a medical function.
- Consulting the Parkland Hospital doctors who administered emergency treatment to the President before initiating the autopsy. According to the medical panel of the committee, such consultation is normal procedure.
- Acquiring the assistance of an experienced pathologist engaged in the full-time practice of forensic pathology, as opposed to the consulting capacity Dr. Finck possessed. Such experienced assistance might have prevented several errors.
- Recording precisely the locations of the wounds according to anatomical landmarks routinely used in forensic pathology. The medical panel of the committee stated that the reference points used to document the location of the wound in the upper back--the mastoid process and the acromion--are movable points and should not have been used.
- Dissecting the wound that traversed the upper back of the President. The medical panel stated that probing a wound with a finger is hardly sufficient; to ascertain the actual track, the wound must be dissected.
- Examining all organs and documenting the results of such examinations. Although the pathologists did examine most organs, they made no reference to the adrenal glands, part of the anatomy routinely examined during the autopsy.
- Sectioning the brain coronally. Such documentation could have provided additional insight into the destructive impact of the missile in the brain.
- The committee recognizes that the inadequacies of the autopsy originated in part from the unique and hectic circumstances surrounding the death of the President, and not with any one source. Whatever the cause, however, these inadequacies have continued to feed the confusion and mistrust so long associated with the autopsy of President Kennedy and have reduced the effectiveness of the committee's review of the medical evidence. These problems reinforce the necessity for establishing substantive and procedural guidelines to be followed in the performance of any autopsy stemming from the assassination of a national political official.
(1) Letter from Capt. H.P. Miller, Medical Service Corps, U.S. Navy, Director, Administrative Services, to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Sept. 22, 1977 (JFK Document No. 002590).
(2) Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), p. 53 (hereinafter "Warren Report").
(3) Id. at p. 54.
(5) Interview of Malcolm O. Perry, Jan. 11, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 2 (JFK Document No. 006186). See addendum I of sec. V of this volume for this document.
(6) Testimony of Robert Nelson McClelland, Hearings before the President's Commission on the assassination of President Kennedy (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), vol. VI, p. 33 (hereinafter McClelland testimony, VI Warren Commission hearings, p. 33).
(7) Testimony of William Kemp Clark, VI Warren Commission hearings, p. 20.
(8) Warren Report, p. 55.
(9) The Parkland doctors were providing emergency treatment to the President. Once the President died, their functions ceased. Further, after the President died, they believed it was beyond the scope of their duties to conduct any further action. (Warren Report, pp. 55-56).
(10) Id at p. 56.
(11) Warren Report, p. 59.
(12) FBI report, Bureau No. BA 89-30, Nov. 26, 1963, p. 3 (JFK Document No. 013618) (hereinafter cited as Sibert and O'Neill).
(13) Testimony of Dr. James J. Humes, Sept. 7, 1978, hearings before the Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. House of Representatives, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979), vol. I, p. 323ff (hereinafter Humes testimony, Sept. 7, 1978, I HSCA-JFK hearings, 323ff).
(14) Id. at p. 324.
(15) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 1. See also staff interview of James W. Sibert, Aug. 29, 1977, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 1 (JFK Document No. 002191 ).
(16) Ibid., Sibert interview.
(17) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 1.
(18) Ibid. (19) Ibid.
(20) Warren Report, p. 59.
(21) Ibid. See also Humes testimony, II Warren Commission hearings, p. 349. Sibert and O'Neill, p. 1.
(23) Staff interview of J. Thornton Boswell, Aug. 16, 1977, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 1 (JFK document No. 002071).
(24) Deposition of Pierre A. Finck, Mar. 11, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, pp. 70--71 (JFK Document No. 013617).
(25) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 3.
(26) Id. at p. 2.
(27) The Sibert and O'Neill report documented that Finck arrived after the autopsy had begun. Sibert and O'Neill, p. 2.
(28) The Sibert and O'Neill report documented that O'Leary only remained in the autopsy room for a short time. Sibert and O'Neill, p. 2.
(29) Staff interview of Richard A. Lipsey, Jan. 18, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 014469).
(30) Outside contact report, Samuel Bird, Feb. 17, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 005541).
(31) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 3.
(32) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 1.
(34) Humes testimony, II Warren Commission hearings, 349.
(35) Outside contact report, James Curtiss Jenkins, June 27, 1978, Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 1 (JFK Document No. 009526).
(36) Staff interview of Francis X. O'Neill, Jan. 10, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassination, p. 3 (JFK Document 006185).
(38) See reference 15, Sibert interview, p. 5.
(39) Outside contact report, John Thomas Stringer, Aug. 17, 1977, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 13 (JFK Document No. 003070).
(40) Staff interview of John Thomas Stringer, Aug. 17, 1977, House Select Committee on Assassinations, P. 17 (JFK Document No. 002070). See also affidavit of Dr. George C. Burkley, Nov. 28, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 2, in which Dr. Burkley said that the autopsy was to be a complete autopsy, with no limitations.
(41) Outside contact report, Capt. David Osborne, June 20, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 018628).
(42) Affidavit of Francis X. O'Neill, Nov. 8, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 4 (JFK Document No. 013073). See reference 36, O'Neill interview, p. 3 (JFK Document No. 006185). See also p. 7, O'Neill affidavit, where he stated that he prepared this memorandum.
(43) See reference 41.
(44) Staff interview of Adm. Calvin B. Galloway, May 17, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 1 (JFK Document No. 009409).
(45) Humes testimony, I HSCA-JFK hearings, p. 324.
(46) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 3.
(47) See reference 40, Stringer interview.
(48) Outside contact report, Floyd Albert Riebe, Apr. 20, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 007339).
(49) See reference 40, Stringer interview, p. 10.
(50) Id. at p. 11. Also blank letterhead memorandum, Nov. 22, 1963 (JFK Document No. 002504).
(51) The original number of film exposures listed on the receipt was in error and was changed by crossing out the typed notation and writing in the correct number. See U.S. Secret Service document, Dec. 5, 1963, which reflects this change.
(52) See reference 40, Stringer interview, p. 10.
(53) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 3.
(54) Deposition of James H. Ebersole, Mar. 11, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 4 (JFK Document No. 013617).
(56) Id. at p. 9.
(58) Receipt from Comdr. John H. Ebersole, MC, USN, acting chief of radiology, USNH, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., to Roy H. Kellerman, agent, U.S. Secret Service, Nov. 22, 1968 (JFK Document No. 002504).
(59) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 4.
(60) Ibid., p. 3.
(61) Humes testimony, II Warren Commission hearings, 363.
(62) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 3. In their report, Sibert and O'Neill also stated that surgery had been performed on the head area prior to the arrival of the body at Bethesda Naval Hospital. The committee concludes that this report was in error. In an affidavit to the committee, Sibert acknowledged that the statement that head surgery was performed was determined "not to be correct following detailed inspection." See affidavit of James Sibert, Oct. 24, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 012806).
(63) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 3.
(64) Autopsy protocol of President John F. Kennedy, Naval Medical School, Bethesda, Md., autopsy No. A63-272, Nov. 22, 1963, p. 4 (hereinafter cited as autopsy protocol).
(65) Id. at p. 3.
(67) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 3.
(68) Ibid., p. 5.
(69) See a copy of the receipt which is attached to the affidavit of Chester H. Boyers, Dec. 4, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 014834).
(70) Ibid., Boyers affidavit, p. 3. See also staff interview of Chester H. Boyers, April 25, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Documents Nos. 013614 and 014462).
(73) See reference 42, O'Neill affidavit, p. 5, and reference 62, Sibert interview, p. 5. See also reference 36, p. 5; and reference 38, Sibert interview, p. 4.
(74) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 4.
(75) Autopsy protocol, p. 3.
(76) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 4.
(77) Humes testimony, II Warren Commission hearings, 363.
(78) See reference 44, p. 2.
(79) Autopsy protocol; supplemental autopsy report of President John F. Kennedy, Dec. 6, 1963 (hereinafter cited as supplemental autopsy report).
(80) Humes testimony, II Warren Commission hearings, 363. See also interview of Dr. James J. Humes, Aug. 17, 1977, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 7 (JFK Document No. 003070).
(81) See reference 40, Stringer interview, p. 40.
(82) Interview of Dr. George C. Burkley, Aug. 17, 1977, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 4 (JFK Document No. 003070).
(83) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 4.
(84) See reference 62, Sibert affidavit, p. 4; and reference 15, Sibert interview, p. 4.
(85) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 4.
(87) Id. at p. 5.
(88) Autopsy protocol, p. 4.
(89) Deposition of John H. Ebersole, Mar. 11, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 5 (JFK Document No. 013617).
(90) Autopsy protocol, p. 4.
(91) Ibid.; Letter from Pierre A. Finck to Brig. Gen. J.M. Blumberg, MC, USA, director, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Feb. 1, 1965, p. 2.
(92) See reference 80, Humes interview, p. 7; and Burkley interview, p. 4.
(93) Humes testimony, II Warren Commission hearings, 349.
(94) Dr. Humes emphasized in his open session testimony before the committee that there was one and only one bullet wound to the hack of the President's head that it entered in the rear and that it exited in the front. Humes testimony, Sept. 7, 1978. I HSCA JFK hearings. See also Sibert and O'Neill, p. 5.
(95) See reference 44, Galloway interview, p. 2. But see staff interview with Richard A. Lipsey, Jan. 18, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 014469), in which Lipsey stated that he recalled the doctors concluding that three missiles struck the President from behind. Lipsey said that one bullet entered the upper back of the President and did not exit; one entered in the rear of the head and exited the throat; and one entered and exited in the right, top portion of the head, causing a massive head wound.
The committee agreed that President Kennedy suffered a wound in the upper back, a wound in the rear of the head, a massive wound in the top right side of the head, and a wound in the throat. Lipsey was wrong, however, in concluding that three shots struck the President and mistaken if he believed the pathologists reached such a conclusion. Only two shots struck the President. One entered the upper back and exited the throat. Another entered the rear of the head and exited on the top, right side of the head, causing the massive defect.
Lipsey apparently formulated his conclusions based on observations and not on the conclusions of the doctors. In this regard, he believed the massive defect in the head represented an entrance and exit when it was only an exit. He also concluded that the entrance in the rear of the head corresponded to an exit in the neck. This conclusion could not have originated with the doctors because during the autopsy they believed the neck defect only represented a tracheostomy incision. Lipsey did properly relate the preliminary conclusion of the doctors during the autopsy that the entrance wound in the upper back had no exit. The doctors later determined that this missile had exited through the throat. Thus, although Lipsey's recollection of the number of defects to the body and the corresponding locations are correct, his conclusions are wrong and are not supported by any other evidence.
(96) Humes testimony, Sept. 7, 1978, I HSCA-JFK hearing.
(97) Testimony of Roy H. Kellerman, II Warren Commission hearings, 100.
(98) Deposition of Pierre A. Finck, Mar. 11, 1978. House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 110 (JFK Document No. 013617).
(99) Id. at p. 128.
(100) Id. at p. 76.
(101) Interview of James J. Humes, Sept. 16, 1977, HSCA, p. 67 (JFK Document No. 013616), reprinted as part of Addendum I to this report.
(102) Interview of Gen. Godfrey McHugh, May 11, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 4.
(106) See reference 101, Humes interview, Sept. 16, 1977, p. 66.
(107) Id. at p. 73.
(108) See reference 89, Ebersole deposition, p. 10.
(109) See reference 40, Stringer interview, p. 13.
(111) See reference 41.
(112) Outside contact report, Paul K. O'Connor, June 28, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 013613).
(115) See reference 35.
(116) Sibert and O'Neill, p. 3; see reference 112; see also reference 35.
(117) See reference 41.
(119) See reference 101, Humes interview, Sept. 16, 1977 p. 49.
(121) Interview of Dr. Malcolm Perry, Jan. 11, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, 9.8 (JFK Document No. 006370).
(122) Id. at p. 2.
(123) Id. at p. 8.
(124) Autopsy protocol, p. 6.
(125) See reference 101, Humes interview, Sept. 16, 1977 p. 51.
(126) Ibid. See also Humes testimony, Sept. 7, 1978 I HSCA-JFK hearings. p. 330.
(127) Ibid., Humes testimony, p. 331.
(128) Admiral Galloway instructed Elsie B. Closson, his secretary, to type the autopsy report and the supplemental report because he believed he needed a typist with a top secret security clearance. See outside contact report, Elsie B. Closson, May 4, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 008135 ).
(129) See reference 101, Humes Interview, Sept. 16, 1977, p. 22.
(130) Autopsy protocol, p. 16.
(131) Supplemental autopsy report.
SECTION III. CHAIN OF CUSTODY OF THE MATERIALS ACQUIRED DURING THE AUTOPSY
PART I. INTRODUCTION
- Several of the physical materials--microscopic tissue slides, tissue sections of organs, bone fragments, and the brain--that the autopsy pathologists had acquired during the autopsy and retained for future examination, are unaccounted for today. The committee decided a thorough investigation into the medical evidence of the assassination required a diligent effort to locate and obtain these "missing" materials. Consequently, the committee traced the chain of custody of all materials (the "missing" physical items plus other material) derived from the autopsy, contacted all persons directly or indirectly associated with such custody, and investigated other possible theories regarding their fate.
- Despite these efforts, the committee was unable to determine precisely what happened to the materials. Circumstantial evidence indicates however, that it is possible that Robert F. Kennedy either destroyed or otherwise rendered them inaccessible.
PART II. CHAIN OF CUSTODY OF THE AUTOPSY MATERIALS
- The disposition of the autopsy photographs, X-rays, and physical materials immediately following the autopsy was as follows:
1) Photographs and X-rays
- At the conclusion of the autopsy on the evening of November 1963, Capt. John H. Stover, Jr. the commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Medical School, gave Secret Service Agent Roy H. Kellerman all the photographic film that the medical photographers had exposed during the autopsy. (1) Additionally, Comdr. John H. Ebersole, the acting chief of radiology, gave Kellerman all of the X-ray film. (2) In the early morning hours of November 23, Kellerman delivered this material to Robert I. Bouck, Special Agent in Charge of the Protective Research Division, U.S. Secret Service, which is located the Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C. (the White House). (3)
- On or about November 27, Bouck instructed James K. Fox of the Secret Service to make arrangements with the Naval Processing Center located in Anacostia, Md. to process both the black and white and the color film.(4) Fox, along with Robert L. Knudsen, Mrs. Kennedy's personal photographer, proceeded to Anacostia that same day.(5) At the Naval Center, Lt. V. Madonnia of the U.S. Navy processed both black and white negatives and color positives. (6) Fox returned the materials to Bouck the same day. (7) A few days later, under more instructions from Bouck, Fox made black and white prints from the negatives in the Secret Service laboratory, located at the Protective Research Division, Executive Office Building. (8)
- On December 9, Bouck directed Fox to take the color positive back to the Navy photographic laboratory and supervise the processing of enlarged color prints. (9) Fox returned all the color prints and positives to Bouck that evening. (10)
- Bouck and Edith Ducan, his administrative assistant, kept the photographic film and the. X-ray films in a combination lock-sere file in the Protective Research Division of the Secret Service in the Executive: Office Building, Washington, D.C. (11) The combination to the safe was known only to Bouck and Duncan. (12) From the early morning of November 23 until the transfer of the materials from the Executive Office Building in April 1965, the Secret Service maintained custody of the X-ray and photographic films.(13)
2) Physical specimens retained during the autopsy or discovered at the scene of the assassination.
- On the day after the assassination, at about 5:30 p.m. William Allen Harper, a student at Texas Christian University, was taking photographs of the Dealey Plaza area. (14) when he discovered a piece of bone near the scene of the assassination. Harper informed the FBI that he took the bone to his uncle, Dr. Jack C. Harper, and that they both then went to Dr. A.B. Cairns, chief of pathology at Methodist Hospital, Dallas Tex. (15) Dr. Cairns believed the bone to be a piece of human skull. (16) William Harper said he then gave the specimen to Special Agent Anderson of the FBI on November 25.(17)
- Adm. George G. Burkley, the physician to the President, noted in an unaddressed memorandum on Nov. 27, 1963, that at 5:15 p.m. that day he received a small Neiman-Marcus box about 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches containing material which "had been discussed previously" with the FBI.(18) Dr. Burkley also wrote that this material would be deposited with the commanding officer of the Bethesda Naval Hospital for retention with other materials of a similar nature. (19)
- The evidence indicates that the Neiman-Marcus box contained the bone fragment William Harper discovered. First, the dimensions of the box and the Harper bone fragment (2 1/4 by 2 1/2 inches) correspond. Second, the dates when William Harper gave the bone fragment to authorities and when Admiral Burkley referred to the Neiman Marcus box in his memorandum are just 2 days apart. Third, William Harper gave the fragment to an FBI agent, and Admiral Burkley said the contact for receiving the box was the FBI. (20) Fourth, Admiral Burkley referred to the contents of the box as a specimen.(21) Consequently, it is logical that the Neiman-Marcus box contained the Harper bone fragment.
- In the same memorandum, Dr. Burkley also commented that Bouck had given him a specimen of bone, apparently on the same day, that was allegedly found in the parkway near the scene of the assassination. (22) Dr. Burkley noted that both of the above specimens were to be turned over to the Bethesda Naval Hospital for examination, analysis, and retention until other disposition was directed. (23) The committee does not know if this occurred.
- As mentioned earlier, the pathologists retained various sections organs as well as the entire brain after the autopsy for subsequent microscopic examination. (24) In this regard, Captain Stover informed the committee that the pathologists placed the brain in a formaldehyde solution in a stainless steel bucket and then deposited this in the closet of Admiral Galloway. (25) Stover also stated that the smaller portions of organs were retained in individual jars and then probably placed in the pathology department safe.(26) Dr. Burkley supported this information by informing the committee that he directed the "fixation and retention of the brain for future study? (27)
- The pathologists documented the results of the microscopic (gross) examination in a supplemental report. (28) Although the brain was not coronally sectioned, that is, sliced like a loaf of bread, the doctors did remove some sections. (29) Chester Boyers, one of the Navy personnel involved in the microscopic examination, informed the committee in an affidavit that he recalled preparing for analysis sections of organs on November 24, 1963, and the brain on December 2, 1963. (30) Neither Captain Stover nor Chester Boyers could recall what happened to these materials after this examination other than that Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell, two of the autopsy pathologists, maintained possession of them at Bethesda Naval Hospital.(3) Stover a]so said that Dr. Burkley had control over the disposition of the materials. (32)
- In an affidavit and interview with Dr. Burkley, he informed the committee that shortly after this supplemental examination of the organs and brain, he directed the Bethesda Naval Hospital to transfer all the physical autopsy material in its possession to Bouck at the Executive Office Building. (33) Dr. Burkley stated further that Captain Stover gave him the brain in a white granite or stainless steel bucket and that he personally transferred it to the White House where it was placed in a locked Secret Service file cabinet.(34)
- Bouck corroborated this transfer in a memorandum dated April 26, 1965, in which he asserted that:
[s]hortly after the assassination of President Kennedy, Adm. George C. Burkley delivered to this section certain specimens, photographs, and documents relating to the autopsy.(35)
- The evidence indicates, therefore, that soon after the autopsy of President Kennedy, all autopsy-related material was transferred from Bethesda Naval Hospital to the Executive Office Building where they were maintained in the custody of Bouck and under the control of Admiral Burkley. Specifically, this material included the autopsy photographs and X-rays, the bone fragments found in Dallas after the assassination, and the tissue sections of organs and brain. The Secret Service maintained custody of all of this material at all times until its transfer to the National Archives in 1965.
PART III. SUBSEQUENT HISTORY OF MATERIALS
- On April 22, 1965, then Senator Robert F. Kennedy sent a letter to Dr. Burkley directing him to transfer in person the autopsy material being kept at the White House to Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln, the personal secretary of President Kennedy, for safekeeping at the National Archives. (36) The letter also said that Mrs. Lincoln was being instructed that the material was not to be released to anyone without Robert Kennedy's written permission and approval. (37) This demonstrates Robert Kennedy's firm control over the disposition of the materials.
- In response to this directive, Dr. Burkley notified the Protective Research Division of Senator Kennedy's request.(38) Before transferring the material, Bouck, Burkley and other Secret Service personnel carefully inventoried all the items present. (39) This was the first official inventory of these materials.
- On April 26, 1965, Burkley and Bouck transferred the materials to Evelyn Lincoln. (40) A letter from Burkley to Lincoln documenting the exchange included the inventory, (41) which documented that a stainless steel container 7 by 8 inches in diameter, containing gross material was transferred. (42) On the last page of the inventory, Lincoln wrote: "Received, April 26, 1965, in room 409, National Archives, Washington, D.C., from Dr. Burkley and Robert Bouck."(43) At the time of the transfer, the items now missing, which are those enumerated under item No. 9 of the inventory, (44) were allegedly present.
- In his testimony before the committee, Bouck stated that he is quite positive all the autopsy-related material that came into his possession was given to Mrs. Lincoln(45) at the time of the 1965 transfer. He also stated that he was uncertain whether Dr. Burkley had custody of the brain, but that if the brain was part of the autopsy materials in the custody of the Secret Service, it was transported to the National Archives. (46)
- Dr. Burkley clarified this issue, saying that the stainless steel container mentioned in the inventory held the brain and that he saw the bucket in April 1965, when he and Bouck transferred the autopsy materials to Lincoln. (47) Since this transfer, Dr. Burkley maintains that he has had no further knowledge of or association with these materials. (48)
- Mrs. Lincoln was not an employee of the National Archives during this period; she was only assisting in the transfer of the official papers and items of President Kennedy and in this capacity occupied an office in the National Archives. (49) Consequently, although the autopsy materials were in the confines of the building the National Archives did not have authority or responsibility for them. (50)
- The next documented transaction involving the materials transferred to Mrs. Lincoln occurred on October 29, 1966, when Mr. Burke Marshall, on behalf of the executors of the John F. Kennedy estate, sent a letter to Lawson B. Knott, the Administrator of the General Services Administration, outlining an agreement for formal transfer of materials related to the autopsy to the U.S. Government.(51)
- Pursuant to this agreement, which constituted a deed of gift, Burke Marshall met with various representatives of the Government on October 31, 1966, in room 6-W-3 of the National Archives to transfer formally the materials related to the autopsy. (52) These materials were contained in a locked footlocker for which Ms. Angela Novello, the personal secretary to Robert F. Kennedy, produced a key.(53) Others in attendance for the transfer were William H. Brewster, special assistant to the general counsel GSA, who unlocked and opened the footlocker; Harold F. Reis, executive assistant to the Attorney General Robert H. Bahruer Archivist of the United States; Herman Kahn, Assistant Archivist for Presidential libraries and James Rhoads, the Deputy Archivist of the United States. After Brewster opened the footlocker, Marshall and departed.(55) Bahmer, Reis, Rhoads, Kahn, and Brewster then removed all the material from the footlocker and inspected it. (56)
- The footlocker contained a carbon copy of the letter from Robert F. Kennedy to Burkley on April 22, 1965, and the original letter from Burkley to Lincoln on April 26, 1965, which also listed on the itemized inventory list the materials present at that transfer. (57)
- Upon inspection, the officials realized that the footlocker did not contain any of the material listed under item No. 9 of the inventory. (58) This material included:
- 1 plastic box, 9 by 6 1/2 by 1 inches, paraffin blocks of tissue sections.
- 1 plastic box containing paraffin blocks of tissue sections plus 35 slides.
- A third box containing 84 slides.
- 1 stainless steel container, 7 by 8 inches in diameter, containing gross material.
- 3 wooden boxes, each 7 by 3 1/2 by 1 1/4 inches, containing 58 slides of blood smears taken at various times during President Kennedy's lifetime. (59)
- The last date these items were accounted for was the April 26, 1965 transfer of the autopsy materials to Lincoln.
- The committee contacted Lincoln to determine what happened to the materials in item No. 9, the missing materials, following their documented transfer to her in April 1965. She informed the committee of an interview and subsequent affidavit that Burkley and Bouck brought her some materials in the spring of 1965 that Dr. Burkley identified as being related to the autopsy of the President. (60) She recalled that these materials arrived in a box or boxes, and that within 1 day she obtained a flat trunk or footlocker from the Archives personnel to which she transferred the materials. (61) She added that these materials were kept in a
- Mrs. Lincoln stated that within approximately 1 month, Robert F. Kennedy telephoned her and informed her that he was sending Angela Novello, his personal secretary, to move the footlocker that Dr. Burkley had transferred. (63) She believed they wanted the materials moved to another part of the Archives, presumably where Robert F. Kennedy was storing other materials. (64) Angela Novello soon came to her office with Herman Kahn, Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries, and one or more of his deputies, to take the trunk.(65) Lincoln believes she had Novello sign a receipt for the materials, which was Lincoln's routine practice, but she is uncertain where it would be today.(66) Lincoln also said that she gave Novello both keys to the trunk. (67) She added that the trunk was never opened while it was in her office. (68)
- Lincoln had no further direct contact with the material, but did state that after the assassination of Robert Kennedy, she began to wonder what happened to it. (69) Consequently, she contacted Kenneth O'Donnell, former aide to President Kennedy, to make sure the family was aware of its existence. Mrs. Lincoln said it was her understanding that Mr. O'Donnell then called Senator Edward Kennedy, subsequently calling her back to tell her everything was under control. (70)
- Because of Lincoln's statement and other reports that Novello produced the key to the footlocker in December 1966, the committee interviewed Novello and also obtained an affidavit. (71) She informed the committee that she had no recollection of handling a footlocker, of possessing a key or keys to such a footlocker, or of handling any of the autopsy materials. (72)
- The committee also contacted Burke Marshall and Senator Edward Kennedy to determine their knowledge of the missing materials. Senator Kennedy indicated that he did not know what happened to the materials, or who last had custody of them. (73)
- While Burke Marshall also maintained that he had no actual knowledge of the disposition of the materials, he said it was his speculative opinion that Robert Kennedy obtained and disposed of these materials himself, without informing anyone else.(74) Marshall said Robert Kennedy was concerned that these materials would be placed on public display in future years in an institution such as the Smithsonian and wished to dispose of them to eliminate such a possibility.(75) Marshall emphasized that he does not believe anyone other than Robert Kennedy would have known what happened to the materials and is certain that obtaining or locating these materials is no longer possible. (76)
- Since Marshall offered the opinion without any vertification, the committee continued to search for the missing materials and to examine any issue related to the autopsy materials in general. The committee interviewed Harold F. Reis, Executive Assistant to the Attorney General who attended the 1966 transfer of the autopsy materials to the National Archives, as well as Ramsey Clark, the Attorney General in 1966, to determine their knowledge of the missing materials. Clark stated that he initiated the action to acquire the materials transferred in the October 1966 deed of gift pursuant to Public Law 89-318, enacted on November 2, 1965. (77) This law provided that the acquisition by the United States of certain items of evidence pertaining to the assassination of President Kennedy had to be completed within the year.(78) When Clark learned the time limit for obtaining the evidence was approaching, he contacted Robert. Kennedy, who was not sympathetic to the Government's need to acquire the autopsy material.(79) Rather heated negotiations ensued between Clark and Burke Marshall, the Kennedy family representative, which resulted in the October 29, 1966 agreement constituting the deed of gift. (80) Clark stated that he had only requested transfer of the autopsy photographs and X-rays and did not recall any discussions with Robert Kennedy about any other autopsy materials.(81) Consequently, the brain and the tissue segments were not an issue in the procedures and negotiations during the October 1966 transfer. The committee could not ascertain if the physicial specimens were ever discussed in the negotiations, what type of approval Robert Kennedy gave for transforming the materials, or what procedure was employed to separate the photographs and X-rays from the material now missing.
- The next reference to the missing materials and the other autopsy materials in the custody of the National Archives occurred in 1968. Ramsey Clark, the Attorney. General, arranged for an independent review of the autopsy evidence by a group of pathologists-commonly referred to as the Clark panel--as a result of growing skepticism concerning the assassination and Warren Commission investigation. (82) In a memorandum to the files on February 13,1969, Thomas J. Kelley, the Assistant Director of the Secret Service, reflected on the report of the Clark panel, in which the physicians had commented that the materials they reviewed were included on the inventory list that accompanied the letter from Burkley to Lincoln on April 26, 1965. (83) Kelley asserted that this reference to the autopsy materials by the Clark panel physicians was phrased in this manner because the doctors did not have access to the materials listed as comprising item No. 9 on the inventory list. (84) The memorandum also noted that after discovering in October 1966 that these items were missing, Archives personnel conducted a careful search but could not determine their location. (85)
- After discussing the "missing" materials with Harry. R. Van Cleve, Jr., General Counsel to the General Services Administration, and agreeing that they should attempt to ascertain their disposition, Kelley said he would contact Dr. Burkley. (86) Kelley's memorandum related the following:
[T]hat after turning all of this material over to Mrs. Lincoln [on April 26] [Burkley] never saw nor heard anything about its disposition, and that he was surprised to hear that it was not with the remainder of the material he turned over to Mrs. Lincoln. After discussing the problem, Dr. Burkley offered to call Mrs. Lincoln. He did this in my presence and Mrs. Lincoln told him that all of the material he turned over to her was placed in a trunk or footlocker; that it was locked, and that to her knowledge it was never opened nor the contents disturbed by her. She said, however, that sometime after its receipt all of the material concerning the assassination, with which she was working, was turned over to Angie Novello, Robert Kennedy's secretary. (87)
- The memorandum further related that Dr. Burkley told Kelley that Henry Giordano, a former White House driver, was working with Lincoln at the time of the transfer and was then employed in Senator Kennedy's office. (88)
- After contacting Van Cleve again and advising him of the contact with Burkley, Kelley related the following:
* * * further advised him that, in my opinion, we should not contact Giordano. He agreed with this and stated he felt that the inquiry would have to remain as it now stands; that perhaps we were borrowing trouble in exploring it any further, and assured me that the Archivist had made a thorough search of all of the material on hand to make sure that the material in question had not been received by the Archivist at another time or under other circumstances.(89)
- Thus, the General Services Administration, which oversees the National Archives, decided not to pursue the search for the missing materials any further. The officials involved were apparently satisfied with knowing that the National Archives did not have any responsibility in their disappearance and did not wish to instigate trouble by pursuing any investigation.
- In 1971, a controversy, not directly involving the missing materials, arose over the chain of custody of the autopsy materials being stored in the National Archives and who should have access to them. John Nichols, a pathologist, began court proceedings in the Federal courts, challenging the agreement of October 29, 1966, which contains several restrictions limiting public access to the autopsy materials. (90) An issue raised by the suit was whether the Kennedy family ever had any legal right to control the autopsy materials at any time and, consequently, whether any deed of gift from the family which contained restrictions limiting public access could be valid.(91)
- Both the Federal District Court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the agreement. (92) The Court of appeals stated that the "letter of agreement of October 29, 1966 is a valid, binding agreement and that the restrictions imposed thereby are reasonable." (93)
- The legal department of the Congressional Research Service analyzed the Nichols case for the committee. The CRS noted that while the "Nichols decision represents only the determination of one circuit until the question is addressed elsewhere it would seem to represent the state of the law? "(94) The CRS stated that until the April 1965 transfer, the autopsy materials were "in Government bands with no intervening transfer of like having occurred."(95) It then observed:
At this point, however, as suggested in the November 4, 1966, Treasury Department memorandum * * * the transfer to the Kennedy family may have been interpreted by some as indication of U.S. recognition of Kennedy family rights in the items so transferred. At some point thereafter, either upon delivery to the Archives in 1965 or upon acceptance of the letter of gift of October 1966, the materials may be regarded as having been either (1) returned to their rightful owner, the United States Government, or (2) donated by properly executed deed of gift to the United States, thereby resulting in relinquishment of Kennedy famiIy rights in them. (96)
- The CRS ended by saying that two conclusions are irrefutable. First, the autopsy photographs and X-rays are now the property of the United States; and second, the letter of agreement between the Government and the Kennedy family remains enforceable. (97)
- The committee also interviewed Archives personnel to ascertain their present position regarding the missing materials. In response to committee requests, Trudy H. Peterson, Assistant to the Deputy Archivist of the United States, prepared a written statement. (98) In this document, Peterson noted that just prior to the October 1966 transfer of the materials to the Archives, the locked footlocker was brought to the National Archives building, although she does not specify from where. (99) This suggests that after Novello allegedly took the material from the office of Mrs. Lincoln, it may have been moved from the Archives building as opposed to only being moved to another part of the building as Mrs. Lincoln speculated. (100) Peterson also says that Robert Bahmer, the Archivist of the United States in 1966, believed that sometime before the transfer of the materials as a gift, Herman Kahn, the Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries supervised the acceptance of the footlocker, along with several other boxes of Robert Kennedy's materials, for courtesy storage in vault 6-W-3.(101) Peterson further stated that Herman Kahn, now dead, may have been the only Archives employee present for the transfer and that no record of delivery is available. (102)
- In response to a subsequent committee inquiry concerning Herman Kahn, Peterson stated that Kahn dealt with members and representatives of the Kennedy family during 1964-68 on numerous issues, including the courtesy storage of Robert Kennedy materials. (103) He was present for the October 1966 transfer and, according to Marion Johnson of the National Archives, was one of the original holders of the combination to the safe cabinet in which the autopsy material was stored. (104) Kahn also allegedly accompanied Novello when Novello apparently removed the autopsy materials from the office of Lincoln. (105)
- In response to another committee request, the Office of Presidential Libraries conducted a thorough but unsuccessful search of the office files for 1965-66 for documentation regarding the transfer of the autopsy materials to the physical custody of the Archives. (106) Additionally, two members of the Presidential Libraries staff who worked under Herman Kahn at that time stated in interviews and affidavits that they could not recall any pertinent details concerning the autopsy materials.(107) The staff of the John F. Kennedy Library also reviewed their files, with negative results. (108) Further, one Archives employee, Marion Johnson, Archivist, Office of the National Archives, National Archives and Records Service, remembered that he became aware of the footlocker containing the autopsy materials shortly before the October 31, 1966 transfer, but was not aware of its contents until after the transfer. (109) Additionally, at the request of the committee, on July 18, 1978, Clarence Lyons and Trudy Peterson conducted a thorough but unsuccessful search of the security storage vault for the tissue sections and the container of gross material. (110)
- Given these efforts and findings, it appears that Kahn and Novello removed the autopsy material from the office of Mrs. Lincoln shortly after April 1965. The material was then either kept in another part of the Archives, probably a Robert Kennedy courtesy storage area, or removed from the building to a location designated by Robert Kennedy. The circumstantial evidence would seem to indicate that Robert Kennedy then decided to retain possession of all physical specimen evidence and transferred only the autopsy photographs and X-rays to the Government. The committee has not been able to verify how or when the item No. 9 materials were removed from the other autopsy materials or what subsequently happened to them.
PART IV. ADDITIONAL EFFORTS TO ACQUIRE THE MISSING MATERIALS
- After failing to determine the fate of the missing materials by tracing that chain of custody, the committee investigated the possibility that someone had placed the missing autopsy items all of which were physical specimens taken from the body of President Kennedy, in the final grave on reinterment, on March 14, 1967. (111) The persons contacted who were present for the ceremony could not recall any additional package or material being placed in the grave. The Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery from 1951 to 1972 John Metzler, informed the committee that he attended the burial of the President and the reinterment. (112) At the time of burial, the coffin was placed in a "Wilbur" vault, which has a lid and vault that operate on a tongue and groove system. Tar is placed on the points of contact of the grooves to insure a tight fit and permanent seal.(113) Metzler witnessed the lowering of the lid and the sealing of the vault. (114) and believed that the only method to open the vault subsequently would be to break the lid on the main portion of the vault. (115)
- Metzler supervised the reinterment in 1967 and was present at all phases of the transfer: from the opening of the old site through the transfer by crane of the vault to the closing of the new site (116) Metzler said there was no way anyone could have placed anything in the. coffin or vault during the transfer without his seeing it. (117) Metzler also said that nothing could have been placed in the vault since 1963 because there was no indication of damage to the vault indicating any disturbance. (118) Metzler stated further that no one placed anything in the new or old gravesite besides the vault. (119)
- In the course of its investigation the committee contacted numerous other people in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the missing materials. They included:
- Dr. James J. Humes, autopsy pathologist;
- George Dalton, former White House aide and assistant to Mrs. Lincoln at the National Archives;
- Edith Duncan, administrative assistant to Robert Bouck, Protective Research Section, Secret Service;
- Joseph D. Giordano, former White House aide and assistant to Mrs. Lincoln at the National Archives;
- Frank Mankiewicz, former assistant to Robert F. Kennedy;
- Harry Van Cleve, former General Counsel of the General Services Administration;
- Lawrence O'Brien, former aide to President Kennedy;
- David Powers, former aide to President Kennedy;
- Ken Fienberg, aide to Senator Edward Kennedy;
- P.J. Costanzo, Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery;
- Dr. James Boswell, autopsy pathologist;
- Dr. Pierre Finck, autopsy pathologist;
- Adm. George Galloway, commanding officer of the National Naval Medical Center in 1963;
- Capt. John H. Stover, commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Medical School in 1963;
- Bruce Bromley, former Justice Department attorney who was called briefly from private practice to serve as counsel to the Clark panel;
- Carl Eardley, former Justice Department official;
- Harold Reis, former Justice Department official;
- Sol Lindenbaum, former Justice Department official;
- National Archives personnel; and
- Thomas J. Kelley, Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service.
PART V. CONCLUSIONS
- Despite these efforts, the committee was not able to determine precisely what happened to the missing materials. The evidence indicates that the materials were not buried with the body at reinterment. It seems apparent that Angela Novello did remove the footlocker containing to the materials from the office of Mrs. Lincoln at the direction of Robert Kennedy, and that Herman Kahn had knowledge of this transaction. After the removal from Lincoln's office, Robert Kennedy most likely acquired possession of or at least personal control over these materials. Burke Marshall's opinion that Robert Kennedy obtained and disposed of these items himself to prevent any future public display supports this theory.
- There are least two possible reasons why Robert Kennedy would not have retained the autopsy photographs and X-rays. First, the only materials retained were physical specimens from the body of his brother: Tissue sections, blood smear slides, and the container of gross material. He may have understandably felt more strongly about preventing the misuse of these physical materials than the photographs and X-rays. Second, the Justice Department under Ramsey Clark pushed hard to acquire the photographs and X-rays but did not request the physical materials. Even if Robert Kennedy had wished to prevent the release of all the autopsy materials, he was not in a position to do so when confronted with Justice Department demands.
- Consequently, although the committee has not been able to uncover any direct evidence of the fate of the missing materials, circumstantial evidence tends to show that Robert Kennedy either destroyed these materials or otherwise rendered them inaccessible.
(1) Letter from James J. Rowley, U.S. Secret Service, to Barefoot
Sanders, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Feb. 23, 1967, p. 1 (JFK Document No. 014879). See also the receipt from Capt. J.H. Stover, Jr., MC, USN, commanding officer, U.S. Naval Medical School, to Roy H. Kellerman, assistant special agent in charge, U.S. Secret Service, Nov. 22, 1963 (JFK Document No. 062504).
(3) Ibid., letter from Rowley to Sanders, p. 1.
(4) Memorandum from James K. Fox, photographer, intelligence division, U.S. Secret Service, Feb. 16, 1967 (JFK Document No. 014879).
(6) See reference 1, the letter from Rowley to Sanders, p. 2.
(7) See reference 4.
(8) See reference 1, letter from Rowley to Sanders, p. 2.
(9) Id. at p. 2.
(10) Id. at p. 3.
(11) Id. at p. 2.
(13) Id. at p. 1.
(14) FBI report, Nov. 25, 1963, Dallas Tex., file No. DL 89-43, p.
(15) FBI memorandum, June 14, 1964, Dallas, Tex., entitled "Lee Harvey
Oswald," pp. 2 and 5.
(16) Id. at p. 5.
(17) FBI report, Nov. 25, 1963, Dallas, Tex., file No. DL 89-43, p.
(18) Memorandum for file from G. G. Burkley, M.D., Nov. 27, 1963 (JFK
Document No. 002504).
(24) Autopsy protocol of President John F. Kennedy, U.S. Naval Medical
Center, Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Md., A63-272, Nov. 22, 1963.
(25) Outside contact report, John H. Stover, May 11, 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 013615).
(27) Affidavit of George G. Burkley, House Select Committee on Assassinations, Nov. 28, 1978, p. 3 (JFK Document No. 013416).
(28) Supplemental autopsy report of President John F. Kennedy, Bethesda Naval Hospital, A63-272, Dec. 6, 1963.
(29) Ibid. These sections were taken from tissue areas surrounding the missile path. The brain was not, however, sectioned coronally, a normal forensic autopsy procedure.
(30) Affidavit of Chester H. Bowers, Dec. 4, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassination, p. 4 (JFK Document No. 014834). See also outside contact report of Chester Boyers, Apr. 25, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 013614).
(31) Affidavit of Chester H. Boyers, Dec. 4, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 4 (JFK Document No. 014834): outside contact report of John H. Stover, May 11, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 013615).
(32) Outside contact report of John H. Stover, Nov. 28, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 013315).
(33) Affidavit of George G. Burkley, Nov. 28, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 3 (JFK Document No. 013416).
(35) Secret Service memorandum from Robert I. Bouck to the chief of the Protective Research Service, Apr. 26, 1965 (JFK Document No. 002504).
(36) Letter from Robert F. Kennedy to George G. Burkley, U.S. Senate letterhead, Apr. 22, 1965.
(38) See reference 1, letter from Rowley to Sanders, p. 3.
(40) Letter from George G. Burkley to Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln, White House letterhead, with attached inventory list, White House letterhead, Apr. 26, 1965.
(43) See reference 40, letter from Burkley to Lincoln.
(45) Executive session testimony of Robert I. Bouck, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 2).
(46) Id. at p. 74.
(47) Affidavit of George G. Burkley, Nov. 28, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 3 (JFK Document No. 013416).
(48) Outside contact report with George G. Burkley, Jan. 16, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 014877).
(49) Staff memorandum, House Select Committee on Assassinations, regarding a meeting with Trudy H. Peterson, National Archives staff, Sept. 6, 1977 (JFK Document No. 014878 ).
(50) The Archives did not obtain responsibility for or formal possession of the materials until the October 1966 transfer.
(51) Library of Congress memorandum. "Ownership of Certain Autopsy material Relating to President John F. Kennedy and the Validity of Agreements Restricting Access to Them," Sept. 17, 1977, p. 4 (JFK Document No. 002897)
(52) National Archives memorandum, "Inspection of Materials Relating to the Autopsy of President John F. Kennedy," Nov. 4, 1966, p. 1 (JFK Document No. 014876).
(57) Id. at p. 2.
(59) See reference 40, letter from Burkley to Lincoln.
(60) Staff interview of Evelyn Lincoln, July 5, 1978. House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 009823): affidavit of Evelyn Lincoln.
Oct. 16, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 012659).
(61) Ibid., Lincoln affidavit, p. 2.
(63) Id. at p. 3.
(67) Id. at p. 7.
(69) Id. at pp. 3-4.
(70) Id. at p. 4.
(71) Staff interview of Angela M. Novello, Aug. 29, 1977, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 002194); affidavit of Angela M. Novello. Oct. 30, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 013015).
(72) Ibid., Novello interview and Novello affidavit.
(73) Outside contact report, Senator Edward Kennedy, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 008514).
(74) Outside contact report, Burke Marshall, May 18, 1,978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 2 (JFK Document No. 008514).
(77)(TM) Outside contact report of Ramsey Clark, May 9, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 008159).
(78) See reference 51, Library of Congress memorandum, p. 2.
(79) See reference 77.
(82) 1968 panel review of photographs, X-ray films, documents and other evidence pertaining to the fatal wounding of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas, Tex. (the Clark panel report) (JFK Document No. 002430).
(83) U.S. Secret Service memorandum, Feb. 13, 1969, U.S. Secret Service No. C0-2-34030, p. 1.
(86) Id. at p. 2.
(87) Id at pp. 2-3.
(88) Id. at p. 3.
(90) See reference 51, Library of Congress memorandum, p. 7. See also Nichols v. United States, 325 F. Supp. 130 (D. Kansas, 1971), affirmed, 460 F. 2d 671 loth Cir., 1972 ), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 966 (1972).
(91) Ibid., Library of Congress memorandum, p. 7.
(93) Id. at p. 11.
(94) Id. at p. 12.
(97) Ibid., p. 13.
(98) Letter from Trudy H. Peterson, assistant to the deputy archivist of the United States, to G. Robert Blakey, Oct. 19, 1977, House Select Committee on Assassinations.
(99) Id. at p. 2.
(100) See reference 60, Lincoln interview, p. 3.
(101) See reference 98, Letter from Peterson to Blakey, p. 2.
(103) Id. at p. 3.
(105) See reference 60, Lincoln interview, p. 3.
(106) Letter from Trudy H. Peterson to Donald A. Purdy, Jr., June 26, 1978. House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 010317).
(107) Ibid.; see also affidavit of Evans Walker, Nov. 24, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 013274) and affidavit of
Katherine Davidson, Nov. 24, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 013273).
(108) See reference 106, letter from Peterson to Purdy.
(109) Affidavit of Marion Johnson, Nov. 27, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 013318).
(110) See reference 106, letter from Peterson to Purdy.
(111) Letter from R.J. Costanzo. Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (JFK Document No. 002282).
(112) Outside contact report of John Metzler, May 5, 1978, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 1 (JFK Document No. 008148).
(113) Id. at pp. 1-2.
(114) Id. at p. 1.
(115) Id. at p. 2.
(117) Id. at p. 3.
(119) Id. at p. 4.