BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK i
The Top Secret Second Autopsy of
President John F. Kennedy
Bjørn K. Gjerde
Copyright 2004 Bjørn K. Gjerde
SUMMARY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
IT’S ALL DONE WITH SMOKE AND MIRRORS: HOW THE AUTOPSY PHOTOGRAPHS WERE FORGED. . . . . . . 5
EVIDENCE OF A SECOND AUTOPSY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Evidence of a second autopsy from the autopsy photographs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Two sets of autopsy photographs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Sandra Kay Spencer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Dr. Humes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
The Secret Service, agent Fox and photographer Knudsen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Vince Madonia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Number of photographs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Who took the different sets of autopsy photographs? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
John T. Stringer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Floyd A. Riebe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Robert Knudsen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Evidence of a second autopsy from the testimonies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Richard L. Lipsey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Robert F. Karnei . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Jerrol F. Custer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Edward F. Reed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
John H. Ebersole . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
Paul K. O’Connor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Harold A. Rydberg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
Chester H. Boyers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
David Osborne . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
The autopsy pathologists, Drs. Humes, Boswell and Finck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
Thomas E. Robinson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
RECONSTRUCTING THE TWO AUTOPSIES. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
The first autopsy on November 23nd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Photographs and x-rays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
The first incision, the removal of the brain, and the arrival of Dr. Finck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Examination of wounds and looking for bullets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
The second autopsy on November 23rd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
The fabricated head wounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
What happened to JFK’s body at the completion of the second autopsy? . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
THE TRUE WOUNDS ON PRESIDENT KENNEDY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
THE SHOOTING IN DEALEY PLAZA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
KENNEDY WAS KILLED IN A COUP D’ETAT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 1
A careful examination of the autopsy photographs of President Kennedy has revealed that the views depicting
the top of the head, the rear of the head and his back, represent images that have been reversed left-right (flipped
horizontally). This is particularly evident in the views showing the top of the head where a characteristic Y
shaped scar on the right side of President Kennedy’s nose is seen on the left side of the nose. The objective of
the left-right reversal was to show an intact right rear of the head (by means of the intact left side), where many
witnesses in Dallas and Bethesda had seen a large defect in the scalp and skull. The wound in the rear of the
head suggested that President Kennedy hat been hit by a bullet fired from in front of him. When the images are
oriented co rrectly, large defects can be seen to have been inflicted in the skull on the left side of the head in
order to give the impression that there was a large exit wound in the top of the head on the right side (after
reversing the images). The large defect seen on the true right side of the head has clearly also been fabricated,
since there are discrepancies between the images concerning the location, size and nature of that wound. The
wound in the back depicted in the autopsy photographs have been created on the left side of the spine, whereas
the original wound on the right side is probably hidden beneath a ruler.
The artificially created wounds could not have been inflicted on JFK’s body prior to or during the known
autopsy at Bethesda on the evening of the assassination, November 22nd, 1963. Based on available autopsy
photographs and x-rays and testimonies from personnel involved with the post mortem examinations of President
Kennedy, it is concluded that there was a second autopsy on the night of November 23rd.
In order to perform the second autopsy, the body of President Kennedy, which had been embalmed,
reconstructed and dressed at the completion of the first autopsy, had to be taken from the casket in the East
Room of the White House and brought back to Bethesda. Other than the medical personnel performing the
autopsy, there were few persons present in the morgue. After having removed the sutures and other traces of the
procedures performed during the first autopsy, a new set of photographs and x-rays were taken in order to show
wounds in the head consistent with shots fired (by Lee Harvey Oswald) from the 6th floor of the Texas
Schoolbook Depository. The photographer seems to have been W hite House photographer Robert Knudsen. All
the extant general autopsy photographs and the majority of the x-rays originate from the second autopsy.
During the second autopsy, it was determined that the bullet that hit Kennedy in the back below the
shoulder, had not exited. A complete bullet was apparently not recovered within the body. Moreover, there
seems to have been a bullet path between an entry wound obscured by the tracheotomy incision in the front of
the neck and a wound in the back of the neck, immediately below the skull. The fact that the latter bullet path
existed was suppressed. T he huge defect in the top of the skull, as depicted in the extant autopsy pho tographs,
was created by reflecting the scalp toward the rear and removing portions of frontal and parietal bone. After the
second autopsy, the body was probably brought back to the casket at the White House and subsequently buried
on November 25th.
President Kennedy seems to have had an entry wound in the front of the neck, obliterated by the
tracheotomy incision performed in Dallas. A fragments of that bullet seems to have exited in the back of the
neck. There was another entry wound in his back, below the right shoulder with no exit. The large wound in the
right rear of the head, mainly in the occipital bone, was an exit wound, which suggests that there was an entry
wound in the left temple, as described by a few witnesses at Parkland Hospital.
President Kennedy seems to have been hit by three bullets, two from shots fired from in front of him and
one from a shot fired from the rear. Governor Connally was hit by a separate shot fired from the rear. The front
shooter seems to have been located on the Southern Knoll in the southwestern corner of Dealey Plaza. The rear
shooter may have been located in either the TSBD or Dal-Tex building. The first shot from the front shooter hit
President Kennedy in the front of his neck; the second shot from this shooter hit Kennedy in the head and was
the fatal head shot. The first shot from the rear shooter hit President Kennedy in his back; the second shot from
the rear hit Governor Connally. The shooters probably fired their first shot almost simultaneously, hitting
Kennedy in the back and throat. T hen the rear shooter hit Connally, and finally the front shooter hit Kennnedy in
the head. T here were only three audible shots.
The fact that there were two autopsies in order to create false medical evidence implicating Oswald as the
assassin, and the subsequent handling of that evidence, show that the assassination of President Kennedy was a
coup d’etat organized by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and his associates within the Secret Service, the
military, particularly the Navy, and the FB I. Other agencies may also have been involved. P resident Kennedy’s
personal physician, Admiral George C. Burkley, seems to have played a central role in organizing the medical
cover-up. Numerous people must have known the truth about the Kennedy assassination in the ensuing years.
Most of them have remained silent; the remainder have been silenced. But silent evidence may also speak.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 2
Prior to November 2003 I had a fairly limited knowledge of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in
Dallas on November 22, 1963. I had never read any books about the assassination, and several years had passed
since the previous time I had read anything about the subject. My main source of information had been different
articles published on the Internet in the mid 1990s. However, in November 2003 I remembered that 40 years had
passed since President Kennedy had been killed, so I checked in on the Internet again to see if there were any
new developments in the case. The most interesting thing to me was to learn that such a large number of original
documents from the case had been made available on the Internet. I found it a lot more satisfying to be ab le to
read myself what different witnesses had said on different occasions, rather than having to depend on other
people’s interpretations and selective reporting of those testimonies. In addition I discovered that some of the
autopsy photographs and x-rays also were available.
After having read a few articles in late November 2003, my main interest soon turned towards the medical
evidence and the huge discrepancy in the descriptions of JFK’s wounds, especially the head wound(s), between
the official autopsy report and the testimonies of a large number of witnesses, who either saw the president
during the emergency treatment at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, or during the autopsy at the Naval
Medical School/Hospital, Bethesda on the evening of the assassination. Several review articles have been written
about this discrepancy, so I will not go into details here [see for instance:Aguilar GL & Cunningham K (2003):
How five investigations into JFK’s medical/autopsy evidence got it wrong; Aguilar GL (1994): John F.
Kennedy's fatal wounds: The witnesses and the interpretations from 1963 to the present; Griffith MT (2001):
Problems with the JFK autopsy X-rays and photos: Have the JFK autopsy materials been faked or altered].
To summarize these discrepancies briefly, most of the nurses and doctors attending JFK at Parkland Hospital
observed a large wound in the right rear portion of JFK’s head, as well as a small wound in the front of his neck.
The latter wound was rapidly obliterated, however, since a tracheotomy was performed through that wound.
Several witnesses at the autopsy at Bethesda also reported seeing a large, gaping wound in the right rear of the
The large wound in the back of the head indicated that president Kennedy had been hit by a bullet from a shooter
in front of him, and that the bullet had exited through the rear of his head. This contradicted the official story that
Lee Harvey Oswald, acting on his own, had killed the President with shots fired from the 6th floor of the Texas
School Book Depository Building (TSBS), a place above and to the right rear of Kennedy at the time of the
shooting. The officialautopsy report has been used as a major piece of evidence for this lone gunman scenario.
This report described only a small bullet wound in the back of the head, which was supposed to be a wound of
Situated in the posterior scalp approximately 2.5 cm laterally to the right and slightly above the
external occipital protuberance is a lacerated wound measuring 15 x 6 mm. In the underlying bone
is a corresponding wound through the skull which exhibits beveling of the margins of the bone
when viewed from the inner aspect of the skull.
Furthermore, the autopsy report described a very large exit wound in the top of the head toward the front on the
There is 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. In this region there is an
actual absence of scalp and bone producing a defect which measures approximately 13 cm. in
The photographs and x-rays alleged ly taken during the autopsy at Bethesda on November 22, also seemed to
largely corroborate the descriptions in the autopsy report. The three physicians performing the autopsy,
Commander James J. Humes, Commander J. Thornton Boswell and Lt. Colonel Pierre A. Finck, reviewed the
photos and X-rays on January 20, 1967 at the National Archives, and a week later they signed adocument that
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 3
The photographs and x-rays corroborate our visual observations during the autopsy and
conclusively support our medical opinion as set forth in the summary of our autopsy report.
Three months earlier, on November 1, 1966, Humes and Boswell, together with Captain John H. Ebersole and
John T. Stringer, the acting radiologist and medical photographer, respectively, during the autopsy, had
inspected and made an inventory of all the photographic and x-ray materials from the Bethesda autopsy. On
November 10, 1966, they signed areport that stated:
The X-rays and photographs described and listed above include all the X-rays and photographs
taken by us during the autopsy, and we have no reason to believe that any other photographs or
X-rays were made during the autopsy.
Moreover, the photographs and x-rays were later ‘authenticated’ by medical experts of the Clark Panel and the
House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1968 and 1976-78, respectively. TheClark Panel
The photographs and X-rays discussed herein support the above-quoted portions of the original
Autopsy Report and the above-quoted medical conclusions of the Warren Commission Report.
The HSCA recognized the importance of the authenticity of the autopsy findings as stated in their Final
Assassinations Report (p. 181):
As the investigation proceeded, the committee carefully sought evidence that Government agents
had foreknowledge of an assassination, took advantage of it after the event, or afterwards covered
up information relevant to ascertaining the truth. The committee made a conscientious effort, for
example, to determine if the autopsy materials were authentic. Had they been tampered with, it
would have raised the most serious of questions.
Thus, both the Photographic Evidence Panel and the Forensic Medical Panel of the HSCA examined the autopsy
photographs and X-rays. The Commission’s Photographic Evidence Panel stated in theirreport (HSCA
Appendix to Hearings, Vol. VI):
(512) Authentication of the autopsy photographs allegedly taken of President Kennedy was
considered essential because of the discrepant descriptions that have been given of the wounds
incurred by the President. The description of the size and location of the President's head wounds,
for example, by eyewitnesses at Parkland Hospital differed dramatically from the testimony of the
autopsy doctors and the account set forth in the Warren Report. (195) Afore recently, the panel of
medical experts convened b y then-Acting Attorney General Ramsey Clark described K ennedy's
head entrance wound as approximately 10 centimeters higher than the location reported by the
Warren Commission. (196) As a result of these discrepancies, it was essential to verify that the
autopsy photographs and X-rays did, in fact, depict Kennedy, and that these materials had not been
altered in any way.
The conclusion of the HSCA’s Photographic Evidence Panel was:
(527) 1. The postmortem photographs and X-rays in the custody of the National Archives
purporting to depict Kennedy do, in fact, depict him.
(528) 2. There is no evidence that either the Kennedy autopsy photographs or X-rays have been
Similarly, the HSCA’s Medical Panel concluded in theirreport on the medical evidence (HSCA Appendix to
Hearings, V ol. VII) that:
(179) From the reports of the experts' analyses of the autopsy photographs and X-rays, the
evidence indicates that the autopsy photographs and X-rays were taken of President Kennedy at
the time of his autopsy and that they had not been altered in any manner.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 4
In spite o f these reassurances from these experts, many independent researchers have questioned the authenticity
of the autopsy photos and x-rays.
After having learnt about some of the aforementioned basic facts about the medical evidence, I started to take a
closer look at the digital images from Kennedy’s autopsy that were available on the Internet by means of
standard photo editing programs, which allowed me to enlarge, rotate and treat the images whichever way I
wanted. By simply studying the photographs in this manner, I fairly soon (early December 2003) made some
astonishing discoveries, which led to an even more astonishing inference or theory about what had happened to
the body of President Kennedy subsequent to the semiofficial autopsy at the Naval Medical School, Bethesda, on
the evening of November 22, 1963. I then proceeded to readseveral times through most of the medical
testimonies given to the Warren Commission (WC), the HSCA, and/or the Assassination Records Review Board
(ARRB) by persons involved in either the medical treatment of Kennedy at Parkland Hospital in Dallas or in the
autopsy at Bethesda. The objective was to check if any of these statements would corroborate or contradict my
somewhat incredible conclusions. The following is the story of how things unfolded in a more or less
chronological manner. Then the medical testimonies are reviewed and discussed in the context of my
interpretation of the events.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 5
IT'S ALL DONE WITH SMOKE AND MIRRORS: HOW THE AUTOPSY
PHOTOGRAPHS WERE FORGED
My examination of the autopsy photographs started by looking closely at three photographs showing the right
side of the head. These included acolor photo of the “right side of head and right shoulder” (corresponding to
color photographs Nos. 26-28 in theNational Archives; NA:26-28), and two black and white photos showing the
“anterior aspect of head and upper torso including tracheotomy wound” (Nos.1 and 2 from the Fox set [autopsy
photographs provided by Secret Service agent James K. Fox], F:1 andF:2, corresponding to autopsy
photographs Nos. 13-14; NA:13-14). In these three photographs, a large piece of the skull is visible behind and
somewhat above the right ear (Figure 1). Many have interpreted this object as coming from the top of the head,
where a huge ‘defect’ is seen in this color photo. Hence this object has been interpreted as lying on the surface of
the underlying skin or scalp. In hisARRB deposition, Dr. Boswell described this object as a piece of bone from
the top of the skull:
GUNN: Okay. Could Dr. Boswell now be shown the second view, which from the 1966 inventory
is described as the "right side of head and right shoulder," corresponding to black and white Nos.
5 and 6, and color Nos. 26, 27, and 28?
BOSWELL: Right. And this is a bone fragment that's adhered to the underside of the scalp but
belongs up here.
GUNN: When you say the bone fragment, you're referring to the triangular-shaped object right
immediately above the ear?
Q: Above the right ear. And did I understand you correctly that that is a fragment that has come
from another portion of the head?
Q: And so how would it be that that skull fragment is in that location?
BOSWELL: Well, I think it's probably attached to the scalp that's reflected.
Q: So almost as if the scalp is hinged and a piece of the skull is attached to the scalp?
BOSWELL: Yes. I think the color photograph shows it better. I don't think the black and white
shows anything that the co lor photograph doesn't show.
However, when Humes were shown the same photographs during hisARRB deposition, he described the same
object as a “flap of skin”:
GUNN: Immediately above the right ear is a somewhat triangular but not exactly triangular-shaped
object. Can you explain what that object is?
HUMES: That's a flap of skin that's turned back.
Q: And is it turned back from the front towards the back of the head–
HUMES: Towards the bottom of the hair. It would approximate here if you put the two of them
together, if it comes down like that, I would think.
Q: So a flap that is com ing down towards the ear; is that correct?
HUMES: Yes. With the hair behind it, you see.
However, in my opinion the available color photograph clearly shows that this is a piece of skull, and that there
is a defect in the scalp and the skull immediately behind the ear, extending towards the upper margin of that bone
fragment. Thus, the bone fragment is actually bridging or covering a large defect in the scalp and skull
underneath it. The anterior, or short side of the fragment seems to fit the defect in the scalp immediately behind
the ear (Figure 1). If the fragment is flipped over (turned inside-out) and rotated about 90 degrees
counterclockwise, it will probably fit into a large hole in the skull behind the right ear, extending towards the
rear portion of the head. It is also evident that the visible inner surface of this bone fragment is fairly concave
(and presumably convex on the reverse or exterior surface), which is consistent with this fragment originating
from this portion of the skull (the occipital and posterior parietal/temporal region). Hence, I think thiscolor
photographactually depicts the anterior margin of the large wound in the right rear portion of JFK’s head, which
so many witnesses have described. And the large size of the fragment clearly indicates the magnitude of this
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 6
Figure 1A large skull fragment (arrow) is seen behind the right ear of President Kennedy in the autopsy photographs
showing his right profile [top]. The interior surface of the fragment is visible. Underneath the fragment there seems to be a
defect in the scalp and skull, indicating that this is the fragment from the right rear of JFK’s head recovered from the
limousine. If so, this is the same fragment (‘flap’) as seen in the Zapruder frames after the fatal head shot [bottom].
In the black and white photographs showing the anterior and right aspect of the head (Figure 1; F:1 /F:2), only a
small portion of this bone fragment is visible, and it appears as if the non-visible portion of the fragment is lying
within the defect itself (projecting into the skull).
If the bone fragment seen in these photographs actually belongs to this part of the skull, then this fragment has to
be the well-known skull ‘flap’ seen on the right side of JFK’s head in the Zapruder film from frame 314/315
onwards. The ‘flap’ seen in the Zapruder film is definitely not a (hinged) flap coming down from the anterior top
portion of the skull, but is a portion from the rear of the skull, which ‘pops’ out and is thrown alongside the right
side of the head (Figure 1). MorticianRobinson told the ARRB there had been 2 or 3 small perforations or holes
in JFK’s right cheek when the body was embalmed. These holes might have been caused by the large bone
fragment when it hit the cheek. From the Zapruder film it appears that the bone fragment is initially attached to
something on the head, possibly a portion of the dura mater, the connective tissue enveloping the brain, which
may also have been extruded along with the brain matter.
The fragment then apparently became detached from JFK’s head during the subsequent ride to Parkland
Hospital, because Secret Service agentClint Hill, who climbed into the Presidential limousine after the fatal
head shot had hit Kennedy, said in his Warren Commission testimony that the right rear portion of the skull had
been blown out and was lying in the back seat of the limousine upon arrival at Parkland Hospital:
SPECTER: What did you observe as to P resident Kennedy’s condition on arrival at the hospital?
HILL: The right rear portion of his head was missing. It was lying in the rear seat of the car. H is
brain was exposed. There was blood and bits of brain all over the entire rear portion of the car.
Mrs. Kennedy was completely covered with blood. T here was so much blood you could not tell if
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 7
there had been any other wound or not, except for the one large gaping wound in the right rear
portion of the head.
The same fragment was later recovered from the Presidential limousine by Secret Service agent Samuel Kinney
when the car was brought back from Dallas to W ashington on a C-130 plane later that day, and subsequently
brought to the autopsy room at Bethesda late that night. Kinney has told authorVince Palamara about the
recovery and handling of this fragment, and he has also told him that the fragment was a piece of skull with no
scalp attached and resembled a ‘flower pot’ or ‘clay pot’ (indicating a convex outer surface). Samuel Kinney was
the driver of the Secret Service follow-up car in Dallas, which was immediately behind the limousine, and
Kinney told Palamara that the rear of President Kennedy was blown out by the fatal head shot.
The same piece of bone is also described in the FBIreport from the autopsy prepared by the two FBI agents
Sibert and O ’Neill:
Also during the latter stages of the autopsy, a piece of the skull measuring 10 x 6.5 centimeters
was brought to Dr. HUMES who was instructed that this had been removed from the President's
skull. Immediately this section of skull was X-Rayed, at which time it was determined by Dr.
HUMES that one corner of this section revealed minute metal particles and inspection of this same
area disclosed a chipping of the top portion of this piece, both of which indicated that this had
been the point of exit of the bullet entering the skull region.
On the basis of the latter two developments, Dr. HUMES stated that the pattern was clear that
[.....] and that a second high velocity bullet had entered the rear of the skull and had fragmentized
prior to exit thro ugh the top of the skull.
The fact that the fragment had been found in the limousine, was stated in a laterreport by Sibert and O’Neill,
reporting their interviews with Secret Service agents Behn, Kellerman and Greer at the White House on
November 27th, 1963:
Mr. BEHN was questioned concerning the section of the President’s skull, which was brought to
the National Navy Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland after the autopsy was in progress. He
advised that this section, which was measured by the Doctor performing the autopsy as being 10 x
6.5 centimeters, was found in the Presidential car on the floor between the front and rear seats.
From their two reports it is not clear whether the piece belonged to the rear of the skull or the top of the skull,
since Humes obviously made Sibert and O’Neill believe a bullet had exited through thetop of the skull.
However, in his ARRB depositonO’Neill said the piece originated from the rear of the skull (in the first
exchange O’Neill refers to the bone fragment as a portion of scalp; the ‘flap’ was a flap of scalp):
GUNN: Were you able to tell whether there was any scalp that was missing from President
O’NEILL: There appeared to be– There was a flap here.
Q: You’re pointing again to the back of the head?
O’NEILL: Yes. There was a flap there. And I don’t know whether the flap was up or down. Now,
when you say scalp missing I do know that there was a portion missing, because a portion was
taken into the autopsy room as the autopsy progressed which was found on the car floor, I believe,
in Dallas by one of the Secret Service agents. And the doctors in Bethesda took a look at that, and,
I think, measured it, and stated specifically that it came from this section of the head here.
Q: - if you recall, during the autopsy, there was a fragment that came from Dallas.
Q: Did the doctors attempt to locate where on the cranium that fragment came from?
Q: And were they able to determine where the fragment came from?
O’NEILL: To the best of my recollection, they were.
Q: And where was that?
O’NEILL: Back in this section of the head.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 8
Q: You’re pointing, once again, to the -
Q: -to the part behind the ear?
O’NEILL: There was a section of the cranium missing from there.
Q: Did they identify, to the best of the recollection, the type of bone; that is, parietal bone,
O’NEILL: They may have, but I don’t specifically recall exactly what medical term they would
use for - [interrupted by Gunn]
Dr. Ebersole, who allegedly x-rayed the fragment, told the Medical Panel of theHSCA that the fragment was a
piece of occipital bone. Officially there were supposed to b e three fragments, but he doesn’t remember that until
the end of the sentence when he switches to plural (“a large fragment”/“X rayed these”):
The only function that I had was later in the evening, early in the morning, perhaps about twelve
thirty a large fragment of the occipital bone was received from Dallas and at Dr. Finck's req uest I
X rayed these. These were the last X rays I took.
From the testimonies of Kinney, O’Neill and Ebersole, as well as the specific references to the fragment in the
two FBI reports, there is little doubt that the large piece from the rear of JFK’s skull that Hill saw in the rear seat
of the limousine, really did arrive at Bethesda during the autopsy. Hence, it might well be the piece visible in the
aforementioned photographs, but why the autopsy pathologists would dare to do that, is difficult to comprehend.
As will be discussed later, this fragment is not identical to the largest one of the three fragments that turned up in
the official autopsy x-raysNos. 4-6, and which was identified to HSCA by Dr. Angel as being frontal bone.
Thus, a switch seem to have been made in order to relocate the large wound from the rear of the head to the top
of the head.
Having established (at least in my own mind) that there actually was a large defect in the back of JFK’s head
extending backward from just behind the right ear, I turned to examining two photographs showing the right rear
of the head (color photograph corresponding to NA:42/NA:43; and black and white photo; F:3/NA:15), and a
black and white photo of the upper back/shoulders and the rear of head (F:5/NA:11). As is well know, there is no
large defect in the right rear portion of the head (in the occipital region) in these photographs, and retouching
does not seem to have been extensively used in that area (as opposed to the center portion). So how could the
defect that was partly visible in the photographs showing the right side of the head, simply disappear?
I soon noticed that none of the photographs purportedly showing the right rear of the head, also showed the left
rear of the head. The left half of the head was either not shown at all (in the photographs of the rear of the head;
F:3), or it was obscured by a hand or hidden in dark shadows (picture of back/shoulder; F:5). So I began
wondering if those responsible for these photographs simply had used mirror images (reversed images) of the
intact left rear of the head to depict an intact ‘right’ rear of the head. Consequently, I started looking for
anatomical landmarks that could be used to determine the left-right orientation of the body in those photographs.
I soon found out that the photographs had been taken in such a manner that it was very difficult to orient them
left to right. No landmarks could be found in the photographs showing only the posterior side of the body.
However, I found that the two available black and white photographs showing the top of the head (“superior
view of head”;F:6/NA:7 and F:7/NA:8), also showed the shoulders and parts of the face with the nose. And on
theleft side of the nose in those photographs, particularly in F:6, I noticed an indentation in the skin resembling
a scar. I then checked with numerous photographs available on the Internet of JFK when alive, and in a few of
those photographs a characteristic Y shaped scar could be seen on theright side of his nose (Figure 2). In the
availab le autopsy photographs unequivocally showing the right side of the head, however, this scar is only
faintly visible in the black and white photographs of the head and upper torso (F:1/F:2), but it is not visible at all
in the availablecolor photograph (NA:26/27/28), since that part of the face is too light (as if the photograph had
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 9
Figure 2President Kennedy had a small Y-shaped scar on the right side of his nose (arrow). In the autopsy photographs
showing the top of his head [bottom], this scar can be seen on theleft side of the nose (arrow), which shows that
these photographs have been reversed left-right (flipped over).
I was a amazed that nobody previously seemed to have noticed that this scar was on the wrong side of the nose
in some of the autopsy photographs. The HSCA’s Photographic Evidence Panel even compared JFK’s nose and
other morphological features o f his face as shown in the autopsy photographs, with the same features as shown in
photographs taken when JFK was alive. However, this scar is not visible in most official photographs of JFK. It
seems as if he did not like this small imperfection in an otherwise perfect image. Thus, most official pictures are
taken from his left side, so that the scar is not visible, and in some of the photographs taken from his right side,
the scar actually seems to have been ‘erased’ by retouching.
So why didn’t they remove this scar from the autopsy photographs? Surely, those who produced the autopsy
photographs knew president Kennedy’s face very well. Ironically, this slight imperfection in the forgery of the
autopsy photographs may prove to be vital in showing beyond doubt that the photographs were forgeries and the
assassination a conspiracy.
After having found the scar on the wrong side of the nose in the two photographs of the top of the head, I knew
for certain that at least those two photographs were mirror images of the real body. But I also noticed that there
was a characteristic blood stain mark on the ‘right’ shoulder in those photographs. This mark could also be seen
on the ‘right’ shoulder in the photograph of the upper posterior thorax (F:5), which showed that the latter
photograph also was a mirror image of the true body. Finally, I noticed that the posterior edge of a characteristic
bone flap visible in front of the ‘right’ ear in the two photographs of the rear of the head (F:3 and the
correspondingcolor photograph) was also visible (but sometimes cropped out) in the photographs of the upper
posterior thorax (F:5). Thus, I had proven beyond doubt (i.e. to myself) that all the photographs showing JFK’s
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 10
Figure 3Three autopsy photographs of President Kennedy showing the top and rear of the head. In the picture of the
top of the head [left], the scar on the nose (1) is seen on the wrong (‘left’) side of the nose, which shows that this image is
reversed left-right. On the ‘right’ shoulder of the same picture there is blood stain mark (2), which is also seen in the
picture of the upper back [center]. In that picture the posterior border of a bone flap (3) is seen in front of the ‘right’ ear.
This bone flap is also seen in the picture showing the rear of the head [right]. Consequently, all of these autopsy
photographs have been reversed left-right.
head from behind or from the top actually were mirror images, in which the right side had become the left side,
and vice versa (Figure 3). Hence, all of these autopsy photographs were forgeries, which obviously had been
reversed left to right in order to conceal the large wound in the right rear of President Kennedy’s head.
Moreover, when the images of JFK’s head had been flipped back to show the correct orientation of the body
(reversed left - right), it was very evident that major alterations had been done on the left side of the head in
order to create or strengthen the illusion of the left side being the right side. In the reversed photographs showing
the ‘superior view of the head’ (F:6, F:7), a large gaping hole in the skull can be seen on the left side of the head
(Figure 3; left), and in the photos showing the rear of the head (F:3, NA:26/-27), a large bone flap is seen to have
been cut out from the skull in front of the left ear (Figure 3; right). Neither of these damages are visible in the
photographs showing the (true) left side of the head (F:4; NA:29/30/31), so evidently those alterations had been
created after those photographs had been taken in order to depict a large wound in the front of the head on the
right side, similar to the one that can be seen in the right lateral view of the head (NA:26/27/28). Yet, the bone
flap projecting from the ‘right’ side of the temporal area in the reversed images, is nowhere to bee seen in the
photographs showing the (true) right side of the head (F:1, F:2). Interestingly, the autopsy pathologists were not
questioned about this obvious inconsistency between the different autopsy photographs during their depositions
before the ARRB.
Since my examination of the photographs had shown that there actually was a large wound in the right rear
portion of the head, which had been hidden under the bone fragment in the photos showing the right side of the
head, and in the more or less invisible ‘left’ side of the head in the “rear view” photos, it was obvious to me that
the large wound in the anterior portion of the head, described as the exit wound in the autopsy protocol, was not
a result of the fatal head shot in Dallas, but was a wound that had been manufactured at a later stage (no
witnesses have describedtwo large defects). This fabricated wound in the top of the head will be discussed more
After reversing the image of the upper posterior thorax (F:5), the alleged entrance wound in the upper back
turned up on the left side of the spine, showing that even that wound had been created artificially and was not the
original bullet wound in the right side of the back (Figure 4). The original wound in the back is probably hidden
underneath the ruler shown in the photograph of JFK’s back. The real purpose of all the hands is obviously not
to hold the small ruler in place, or to hold the body up in a sitting position. The body is actually lying flat on the
stomach on the autopsy table, but they want to give the viewer the false impression that the body is held up in a
sitting position. The main purpose of all the hands is obviously to conceal the small wound in the upper back and
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 11
Figure 4Autopsy photograph of the upper back of President Kennedy after left-right reversal back to correct
orientation. The photo show the left side of the body, including the intact left rear of the head. (1-3): There are two left (L)
hands and one right (R) hand, apparently belonging to three different persons. Hand No. 2 partly conceals the right rear of
the head, where there was a large wound. No details are visible in rear of the head due to dark shadows/retouching. (4): A
towel is seen immediately below JFK’s face and shoulders, which shows the body is lying on the stomach. (5): The collarlike
imprint on the neck may have resulted from the preparation of the body for the funeral after the first autopsy. (6): The
fabricated bullet wound is seen to the left of the ruler and spine, whereas the true back wound on the right side of the spine
probably is hidden underneath the middle portion (6) of the ruler.
the large wound in the rear of the head on the true right side of the body. Surely, the word ‘CENTIMETERS’ on
the ruler is aligned correctly in the mirror image of the back, but a closer look at this word, shows that the letters
are unevenly spaced and are not perfectly aligned along an imaginary ho rizontal line. Thus, this word seems to
have been drawn (penciled) into the photograph in order to give the impression that the orientation of the image
At this point of my examination of the autopsy photographs, I realized that the extensive alterations of the body
of JFK could not in any way have been donebefore or during the autopsy at Bethesda on the evening of
November 22nd. But could these changes have been madeafter the body had been prepared for the funeral and
had left the morgue at Bethesda at about 4 a.m. on November 23rd? At first that seemed to be a preposterous and
completely absurd idea, but I proceeded to examine available evidence if that could have been possible. And
sometimes the truth surpasses one’s imagination.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 12
EVIDENCE OF A SECOND AUTOPSY
Once the autopsy at Bethesda was completed about 11 p.m. on November 22, a team of four morticians from
Gawler’s funeral home prepared the body of President Kennedy for the funeral. The preparations were such that
an open casket funeral could have been held. The preparations have been described in areport from G awler’s
funeral home (Funeral arrangements for John Fitzgerald Kennedy), as well as in interviews by HSCA and ARRB
staff of som e of the m orticians present (Robinson/HSCA; Robinson/ARRB; VanHoesen/ARRB; Hagan/ARRB).
These documents show that the body was arterially embalmed with formaldehyde, the organs of the thorax and
abdomen were also immersed in formaldehyde and put back into the body. The empty skull was filled with
Plaster-of-Paris and a hardening agent to provide support for the skull bones. The larger wounds were closed by
suturing. These wounds apparently included a transverse incision across the top of the head, which had been made
in order to remove the skull cap (temporarily) before removal of the brain, a Y incision on the anterior thorax and
abdomen, a tracheotomy/bullet wound in the front of the neck, and a large wound in the right rear of the head.
According to the morticians the defect in the back of the head was centrally located and a few inches in diameter.
In this area a piece of the skull was missing, so they had to put a patch of rubber inside the cranium to seal this
hole. The scalp was stitched together on top of this piece of rubber. None of the morticians mentioned a large
wound behind the right ear, corresponding to the skull fragment described earlier, so it seems that the large piece
of skull brought to the morgue during the autopsy was put back into the skull by the pathologists before the
reconstruction started. Thus, the morticians might have considered this loose piece as just another broken part of
the skull, or as a loose skull portion associated with the removal of the brain. Robinson, however, remembered a
blow-out type wound in the right temple, above the right ear, which consisted of a flap of skin. This might have
been the anterior margin of th large defect in the right rear of the head.
According to FBI agentO’Neill the morticians also removed the eyes: “I believe they took out the eyes, if I’m not
mistaken. What happened to them, I wouldn’t know”. If this is correct, they probably replaced them with artificial
eyes. T he hair and body was cleaned, cosmetics were applied, and the body was fully dressed in a suit before it
was laid in the casket. After finishing the reconstruction, no wounds could bee seen on the head. T he President’s
personal physician, admiral Burkley, stated in hisreport about the assassination:
The body of the President was fully clothed in a blue suit, white shirt, tie, socks and shoes. His hair
was combed in the usual fashion. His appearance in the casket gave no evidence of the injury he
About 4 a.m. on November 23rd, the casket left Bethesda and was brought in a Navy ambulance to the White
House, where, upon arrival at 4.24 a.m. it was carried to the East Room by a military casket team. Soon after the
arrival there, the casket was opened and the body of President Kennedy was viewed by Jacqueline Kennedy,
Robert Kennedy and a few others. The casket was then closed, and a military death watch (guard) was posted by
From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 23rd the body was lying in repose (with the casket closed) in the
East Room, so that the family and invited dignitaries could come and pay their respect. At 1 p.m. on Sunday,
November 24th the casket left the White House and was brought to the Capitol rotunda. Here the body (in a
closed casket) lay in state for public viewing throughout the day. At 10:30 a.m. on Monday, November 25th, the
casket was taken from the Rotunda and brought to St. M attew’s Cathedral. After m ass, the casket was brought to
Arlington National Cemetery, and at 3:32 p.m. on Monday the casket was lowered into the ground, whereupon the
vault was securely closed.
From this schedule of events, the only possible time that the body of JFK could have been taken from the casket
would have been between the (late) evening of November 23rd and the early morning of November 24th, i.e.
when the casket was still in the E ast Room of the W hite Ho use. The most likely time for a second autopsy would
also have been between late Saturday evening and early Sunday morning, since the autopsy protocol reportedly
were submitted to Admiral Burkley on the afternoon of Sunday, November 24. Moreover, if the intention was to
put the remains of JFK back into the casket before the casket left the White House, the second autopsy would
have had to be completed before the early morning of November 24.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 13
But was there really a second autopsy? Yes, I’m sure there was. Once the unthinkable thought had been thought, a
lot of evidence of a second autopsy could be found in the autopsy photographs and x-rays and in the testimonies
of those who were present at the autopsies.
Evidence of a second autopsy from the autopsy photographs
As mentioned previously, the manufacturing of wounds in the left portion of the head and upper back could not
have taken place during the first autopsy on the evening of the assassination. Many Bethesda witnesses never
observed such a large wound in the anterior portion of the head, but rather saw a large defect in the right rear of
the head. Thus, the presence of these wounds by themselves strongly indicates a second autopsy. Moreover,
several autopsy photographs show signs of the body already having been prepared for the funeral or
‘reconstructed’ from the procedures performed during the first autopsy. Thus, as noted by many, the hair of JFK
largely looks clean and combed in most autopsy photos, whereas many witnesses remembered hishair being
soaked with (dried) blood when the body left Parkland Hospital in Dallas or when it arrived at Bethesda (the head
was wrapped in a bloody sheet, but at least thebody was cleaned somewhat at Parkland by nurse Bowron).
However, Boswell and Humes denied that anything had been done with the hair before the photographs were
taken. In his ARRB deposition,Boswell said:
GUNN: Okay. W as the hair cleaned in any way for purposes of the photographs?
BOSWELL: No, I don't think so. There was not a lot of blood, as I remember, and I think he had
been pretty well cleaned up in the operating– in the emergency room. And I do n't think we had to
do much in the way of cleansing before we took photographs.
And in his ARRB deposition,Humes said the same:
GUNN: Earlier in the deposition, I asked you about whether there were any procedures that were
taken on President Kennedy before the photos were taken, and it was my understanding that you
said that there had been no cleaning and no incisions made.
Q: Would that be true for the photos that you're looking at right now?
Q: Dr. Humes–
HUMES: Other than as you remove the dressing from the head, it's possible that coming off with
some of the gauze that was there, some of the blood might have been removed. But it wasn't a
deliberate attempt to clean it up.
Q: Sure. No cleaning, no combing of the hair or anything of that sort?
HUMES: No. No, no, no, no.
Many have also noticed that there is a towel, as well as a metal headrest (stirrup) beneath the head in the autopsy
photos, whereas few witnesses recall the presence of these elements during the autopsy on November 22. Indeed,
it was not common practice to use towels or a metal headrest on the autopsy table during any autopsies at
Bethesda at that time. During the autopsy on the evening of November 22, the head of President Kennedy was
supported by a block (according to mortician J. E. Hagan), probably to keep the head from resting directly on the
table, since at that time there was reportedly only beginning rigor mortis (stiffness) of the body (Page 2 of the
autopsy protocol states: “There is beginning rigor mortis,....”), and the neck would have b een fairly flexible. A
complete rigor mortis would have been present a few hours after the completion of the first autopsy and, more
importantly, the body had also been arterially embalmed, causing a formaldehyde fixation of the tissues.
Thus, at the deduced time of the second autopsy, Saturday night, the body and limbs would have been fairly
inflexible due to the combined effect of the rigor mortis and the embalming. That means that the head would have
projected straight into the air from the body, rather than be resting naturally on the table or on a head block. Thus,
I think it was necessary to insert this headrest beneath JFK’s head to give the impression that the head was resting
on this device, and to conceal the fact that there was a complete muscle stiffness at this stage. An additional
objective of the headrest might have been to conceal some of the wounds in the back of the head, i.e. the original
wounds and the incisions from the first autopsy).
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 14
In ord er to take photographs of the upp er torso and head of the deceased from the posterior side (from the rear), it
is common practice to ho ld the body up in a sitting p osition on the autopsy table. During the second autopsy this
does not seem to have been possible due to the stiffness of JFK’s body. Thus, in the photographs showing the rear
of the head, as well as in those showing the back, Kennedy’s body seems to be lying on the stomach, rather than
being held up or rolled over on the ‘left’ side, as many believe.
In the black and white photograph showing the back (F:5/NA:11) the body is clearly on the stomach (Figure 4),
since the towel is visible underneath JFK ’s head. In the black and white photograph showing the back of JFK’s
head (F:3), the white area adjacent to the head has usually been interpreted as being a portion of the pathologist’s
gown, and that, consequently, the hand/arm there belongs to a pathologist standing by the side of the autopsy
table. Then the photograph has to be oriented and viewed as a ‘Portrait’ picture rather than as a ‘Landscape’
picture. However, Dr. Humes apparently oriented this picture as a ‘Landscape’ picture when discussing this view
and the alleged entrance wound in the occipital area with the Medical Panel of theHSCA. In the heat of the
discussion, Humes admitted that the body was lying on the stomach (“dorsal recumbent position”), and claimed
that one of the pathologist was lifting JFK’s head up from the table:
Dr. PETTY: But the point of entry on the external surface of the body, of the head is incidentally
depicted in photograph 15 and shows near the margin of the photograph down toward the hairline
of the President. And again here on No. 43 it shows the same thing.
Dr. HUMES: I object to your word “incidentally.”
Dr. PETTY: Well, by that I mean it’s not the subject of the center of the photographer’s lens, it’s
way down toward–
Dr. HUMES: No, no. But you’d have greater difficulty localizing it, I submit to you, were it the
same subject of the photographer’s lens.
Dr. BADEN: That’s true.
Dr. PETTY: I can understand that, sure.
Dr. BADEN: One of the considerations I had in looking at the film, Dr. Humes, relative to the
interpretation I had was that perhaps you were holding–
Dr. HUMES: Holding the scalp up, holding the head up.
Dr. BADEN: Holding the scalp and head up specifically so that the photographer could get that
Dr. HUMES: Not that point. That is not the case.
Dr. BADEN: That is not the case?
Dr. HUMES: Because I submit to you that, despite the fact that this upper point that has been the
source of some discussion here this afternoon is excessively obvious in the color photograph, I
almost defy you to find it in that magnification in the black and white.
Dr. BADEN: We’re not trying to he argumentative. What we’re trying to do is fully understand
what you say and what you did.
Dr. HUMES: Nor I. Right. The gentleman was in the dorsal recumbent position on an autopsy
table, not the greatest photographic position in the world, and we had to hold his head up. One of us
is lifting the head, flexing the neck if you will, by holding the scalp, and to show the wound where it
was in relation to the man’s head.
Humes is only telling part of the truth, though. The pathologist is not holding the head up. I think the white area is
part of a towel underneath JFK’s head, and that the pathologist is standing or sitting at the end of the table,
apparently sticking his arm up (Figure 5). This interpretation is corroborated b y the fact that the left side (‘right’
side in the original photos) of JFK’s head is in sharp focus, indicating the photographer was standing on the same
side. Moreover, on the opposite side of the head, there are two additional hands holding a ruler, which are not
visible in the available black and white photograph, but they are seen in thecolor photograph(s) and the
compositedrawing Ida Dox made for the HSCA (HSCA Appendix to H earings, Volume VII, p.104) based on all
the photographs showing this view. These hands must belong to two perso ns standing on the far side of the table
relative to the photographer (otherwise they would have obstructed his view). Consequently, the white area must
be immediately in front of the photographer, who is therefore taking the picture from a position to the left and a
little above the head.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 15
Figure 5Autopsy photograph of the rear of the head of President Kennedy after left-right reversal back to correct
orientation. The intact left rear of the head is shown, whereas the damaged right rear of the head is invisible or hidden by
the ruler [color inset]. The photo was taken from the left side of the body. (1): Area of different color, strongly indicating
retouching has been done to conceal a large hole in the scalp and skull observed by some witnesses. (2): The wet-hair-look
is probably the result of retouching. (3): Alleged location of entrance wound according to the autopsy pathologists. (4):
White area underneath JFK’s head is probably a towel, and not the gown of a pathologist.
Since the towel beneath JFK’s head seems to have served the purpose of looking like a pathologist’s gown in
some of the photographs, that may be the real reason for using a towel under Kennedy’s head during the second
autopsy. Incidentally, the area adjacent to JFK’s head purporting to show the pathologist’s gown, seems to be
light blue in thecolor photograph, whereas that sam e area is white, rather than grey, in the black and white
The clearest evidence of a second autopsy subsequent to the preparation of the body for the funeral is seen in the
two black and white photographs showing the superior view of the head (F:6 and F:7). When I first looked at
these photographs, I felt that something was wrong with the body, as if there was a lack of symmetry. The
shoulders (rear side) are not resting on the table, as would have been the case if the arms had been lying in a
natural, relaxed position alongside the trunk (Figure 6). Instead, the arms are rotated medially as if they are
reaching forward in an embrace, or are resting on the chest/stomach. Some extra ‘tissue’ (padding) also seems to
have been added under the right shoulder (‘left’ in official photos) by retouching to make the gap between the
body and the table less prominent. Moreover, the right (‘left’) arm seems to be completely missing, or at least
completely hidden by the unnatural shadow on that side of the body. Moreover, immediately below the shoulder
of the left arm there is a strange annular scar. The latter arm seems to be supported laterally by a wedge-like
block, and there is something unnatural about the forearm.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 16
Figure 6Autopsy photographs of the top of the head of President Kennedy after left-right reversal back to correct
orientation. (1): There is an annular scar on the left shoulder, indicating the arm has been severed or cut off. The resulting
gap has been filled in by retouching. (2): Extra ‘tissue’ seems to have been added under the right shoulder by retouching.
Note difference in texture from the natural tissue. (3): The left ‘forearm’ seems to have been created by retouching,
whereas the real forearm disappears under the body just below the elbow. (4): A huge defect has been created on the left
side of the head, and the scalp has been badly lacerated by the pathologists. (5): A wedge-shaped bloc is used to support
the loose left arm. – The right arm, if it’s still there, and most of the chest with the Y incision has been concealed by
The peculiar scar and the support under the left arm suggest to me that this arm has been cut off below the
shoulder, or that the muscles has been completely severed at this level, so that the arm could be rotated slightly
inwards and laid alongside the body with the forearm lying under the body. Most of the visible “forearm” seems
to have been added by retouching. The resulting gap between the shoulder and the loose arm or severed muscles
has subsequently been filled in by retouching. From the photographs it is impossible to determine whether the
right arm has been removed, or is still attached to the body. The fact that that area is completely hidden by the
dark shadows, suggests that something has been done to this arm also. We also notice that the chest is largely
invisible, being hidden by shadows or behind the face. This was probably done to conceal that a Y incision
already had been done when these photographs were taken (the photographs were reportedly taken before any
incisions had been made).
Why would the body come to rest in this particular position on the table? And why would the pathologists cut off
JFK’s arms or cut through the muscles just below the shoulders?
Again we have to consider the presence of a complete muscle stiffness at the time of the second autopsy. We can
assume that when the body was put into the casket, JFK’s arms were laid to rest across his chest/stomach in a
praying-like position (according toPaul K. O’Connor a rosary was put in JFK’s hand). Thus, by the time of the
second autopsy, his arms would have been locked in a position mostly in front of his chest. If such a posture had
been shown in the photographs or the x-rays, somebody might have suspected that something was wrong.
Moreover, with his arms locked across his chest, it would b e difficult to get access to the organs of the chest, i.e.,
to reopen the Y incision.
Thus the pathologists seem to have cut through the muscles of the ‘right’ arm, probably also through those on the
‘left’ arm, to get JFK’s arms out of their way, and/or to make at least one of the arms appear in a more natural
position alongside the body in the photographs (although retouching was necessary to accomplish the latter
objective). A witness to the second autopsy, Richard A. Lipsey, confirmed in his testimony before theHSCA, that
the doctors had problems with JFK ’s arm(s) being in their way:
One of his arms, and if I'm not mistaken, it was his left arm. You know, the way, I guess, after he
died, finished the autopsy by that time and, rigor mortis had set in and one of his arms was slightly
higher. Well, the guy's laying down and one of them was up a little bit. So when they started the
autopsy I can remember, one of the doctors, when he was starting to clean the body up, got up on
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 17
Figure 7Autopsy photograph of the upper torso of President Kennedy. (1): Triangular area of different color in
association with tracheotomy wound indicates retouching has been done to conceal other incisions in this area. (2): The
scar on the right side of the nose is faintly visible in this photo. (3): Dark area created by retouching. Some witnesses
observed a small bullet hole in this area in association with the second autopsy. (4): Skull fragment from rear of head.
- The photograph has been cropped immediately above a possible cut in the left shoulder and above the Y incision on the
the table and physically got up on the table and put his knee down on his arm to hold it down -- to
get it out of his way -- so he could scrub the rest of the body.
That something was done with the arms, is also corroborated by the fact that none of the other autopsy photos
show the arms below the level of the shoulders. Nor do they show the chest where the Y incision would have been
visible. The photographs showing the “anterior aspect of head and upper torso” arecropped exactly at the level of
the shoulders and the Y incision (Figure 7). M oreover, in x-rayNo. 8, which I think was taken during the second
autopsy since the organs have been removed, the area of the right shoulder is so radio-lucent that no structures
can be distinguished. It is hardly a matter o f coincidence that that area was rendered unrecognizable in the x-ray,
since a normal exposure probably would have shown that the arm was (partly) detached from the rest of the body.
Another indication of an autopsy after the body had been embalmed is seen in the photograph of the back (Figure
4). Here a collar-like imprint is visible on the skin in the lower neck/upper back area. T his imprint has probably
been caused by some kind of clothing or collar that was put on the body in preparation for the funeral. We know
that the body was wrapped in plastic before it was dressed after the first autopsy.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 18
Two sets of autopsy photographs
In the US NationalArchives there are altogether 52 autopsy photographs and 14 autopsy X-rays of President
Kennedy. The photographs consist of 25 4 x 5" black and white negatives (with corresponding prints) and 26 4 x
5" color transparencies (color positives) (with 27 corresponding color negatives and color prints; transparency
No. 49 is missing). The 25 black and white photographs comprise 18 photos showing the upper body from the
general autopsy (Nos. 1-18), and 7 photos of the brain from the subsequent brain examination (Nos. 19-25). The
27 color transparencies/prints comprise 20 photos from the general autopsy (Nos. 26-45) and 7 photos from the
brain examination (Nos. 46-52). Although there are 52 photographs, they only show 7 different views of the
head/upper body (38 photographs from the general autopsy) and 2 views of the brain (14 photographs from the
brain examination); each view being represented by several almost identical black and white and color
If the extant autopsy photographs are camera originals from the autopsy, then at least 18 black and white
negatives and 20 color positives should have been exposed during the general autopsy. As will be discussed in the
following, all of these 38 photographs have probably been produced from a relatively small number of camera
originals taken during the second autopsy, whereas the photographs taken during the first autopsy were destroyed.
This will explain the divergent records regarding the number and nature of the autopsy photographs taken, as well
as the persons involved in taking the photographs and developing the films. Thus, there are contradicting
statements/documents concerning at least the following issues related to the photographs from the general
Photographer(s) involved: Stringer only, but assisted by R iebe / both Stringer and Riebe / Knudsen only
Time during autopsy when photographs were taken: only at the beginning / throughout the procedures
Type of photographs: only color / both color and black and white
Type of color photographs: color negatives / color transparencies (positives)
Film format/cameras: only 4 x 5" film sheets in duplex film holders / only 4 x 5" film sheets, but from both
duplex film holders (color) and film packs (B&W) / both 4 x 5" film sheets and 120 mm film or 35
mm film (in film rolls)
Number of photographs: from about 8 to about 100
Time of developing the film: “the day after the autopsy” / November 23 (deduced) / November 24
(deduced) / November 27
Persons developing the film: Spencer (color) / Spencer (color) and Fox (B&W) / Madonia (color) and
As regards the 14 extant photographs of the brain, I am convinced that they are not of President Kennedy’s brain,
since, based on the descriptions I have read, they do not seem to be consistent with thetrue wounds to Kennedy’s
head. I guess some poor fellow was shot through the head, either before or after he had expired, to produce that
piece of false evidence. Incidentally, the supplementary autopsyreport states that 7 black and white photographs
and 6 color photographs were taken of the brain, i.e. one color pho tograph less than is in the Archives:
During the course of this examination seven (7) black and white and six (6) color 4x5 inch
negatives are exposed but not developed (the cassettes containing these negatives have been
delivered by hand to Rear Admiral George W. Burkley, MC, USN, White House Physician).
It is also quite possible, as has been pointed out in amemo by ARRB’s Doug Horne, that there were two brain
examinations, and that JFK’s brain actually was examined. Apparently, John T. Stringer took the photographs
during the first brain examination (i.e. of JFK’s brain), but these photographs were apparently subsequently
destroyed and replaced by photographs from a different brain taken by a different photographer.
Saundra Kay Spencer
Saundra K ay Spencer worked at the White House Photo Lab at the Naval Photographic Center (NPC), Anacostia
at the time of the assassination. The White House lab was located within the color division of NPC, because they
mainly handled co lor photos. M s. Spencer was Petty Officer in Charge at the lab, and her supervisor was W hite
House photographer Robert Knudsen.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 19
Ms. Spencer toldARRB that after the assassination a Federal agent, possibly James K. Fox (of the Secret
Service), came to the White House lab with 8-10 color negatives (4 or 5 duplex film holders) from the autopsy of
President Kennedy, which he wanted Ms. Spencer to process and then make a print of each developed negative.
She did so, and when making the prints (a test print and a final print of each), she could observe how the body of
JFK looked like at the time of the autopsy.
In her ARRB deposition Ms. Spencer did not remember for sure which day she developed the film, but she was
convinced that it wasbefore the funeral (on M onday afternoon), but after she had taken some prints for prayer
cards to the White House early on Sunday. However, in an earlier telephoneinterview with ARRB staff she
believed she developed the film the day after the assassination, i.e. on Saturday, and that the handling of these
films interrupted her work on the praying cards. Thus, she developed the autopsy films sometime between
Saturday an Monday. What Ms. Spencer saw in those photographs was far from what the extant autopsy photos
GUNN: Can you describe for me what you saw as best you can recollect?
SPENCER: Briefly, they were very, what I consider pristine for an autopsy. There was no blood or
opening cavities, opening or anything of that nature. It was q uite reverent in how they handled it.
Q: If I can just ask for some clarification. Do you mean that the body appeared to be clean, had
been washed? Is that what you are suggesting?
Q: And that was different from what you had seen in other autopsy photographs, is that right?
SPENCER: Yes. In other autopsies, they have the opening of the cavity and the removing of vital
organs for weighing and stuff of this nature. The only organ that I had seen was a brain that was laid
beside the body.
Q: And that was in the photograph of President Kennedy?
Q: So there was a brain in the photograph beside the body, is that correct?
SPENCER: Well, yes, by the side of the body, but, it didn’t appear that the skull had been cut,
peeled back and the brain removed. None of that was shown. As to whose brain it was, I cannot say.
She also noticed a large wound in the back of the head, and a small wound in the front of the neck.
GUNN: Could you describe what you mean by the “wound at the back of the head”?
SPENCER: It appeared to be a hole, inch, two inches in diameter at the back of the skull here.
Q: Was the scalp disturbed or can you describe that more than just the hole?
SPENCER: It was just a ragged hole.
Q: And it was visible through the scalp , is that correct?
Q: Did you see any photographs with the scalp pulled back or reflected?
Q: Did you see any photographs that would have shown any wounds in either the neck or shoulders
SPENCER: It seems like I seen - there was at the base of the neck.
Q: When you are pointing, you are pointing to the front of your neck to the right side?
Q: Do you remember approximately how large that injury was?
SPENCER: Just about the size of like your thumb pressed in.
Q: What is your best recollection of the approximate size of the wound on the throat that you
SPENCER: Just about like that, just like a finger, half-inch.
Q: Do you remember whether the wound was jagged or how that appeared?
SPENCER: No, just - it appeared just indented. It was, again, clean, pristine, no - you know, it
wasn’t an immediate wound, it had some cleaning done to it or something.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 20
Spencer’s description of the wounds she saw in the autopsy photographs are very close to the descriptions given
by medical personnel at Parkland Hospital and by some Bethesda autopsy witnesses. No incisions seem to have
been made before the photographs were taken, i.e. they must have been taken very early during the autopsy. Yet,
there was a brain beside JFK’s body in one/some of the photograph(s). But I agree with Ms. Spencer when she
states: “As to whose brain it was, I cannot say”. When shown the extant autopsy photographs, Ms. Spencer didn’t
recognize a single one of them as corresponding to the photographs that she had developed. Nor were they printed
on the same type of paper that they had used at the White House lab in November 1963. And the negatives she
developed were color negatives, not color positives (transparencies), as are those currently present in the National
Here are some of her comments as to how the extant photographs differed from those she developed and saw:
Left side of head and shoulder
SPENCER: Like I said, the body was pristine, and this has dried blood on the support, the ear, and
Q: Do you recall whether there was a metal holder for the head on the images that you developed?
SPENCER: I don’t remember a metal holder.
Right side of head and shoulder
SPENCER: There was no– the film that I seen or the prints that we printed did not have the massive
head damages that is visible here.
SPENCER: The face in the photographs that we did, did not have the stress that these photos– on
the face that these photos show.
Q: Could you describe a little bit more what you mean by that?
SPENCER: The face, the eyes were closed and the face, the mouth was closed, and it was more of a
rest position than these show.
Superior view of head
SPENCER: Again, none of the heavy damage that shows in these photographs were visible in the
photographs that we did.
Posterior thorax (with entrance wound) and the back of the head
SPENCER: They are using a measuring device, which I don’t remember in any of the photographs
that we produced, and I don’t remember any hands on the President during any of the shots that we
Q: Now, could you look at the place on the back of P resident Kennedy’s head that corresponds to
where you identified a wound in the back of the head. Do you see that wound present in these
SPENCER: No, I do not.
Q: Would this view have shown the wound that you previously saw in the photographs of President
SPENCER: Yes. The wound that I seen would have been approximately in this area.
Q: If we described that as very roughly the cowlick area, would that be fair to say?
Right anterior view of head and upper torso with tracheotomy wound
Q: Ms. Spencer, could you look at the wound in the throat of President Kennedy and tell me
whether that corresponds to the wound that you observed in the photographs you developed?
SPENCER: No, it does not.
Q: In what way are they different?
SPENCER: This is a large, gaping gash type.
Q: That is, in the fifth view, it’s a large, gap ing gash, is that correct?
SPENCER: Yes. In the one that we had seen, it was on the right side, approximately half-inch.
Q: Is the wound in a different location or is it just a larger wound on the throat?
SPENCER: It could be just a larger wound.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 21
SPENCER: Right. None of the flooring [in the autopsy room] was showing or anything of that
nature. I don’t remember any floor. I don’t remember any extremely high angles like this.
Wound of entrance in right posterior occipital region of head
SPENCER: Yes. They are again using measuring devices that were not in the pictures that we did.
The section that appears to be the skull weight, the side is not there, and again, there are hands in
the background. This is not a photograph that was in the set that we produced.
Q: In terms of the locations of the wound, do you see any differences or similarities with those that
you developed in November 1963?
SPENCER: No, there is no similarity.
Missile wound of entrance in the posterior skull following reflection of scalp
Q: [....] M s. Spencer, in N ovember of 1963, did you see any images corresponding to the seventh
view that you have in front of you now?
Q: Are you able to identify what that view is?
SPENCER: It appears to be the opening of the cavity, top of the head, with the brain removed.
So Ms. Spencer didn’t find a single of the autopsy photographs she had developed among those currently present
in the National Archives.
GUNN: Ms. Spencer, you have now had an opportunity to view all of the colored images, both
transparencies and prints, that are in the possession of the National Archives related to the autopsy
of President Kennedy. Based upon your knowledge, are there any images of the autopsy of
President Kennedy that are not included in those views that we saw?
SPENCER: The views that we produced at the Photographic Center are not included.
Q: Ms. Spencer, how certain are you that there were other photographs of President Kennedy’s
autopsy that are not included in the set that you have just seen?
SPENCER: I could personally say that they are not included. The only thing I can determine is that
because of the pristine condition of the body and the reverence that the body was shown, that - this
is speculation on my part - that perhaps the family had the second set shot and developed as
possible releases if autopsy pictures were demanded, because at that time. Mrs. Kennedy was
attempting to keep all sensationalism out of the funeral and maintain the President’s dignity and
Q: Are you able to - let’s start with a conjecture as to whether the photographs that you developed,
and the photographs that you observed today, could have been taken at different times?
SPENCER: I would definitely say they were taken at different times.
Q: Is there any question in your mind whether the photographs that you saw today were
photographs of President Kennedy?
SPENCER: There is not doubt they are pictures of President Kennedy.
Q: Is there any doubt in your mind that the photographs that you saw in November 1963 also were
of President Kennedy?
SPENCER: No, that was President Kennedy, but between those photographs and the ones that we
did, there had to be some massive cosmetic things done to the President’s body.
Q: Do you have an opinion as to whether the photographs that you developed in 1963 were taken
before or after the photographs that you observed today?
SPENCER: I would say probably afterwards.
Q: So you would think that the photographs that you developed were taken after reconstruction of
Ms. Spencer thought the set she developed was made after the body had been reconstructed. To her, that was the
only logical way to explain the discrepancy. But I guess it’s the other way round. T he set she developed seems to
be the photographs taken at the beginning of the autopsy on the evening of November 22nd. No photographs
seems to have been taken later that night, and if so, they must have been withheld from developing at NPC by the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 22
When the body had been reconstructed the tracheotomy wound was closed by a suture and sealed by wax, and the
scalp adjacent to the opening in the back of the head was stitched together and partly attached to a piece of rubber
placed inside the cranium. Moreover, the Y incision on the chest would probably have been visible. Hence, in my
opinion, the testimony of Saundra Kay Spencer gives us a very accurate account of how JFK’s body and wounds
looked like in the original set of autopsy color photographs from the first autopsy. All the extant photographs
from the general autopsy in the US National Archives, thus seem to have b een taken during the second autopsy.
When testifying before the W arren Commission,Humes made the following statements concerning the number
and types of photographs taken during the autopsy:
Mr. SPECTER: Precisely what X-rays or photographs were taken before the dissection started?
Commander HUMES: Some of these X-rays were taken before and some during the examination
which, also maintains for the photographs, which were made as the need became apparent to make
such. However, before the postmortem examination was begun, anterior, posterior and lateral
X-rays of the head, and of the torso were made, and identification type photographs, I recall having
been made of the full face of the late President. A photograph showing the massive head wound
with the large defect that was associated with it. To my recollection all of these were made before
the proceedings began. Several others, approximately 15 to 20 in number, were made in total before
we finished the proceedings.
Mr. SPECTER: Now were those X-rays or photographs or both when you referred to the total
Commander HUMES: By the number I would say they are in number 15 to 20. There probably was
ten or 12 X- ray films exposed in addition.
Commander HUMES: The photographs, to go back a moment the photographs and the X-rays were
exposed in the morgue, of the Naval Medical Center on this night, and they were not developed,
neither the X-rays or the photographs. They were submitted to the, and here, if I make a mistake I
am not certain, to either the Federal Bureau of Investigation or to the Secret Service, I am not sure
Mr. SPECTER: Did you submit those yourself immediately after they were taken, Dr. Humes?
Commander HUMES: Again, one of the senior people present, I believe my own Commanding
Officer, Captain Stover, took care of turning this material over to these authorities, and receiving a
receipt for this information, for this material. It was– I supervised the positioning of the body for
various of these examinations but as far as beyond that, I did not consider that my responsibility.
Representative FORD: May I ask what size are the pictures to which you refer?
Commander HUMES: We exposed both black and white and color negatives, Congressman. They
were exposed in the morgue during the examination. They were not developed. The kodachrome
negatives when developed would be 405 [sic; 4 x 5"]. They were in film carriers or cassettes, as
were the black and white. Of course they could be magnified.
Representative FORD: Have those been examined by personnel at Bethesda?
Commander HUMES: No, sir. We exposed these negatives; we turned them over. Here I must ask
the counsel again for advice to the Secret Service.
Mr. SPECTER: Yes; it was the Secret Service.
Commander HUMES: They were turned over to the Secret Service in their cassettes unexposed,
and I have not seen any of them since. This is the photographs. The X-rays were developed in our
X-ray department on the spot that evening, because we had to see those right then as part of our
examination, but the photographs were made for the record and for other purposes.
Representative FORD: But they had never been actually developed for viewing.
Commander HUMES: I do not know, sir.
Thus, in 1964, before he had allegedly seen the photographs for the first time (November 1, 1966) Humes
claimed that only 15-20 photographs were taken during the general autopsy, comprising both black and whites
and colornegatives. And we may notice how Humes pretends to be ignorant about whether it was Secret Service
or FBI agents who too k custody of the photographs and x-rays.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 23
The Secret Service, agent Fox and photographer Knudsen
According to astatement from the Secret Service dated February 23, 1967, the autopsy photographs (black and
white negative film and colorpositive film) were developed at NPC on November 27, but color prints were not
made until December 9. Secret Service photographer James K. Fox stated in amemorandum dated February 16,
1967 that White House photographer Robert Knudsen had accompanied him on these trips to NPC:
On November 27th,1963, I was instructed by my supervisor SAIC Robert I. Bouck, Protective
Research Section, to make arrangements with the Naval Processing Center located at Anacostia to
have processed both black and white negatives and color positives made during the autopsy of
President John F. Kennedy at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. On the same date I proceeded to the
Naval Processing Center, Anacostia, accompanied by Chief Robert L. Knudsen, Mrs. Kennedy's
personal photographer. Negatives and positives were processed the same day and returned to SAIC
Bouck, November 27, 1963.
On December 9th, 196 3, I was instructed by SAIC Bouck, to have 8" x 10" color prints
made from the color positives and I again proceeded to the Naval Processing Center with Chief
Robert L. Knudsen where several photographs were made under my personal supervision. I
returned them to SAIC Bouck at approximately 5:45 p.m., December 9, 1963.
In the Secret Servicestatement there is no mention of Knudsen, which may be due to the fact that the objective of
this document was to show that the autopsy photographs had been in the custody of the Secret Service at all times
until they were turned over to Mrs. Lincoln at the National Archives in April 1965 (she had an office there, but
was not an employee).
(3) Fox took the photographic film to the U.S. Navy Photographic Laboratory on or about
November 27. The black and white film was processed, black and white negatives were developed,
and color positives were made from the colored film. The processing and development was done by
Lt. V. Madonia, U.S. Navy, at the laboratory. During the processing and development, Fox
remained with the photographic film at the laboratory and at the conclusion of the processing and
development, all the pho tographic film which Fox received from Bouck was returned by Fox to
Bouck on or about November 27th, 1963 at about 2:00 p.m.
(5) A few days later, black and white prints were made by Fox in the Secret Service photographic
laboratory. On or about December 9, 1963, at the direction of Mr. Bouck, Fox took the colored
positives back to the U.S. Navy Photographic Laboratory and observed while enlarged color prints
were made. All the color positives and prints were delivered to Bouck by Fox about 6:00 that same
evening, at which time they were returned to the locked safe.
White House photographer Robert Knudsen confirmed in his testimony before theHSCA in 1978 that he and Fox
had gone to the NPC to develop autopsy photographs after the assassination. Knudsen said he himself developed
the black and white film, whereas Vince Madonia at the color lab of NPC developed the color film. According to
Knudsen this happened the morning after the autopsy, and it was admiral Burkley, rather than SAIC Bouck who
handed the film to them. Three times during the interview Knudsen says the films were developed the morning
after the autopsy, but he was never asked whether that actually meant November 23, or a later date.
PURDY: When did you first become aware of the existence of photographs of the autopsy of
KNUDSEN: The morning following the autopsy, Dr. Berkley [sic] -- to the best of my knowledge,
Dr. Berkley had the film holders in a brown paper bag and handed them to me. Jim Fox, the Secret
Service expert, was told to go over and develop them and see that they were secure at all times.
PURDY: Who gave you those orders?
KNUDSEN: I believe Dr. Berkley at that time. He said to develop them and see that they were
secure. Jim Fox was right there and the two of us went over to do the developing.
KNUDSEN: Jim and I got into the W hite Ho use staff car to go over to the N aval Photographic
Center. They were black and white and color. I took the black and white in one dark room and gave
the color -- I believe it was Vince Mendona [sic] who took the color into the adjoining color dark
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 24
room so we could process simultaneously. So, while Jim Fox stood outside to see that we were not
PURDY: You processed the black and whites?
PURDY: It is your recollection that Lt. Vince Mendona processed the color?
KNUDSEN: I believe V ince did. I will not swear to that.
PURDY: Approximately how long after the autopsy were these films developed? W as it the
morning after, as you said before?
KNUDSEN: [...] I do know that the best sequence of events that I can recall was the morning
following the autopsy, Berkley handed me a paper bag with the black and white and color film and
there was an agent-- I do not recall who it was -- and Jim Fox was there, and he said, take this over
to the Photographic Center, process it, bring the negatives back, don't let anybody see it.
According to Knudsen, they developed 10 color negatives (from 5 duplex film holders), but one of the negatives
might have been unexposed, and they developed 12 black and white negatives (from a film pack comprising 12
negatives; not from duplex film holders). There were no color transparencies. When challenged about his claim of
developing the black and white negatives, Knudsen is certain that he did it, and he is also certain about the
number and type of negatives (film pack).
PURDY: So that each set consisted of ten color prints?
KNUDSEN: Approximately. I do not recall the exact number. T here, again, what I am taking this
from -- it seems to me there were five holders that they took into the dark room. If there were five
holders, ten negatives. If there were one exposed [(sic); unexposed] sheet, there would have been
PURDY: Were there approximately ten black and white negatives, or a greater or lesser number?
KNUDSEN: There was one total film back [(sic); pack]. There would have been twelve negatives,
black and white.
PURDY: Were any of the film holders blank on either or both sides?
KNUDSEN: No black and whites. I have been thinking about it. There could have been an
unexposed sheet. In the back of my mind, there is something about an unexposed sheet of the color
film. No empty holders.
PURDY: Unexposed sheet of color film?
KNUDSEN: In the back of my mind it seems there might have been one, but we accounted for that
by bringing the blank sheet with us. In other words, we brought a sheet of film for -- there are two
sheets back for every holder.
PURDY: One of the sheets, was it overexposed or underexposed, the one that was blank?
KNUDSEN: If it was blank, I would say it probably was not exposed. All of the other exposures
were good exposures.
PURDY: It is your recollection that it was just one film pack of black and white film?
PURDY: You say there are twelve exposures?
KNUDSEN: Twelve exposures.
PURDY: There definitely was not another pack?
KNUDSEN: I will not swear to that. I do not honestly remember.
PURDY: You personally developed the black and white film?
PURDY: No one else was in the room when you did it?
KNUDSEN: That is right.
PURDY: It is James Fox's recollection that he did the black and white developing at the Secret
Service lab. That is inconsistent with your recollection.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 25
KNUDSEN: He may have printed black and whites at his lab. The black and whites were developed
at the photographic center at the same time that the color was.
PURDY: You personally have a specific recollection o f having developed the black and white
KNUDSEN: Right. Jim stood outside the darkroom door.
PURDY: It is also Mr. Fox's recollection that some of the black and white sides of the film holders
either had no film in them or they were not exposed.
KNUDSEN: The black and white was film pack. The film holders were color. To the best of my
knowledge, there were no black and whites in the ho lders. I know there was a pack.
When Knudsen later went back to make 7 sets of color prints, he made these from color negatives, rather than
from color positives as stated by the Secret Service. Knudsen is a little vague as to whether Fox accompanied him
or not, saying: “to the best of my recollection” and “to the best of my knowledge”. He does not volunteer that Fox
went with him, but only says so when specifically asked if that was the case, as if he is afraid to say anything
contradicting the official version. But apparently somebody else accompanied him, because Fox allegedly went
withthem rather than just with him to NPC (“he went ...with us”). According to Knudsen they went back to make
the color prints the day after developing the film or just a few days later. It is noteworthy that Admiral Burkley, as
well as the Naval Aide, Taz Shepherd, were present when orders were given to make the prints. The Secret
Service man, whose identity Knudsen does not recall, or does not dare to disclose, might have been SAIC Bouck.
PURDY: Could you tell us the chain of events that led to the printing of the negatives, the printing
of the photographic prints?
KNUDSEN: I was told that they needed seven sets of 8 x 10 prints.
PURDY: Who told you that?
KNUDSEN: To my recollection, T az Shepherd, Berkley and the Secret Service men were all
present. I do not recall which one told me, the exact words. They apparently had been discussing
what was required, and I was called in and told, here is what they need, and went back to the
Photographic Center and made seven sets and brought them back to the White House. I have not
seen the prints since.
PURDY: Was there a particular individual whose orders you were responding to?
KNUDSEN: I do not recall.
PURDY: Do you recall if Dr. Berkley asked that you make the prints?
KNUDSEN: As I say, to the best of my knowledge, Taz Shepherd, who was the Naval Aide,
Berkley, the Secret Service man -- I do not recall who it was -- the three of them were there.
PURDY: Was the Secret Service man James Fox?
KNUDSEN: No. Jim did no t have authority for something of that nature.
PURDY: Was he present at the time?
KNUDSEN: To the best of my recollection, he went back over to the photographic center with us
while the prints were being made, to insure security.
PURDY: Do you recall whether he was there when you were told that you had to have the prints
KNUDSEN: No, I do not. I assume he was, because I took them immediately back to the
Photographic Center to be printed, but I will not swear.
PURDY: You were told to make these seven sets of prints, and you stated that James Fox went with
you. Is that correct?
KNUDSEN: To the best of my knowledge, yes.
PURDY: Who actually made the prints?
KNUDSEN: Well, it is basically a mechanical operation. You put them in these trays and the
machine just moves them from slot to slot. They are machine processed.
PURDY: Who supervised the machine?
KNUDSEN: Oh, Vince Mendona was there. I was there. I am sure Jim Fox was there with us.
PURDY: After the prints were made, then what happened?
KNUDSEN: I took them back to the White Ho use.
PURDY: You and?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 26
KNUDSEN: Jim Fox. He was with me. We took them back.
When shown copies of the autopsy photographs in the National Archives, Knudsen confirmed that the images
were consistent with the ones he saw immediately after the assassination. However, he seems to be a little hesitant
as to accepting the photos showing the back of the head quite intact, indicating there had been a damage similar to
what could be seen in the photos showing the “superior view of the head”. Moreover, a photo showing two probes
through the body was missing.
KNUDSEN: It seems to me that there was one photograph that showed– I can best describe it to
you. This part of the hair (Indicating). T here seems that there is a strand of skin holding this this
PURDY: This witness is pointing to the back portion of the head. I am turning to photograph 42
and 43F [“Missile wound in right occipital region”].
KNUDSEN: This is not what I mean.
PURDY: A photograph of the back of the President's head. Let me just ask you if that looks like
one that you saw, or that matches your recollection. T his is the back of the President's head here.
KNUDSEN: There again, I did not study it in detail. It seems to me that there was a little bit more
of the piece of the skull hanging in o ne of the photographs. Here, this is it.
PURDY: Now we are referring to Photograph No. 37F, showing the top of the President's head. So
it is your testimony here today that these photographs are not inconsistent with the ones that you
KNUDSEN: No, not at all.
PURDY: Is there anything that you saw that is not represented by these photographs?
KNUDSEN: I feel certain that there was the one with the two probes.
PURDY: One photograph with two probes through the body?
KNUDSEN: That is correct.
PURDY: Does this approximately respond [(sic): correspond] to the number of color prints you
KNUDSEN: That is correct.
PURDY: It is just your recollection that there was one more, or at least one more, than is present in
KNUDSEN: It seems to me that the one I saw with the probes was strictly a negative. I do not
remember seeing a print of it. The first day, when we processed the film, we were just checking the
negatives. I believe it was a black and white. I do not know. I believe it was the negative of the
PURDY: You think it was black and white, or you think it might have been, or you are just not
KNUDSEN: It was a negative. I do not recall ever having seen a print, but it seems to me that there
was a negative, in checking the negatives.
Robert Knudsen’s role in taking the autopsy photographs will be further discussed later.
Vince Madonia, who was in charge of the colo r lab at NPC in November 1963, confirmed in two interviews with
ARRBstaff that there was a lot of activity at NPC in the days following the assassination. Here are some excerpts
from these interviews.
First interview 06/25/96
When asked by ARRB staff whether he developed any autopsy film himself, after a pause, M adonia
said no. When asked whether any of his people developed any autopsy photography, after another
pause he said that he was not sure; ultimately he said that they may have ‘assisted’ others. He said
that a female named Sandy may have assisted others with autopsy photography. ARRB asked
whether this person’s name was Sandy Spencer, he said yes, it was, and stated that she was a First
Class Petty Officer (Navy E-6), and said she was a very reliable worker, an “excellent” worker,
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 27
whom he had a lot of respect for. He said that she was the senior of the three people who did the
work in the NPC White House lab.
When asked whether he remembered photographic work related to the JFK autopsy being done
after that weekend, during the one month period following the assassination weekend, he said that
yes, agents did come back for some more photos which “may have been about the autopsy” during
subsequent weeks, during a couple of subsequent visits. Other than the subsequent visits taking
place, he could not remember details.
When asked, Mr. Madona said he did not remember any specifics about film that weekend: neither
number of rolls, nor format, nor type (B & W or color, film speed, etc.). He said that the color lab
almost exclusively did color prints. When asked whether he remembered developing color positive
transparencies related to autopsy photography, he said he did not recall any transparencies being
developed, only prints. He said there was no good system for making prints from color positive
transparencies; NPC had the capability to develop transparencies and make internegatives, but he
did not remember this happening following the JFK assassination.
Madonia, when asked, said he did know Robert L. Knudsen, and remembered that he was a
White House photographer, and said, “he may have been there that weekend (right after the
assassination).” As soon as he had said this, however, he said, “take that out of your notes, I
shouldn’t have said that, I’m not sure.”
Second interview 27/11/96
Activity at NPC W eekend of Assassination: Remembers 3 full days of photographic activity, which
began the evening of the assassination prior to midnight. Federal agents from both the FBI and
Secret Service (a total of 2 or 3 people, he estimated) were present these three days to ensure tight
control over films, and to prevent unauthorized reproduction. No one went home the night of the
assassination - people worked straight through that first night. He believes he saw Robert Knudsen
sometime that weekend, but is not sure when. He does remember that som e personnel in the W hite
House lab unit developed autopsy photography that weekend, as well as motorcade photography
from the time of the assassination until and including arrival at a hospital in Texas (and removal of
the President from the limousine); however, he does not remember any details of the President’s
wounds from any of this photography the weekend of the assassination. He does remember
development of color negatives, and color prints that weekend; he does not remember development
of color positive transparencies. He does remember development of 35 mm film and 120 film, as
well as a B & W film pack (12 ea 4" X 5") that weekend; he does not remember any other 4" X 5"
photography that weekend, such as 4" X 5" color positive transparencies in duplex holders. He
could not specify which types of pictures were on which film formats, but seemed reasonably sure
that NPC developed no 4" X 5" color positive transparencies following the assassination.
Thus, Madonia seems to largely corroborate Ms. Spencer’s and Knudsen’s accounts of the events, although he
apparently denies having developed any color negatives himself. My interpretation is that Secret Service agent
Fox probably brought the color negatives from the first autopsy to NPC for develop ing and printing (by M s.
Spencer) on Saturday, and then Fox and Knudsen went back to NPC one or a few days later with the new set of
undeveloped film from the second autopsy.
Number of photographs
The Secret Servicedocument and the memorandum from Fox seem to relate to the second set of autopsy
photographs, or actually to the final set of (processed) autopsy photographs, which included color transparencies
rather than color negatives. That also seems to be the case for thefilm receipt allegedly typed and signed at
Bethesda on November 22, which refer to color positive film (Ektachrome E3). According to Stringer’s ARRB
testimonyhe didn’t sign this film receipt until about a week after the autopsy on November 22nd.
GUNN: When did you first see the document that’s markedExhibit 78?
STRINGER: I don’t remember. It was sometime after the autopsy, because the captain had me sign
Q: Do you remember whether it was within a week of the autopsy, or a month of the autopsy?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 28
STRINGER: Well, I wouldn’t know. Maybe a week or so. I don’t know.
Q: Do you remember seeing the document, now marked Exhibit 78, on the night of the autopsy?
The number of exposed film sheets (16 color; 12 B&W ) referred to in the film receipt was corrected in aletter
from Bouck to Capt. Stover dated December 5th, 196 3 (21 color; 18 B&W), which brought the numbers pretty
close to what had been recorded by FBI agents Sibert and O’Neill in theirreport from the autopsy:
The following is a complete listing of photographs and X-Rays taken by the medical authorities of
the President's body. They were turned over to Mr. ROY KELLERMAN of the Secret Service.
X-Rays were developed by the hospital, however, the photographs were delivered to Secret Service
22 4 x 5 color photographs
18 4 x 5 black and white photographs
1 roll of 120 film containing five exposures
But even after that correction the numbers of photographs and x-rays allegedly taken at the autopsy do not
correspond entirely to the number of black and white negatives, color transparencies and x-rays from the general
autopsy currently in theNational Archives (22 color positives - 20 exposed/2 unexposed; 23 B & W negatives -18
exposed/5 unexposed; 14 x-rays). And there are also three more x-rays in the National Archives than recorded by
the FBI agents.
If the numbers of photographs taken on the evening of November 22 as recorded by Siebert and O’Neill are
correct (22 color, 18 B&W ), as well as the number of color photographs Ms. Spencer remember she developed
(8-10), then M s. Spencer must have developed only about half of all the color photographs taken during the first
autopsy. In that case, someone else must have developed and printed the remaining 10-12 color photographs. In
addition, someone else must have developed all the black and white negatives from the first autopsy, if there were
any. That might have been James K. Fox at the Secret Service laboratory, since he apparently toldHSCA (stated
by Mr. Purdy when questioning Robert Knudsen) that he had developed some black and white negatives from the
Another po ssible explanation to the discrepancy between the number of photographs recorded by the FBI agents
and the number of photographs developed by Ms. Spencer, as well as the apparent absence of black and white
photos on that occasion, is that the FBI agents in the morgue were fooled to believe that those conducting the
autopsy did a very thorough examination and documentation of the wounds. Instead, they might have exposed
only a small number of photographs that night (possibly using empty film holders for the rest of the exposures),
since they already knew that they would need to take another set of photographs after the body had been altered.
Thus, the photographer during the autopsy on November 22, John T. Stringer, claimed toHSCA staff that he only
took color photographs during that event (see later).
The two FBI agents O’Neill and Sibert could easily have been fooled about the numbers since they did not count
the x-rays and photographs themselves, nor were they allowed to observe directly the taking of photographs and
x-rays. Sibert is very clear about how they got the numbers in anaffidavit that he prepared for the HSCA:
The Secret Service retained the undeveloped photographs and X -Rays and neither O'Neill nor I
handled them. Regarding the listing of those materials in my report, Humes told us the number of
X-Rays and photographs; we had no independent verification, we didn't count them.
This information is repeated in the ARRB depositions of both agents. And according to them, all the autopsy
photographs and x-rays were taken at the beginning of the autopsy, i.e. before any incisions had been made and
the brain and any organs had been removed from the body. T he following are the statements byO’Neill:
GUNN: Were you in the room while the pictures were taken?
O’NEILL: [...] W e were not in the autopsy in the roo m itself. As I mentioned, we were asked to
leave, which we did. I do have a listing, I believe, in my report of the amount of pictures taken and
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 29
of the amount of X-rays taken. These were given to me by Boswell and by Finck --not Finck, but
Boswell and Hume[s], as to the amount of pictures taken.
GUNN: When you say in your “report”, you’re referring to the FD 302 that’s been marked as
Q: - is that correct?
O’NEILL: Yes. Yes, that’s correct. Yeah, these are figures which I didn’t make up myself. These
were given to me by --let me see --by Humes. He was the one.
Q: Okay. Do you remember how many photographers there were?
O’NEILL: No, I don’t know. There was specifically one I know of. There might have been two. But
I don’t know whether there was one or two. I don’t know whether one --you know, one could take
these pictures. Although, there weren’t too many pictures taken. I mean, but- No, I can’t say
whether it was one or two photographers there.
Q: Approximately how much time were the photographers and X-ray technicians in the morgue?
O’NEILL: Oh-gee, really, it’s hard to tell. I’d say 10 minutes, 12 minutes. Something of that-- It
didn’t take too long to take the pictures and the X-rays. We then went back in. And prior to any
surgical procedures being made, the doctors said they wanted to wait till they got the results of the
X-rays, so they could make a determination. They also wanted to wait for Colonel Finck, who I
understood was from the Armed Forces Institute of Patho lgy, to come over to assist in the autopsy,
since I understand that he was a– the only forensic pathologist in attendance at that time.
Q: You’ve referred to the fact that photographs and X-rays were taken before any procedures were
done on the body.
O’NEILL: That’s correct.
GUNN: Was there any subsequent time when additional X-rays or photographs were taken, to the
best of your knowledge?
O’NEILL: No, because if they had been taken, they would have requested that we go out of the
room again, as they did the first time. And that we move-- No request was made. And I didn’t see
any other photographs being taken, or any other X-rays being taken.
In his ARRB depositionSibert refers to the list or numbers of photographs and x-rays given to them as an
“inventory”. And Sibert states several times that the x-rays and photographs were taken at the beginning of the
SIBERT: [...] We got that inventory that Humes gave us, which I included in my FD 302.
GUNN: Did you see the body lifted out of the casket and put onto the autopsy table?
SIBERT: I believe I do. I remember that. That was just before. They cleared the room, that I
mentioned. The photographs and the X-rays that were taken right after that.
Q: First incision. How much time was there between the time that the body was unwrapped from the
sheets and the first incision was made?
SIBERT: Well, this is the time that you would have had the X-rays and the photographs. And I
don’t recall. And I think they probably may have waited a little bit to get those X-rays developed.
Now, the photographs were undeveloped. They weren’t developed that night for use at the autopsy.
But I think that they probably -And here again, I’m just assuming that they probably wanted those
X-rays before they started the real detailed part of the autopsy, you know.
Q: During the time towards the beginning of the autopsy when you left the room for the
photographs and X-rays, where were you waiting during that time?
SIBERT: As I recall, we were out in the hall. But they cleared the room for the X-rays. And they
said they were going to take photographs. So, everybody except the personnel involved in those two
functions - Medical personnel, were the only ones who were, theoretically, in there.
Q: Were you at the - in the autopsy room at any time when photographs were being taken?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 30
SIBERT: No, I don’t think I was.
Q: You mentioned it first that you left the room while photographs were taken. I just want to make
sure that no photos, as far as you’re aware, were taken after the procedures–
SIBERT: I don’t recall any additional photos being taken while I was there.
Q: After the first round of X-rays was taken, do you recall needing to leave the room again for
additional X -rays to be taken - subsequent X-rays?
SIBERT: I don’t remember being excluded like we were on that first one when X-rays were taken.
Q: Do you remember any discussion among the doctors about the need for performing additional
X-rays during the course of the autopsy?
Hence, it seems very likely that photographs were only taken at the beginning of the first autopsy, which is
consistent with the photographs M s. Spencer developed. Hence, the brain she saw in one of the pho tographs,
couldn’t have been JFK’s brain. All the photographs from the first autopsy were subsequently destroyed and
replaced by the new set from the second autopsy.
As mentioned earlier, Knudsen stated to HSCA that he and Fox only developed about 10 color negatives and 12
black and white negatives (a film pack with 12 sheets of film). If that is true, I wo uld guess that several nearly
identical photographs were made from each original, in order to produce the final set of autopsy photographs
(brain exclusive), which shows 7 different views of the body in a total of 38 photographs. In the photos that
needed major editing (retouching, left-right reversal), I guess they first made the necessary changes in just one
copy (on one print), and then made several photographs of the edited print, using slightly different crops and
exposures (contrast). Thus the final set of photographs of each view would appear as if several slightly different
photographs of the body had been taken. It is also possible that the final color transparencies were made from
black and white prints that had been colorized. Or it could be the other way round; some of the black and white
photographs may originate from color photographs. The latter procedure is suggested by the following exchange
between Humes and Boswell during their meeting with the Forensic Pathology Panel of theHSCA:
Dr. HUMES: All I could tell you is that it could, Dr. Petty. It co uld have because these obviously in
time were taken -- these black and white photographs, both 18, were taken temporally that evening,
at a later hour than was this color photograph No. 26, in this case.
Dr. BOSWELL: These two are essentially identical though.
Dr. PETTY: Which two, would you just identify them for the--
Dr. BOSWELL: No. 44 color and No. 17 black and white. These are almost identical, and I would
assume that one was taken with one camera and then the other one with another camera at the same
Dr. HUMES: What? The color negative may hare been developed, may have been printed black
and white, Jay. Looks more like that to me.
Dr. BOSWELL: Might have been. So they may be actually the same photograph.
Dr. HUMES: I think they are.
The photographic panel of theHSCA also concluded that the corresponding black and white and color
photographs were virtually identical:
According to inventories (Humes et al., 1966, Carnes et al., 1968) of the JFK autopsy materials in
the National Archives, the collection includes a total of 52 exposed negatives. These may be
divided into two series: (1) 25 4 by 5 inch black and white, and (2) 27 4 by 5 inch color negatives.
The entire series is numbered sequentially beginning with the black-and-white series: Black and
white; No. 1 to No. 25; color; No. 26 to No. 52. Examination of prints of the total series revealed
that most of the black-and-white negatives are virtually dup licates, in sub ject and view, to
corresponding negatives in the color series. Therefore, our detailed analysis was limited to an
examination of the latter.
By making slightly different images from each altered original, detection of the alterations by stereoscopic
viewing of pairs of almost identical images could also be avoided . Thus, theHSCA, after such stereoscopic
viewing, concluded that no alterations had been made. Apparently the HSCA did not think of the possibility of
taking pairs of photographs of altered photographs rather than of the body itself.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 31
The rather poor photographic quality of the autopsy photographs also strongly indicates that these photographs
are not camera originals but rather second or third generation copies of altered prints of the original negatives.
After all, the alleged autopsy photographer, John T. Stringer, was reportedly a very skilled, professional medical
Who took the different sets of autopsy photographs?
Since there were two autopsies and two sets of autopsy photographs, the question arises whether the same
photographer was used on both occasions. There seems to be no doubt that John T . Stringer took the autopsy
photographs on the evening of November 22nd. Floyd A. Riebe was also present that evening, but he seem s to
have acted mainly as an assistant to Stringer. Riebe did apparently try to take some photographs himself, but the
film was reportedly taken from his camera by a Secret Service agent and exposed to light, so no proper images
could be seen on his roll of 120 film. Stringer, on the other hand, used 4 x 5" film in dup lex film holders.
John T. Stringer
Dr. Humes told the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1992 that Stringer took the autopsy
photographs. Humes mentions that there were two photographers present, but it is not clear whether the second
one Humes had in mind was Floyd A. Riebe or somebody else. The “unauthorized Navy corpsman” Humes
mention is obviously Riebe, but it is somewhat strange that Humes lists him as a photographer when he was not
supposed to take pictures. Perhaps Humes was thinking of a different photographer from the second autopsy. And
it was a Secret Service agent rather than an FB I agent who took the film from Riebe. Humes had learnt by this
time that there were 52 autopsy photographs, but he had obviously forgotten that only 38 of those were from the
general autopsy, which he is speaking about. If the wounds were so obvious, it’s a little strange that Humes had
such difficulties in locating one of them in the photographs.
Humes emphasizes. “I was in charge from start to finish and there was no interference - zero. It was
myself, ‘J’ [Boswell], [Dr] Finck, two Navy enlisted men who served as autopsy technicians, three
radiologists, including chief Jack Ebersole, MD, and two photographers, including the medical
school’s chief of photography, John Stringer. We took 14 x-rays of the body from head to toe and
we took 52 photos from every possible angle.”
He dispels the myth that no photos were allowed. “The medical school’s director of
photography was a civilian, John Stringer, and, in my opinion, he was one of the best medical
photographers in the world. He took 25 black-and-white photos and 27 color photos, all with large
4-by-5-inch negatives. No significant aspect of the autopsy was left unphotographed.” He adds,
“The wounds were so obvious that there was no need to shave the hair before photographs were
Responding to published reports that photo negatives were seized by the FBI and that the
FBI took its own photographs, Humes is incredulous. He says, “Yes, there were FBI and Secret
Service people milling about the room. And, at one point, there was an unauthorized Navy
corpsman taking photos in the morgue and the FBI quite properly seized and destroyed that film,
since the photographer did not have credentials. However, the official photos taken by John
Stringer were never touched, and no one from the FBI even had a camera, let alone the intention to
take autopsy photos. These reports are an incredible lie.”
Stringer has repeatedly stated that he took the autopsy photographs that are currently in the National Archives. On
November 1, 1966, he inspected the photographs (black and whites and color transparencies) together with
Humes, Boswell, Finck and Ebersole, and later signed theinventory, which stated:
The X-rays and photographs described and listed above include all the X-rays and photographs
taken by us during the autopsy, and we have no reason to believe that any other photographs or
X-rays were made during the autopsy.
In his testimony before theARRB, Stringer again recognized all the autopsy photos of JFK’s body as photographs
taken by himself on November 22nd. He claimed that the photographs accurately depicted what the body looked
like during the autopsy, i.e. no alterations had been made in the photos. T hat is obviously not the case, but I don’t
think he is merely lying about the photographs, I suspect he is also lying about the role he played in taking (the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 32
originals of) those photographs. Stringer sticks to the official version as to the location of the wounds, but he has
great difficulties in explaining how the wounds looked like when he allegedly took the photographs. That might
be attributable to the long time period since the autopsy when he was questioned, and to the fact that some of the
photographs are mirror images of the wounds, but I suspect the real reason is that he never saw JFK’s body after
the alterations had been done to it.
When looking at the photographs showing JFK’s back, Stringer first thinks the pathologists are holding JFK ’s
body up from the table, as would have been the case during the first autopsy when there was no rigor mortis, but
after a long discussion with Gunn he has to admit that the body is lying on its ‘left’ side, whereas I think there is
no doubt that the body is lying on the stomach. I guess Stringer would have remembered the difficulties in flexing
the body parts if he had attended the second autopsy.
GUNN: Can you explain what the orientation of the body was in relationship to the table, in this
particularview [“posterior view of wound of entrance of missile high in shoulder”]?
STRINGER: He was up, sitting up.
Q: This is - these are photographs with the President sitting up?
STRINGER: He was holding him up. Yes, he was holding him up. See, he’s holding him up there.
Q: So, in view number 4 that we are looking at here, the President’s body is being propped up, so
that his torso is approximating a 90 degree -
Q: - or coming close to a 90 degree angle from the table?
STRINGER: The body was on its side.
Q: The body was on its - lying on its left shoulder, rather than being propped up in something like a
95 degree angle? Based upon your reexamination -
STRINGER: Well, I don’t know, because here’s your table here. And I don’t know whether this is
the buttocks down here or not. In other words, the body does not extend, which it should. See what
Q: So, then, by your reevaluation, you would think it would be more likely that the President is
being propped on his left shoulder?
STRINGER: Yeah, and because his arm couldn’t come out this far to show - his left arm. This is
what I’d thought about, too.
Stringer was apparently interviewed by the HSCA in August 1977, and went with HSCA staff to the National
Archives to view the autopsy photographs, although Stringer denied that these events had taken place when
testifying before the ARRB in 1996. According to the HSCAmemorandum, Stringer stated that he did not take
any black and white photographs during the autopsy:
STRINGER said he did not take any black and white photographs and that those that were made
must have been from the color transparencies in the two step pro cess.
He said in the general autopsy, he only took color photographs.
When asked about these statements by Mr. Gunn, Stringer was somewhat vague whether he had taken any black
and white photos or not. And he suggests, just like he did to the HSCA, that the black and whitenegatives may
have been produced from colorprints (not merely B&W prints printed from color negatives).
GUNN: [...] that state that [....] you did not take black and white photographs at the autopsy. Are
those statements correct or incorrect? [...]
STRINGER: Well, I don’t know whether I did or not, but I think I did when I see all this.
Q: You think that you did -
STRINGER: Took some black and white.
Q: When you say “see all of this”, what are you referring to?
STRINGER: Well, seeing what was said back in those days.
Q: You’re referring toExhibit 19?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 33
STRINGER: Well, I am referring to some of the other things that were said that there were black
and whites taken.
Q: The first full sentence, which I’ll read for the record. “He said in the general autopsy he took
only color photo -” Excuse - Let me try that again. “He said in the general autopsy he only took
color photographs.” Do you see that at the top of the page?
Q: Is that a correct statem ent as to what you did during the autopsy?
STRINGER: I actually don’t remember, but we generally took black and white and color at the
same time. Now, if we have black and white negatives, then, we probably took it. But, then, you can
also take black and white negatives from a color print.
Q: When you say “we” took them, who do you mean by “we”?
STRINGER: I. Excuse me.
But did Stringer only refer to himself when he said “we”? If Stringer told the truth to HSCA in 1977 about only
taking color photographs during the autop sy, that would again indicate that he was only present at the first
autopsy, although the FBI agents there were also told that black and white photographs had been taken. But since
he is supposed to have taken the official autopsy photos, which include black and white photographs, he has to
admit, albeit reluctantly, that he also took such photographs.
Of course Stringer has no other choice but to say he took the extant autopsy photographs even though he didn’t
take them. If he had said he didn’t take them, he would have disclo sed the secret second autopsy. And he doesn’t
dare to do that. He seems to be very afraid of the consequences of revealing too much. The following exchange
with Mr. Gunn of ARRB underlines that.
STRINGER: You don’t object to things.
GUNN: Some people do.
STRINGER: Yeah, they do. But they don’t last long.
When making that comment, Stringer might have been thinking of Lt. Cmdr. William Bruce Pitzer, Chief of the
Educational Television Division of the Naval M edical School, Bethesda.Pitzer was found dead in his office at
Bethesda on October 29th, 1966. The official conclusion was that he had committed suicide by firing a gun
through his head, but his family and friends did n’t believe this. In addition to an entry wound in the right temple
and an exit wound behind his left ear, the autopsy revealed damage to the skull in the left temple. The latter
damage suggests that Pitzer was knocked unconscious with a blow to his head, and then killed by a shot through
his head .
Pitzer’s death might very well have been related to the autopsy of President Kennedy. Pitzer’s friendDennis
David(First Class Petty Officer at Bethesda M edical School) told ARRB that 3 or 4 days after Kennedy’s autopsy
Lt. Cmdr. Pitzer had shown him portions of a black and white 16 mm movie film, 35 mm color slides and black
and white prints from the autopsy. According to David, these photographic images showed the following:
He said he witnessed only a short section of the film, which appeared to show the President’s body
during initial examinations, and before any incisions. He said the film was clearly shot in the
morgue at Bethesda, but not from immediately adjacent to the autopsy table; instead, it was shot
from a distance --either from the gallery, or from well back in the room. [....] He said that the
motion picture film, although somewhat grainy, clearly showed a gaping wound in the back of the
President’s head, and that the top of the head looked intact. [....] Like the color slides, he said these
prints “made it very clear that President Kennedy was hit from the front as well as from the rear.”
When I asked him what it was about the B&W prints, and color slides, which made him say this, he
said that first, in both the B&W prints and color slides, he could see a round or oval wound, about
one quarter to three-eighths of an inch in diameter, in the right front temporal area of the
President’s head, just below the hairline, which he immediately interpreted as a bullet entry wound;
he also said that, just as in the movie film, there was a gaping hole in the back of the head. When
asked, Mr. David clarified that the top of the head looked intact in these photographs. He specified
that the print and color slide images were straight on, profile, and oblique images of the upper torso
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 34
and head of the President, and was quite certain that there was no evidence of any “Y-Incision” in
the photographs he viewed. When asked to specify to the best of his ability, on the telephone, where
this entry wound was located, he estimated it was “about 3 inches forward of the right ear, and just
below the hairline near the top of the forehead.” He also said that the images of the tracheotomy in
the anterior neck depicted what in his opinion was much larger, and sloppier, than most trachs he
has seen throughout his career.
X-ray technician Jerrol F. Custer in hisARRB deposition also claimed that somebody was taking movies during
the autopsy. And he is obviously referring to Pitzer.
CUSTER: There was a chief there that night that was taking movies. Remember how I had stated
that he was the gentleman that had committed suicide, supposedly, and had the deformed hand -
where they found the gun in that deformed hand? He was there that night, taking movies.
Q: Did you actually see him taking movies?
CUSTER: Yes, I did.
Q: What kind of movie camera was he using?
CUSTER: I would imagine a simple eight millimeter.
Q: Was he wearing a uniform?
CUSTER: Yes, he was.
Q: And what was his rank?
Q: Did you hear any discussion during the time of the autopsy about movies being taken?
CUSTER: Well, there was quite a few upset people from the gallery that were - didn’t like the idea.
But the chief just kept right on go ing. He said, “I’m doing my job.”
Q: In addition to the chief who was - Do you remember the chief’s name?
CUSTER: No, I don’t.
Q: Does the name Pitzer mean anything to you?
CUSTER: Yes. Now, it rings a bell, but I’m not quite sure. B ut that nam e “Pitzer” does ring a bell.
Q: But did you know that name at all on the night of the–
CUSTER: No, I didn’t know that name at that time. No, I didn’t. Some of this stuff is starting to
Stringer, however, said in a telephoneinterview with ARRB staff that Pitzer was not present at the autopsy.
Q: Did you know LCDR William Bruce P itzer? W as he at the autopsy?
STRINGER: Yes, I knew Bill. He was in charge of the T .V. studio at Bethesda, of audio-visual.
But he wasn’t at the autopsy. I don’t remember seeing him in the morgue; I don’t think he was
there. I later saw an article in the National Enquirer or somewhere claiming that he was there and
that he shot himself because of this. But I don’t recall seeing him at the autopsy.
Stringer repeated this at the conclusion of his ARRBdeposition:
GUNN: One last question, and this is probably repetitive from earlier questions we have. Was there
anyone taking any motion picture photographs -
GUNN: - during the night of the autopsy?
GUNN: Thank you very much.
STRINGER: And how about Mr. Pitzer?
GUNN: Was Mr. Pitzer present at the autopsy?
STRINGER: He was not present. In fact, I shot his autopsy.
GUNN: Photographed his autopsy?
STRINGER: Yeah, excuse me.
GUNN: Okay. Thank you very much, M r. Stringer.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 35
Unfortunately Mr. Gunn didn’t ask Stringer what he knew or felt about Pitzer’s death. It seems as if Stringer
wanted to say something about Pitzer, since it was Stringer who first mentioned Pitzer’s name.
I think Stringer was right when he said that he didn’t see Pitzer during the autopsy. Because Stringer was
seemingly only present during the first autopsy, whereas Pitzer might have been present during the second one.
FBI agents Sibert and O’Neill did not observe anyone taking motion pictures during the autopsy on November 22,
but Pitzer might have taken his film/photographs when the other photographs were taken at the beginning of the
autopsy, i.e., when the FBI agents were out of the autopsy room. But then one would presume that the Secret
service would have taken P itzer’s films.
Even though Dennis David didn’t observe any damage to the top of the head or a Y incision in Pitzer’s autopsy
images, the sloppy tracheotomy wound as well as the wound in the forehead above the right eye, indicate that
these pictures were taken at the beginning of the second autopsy. There are indications from other testimonies that
a bullet wound may have been produced through Kennedy’s forehead before the body arrived in the morgue for
the second autopsy. But the wound did not show up in any of the autopsy photos. Instead, that particular area of
the forehead is covered by strands of hair, apparently made by retouching, in all the extant autopsy photos
showing the face.
Thus, Lt. Cmdr. Pitzer might have had in his possession photographic images that not merely showed the altered
body of President Kennedy, but also revealed that there had been a second autopsy. Or, he might have had images
from the first autopsy, which would also have revealed that alterations were subsequently made to JFK’s body. In
either case, Pitzer might have been a very dangerous witness, a witness who those behind Kennedy’s assassination
apparently couldn’t control and therefore had to get rid of. And the time o f his death seems to have been carefully
Pitzer was killed on October 29, 1966, and an autopsy was performed on his body onOctober 30. Stringer was
present and took the photographs of Pitzer’s wounds. Two days later, on November 1, 1966, Stringer went to the
National Archives to view the autopsy photographs of President Kennedy, in order to confirm that those were the
autopsy photographshe had taken of President Kennedy on the evening of November 22. I guess Pitzer’s fate
would have made it perfectly clear to Stringer, as well as to Ebersole, Humes and B oswell, who also went to the
Archives that day, what would happen to them if they didn’t sign the inspection report. And even the third
pathologist, Dr. Finck later becam e involved in P itzer’s death, as he reviewed the autopsy records from that case
in January 1968. Thus, it is no wonder that Stringer insists he took the autopsy photographs of JFK, even though
he probably didn’t take them. Some people may object to things. “But they don’t last long”.
Earl McDonald, who was trained by John Stringer as a medical photographer and later served as the Bethesda
autopsy photographer from 1972 until 1980, told theARRB the following about Stringer:
Knowledge of John Stringer: said Stringer would never say anything to his students about the JFK
autopsy except: “They took my film away from me and I never saw it again.” He said that John
Stringer was an award-winning medical photographer, and a very exacting teacher with an almost
If Stringer had a “photographic memory”, he would probably have remembered very well what he had seen and
done during the first autopsy, particularly as regards the type of film he used and the views he photographed. And
his statement to his students may be a hint of what really happened: he never saw the films he had exposed again,
i.e. somebody else had taken the autopsy photographs he later saw. Thus, I think we have to look for other
photographers of the extant autopsy photographs.
Floyd A. Riebe
Floyd A. Riebe, who reportedly assisted Stringer on the evening of November 22, claimed in his ARRB
depositionthat he had taken a lot of photographs during the autopsy (around 100), both with his own 35 mm
camera and with a 4 x 5" camera. Jerrol F. Custer seems to confirm this in his ARRB testimony, in which Custer
mentions Riebe taking photographs and gives the impression that he hardly knows who Stringer is. However,
Stringer maintains that Riebe took no photographs except a few exposures on a film that a Secret Service agent
took from his camera and exposed to light. If Stringer was not present at the second autopsy, and still insists that
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 36
Riebe took no autopsy photographs, Stringer probably knows that somebody else did. Or he might only be
referring to the first autopsy.
However, I don’t think Riebe sounds very credible in his testimony before the ARRB. Riebe stated at the
beginning of his ARRB deposition, as he had done on several occasions before that testimony, that he had seen a
large gaping hole in the back of President Kennedy’s head (some of Riebe’s statements on videotape were shown
to Stringer during his ARRB appearance, and are present in thattranscript). Furthermore he has claimed that the
autopsy photos showing the intact back of the head must have been altered. Yet, when shown these autopsy
photos by ARRB staff, Riebe surprisingly claims that they correspond to what he saw during the night of the
GUNN: [....] W hat did you observe on the body?
RIEBE: The right side in the back was gone (indicating). Just a big gaping hole with fragments of
scalp and bone hanging in it.
Q: When you said that, you put your hand on the back of your head.
RIEBE: The occip ital.
Q: The occipital area?
Q: Do those images [of the right side of the head and right shoulder] correspond, at least in a
general way, with what you observed at the autopsy of President Kennedy on November 22nd?
RIEBE: Well, the wound is placed different, but it could be just a - the wound is more on the top
side of the head, not in the back.
Q: When you say, “the wound,” you are referring to the wound as it appears in the photograph -
Q: - is in a location somewhat different from what you recollected from memory?
RIEBE: Well, it could be just - yes. I couldn’t - my recollection could have been off too, whatever,
that night. B ut that looks about right.
Q: Could you loo k at the back of President Kennedy’s head in the o ccipital region. You previously
used the term “occipital,” is that right?
RIEBE: Yes. It is one piece.
Q: Does that correspond with what you observed on the night of November 22nd?
Q: So that where it appears, at least to me, as if there is hair and scalp covering the occipital area,
that does not differ from what you saw on November 22nd?
RIEBE: I don’t think so, no.
Q: Mr. Riebe, previously you described a wound in the occipital region of the head whereas in
these photographs it appears that there is no wound there. What would be your explanation for that?
RIEBE: I just didn’t remember it prop erly.
I think Riebe knows very well that the photographs are different from what he saw on JFK’s body during the
(first) autopsy, but Riebe strongly wants to be remembered as a person who took some of the autopsy photographs
of President Kennedy. So I think he adjusts his memory and testimony to what the official photos show and lies
about his role in taking those photographs. Thus, I don’t believe he was present during the second autopsy, even
though he has a recollection of JFK’s body arriving in the morgue in a body bag in a “very plain, inexpensive type
There are, however, some testimonies that indicate that a 35 mm camera was used during the autopsy, just as
Riebe claimed he used. ThusKarnei told ARRB:
He [Karnei] remembers that John Stringer was photographing the autopsy, and that Stringer used
both an old-fashioned type camera that required the use of film-holders for individual sheets of
film, and also a 35 mm camera. (He could not remember whether Stringer used a tripod the night of
the Kennedy autopsy.) He said that there was a second person taking photographs also, whom he
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 37
initially described to ARRB staff as an FBI or Secret Service agent, and that this person used a
different (second) 35 mm camera (separate from Stringer’s).
However, according to Karnei, both the principal photographer, ‘correctly’ described as Stringer, and the second
photographer, who might have been Riebe, were using a 35 mm camera. Moreover,Boswell told HSCA staff that
the “professional” photographer, a designation he hardly would have used about Riebe, might have used a 35 mm
camera. It is also noteworthy that Boswell says that both color and black and white photographs were taken.
Dr. BOSWELL indicated that he believed the professional photographer may have had a black and
white in addition to a color camera in the room, most probably a 35 mm type.
According to W hite House photographer Robert Knudsen’sfamily, Knudsen had told them that he had been the
only one to photograph President Kennedy’s autopsy, and this had been the hardest thing he had ever done.
Knudsen had allegedly gone to Andrews Air Force Base and accompanied the body to Bethesda on the evening of
November 22nd. The family had not seen Knudsen from Friday afternoon till after the funeral on Monday
afternoon, with the exception of Saturday, when they had gone to the East Room of the White House where
JFK’s casket was lying in state. Knudsen was taking photographs in the East Rom that day.
According to the ARRB summary of their conversations with the widow and children of Robert Knudsen, he had
later told his family that:
-he witnessed and photographed probes inserted in the President’s body, which left no doubt of the
number and direction of bullet trajectories; son Bob thought that his father had described 3 probes
in the bo dy (2 in the thorax/neck, and one in the head);
-although none of the family remembers any discussion of type of camera, film, format of film, or
number of pictures taken, they all claimed their father told them that he was the only one in the
morgue with a camera, and believed he was the only person to pho tograph the autopsy;
-the Secret Service took his film from him as soon as he had exposed the various pieces of film,
which he thought strange, since he was personally acquainted with the agent and thought that the
agent trusted him;
-after he appeared before the HSCA in 1978, he told his family (at different times) that 4 or 5 of the
pictures he was shown by the HSCA did not represent what he saw or took that night, and that one
of the photographs he viewed had been altered. H is son B ob said that his father told him that “hair
had been drawn in” on one photo to conceal a missing portion of the top-back of President
-Mrs. Gloria Knudsen said that her husband Robert had told her that the whole top of the
President’s head was gone, and that the President’s brain(s) were largely missing (blown out);
- all 3 family members agreed that Mr. Knudsen appeared before an official government body again
sometime in 1988, about 6 months before he died in January 1989. They all had the impression that
it was “on Capitol Hill,” and that it may have been a Congressional inquiry of some kind. They
were unanimous that Mr. Knudsen came away from this experience very disturbed, saying that 4
photographs were “missing,” and that one was “badly altered;” Mrs. Gloria Knudsen used the
phrase “severely altered” regarding the one altered photograph when recounting her husband’s
statements afterwards. She further elaborated that the wounds he saw in the photos shown him in
1988 did not represent what he saw or took. He also told them that some of the details in the room
in the background of the photos were “wrong.” He had recounted that this experience was a waste
of time for him because as soon as he would answer a question consistent with what he
remembered, he would immediately be challenged and contradicted by people whom he felt already
had their minds made up;
-Mr. Knudsen expressed skepticism with his daughter Terri over the years about the conclusions of
the W arren Report in regard to the President’s wounds and the manner in which he was shot,
because of the observations he had made the night of the autopsy;
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 38
Without naming names, or telling me the precise number of her husband’s former associates that
she called, she said that she [Gloria Knudsen] spoke last week with some former Navy people who
in one case (along with her husband, Robert Knudsen saw, and in another case helped Robert
Knudsen print, photos of President Kennedy’s autopsy. She said that these former Navy people said
they never directly asked Bob Knudsen whether he had been present at the autopsy, and he never
volunteered such information either, but that from certain remarks he had made, and by evaluating
the quality of the photographs, these people were of the belief that he may well have been present at
the autopsy. When I asked her for the names of these former Navy people, she said that she had
promised these people last week not to divulge their names, and consequently would not do so
under any circumstances.
Another government photographer, Joe O’Donnell of US Information Agency, toldARRB that Knudsen had
shown him autopsy photographs of President Kennedy on two separate occasions shortly after the assassination.
ARRB made two telephone interviews with O’Donnell and his recollections differs slightly in the two interviews.
The summary from the first interview states:
-Within the week after President Kennedy’s assassination, on two occasions Robert Knudsen
showed him autopsy photographs of President Kennedy.
-On the first occasion, he was shown approximately 12 ea 5" X 7" B & W photos. The views
included the President lying on his back, on his stomach, and closeups of the back of the head. He
said that the back-of-the-head photograph(s) showed a hole in the back of the head, about 2" above
the hairline, about the size of a grapefruit; the hole clearly penetrated the skull and was very deep.
Another one of the photographs showed a hole in the forehead above the right eye which was a
round wound about 3/8" in diameter which he interpreted as a gunshot wound.
-The second occasion occurred a few days later, when Knudsen showed him a second set of
photographs, once again about 12 ea 5" X 7" B & W prints. On this second occasion, the
back-of-the-head photograph(s) was intact, and showed no hole in the back of the head. Instead of a
hole, he remembers seeing neatly combed hair which looked slightly wet, or damp in appearance.
Another photograph he remembers showed President Kennedy lying on his back, with an aluminum
probe emerging from his stomach or right side (details were vague).
-He said it was his impression that Knudsen had taken the photographs himself, but that he had
never specifically asked him that question. He said he never discussed with Knudsen the apparent
discrepancy between the two back-of-the-head photos.
In the second interview O’Donnell provides some more details about what Knudsen showed him:
-First Viewing: H e said K nudsen showed him about 12 each B & W glossy prints, abo ut 5" X 7" in
size, which were post mortem images of the President. He said the images were quite clear and that
he assumed they were first generation prints. He said some images were close-ups of the head, some
were close-ups of the shoulders, and that some were views of the entire body. He said that in some
images the President was lying on his back, and in some images he was lying on his stomach. He
said he remembers a photograph of a gaping wound in the back of the head which was big enough
to put a fist through, in which the image clearly showed a total absence of hair and bone, and a
cavity which was the result of a lot of interior matter missing from inside the cranium. He said that
another image showed a small round hole above the President’s right eye, which he interpreted as
an entry wound made by the same bullet which exited from the large wound in the back of the head.
-Second Viewing: At a subsequent private viewing, he said Knudsen showed him approximately 6
to 8 (and no more than 10) add itional glossy B & W prints of post mortem photographs of President
Kennedy, in which the small round hole above the right eye was no longer visible, and in which the
back of the head now looked completely intact. He said that the appearance of the hair in the ‘intact
back of the head” photograph(s) was wet, clean, and freshly combed. His interpretation of the
differences in the photographs of the President’s head was to attribute the differences to the
restorative work of the embalmers.
Mr. O’Donnell was asked whether he ever discussed the photographs with Mr. Knudsen, either
during the viewings or afterwards, and he said no --he felt privileged just to be able to see them, but
that they were so disturbing that he didn’t want to see them or think about them anymore.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 39
We notice that O’Donnell saw two wounds in the ‘original’ photos, a smaller one above the right eye and a large
wound in the back of the head, both of which had been removed from the final versions (probably by retouching),
just as Knudsen had indicated to his family. We also notice that the small wound in the forehead above the right
eye is similar to the one Dennis David had viewed in the images Lt. Cmdr. Pitzer had shown him at Bethesda a
few days after the autopsy. The small wound above the right eye was neither seen at Parkland nor by the majority
of witnesses from Bethesda.
As mentioned previously, this seem s to be a wound created before the second autopsy, probably to show an exit
to the bullet the pathologists claimed had hit Kennedy in the back of the head. Such a small wound, if it had
existed, could easily have been overlooked by the medical personnel at Parkland, so the autopsy findings
wouldn’t have contradicted the observations at the hospital too much. However, there were other witness
observations from Dallas, indicating an ‘explosion’ of the head, and a small exit wound wouldn’t have been
compatible with those. So the pathologists and their supervisors might have decided to show a much larger exit
wound in the top of the head, which we know from the extant autopsy photographs. The small wound above the
right eye was therefore probably made invisible again by retouching. Anyway, the presence of the wound above
Kennedy’s right eye in Knudsen’s autopsy photographs shows that these images originated from the second
autopsy. We may also notice that the body was indeed lying on the stomach in some of the photos, i.e. the upper
part of the body was not propped up by the pathologists.
As mentioned earlier, Knudsen went to the N aval Photographic Center, Anacostia together with Agent Fox, a
short time after the assassination and developed black and white film from the autopsy, while Madonia developed
the color film for them. A little later they went back and allegedly made 7 sets of color prints from the color
negatives. In his testimony before theHSCA, Knudsen only admits having viewed the images on the films briefly
when developing the films or making color prints. Yet, he has a fairly detailed recollection of what some of the
images depicted. In the beginning of his testimony, Knudsen is very reluctant to reveal any details of what he saw
because he had been sworn by the Secret Service not to disclose any information regarding the autopsy photos.
PURDY: Did you have a chance at any time to examine the prints closely enough that you now
have a recollection of what they showed?
KNUDSEN: Oh, yes.
Q: W hen did you examine them that closely?
KNUDSEN: At the time that I was examining for technical quality, a lot of things were apparent.
Q: What things stick in your mind about those prints? What do you recall seeing?
KNUDSEN: W ell, it was a close-up of a cavity in the head. Probes through the body --
Q: W here did the probes go through the body?
KNUDSEN: From the point where the projectile entered to the point where the projectile left.
Q: Where were those two points?
KNUDSEN: I did not say they were two points.
Q: You said the projectile.
KNUDSEN: From the entry to the exit.
Q: Where were the entry and exit points?
KNUDSEN: Here, again, I have a mental problem here that we were sworn not to disclose this to
anybody. Being under oath, I cannot tell you I do not know, because I do know; but, at the same
time, I do feel I have been sworn not to disclose this information and I would prefer very much that
you get one of the sets of prints and view them. I am not trying to be hard to get along with. I was
told no t to disclose the area of the body, and I am at a loss right now as to whether -- which is right.
Q: Was it a Naval order that you were operating under that you would not disclose?
KNUDSEN: This was Secret Service. To the best of my knowledge, Dr. Berkley also emphasized
that this not be discussed .
Q: Do you remember seeing rulers in the photographs or anything other than the body itself?
Q: What other things besides the body did you see, other than the rulers?
KNUDSEN: What appeared to be stainless steel probes.
Q: About how long were they?
KNUDSEN: The probes?
KNUDSEN: I would estimate about two foot.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 40
Q: Was there one probe that you saw through the body, or were there more than one?
KNUDSEN: More than one. Here again, we are getting into this grey area of what I was instructed
not to discuss.
Only after a telephone conversation with Robert Goff, the General Counsel of the Secret Service, is Knudsen
willing to reveal a little more of what he saw. Knudsen says he saw at least two metal pro bes through the body,
one in the neck region and one further down, going from the back and out through the chest. Knudsen keeps
saying that he just go t a quick glance at the images when examining them for technical quality. According to
Knudsen, the probe through the neck went in a slightly downward direction front to back. And Knudsen is
obviously not so certain that the wound in the back of the neck was the entry point. Only when viewing the
autopsy photos does he admit that the upper probe went through the tracheotomy wound. According to Knudsen
the wound in the back (posterior thorax) was about 10 inches below the wound in the back of the neck (in the
front of the chestthe probe was 6-7 inches lower than the probe through the (tracheotomy) wound in the throat).
PURDY: Of the proves [sic; probes] that you recall, where d id they enter and where did they exit?
KNUDSEN: One was right near the neck and out the back.
Q: The front of the neck and out the back of the neck?
KNUDSEN: The point of entry-exit.
Q: The metal probe extended from the front of the neck to the back of the neck?
KNUDSEN: Right. One was through the chest cavity.
Q: Did it go all the way through?
KNUDSEN: Yes. It seems to me that the entry point was a little bit lower in the back than -- well,
the point in the back was a little bit lower than the point in the front. Put it that way. So the probe
was going diagonally from top to bottom, front to back.
KNUDSEN: Right about where the neck-tie is. T hat would be somewhere in that vicinity.
Q: Approximately how much lower than that would you say the other probe, which went through
the chest cavity?
KNUDSEN: I would put it six, seven inches.
Q: Was it opened or closed in the photograph?
KNUDSEN: It was a side view. I just glanced at it to make sure.
Q: From the side view, you saw both probes?
Q: Where would you place the points of the probes in the back? You say one was in the neck, one
was in the back. Approximately how high up, or how low?
KNUDSEN: I would put in the back -- it would seem to me it is probably around ten inches. There,
again, I do not recall the length of time. I cannot say.
Q: You were kind of pointing to the middle of your back, about midway down, you would say?
KNUDSEN: Midway between the neck and the waist.
Q: Where was the other probe?
KNUDSEN: This one --
Q: You just indicated where the probe came out, on the lower --
KNUDSEN: Somewhere around the middle of the back. It seemed to me it was right around
Q: The probe that you said you could see coming out of the neck, the front of the neck, where was it
out of the back of the neck? How high up would you say that one was.
KNUDSEN: About the base of the neck.
Q: W as the body lying flat, or sitting up or lying on its front when you saw the probes through it?
KNUDSEN: It would have to be erected to put the probes through, because on the back there was
Q: Was there, in any of the photographs, a photograph showing a metal probe through the head?
KNUDSEN: No, not to my knowledge. To my knowledge, the only photograph of the head was to
show the wound in the right rear of the head there, a little right of center.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 41
Q: Referring to Photograph No. 40F [“Anterior view of upper torso and head showing tracheotomy
wound], showing the front of the President, including the front neck region, do you see a point on
the President which would correspond to one or more of the locations of the probe that you recall?
KNUDSEN: Right here (Indicating.)
Q: Could you articulate it?
KNUDSEN - Right here -- the neck -- where the necktie would be tied.
Q: Let the record show that the witness is pointing to the tracheotomy incision at the front of the
President's neck. Is it your recollection, also, that there was a probe lower than that area? Is that
KNUDSEN: That is correct.
Q: Looking at this photograph, approximately how much lower? Was it at a point that would not be
visible in this photograph?
KNUDSEN: I am beginning to wonder now. I do not see anything here. But it is in the back of my
mind there was a probe through the body.
Q: Is it your present recollection that the body was not opened up in the chest area, or could you not
tell whether it was opened up, or was it definitely not open in the picture that you recall but do not
KNUDSEN: There again, I was looking quickly for quality. I did not study it. But I do not recall
seeing any photograph of the chest being opened.
Q: Do you think it is something you would remember, if the President's chest was cut and opened
When Knudsen is allowed to view the color photographs from the autopsy, he states, contrary to what he told his
family, that they are not inconsistent with what he saw when he developed them. But he is absolutely certain that a
photo (side view, right profile) showing two probes through the body is missing, even though he claims that he
only saw the negative of that (black and white) image when developing the film. When challenged repeatedly
about this memory by Mr. Purdy, Knudsen keeps telling him that he saw an image (negative) showing two probes
through the body.
KNUDSEN: No. It is just in the back of my mind I am certain that there is the one shot of the body
erect, two probes through it, and I processed the black and white. I hung it up. I just quickly went
down it to make sure I had everything there.
KNUDSEN: [...] As to that, I am certain the black and white negatives was one with the body
sitting up with the probes through it. I do not know. I honestly do not what to say now if that one is
missing. It is in the back of my mind, in fact, even to the point that it was the right profile. The body
was sitting up, and looking at the right side profile.
KNUDSEN: The only reason I say I thought it was a metal probe, in my recollection, it was a rod.
Twenty-four inches long, probably; three-eighths of an inch diameter. It appeared to be
aluminimum [sic], stainless steel.
KNUDSEN: I do not know why that one sticks in my mind. A right profile of the body. It would
seem to me that if it were, as I am sure that it was, that there would have been something in the
autopsy report as to the probes, and I cannot conceive in my mind why I would feel that this
negative did have it. [...]
KNUDSEN: Jim [Fox] is the one who apparently printed the black and white. I know the black and
white did not go into the Photo Center for printing, so I would assume that Jim d id it. W hy this
sticks in my mind, that there was one with these two probes through the body that nobody else
recalls, it puts a question in my mind, and yet -- but I could not imagine where I could get the idea
from, if I had not seen it. And yet it is starting to bother me now that there is nothing in the autopsy
about it. Certainly that would be in the autopsy, if it were true. At this point, I wish I had studied the
negatives rather than glance at them. At this point, I am confused why it sticks in my mind so
strongly that there was this photograph, yet nobody else recalls it, and it is apparently not in any
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 42
report. If it is not in any report -- I cannot conceive why it would not be in the report. If it were
there -- it is really bothering me as to why it does stick in my mind so much.
I guess the reason why Knudsen is so certain about the picture showing two probes through the body, and even
being able to tell the length and diameter of the probe(s), is that he took that photograph himself during the
second autopsy, just as he told his family (“he witnessed and photographed probes inserted in the President’s
body, which left no doubt of the number and direction of bullet trajectories”).
Knudsen told the HSCA that: “To my knowledge, the only photograph of the head was to show the wound in the
right rear of the head there, a little right of center”, which might indicate there was no massive wound in the top of
the head in the pictures he saw or took. But I think he is referring to photographs of the rear of the head
supposedly showing the wound of entrance to the right of the external occipital protuberance. Thus, he told his
wife “that the whole top of the President’s head was gone, and that the President’s brain(s) were largely missing
(blown out)”. And when viewing the autopsy photographs during his HSCA testimony, he found the pictures to be
consistent with what he had seen in the original photos. Hence, I believe Robert Knudsen took the original
photographs during the second autopsy, but 4 or 5 of those original images were later altered, and at least one of
them disappeared (the one with two probes through the body).
Knudsen’s firm belief that the photographs were altered, as expressed to his family, might be related to the fact
that he not only viewed the original photos but JFK’s body itself when taking the photographs. That 4 or 5 photos
(views) had allegedly been altered corresponds to reversing the “top of the head”-, “upper back”- and “back of the
head”-photographs left to right, and removing the wound above the right eye in the “frontal view”- and “right side
of head”-photographs. The major alterations mentioned by Knudsen probably relate to hiding the large hole in the
back of the head by retouching.
As mentioned previously, Knudsen used “the morning after the autopsy” rather than a specific date when referring
to the time he and Fox went to NPC to develop the films. The day after the first autopsy, on Saturday, November
23rd, Knudsen was alleged ly in the East Room of the W hite Ho use taking photographs of President Kennedy’s
casket and the dignitaries that came to the room to pay their respect. This was confirmed by his family who met
him there. Knudsen might have managed to go to the NPC to develop the films before he started his work at the
East Room (according to Knudsen, the work at NPC took about two hours), but I think it is much more likely that
he actually refers to the second autopsy, and the morning after that event would have been Sunday morning.
When asked by Mr. Purdy if he returned the developed films in the morning or afternoon that day, Knudsen
KNUDSEN: I could not tell you, because I had been up all night. From the assassination right on,
we worked right on through that night through the following day and the next night. Hours, I could
not tell you.
Thus, Knudsen had been up all night before he took the films to NPC. In fact, he had been up both the night
between Friday and Saturday and between Saturday and Sunday. And during the second of these nights I think he
took the autopsy photos during the second autopsy. This is further supported by Knudsen’s claim that they made
the color prints within four days after the assassination, i.e. before the funeral on Monday. And Madonia at NPC
remembered a lot of activity during theweekend after the assassination.
PURDY: When was your next contact, or the next time you had information about these autopsy
KNUDSEN: The next time was when they needed seven sets of prints.
Q: W hen was that?
KNUDSEN: I do not recall the exact time.
Q: Approximately when was that?
KNUDSEN: It seems to me that it would have been a day later; that four days is a complete jumble
in my mind. I cannot remember the sequence of it.
Q: The four days between the assassination and the funeral.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 43
Thus, Knudsen seems to say that he and Fox developed the films on Sunday (the morning after the second
autopsy), and that he went back to make seven sets of prints the day after that (on Monday), but apparently before
the funeral that afternoon.
The fact that Knudsen went to NPC to develop the autopsy films and make color prints, also strongly indicates
that he actually took the photographs. James Fox was also a photographer, and he could probably easily have
developed the black and white films at his Secret Service laboratory (as he might have done with the first set of
black and white negatives, if there ever were such negatives). So why couldn’t Fox have gone to NPC on his own
to develop the black and white films while waiting for someone else there to develop the color film? I would think
they wanted Knudsen to develop the black and white films because he had exposed them and knew exactly how
they ought to be processed to get the best images. But apparently they didn’t trust Knudsen completely, so they
sent Fox along with him.
Another indication that it was Knudsen rather than Stringer who took the second set of autopsy photographs
comes from statements of Dr. Finck. In his personal report about the autopsy to his superior Brig. Gen. Blumberg
(and in his testimony before the HSCA) Dr.Finck refers to the photographer present at the autopsy and the
supplementary brain examination as a “Navy photographer”:
I help the Navy photographer to take photographs of the occipital wound (external and internal
aspects) as well as of the wound in the back.
Humes, Boswell and myself examined the formalin fixed brain. A US Navy photographer was
COLOR AND BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS are taken by the US Navy photographer :
superior and inferior aspects of the brain.
The designation “Navy photographer” may apply to Stringer, who at that time was a civilian employed by the
Navy, but even more so to Robert Knudsen, who was indeed a Navy officer.
And why would Rear Admiral Burkley and the Secret Service use Knudsen rather than Stringer to take the
photographs during the second autopsy? I think the main reason was that Stringer was a civilian, whereas
Knudsen was a Navy Chief Petty Officer closely associated with the White House and the Secret Service. They
may have thought that Knudsen would be easier to control than Stringer. And according to what hiswife told the
ARRB, Knudsen was a man who could keep secrets.
She somewhat cryptically reminded me that her husband was a man who did not talk much, and
who very reliably could keep secrets, and told me that sometimes people in the military are required
to “take secrets to the grave” with them, when ordered to do so by competent authority, regardless
of what attempts are later made to get them to talk. She told me her husband had impressed upon
her that his loyalty was to the Presidency as an office and institution, not to any particular
office-holder (without elaborating on what this meant).
It would perhaps have been more difficult for Stringer to explain to his family that he had to work two nights in a
row taking photos of President Kennedy’s autopsy. Yet, they couldn’t do without the cooperation of Stringer
later, since he had to assume responsibility for taking the photographs that Knudsen probably took, if the
existence of a second autopsy was to be kept secret.
So, even though Knudsen allegedly liked President Kennedy, he seems to have been more fond of his job as
White House photographer and kept quiet about what he knew. And he probably didn’t dare to do otherwise.
Thus, his wife indicates that Knudsen knew who had removed or destroyed some of the pho tographs, but he didn’t
dare to do anything about it.
She told me that her husband told her on one occasion that he knew who had previously had
custody of the autopsy photographs, and that he therefore could deduce who had been respo nsible
for some of them disappearing, but that he was not going to stick his neck out on something this
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 44
big, because he had a family to protect. She also reiterated her husband’s firm belief that the
photographs of the back of the head which show it to be intact were forgeries.
It is also possible that Robert Knudsen was involved in altering the photos that he apparently had taken. The fact
that he showed photos to O’Donnell both before and after the alterations had been done, indicates that he might
have been involved in doing the retouching that he claimed had been done. And his strong belief that the
photographs had been altered, might simply stem from the fact that he had done the job himself. And perhaps it
was Knudsen who intentionally let the scar on the right side on Kennedy’s nose still be visible in the reversed
autopsy photos, just to leave us a trail. He certainly must have known about that scar from his close contact with
JFK as a W hite House photographer.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 45
EVIDENCE OF A SECOND AUTOPSY FROM THE TESTIMONIES
The most reliable account of what happened during the autopsy on November 22nd is clearly thereport prepared
by the two FBI agents Francis O’Neill and James W . Sibert. They have also provided ad ditional information in
some memorandums (O’Neill and Sibert; Sibert) in their affidavits to the HSCA (O’Neill; Sibert), and in their
depositions before the ARRB (O’Neill; Sibert). Of particular importance was their recording of the names of
everybody they observed attending the autopsy. However, it seems as if O’Neill and Sibert left the autopsy room
at Bethesda around midnight on November 22nd/23rd, i.e. long before the embalming and reconstruction of the
President’s body by the morticians had been completed around 4 a.m. When testifying before the ARRB, the two
agents had conflicting statements as regards the time they left the morgue. Sibert clearly stated that they left
GUNN: What is your best recollection of the time that you left Bethesda on the night of November
23rd - 22nd/23rd?
SIBERT: I would say it was sometime between 11:00 and midnight. That’s about as near as I can
place the time. My Bureau car was out at Andrews, and so was O’Neill’s. We had to get
transportation into D .C. and we had to hand carry this down to the laboratory.
Q: When you say “hand carry this”, you’re referring to -
SIBERT: The two fragments in this little jar. We turned those over to Bob Frazier down there at the
And then we had to have a clerk drive us out to Andrews Air Force Base from Bureau
headquarters. And I got in at 4:00 o’clock there at my residence in New Carrollton, Maryland.
So, that was the sequence. So, I would say it was between probably 11:00 and midnight that
we left Bethesda.
This receipt - I guess, you’ll get into that “missile” later on.
But this receipt, we signed it. And we assumed that for all practical purposes, the autopsy
was over with, and the body would be turned over to the Gawler Funeral Home attendants that were
there on the scene.
We got their names, so, they had to be there.
Q: W hat was taking place with the body at the time that you left? W ere the autopsy surgeo ns still
there? Had Gawler’s started working on the body? What was happening?
SIBERT: Well, the autopsy surgeons were still there. I mean, Boswell, Humes, and Finck. But, of
course, we were interested in getting this evidence and getting it over to the lab.
I don’t recall much activity, because they were getting things together, Boswell had been
making some drawings there. And Humes had his notes and material. And I think it was sort of a
summation getting together, the receipt and all that, and the photographs and the packs of film and
Q: But it was your impression that the autopsy had been completed?
Q: And were people from G awler’s doing anything with the body at the time that you left?
SIBERT: Not that I can recall. I don’t recall them starting to wheel the body out or anything like
If we had thought there was any more to go on in the way of an autopsy, why, O’Neill and I
wouldn’t have left. It wasn’t necessary that we rush over to the lab. We figured that was the
termination of the autopsy.
O’Neill, on the other hand, is somewhat vague as to the time he and Sibert left Bethesda. He indicates that he
watched most of the reconstruction of the body:
GUNN: Is it your understanding that you were present through the time that the autopsy was
O’NEILL: Totally and absolutely.
Q: What was the last thing that you saw done to the body by the autopsy do ctors?
O’NEILL: Well, the body was turned back on over.
Q: Onto the back, or from -
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 46
O’NEILL: From the back to the front. So, now we have the body lying there. Let’s see. I’m trying
to figure out who did the washing, and who did the- There was some washing to begin with. But I
mean, the- totally at the end.
The last thing I recall them doing, they were taking off their gloves and calling in the
morticians to complete the procedure which they have to perform on the body.
O’NEILL: [...] I do recall the people coming in later-- the funeral home, fixing it up to the point
where it looked like in good shape. I mean, it looked in good shape. But I don’t recall the doctors
doing anything further to the body, once they had turned it on over.
GUNN: Approximately what time, to the best of your recollection, did the autopsy itself conclude?
O’NEILL: Physically, the autopsy concluded somewhere shortly after midnight, I believe it was. In
that general area. Now, I don’t- can’t be too much more specific. Maybe 12:15. Maybe 1:00 a.m.
But it was over and done with.
O’NEILL: So, I would say that the- W e called up immediately upo n getting, I believe, back out to
Andrews. Or maybe we called from the B ureau--called from the B ureau back to Baltimore to
discuss it. So, it had to be that way.
GUNN: So, that was just a telephone call to Baltimore?
O’NEILL: That’s correct. From Bureau headquarters.
Q: And was the autopsy completed at the time you made the call to Baltimore [a call to give a brief
summary of the autopsy before a teletype with the results from the autopsy was sent about 2 a.m.]?
O’NEILL: Totally. The body was dressed.
Q: About how long were people from G awler’s working on the body, as best you can recall?
O’NEILL: Oh, let me see. They drained what was left [of] the blood. I remember they put in
whatever substance– formaldehyde or something like that. I believe they took out the eyes, if I’m
not mistaken. W hat happened to them, I wouldn’t know. Let me see. They covered up the throat. I
don’t know what procedure they used , but they did that. They powdered the body. I’m sure of that. I
know that. I know they shaved it also. Even put underwear on it. By the way, the valet went to the
White House to get clothes for his body. A blue striped suit, dark tie.
And that was the condition of the President– ex-President when we left. He was in a suit. He
was in a casket. This was the second casket he was in, now, which was brought in by General
Q: During the time that work was being done on the skull– where there was the damage to the skull,
did you watch that work being done?
O’NEILL: Just a very short procedure. From our point of view, the autopsy was totally over and
This was something which we put in there from a peripheral point of view. This was just
there. T hese people came in. They did this, they did that, et cetera. But the autopsy was totally
The doctors were then– I think it was Humes was writing his protocol at the time. To my
knowledge, he never– he never went back to the body while Jim and I were there.
GUNN: Okay. But they [the pathologists] didn’t go back with– or do anything further with the
O’NEILL: I never saw them. No, they-- Because the people from the funeral home were working on
Q: Okay. And at the time that you left the hospital, it was your understanding that the work on the
body had been totally completed by Gawler’s, and it was– the body was back in the casket?
O’NEILL: To my knowledge, the body was totally completed by then. In fact, they were waiting for
Mrs. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy to come down to view the body.
Q: Did you see what the people from Gawler’s used to reconstruct the head at all? Any procedures
O’NEILL: No, I don’t recall that. I must have seen it at the time, but I was– You know, to me, from
my general experience and from my investigative experience, the autopsy was totally completed.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 47
The doctors took off their gloves. They left them on the table. They walked into another
room– I mean, another section of the room. To me, that’s over and done with.
In an affidavit he prepared for theHSCA, however, O’Neill stated they left before the body was dressed:
I did not discuss any autopsy procedures with the embalmers. I last saw the body just prior to the
dressing, after the morticians were through.
In a personalnote about the assassination O’Neill had prepared for the ARRB, he describes the preparation of
JFK’s body by Gawler’s. However, he does not specifically state that he made those observations himself, like he
does when describing the autopsy procedures he definitely attended. And Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy did not
view the President’s body until the casket had arrived in the East Room of the White House.
The autopsy being finished members of the Gawlers funeral home were allowed in to prepare the
body for burial. Cosmetically, when they finished with the body, it appeared as if JFK was sleeping.
The head wound and the neck procedure had been covered, the body dressed, even as to underwear,
the eyes closed, and awaited Mrs. Kennedy for viewing. She and Bobby came and left after a short
time at the casket.
A FBImemorandum from Rosen to DeLoach dated June 2, 1966, dealing with the discrepancies between FBI’s
reporting of the autopsy findings and the official autopsy report, states the following about the presence of the two
agents at Bethesda:
The article [inWashington Post on 5/29/66] further alleges that the Agents attending the autopsy
obtained their information based on hearsay and that the Agents left the autopsy before the doctors
had completed their examination. Both statements are false. Our Agents obtained their information
from the head pathologist and remained in the autopsy room until the physical examination was
From this statement it seems clear that the agents left after the examinations bythe doctors had been completed,
i.e. around midnight. Although O’Neill generally appears to be a very credible witness in his ARRB deposition, I
don’t think he is telling the truth about being present in the morgue observing the embalming and reconstruction
of the body until it had been laid in the casket. Then the two agents would have had to stay until about 4 a.m., at
which time Sibert said he was back home.
So I think Sibert’s version is correct, i.e. the two FBI agents left the autopsy room around midnight, and went to
the FBI Laboratory at Bureau headquarters with the bullet fragments that had allegedly been recovered from the
brain. Hence, when they left the morticians had barely started with the embalming procedure. According to
morticianHagen, the embalming lasted until 3 a.m., and the reconstruction did not start until the embalming was
completed. MorticianRobinson also told ARRB that embalming was done before the reconstruction.
However, I don’t think there is anything sinister about O’Neill’s edited version of what he did at the completion
of the autopsy. I guess he has realized it was a grave investigative mistake to leave the autopsy room before the
President’s body had left Bethesda for the White House. So he wants to cover up that mistake. That is why he
states several times that from their point of view the autopsy was “totally completed” when the morticians entered
the morgue. B ut apparently he is concerned that the doctors might have gone back to the body and continued their
examinations after he and Sibert had left Bethesda.
However, I don’t think the three pathologists did much to JFK’s body between the time the FBI agents left around
midnight and the time the casket left for the W hite House about four hours later. The Kennedy aids and family
were still around and they might have turned up in the autopsy room at any time. Moreover, there are no
indications in the testimonies of the morticians that any further examination of the body took place, except
perhaps a probing of the tracheotomy wound in the neck. Thus, morticianRobinson told the ARRB that he
remembered a probe being used through that wound and a wound high in the back of the neck, and he also had
got the impression that the tracheotomy wound was an exit wound. Such a probing does not seem to have been
performed during the autopsy itself (only probing of the back wound), nor was there any suggestions from the
doctors to the audience at that time that the tracheotomy wound was an exit wound.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 48
-Tracheotomy: Robinson remembered the tracheotomy wound in the anterior throat. In his opinion
that wound also represented an exit wound for a bullet.
-Use of Probes: Robinson had vivid recollections of a very long, malleable probe being used during
the autopsy. His most vivid recollection of the probe is seeing it inserted near the base of the brain
in the back of the head (after removal of the brain), and seeing the tip of the probe come out of the
tracheotomy incision in the anterior neck. He was adamant about this recollection. He also recalls
seeing the wound high in the back probed unsuccessfully, meaning that the probe did not exit
The major implication of the rather early departure of O’Neill and Sibert from the autopsy room at Bethesda, is
that their list of persons attending the autopsy, is in fact, precisely that, but does not include persons that might
have been in the autopsy room and viewed the body later that night. That complicates the m atter somewhat as to
finding out who were present on each occasion. But when strictly considering witnesses of the autopsy
procedures, I still think the report of O’Neill and Sibert is very accurate as to who were present in the autopsy
room during the first autopsy until the time the morticians started their work. O ’Neill is also confident about this
in hisHSCA affidavit. Still, Secret Service agent Hill apparently entered the room without being recorded as
having done that:
Sometime during the autopsy, O'Leary and Hill, both of the Secret Service, entered the room.
If a person wasn't present at the beginning of the autopsy or was listed as having entered
later, then he didn't witness any of the autopsy.
According to the FBI repo rt, at least 30 perso ns, including the 4 morticians, were present at one time or another in
the autopsy room from the time the casket was opened until the morticians started their work. Years later,
however, at least three more persons (B ird, Karnei, Lipsey) were identified as being present at the autopsy.
When reading the testimonies and interviews of the autopsy witnesses, one notices that they fall into two
categories as regards the nature of the wounds; those largely corroborating the official autopsy report and those
largely consistent with the descriptions from the medical personnel at Parkland Hospital. One also notices that
some autopsy witnesses have reported events o r facts from the autopsy that are completely in disagreement with
what the majority of witnesses has reported. Have these witnesses simply made up some incredible things in order
to sell their story? Do they have a completely faulty memory of what happened that night? Or do they have a
partial memory of something similar that happened another night?
Many of these odd statements didn’t make much sense to me when reading them for the first time. However, when
I later reread many of the same statements several times in the context of a second autopsy having been
performed, a certain pattern emerged and their stories started to make more sense. Surely, none of the witnesses
have specifically mentioned that there was a second autopsy. But several of them have implied or indicated that
that was what happened by including, intentionally or unintentionally, small bits of information about the second
autopsy in their descriptions of the first autopsy. All one has to do in order to extract this information is to take
their testimonies and subtract the known facts about the first autopsy, and evaluate the remaining information for
Based on the names mentioned in the FB I report by Sibert and O’Neill and the testimonies given by many of these
witnesses, I think we can group them into three m ajor categories:
(1)Witnesses who were present only during the first autopsy, either as participants in the autopsy
procedures or as observers
This group can be further divided into those endorsing the official autopsy findings, and those who think
these findings are inconsistent with what they saw or heard during the autopsy. Some of those endorsing
the official version must have had knowledge of the second autopsy, like photographer John T. Stringer
and Adm. Galloway, Adm. George C. Burkley, and Capt. James H. Stover. Some of these Navy officers
might even have been present at the second autopsy. The most important in the latter subgroup of
witnesses are FBI agents O’Neill and Sibert. Others in that subgroup include laboratory technician James
Curtis Jenkins, x-ray technologist Edward F. Reed, photographic assistant Floyd A. Riebe, and the
morticians from Gawler’s Funeral Home.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 49
The Surgeon General of the Navy, Admiral Edward Kenney (in some documents spelled Kinney or
Kenny), seems to belong to this group, even though his name was not recorded by the FBI agents.
Anyway, Kenney was at Bethesda that night. The three pathologist have given conflicting statements about
Kenney’s presence in the autopsy room. Dr.Boswell told the ARRB he didn’t know (“I can't say. I really
was tied up in the autopsy, and I was paying no attention.”). When interviewed by the Forensic Pathology
panel of HSCA,Humes stated that the Surgeon General of the Navy was present in the autopsy room, but
he later told the ARRB that he wasn’t (“I can't recall that he was. You know, he might have, again, looked
in, stuck his head in the door or something. But I don't recall him being in the room. If he was, it was very
fleetingly”). Dr. Finck claimed in hisreport from the autopsy to Brigadier General Blumberg, as well as
during theShaw trial, that Kenney was present. If Kenney actually was present in the autopsy room during
the first autopsy, he might have been smart enough to use a pseudonym, namely, Dr. George Bakeman, US
Navy, a person who (to my knowledge) nobody has subsequently managed to identify.
(2)Witnesses who were present during both autopsies
Here again we have two subgroups. First, we have those in charge of the autopsy procedures, i.e. Drs.
Humes, Boswell, Finck and Ebersole. Second, we have the assistants of the aforementioned doctors,
mainly younger corpsmen, who just happened to get involved in the autopsies because their services were
needed. These include laboratory technician Paul K. O’Connor, x-ray technician Jerrol F. Custer, Chester
B. Boyers from the Pathology Department, and Chief of Surgery, David Osborne. Those in the latter
subgroup have provided a lot of more or less elabo rately hidden information about the second autopsy.
(3)Witnesses who were present only during the second autopsy
Their names were of course not recorded by FBI agents Sibert and O’Neill in their report, but some of
them have subsequently been identified by other autopsy witnesses as being present at the autopsy.
Everybody has assumed that that meant the first autopsy, but that might not be the case. I think Dr. Robert
F. Karnei, 2nd Lt. Richard L. Lipsey, Samel Bird, and possibly Lt. Cmdr. W illiam B. Pitzer belong to this
group. Photographer Robert Knudsen revealed himself that he might have been present by showing
autopsy photographs to others and telling his family that he photographed the autopsy. Among those in this
group, Lipsey has provided the most detailed description of what happened during the second autopsy.
There might still be others, whose identity has never been disclosed. And a lot of people must have been
involved in bringing JFK’s body to Bethesda for the second autopsy and in guarding the morgue. But
many of those might not have been aware of what was actually going on.
In the following I will try to evaluate the testimonies of some of these witnesses, except photographer Robert
Knudsen, who has already been discussed.
Richard L. Lipsey
Lipsey was an aide to General Philip C. Wehle, who was the Commanding Officer of the Military District of
Washington. Wehle’s office was responsible for all the funeral arrangements of President Kennedy. Lipsey was
not recorded by Sibert and O’Neill as being present in the autopsy room on the night of November 22nd, but
Lipsey apparently contacted O’Neill later and claimed he had been present. From O’Neill’s statement toARRB it
is not clear whether O’Neill actually did see Lipsey in the autopsy room, or merely has accepted Lipsey’s claim
about being present there. I think O’Neill just refers to Lipsey’s story and not to his own observations.
O’NEILL: The Navy personnel had jurisdiction over the operation itself and the autopsy. And the
Bureau, from our way of thinking, had the investigative jurisdiction over trying to find out who
killed him. So. we assumed that jurisdiction without any direction from anybody else.
And that was the reason I kept General Wehle out of the autopsy room. We didn’t want
anybody in there who was not supposed to b e there.
We did, at our own decision– Jim and mine– to send a sheet of paper around to have the
people who were in attendance sign it, so that we’d have a general idea who was there. That, by no
means, means that we took the names of every single individual who was there, but only those who,
to the best of our recollection, were there at the time.
I know there was a gentleman from Dallas. He contacted me many, many– many, many long
years later. He was a lieutenant in the Army, I believe. He was an aide to General Wehle, who sat
up there in the balcony for most of the time.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 50
But from Lipsey’s owntestimony to HSCA there seems to have been few other people in the ‘balcony’ beside
himself and Sam(uel) Bird:
Q: Who else do you remember was in the room?
LIPSEY: I can[‘t?] remember, like I say, if he was a doctor or an orderly. Other people at particular
times cleaned the body, moved the body. Certain things like that. Occasionally somebody would
just come into the room, turn around and walk out, one of the hospital staff-type people. But I don't
remember who it was. I don't remember, by name, anybody else in the room.
Q: Do you recall anyone else who seemed to be filling the role of you were, observer, but not
actually involved in assisting the doctors in any capacity?
LIPSEY: You know that's hard because I seem to recollect one other person in there on occasion,
but for the life of me, honestly, I just can't remember who it was. I really don't. Sam and I were
sitting to try to be out of the doctor's way and everybody else's way. Immediately away from the
table but right there in the chairs as you walk in on the right. I just don't remember the other people
who came in around at that time.
Still, Lipsey might have been present in the morgueafter O’Neill and Sibert had left the scene around midnight
November 22nd/23rd, since according to Lipsey he and Wehle accompanied the casket to the W hite House early
We led it. Gen Wehle and myself were the first car. If I'm no t mistaken, there was a police car in
front of us. The hearse right behind us. Then a family car behind that. One or two other cars in the
procession. We went back to the WH. We drove up, went into the WH, parked.
We also notice that O’Neill told the ARRB he kept General Wehle out of the autopsy room. O’Neill made a
similar statement about this in hisAffidavit before the HSCA:
During the autopsy, I prevented the entry of Major General Wehle, Commander, Military District
of Washington, into the room because I did no t want anyone in the autopsy room not directly
connected with the autopsy or the assassination investigation.
And according to theFBI report, Wehle did not attend the entire autopsy, but only visited the autopsy room for a
short period, to make some arrangements.
Major General WEHLE, Commanding Officer of U. S. Military District, Washington, D.C., entered
the autopsy room to ascertain from the Secret Service arrangements concerning the transportation
of the President's body back to the White House.
Lipsey was questioned about his presence at the autopsy by Purdy and Flanagan of the HSCA in1978. Both a
summaryand a full transcript from the interview are available. Although Lipsey makes several references to
events that occurred during the first autopsy, he fails to remember certain key issues. Here are some excerpts
indicating he could not have been present during the first autopsy.
Q: Getting back to the beginning stages of the autopsy, or even before the actual autopsy began, do
you recall when the x-rays were taken, the x-rays and photos?
LIPSEY: Yeah, well as far as the exact x-rays were taken, no I don't recall.
Q: Did the autopsy surgeons discuss among themselves what type of autopsy they would do?
LIPSEY: Not during the autopsy, no.
Q: Did they have any discussions with anyone else during the autopsy?
LIPSEY: No. Not to my knowledge.
Q: Do you remember discussions on whether or not there was a tracheotomy incision?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 51
LIPSEY: [Long Pause.] N o. I guess anything I do remember something about that -- I remember it
would have to come after reading about what went on in Dallas. I just don't remember discussing
Q: What have you read about Dallas? About that front neck wound?
LIPSEY: It's been so long. Like I say, I'm glad I hadn't. I'm glad I didn't go back over any articles
and read because I don't even remember.
Q: You don't recall whether there was a tracheotomy in the front of the neck?
LIPSEY: Absolutely not.
Q: Well, you say you didn't hear the doctors discuss that. Did you explicitly hear the doctors say
that the wound in the front of the neck was caused by a bullet?
LIPSEY: If you want to get down to specifics: no. The only thing I do remember was when they
kept talking about the entrance in the back of the neck and looking at the hole in the front of the
neck. To the best of my knowledge they were convinced that a bullet came out the front of the neck.
Q: Let me ask you this: Did they take all the photographs at the beginning or did they take some
during the course of the autopsy?
LIPSEY: [Long pause] Once again, I don't know. I just don't know.
Q: Do you remember any of the autopsy doctors arriving at the autopsy later than the others?
LIPSEY: No, I do n't.
Q: Do you remember any of the autopsy doctors probing any of the wounds?
LIPSEY: Not, no, I really can't say. They were doing everything so I don't... I can say they must
have, I'm not going to say they did. I remember, the wounds, looking for the bullet, were their
LIPSEY: The bullet has penetrated. It went into his skin. There was evidence of it inside his body.
It had p enetrated the body. There was no way it could have fallen out.
Q: Was there any discussion because of external cardiac massage from the front when he was face
up it could have fallen out?
LIPSEY: No. There was no discussion of that that I recall.
Q: Do you remember the presence of any federal agents in the room?
LIPSEY: No, I do n't.
Q: Do you remember any messages being sent into the room by the Kennedy family or anybody
with the Kennedy's?
Q: Do you remember Adm. Burkeley being present at the autopsy?
LIPSEY: Everybody, to my knowledge, in that room besides Sam Bird and myself had on a medical
gown. And so, if he was,.... [Lipsey changing tape] ....
LIPSEY: If there was anybody -- 20 minutes to 1:00, I'm starting again. If there was anybody else
in the room, Admiral or who, he was dressed as a do ctor and not as an officer, that I can recollect. I
don't remember if he was in the room or not. No, I don't.
Q: Do you remember anyone in effect taking attendance of who was present, circulating a list?
LIPSEY: No, I do not. Now I'm not going to say they didn't, but I don't remember.
As to the autopsy Lipsey did witness, he gives a lot of interesting information. I think Lipsey’s account is the most
detailed description of the second autopsy in existence. There seems to have been few spectators in the gallery in
the morgue. The only persons wearing a military uniform was himself and Sam Bird. As to the general condition
of the body, he states that there was rigor mortis and a smell of formaldehyde, probably because the body,
including the internal organs, had been embalmed in formaldehyde following the completion of the first autop sy.
And the time of the autopsy was “late at night”.
LIPSEY: So, anyhow. They bro ught the body in, took it out. Laid it on the table. It was the first
dead man I'd ever seen, and I'd never seen an autopsy, obviously, I'd never seen an autopsy before.
So it was a pretty traumatic experience. I wouldn't really, quite frankly, I co uldn't tell the General,
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 52
"No, I not going in the room." So I went. I'd never realized seeing a dead man with rigor mortis -- it
just d idn't seem like you were looking at a dead person, it was just entirely a different thing. It didn't
bother me at all. I remember that Sam went out during the ceremony and sent one of his men to get
us some hamburgers, it was late at night since we hadn't eaten since that morning. We sat in there
watching part of the autopsy eating hamburgers. So obviously there was the smell of formaldehyde
in there. T hat's what bothered me. The smell was worse than the sight. So, we watched the autopsy.
Q: When the autopsy doctors first walked up to the table, did they– did they thoroughly look over
the body or did they concentrate on one area and begin to work there.
LIPSEY: The first thing they did was look over the body. I can remember that, you know, from
head to toe, all sides. They just looked at the whole thing. And made, they discussed a lot of things.
That's probably the part I tuned out. I do remember looking it over thoroughly. I do remember the
body still was covered with blood. I remember them cleaning it off, taking, I remember a brush, a
scrub brush, cleaning the body in certain areas before they started cutting. I remember after they
finished, scrubbing it down again, you know, getting all the mess away and everything. They
scrubbed and cleaned it pretty good after all the preliminary looking they wanted to, before they
physically touched the body, they had to clean the body before they started.
Q: Could you describe for us the nature of the damage to the front of the neck?
LIPSEY: No. I really couldn't. Because like I say, when we got it out, there was -- blood was all
over the bo dy. It was almost caked on. I remember they took a scrub brush and a pail. One of his
arms, and if I'm not mistaken, it was his left arm. You know, the way, I guess, after he died, finished
the autopsy by that time and, rigor mortis had set in and o ne of his arms was slightly higher. W ell,
the guy's laying down and one of them was up a little bit. So when they started the autopsy I can
remember, one of the doctors, when he was starting to clean the body up, got up on the table and
physically got up on the table and put his knee down on his arm to hold it down -- to get it out of his
way -- so he could scrub the rest of the body. So to say, to describe the hole to you, no. Because it
was so messy and so much blood that I didn't, I never got close enough to get down and look at the
Of particular importance are the words: “..after he died, finished the autopsy by that time and, rigor mortis had set
in....”. Here, I think, Lipsey actually says that after they had finished the (first) autopsy, rigor mortis had set in
before the autopsy that he was attending took place. And Lipsey confirms that the autopsy doctors had some
problems with JFK’s arms being in their way, as discussed previously in connection with the autopsy photographs
showing the “superior view of the head” (F:6 and F:7).
Lipsey is convinced that there were three entrance wounds, and he reiterates this several times when Purdy and
Flanagan keep asking him about this. They also have him draw the wounds onto aface sheet. According to
Lipsey, there was a large head wound comprising both entrance and exit, an entrance wound in the back of the
neck with an exit in the front of the neck (presumably in the tracheotomy wound) and, an entrance wound in the
upper part of the back with no co rresponding exit.
The fact that the bullet that hit JFK in the back (“hit his chest cavity”) did not exit, was apparently strictly
confidential, and Lipsey is worried about revealing that secret. Lipsey is convinced that the main purpose of the
autopsy was to find the missing bullet within the body from the latter shot, and he says the pathologists spent a
major part of the autopsy looking for that bullet, cutting through all the internal organs in the process. As regards
the large head wound apparently extending from the rear of the head to the top, right side of the head, we must
remember that the original wound in the rear of the head was still present on the body (not made invisible as in
the photographs), but a second large wound had apparently been inflicted at the top of the head.
LIPSEY: Yeah, well as far as the exact x-rays were taken, no I don't recall. I do recall the
comments from the doctors, you know, who started examining the body before they did anything,
you know, looking at the body, looking at where the bullets had entered the back of his head. It was
obvious that one bullet entered the back of his head and exited on the right side of his face and
pretty well blew away the right side of his head. And then the other two bullets had entered the
lower part of his neck and the best of my knowledge, or the best of my memory, one had exited.
The other bullet had entered from behind and hit his chest cavity and the bullet went down into the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 53
body. And during the autopsy, this is the only part that I can imagine would be of any – really, what
I've told you right there, of strictly confidential nature that was never written up anywhere. And I
presume, am I right, that this tape and this conversation is strictly confidential? You know, it's not
going to be published I guess is what I'm getting at?
Q: It's not going to be published during the term of this committee. During 1978.
LIPSEY: Okay. Well, is that as far as I can remember, and I'm pretty positive about it, they never
found that third bullet. It did not exit the body. When they did the autopsy, first they cut the top of
his head off and then they cut his chest open, you know, and they got all of his insides out, that was
the only gory part, they took them out a piece at a time and laid them up on, I remember, a beautiful
clean stainless steel rack with water pouring over it all the time. I imagine to keep it fresh or
whatever. They did the whole autopsy, then they came back and, you know, sliced up all the organs.
LIPSEY: [....] They were doing an autopsy, a complete autopsy, and whatever physical records that
you maintain during an autopsy was what they were doing. I know they did a very thorough job
because every time one of them would say something the other one would question it. I can
remember they looked at this one organ and they passed it around and all three discussed it before
they would go on to the most part. You know, it wasn't one guy doing his operating on the feet, one
on the chest, and one on the head. They did everything together and re-examined everything
together. I remember that distinctly. They looked like one of the most efficient teams doing
anything that I've ever seen. But anyhow, like I say. I can remember lifting his chest cavity and then
the top of his head off, and you know, all the internal organs out. And I can remember them
discussing the third, third b ullet. First, second and third bullet. T he third b ullet, the one they hadn't
found. [.....] But I don't think, to the best of my knowledge, they ever found the third bullet.
There seems to have b een three autopsy doctors examining the body and organs (“all three discussed ”). But it
does not seem to be the first time the doctors examined JFK’ body: “They did everything together and
re-examinedeverything together”. If it had been the first time, they would hardly have re-examined things.
The head wound that Lipsey describes is similar to the one shown in the extant autopsy photos, although it seems
to extend a little bit more into the forehead region above the right eye at the time of the autopsy. The damage
above the right eye might relate to the apparent bullet wound visible in the photographs Pitzer and Kundsen
allegedly showed to others.
Q: Okay, getting back to the bullets themselves, not the bullets themselves but the entrances, can
you just go over again the entrances as you remember them?
LIPSEY: Alright, as I remember them there was one bullet that went in the back of the head that
exited and blew away part of his face. And that was so rt of high up, not high up but like this little
crown on the back of your head right there, three or four inches above your neck. And then the
other one entered at more of less the top of the neck, the other one entered more or less at the
bottom of the neck.
Q: [....] Okay, and then according to the autopsy doctors they feel the one that entered in the skull,
in the rear of the head, exited the right side of the head?
LIPSEY: The right front, you know, the face. Not the right top, the right front. The facial part of
your face. In other words–
Q: Did that destroy his face at all? You say Presidents Kennedy, was his face distorted?
LIPSEY: Yeah, the right side. If you looked at him straight. If you looked at him from the left you
couldn't see anything. If you looked at him from the right side it was just physically part of it blown
Q: So that would be right here?
LIPSEY: Yeah, behind the eye and everything.
Q: Behind the eye? Was it all hair region or was it part of the actual face?
LIPSEY: To the best of my recollection it was part of the hair region and part of the face region.
Q: Just to follow up this point, after the embalming had been done and the morticians finished
preparing the body and you viewed President Kennedy at that time, after he was dressed, could you
see any damage?
LIPSEY: They did a beautiful job. He looked great.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 54
Q: So you really couldn't tell?
LIPSEY: Oh, you could tell, sure, if you got up close you could tell, yes.
Q: But he was presentable in the sense that you–
LIPSEY: He wasn't presentable in the sense that you would want to open the casket. But they did a
Q: What I guess I'm getting at is half his face so completely blown away? Could you recognize
LIPSEY: No, not at all. Oh no, he was 100% recognizable. I mean, particularly after they finished.
No, it wasn't that much damage at all.
The appearance of the head at the completion of the autopsy Lipsey attended, differs markedly from what is
known from the first autopsy, when no damages could be seen. One gets the impression that JFK’s head was
reconstructed after the second autopsy, but due to the much larger wounds inflicted at the top of the head at this
point, it was not possible to reconstruct the head in such a way that an open casket funeral could have been held.
Lipsey says the doctors did not find an entrance wound in the back of the head, i.e. the wound that allegedly was
2.5 cm to the right of and a little above the external occipital protuberance. That part of the skull was simply
LIPSEY: [.....]. I feel that there was no really entrance wound – maybe I said that – in the rear of his
head. There was a point where they determined the bullet entered the back of his head but I believe
all of that part of his head was blown. I mean I think it just physically blew away that part of his
head. You know, just like a strip right across there or may have been just in that area – just blew it
Q: So you say the damage caused by the entrance and the exit of the bullet to the head caused one
LIPSEY: To the best of my recollection, yes it did. [....]
And in the following exchange, Lipsey reiterates how the doctors kept looking for the missing bullet:
Q: How much time would you say, relatively speaking, did the doctors spend on the 3 wounds you
described? Did they spend more time on one or the other of the wounds?
LIPSEY: They spent more time looking for that other bullet than they did on anything else.
Q: You're describing the bullet that went in…
LIPSEY: – on the lower part of the neck. I remember them saying it must have hit the chest cavity
and ricocheted down somewhere into the body.
Q: Do you remember any discussion –
LIPSEY: And they spent a lot of time on that. Because I remember when they cut him open in the
front, you know, they – I remember – "Let's look for this, let's look for this." They took all the
organs out, they went through, they cut the organs up looking for bullets. And finally, to the best of
my knowledge, and I remember this, I don't remember how much more they did after this, but I
remember them saying: "That bullet could be anywhere." It could have gone right down to his heels
or his toes. It could have ricocheted and traveled right down through right on down, you know,
through his insides.
Q: Do you remember any discussion among the doctors that the bullet could have entered lower in
the neck – lower back part of the neck exited in the front of the neck?
LIPSEY: Yeah. I remember they were firmly convinced it did not.
Q: Okay. So you're convinced –
LIPSEY: That's why they spent so much time looking for it. They traced it through the back of his
neck through, you know, when they did the autopsy, through the inside of his body and there was
nowhere the bullet was then where it should have exited, it was not. And at the angle it was
traveling, and from, you know, with the other things they saw visible in the chest area once they cut
him open, you know, it had started down, but where was it?
Q: When they opened up the body from the front, did – were they able to discern any part of the
track of the bullet?
LIPSEY: I'm convinced they were in the upper part of his body – yes – because that's how they
started following it. And then I think, that's when they started taking his organs out, you know, one
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 55
at a time only. They took all of the insides out, I remember that, boy. They had four or five piles of
insides sitting on the table. And they thoroughly examined each one of those. They just had a big
hollow chest and stomach cavity left – or particularly chest cavity, when they got through. And, I'm
very convinced, in my own mind, that they were very convinced that bullet was somewhere in him.
Because, from their conversations, they tracked this bullet as far as they could in a downward
position before they couldn't tell where it went. That's when they started taking organs apart and
looking where ever they could look without going ahead and just cutting him apart. And I think
their decision finally was, we're just, you know, not going to completely dissect him to find this
bullet. So they tracked the bullet down as far as it went. Obviously, by that point it wasn't that
In the end, Lipsey gets annoyed by the repeated questions about the wounds and perhaps by a sense that Purdy
and Flanagan don’t believe his story. So he suggests that they settle the questions as to the wounds by exhuming
JFK’s body and re-examining the remains.
LIPSEY: The doctors concluded, the conclusion of the doctors was there were three separate
Q: And three separate bullets.
LIPSEY: And three separate bullets. No question in my mind about that. Can I ask you a question
at this point?
Q: You can ask us but we may not be able to answer it for you.
LIPSEY: I think it will be a very simple question that I think you could answer. There's gotta be
something to do with it. Why don't they exhume the body and study the body?
Q: W e'll that's a question we can't answer.
LIPSEY: You can't answer that? [Incredulous]
Q: That's a policy judgement.
LIPSEY: Okay, that 's a policy judgement. It's gotta clear up a lot of things. I just can't imagine why
they just don't go shriiiittt [whistling sound]. I remember the discussion when, Lyndon Johnson
said, "This body," you know, "none of the details of the Warren Report and this body will not be
touched for..." what was it? 15, 20 years? Whatever? I remember he came out in public and made
that statement, but I don't remember. I'm just curious why they don't dig him up if it's so vitally
concerned about it instead of wasting you guy's time?
At one point Lipsey misunderstands a question about the re-interment of JFK’s body (i.e. moving the casket to the
permanent grave site), which he apparently thinks is a question about moving the body in connection with the
second autopsy. There are several possible interpretations to his answer. He might be admitting that he
participated in either taking JFK’s body from the casket in the White House and putting it into a (shipping)
casket, or helping put the body back into the casket in the White House following the second autopsy. Or he
might simply be referring to putting the body into a casket in the morgue after the first or second autopsy was
completed. Thus, earlier in the interview, he claims to have helped the morticians, but there were only two of
them, rather than four as o n the night of November 22nd/23rd. Lipsey also claims that he was the last person to
look at President Kennedy before the casket was closed, which suggests that he refers to the last time ever that
they put President Kennedy’s body into a casket. Then he might be referring to putting the body back into the
casket in the White House after the second autopsy. The fact that Lipsey gets so worried when he realizes what he
thinks he has admitted (“Oh. This is the first time I’ve discussed this...”), suggests that the latter interpretation is
the correct one.
Q: Did you in a similar capacity participate in the re-interment of the president's body when they
LIPSEY: Yeah. I helped them pick up the President's body and laid it in the casket.
Q: No, I'm talking about the subsequent to the funeral in 196 3. I'm talking about years later.
LIPSEY: Oh. This is the first time I've discussed this – what I've discussed with you.
Q: No, you misunderstand the question. As you may recall, they hadn't finished the final resting
place at Arlington National Cemetery.
LIPSEY: [...]. All I know is the[y] got the clothes from the WH and I helped the funeral home. By
that time, by then I think there were only two of them in the room. I helped them dress him, helped
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 56
them pick up the body, [helped them] dress him. I helped them pick him up and laid him in the
casket. And as far as I know I was the last to look at him – standing there when they closed it. Then
the story just goes on and on about the funeral. I don't know how really relevant that part can be.
Just form al planning and carrying out the funeral.
According to Lipsey, General Wehle had asked him to attend the (second) autopsy, and if that is true, General
Wehle certainly must have known about it. Lipsey also claimed that Wehle relieved him for a short period during
the autopsy. But that might not be true, since Lipsey has go t to include Wehle in his story, which is supposed to
be an account of the first autopsy, which we know Wehle attended, but mainly outside the morgue. However,
Lipsey also states that he and W ehle agreed to never discuss the autopsy between themselves, which again
indicates that W ehle knew about the second autopsy.
Moreover Lipsey also says that W ehle was busy planning the funeral while he (Lipsey) was attending the autopsy.
I would guess that the planning was more intense on the night between Saturday and Sunday than the night before.
And I doubt Wehle would have been concerned that somebody would have ‘carted that body off’ on the night of
November 22. But he surely must have been worrying about that about 24 hours later, when the body apparently
had been removed from the casket in the White House. Thus, Lipsey states three times that the main purpose of
his attendance was to ascertain that Kennedy’s body was brought (back) to the White House.
LIPSEY: [...] And G en Wehle told me, "Don't leave this body!" "You do n't leave it," and I didn't
except when he came back down and went in and spelled me for a little while.
Q: Were you in charge of security arrangements for the autopsy room?
LIPSEY: Specifically, no. I was charged by Gen Wehle to make sure that no body left – that body
didn't go anywhere without him or me. As far as specific security of the room on the outside, I
remember they had guards all up and down that place. And Army people and all types of security
people. And I don't know who physically was responsible for hospital security.
Q: Do you remember what orders, if any, on who could be admitted to the autopsy room?
LIPSEY: No, I probably wasn't around to be admitted. I had on my uniform and the Gen's
recognition, and the Gen and I drove and everyone realized that he was in charge. He told me to
stay with the body and from then on nobody ever asked me anything. But, there was a guard right
outside the door. A policeman, a Washington policeman right outside the door.
LIPSEY: [....]. Our obligation as far as the autopsy ended right there. I'm not sure we had any
obligation for the autopsy except Gen W ehle was responsible for the funeral. Gen. Wehle, he
wanted somebody there to make sure nobody carted that body off until he could get back there and
till everything was taken to the WH. He said, “Y ou stay here and watch it.”
Based on General Philip C. Wehle’s own description of JFK’s head wounds to HSCA’s Andy Purdy (HSCA
record # 10010042, agency file # 002086) [cited in an article byG. A. Aguilar], he does not seem to have been
present at thesecond autopsy himself as Lipsey claimed he had been. Thus, Wehle only remembered seeing a
wound in the back of the head, which is the only head wound that was apparent during the first autopsy.
Wehle said he was an observer during the later stages of the autopsy. "(Wehle) noticed a slight
bruise over the right temple of the President but did not see any significant damage to any other part
of the head. He noted that the wound was in the back of the head so he would not see it because the
President was lying face up; he also said he did no t see any damage to the top of the head, but said
the President had a lot of hair which could have hidden that...."
General Wehle’s account is consistent with a short visit to the autopsy room during the first autopsy as described
in theFBI report, and mentioned earlier. But he may have been smart enough to not give any statements
indicating that he also had seen something different from a different autopsy.
At the end of the interview, Lipsey makes a series of cryptic an incoherent statements, which are very difficult to
interpret. But it is very evident that the autopsy he had witnessed was a very secret affair, which he also refers to
as ‘the thing’. And to me he seems to indicate that the secrecy somehow was related to president Johnson.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 57
Whether he refers to the second autopsy or other events when he says he and Wehle “briefed the P resident”, is a
matter of speculation.
LIPSEY: [....]. Obviously, everything I've told you here. First of all, I've never discussed any part of
the autopsy with anybody. You are the first I have discussed it with – not even with my wife. And
the thing, relating back to the thing, it had to do with National Security, more as I had a Top Secret
rating – because I was exposed to every Top Secret document in Washington. I briefed the
President with Gen. Wehle and things. And, of course, that had more to do with, we signed those,
we would not discuss – I feel like it was, it had m ore to do with – relating to the president and his
dealings, or at the time what his plans were, or any of the people he had talked to or confidentiality,
or anything read that came from our office to his office. Still, I felt that if it should be told to
anyone, it should be told to authorized persons such as yourself. For that reason, and Gen Wehle
and I kind of agreed we would never discuss it among ourselves. It's never been discussed with
anybody. And I certainly would not want my comments made public. I don't think they should be.
Lipsey recalled the name of only one person from the autopsy he attended. That was Lt. Samuel Bird, who was in
charge of the Joint Service Casket Team. This team was responsible for handling JFK’s two caskets from the
Dallas casket arrived at Andrews Air Force Base until the second casket had been brought to Arlington. They
were also responsible for guarding the casket at all times (“death watch”) in the White House and the Capitol
rotunda. Hence, they (probably the Secret Service) couldn’t have removed JFK’s body from the casket in the
White House without some kind of cooperation with Lt. Bird and his men.
HSCA contacted (Major) Bird by telephone in February1978, but Bird claim ed that he didn’t recall any details
from the autopsy, so he was apparently not questioned any further about it. But he had made a tape recording of
the events a few days after the autopsy, which he may have provided to theHSCA. Bird and his casket team were
also present at Bethesda on the night of November 22nd/23rd, but Bird was not recorded as being present in the
autopsy room that night. It is impossible to determine from available documents, whether Bird actually was
present during the second autopsy, as Lipsey says he was. Based on W ehle’s apparent concern about bringing
JFK’s body back to the W hite House, is seems likely that Bird also was present at the second autopsy to ascertain
that that happened.
Robert F. Karnei
Robert F. Karnei was interviewed by both theHSCA and ARRB because he allegedly was present at the autopsy
on November 22nd, even though his name was not recorded by the two FBI agents present. At the time of the
assassination, Karnei was a Navy Lieutenant and a second year resident at the National Naval Medical Center at
Bethesda. He had completed his first year of residency, which was in pathology, and was doing his second year of
residency, which was in surgery. He was allegedly on duty on November 22, but was not allowed to perform the
autopsy on President Kennedy, since those in command wanted more experienced people to do that. Karnei
claims that he was assigned other duties, such as arranging the security and acting as a liaison for various people
involved in the autopsy. Consequently, he was allegedly present in the morgue for only part of the autopsy and
missed some of the things that were said and done there.
However, I don’t think Karnei was present in the morgue during the first autopsy, being busy with other duties,
whereas he seems to have attended the second autopsy. He seems to have been identified as being present by at
least three other participants, namely by labaratory technologist Paul K. O’Connor, by Chester H. Boyers, who
was Chief Petty Officer in charge of the Pathology Department at Bethesda Naval Hospital in November 1963,
and by Dr. Boswell. Thememorandum from the HSCA interview with O’Connor states: “He recalled that there
was a P athologist on duty who was the officer of the day, probably a lieutenant”.Boyers claimed that shortly after
the autopsy he had written down the names of some of those being present, and among those we also find Robert
In aninterview for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Oral History Program in 1992, Karnei says he
remained unknown for many years because he kept a low profile (page 35).
So I had pretty well kept a low profile. There was a book that came out several years after that in
which I was referred to as the "unnamed Navy lieutenant." That was nice, because everybody else
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 58
that was in that autopsy suite room that night was named by name, and I was the unnamed
Karnei seems to have a very good recollection of the chronology of the events of the first autopsy in his ARRB
interview, but I think he has learnt that by heart from o ther sources. He more or less admits that this is so in his
interview with the ARRB. Thus, the summary of the interview states:
Written Chronology of Events of November 23 - December 6,1963: Dr. Karnei provided a
typewritten chronology and timeline of events which he constructed himself, long after the autopsy,
based upon a combination of his memory, the Warren Report, and David Lifton’s book Best
Evidence. He stated he prepared this chronology so that he could brief his residents whenever they
asked him questions about the autopsy. He told ARRB staff that he did not read the Warren Report
or Lifton’s book in its entirety, but only selectively perused them for the times of certain events, in
order to supplement his memory of the things he personally observed.
It is worth noting that in his interview with HSCA in 1977, Karnei reveals some details from the (second)
autopsy, which he has corrected when interviewed by ARRB in 1996. To HSCA he described the probes as going
through the body (anterior-posterior), whereas to ARRB he said the probe(s) went just a little distance into the
body (closely resembling the official story). Karnei’s recollection of the probing, as told to the HSCA, is very
similar to photographer Robert Knudsen’s account of this procedure.
Dr. Karnei said he was present when probing of the wound was attempted (“..when they were
putting the probes through the body“). Dr. Karnei said he was “...not exactly sure..." how successful
they were with the probing. He recalls them putting the probe in and taking pictures (the body was
on the side at the time). He said they felt the hole in the back was a wound of entrance and they
were ".. .trying to figure out where the bullet came out."
Dr. Karnei says that when he re-entered the morgue at about 9:00 P.M., he saw Dr. Pierre Finck
probing the wound in the upper right shoulder repeatedly with a succession of flexible metal
probes, in unsuccessful attempts to find the path of a bullet. He said that the wound in the shoulder
was the only wound he personally saw probed that night. At the time Dr. Finck was probing the
back wound, Dr. Karnei said that no incisions had yet been made in the President’s body. He said
the various probes, when inserted as far as they would go without making a false passage, described
a downward angle into the President’s body.
Dr. Karnei recalls that two days after the autopsy he signed a statement in which he pledged he
would remain silent about what he saw and heard for ten years. He said that just prior to the
expiration of that ten-year period, the time limit was extended fifteen more years.
Order of Silence: Dr. Karnei remembered himself, Drs. Humes, and Dr. Boswell being told to sign
the “gag order” in CAPT Stover’s office on approximately Monday after the assassination. He
remembered signing one, and then told ARRB that he thought it contained a written time period of
about 20 years which defined the length of the period of silence that was being enforced upon threat
of court martial.
Karnei claims that he signed the gag order “two days after the autopsy” (to HSCA) or “approximately Monday”
(to ARRB). Two days after the second autopsy would indeed have been Monday, assuming that it took place
Saturday night. The Order of Silence does not seem to have been issued until Tuesday, November 26, and were
apparently signed either on that day or the following day by most of those involved. If Karnei signed the order on
Tuesday, his recollection o f a two-day interval between the autopsy and the signing of the order, also seems to fit
better with the second autopsy on Saturd ay night than with the first one on Friday night.
In spite of his well-rehearsed list of events from the first autopsy, Karnei reveals some details from the second
autopsy in his ARRB interview. He remembered seeing a silver-colored casket and the body of President
Kennedy was dressed when the body arrived:
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 59
Dr. Karnei said that the first time he saw the President’s body on 11/22/63, it was already on the
autopsy table, and that it was being undressed. He said he had a vague recollection of pants being
removed from the President’s body, and of photographs being taken while the body was undressed.
The President’s hair was covered in dried, matted blood at this viewing.
As regards the head wounds, Karnei’s recollections are vague concerning their exact location, but they differ
somewhat from the (final) official version.
However, he did remember seeing one wound in the right side of the head approximately above the
right ear, and another wound in the posterior skull, up high in the back of the head, either in the
center, or just left of center (which he associated in his mind with a right-front to left-rear
trajectory, or vice-versa). He also said that the upper posterior skull sagged a bit; i.e., was a bit
concave in shape.
Brain: Dr. Karnei said that he did not see the brain removed, but he did see Humes, Boswell and
Finck very carefully inspecting it outside of the body after it had been removed. He had vague
memories of damage to the ‘right hemisphere’, but could not remember whether the cerebellum was
damaged or not.
Although Karnei remember seeing Finck examining JFK’s brain after its removal, Finck himself claimed the
brain, the heart and the lungs had been removed before he arrived. And if those organs had been removed before
he arrived, he could not have probed the back wound before any incisions had been made, as Karnei told ARRB.
Karnei says that Stringer was using two types of camera when taking pictures during the autopsy. Yet, Stringer
claims that he only used one type of camera. Karnei’s ‘recollection’ of a second photographer might originate
from what he has learned about the first autopsy, rather than from something he has witnessed himself.
He remembers that John Stringer was photographing the autopsy, and that Stringer used both an
old-fashioned type camera that required the use of film-holders for individual sheets of film, and
also a 35 mm camera. (He could not remember whether Stringer used a tripod the night of the
Kennedy autopsy.) He said that there was a second person taking photographs also, whom he
initially described to ARRB staff as an FBI or Secret Service agent, and that this person used a
different (second) 35 mm camera (separate from Stringer’s).
As to note-taking during the autopsy, Karnei did n’t recall much when interviewed byHSCA. It is not clear who
‘both’ are, but he probably means Humes and Boswell.
Dr. Karnei does not recall any note-taking around the table (he was standing against the wall near
the table at the time). [.....] Dr. Karnei said he thought “... Dr. Boswel was actually taking notes ....
thinks they were both working on the diagrams."
In his interview withARRB, Karnei still didn’t remember who took the notes.
Notes and Diagrams: Dr. K arnei said that he remembered D r. Boswell making diagrams, but did
not specifically recall anyone writing down notes.
When interviewed by HSCA staff in 1977,Boswell told them he was the only one taking notes during the
autopsy. But Boswell mentions that Karnei was present both at the autopsy and at the subsequent examination of
Dr. BOSWELL said that he believes he is the only one who took notes during the autopsy.
Dr. BOSWELL said that Dr. KARNEI was the resident on duty during the autopsy and said he
served in effect as the chief assistant of the autopsy doctors. He said Dr. KARNEI was also present
during the examination of the brain.
However, in his ARRB deposition,Boswell, states or confirms three times that Karnei was taking notes during the
autopsy, presumably during the second one.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 60
GUNN: I'd like to shift the direction a little bit now and talk to you about records. The first question
would be: Who during the course of the autopsy took any records or notes that you recall?
BOSWELL: I think Jim Humes and Bob Karnei, who was our senior resident working with us that
night, and myself did all the note-taking. And then Jim took our collected notes with him to write up
Q: Do you have any recollection of seeing Dr. Karnei's notes you previously mentioned?
BOSWELL: I think that maybe Karnei may be the one who wrote those measurements onExhibit 1
[the autopsy face sheet]. What else he may have written on it, I don't remember.
Q: Did you see anyone else at Bethesda taking notes other than yourself, Dr. Karnei, and Dr.
Q: For example, FBI agents or Secret Service?
BOSWELL: I didn't see anybody writing.
I’m sure FBI Agents O’Neill and Sibert would have noticed if Karnei had been present at the autopsy table taking
notes on the evening of November 22nd. But not if Karnei was present at the second autopsy on the evening of
Jerrol Francis Custer
Jerrol Francis Custer was the x-ray technician who, together with his assistant Edward F. Reed, allegedly took the
x-rays of president Kennedy during the autopsy. At his deposition before theARRB, he recognized all x-rays as
being taken by himself. Since most of those x-rays seems to have been taken during the second autopsy, he
indirectly admits that he was present at that event. However, he was also present at the first autopsy on November
22nd, since his name was recorded in the FBI report. Custer’s testimony seems to be a mixture of data from the
two autopsies. Mr. Gunn unintentionally asks him about his recollection fromboth events by mentioning two
dates (probably meaning the night in between):
GUNN: I’d like to ask you for your own individual sense and judgment of the quality of your
memory of the events from November 22nd and 23rd. How good do you think your memory is of
CUSTER: Unfortunately, too good.
As to the purpose of the autopsy, Custer is very clear:
CUSTER: Let me put it this way, plain and simple. The autopsy was something that had to be done.
It didn’t have to be done correctly. It had be do ne for record purposes only. Finding out facts,
forget it. This is something that had to be done. But done in a way that it’s not going to implicate.
And this is, basically, the opinion I got, because I made that statement, and I was told to shut up.
And indeed, Custer has a very detailed recollection of what happened during the second autopsy. Of course, he
doesn’t say that there ever was such a thing, but when asked at one point if ‘that night’ specifically refers to the
night of November 22nd, he first evades answering the question, but later says it was November 22nd.
Q: When you say “that night”, you’re referring to November 22nd ‘63?
CUSTER: November .... Right.
Custer claims that the body arrived in the mo rgue in a black hearse from the Walter Reed (Army Hospital)
‘compound’. Gunn tries to ask him if he watched while the morticians reconstructed JFK’s body after the autopsy,
but Custer seems to misunderstand the question to be if he saw any signs of reconstruction having been
performed. And he did see signs of that:
GUNN: What was in a very general way, the co ndition of the body at the last time that you saw it
on the night of November 22nd/23rd?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 61
CUSTER: Do you want me to be blunt?
CUSTER: A mess. There was body fluid everywhere. The body was literally butchered.
Q: Did you see any reconstruction of the body at all by morticians?
CUSTER: I remember when I looked into the skull - I remember seeing an apparatus in there. I
wasn’t sure of what it was. I just rememb ered this.
Q: W hen was it that you saw what you’ve identified as “an apparatus” in the skull?
CUSTER: This was in the first series of films. The only reason why this clicked is, because I
remember I was told by the duty officer that the corpse was taken to W alter Reed Hospital first -
compound - Walter Reed compound first, and then brought to Bethesda.
Q: Could you describe the apparatus that was in the skull?
CUSTER: It was non-human. It had -- I’m not sure if it was metallic or plastic. There was so much
going on at that time. I just happened to see it. It registered. And that was it.
Q: Did anyone besides the duty officer make any reference to Walter Reed?
CUSTER: Yes, that one gentleman who was in the picture with Reed and myself, that was at the
Q: On the far – the one on the far left?
CUSTER: Far left; right. He was the duty officer. No, not there. The other picture.
Q: Yeah. In addition to the duty officer, was there anyone else?
CUSTER: The chief on duty that night. There was two.
CUSTER: There was a duty officer and a duty chief.
Q: Okay. And they both said that the body had been to Walter Reed?
CUSTER: Right. Walter Reed compound. They didn’t say “hospital”. They said “compound”.
Q: Did you hear anyone else make any statements about Walter Reed, other than the duty officer
and the duty chief?
CUSTER: That’s the only two.
His memory is somewhat confused as to the type of casket carrying the body to the morgue. H e is not certain
whether it was a shipping casket or not, but he assumes it could not have been a shipping casket since it carried
the body of the President.
GUNN: Could you describe what the casket looked like?
CUSTER: I don’t think it was a shipping casket. I remember seeing a bronze ceremonial casket
brought in. I don’t know where they got the shipping casket at. A shipping casket to me is a tin,
metal-colored, gray thing. And that certainly wasn’t what he was put in.
CUSTER: Because you’re talking [about] the President of the United States. Why would they put
him in a shipping casket? They had to have some dignity about this.
CUSTER: But you got to remember something. There was more than one casket that night.
Q: When you say there was more than one casket, what do you mean?
CUSTER: There was a casket brought in the back by a black Cadillac ambulance. Plus, there was a
casket that Jacqueline Kennedy had in her entourage, too.
Q: Are you certain that the ambulance was black, rather than gray or white?
CUSTER: I’m sure the first one was black. It had to be. You must remember - Remember when I
told you, I was told the body had went to Walter Reed compound first. Now, I don’t know what
ambulance they put it in, but I just remember seeing a black ambulance there.
As to Custer’s description of the appearance of the body when they opened the casket, his reco llections seem to
relate to the second autopsy, especially the fact that the body was still dressed. JFK’s body had been dressed in a
suit before it was laid in the casket and brought to the White Ho use at the completion of the first autopsy.
GUNN: Okay. Could you describe the appearance of President Kennedy when the casket was first
opened in the morgue?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 62
CUSTER: What surprised me, he had a plastic bag around his head with sheets wrapped around it.
And you could see the blood on the sheets. But after we-- That’s all I saw. And after we got him on
the table, I was asked to leave. I didn’t see anything else.
Q: W hen you say –
CUSTER: He was still dressed in a suit.
Q: He was dressed in a suit?
CUSTER: That’s the way I saw it.
Q: When you say a plastic bag around his head, does that mean around the head, but not any other
part of the body?
CUSTER: To the best of my recollection, that’s all I remember. Just around his head.
And after the body had been put on the autopsy table, the x-ray technicians were asked to leave the morgue
(Custer was probably the only x-ray technician there). When they were called back about one hour later in order
to take the first x-rays, the autopsy was already in progress. Custer had difficulties in taking the x-rays of the head
because the neck was stiff due to rigor mortis. And there was no brain inside the cranium.
GUNN: And previously you’ve said that - in this deposition, if I understand correctly - that you
were out of the morgue for - The way that I’m understanding is, you said about an hour. Maybe
more, maybe less.
Q: But approximately an hour.
Q: Were you with Mr. Reed at that time during that hour, or approximately an hour?
CUSTER: To the best of my recollections, yes, I do believe so.
Q: Was anyone else with you at that time?
CUSTER: There was a - one of the FBI agents were with us.
Q: Okay. If we can go back now to -
Q: - back to the chronology. You have now come back into the morgue after having been
summoned by Dr. Ebersole. What do you observe of the body of President Kennedy? W hat was the
condition at that point?
CUSTER: All right. The body was completely nude. The Y incision had been made - and the skull
literally was a mess.
Q: The Y incision, you say, had been made. Had any of the organs been removed at that time?
CUSTER: I’m not sure, truthfully. I would safely say yes, because I remember - W hen I come, I
remember Dr. Boswell then, sauteing the liver and - Yeah, it has to be. It’d have to be. I can’t say
all of them were removed. I know a good portion of them were removed.
Q: What was the first series of X-rays that you took?
CUSTER: Definitely, skull films.
Q: How many skull films did you take?
CUSTER: Well, I took a modified waters. And, basically, the only reason why I took a modified
waters is, because rigor mortis had already set in. And the head was placed in a - The head was [in]
a position already with a 30-degree up tilt due to the rigor mortis being set in. [.....]
Q: When you referred to a “modified waters”, is that a particular angle?
CUSTER: A full waters is 45 degrees. All right? And that’s taken at a posterior/anterior. When
you’re in the - the regular radiological positioning, anterior is your front. Posterior is your back.
Okay? All the films were taken in an anterior/posterior position. There’s no way in God’s creation
we could have turned this body over on the stomach, and done the films the way they should have
been done. So, we had to do them to the best possible way, and get the best possible films in that
Q: And did you take a Town’s -
CUSTER: To my best recollection, no. There’s no way to take it because of the rigor mortis. The
way the head was positioned. You couldn’t get a real good Towns. So, I totally eliminated it
because of that.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 63
Q: Was there any brain inside the cranium at the time that you took the first series of X-rays?
CUSTER: To the best of my recollection, no.
Q: Were you present at any time while brain tissue was being removed?
CUSTER: No, I wasn’t.
When Custer took the skull x-rays, the bones were completely fractured. These fractures may have been real, but
they may also have been inflicted prior to the second autopsy. And the skin (scalp) was no longer attached to the
underlying bones, probably mainly because the scalp had been reflected from the skull during the first autopsy.
CUSTER: So, I had to build the head up. But when I built the head up -The head was so unstable
due to the – the fractures. The fractures were extremely numerous. It was like somebody took a
hard-boiled egg, and just rolled it in her hand. And that’s exactly what the head was like.
Q: So, when you say that it’s like that, you mean the pieces of the shell are analogous to the pieces
of the skull; is that right?
CUSTER: Right. And every time we picked the head up, you could feel it. This part of the head
would come out; this part of the head would be in. And it was just – The only thing that held it
together was the skin. And even that was loose.
Q: And other than the Y incision, did you observe any other wounds on President Kennedy’s body,
other than those you’ve described?
CUSTER: Let’s see. I’m trying to think now. Well, there was a gaping hole in the right parietal
region. The right eyeball was protruding.
Later, when drawing the skull defect onto alateral skull drawing the area of missing bone comprises the right
parietal bone, as well as parts of the frontal and temporal bone. He only admitted that the temporal bone was
involved after having viewed the lateral x-rays. When describing the nature of the defect, he made an interesting
CUSTER: The temporal bone area.
Q: Okay. What you’re referring to is the suture between the temporal bone and the parietal bone?
CUSTER: This flapped out. It looked as if they had sawed it. But this was all missing here.
When describing the anterior/posterior x-ray of the skull (x-ray No. 1), Custer states:
CUSTER: Bullet fragment, right orbital ridge. Fragments throughout the temporal region.
Remember how I stated, it looked like somebody had sawed a portion over here.
Q: You’re referring to the mid -
CUSTER: Midsagittal plane.
I think Custer tries to make the ARRB staff aware of the fact that there were some peculiar straight “fracture”
lines in the skull, as if somebody had sawed through the bone. And that was precisely what they had done during
thefirst autopsy, when they sawed through the top of the skull in order to remove the brain. At that time they
sawed through the coronal suture (between the temporal and parietal bones), and extended that cut towards the
rear of the head above the ears in order to remove the top of the skull and get access to the brain. The removal of
the brain will be dealt with in more detail later.
Custer confirms that the brain had been removed before the three extant skull x-rays were taken. Moreover, he
admits that most of the x-rays showing the chest and/or abdomen were taken after the organs had been removed.
According to the FBI report from the first autopsy, the ARRB depositions of FBI agents Sibert and O’Neill and xray
technician Edward F. Reed, as well as several statements from the three autopsy doctors, the x-rays and
(all/most) photographs were taken before any incisions had been made (more about this later). Hence, the absence
of the brain and the chest organs stro ngly indicates that those x-rays were taken during the second autopsy.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 64
Custer says there were bullet fragments in the C3/C4 area of the spine, an area which is not shown in any of the
extant x-rays of JFK.
GUNN: You didn’t see any X-rays that would be in – that would include the C3/C4 area?
CUSTER: No, sir.
Q: Are you certain that you took X-rays that included the – included C3 and C4?
CUSTER: Yes, sir. Absolutely.
Q: How many X-rays did you take that would have included that?
CUSTER: Just one. And that was all that was necessary, because it showed – right there.
Q: And what, as best you recall, did it show?
CUSTER: A fragmentation of a shell in and around that circular exit – that area. Let me rephrase
that. I don’t want to say “exit”, because I don’t know whether it was exit or entrance. But all I can
say, there was bullet fragmentations around that area – that opening.
Q: Around C3/C4?
Q: And do you recall how many fragments there were?
CUSTER: Not really. There was enough. It was very prevalent.
Q: Did anyone make any observations about metal fragments in the C3/C4 area?
CUSTER: I did – And I was told to mind my own business. That’s where I was shut down again.
CUSTER: In my own opinion, I do believe, basically, the reason why they are not here is because
they showed massive amounts of bullet fragments.
According to Custer, he was asked by Ebersole to tape metal fragments to the skull fragments “supposedly”
arriving from Dallas before taking x-rays of them. These three fragments, which are seen in x-raysNos. 4-6,
probably replaced the original fragment recovered from the Presidential limousine and brought to Bethesda
during the first autopsy.
GUNN: Did you ever have occasion to make X-rays of any bone fragments from the head of
CUSTER: That was the next day, in a private room up on the fourth floor, with a portable X-ray
unit. And at – Do you want me to reiterate a little bit?
CUSTER: I was told to place bone fragments on – or not bone fragments – metal fragments that
were given to me on these portions of the skull, and take different exposures.
Q: Did Mr. Ebersole – or Dr. Ebersole say anything to you about metal fragments?
CUSTER: He gave me three or four different metal fragments, varying in size. And he asked me to
tape them to the bones.
Q: Did you tape metal fragments to the bones?
CUSTER: Yes, sir.
Q: Did Dr. Ebersole ever subsequently explain to you the purpose for taping metal fragments to the
bones to be--
CUSTER: No, he didn’t. He just stated to me, when he brought the film-- the bone fragments and
the metal fragments to me, that he had just come back from the White House after being debriefed.
Q: And what did he say about that debriefing?
CUSTER: Well, he just said that he was debriefed by the Secret Service. And that was it.
High-ranking people bad talked to him. And he suggested to me that everything that I see from now
on, I sho uld forget.
Q: Did he say that to you at approximately the same time that you were working on X-raying the
Q: Do you know where the skull fragments came from?
CUSTER: They arrived, supposedly, that evening from Dallas.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 65
Custer says he was ordered, or rather threatened, to keep quiet about what he had seen in association with the
autopsy. These orders came from ‘high-level people’ at the White House through the head of the Secret Service
(who was James Rowley). And again Custer avoids answering whether the order of silence he received in the
morgue was given on the night of November 22nd or 23rd. It was given on ‘that night’.
GUNN: Was there ever a time at which you were asked or requested not to speak about the autopsy
of President Kennedy?
CUSTER: Well, there was two different situations. T he next day, when Dr. Ebersole came back to
Bethesda with the bone fragments and the bullet fragments – that time; and the time in the morgue--
there’s three, actually-- and in Galloway’s office.
Q: Maybe if we could go through those three events in order. The first time that you were asked not
to discuss the autopsy was which time?
CUSTER: In the morgue.
Q: Okay, in the morgue. And that was when in the morgue? On the night of November 22nd or
CUSTER: On that night.
Q: Okay. And who was it who asked you not to speak of--
CUSTER: Dr. Ebersole. He made it perfectly clear that I was not to speak about this.
Q: If you could convey the sense of the words that he gave to you as best you can, what--
CUSTER: “Keep your mouth shut.”
Q: Okay. That’s perfectly blunt.
CUSTER: Plain and simple.
Q: Okay. And the second time that you were asked, or requested, or instructed not to talk about the
autopsy was when?
CUSTER: That was the next day, after he had come back from the White House from being
Q: And that was, again, Dr. Ebersole who --
CUSTER: Dr. Ebersole.
Q: - who had said it to you. Then, the third time was --
CUSTER: Let’s back up one thing.
CUSTER: At that time, he made it quite clear, this came from high level that I was not to say
anything. And he reiterated “anything”. If I did, I wo uld be quite sorry.
Q: Did he tell you whom he– You mentioned a moment ago that he had been to the White House.
Q: Did he tell you whom he had spoken with at the White House?
CUSTER: Yes, he did.
Q: Whom did he say he spoke with?
CUSTER: The head of the Secret Service.
Q: W hen he said that high-level people--
Q: - did not want anything to be discussed, did he tell you who those high-level people were?
CUSTER: No. He just said high-level people.
Q: Okay. Could you tell me about the third time that you received instructions not to speak about
CUSTER: Well, that was the most traumatic. After I signed the gag order, I was told if anything--
no matter what-- got out, it would be the sorriest day of my life. I’d spend most of my time behind
Q: And did that sound-- that threat sound credible to you?
CUSTER: Very credible.
Edward F. Reed
Edward F. Reed was an x-ray technician at the first autopsy. In his deposition before theARRB he claimed that
he had taken all the autopsy x-rays, except those of the b one fragments (Nos. 4-6). He states initially in his
deposition that all x-rays were taken at the beginning of the autopsybefore any incisions had been made, but
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 66
when questioned later whether he can see any thoracic or abdominal organs in x-rays Nos. 7-14, he admits that
some of these x-rays (Nos. 8, 10, 11) show no organs, and therefore must have been taken later during the
autopsy. He thinks those x-rays were taken after they had closed the Y incision again with metal sutures, but he
can’t find any traces of those sutures in the x-rays. However, according to the morticians, they put the organs back
into the body before they closed the Y incision.
GUNN: Okay. You’ve described the sequence of the taking of the X-rays. Can you tell me whether
there were any incisions that were performed on the body between the time of the first X-ray and
the time of the last X-ray that you took?
REED: As far as I know, no.
Q: When you brought the last of the X-rays that you had developed back to the morgue, had there
been any incisions performed on the body at that time?
GUNN: Do you see any lung markings in X-ray No. 8?
REED: No, I don’t.
Q: What does that signify to you?
REED: That the pleura cavity has been - the lung has been removed. But - It’s a cadaver, I think.
Cadaver. I see no lung m arkings.
Q: And that signifies that this was taken after a Y incision?
REED: It could have been.
Q: Does that help refresh your recollection as to whether a Y incision had already taken place at the
time that you took the X-ray?
REED: Yes. Yes, it does. So, the X -rays were taken after it was removed, then. It’s vague, but - I’m
trying - I’m just trying to think.
There was a - you know, a opening there in the cavity. But there would be metallic - if it
was, there would be metallic markings here. Sewed back up with metallic -
You see, when you deflate the lungs, all the - all the air is deflated. And this has been like
six hours after he was assassinated. And there’s no air in the - in the lungs. So, there may not be any
lung markings because of that.
Aeration is what causes markings in the - But there’s no air in here, because he’s deceased.
So, it -
I think I’m hitting the upper limit of my exp ertise, you know. A radiologist would have to
explain that more in d etail.
GUNN: Well, again, the question that I would have is whether this was taken by you before a Y
incision; taken by you after a Y incision; or taken by somebody else after a Y incision? Are you
able to help answer that question?
REED: I’d have to take this - say this was taken - Let me think for a second. I can’t answer that. I
GUNN: Okay. Could we go to the next one, please? No. 10.
REED: This is the opposite humerus, I assume. Let me -- Now, this -- we might have been -- we’ve
might have been called down after they did this for the X-rays of the -- Remember, I said all the
multiple X-rays? Because now that I’m thinking about it, you know, they might have sewed him up.
And we came down, because -
Here’s the same type of X-ray I took on the opposite side, the humerus. But, again, there’s
no lung markings in here.
Q: So, it would be your assumption that this – that X-ray No. 10 was taken after, at least, some of
Q: - internal organs had been removed?
REED: Right. Right, exactly.
Q: Do you see any markings on No. 11?
REED: I don’t see the bowel that was in here before or the lung markings. So, this one had to be
taken afterwards, also.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 67
It is obvious that Reed has great difficulties in explaining how he could have taken those x-rays, when initially he
had claimed he had taken all of them before any incisions had been made. Moreover, when shown some of the
official autopsy photographs, Reed doesn’t recognize them as depicting what he saw during the autopsy.
I think Mr. Reed was only present at the first autopsy on November 22nd. Hence, he seems to be lying about
taking those x-rays that seem to originate from the second autopsy, which I think include x-rays Nos. 1-7, 8, 10-
11, and possibly No. 14. Reed claims that the internal organs are visible in x-rays Nos. 7 (“They look intact.”) and
14 (“There is nothing removed at that time from this X-ray.”), but the forensic pathology panel ofHSCA claimed
that those x-rays had been taken after the organs had been removed:
X-ray No. 9 had been taken before the start of the autopsy; X-rays (Nos. 7, 8, 10, 11, and 14) were
taken after removal of the internal organs.
I guess the reason why Reed insists that he took all the x-rays, is that he desperately wants to beremembered as
the man who took the autopsy x-rays of President Kennedy. But he seems to have participated in taking only xrays
Nos. 9, 12, and 13 (maybe 7 and 14) of those currently in the U.S. National Archives. There is, however, no
reason to doubt that he participated in taking and/or developing all the x-rays exposed during the first autopsy on
November 22, the majority of which seems to have been destroyed.
John H. Ebersole
John H. Ebersole was Acting Chief of Radiology at the Naval Hospital, Bethesda on the day of the Assassination.
He assisted the pathologists in interpreting the x-rays taken at the autopsy of President Kennedy. There is no
doubt that he attended the first autopsy, his name being recorded in the FBI report, but I think he also was present
during the second autopsy. In his appearance before the M edical Panel of the HSCA,Ebersole testified that all the
14 known x-rays from Kennedy’s autopsy were taken by himself during the autopsy on November 22nd/23rd
(Custer and Reed claim that they actually took the x-rays, whereas Ebersole merely helped interpret them to the
pathologists). However, most of those x-rays seem to have been taken during the second autopsy, so if Ebersole
was involved in taking them, he must also have been present on that occasion. And some of his statements
indicate just that. Thus, he has a recollection of a sutured tracheotomy incision in the anterior neck:
EBERSOLE: Upon removing the body from the coffin, the anterior aspect, the only things
noticeable were [.....] and a neatly sutured transverse surgical wound across the low neck.
EBERSOLE: I believe by ten or ten thirty approximately a communication had been established
with Dallas and it was learned that there had been a wound of exit in the lower neck that had been
surgically repaired. I don't know if this was premortem or postmortem but at that point the
confusion as far as we were concerned stopped.
BADEN: [...] Now you have mentioned that the tracheostomy was sutured when you first saw it.
EBERSOLE: There was a sutured wound, a transverse wound at the base of the neck.
BADEN: Do you remember any other sutured wounds?
EBERSOLE: No, I do not.
EBERSOLE: [....] Somewhere in the course of the autopsy Dr. Humes was made aware of the
surgical procedures at Dallas vis-a-vis the neck.
PURDY: And what was that information?
EBERSOLE: The information was that there had been a wound of exit there, a tracheotomy and a
BADEN: And it is your impression that before the autopsy was finished at ten thirty at night contact
had been made between Dr. Humes and --
EBERSOLE: I must say these times are approximate but I would say in the range of ten to eleven
p.m. Dr. Humes had determined that a procedure had been carried out in the anterior neck covering
the wound of exit. Subsequent to that the fragments arrived. At the time the fragments were X
rayed. Dr. Finck was present.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 68
Ebersole claims that Humes got information from Dallas about the tracheotomy wound during the course of the
(first) autopsy. Humes always denied this, and claimed that he did not speak with Dr. Malcom Perry at Parkland
Hospital in D allas until Saturday morning. Ebersole also states repeatedly that the purpose of taking the x-rays
during the autopsy was to find a missing bullet having entered in the back of JFK. That search for a bullet may
relate to both the first and the second autopsy. Ebersole remembers no discussion of a bullet possibly having
fallen out of the entrance wound in the back at Parkland. It is noteworthy that it was the Secret Service agents who
asked for more x-rays to be taken in order to find the missing bullet.
So prior to starting the autopsy we were asked to X ray the body to determine the presence of a
bullet. We took several X rays of the skull, chest, trunk.
The initial films showed the usual metallic fragments in the skull but no evidence of a slug, a bullet.
This was a little bit disconcerting. We were asked by the Secret Service agents present to repeat the
films and did so. Once again there was no evidence of a bullet.
In summary I would like to emphasize one thing. These films, these x rays were taken solely for the
purpose of finding what at that time was thought to be a bullet that had entered the body and not
Again I would like to emphasize my purpose of taking the films, and my interpretation that night
was solely to locate a bullet that at that time we thought was still in the body.
When both aspects of the body had been viewed, and I do not know in what order they were
reviewed, we were faced with the problem of a wound of entrance and not a known wound of exit,
so at that point we perhaps would never have taken any X rays had we had a wound of entrance and
a wound of exit. Remember, I am standing by waiting for the prosector to start with my X ray
equipment. We had certainly not to my knowledge planned to take any X rays at this autopsy but
when it became apparent we had a wound of entrance and no known wound of exit, this is when I
was brought into the action.
In the beginning of the interview Ebersole claimed that all x-rays were taken before any incisions had been made,
but when viewing three x-rays of the chest/abdomen (Nos. 8, 10, and 11) showing no internal organs, he has to
admit that those were taken later in the procedures. However, the three skull x-rays “were definitely taken before
the autopsy”. Ebersole was unfortunately not asked if he could identify the brain inside the skull in those x-rays.
Even though Ebersole seems to have been present at the second autopsy and hence must have seen the body and
participated in taking or interpreting skull x-rays showing a large defect in the right side of the head, he says the
major head wound was in the back of the head.
The back of the head was missing and the regular messy wound [sic].
You know, my recollection is more of a gaping occipital wound than this [viewing color
photograph No. 42 showing intact ‘right’ occipital region of head] but I can certainly not state that
this is the way it looked. Again we are relying on a 15 year old recollection. But had you asked me
without seeing these or seeing the pictures, you know, I would have put the gaping wound here
rather than more forward.
As to the location of the wound of entrance in the skull, Ebersole is reluctant to give his opinion when viewing the
skull x-rays. His cryptic answer indicates that the wound of entrance in the skull was on the lateral side, but not on
the right side, as Dr. Weston suggests, but possibly on the left side, since he seems to suggest that the lateral films
show the opposite side (left) of the head from what they purport to show: “This is 180 degree”. (In the 1966
inventoryof the autopsy x-rays and photographs, x-ray No. 2 is said to be a “right lateral view of the skull”,
whereas No. 3 is merely said to be a “lateral view of the skull”).
BADEN: Do you on examination of these films have an opinion as to where the gunshot wound of
entrance was in the head radiologically?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 69
EBERSOLE: In my opinion it would have come from the side and [on?] the basis of the films I
guess that is all that can be said about the films at this time.
WESTON: I understand that. I am coming back to your expertise now. Looking at those skull films,
you would feel comfortable in saying there were fractures there?
WESTON: And yet I understood you to say that I think, would you not, and yet I understood you to
say that you felt like there had been a bullet wound on the right side of the head, is that correct?
EBERSOLE: No. I would say on the basis of those X rays and X rays only one would have to
estimate there that the wound of entrance was somewhere to the side or to the posterior quadrant.
WESTON: To the side or to the posterior quadrant.
EBERSOLE: This is 180 degree.
WESTON: Okay. Fine. That is all I have.
Jerrol F. Custer mentions Ebersole several times in his testimony before theARRB, and some of these references
seem to be related to the second autopsy. Thus, Custer claims that Ebersole damaged the anterior/posterior x-ray
of he skull (x-ray No. 1) by holding the film too close to a heat lamp when viewing the image. Ebersole admitted
to HSCA that he might have been responsible for that damage. Both of them claim that this happened on the night
of November 22nd, but in my opinion all the three known skull x-rays were taken during the second autopsy.
Consequently, Ebersole must have been present at the second autopsy.
GUNN: Earlier in your deposition, you referred to some heat damage on one of the X-rays. Do you
see any heat damage on this x-ray?
CUSTER: It’s right here. You can see it– This is where Dr. Ebersole got it too close to the heat
lamp. I stated to him twice, “Please do not put it too close.” You can see where it started to –
Q: To wrinkle?
CUSTER: - curdle, literally. And here, it started to burn. And isn’t it funny how where it starts to
burn is the area that I suggested was an entry wound.
Q: Now, are you certain that that heat damage took place on this X-ray on the night of November
CUSTER: Yes, sir. I was there, and I saw him do it.
Q: Can you identify in the X-ray any brain shadow?
CUSTER: No. There’s no brain shadow that I can see. Maybe portions - very small. But this is all
empty. Anything -
BADEN: On looking at film No . 1 you see there are two artifact points. Could you describe those
and indicate what you think they are?
EBERSOLE: These are raised blisters, rounded areas on the X ray film due to overheating the
emulsion and probably coming about placing it on what we call a hot light. Imagine a photo flood
bulb and this placed too close to it. Associated with these two areas there is wrinkling in the film
base which also happens when it is applied to too hot a source.
BADEN: Do you have any knowledge when and how they occurred?
EBERSOLE: I don't know. It may have happened that night and I may have been the guilty party as
well as under standard view boxes.
Custer also claimed that Ebersole drew pencil lines on X -ray No. 2 on the night of the autopsy, whereas Ebersole
claimed he made those lines later when making some measurements for a bust.
Paul K. O’Connor
Paul K. O’Connor was a laboratory technologist, who assisted the pathologists during the autopsy. He was
recorded by Sibert and O’Neill as attending the first autopsy, but he also seems to have been present at the
second. He was interviewed by Kelly and Purdy of the HSCA in 1977, and a summary of his testimony was given
in amemorandum. I think O’Connor’s statements represent a mixture of things he saw on two separate occasions.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 70
Whether he is aware of that himself, is difficult to tell. The following statements seem to refer mainly to
recollections from the second autopsy:
O'Connor said that the casket was a pink shipping casket and it arrived approximately eight o'clock.
He said the body was in a body bag and the head was wrapped in a sheet. O'Connor said he helped
unwrap the sheet. He recalls seeing “...massive head wound..” and a “...gaping wound in the
neck...” as well as “...two chest incisions”. O'Connor said that he was shocked at what he saw. He
said the head had “...nothing left in the cranium but splattered brain matter.” O'Connor said he
noticed this particularly because it was “--part of my jo b to remove the brain and fix it.”
O'Connor said that he helped put the body on the table, unwrap the very bloody sheet, and was in
the presence of the medical photographer, the X-Ray technicians, and the “medical illustrator.”
O'Connor said that when they arrived, Humes and Boswell “....assumed command.” He didn't recall
any flag rank giving them orders.
Regarding the wound in the neck, O'Connor said it “.... looked like a very sloppy
tracheotomy and I've seen a lot.” He said the “...gaping hole ... looked like the whole larynx was
However, O'Connor then said he “..never saw a sheet [autopsy face sheet] that night ... the whole
procedure was abnormal.” O'Connor said the information was “ ..probably written in later.”
Regarding the wound in the head, O'Connor said there was “...no use me opening the skull because
there were no brains.” O‘Connor described the defect as being in the region from the “...occipital
around the temporal and parietal regions.” He said there was a “...massive hole, no little hole.”
O'Connor believes the bullet came in from the front right and blew out the top.
O'Connor said for a while there was no discussion of any other wounds until later on when
they found the bullet wound in the “...back in the neck... just above C-7.” O'Connor said it was
approximately dead center in the mid-line of the back.
O'Connor said it was “...a funny autopsy.” He said one reason was because when they started
viscerating [sic; eviscerating] the body O'Connor was asked to leave. He noted that Jenkins
remained. H e said D r. Boswell or Humes told him to go outside the room (he was guarded by a
Marine while he did); he remained outside approximately thirty or forty minutes. He said during
that time the X-Rays of the “...entire body...” were taken, according to what an X-Ray technician
O'Connor returned to the room after the suturing was done and found out later he missed the
probing by the Doctors. When he had returned he said the doctors had the back up and appeared to
be “...very interested in it . . . to see what the spine looked like.”
O'Connor said he later asked Jenkins about what he missed and noted that they both were
very afraid to talk about it. O'Connor recalls that Jenkins or someone else told him that the doctors
had “...found a fragment of a bullet lodged in the intercostal muscle on the right rear side "... of the
President's body. O'Connor was also told that “...a lot of blood infiltrated the intercostal muscle.”
Regarding the possibility that there had been a medical illustrator in the room, O'Connor said he
was “.... sure there was a medical illustrator in there.” He said there was a medical illustration
department of the medical school there.
Regarding commission exhibit386, O'Connor said it did “.... not reflect what I saw. The
little head hole was not there.” He also said that the back wound was more centered than it appears
in the drawing. O'Connor said theCE-385 looked fairly accurate.
Regarding the location of the back hole on the autopsy sheet, O'Connor said it was “...too far
down.” O'Connor said the front neck wound did not look like a half moon shape as portrayed there;
rather, it was “...a big old gash.”
O’Connor’s description and drawing of the massive head wound and the tracheotomy wound in the throat, are
fairly close to what those wounds look like in the official autopsy photographs (from the second autopsy). As to
whathappened during the autopsy, O’Connor’s memories are largely consistent with what is known from the first
autopsy. But O’Connor says he was asked to leave the morgue shortly after they had laid Kennedy’s body on the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 71
table. He says he was away for only 30-40 minutes, and when he returned the suturing had been done, i.e. the
wounds had been closed. In addition, whole body x-rays had been taken and the wounds had allegedly been
probed. Thus, it seems that O’Connor is confusing leaving the morgue for a short period when x-rays were taken
at the beginning of the first autopsy with leaving the morgue for other reasons during the second autopsy.
O’Connor frequently mentions Jenkins in the HSCA interview. James Curtis Jenkins was the other laboratory
technologist present at the autopsy on November 22nd. O’Connor claimed that he always “pulled duty” with
Jenkins. However,Jenkins told HSCA that:
Mr. Jenkins said that two people "pulled duty" together. [...] He said his usual partner was Stanley
Miller who was not present that evening for some unknown reason. He said that on that night he
was working with Paul O'Connor.
There are no indications in Jenkins’ HSCA testimony that he was present during the second autopsy. Instead, he
gives a fairly detailed description of the first autopsy, including an accurate description of the nature and location
of JFK’s wounds as they co uld be seen that night.
O’Connor says there was a medical illustrator present at the autopsy. No such illustrator is known to have been
present during the first autopsy. Thus, if O’Connor is telling the truth, this person must have been present at the
second autopsy. I think this illustrator may have been Harold Alfred Rydberg.
Harold Alfred Rydberg
Harold AlfredRydberg draw three illustrations depicting the wounds in President Kennedy’s back, throat and
head allegedly based on oral descriptions by Drs. Humes and Boswell. The illustrations were reportedly prepared
March 12th-15th, 1964, in order to be used by Humes in his testimony before the Warren Commission on March
16th. The illustrations are known as W arren Commission Exhibits385, 386 and 388. Curiously enough, in the
HSCAsummary of their interview with O’Connor, they apparently discussed these Exhibits immediately after
having asked O’Connor about the medical illustrator. Perhaps they even asked him whether that illustrator was
In a letter of commendation, dated March 27, 1964, the Commanding O fficer of the US Naval Medical School,
Bethesda, J. H. Stover, wrote the following in a cryptic language about Rydberg’s work.
During the period 12 to 15 March you were called upon to prepare, on extremely short notice,
highly technical medical illustrations, using only verbal directions given you by officers of this
Command. These illustrations were required and utilized in a presentation by this Command before
a very high level agency of the United States Government. This work was performed in an
outstanding fashion, in a most expedient manner, and utilized for the most part off-duty hours. The
illustrations thus produced most accurately depicted the situation required and immeasurably
assisted the medical presentation.
Humesalso told the W arren Commission about the preparation of these illustrations.
Commander HUMES: When appraised of the necessity for our appearance before this Commission,
we did not know whether or not the photographs which we had made would be available to the
Commission. So to assist in making our testimony more understandable to the Commission
members, we decided to have made drawings, schematic drawings, of the situation as we saw it, as
we recorded it and as we recall it. These drawings were made under my supervision and that of Dr.
Boswell by Mr. Rydberg, whose initials are H. A. He is a hospital corpsman, second class, and a
medical illustrator in our command at Naval M edical School.
Likewise, in the Shaw trial in 196 9,Dr. Finck told the court that the illustrations had been prepared in March
1964, but when pressed whether the illustrator had been present at the autopsy itself, Finck was somewhat evasive
by claiming he couldn’t remember. If he had known for sure that there was no illustrator there, or if he had been a
more clever liar, I guess he would simply have answered “N o”.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 72
OSER: In referring to State Exhibit 69 [CE-385] and 70 [CE-388], Doctor, these two exhibits were
not done then until sometime in March of 1964, is that correct, Doctor?
FINCK: I wouldn't know the exact date. T he first time as I recall that I saw these exhibits was in
March, 1964, to the best of my recollection.
OSER: But you do know, Doctor, you can testify that the photographs and X-rays were not
available, to the best of your knowledge, to the illustrator of these exhibits as they were not
available to you in March, 1964?
FINCK: To the best of my knowledge the X-rays and photographs were not available to the
illustrator. I know for sure that they were not available to me, the X-rays and the photographs.
OSER: Can you tell me, Doctor, whether or not the illustrator was present at the autopsy when
President Kennedy's body was available for viewing in order for him to make these illustrations?
FINCK: I don't know.
OSER: Do you recall seeing him there or anyone held out to be the illustrator at the autopsy?
FINCK: I don't remember.
Rydberg had attended the Medical Illustration School at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda in 1962,
and was teaching medical illustration there in 1963. At the time of the assassination Rydberg was Petty Officer
2nd Class. When the Navy Ambulance arrived at Bethesda with JFK’s casket on the evening of November 22nd,
Rydberg allegedly stood at parade rest outside Bethesda Naval Hospital.
AuthorBarry Keane has interviewed Rydberg several times, and there are few ind ications in Rydberg’s
statements that he might have been present at the second autopsy making illustrations of Kennedy’s wounds.
However, he describes the casket Kennedy arrived in as “a grey steel coffin”. According to Rydberg, he has made
several unsuccessful attempts to be allowed to view the autopsy photographs in the N ational Archives in order to
draw more accurate illustrations. I can’t understand why it should be necessary to make revised illustrations as
long as there are photographs showing the same wounds (the Warren Commission used the illustrations because
they did not want to use the photographs). A more likely explanation is that Rydberg wants to see for himself
whether the autopsy photographs actually depict how the wounds looked like when he probably made drafts for
the illustrations of the wounds on the night of the second autopsy.
An “Order of Silence” was issued toRydberg (his name is spelt Rydbery in Document 3) just like it was to those
attending the autopsy/autopsies. I find it difficult to imagine why that would have been necessary if Rydberg only
made illustrations based on oral descriptions from Drs. Humes and Boswell. Even more so, since those
illustrations later were published in Volume XVI of the Warren Commission H earings and Exhibits.
In 1977, HSCA requested the waiver or alteration of the "gag order" on the Navy personnel who attended the
President's autopsy. In a letter (Document 3) from the Commanding Officer of the National Naval Medical
Center, Bethesda to the Surgeon General, recommending the lifting of the order, all Navy personnel to whom an
Order of Silence had been given, were listed, including Rydberg (Rydbery). In this letter, no distinction is made
between Rydberg and the others. Instead, it refers to “personnel who were on duty and involved with the remains
of President John F. Kennedy at this Center on 22 and 23 November 1963". And the letter cites the order itself,
You are reminded that you are under verbal orders of the Surgeon General, United States N avy, to
discuss with no one events connected with your official duties on the evening of 22 November - 23
Hence, I think Rydberg was actually present during the second autopsy on the evening of November 23, and he
may have made some draft illustrations on that occasion. It may well be that he subsequently made thefinal
illustrations, which were presented to the Warren Commission by Humes, a few days before that presentation on
March 16, 1964.
As to the Order of Silence mentioned above, it describes the time of the autopsy in a peculiar way, i.e. “on the
evening of 22 November - 23 November 1963". This has commonly been interpreted as referring to the fact that
the autopsy started on the evening of November 22, but was not finished, at least not the embalming and
reconstruction of JFK’s body, until about 4 a.m. on November 23. However, “night” would then have been a
more proper word than “evening”, as would a reference to “the night of November 22nd/23rd”. Hence, I think it
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 73
is possible that the Order of Silence may refer to both evenings, and consequently to both autopsies, even though
“evening” in singular form is used. Of course, they could not have used “evenings”, since that would have
revealed that there were more than one autopsy.
That the order applies to two separate evenings also seems to be the interpretation of the Commanding Officer of
the National Medical Center (J. T. Horgan) as of September 1977, since in his letter to the Surgeon General of the
Navy he is referring to “personnel who were on duty and involved with the remains of President John F. Kennedy
at this Center on 22and 23 November 1963". Those involved in the second autopsy might have been told that the
order also applied to that particular night. A separate order of silence for the second autopsy might of course have
been issued, but that would have carried the risk of revealing that event.
Chester H. Boyers
Chester H. Boyers was Chief Petty Officer in charge of the Pathology Department at Bethesda Naval Hospital in
November 1963. He was interviewed by Mark Flanagan of the HSCA in 1978. Two HSCA documents were
prepared by Mr. Flanagan from the same interview; i.e.notes from the interview and an Outside Contact Report.
Boyers also prepared an affidavit to HSCA about his duties in association with the autopsy, and he gave HSCA
notes that he allegedly had made shortly after the autopsy.
From the information provided by Boyers in thesedocuments, I think Boyers must have attended both autop sies.
According to theFBI report from the first autopsy by Sibert and O’Neill, Boyers was only present towards the
end of that event:
AMC CHESTER H. BOYERS, U. S. Navy, visited the autopsy room during the final stages of such
to type receipts given by FBI and Secret Service for items obtained.
Thus, Boyers typed a receipt for the bullet fragments those agents received during the autopsy that evening, as
well as a receipt for the photographs and x-rays Kellerman received. However, Boyers stated in his affidavit that:
I frequently answered the calls coming in over the telephone that was located in the autopsy room. I
do not remember any phone calls from Parkland H ospital, Dallas, or from the Kennedy family.
That does not seem to be true as far as the first autopsy is concerned. His description of the wounds also indicates
he was present at the second autopsy, since he describes a large wound on the right side of the head extending
from above the eyebrow towards the back of the head.
Boyers’ description as reproduced by HSCA’s Mark Flanagan
Concerning the wounds of President Kennedy, Mr. Boyers stated that there was a large wound to
the right side and towards the rear of the head. Another wound was located in the upper back just
under the scapula. Mr. Boyers also noticed that a tracheotomy had been performed.
In regard to the wounds Boyers recalls an entrance wound in the rear of the head to the right of the
external occipital protuberance which exited along the top, right side of the head towards the rear
and just above the right eyebrow. He also saw an entrance wound in the right shoulder blade,
specifically just under the scapula and next to it. Boyers also noted a tracheotomy incision in the
Boyers’ own description in his affidavit
In regard to the wounds inflicted upon President Kennedy, I recall an entrance wound situated near
the external occipital protuberance in the rear of the head which exited on the right side of the head
above the right eyebrow and towards the rear. Another wound was located near the right shoulder
blade, more specifically just under the scapula and next to it. I also observed that a tracheotomy had
been performed on the President.
Boyers also stated that the morticians arrived to prepare the body approximately 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. in the morning,
whereas on the evening on November 22nd (some of) the morticians arrived in the morgue about 8 p.m. (before
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 74
the autopsy had begun), and they actually started to prepare the body around 11 p.m. that evening, finishing
around 4 a.m. Thus, he might be confusing what happened during the first and second autopsy.
Boyers also recalls in his notes that there “was much use of metal probes trying to locate the passage of the bullet
from the right shoulder entrance”. He did not “believe the actual passage was proven to have exited, at the site of
the tracheotomy, i.e., by probing - due probably to deflection by bone structure”. If he only visited the autopsy
room during the final stages of the autopsy on November 22nd, as stated in the FBI report, he couln’t have made
those observations. Hence, these recollections seem to originate from the second autopsy.
Boyers mentions several persons that allegedly were present at the autopsy, but whose names were not listed in
the FBI report prepared by Sibert and O’Neill. These persons were Dr. Karnei from the Lab Department, Dr.
Ewing from the X-ray Department, an Army General Curtis (uncertain about his name; possibly Curtis LeMay
from Joint Chiefs of Staff), the Chief of the B ureau of Medicine and Surgery (i.e. Surgeon General of the Navy;
Admiral Kenney), an Army Major from the Forensic M edicine Unit of the AFIP (whose name he didn’t recall;
might have been Lt. Col. Finck), and the Chief of Neurosurgery.
As discussed earlier, Dr. Karnei claimed he was present at the autopsy on November 22nd, whereas I believe he
was only, or mainly, present in the autopsy room during the second autopsy. As mentioned previously, the
Surgeon General of the Navy, Admiral Kenney, might have been present in or around the autopsy roo m that first
night, even though his name was not recorded by the FBI agents. The Chief of Neurosurgery might have been the
Chief of Surgery, David Osborne, who in my opinion was present at both autopsies (see below). T hus, Boyers’
recollections of persons attending the autopsy, indicates that he was also present at the second autopsy.
David Osborne was a Navy Captain and Chief of Surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital in November 1963.
According to theFBI report from the autopsy on November 22nd, Osborne did not attend the entire autopsy, but
entered the autopsy room at some undisclosed stage of the procedures (apparently later than Finck).
During the course of the autopsy, Lt. Col. P. FINCK, U. S. Army Armed Forces Institute of
Pathology, arrived to assist Commander HUMES in the autopsy. In addition, Lt. Cmdr. GREGG
CROSS and Captain DAVID OSBORNE, Chief of Surgery, entered the autopsy room.
Osborne was interviewed by HSCA staff in June 1978, resulting in anHSCA report. The following statements
from that interview appear to be related to the second autopsy, strongly indicating that Osborne was present on
Osborne said that when he entered the autopsy room the President's body was in the passageway.
He could not remember anyone taking any notes.
Osborne said that the President was fully dressed when the coffin was opened. Upon raising his
shoulders to remove the coat, Osborne said that a slug rolled out of his clothing and onto the table.
Osborne said that the slug was copper-clad and that the Secret Service or FBI took possession of
this. Upon further inquiry, Osborne emphasized that the slug was a fully intact missile and not a
Osborne next said that a tracheostomy obscured the wound to the throat. He said, however,
that once the doctors examined the wound closely they could determine that the bullet which
entered the back passed through the throat. In regard to the head wound Osborne said that there was
no question that the bullet entered the back of the head and blew off the top of the head. Osborne
said that to his knowledge the morticians did not come to Bethesda.
Osborne’s claim about seeing a bullet was further discussed in the HSCA’s Medical Panel Report (HSCA
Appendix to H earings,Volume VII). They obviously didn’t believe in Osborne:
(84) 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
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 75
onto the autopsy table when personnel opened the casket and removed the clothing from the body
of the President. (111)
(85) 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)
(86) Jenkins likewise said he could not recap 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)
(87) 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 Ho spital.
(88) 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.
However, I think it is possible that Osborne actually did observe a bullet fall out of JFK’s clothing at the
beginning of the second autopsy. But, he probably realized he had made a mistake in revealing that the body had
been dressed, so he withdrew his claim. According to the FBI report Osborne arrived in the morgueafter the
autopsy had begun, so he was probably not present there when the casket was opened at the first autopsy. Hence,
his observations are probably related to the second autopsy when JFK’s body arrived in a suit. The bullet might
have been related to the new bullet wound they apparently had inflicted on the left side of JFK’s upper back or
above his right eye.
According to authorAguilar then Admiral Osborne wrote researcher Joanne Braun in 1990 that, “..a second
(bullet) hit in the occipital region of the posterior skull which blew off the posterior top of his skull and impacted
and disintegrated against the interior surface of the frontal bone just above the level of the eyes. I know this for a
fact because I was the one who worked on his head, removing his brain and closed the skull so that he could have
had an open casket funeral if so desired.”
It may well be that Osborne, who was the Chief of Surgery, actually was the person that closed the wounds and
did some reconstruction on President Kennedy’s mutilated head after the second autopsy. After all, he did not
recall any morticians coming to Bethesda after the autopsy.
The autopsy pathologists: Drs. Humes, Boswell and Finck
The three physicians performing the autopsy, Commander James J. Humes, Commander J. Thornton Boswell and
Lt. Col. Pierre A. Finck, have not revealed much about a second autopsy in their testimonies before the Warren
Commission, the HSCA or the ARRB. T hey knew, of course, how important it was to keep everything secret.
Humes has been very clever at lying and deceiving in all his testimonies, Boswell a little less so, especially during
his ARRB deposition, whereas Finck has been a poor liar, and he was apparently very afraid of revealing the truth
both before the HSCA and the ARRB, where he answered many of the questions as briefly as he could by “Yes”,
“No”, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”.
All three pathologists have had difficulties in interpreting some of the autopsy photographs and x-rays, and they
have had difficulties in locating or describing the head wounds of President Kennedy allegedly depicted in those
images. Humes first placed the alleged wound of entrance in the occipital area of the head close to the hairline (in
discussionswith the Medical panel of HSCA), then moved it higher up (testimony before the HSCA), and then
moved it back down again (ARRBdeposition; see from page 241 onward in his deposition). As will be discussed
later, Boswell came to believe that the alleged wound of entrance through the occipital bone was not a simple hole
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 76
through the skull, as described in the autopsy report and on different occasions later by Humes and Finck, but was
a notch on the edge of a larger defect (resembling their description of the exit wound on the right side of the
head). Finck has been very reluctant to place the wound in photographs allegedly showing the right rear of
Kennedy’s head. There are also many other inconsistencies in their different testimonies, which indicate that they
are lying about the wounds and the autopsy procedures they performed.
Still, there are some clues to the presence of a second autopsy in their testimo nies. Of particular interest are their
different versions of what happened between the completion of the (first) autopsy early on Saturday morning,
November 23rd, and the signing of the autopsy report on Sunday afternoon, November 24th.
According to the report the three pathologists signed on January 26th, 196 7 after reviewing the autopsy materials
in the National Archives, the writing of the autopsy report took place on Saturday, November 23rd and on
Sunday, November 24th. Interestingly, they don’t state on whichdate the autopsy was concluded.
The autopsy began at approximately 8:00 P.M. on Friday, November 22, 1963, and was concluded
approximately at 11:00 P.M. The autopsy report, written by Dr. Humes with the assistance of Dr.
Boswell and Dr. Finck, was written on November 23 and the morning of November 24, and
delivered by Dr. Humes to Admiral Burkley, the President’s physician, on November 24 at about
In later testimonies, however, Humes has some difficulty in separating Saturday, November 23rd, from Sunday,
November 24th. W hen interviewed by the Forensic Pathology Panel of the HSCA,Humes described the following
sequence of events with some assistance from Boswell:
Dr. HUMES: Having completed the examination and remaining to assist the morticians in the
preparation of the body, we did not leave the autopsy room until 5:30 or 6 in the morning. It was
clearly obvious that a committee could not write the report. I had another commitment for that
morning, a little later, a religious commitment with one of my children. And so I went home and
took care of that, slept for several hours until about 6 in the evening of the day after, and then sat
down and wrote the report that’s sitting before you now, myself, my own version of it, without any
input other than the discussions that we thought that we had had, Dr. Boswell, Dr. Finck and
myself. I then returned that morning and looked at what I had written– now wait, I’m a day ahead of
myself– Saturday morning we discussed-
Dr. BOSWELL: Saturday morning we got together and we called Dallas.
Dr. HUMES: We called Dallas. See, we were at a loss because we hadn’t appreciated the exit
wound in the neck, we had been– I have to go back a little bit, I think for your edification. There
were four times as many people in the room most of the time as there are in this room at this
moment, including the physician to the President, the Surgeon General of the Navy, the
Commanding Officer of the Naval Medical Center, the Commanding Officer of the Naval Medical
School, the Army, Navy, and Air Force aides to the President of the United States at one time or
another, the Secret Service, the FBI and countless nondescript people who were unknown to me.
Mistake N o. 1. So, there was considerable confusion. So we went home. I took care of this
obligation that I had. To refresh my mind, we met together around noon on Saturday, 11 in the
morning, perhaps 10:30, something like that and–
Dr. BADEN: Now this is the day after?
Dr. HUMES: The day after, within 6 or 8 hours of having completed the examination, assisting
Waller’s [sic; the morticians from Gawler’s] and so forth for the preparation of the President’s
remains. We got together and discussed our problem. W e said we’ve got to talk to the people in
Dallas. We should have talked to them the night before, but there was no way we could get out of
the room. You’d have to understand that situation, that hysterical situation that existed. How we
kept our wits about us as well as we did is amazing to me. I don’t know how we managed to do it as
poorly or as well as we did under the circumstances. So I called D r. Perry. Took me a little while to
reach him. We had a very nice conversation on the phone [.......]. So, following that, and that
discussion, and we having a meeting of minds as to generally what was necessary to be
accomplished, and being informed by the various people in authority that our gross report should be
delivered to the White House physician no later than Sunday evening, the next day, 24 hours later,
or not quite 24 hours later. Not having slept for about 48 hours, I went home and rested from noon
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 77
until 8 or 10 that evening, Saturday evening, and then I sat down in front of other notes on which I
had made minor comments, handwritten notes.
I wrote the report which is present here.[....]
Dr. HUMES: Correct. Now, there are corrections and comments and changes of language in here. I
think I’d have to go through them and with care to see if some of them are substantive or not
substantive, and they are a result of meeting with D r. Boswell and Dr. Finck on Sunday afternoon in
the Naval M edical Center and going over them together. This document then was signed by all
three of us, [....]. So, in any event then, this document was typed up under my immediate
supervision by a woman, secretary to the Commanding Officer at the Naval Medical Center, and I
personally hand-carried the written document to the office of the White House physician about 6 on
According to Humes, the reason for not contacting the physicians in Dallas, was that he couldn’t get out of the
morgue, but there was a telephone in that room. And Humes reportedly called Dr. Finck around 8 p.m. to ask him
come to Bethesda and assist them in examining the wounds. Humes claims he had to rest or sleep Saturday
afternoon because at that time he hadn’t slept for 48 hours. Well, on Saturday he had just stayed up one night
doing the first autopsy, but his memory of about 48 hours without sleep that weekend seems to be correct when
counting back from Sunday morning.
When testifying before theHSCA a little later, Humes remembered a slightly different chronology. Apparently,
he did not meet with Boswell and Finck on Saturday morning, and he had spent Saturday afternoon/evening
working on the report, rather than resting or sleeping. And in neither testimony does Humes make any mention of
Boswell accompanying him home early Saturday morning.
Mr. CORNWELL: After it [the autopsy] was over, what did you do next?
Dr. HUMES: We stayed to assist the morticians and their associates to prepare the President's body.
Mr. CORNWELL: How many hours did that take?
Dr. HUMES: Until about 5 o'clock in the morning.
Mr. CORNWELL: Then, what did you do?
Dr. HUMES: After the President's body was removed, half an hour or so later, I went home.
Mr. CORNWELL: Did you get any sleep?
Dr. HUMES: Not too much. I had to take one of my children to a religious function that morning,
but then I returned and made some phone calls and got hold of the people in Dallas, which was
unavailable to us during the course of the examination, as you heard from Dr. Baden, and I couldn't
agree more with the apparent findings of his panel as to problems that we had had and hoped they
would never be repeated, and spoke with Dr. Perry and learned of the wound in the front of the
neck and things became a lot more obvious to us as to what had occurred.
Mr. CORNWELL: And you finally began to write the autopsy report at what time?
Dr. HUMES: It was decided that three people couldn't write the report simultaneously, so I
assumed the responsibility for writing the report, which I began about 11 o'clock in the evening of
Saturday, November 23, having wrestled with it for 4 or 5, 6 hours in the afternoon, and worked on
it until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning of Sunday, the 24th.
In an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1992, purportedly telling the plain
truth about the autopsy, Humes and Boswell gave still another chronology of the events to reporter D. L. Breo.
This time Humes allegedly called Dallas very early in the morning, and he spent most of Saturday drafting the
Humes and Boswell had remained at the morgue until 5 that morning, helping to embalm the
Boswell says, “The mood in Washington was so apprehensive that the commanding officer of the
US Naval Medical School, Capt J. H. ‘Smokey’ Stover, asked me to drive behind Jim to make sure
that he got home safely.”
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 78
The explanation came sooner, the next morning [Saturday] at 7:30 when Humes called D allas to
talk to Dr Malcolm Perry, the surgeon who had performed the tracheostomy. “The light came on
when I talked to Dr Perry,” Humes says. “Of course, the bullet had exited through the neck.”
Humes spent most of Saturday, November 23, drafting the autopsy report. In the process, he burned
his autopsy notes, but no t really.
Admiral Burkley wanted the autopsy report by midnight Sunday, November 24, and early Sunday
morning Humes returned to the Naval medical school to go over his handwritten report with Drs
Boswell and Finck. The three pathologists met in the office of Adm C. B. Galloway, the
commanding officer of the National Naval Medical Center.
When interviewed by HSCA staff,Boswell said Humes had a draft report ready when they met on Saturday 23rd:
Dr. Boswell said the tissue people were given the tissue that was removed following the autopsy.
He indicated that the slides were available about noon on the 23[r]d. H e indicated that a
microscopic report was dictated at that time. When the doctors got together on the 23rd, Dr. Humes
arrived with a “.... reasonably good report of the gro ss findings."
Thus, according to Boswell, the slides were ready by noon on Saturday. For practical reasons that would have
been highly unlikely, and Chester H.Boyers told HSCA staff in an interview and stated in an affidavit that he
prepared the tissue slides on November 24 (Sunday). In his personal notes allegedly prepared shortly after the
autopsy he states that: “The tissue of the autopsy were processed - on 23/24 November 1963 by HM3 Rednicki
and I.” And in his affidavit Boyers stated that the slides were prepared on November 24th:
I assisted in preparing for microscopic examination the various segments of organs and tissue
removed during the autopsy. In this regard I recall preparing on November 24, 1963, twenty-two
sections from the heart, lung, kidney, intestines, stomach, skin and other tissues normally removed
during an autopsy.
Hence, if Boswell relates seeing the draft autopsy report to the time the tissue slides were ready for examination,
the correct day must have been Sunday, not Saturday. The microscopic findings were not included in the autopsy
report, but in thesupplementary autopsy report apparently handed over to Admiral Burkley on December 6, 1963.
Thus, Boswell must be wrong when stating that the “microscopic report” was dictated on November 23rd. But he
might be correct about Humes having a draft report ready on Saturday. Thus, in theletter of transmittal of the
autopsy report from Commanding Officer, US Naval Medical School, Capt. J. H. Stover, to the Commanding
Officer, of the National Naval Medical Center, Adm. C. B. Galloway, it is stated that Capt Canada (Commanding
Officer of the N aval Hospital) saw part of a draft report on Saturd ay:
The first draft of this report was sighted in part by CAPT R. O. CANADA, MC, USN on 23
November. The entire report has been sighted by RADM C. B. GALLOWAY, MC, USN, CAPT J.
A. STOVER, Jr., MC, USN, the authors, and Mrs. E. Closson, Typist, on 24 November 1963.
In hisARRB deposition, Boswell describes the following sequence of events:
GUNN: [...] Who during the course of the autopsy took any records or notes that you recall?
BOSWELL: I think Jim Humes and Bob Karnei, who was our senior resident working with us that
night, and myself did all the note-taking. And then Jim took our collected notes with him to write up
Q: Did he take them on the– I guess very early on the morning of the 23rd, or did he take them
BOSWELL: He took them with him home at midnight. [.....]. And Smoky says, J, you take Jim
home. So I got in my car behind Jim Humes, and I followed him home. And then I went home, and
he stayed up the rest of the night writing up the autopsy.
Q: W hen did you first see a draft of the autopsy?
BOSWELL: The next morning.
Q: Approximately what time?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 79
BOSWELL: Ten o'clock.
Q: W hat were the circumstances when you saw it? Did you go to his home, or was it at the hospital?
BOSWELL: I went to the hospital.
Q: Was the first draft, do you recall, handwritten or typed?
BOSWELL: W ell, he had written– he had handwritten one, and then he rewrote it. And I do n't
know whether I saw that or-- I think maybe it was typed before I saw it. I don't think I ever saw a
handwritten co py.
Q: Now, is it– well, did you see a version of the autopsy at abo ut 10 o'clock at the hospital--
Q: --on Saturday? And that one was handwritten?
BOSWELL: No. That--
Q: That was typed?
BOSWELL: I'm almost sure that was already typed.
Q: Now, was it your understanding that Dr. Humes wrote a handwritten version immediately after
the autopsy and that he then wrote a subsequent draft, handwritten again, and that one was
Q: That's the chronology that you understand?
Thus, according to Boswell’s ARRB deposition, they left the morgue aroundmidnight, rather than early in the
morning, and Humes had finished a draft rep ort by 10 a.m.the next morning, having stayed up the rest of that
night preparing the report. When Gunn asks: “--on Saturday? And that one was handwritten?”, Boswell
apparently becomes hesitant after his initial “No”, so Mr. Gunn unfortunately answers for him. It is of course,
impossible to tell whether Boswell’s “No” refers to the first question ( “--on Saturday?”) or the second question
about the condition of the autopsy report. But by not letting Boswell answer himself, M r. Gunn possibly
prevented Boswell from revealing that “the next morning” was Sunday morning, and that there had been an
autopsy Saturday night.
Because that morning co uld not have been Saturday morning. According to what Humes told the HSCA (with
Boswell present), the two of them left the morgue around 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, and Humes had not written
a draft report by the time the pathologists allegedly met at Bethesda a few hours later (Humes had rested and
taken one of his children to a “religious function” that morning). Hence, Boswell reveals that the second autopsy
finished around midnight November 23rd/24th, and that Humes then sat down and wrote a draft report during the
rest of that night, which all three of them reviewed Sunday morning around 10 o’clock. T hat sequence of events is
also consistent with Boswell’s statements to HSCA about Humes having a draft report ready when the “the
doctors got together on the 23rd”, except for the date, which for obvious reasons he could not have stated was the
24th, since it was supposed to be the day after the (known) autopsy.
In his 19 65 report about the autopsy to Brig. Gen. Blumberg, Dr.Finck does not mention a meeting with Humes
and Boswell on Saturday morning (Finck is not specifically mentioned by Humes and Boswell either). He goes
from describing the departure of JFK’s body from Bethesda early Saturday morning to describing what happened
On Sunday 24 November 1963, I went to the Naval Hospital to help Cdr Humes who had written an
autopsy report. Humes, Boswell and Finck, the three prosectors, signed the Autopsy report in the
Office of Admiral Galloway. (I had suggested several corrections in the autopsy report.
Commander Humes agreed. While we were checking the autopsy report in the Admiral's office, the
Television announced the murder of Oswald by Ruby).
Similarly, in the Shaw trial in February 1969,Finck didn’t mention any meeting with Humes and Boswell on
Saturday in connection with Humes’ telephone call to Dallas. And he gave the following testimony about the
writing of the autopsy report.
OSER: Do you know when Dr. Humes contacted these doctors at Parkland?
FINK: As far as I know, Dr. Humes called them the morning following the autopsy, as far as I
know, Dr. Humes called Dallas on Saturday morning, on the 23rd of November, 196 3.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 80
Q: Doctor, can you tell me why the delay in contacting the doctors that worked on President
Kennedy in Dallas until the next morning after the body was already removed from the autopsy
FINCK: I can't explain that. I know that Dr. Humes told me he called them. I cannot give an
approximate time. [...]
OSER: Doctor, at the time of the autopsy, were either you or anyone of your two assistants, if I may
call them that, Commander Humes and Commander Boswell, making any notes of what was going
on and what you all were doing, that you can recall?
FINCK: I don't recall making notes at the time of the autopsy. As I recall, Dr. Boswell was making
OSER: Can you tell me how the final draft of the autopsy report which you signed along with
Commander Humes and Commander Boswell came about? How was that put together?
FINCK: We signed that autopsy report, as I remember, on Sunday, the 24th of November, 196 3, in
the office of Admiral Galloway, who was one of the Admirals in charge of the Navy hospital. I had
reviewed with Dr. Humes his draft of the autopsy report prior to that time, and, as I recall, the three
of us, that is Humes, Boswell and myself, were present at that time in the office of Admiral
Galloway on that Sunday, to the best of my recollection.
OSER: Doctor, I show you fromVolume 17, Page 30 through Page 47, and ask you if you would
view the contents of those pages.
FINCK: Yes, sir. This is Volume 17 of the hearings before the President's Commission on the
assassination of President Kennedy. I don't recall seeing Pages 30 through 44. W hat Dr. Humes and
I did, we were discussing the wording of the final autopsy report based on a report he had prepared
through the night, I should say through Saturday, in the course of Saturday, the 23rd of November,
and he worked on this, and he read over to me what he had prepared. [...]
OSER: Now, Colonel, in regard to your autopsy report, November, 1963, how much time did you
spend on this particular report and its preparation?
FINCK: I cannot give you an exact figure. As I remember I was called by Dr. Humes who had
prepared this report and he read it over to me at the Bethesda Hospital, and I would say I spent
several hours with him and Dr. Boswell at the Bethesda Hospital before we signed it on Sunday, 24
OSER: And did you have an occasion to read over the final draft, the one that you signed, Colonel?
FINCK: I did.
OSER: And you agree with everything that is contained. I believe, in that particular report of
November, 1963, that you signed?
FINCK: Essentially I do.
By a slip of the tongue, Finck reveals in 1969 that Humes had written a draft report during the night before
Sunday (a statement that Humes later had to confirm before HSCA and ARRB), but then he tries to correct
himself by saying it had been written on Saturday.
The Medical Panel of the HSCA also askedFinck about the telephone call to Dallas, referring to his previous
testimony in the Shaw trial. Finck doesn’t trust his memory, and wants to check with his notes before answering.
And again, Finck doesn’t mention any meeting between the three pathologists on Saturday morning at Bethesda:
Dr. WECHT: Pierre, what is your best recollection as to the time, the circumstances under which
you and your colleagues Humes and Boswell first learned about the fact that the tracheotomy
wound that you had seen in the Navy autopsy had been superimposed upon a bullet wound in the
Dr. FINCK: From what I remember it was a phone call from Dr. Humes to Dallas and that was after
the autopsy. Does that answer your question?
Dr. WECHT: Well, when you say after the autopsy, would that be sometime on Saturday,
Dr. FINCK: This is someone -- Stop the tape. I will look for it.
Dr. WECHT: If I may tell you what you said, I know you said, "I think on Saturday morning or
sometime Saturday, the 23rd." If you want to find it, go ahead. I just wanted to save you some time.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 81
Dr. FINCK: Would it be satisfactory to say it was probably -- I know the phone call was made by
Dr. Humes and we signed the report on Sunday and I would say that phone call was probably made
on Saturday, the 23rd probably. Do you want me to look for it?
The contradicting statements from Humes and Boswell about the time the autopsy report was written, are
probably due to the fact that they are confusing the two autopsies, and the need for an explanation why they
delayed the writing of the autopsy report until the night between Saturday and Sunday. Unless they were awaiting
a second autopsy on Saturday night, there would be no obvious reasons for Humes not to start writing the autopsy
report on Saturday, rather than wait until the following night. If there ever was a meeting at Bethesda Saturday
morning, it appears as if only Humes and Boswell was present. However, all three of them got together Saturday
night for the second autopsy, which seems to have been completed around midnight. Humes then wrote the draft
during the rest of that night, and then all three prosectors met about 10 o’clock on Sunday morning to discuss and
finish the report. Several hours later, on Sunday afternoon, they signed the final version of the autopsy report,
which had been typed by the secretary of Admiral Galloway.
James J. Humes
Humes was very careful about what he was saying, and he was a clever liar, so he didn’t reveal much, except what
has already been discussed regarding the writing of the autopsy report. Obviously, he didn’t like that other
participants of the second autopsy didn’t remained silent. Thus, in the interview withJAMA in 1992, Humes tried
to quell the rumors about the President’s body arriving in the casket in a body bag. I guess he knew very well how
the talk about that got started.
There was no body bag anywhere near the scene. I cannot imagine how this talk about the
President’s body being delivered in a body bag got started, but it is absolutely false.
J. Thornton Boswell
Like Humes, Boswell has not revealed much about a second autopsy in his testimonies, except revealing the time
of the event when describing the writing of the autopsy report. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, Boswell told
ARRBthat Robert Karnei was taking notes during the autopsy, whereas FBI agents Sibert and O’Neill did not
record Karnei as being present at all in the morgue on the evening of November 22nd.
Boswell told the ARRB that they did dissect the organs of the neck during the autopsy (Page 26: GUNN: Were
the organs of the neck dissected? BOSWELL: Yes.), whereas Finck stated in hisreport to Brig. Gen. Blumberg,
in his testimonies in theShaw trial (lengthy discussions about this), and before the HSCA and ARRB that the
organs of the neck were not dissected or removed. Thus, Boswell might be confusing what happened during the
two autopsies, since it is likely that they did dissect that region during the second autopsy to determine the bullet
Boswell is also very concerned about what some of the other participants of the second autopsy have revealed
about what happened that night. And he obviously lies about not having received anOrder of Silence.
GUNN: Are you aware of any person connected with the autopsy who received any orders not to
discuss any matters relating to the autopsy?
BOSWELL: No, because they blabbed from day one. Some of those corpsmen did. And they made
some terrible mistakes and statements.
Q: Are there any mistakes in the statements of the corpsmen that come to mind now that you think
should be corrected?
BOSWELL: Well, one was about the way the body arrived. There have been many stories about the
casket that it came in, the wrappings around the body, and all those were distorted. The true fact
was that the casket was a bronze casket that had a --when it arrived, it had a broken handle, and that
had to be taken out of --he was brought in the morgue in that. And the casket was removed by the
--by Gawlers, and then another one was brought in. And all kinds of stories were written about how
first there was no body and no casket, and different kinds of caskets were described. Then the
wrappings, the President arrived wrapped in sheets and a pillowcase around his head, and different
stories were published about that.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 82
Pierre A. Finck
Like Humes and Boswell, Dr. Finck has not revealed much about a second autopsy, but then he has been
extremely careful about making any statements at all ever since he was questioned in the Shaw trial in 1969. B oth
during theShaw trial, and in testimonies before the HSCA and the ARRB, Finck has tried to avoid answering
difficult questions by playing completely ignorant (“I don’t know”) or by acting as a person having a massive
memory loss (“I don’t remember”) of what he participated in on November 22-24, 1963 (whereas he has a very
good recollection of events not directly related to Kennedy’s autopsy). Similarly, when interviewed byJAMA in
1992, he did so by providing written answers to written questions, so that he could check with his notes and
previous statements. Apparently, he is very afraid of making any wrong statements which may contradict the
official story and reveal the truth. Although he is supposed to be an expert in the field of gunshot wounds, having
reviewed hundreds of autopsy cases sent to him , including photographs and x-rays, he is not able to make simple
judgements of what is depicted in the autopsy photographs and x-rays of P resident Kennedy.
When testifying before the medical panel ofHSCA on March 11, 1978, he made such a bad performance in trying
to locate in a photograph the alleged wound of entry in the back of JFK’s head, that he was given a second
opportunity the following day, which was a Sunday. During the first session, Finck gives the following statements
when they are discussing photograph No. 42, showing the rear of JFK’s head:
Dr. FINCK: Well, I would say that this was the wound of entry to the right of the external occipital
protuberance. It is more accurate to determine an anatomic location when you have the wound itself
on the dead body. On the photographs it is embarrassing, it is distorted as far as the angle of
shooting is concerned, so you feel much more at ease when you have the dead body and the wounds
to establish a location than when you have photographs.
Dr. FINCK: We agree. And that wound was to the right, on the photographs it is. I see something
here and I see something there but I remember the dead body itself and that wound was to the right
of this. See, here again you have something here and something there but --
It appears as if Finck doesn’t have much confidence in what the photograph is supposed to show him. And maybe
he is a little confused by the left-right reversal of the head in that pho tograph: “...that wound was to the right,on
the photograph that is”. But on the body it was to the left of the area depicted in the photograph.
During the second session before theHSCA, Finck was quite honest about why he was so reluctant to answer the
How can I, I am always trying to give an honest, sincere answer, and I hesitate to give answers
which I cannot strongly defend, so some of the questions I have answered by definitely, by yes or
no, but at times I don't think I can be that specific. Because I can be asked, “well, how can you
Obviously, Dr. Finck wouldn’t have had to worry about being asked such follow-up questions, or any type of
questions about the autopsy, if he really could have proved what he and Humes and B oswell claimed in the
autopsy report as regards the wounds on President Kennedy. B ut he can’t prove anything of that, and it seems to
bother him to have to keep lying about it, so he uses the trick of not knowing or not remembering.
When discussing the back-of-the-head photographs in that second session before the HSCA, there is the following
exchange between Dr. Finck and D r. Weston before the transcript and tape end abruptly:
WESTON: Pierre, for many, many years I have done these kinds of examinations and I have
gradually evolved an "M.O.", if you will, whereby I don't, you know, submit my report for final
typing until after I have checked it with the photographs, just to be sure. Because frankly, I have
frequently substituted right for left and left for right...
WESTON: And found measurements that, you know, were not consistent, were transcriptions
errors, or something like that. Do you think it's possible that in the course of preparing this report,
recognizing the limitations that you had without the photographs, and things like that, do you think
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 83
it's possible that that measurement relative to the occipital protuberance that's contained within the
I would think the reason why the rest of this exchange has been deleted by someone, is that Dr. Weston comes
very close to pointing out, by referring to his habit of confusing left with right, that the photographs may show the
wrong side of the head (which actually is the case) or that Finck has confused left with right. Or maybe Finck did
answer in such a way that the right-left reversal of several of the autopsy photographs would have become
evident. And such answers certainly had to be deleteed from the record.
In theShaw trial, Finck apparently states that the pathologists were given orders, when in the autopsy room, not to
discuss the autopsy, both on November 22 and 23. Whether this refers to the first autopsy beginning on
November 22 and extending somewhat into November 23 (the autopsy itself was finished before midnight), or to
both the first and second autopsy, is a matter of speculation.
OSER: Can you give me the name of the General that you said told Dr. Humes not to talk about the
FINCK: This was not a G eneral, it was an Admiral.
OSER: All right, excuse me, the Admiral, can you give me the name of the Admiral?
FINCK: Who stated that we were not to discuss the autopsy findings?
FINCK: This was in the autopsy room on the 22nd and 23rd of November, 1963.
OSER: What was his name?
FINCK: Well, there were several people in charge. There were several Admirals, and, as I recall,
the Adjutant [Surgeon] General of the Navy.
OSER: Do you have a name, Colonel?
FINCK: It was Admiral Kinney, K-i-n-n-e-y, as I recall.
OSER: Were there any Admirals in uniform in the autopsy room?
FINCK: From what I remember, Admiral Galloway was in uniform, Admiral Kinney was in
uniform, I don't remember whether or not Admiral Berkley, the President's physician, was in
Thomas E. Robinson
Thomas E. Robinson was one of the morticians from Gawler’s Funeral Home preparing JFK’s body for the
funeral when the (first) autopsy was completed. He was interviewed by Purdy and Conzelman of the HSCA in
1977. In the transcript of theinterview there is the following exchange:
PURDY: You said that later, when you read some things about the assassination or the autopsy, you
heard or read some things which struck you as incorrect. What would those things be?
ROBINSON: The time the people moved (autopsy). The body was taken .... and the body never
came ..... lots of little things like that.
Obviously, parts of Robinson’s answer have been deleted from the tape. ARRB was made aware of this fact by
Mr.Wallace Milam at its public hearing in Dallas, November 18, 1994. And he also told the Review Board that
the tape with the interview had gone missing (to my knowledge it has still not been recovered). Yet, ARRB did
not seem to make any attempt to clarify what Robinson actually meant when theyinterviewed him on June 21,
1996. Thus, we don’t know exactly what Robinson had heard about what happened to JFK’s body after the
autopsy. But my interpretation is that Robinson told HSCA that he had heard (rumors) that JFK’s body had been
taken from the casket in the White House and that the body had not been brought back to the casket. Since such
statements might have indicated or revealed the existence of a second autopsy, they had to b e deleted by those
taking care of the still ongoing cover-up during the work of the HSCA. If, on the other hand, Robinson’s
statements had been completely ‘innocent’, why would anyone bother to delete them and hide or destroy the
The rumors of something having happened to JFK ’s body might very well have originated among the morticians
of Gawler’s Funeral Home, since they were supposed to be ‘in charge’ of the body from the time they started the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 84
embalming and reconstruction on the night of November 22nd/23rd until the casket was placed in the grave and
the vault closed on November 25th. Thus, they state at the end of theirreport:
Joseph Gawler and Joseph Hagan remained to see that the vault was securely closed and sealed and
to spend a few moments saying goodbye to our martyred president and reflecting on four long days
of ‘caring’ for President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
However, there is no mention in their report of the casket being opened other than on the early morning of
An usher came up to agent Hill and informed him that Mrs. Kennedy would come down shortly and
would like the casket opened for a few minutes. Joseph Gawler stood by to handle their request, and
answer any questions.
The casket was closed and the flag was draped over the casket. The body was lying in repose in the
East Room, for the family and invited dignataries [sic] to pay their respect on Saturday from 10
a.m. to 6. p.m.
Thus, the people from Gawler’s might not have been allowed to open the casket after Saturday night, because
JFK’s body was not there or was severely altered, and this might have caused them to think that something
suspicious was going on.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 85
RECONSTRUCTING THE TWO AUTOPSIES
Due to the conflicting accounts and many lies from most of the witnesses, it is extremely difficult to get to the
bottom of what really happened during each of the two autopsies of President Kennedy. As stated previously, the
FBI autop syreport by Sibert and O’Neill gives a fairly good account of what happened during the first autopsy on
the evening of the assassination, including the conclusions the autopsy doctors had reached at the end of that
event concerning the nature of the wounds. Then the official autopsy report told quite a different story, backed by
the ‘findings’ from the second autopsy.Sibert correctly concluded to the ARRB that there were two autopsy
There were many contradictions, as I said, what it boils down to, you had two autopsy reports. The
one that's in the Archives pertaining to what occurred on the night of the 22nd of November with
O'Neill and I reporting what happened there. And then you had the other one, the official autopsy
And you had what O'Neill and I had said repeated in those summary reports that were sent to
Dallas, you know, out of Baltimore, by the Liaison Agent assigned to the case there. But then the
findings and conclusions contained in the official autopsy report were completely different.
Obviously Sibert was not aware of the fact that the reason for the discrepancies between the two reports was that
there had been two autopsies. Yet, when summarizing his testimony and reiterating the discrepancy between the
two autopsy reports at the end of his ARRB deposition, Sibert unintentionally mentions two “autopsies”, when he
actually means two “reports”. I guess that was the closest the ARRB ever was to revealing the truth about the
assassination of President Kennedy.
SIBERT: [...] And I’ve covered what I consider the reasons for the two autopsies was that phone
call made on Saturday morning by Humes to Parkland.
HORNE: The two reports?
SIBERT: Beg your pardon?
GUNN: When you say the two autopsies, you mean the official autopsy protocol and your version?
SIBERT: Yes, our version and the late Navy version.
SIBERT: I think that we’ve covered it pretty well.
The first autopsy on November 22nd/23rd
Since the first autopsy have been fairly accurately described in theFBI report by Sibert and O’Neill, in the
following, an attempt is only made to clarify some issues that were not included in their report, either because
they could not observe some of the procedures, or because they, at that time, didn’t think it was particularly
important to include certain things in their report.
The official objective of conducting an autopsy was to determine the nature of the wounds and the cause of
Kennedy’s death. This is what Humes told the ARRB:
When I was summoned to the Naval Medical Center – and, truthfully, I didn't know why I was
being summoned there on the evening of the President's death – I met with the Surgeon General of
the Navy, Admiral Kenny, and the commanding officer of the Naval Medical Center, Admiral
Galloway. And Admiral Kenny basically gave me my marching orders, informing me that the
President's body was being brought there, that I was to be responsible for determining the cause of
his death, that I should keep the number of people that were going to work with me or assist me to
the minimum that I might require.
Arrangements for the autopsy at Bethesda had been made by the Secret Service and the Navy Department. The
two FBI agents, O’Neill and Sibert, apparently went on their own initiative to the Andrews Air Force base to meet
Air Force One arriving with JFK’s body, but once there, they received orders from FBI Director J. E. Hoover
through the head of the Baltimore field office to observe the autopsy and obtain any bullet fragments that may be
found within the body, .i.e. to obtain evidence of who might have killed Kennedy.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 86
Another objective of the autopsy was probably to prevent any suspicion from arising among the aids and relatives
of JFK that the assassination was a conspiracy. However, the conspirators immediately ran into trouble. The
wounds on President Kennedy as observed by medical personnel at Parkland Hospital, and by those present at
Bethesda on the evening of November 22nd, were not particularly consistent with the lone-gunman-scenario they
wanted everybody to believe in. The main purpose of the first autopsy then turned into revealing as little as
possible about the wounds that didn’t fit in with shots fired by Lee Harvey Oswald from above and to the rear of
the limousine. Those ‘errant’ wounds included both the wound in the front of the neck, hidden by the tracheotomy
incision, which already on Friday afternoon had been described by the doctors in Dallas as an entrance wound,
and the large wound in the right rear of the head, the size of which suggested it was a wound of exit resulting from
a shot from in front of the limousine. The wound in the upper back, on the other hand, was consistent with a shot
fired from above and behind the President.
Photographs and X-rays
According to Sibert and O’Neill, all autopsy photographs and x-rays were taken at the beginning of the first
autopsy before any incisions had been made on the body. This is clearly stated in their autopsy report (below) and
has been repeated in their ARRB depositions:
Upon completion of X-Rays and photographs, the first incision was made at 8:15 p.m.
Still, the M edical Panel of the HSCA claimed (HSCA Appendix to Hearings, Volume VII,page 11) that the two
agents had stated on page 3 in their report (reference 53) that x-rays had been taken both before and after
incisions had been made. This was clearly a misrepresentation of the facts:
(58) Special Agents Sibert and O'Neill confirmed that the pathologists had X-rays taken before and
after making incisions. (53)
Since Sibert and O'Neill had to leave the autopsy room, we have no independent observations of which
photographs and x-rays were actually taken. In theirreport they mention x-rays of the “brain area” and “total body
X-Rays”, as well as x-rays of the piece of skull arriving from Dallas late in the autopsy, but they give no further
Dr. Ebersole described the chronology of taking the x-rays to the Medical Panel of theHSCA. Since he was also
present during the second autopsy, we can’t know for sure whether all he says relates to the first autopsy.
EBERSOLE: [....] So prior to starting the autopsy we were asked to X ray the body to determine the
presence of a bullet. We took several X rays of the skull, chest, trunk. These were taken in the
autopsy room on the autopsy table. They were hand carried by me in their cassettes to what we
designate as Tower Four, the forth floor of the hospital, handled by a dark room technician, given
back to me and hand carried by me to the autopsy room.
The initial films showed the usual metallic fragments in the skull but no evidence of a slug, a
bullet. T his was a little bit disconcerting. We were asked by the Secret Service agents present to
repeat the films and did so. O nce again there was no evidence of a bullet.
BADEN: Do you recall when you took the X rays in the sequence of taking X rays and you took the
X rays initially before any incision was made in the body?
EBERSOLE: That is right.
BADEN: You took the head, chest, abdomin, extremities?
EBERSOLE: The order was skull first, then chest, then trunk.
BADEN: I see. When Colonel Finck came in these had already been taken?
EBERSOLE: Yes, and repeated once.
BADEN: Now when you say repeated, were X rays repeated after the autopsy had started? Do you
have an independent recollection o f that?
EBERSOLE: The second group of X rays were taken either before the incision was
made or very shortly thereafter.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 87
As discussed earlier, x-ray technician Edward F. Reed participated in taking and developing x-rays during the first
autopsy. I think he mainly acted as an assistant to Jerrol F. Custer, rather than taking the x-rays himself, as he has
later claimed. However, I believe his account of the early stage of the autopsy, including the sequence of taking
the x-rays, is fairly accurate. When Reed testified before theARRB, he initially told them that he/they took the
following 15 x-rays: 1 lateral skull, 1 anterior/posterior (AP) skull, 1 lateral cervical spine (neck), 1 AP cervical
spine, 1 AP chest, 1 AP abdomen, 1 (AP) pelvis, 4 of the upper extremities (one each of the left and right arm and
forearm), and 4 of the lower extremities (one each of the left and right thigh and leg). This sequence is similar to
the one described by Ebersole.
These x-rays were not taken all in one series. According to Reed, they took one or more x-rays, went to the
darkroom on the 4th floor and developed the film(s), came back to the morgue with the developed film(s), took
more x-rays and ran off again to develop them. T his was repeated several times. However, nothing happened with
JFK’s body between each time they took one or more x-rays. Reed thinks the photographs were taken before the
x-rays. That is also what Humes said in his testimony before theHSCA, but he p artly contradicted himself in his
Mr. CORNWELL: Just very briefly, in what order or sequence did you conduct the autopsy?
Dr. HUMES: Well, the first thing we did was make many photographs which we knew would
obviously be required for a wide variety of purposes, took basically whole body X-rays and then
proceeded with the examination of the two wounds that we very shortly detected were present,
starting with the wound in the head and proceeding to the wound in the back of the neck, upper
In his ARRB testimony, Reed initially stated several times that all the x-rays were taken before any incisions had
been made, but when shown the 14 autopsy x-rays from the National Archives, he modified his statements bo th
concerning when the x-rays were taken (some after incisions had been made) and the number and types of x-rays
taken. However, I think these amendments are adjustments on his part to fit in with his claim that he himself took
all the autopsy x-rays of President Kennedy. Hence, his contradictory statements are related to the fact that mo st
of the extant autopsy x-rays were taken during the second autopsy, which he did not attend, rather than to a poor
memory of the first autopsy. He was, however uncertain whether they took one or two x-rays of each extremity. If
they took only one, the total number of x-rays would be 11. Reed does not recall taking any x-rays of a separate
bone fragment, but that fragment was allegedly x-rayed by Ebersole. The FBI report states that 11 x-rays were
taken, but that number was given to the FBI agents by Humes, so we don’t know whether that was the actual
number of x-rays taken.
The first incision, the removal of the brain, and the arrival of Dr. Finck
There are conflicting statements as regards where the first incision on the body was made. The FBIreport by
Sibert and O’Neill only states when the first incision was made:
Upon completion of X-Rays and photographs, the first incision was made at 8:15 p.m. X-Rays of
the brain area which were developed and returned to the autopsy room disclosed a path of a missile
which appeared to enter the back of the skull and the path of the disintegrated fragments could be
observed along the right side of the skull.
Thus, it is not specifically stated where the first incision was made, but the remainder of that paragraph and the
subsequent paragraph deals with x-rays and bullet fragments from the head. Consequently, it is likely that the first
incision was made in the head in order to remove the brain. When testifying before the ARRB, neither Sibert nor
O’Neill specifically recalled where the first incision had been made, but at that time both of them thought it was
the Y incision on the chest and abdomen.
However, from other statements it is clear that the first incision was made in the head in order to remove the
brain. Moreover, the pathologists were first only granted permission, allegedly from Mr. Kennedy (or Admiral
Burkley), to perform a limited autopsy in order to examine the wounds in the head and the back. When no bullet
could be found in the back, this permission was extended to do a complete autopsy, with examination of the
thoracic and abdominal cavity. Thus, it would seem likely that they started with the head wounds and proceeded
to the chest, like Humes told HSCA (above).
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 88
X-ray technician Edward F. Reed told theARRB that the first incision was on the head after they had finished
takingall the x-rays of the body:
GUNN: Okay. You’ve described the sequence of the taking of the X-ray films. Can you tell me
whether there were any incisions that were performed on the body between the time of the first
X-ray and the time of the last X-ray that you took?
REED: As far as I know, no.
Q: When you brought the last of the X-rays that you had developed back to the morgue, had there
been any incisions performed on the body at that time?
Q: Were you present during the time of the first incision?
Q: What was the first incision?
REED: The cranium. The scalp, right here.
Q: And can you describe how that procedure -
REED: Commander Humes made an incision. After we brought all the X-rays back, we were all
allowed to sit up in the podium and observe. And Commander Humes made an incision - that I
could see from my vantage point - an incision in the forehead, and brought back the scalp.
REED: Like this.
Q: And you were making a line first across the top of your forehead, roughly along the hairline -
REED: With a scalpel.
Q: - and then pulling the scalp back.
REED: That’s correct. Just like this.
Q: And were you able to see the size of the wound when the scalp -
REED: Not from my - not from where I was, no. The podium was a good 20 feet away.
Q: What else did you observe from where you were with regard to any incisions or operations on
REED: Well, after about 20 minutes, Commander Humes took out a saw, and started to cut the
forehead with the bone - with the saw. Mechanical saw. Circular, small, mechanical - almost like a
cast saw, but it’s made -
REED: - specifically for bone.
Q: And what did you see next?
REED: We were asked to leave at that time. Jerry Custer and myself were asked to leave.
Q: Do you know why you were asked to leave?
REED: Because we were - No more assistance - our assistance was not needed. X-rays were done.
And someone decided that we weren’t needed, and they asked us to leave.
Q: Did you see the brain removed?
Q: Did you go back into the morgue at any time that evening?
REED: No, I did not.
Q: Did you see any incisions on the chest at all?
As regards the removal of the brain, the three pathologist have been reluctant to admit that they actually had to
make an incision through the scalp and saw through the bones of the skull, as Reed described. Of course, they
wanted everybody to believe that the scalp and skull in the top of JFK’s head was so damaged from an alleged
exit of a bullet in that area, that no cutting and sawing was necessary.
Boswell, in his deposition before the ARRB, denied that they had to make any incisions in the scalp or saw
through the skull bones in order to remove the brain. But he confirms that the first incision was in the head for
removal of the brain.
GUNN: At what point during the autopsy was the brain removed?
BOSWELL: I can't be sure, but I think that we did the brain first before we did the dissection of the
thorax and abdomen. But I can't be sure about that. I mean, normally, it would be the last thing to
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 89
be done. But since it was the prime thing in the autopsy, I sort of have a feeling that we did that
first. But I won't say for sure.
Q: Was it necessary to make any incisions in the scalp in order to remove the brain?
Q: Was it necessary to saw any of the bones in the cranium?
Q: Who was it who removed the brain?
BOSWELL: I think Jim Humes did, but I can't be sure of that.
Q: Do you recall whether there were any difficulties in conjunction with removal of the brain?
Q: Do you recall whether Colonel Finck arrived before or after the brain was removed?
BOSWELL: Oh, before.
Humes also told the ARRB that Finck arrived before any incisions had been made. Indirectly Humes admits that
all the x-rays and photographs were taken at one time at the beginning of the autopsy (“around the time we were
GUNN: Do you recall approximately where in the procedures that Dr. Finck arrived?
HUMES: Oh, pretty early. As soon as I saw the nature of the thing, before we did anything, I called
Dr. Smith back and said, you know, send us this chap. I didn't know him. I had never laid eyes on
him before. And so I would say around the time we were taking X-rays, photographs, or both.
Q: Was he – Dr. Finck – there at the time the cranium was being examined?
HUMES: Oh, sure. He was there through the whole examination, basically. If he missed anything, it
was when we were taking the preliminary photograph and stuff.
According to Finck’s own statements and testimonies he did not arrive in the autopsy room untilafter the brain
had been removed. But he has given conflicting statements as to which autopsy procedures had been performed
before his arrival. In his report to his superior at the AFIP, Brig. Gen.Blumberg, he states that x-rays of both the
head and chest had been taken, and the organs of the chest had been removed before he arrived . He also wrote
that no sawing of the skull was necessary to remove the brain:
On the recommendation of Brigadier General Blumberg, Director of the Armed Forces Institute of
Pathology and at the request of Commander Humes, MC, USN, Director of Laboratories, Naval
Medical School, who called me at home by telephone, I went to the National Naval Medical Center,
Bethesda, Maryland, where I arrived at approximately 2030 hours on 22 November 1963. The
autopsy of President Kennedy was in progress. The radiologist had studied the radiographs of the
head revealing numerous small metallic fragments.
I arrived at the Naval Hospital at 2030 hours. [....] Rear Admiral Galloway, Commanding the Naval
Center, Cdr Humes and Cdr Boswell, MC, USN, Chief of Pathology, showed me the wounds in the
President's head. The brain, the heart and the lungs had been removed before my arrival. X ray
films of the head and chest had been taken.
The autopsy had been in progress for thirty minutes when I arrived. Cdr Humes told me that he only
had to prolong the lacerations of the scalp before removing the brain. No sawing of the skull was
In theShaw trial in 1969 Finck made the following statements about his arrival and the removal of JFK’s brain:
OSER: What time did you arrive at Bethesda Naval Hospital in regard to the autopsy? By that I
mean was the autopsy already begun?
FINCK: When I arrived, X-rays had been taken of the head. I had been told so over the phone by
Dr. Humes when he called me at home, and I arrived, I would say, a short time after the beginning
of the autopsy, I can't give you an exact time, it was approximately 8:00 o'clock at night.
Q: Had any work been done on President Kennedy's body in regard to the performing of the
autopsy by the time you got there?
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 90
FINCK: As I recall, the brain had been removed. Dr. Humes told me that to remove the brain he did
not have to carry out the procedure you carry out when there is no wound in the skull. The wound
was of such an extent, over five inches in diameter, that it was not of a great difficulty for him to
remove this brain, and this is the best of my recollection. There were no removals of the wound of
entry in the back of the neck, no removal of the wound of entry in the back of the head prior to my
arrival, and I made a positive identification of both wounds of entry.
Q: When were these X-rays taken and when were they made available to you?
FINCK: When I arrived at the hospital at approximately 8:00 o'clock at night on the 22nd of
November, 1963 X-rays of the head had been taken prior to my arrival, and Dr. Humes had told me
so over the phone when he called me at home, asking me to come over. After I found the wound of
entry in the back of the neck, no corresponding exit, I requested a whole body X-ray, the purpose of
having whole body X-rays of an autopsy is to be sure there is no -- in a case like that, no bullet in
some part of the body that would remain there, leave with the body and nobody would know that it
was there, that is the reason for X-rays, because X-rays will reveal the presence of a bullet, the
presence that no operation or autopsy, as complete as it may be, may definitely reveal, was my
reason for those body X-rays.
Q: Did you get the whole body X-rays?
FINCK: I requested them, and we waited, I would say, an hour or more for these whole body
X-rays, and they were interpreted by a radiologist of the Bethesda Hospital who had reviewed
those, so the X-rays of the head showing numerous fragments, but he stated that there was no entire
bullet remaining in the cadaver, there were fragments, metallic fragments in the head, but there was
no bullet in that cadaver.
Similarly, Finck told the Medical Panel of theHSCA that he arrived after the removal of the brain. According to
what Humes had told him, virtually no sawing had been necessary in order to remove the brain.
Dr. PETTY: All right. Now if I understand you correctly, then there was a restriction; that is, that
the organs of the head or the head only should be examined, is that correct?
Dr. FINCK: At the beginning there was that restriction. As a matter of fact, when I reached the
hospital, as far as I can remember, the brain had been removed.
Dr. BADEN: Dr. Finck, just so I understand, when you arrived the brain had already been removed
from the cranial cavity.
Dr. FINCK: As far as I remember, yes.
Dr. BADEN: And at that point when you arrived, did a decision have to be made as to whether to
proceed further or not in the autopsy?
Dr. FINCK: Having only X ray films of the head, I am the one who suggested the whole body X ray
survey before going further, as far as I remember, to rule out the presence of an intact bullet in that
cadaver. See, having a wound of entry in the upper back/lower neck and at the time of autopsy no
wound of exit and only X ray films of the head showing numerous metallic fragments, I am the one
who asked for that whole body X ray survey.
COE: If I understood you, you said that the head post had already been done at the time you
FINCK: The brain had been removed.
COE: How had the skull cap been taken off to remove the brain?
FINCK: In that respect Dr. Humes told me that the fractures of the top and right side of the head
were so extensive – that wound was about 13 centimeters in diameter, it was a very large one. The
fractures were so extensive, there was so much fragmentation of the skull that Dr. Humes did not
have much sawing to do or he may not even have had any sawing to do.
COE: You mean he did no t have to extend around to the left side of the head to remove the brain
FINCK: He may have had a little sawing to do but as compared to an intact skull where you have to
do complete sawing to remove the calvaria, the skull cap. That was not the case because of the
extent of the fractures and damage to the skull.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 91
COE: Did you see the wound of entry in a separate piece of bone that was handed to you or was
that still hooked on to the body?
FINCK: It was definitely attached to the body, the wound of entry.
Dr. BADEN: Were you present when these color photographs were taken of the head?
Dr. FINCK: I was at least for some of them. I remember positively that a Navy photographer took
pictures and I wanted pictures of the crater in particular because this is a positive finding for a
wound of entry in the back of the head. So, I wanted a picture showing no crater from the outside
and a clearcut crater from the inside, but I don't know.
Dr. COE: You mean some of these pictures were taken after the brain had been removed?
Dr. FINCK: I don't know. The sequence of photographs, I was there when some of the photographs
Dr. COE: I am a little confused because you said before the brain had been removed before you
Dr. FINCK: As far as I remember.
Dr. COE: Then if you were there when photographs were taken of the head, it must have been after
the brain had been removed.
Dr. WECHT: What Dr. Coe means is before you stated when you got there the brain had been
Dr. FINCK: I think so.
Dr. WECHT: So if you remember that pictures were taken at your specific request, then what John
is asking therefore by definition, one or more pictures of the head were taken after the brain had
Dr. W ESTON: He mentioned the crater specifically.
Dr. FINCK: Yes, and I don't know if all the pictures were taken in my presence.
Dr. COE: I just wonder how much distortion we are getting from that. We have a lot of distortion.
Finck is apparently not so sure whether he arrived before or after the brain had been removed, since he modifies
his answers in the Shaw trial and before the HSCA by the words “As I recall” and “As far as I remember”.
That Finck might have arrived before the brain had been removed is also suggested by the following incident
from the autopsy that Finck told Mr. Oser about when questioned in theShaw trial:
FINCK: Wait. I was called as a consultant to look at these wounds; that doesn't mean I am running
OSER: Was Dr. Humes running the show?
FINCK: Well, I heard Dr. Humes stating that -- he said, "Who is in charge here?" and I heard an
Army General, I don't remember his name, stating, “I am." You must understand that in those
circumstances, there were law enforcement officers, military people with various ranks, and you
have to co-ordinate the operation according to directions.
Q: But you were one of the three qualified pathologists standing at that autopsy table, were you not,
FINCK: Yes, I am.
Q: Was this Army General a qualified pathologist?
Q: Was he a doctor?
FINCK: No, not to my knowledge.
Q: Can you give me his name, Colonel?
FINCK: No, I can't. I don't remember.
Q: Now, can you give me the name then of the General that was in charge of the autopsy, as you
FINCK: Well, there was no General in charge of the autopsy. There were several people, as I have
stated before, I heard Dr. Humes state who was in charge here, and he stated that the General
answered "I am," it may have been pertaining to operations other than the autopsy, it does not mean
the Army General was in charge of the autopsy, but when Dr. Humes asked who was in charge here,
it may have been who was in charge of the operations, but not of the autopsy, and by "operations," I
mean the over-all supervision.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 92
According to what Humes told the ARRB, this incident with the Army General, who was General Wehle,
happened outside the morgue before JFK’s casket arrived in the Navy ambulance.
GUNN: Prior to the arrival of President Kennedy's body, did you see any Secret Service or FBI
HUMES: No. I had one interesting encounter in that regard. When I found out what the problem
was, I went downstairs and got into a scrub suit which I was going to wear to conduct the autopsy.
And it was a brand-new morgue. [...] And it had a loading dock outside, and that's where they were
going to bring the President's body. So I walked outside to see what was going on. A lot of people –
oh, I saw a guy with a speed graphic camera in the building and didn't feel like running after him
myself. So I went out to this loading dock, and several people were milling around. And I said,
"Who's in charge here?" And some general said, “I am." Well, it turns out he was in charge of the
military district of W ashington. That was his role. [...]
Q: Previously, you made reference to the commanding general for the military district of
Q: Was that General Wehle?
HUMES: You got me. You know, he told me, he said he was in charge, and I heard later that that
was his role. I said to somebody else, "Who's that guy? And that's what they said; he's the CO of the
military district of Washington. I never saw him before or since, didn't know who he was then.
Q: W as he present at all during the autopsy?
HUMES: No, he was not. Or if he was, I didn't know he was there. Let's p ut it that way. I don't
think he was at all.
If Finck heard Humes speak with Wehle, and if that conversation took place outside the morgue, Finck must have
arrived at Bethesda before the autopsy started, but he may not have entered the morgue immediately upon arrival
there. If, on the other hand, the conversation took place in the autopsy room, Humes must be lying about this
incident. According to the FBI agents, Wehle only visited the autopsy room towards the end of the autopsy, which
suggests that Humes’ version is correct and Finck is lying about the time of his arrival.
Finck allegedly arrived between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., whereas the first incision was made 8:15 p.m. Hence, he
probably arrived before the brain had been removed, just as Boswell and Humes told the ARRB. Moreover, if
Finck was the one who asked for a whole body x-ray survey, as he claimed he did, then he would have had to be
there before any incisions had been made, since all x-rays were taken before the first incision. But Finck is not
willing to admit that, nor is he willing to lie about it by stating unequivocally that he arrived after the brain had
been removed. So that’s probably why he is so evasive.
If Finck really arrived before the brain had been removed, why is he not willing to admit it? T hat is difficult to
understand. A possible explanation is that it had been decided well before the autopsy started that Finck would
participate. But those organizing the autopsy may have wanted to make his appearance look somewhat
improvised, so that the autopsy would not appear as a well-planned event. In addition, the other pathologists
apparently waited a while for Finck’s arrival before they started with the autopsy proceedings (another indication
that he arrived before any incisions were made), which might have given those in charge (Humes, Boswell,
Burkley, Galloway) extra time to plan how to proceed with the autopsy after the initial inspection of JFK ’s body.
Returning to the removal of the brain, in his testimony before the Warren CommissionHumes indicated that they
had to make some incisions and saw a little bit to get access to the cranial cavity:
To better examine the situation with regard to the skull, at this time, Boswell and I extended the
lacerations of the scalp which were at the margins of this wound, down in the direction of both of
the President's ears. At that point, we had even a better appreciation of the extensive damage which
had been done to the skull by this injury.
We had to do virtually no work with a saw to remove these portions of the skull, they came
apart in our hands very easily, and we attempted to further examine the brain, and seek specifically
this [bullet] fragment which was the one we felt to be of a size which would permit us to recover it.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 93
In his ARRB depositionHumes finally admitted that they sawed through the coronal suture (between the parietal
and frontal bones) and extended this ‘incision’ towards the rear of the skull:
GUNN: But just let me start out first: Where was the first incision made?
HUMES: I believe, of course, the top of the skull to remove the skull plate of the brain. To remove
what remained of the calvarium and to approach the removal of the brain.
Q: And was that incision simply of the scalp, or did you need to cut--
HUMES: No, we had to cut some bone as well.
Q: Where did you make the incision on the scalp?
HUMES: Where we usually– in the coronal plane, over the coronal suture. Of course, half of it was
already– I mean, you know, it wasn't a neat incision because part of it was over the large defect that
was already present.
Q: So did you make any incisions in the scalp other than the one that would be roughly from either
right to left or left to right, roughly over the coronal--
HUMES: No, we didn't make any others.
Q: So there were none front to back along--
HUMES: No. There were lacerations of the scalp in several different directions, but, no, we didn't
make any other incision.
Q: Where did you cut the bone?
HUMES: I find that– it's hard to recall. Once we got the scalp laid back, some of those pieces could
just be removed, you know, by picking them up, picking them up because they were just not held
together very well, other than by the dura, I suppose. So other than that, we probably made it like
we normally do, in a circumferential fashion from books, like right above the ear around. But it was
a real problem because it was all falling apart, the skull. And I can't recall the details of exactly how
we managed to maneuver that, because it was a problem.
During his interview withARRB, mortician Thomas E. Robinson drew dotted lines on an anatomical skull
drawing, showing roughly were the doctors had sawed through the skull bones. He thereby confirmed that there
was an incision through the coronal suture, and that this incision in the skull bones was extended backwards on
either side of the head towards the rear of the skull.
Removal of President’s Brain: Robinson drew dotted lines on the drawing he executed of the
posterior skull which shows the wound between the ears. When asked by ARRB staff what the
dotted lines represented, he said “saw cuts.” He explained that some sawing was done to remove
some bone before the brain could be removed, and then went on to describe what is a normal
craniotomy procedure, saying that this procedure was performed on JFK. He seemed to remember
the use o f a saw, and the scalp being reflected forward.
If the pathologists did saw through the skull “like we normally do, in a circumferential fashion from books, like
right above the ear around”, as Humes put it, and as Robinson indicated, then they would have had to saw through
the occipital bone close to the level of the external occipital protuberance, i.e. close to the alleged wound of
entrance in the back of the skull. That is probably why Dr. Coe of HSCA’s Medical Panel asked Finck whether he
saw the wound of entry in a separate piece of bone (i.e. the detached skull cap) that was handed him. The HSCA
had the three pathologists draw the alleged wound of entrance onto a skull, where the normal incisions through
the skull bones for removal of the brain are also evident.In that skull they placed the wound of entrance a little
below the saw cut through the skull (HSCA Appendix to Hearings, Volume VII, pp. 114-115).
If therereally had been an entrance wound in that area, it would have b een fairly easy to take photographs of it
from the inside of the skull after the skull cap had been removed. And if Dr. Finck’s account was true, the other
pathologists would have sawed through the skull and removed the skull capbefore Dr. Finck, the wound ballistics
expert, allegedly had arrived to look at the wounds in the head. Then the alleged large exit wound would have
been removed with the skull cap before Finck had arrived to examine it in its original site. B ut then there probably
never was a small wound of entry in the occipital bone or a large wound of exit in the anterior, top portion of
JFK’s head on the evening of November 22nd.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 94
It is quite possible that the pathologists tried to avoid sawing too much in the skull, because it would leave
straight saw cuts that would be visible in the subsequent x-rays, which they already at this stage might have
realized they needed. Photographer Stringer told theHSCA that “the doctors had to crack the skull somewhat to
get the brain out, though they didn't have to saw it off.” This suggests that they made some saw cuts, but also
applied force to break loose some parts of the skull. The lateral x-ray (No. 2) confirms that they sawed through
the coronal suture, and that they also made a saw cut through the parietal bone (see later).
Even though the head wound was the most important wound to JFK, the early removal of the brain, might have
served the purpose of diverting the attention of the audience away from the large defect in the right rear of the
head. Once the incisions in the top of the head had been made, the scalp had been reflected and the skull cap had
been removed, it might have been very difficult for the observers in the room to get a good impression of the
extent and location of the original large wound in the back of the head. Moreover, with the scalp reflected and the
scull cap removed, the opening in the top of JFK’s head might have had a very strong resemblance to the large
head wound that later turned up in the autopsy photographs of President Kennedy. Thus, in the photographs
showing the right side of thehead, it seems as if the scalp has merely been reflected backwards, and the (anterior
part of the) skull cap behind the coronal suture, as well as portions of the frontal bone in front of the suture, have
been removed (Figure 1). So during most of the first autopsy, after the brain had been removed, JFK’s head may
have appeared as it does in the extant autopsy photographs.
This confusion between how JFK’s head looked like before and after the incisions in the head had been made is
very evident in the ARRB depositions of FBI agents Sibert and O’Neill. Thus, both of them told the ARRB that
the photographs showing the right side of the head and shoulder (NA:26) was largely consistent with what they
had seen during the autopsy. Here is part of the exchange between Mr. Gunn andO’Neill:
O’NEILL: [...] I didn’t realize it was that large.
GUNN: I’d like to ask you whether that is how the body appeared to you on the night of the 22nd?
O’NEILL: Yes. Boy, what a mess. Yeah, I didn’t realize it.
Q: But you’d say, in a general way, that looks -
O’NEILL: As a general description of what occurred– or a general depiction of what occurred, yes.
Q: All right, so-
O’NEILL: I mean, what it looked like. Y es.
So what O’Neill actually confirms here is that the photograph shown to him (NA:26) resemble what JFK’s head
looked likeduring the autopsy. On this occasion he is not questioned whether this is how the head looked like
beforethe autopsy started. And that is two totally different questions.
As to the brain itself, there are several statements from independent witnesses that it was badly damaged, and that
it showed no similarity to the brain that was later depicted in the autopsy photographs. T hus, I think JFK’s brain
was later switched with a different brain on which damages consistent with the official bullet path through JFK’s
head had been inflicted.
Examinations of wounds and looking for bullets
Apparently there was not an extensive search for a missing bullet within the body aided by x-rays during the first
autopsy. Moreover, according to the FBI autopsy report, the wound in the back was discovered or examined
during the “latter stages” of the autopsy. They probed that wound with a finger (Humes) and with a metal probe
(Finck), and found that the bullet had supposedly entered in a sharply downward direction into the body. But they
found no exit and concluded that the bullet, which reportedly had been found on a stretcher at Parkland Hospital,
had worked its way back out when cardiac massage had been performed on the President.
The pathologists seem to have largely ignored the tracheotomy incision in the front of the neck. There were no
suggestions to the audience that there might have been a bullet wound in that incision. In a FBImemorandum by
O’Neill and Sibert dated June 29th, 1966, they state:
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 95
Mr. THOMPSON [FBI supervisor] also asked if the Pathologist conducting the autopsy had made
any mention of a bullet passing out of the neck at the point that the tracheotomy had been
preformed [sic; performed] at Parkland Hospital, at Dallas, Texas. He was advised that no such
statement was made and that in fact the Pathologist was quite concerned concerning injury in the
back and could not find a point of exit for this bullet neither could he find the projectile. Mr.
THOMPSON was further advised that at that time Agent SIBERT had telephonically contacted SA
CHARLES L. KILLIAN in the Firearms Section at the Bureau at which time it had been
ascertained that a bullet had been found on a stretcher in the Parkland Hospital and this information
was relayed to the Pathologist conducting the autopsy who stated that in all probability this
accounted for no bullet being found in the body in the back region and that such had probably been
worked out by cardiac massage which had been performed when the President was on a stretcher at
Sibert told the same in his ARRB deposition:
GUNN: Was there any discussion during the part of the autopsy that you attended related to the
throat wound in the anterior or the front part of the throat having any connection with any bullet
entries or exits?
SIBERT: No, not at all. That was taken as a straight tracheotomy.
Q: Did you see any incisions, or enlargements of, or any medical procedures around - related to the
anterior neck wound?
SIBERT: No. It was very evident the incision itself - I mean, where the tracheotomy had been
Q: But the doctors, during the autopsy, didn't do anything with that, that you observed?
SIBERT: No, they did not.
When discussing the tracheotomy wound in the front of JFK ’s neck during hisARRB deposition, it seems as if
Humes nearly makes a slip of the tongue.
HUMES: My problem is, very simply stated, we had an entrance wound high in the posterior back
above the scapula. We didn't know where the exit wound was at that point. [.....] So early the next
morning, I called Parkland Hospital and talked with Malcolm Perry, I guess it was. And he said,
Oh, yeah, there was a wound right in the middle of the neck by the tie, and we used that for the
tracheotomy. Well, they obliterated, literally obliterated --when we went back to the photographs,
we thought we might have seen some indication of the edge of that wound in the gaping skin where
the --but it wouldn't make a great deal of sense to go slashing open the neck. What would we learn?
Nothing, you know. So I didn't-- I don't know if anybody said don't do this or don't do that. I
wouldn’t have done it no m atter what anybody said. That was not imp ortant. I mean, that's....
After the telephone call to Dr. Perry in Dallas, Humes “went back to thephotographs” and looked if he could see
an indication of a bullet wound in the tracheotomy wound. Well, on Saturday morning he didn’t have the
photographs, and anyway, it wouldn’t have made much sense to “go slashing open the neck” in those
photographs. He might have made that telephone call during the night of November 22nd, before the first autopsy
had been completed, asEbersole stated several times in his testimony before the Medical Panel of the HSCA, but
Humes has denied that.
When interviewed byARRB (pages 61-63), Dr. Perry and Dr. McClelland seemed to confirm that there was a
telephone call from Humes on Saturday morning, but Perry’s statements also suggest that he had talked to Humes
already on Friday (“he said he’d call me next morning”). When questioned by Mr. Specter of the Warren
Commission,Dr. Perry first said he received two telephone calls from Humes on Friday afternoon, but then
changed his mind about the timing to Saturday morning. In his interview withHSCA staff in 197 8, Perry is again
very evasive as to when he spoke with Humes for the first time:
FLANAGAN : Dr. Perry, could you go over and describe the conversations that you subsequently
had after treating the President at Parkland with Dr. Humes, the surgeon who performed the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 96
PERRY: Yeah. This won't be too accurate, Mark, because I found out, interestingly enough, that
later I had my dates a little bit fouled up. They called me twice and I couldn't remember – I didn't
write 'em down. I've learned to keep better records since then, but -- and I didn't remember exactly
when they called me and about what, but I was called twice back from Bethesda. And the
conversation of the first one, as I recall, and I need, I should go back and look at my testimony in
my notes here and I haven't done that, I guess, I should have to find out exactly what we're talking
about on that first one. But we discussed the thing and I told him about the tracheostomy wound
and told him that I had cut right through the small wound in the neck. And Dr. Humes at that time
had described that they had had a little difficulty tying up that posterior entrance wound -- as
allegedly to be an entrance wound, I shouldn't get in this hot water -- that posterior wound with the
-- couldn't find out where it went. And they surmised that during the cardiac massage and
everything that perhaps the bullet had fallen out -- which seemed like a very unlikely event to me, to
say the least. But at any rate, when I told him that there was a wound in the anterior neck, lower
third, he said: “That explains it!” I believe that was the exclamation that he used – because that tied
together their findings with mine. Now there was a second call about the chest tubes, I think. And I
believe that was the next day. I'm not sure of that. Maybe they called me twice that morning.
PURDY: At one point in your testimony, to help clear it up with you, you said that the calls came
about 30 minutes apart.
PERRY: Was it twice in the same morning? It's possible. There should be something in the record
of that. They had a record of it, Andy, and I just don't remember, you know. [....]
I think it is likely that Humes called Perry (who might have been at home at that time) during the autopsy on
Friday night, and then called him back on Saturday, when Perry was at Parkland, to ask further questions and to
ensure that a telephone call was recorded as having taken place at that time. So, if Humes actually spoke with Dr.
Perry during the autopsy on November 22nd, he could have gone back to JFK’s body and checked if there were
signs of a bullet wound there, without letting the observers in the autopsy room know, of course. And mortician
Robinson’s recollection of a probe through the tracheotomy incision, indicates that they did take a closer look at
the wound when the morticians worked on the body after the first autopsy had been completed. Anyway, they
probably did not examine the wound and neck area thoroughly until the second autopsy on Saturday night.
The pathologists might also have been informed during the first autopsy about the bullet wound in the neck by
either Burkley, Kellerman or Greer, who had been at Parkland Hospital, and certainly knew about it. After all, the
pathologists knew about the external cardiac massage the president had received at Parkland. And Finck’s evasive
answers (“Probably not.”) when questioned about it byHSCA, suggest the pathologists knew more than they were
willing to admit:
Mr. PURDY: What was your confusion that you had said -- I am not sure that you used the word
"confusion." I think you used a word to describe the state of mind when you could not find the track
and you could not find an exit wound and you could not find evidence of a bullet. How did you
resolve that confusion that night during the autopsy?
Dr. FINCK: By asking for the X ray films.
Mr. PURDY: And what was the answer?
Dr. FINCK: There was no bullet remaining in the cadaver.
Mr. PURDY: What did you conclude about where the bullet must have gone?
Dr. FINCK: I don't know when that news came regarding the wound of exit in the front of the
throat. Part of the tracheotomy decision, I don't know.
Mr. PURDY: Our previous testimony before the Warren Commission [sic; the Shaw trial] indicates
that it was the next day, it was Saturday, November 23, when the phone call was made which was,
as you said, after the autopsy which means, is it not correct, that you did not know when the autopsy
was finished that there was a wound of exit in the front of the throat?
Dr. FINCK: Probably no t. That sounds all right.
Mr. PURDY: W hen the autopsy was concluded, then what did you think co uld have happened to
the bullet if it was not in the body and didn't exit the front of the body?
Dr. FINCK: It is hard to say now but I don't know. With no bullet shown on X ray films, a wound
of entry in the back, I don't know.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 97
So I guess the pathologists knew about the bullet wo und in the throat during the first autopsy, but they choose to
suppress that piece of information, because the doctors in Dallas thought it was a wound of entrance, i.e. having
been caused by a shot fired from in front of President Kennedy. At that point the pathologists apparently had no
intention of associating the wound in the back with the wound in the throat. And it was probably impossible for
them to suggest such a connection in front of the audience in the morgue, since the wound in the back was located
far too low in the back (below the scapula) to make such a connection plausible.
Instead, the back wound was probably initially supposed to be associated with a bullet found on a stretcher at
Parkland. But someone in Dallas did a poor job and placed the bullet on the wrong stretcher, i.e. on Governor
Connally’s stretcher. So they soon had to abandon that explanation, and come up with an explanation of where the
bullet went that hit Kennedy in his up per back, since they had already stated there was no bullet in the body.
Moreover, they so on found out that too much had become known about a bullet wound in Kennedy’s throat,
reportedly a wound of entry, so they needed an exiting bullet through that wound. That is probably why they later
had to associate the back wound with the throat wound, which necessitated a relocation of the former from below
the scapula up towards the base of the neck. But by Friday night, November 22, the pathologists didn’t worry
about that, so they concluded that the bullet had worked its way back out of the back wound.
The main focus during the first autopsy seems to have been on the fatal head wound, particularly the examination
of skull x-rays for bullet fragments. O’Neill and Sibert don’t recall that any measurements were given concerning
the location of a point of entry in the rear of the skull. From their report, they apparently believed that the large
defect itself was the entry wound, being caused by a fragmenting bullet (they apparently still believed this when
testifying before the ARRB).
The FBI agents weretold that the top portion of the skull piece that was brought in from Dallas (i.e. from the
limousine) comprised the probable point of exit of the bullet, but they were not shown the piece itself or x-rays of
it. The metal fragments in the skull x-rays allegedly indicated a bullet path from the rear of the head towards the
right side of the skull, but there were no independent radiologists there to interpret the x-rays. O’Neill and Sibert
do not seem to have questioned the authority of the pathologists, but seem to have accepted without reservation,
that the large defect in the rear of the skull represented a wound of both entrance and exit. Thus, their autopsy
reportstates several times the probable bullet path through the head, as relayed to them by Humes:
X-Rays of the brain area which were developed and returned to the autopsy room disclosed a path
of a missile which appeared to enter the back of the skull and the path of the disintegrated
fragments could be observed along the right side of the skull.
Also during the latter stages of the autopsy, a piece of the skull measuring 10 x 6.5 centimeters was
brought to D r. HUMES who was instructed that this had been removed from the President's skull.
Immediately this section of skull was X-Rayed, at which time it was determined by Dr. HUMES
that one corner of this section revealed minute metal particles and inspection of this same area
disclosed a chipping of the top portion of this piece, both of which indicated that this had been the
point of exit of the bullet entering the skull region.
On the basis of the latter two developments, Dr. HUMES stated that the pattern was clear
that the one bullet had entered the President's back and had worked its way out of the body during
external cardiac massage and that a second high velocity bullet had entered the rear of the skull and
had fragmentized prior to exit through the top of the skull. He further pointed out that X-Rays had
disclosed numerous fractures in the cranial area which he attributed to the force generated by the
impact of the bullet in its passage through the brain area. He attributed the death of the President to
a gunshot wound in the head.
It is astonishing that Dr. Humes already during the first autopsy managed to establish as a ‘fact’ that President
Kennedy had been hit by a bullet in the rear of the skull, which had exited through thetop of the skull on the right
side, even though there seems to have been no major damage to the top of the skull at that time. However, by that
time the conspirators had no evidence of the alleged bullet path as far as x-rays and photographs were concerned,
so they needed a second autopsy to produce some kind of ‘evidence’ for that claim.
Those in charge of the autopsy also knew it was extremely important that nothing became publicly known from
the first autopsy as regards the nature and location of the President’s wounds, and the ‘conclusions’ the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 98
pathologists had reached at that point, since they knew the evidence they planned to fabricate would contradict
that. And discrepancies between the original wounds and the official wounds might have lead somebody to
suspect that there was a conspiracy behind the assassination. Hence, an order of silence was issued to all the Navy
personnel attending the autopsy, and similar orders seem to have been issued to Army and Secret Service
Moreover, according to amemorandum written by O’Neill and Sibert, “the Admiral in charge of the hospital”
toldeverybody present at the autopsy that everything they had witnessed that night should be regarded as
confidential and should not be discussed. This admiral seems to have been Admiral Galloway, since he was the
commanding officer of the National Medical Center, Bethesda, which also included the Naval Hospital and the
Medical School. But Galloway’s name is not specifically stated in the two FBI memorandums. Finck, on the other
hand claimed during the Shaw trial that the Surgeon General of the Navy, Admiral Kinney, had given him/them
the order not to discuss the autopsy with anyone. It is also noteworthy that the Kennedy family never requested
during the autopsy that the autopsy results should be kept secret. Thememorandum written by O’Neill and Sibert
RAUPACH was advised that one of the Senior M edical Officers had made the statement prior to
the termination o f the autopsy that "what had gone on in this room tonight should remain
confidential and should not be discussed outside of that room".
Mr. THOMPSON again asked if any member of the KENNEDY family had requested that the
results of the autopsy be maintained confidential and was informed that no mention had been made
by any members of the Military or other personnel attending the autopsy, that the KENNEDY
family had requested that the results of the autopsy be held in confidence, however one of the
Senior Members had stated that and cautioned individuals in attendance at the auto psy that this
matter should not be discussed after leaving this room.
He [Mr. Mc DERMOTT] was advised that the Admiral in charge of the hospital at the conclusion
of the autopsy requested all members who had attended the autopsy to keep the findings of the
In amemorandum about the same telephone conversation with Bureau supervisor Thompson, Sibert wrote:
Mr. THOMPSON was advised that at no time while the autopsy was in progress did either
ROBERT KENNEDY or Mrs. JOHN F. KENNEDY make their appearance. Furthermore, from the
time that agents arrived at the National Navy M edical Training Center, Bethesda, until the autopsy
was completed, no individual present made any remark indicating that a member of the KENNEDY
family had requested that the autopsy report be kept confidential.
Mr. THOMPSON was again informed that one of the senior medical officers prior to the
termination of the autopsy had informed all present that “What has gone on in this room tonight
should remain confidential and should not be discussed outside of this room.”
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 99
The second autopsy on November 23rd
Based on the autopsy photographs and x-rays and the aforementioned excerpts of the testimonies from those I
think were present during the second autopsy, we might attem pt to reconstruct what happened during that event.
The second autopsy seem to have been conducted in the evening of Saturday, November 23rd, being completed
around midnight, November 23rd/24th. We can assume that during Saturday the conspirators had obtained
additional information from Dallas about what had happened in Dealey Plaza and what had become known about
the wounds from the statements of the doctors attending Kennedy at Parkland Hospital. So they knew roughly
how the wounds had to look like in ord er to conform to or co unteract that information and, and most importantly,
to conform to a scenario where President Kennedy had been hit by two shots fired from the 6th floor of the
The following persons seem to have attended the second autopsy:
Dr. James J. Humes (presumably in charge); Dr. J. Thornton Boswell; Dr. Pierre A. Finck; Dr. James H.
Ebersole; Dr. Robert Karnei; Dr. David Osborne; Jerrol F. Custer (X-ray technician); Paul K. O'Connor
(laboratory technologist); Chester H. Boyers (Pathology Department); Harold Alfred Rydberg (medical
illustrator); Robert Knudsen (photographer); Richard Lipsey (military observer); Samuel Bird (military
observer); and possibly William Bruce Pitzer (photographer/movie film);
In addition, it is likely that Adm. Calvin B. Galloway, commanding officer of the National Naval Medical Center,
and Capt. James H. Stover, Jr., commanding officer of the Naval Medical School, were present during parts of the
autopsy, since they were in charge of the facilities. Thus, Richard Lipsey toldHSCA that: “Occasionally
somebody would just come into the room, turn around and walk out, one of the hospital staff-type people. B ut I
don't remember who it was.”
The autopsy itself seems to have taken place in the same autopsy room at the Naval Medical School, Bethesda,
where the first autopsy had been performed the night before. However, the body of President Kennedy was
apparently not brought directly from the casket in the East Room of the White House to the morgue at Bethesda.
When the body arrived at Bethesda, new wound(s) had already been inflicted on the right side of the head. In
addition to a very large wound in the parietal/temporal/frontal area, there seems to have been a small wound in the
forehead above the right eye, just below the hairline (see ARRB interviews withD. David and J. O’Donnell).
According to Jerrol Custer, the body arrived at Bethesda from the “W alter Reed compound”. Thus, it is possible
that the body was first brought from the White House to that facility, in order to inflict the new wounds to the
head. And I would assume that Lt. Col. Finck, the wound ballistic expert of the Armed Forces Institute of
Pathology at Walter Reed Army Hospital, was the mastermind behind the new wound(s). Whether they fired a
bullet through JFK’s forehead or created that wound by other means, is impossible to tell. The large “defect” on
the top of the head might simply have been created by reflecting the scalp towards the rear of the head, and
removing some of the skull bones on either side of the coronal suture. There were already incisions/cuts in the
scalp and skull in that area, made in connection with the removal of the brain d uring the first autopsy.
The body of JFK was apparently brought to Bethesda in a grey metal shipping casket carried by a black hearse. In
the casket, the body was lying in a body bag. The body was still dressed in the suit they had put on Kennedy
before they had brought him to the White House in the early morning that day. The head, with the recently
inflicted wounds, was apparently wrapped in a plastic bag. Both the head and the body was covered with blood,
so they had apparently soaked the body with fresh blood to make the wounds look fairly fresh.
It is likely that the sutures on the head, which the morticians had used when they closed the wounds at the
completion of the first autopsy, had been removed before arrival at Bethesda in connection with the mutilation of
the right side of the head. It is also likely that the Plaster-of-Paris that the morticians had placed within the skull,
had been removed before the body came back to Bethesda. The large hole in the back of the head, in the center,
which the morticians had partly closed by stitching the scalp to a piece of rubber dam within the skull, seems to
have been opened up again. Thus, a large defect could bee seen in that area in the original photos Knudsen
possessed, but that defect was subseq uently ‘repaired’ by retouching. Custer claimed he saw an “apparatus”
within the skull, which might have been some remnants of the Plaster-of-Paris, which by the time of the second
autopsy had hardened and possibly stuck to the skull bones.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 100
The sutures of the tracheotomy wound in the throat had apparently no t been removed before the body came to
Bethesda. Thus, Ebersole remembered a sutured wound there. Since the body was dressed when it arrived in the
morgue, it is also likely that the sutures of the Y incision on the chest had not been removed prior to its arrival.
Custer told the ARRB he was asked to leave the morgue once JFK ’s body had been put on the autopsy table, and
he was not called back until about an hour later when the autopsy was in progress. Paul K. O’Connor told the
HSCAa similar story about having to leave the morgue. Thus, it seems as if the autopsy doctors asked their
assistants to leave the autopsy room, and then removed the sutures and the other traces of the first autopsy and the
subsequent reconstruction of the body with as few witnesses as possible present.
The main purpose of the second autopsy was obviously to document the relocated massive head wound by means
of a new set of autopsy photographs and x-rays. In addition, wounds and bullet fragments in the wrong locations
had to be concealed from the photographs and x-rays, respectively. As to the photographs, additional retouching
and left-right reversal of the images had to be used to achieve this. All the photographs (camera originals), from
which the extant set of photographs from the general autopsy were produced, were obviously taken during the
second autopsy. The photographer seems to have been Robert Knudsen.
The photographs seem to have been taken at different stages of the autopsy, or to put it more correctly, at
different stages of the mutilation of the head. The photos showing the left side of the head and shoulder, the right
side of the head and shoulder, and the photos showing the anterior/right aspect of the head and upper torso, seem
to have been taken first. At this point only the right side of the head had been mutilated. After that a hinged flap
was created on the left side of the head, before taking the photos showing the head/upper body from the rear (the
original photographs were subsequently reversed left-right). Thereafter, the scalp on the top of the head was badly
lacerated and the skull in the left parietal area mutilated before taking the photographs showing the superior view
of the head. The photos showing the “missile wound of entrance in posterior scull with scalp reflected” are very
difficult to orient, and most of the head is hidden. It is therefore very difficult to determine at which stage those
photographs were taken, but they might have been taken before any of the others, since part of the parietal bone
immediately posterior to the coronal suture is visible (see later). Whereas in the photographs showing the right
side of the head, the skull cap with the parietal bone is not visible. Since the photographs were taken at different
stages of mutilation of the head, there are some mutual differences between them.
As to the x-rays, my assumption is that those taken after the brain and the thoracic and abdominal organs have
been removed, were taken during the second autopsy, since all x-rays were taken before the first incision during
the first autopsy. Hence, it seems as if at least 7 of the 11 images of the head/body were taken during the second
autopsy. These comprise x-rays Nos. 1-3, 7, 8, 10, and 11. The HSCA claimed that x-ray No. 14 had been taken
after the organs had been removed, whereas x-ray technician Reed said the organs were still there. I have not seen
that x-ray, so I don’t know what is correct. It would, however, seem strange that the conspirators would have
replaced an x-ray of that part of the body, which probably showed no bullet fragments.
In addition, three x-rays (Nos. 4-6) were taken of the three skull fragments allegedly arriving from Dallas (from
the Presidential limousine) during the (first) autopsy, but which were probably fragments from the top portion of
the skull (portions of frontal bone; see later) removed during the second autopsy (or fragments from a different
skull). Those fragments were allegedly x-rayed by Custer the next day (Sunday). It also seems likely that Custer
took all the other x-rays d uring the second autopsy.
The only x-rays that were retained from the first autopsy, among those in the extant set at theNational Archives,
were Nos. 9, 12, 13, and possibly 14. None of the extant x-rays seems to show the portion of the cervical spine
(C3/C4 area) where Custer claimed there were numerous bullet fragments. Reed also claimed he had taken lateral
and anterior/posterior x-rays of the neck d uring the (first) autopsy, which he did not find among the extant x-rays.
The inconsistencies between the skull x-rays and the autopsy photographs, and apparently also between the lateral
and AP skull x-rays, might be related to the fact that they were taken at different stages o f mutilation of JFK ’s
head. Dr. Petty of HSCA’s Medical Panel inadvertently pointed this out when discussing the x-rays with Humes
and Boswell during theirinterviews with the panel:
Dr. PETTY: Well, I think there may be more bone apparently lost than is actually lost in the
X-rays. We don’t know when those X-rays were taken. Dr. Humes, do you by chance know at what
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 101
Figure 8Autopsy images of President Kennedy. The x-ray allegedly showing the right side of the skull has been
flipped over and compared with photographs showing the left side of the head. In the x-ray [top right] there is
discontinuity in the skull at the level of the coronal suture (1) where a saw cut was made during the first autopsy. The
straight ‘fracture’ line in the parietal bone at (2) indicates that this is also a saw cut. The lines indicate where cuts were
made in the skull on the left side in order to remove the skull cap and brain. A comparison with the left profile photo [left]
indicates the upper rear of the skull had been removed when that photo was taken. (3): Peculiar dark lines; possibly sutures
from the reconstruction of the head after the first autopsy. (4): The fracture line or saw cut in the x-ray bears a strong
resemblance to a cut in association with the bone flap in front of the ear in the photograph [bottom right]
phase of the autopsy the X-rays were taken? Were these taken before the brain was removed or
Dr. HUMES: Yes. All of the X-rays were taken before any manipulations were performed.
Dr. BOSWELL: Some of the bone fragments though, are partially extruded, as we see in X-ray No
Dr. HUMES: Some of them were adhered to partially torn scalp.
Dr. BOSWELL: Which accounts for some of the missing bone.
Since I have little experience with interpreting x-rays, and since the autopsy x-rays available on the Internet (Nos.
1, 2, 4, 8 and 9) have a fairly low resolution, I will only make a few comments on x-ray No. 2. My guess is that xray
No. 2, which purports to show the right side of the skull, with the rear of the head fairly intact, actually shows
the left side of the skull. Even Humes indicated when looking at that x-ray during his ARRB deposition, that one
can’t be sure which side of the skull is seen on an x-ray:
GUNN: You're pointing to the top left portion of the brain slightly above--
HUMES: Well, I don't know whether it's left or right. You can't tell that from this. Don't say that
because there's no way of telling that it's left. An X-ray doesn't tell you whether it's left or right.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 102
X-ray No. 2 show no damage in the occip ital area (rear of the skull), where there obviously was some damage in
the right side of JFK’s skull. Unless they have managed to repair that damage or forged the x-ray after the original
image of the right side was taken, they would have had to use the left side of the skull to depict the right side. And
the bone flap visible on the left side of the head (on the right side before reversal of the pho tographs) seems to fit
with the damage in the skull (Figure 8). Moreover, X-ray No. 2 shows clear evidence of the first autopsy. Thus,
there is a break in the top of the skull in the area of the coro nal suture, i.e. where they sawed thro ugh the skull in
order to remove the brain. And there is a straight ‘fracture line’ in the parietal bone, which I think is were they
sawed through the bone to remove the skull cap (Figure 8).
Since the brain had been removed long before the extant three skull x-rays were taken during the second autopsy,
any metal fragments seen in those x-rays, obviously do not represent fragments within the brain, but some of them
may be original bullet fragments attached to the skull bones. Additional fragments may have been placed on the
skull during the second autopsy to obtain the ‘correct’ bullet path through the brain.
As to possible bullet fragments in the chest area, these may have been located on initial x-rays and removed by
dissection, in order to create x-rays showing no fragments. Thus, O'Connor toldHSCA that the doctors had been
examining the back of President Kennedy and appeared to be “...very interested in it .... to see what the spine
In his ARRB depositon, x-ray technicianEdward Reed claimed that during the (first) autopsy he had put two
negative films in each film cassette, so that two negatives had been exposed for each x-ray exposure. He then
developed only one of the negatives of each pair, and kept the other film until the end of the autopsy, at which
time he destroyed the latent images on all the undeveloped films by exposing them to light.
This procedure might also have been used to ‘remove’ bullet fragments from the x-ray images. If the developed
image of the pair showed a bullet fragment, the exact location of this fragment on the corresponding undeveloped
film could have been determined (assuming that the two negatives were exactly superimposed on each other in the
film cassette). Then the particular area(s) showing bullet fragment(s) could be masked on the undeveloped image
(preventing contact with the developer) before it was developed. When developed, the seco nd x-ray would
probably show no fragments at all. This would have been a much easier procedure than having to remove the
fragments from the body by dissection. Whether this procedure was used during the first and/or second autopsy or
not at all, I don’t know. But the fact that Reed volunteered that he had put two negatives in each cassette, suggests
that that may be the case.
In addition to taking new sets of photographs and x-rays, an important objective of the second autopsy seems to
have been to determine the path of the two bullets that had entered in the front of the neck and below the shoulder
in the back of President Kennedy, respectively. The latter bullet had apparently not exited from the body, so the
pathologists spent a major part of the second autopsy looking for that bullet, or of fragments thereof. Thus, Lipsey
told the HSCA how the doctors were cutting through all the internal organs in their search for that bullet. In
addition, they seem to have used x-rays as an aide when looking for that bullet. O’Connor claimed toHSCA that
he had heard that a fragment of that bullet had been found in an intercostal muscle (between the ribs) on the right
The bullet paths seem to have been explored by means of metal probes. Karnei recalled, when interviewed by
HSCA, that the body had been photographed with probes through the body. And photographer Robert Knudsen
described in detail before the HSCA how they had put at least two metal probes through the body, which he
alleged ly had seen by merely loo king at a negative when developing the film. O ne probe connected the wound in
the front of the neck with a wound high in the back of the neck, close to the rear of the skull. The other probe
went from the posterior to the anterior aspect of the thorax (back to chest). Although Knudsen recalled the latter
probe going through the body, indicating that the b ullet had exited, the purpose of that probe was probably merely
to suggest the general direction of the bullet into the body from the posterior side of JFK.
The probing apparently determined that there was a bullet path between the tracheotomy wound in front of the
neck and a wound high in the back of the neck, close to the skull. Then there was a second bullet path much lower
from below the shoulder in the back (posterior thorax) into the chest cavity. Since the pathologists were looking
for bullet fragments within the thoracic (and possibly the abdominal) organs by slicing them apart, it seems as if
they believed that part of that bullet had entered the tho racic cavity.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 103
The doctors at Parkland Hospital also believed that a bullet had caused some damage to the thoracic cavity and/or
the lungs since some blood emerged from the two chest tubes they placed within that cavity, whereas the autopsy
pathologists claimed that the tubes had never been inserted into the chest cavity. In theirautopsy report they
stated that the incisions only went as deep as the subcutaneous tissue:
Incisions were made in the upper anterior chest wall bilaterally to combat possible subcutaneous
Situated on the anterior chest wall in the nipple line are bilateral 2 cm. long recent transverse
surgical incisions into the subcutaneous tissue.
Humes was, from his telephone conversation(s) with Dr. Perry, probably fully aware of the fact that the chest
tubes had been used for drainage. B ut in his W arren Commission testimony,Humes presented the following lie:
Commander HUMES: [....] So when we examined the President in addition to the large wound
which we found in conversation with Doctor Perry was the tracheotomy wound, there were two
smaller wounds on the upper anterior chest.
Mr. DULLES: These are apparently exit wounds?
Commander HUMES: Sir, these were knife wounds, these were incised wounds on either side of
the chest, and I will give them in somewhat greater detail.
These wounds were bilateral, they were situated on the anterior chest wall in the nipple line,
and each were 2 cm. long in the transverse axis. [....] Their intention was to incise through the
President's chest to place tubes into his chest.
We examined those wounds very carefully, and found that they, however, did not enter the
chest cavity. They only went through the skin. I presume that as they were performing that
procedure it was obvious that the President had died, and they didn't pursue this.
However,Dr. Perry told M r. Specter of the W arren Commission, that they really had inserted the chest tubes into
the thoracic cavity of President Kennedy, and the other Parkland doctors said the same in their testimonies:
The wound in the trachea was then enlarged to admit a cuffed tracheotomy tube to support
respiration. I noted that there was free air and blood in the superior right mediastinum.
Although I saw no injury to the lung or to the pleural space, the presence of this free blood
and air in this area could be indicative of a wound of the right hemithorax, and I asked that
someone put a right chest tube in for seal[ed]drainage. At the time I did not know who did this, but
I have been informed that Dr. B axter and Dr. Paul Peters inserted the chest tube and connected it to
Dr. P erry reiterated this when interviewed byHSCA staff. We may notice that Dr. Perry took it for granted that
the autopsy report was correct about there beingno injury to the chest cavity, although his own observations had
strongly suggested that some damage had occurred. Yet, he thought it was strange that the autopsy report hadn’t
stated that the chest tubes had been used for drainage of the thoracic cavity.
PERRY: [....] And we completed placing the tracheostomy tube into place and hooked him up to
the respirator. Because there was some bruising and also some bubbly-looking blood over on the
right perietal [sic; parietal] pleura upper portion of the chest, why I thought perhaps there might
also have been a hemo or pneumo thorax, I asked Dr. Baxter to put in a right chest tube, which he
P/F: You described the use of the chest tubes to determine whether or not there was any
pneumothorax or hemothorax.
PERRY: Actually, not to determine, Andy, but to treat. I didn't know whether there was, and I
surmised there might well be a hemothorax or a pneumothorax because, not knowing the trajectory
of the missile, and when I saw the bruised avical [sic; apical] pleura and there was some bubbly
blood in that area, and I didn't know whether that blood had been frothed a little bit as a result of air
coming out of the trachea in our attempts to breathe for him, or whether it was coming out of the
lung. And as a result, since a tension pneumothorax or a serious chest injury could have obviously
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 104
been a serious problem, why, we elected to put in a chest tube. The chest tube I later learned was
not necessary because the chest cavity was not violated, but I didn't know that at the time. It wasn't
done diagnostically, it was done therapeutically.
P/F: How did you determine that the pleura cavity was not violated?
PERRY: I found that out later in the autopsy report.
P/F: Was your feeling at the time that you finished your treatment that the pleura cavity had been
violated or .....
PERRY: Didn't know. Didn't have any idea. We didn't do any more after Dr. Clark and I decided
that resuscitation failed, why, I didn't do anything else. So I don't really know. I didn't find that out
until some time later.
P/F: As you recalled, your testimony says that the second conversation you had with Dr. Humes
was in regard to the placement of the chest tubes for drainage of the chest cavity.
PERRY: It's interesting to me, and I'm not being critical, but it's interesting to me that the pathology
report does not reflect that. The autopsy report said that those incisions were made to combat
subcutaneous emphysema, which is not in the current jargon, a viable therapeutic technique.
So there seems to have been some damage to the thoracic cavity, most likely from the bullet hitting President
Kennedy in the back below his right scapula. The fact that most of the extant autopsy x-rays of the chest cavity
were taken during the second autopsy after the lungs had been removed, also suggests this. One of the lungs might
have been collapsed.
However, the pathologists needed a bullet passing above the thoracic cavity in order to exit through the
tracheotomy incision in front of the neck. So they came up with a bullet passing very close to, but just above, the
apex of the right pleural cavity, allegedly producing a contusion of both the parietal pleura (the outer wall of the
cavity) and the apical portion of the upper lobe of the right lung. Humes was obviously very pleased with himself
for inventing this incredible bullet path (“Pretty good course.”) when he and Boswell was interviewed by the
Medical panel of theHSCA:
Dr. BOSWELL: We had exhibited the midportion of the track and the chest by that time, and
demonstrated the contusion on the apex of the lung and subpleurally, and we had at that point two
points of the would [wound] and then subsequently the wound of exit.
Dr. HUMES: Pretty good course.
Dr. BADEN: The track definitely did not go through the pulmonary tissue?
Dr. HUMES: Negative.
Dr. BOSWELL: No.
Dr. HUMES: There was a contusion of the dome of the right side of the thorax and a contusion, as
Dr. Boswell said, a retropleural contusion, and it was a contusion of the upper lobe of the lung.
Dr. Finck, on the other hand, was not so certain that he actually saw these changes when questioned by Dr. Spitz
of the Medical Panel of theHSCA:
Dr. SPITZ: May I ask something. Pierre, do you remember seeing bruising of the pleurity(?) [sic;
parietal] pleura at the dome?
Dr. FINCK: On the right side?
Dr. SPITZ: Yes.
Dr. FINCK: Yes, and this I would say is explained by a high velocity bullet creating what has
caused a temporary cavity with a lot of concussion and disturbance of tissue.
Dr. SPITZ: You actually saw it?
Dr. FINCK: I think so.
However, the pathologists have never provided any evidence for these damages, nor did they mention them to the
FBI agents during the first autopsy. So I would think they invented them when they realized that they needed to
connect the back wound with the throat wound. They hadn’t dissected the neck, so they needed a bullet path that
was visible from the inside of the thoracic cavity. Hence, they let the bullet pass immediately above that cavity.
When they later were asked to provide some evidence for this bullet path, they claimed that the photographs they
allegedly had taken of that area had disappeared. This is what Humes told theARRB about it:
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 105
GUNN: Other than that series of photographs [showing inner aspect of skull], were the remainder
of the photographs all taken at the beginning of the autopsy, do you recall?
HUMES: Virtually all of them were, yeah.
Q: Do you remember--
HUMES: There's only basically two that weren't. One was the inside of the occipital region, which
we interpreted as the wound of entrance, for obvious reasons, and one that never came– whatever
happened to it, I was very disturbed by it. We took one of the interior of the right side of the thorax
because there was a contusion of the right upper lobe of the lung. So the missile had passed across
the dome of the parietal pleura and contused the right lobe. I wanted to have a picture of that, and I
never saw it. It never– whether it was under-exposed or over-exposed or what happened to it, I
don't know. And it's three years later when we were looking at it, of course. But we didn't see that
photograph. So that was taken later, and the one of the inside of the skull was taken later. But all the
rest of them were taken at the onset of examination.
However,all the photographs (52 in all) that they had taken during the autopsy were apparently present when the
doctors made theirinventory in 1966:
“The X-rays and photographs described and listed above include all the X-rays and photographs
taken by us during the autopsy, and we have no reason to believe that any other photographs or
X-rays were made during the autopsy.”
But as the years went by, and the autopsy doctors were asked to provide some evidence for the findings stated in
their autopsy report, more and more of the original photographs had apparently gone missing. But I would think
they never existed, nor did the wounds they were supposed to d epict.
The fabricated head wounds
I don’t think there can be any doubt that the two head wounds of President Kennedy that have been described in
the autopsy report and in later testimonies by the three pathologists, were fabricated. The alleged small wound of
entry in the occipital bone seem to have been created entirely in the minds of the three pathologists, since they
have never provided any (credible) evidence of the location and appearance of that wound, neither by means of
photographs, nor by x-rays. They may have tried to produce an entry wound in thescalp on the left side in the rear
of the head during the second autopsy, but the resulting ‘wound’ that later turned up on the right side close to the
hair line in the reversed images, wasn’t very convincing, not even to the three pathologists themselves. And the
photographs allegedly showing the inner aspect of that wo und (from inside the skull), seem to have been taken in
the anterior region of the skull.
Concerning the large defect in the top of JFK’s skull, they apparently made more efforts to create that wound and
record its appearance and location by means of photographs and x-rays. However, the details of that wound also
seem to be purely fictional, and hence there are many contradictions in their testimonies concerning the exact
location, size and appearance of that wound. Some of the contradicting statem ents from the pathologists
concerning both head wounds will be pointed out in the following.
As regards the alleged wound of entrance 2.5 cm to the right and a little above of the external occipital
protuberance in the rear of the skull, Humes, Boswell and Finck, have had great difficulties in locating that wound
in the photographs supposedly showing that po rtion of JFK’s head. They mostly settled for a point fairly close to
the hairline, whereas the Medical Panel of the HSCA thought they saw a wound about 10 cm higher than that. But
obviously they were all wrong, since they were looking at the wrong side of the head in the reversed photos when
they viewed the autopsy photographs. Moreover, several witnesses have testified that the right occipital area of
the skull was completely blown away.
As to the corresponding wound of entry in the occipital bone beneath the scalp, Boswell didn’t even agree with
himself about how that ‘wound’ looked like. It was originally described in the autopsyreport as a perforating
wound, i.e., a simple hole through the skull bone.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 106
In the underlying bone is a corresponding wound through the skull which exhibits beveling of the
margins of the bone when viewed from the inner aspect of the skull.
Finckgave a detailed description of bo th head wounds in a personal report about the autopsy that he sent to his
superior at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Brig. Gen. Blumberg. In the Summary of that report he
described the entrance wound as simple perforation of the occipital bone:
I examined the wounds. The scalp of the back of the head showed a small laceration, 15 x 6 mm.
Corresponding to this lesion, I found a through-and-through wound of the occipital bone, with a
crater visible from the inside of the cranial cavity. This bone wound showed no crater when viewed
from outside the skull. On the basis of this pattern of the occipital bone perforation, I stated that the
wound in the back of the head was an entrance.
Finck repeated this general description of the entrance wound to the Medical Panel of theHSCA, but when asked
to pro vide further details, he couldn’t give any. Neither could he tell the panel how they had dissected the scalp to
get to that wound.
Dr. FINCK: In addition, I saw in the back of the head on the right side a wound corresponding to
that wound of the scalp. I observed a hole in the skull. That hole in the skull in the back of the head
showed no crater when examined from the outside of the skull but when I examined the inside of
the skull at the level of that hole in the bone I saw a crater and to me that was a positive
unquestionable finding identifying a wound of entry in the back of the head.
Dr. LOQUVAM: Dr. Finck, is that symmetrical, inward beveled?
Dr. FINCK: I don't remember. I don't remember.
Dr. ROSE: Were there fracture lines radiating out from that beveled wound of the back of the skull?
Dr. FINCK: I don't remember. We would have to refer to the autopsy report.
Humesapparently had vivid recollections of the entrance wound and described it as a simple hole through the
occipital bone when testifying before the ARRB:
GUNN: After the brain was removed, what was the next thing that you did in he autopsy?
HUMES: The next thing we did was look at this wound that was in the back of the skull. It was
obvious from both the po int of entrance and inside the skull, and we examined that very carefully,
measured it, took pictures of it.
Q: Did you identify a hole that you thought to be either an entrance or exit wound in the back of the
HUMES: Definitely. Definitely. Entrance, there wasn't any question in our mind about it.
Q: Did the wound appear as something like a puncture in the bone, or was there a fragment of the
bone that was missing and that there was an indentation?
HUMES: No. It was directly beneath the scalp wound back there, directly beneath it. It was almost
round, but a little bit more ovoid, and the inner margins of it were shelved. If we put a BB through
that glass over there on the side where it went in, you'd see a little round hole, depending on the size
of the missile. On the other side, you'd see shelved out, and that's exactly what we had.
Q: And the whole circumference of the entry wound was visible without any reconstruction of the
HUMES: Oh, yeah, sure.
Q: In which bone was the entrance wound?
HUMES: Occipital bone.
Whereas Finck and Humes seemed to maintain their original description of the entrance wound in later
testimonies, Boswell later came to confuse it with the alleged large exit wound in the right parietal area. Thus,
when interviewed by the medical panel ofHSCA, Boswell, with Humes also present in the room, described the
entrance wound in the following manner:
BOSWELL: It tore right down to that point. And then we just folded that back and this back and an
interior flap forward and that exposed almost the entire– I guess we did have to dissect a little bit
to get to–
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 107
HUMES: To get to this entrance, right?
BOSWELL: But not much, because this bone was all gone and actually the smaller fragment fit this
piece down here– there was a hole here, only half of which was present in the bone that was intact,
and this small piece then fit right on there and the beveling on those was on the interior surface.
Similarly, according to Boswell’sARRB deposition, only a portion of the bullet hole was present in the skull, i.e.,
it was on the border of a larger defect. The remainder of the hole was present in a piece of skull brought in from
Dallas later during the autopsy.
GUNN: Let's go back, if we could, to the location of the entrance wound in the skull. Could you tell
me whether the entrance wound that you identified in the skull was something that appeared like a
puncture in a bone with the remainder of the bone surrounding the hole? O r did the hole break off
such that you would need other pieces of bone to be brought into place to show the entire periphery
of the wound? I'm not sure that question made–
BOSWELL: Yes, I understand it, and I think– I think maybe photographs that we have explain it. I
believe that there was an area of bone intact down here that we could attach this to.
Q: Let me just state for the record you're referring now to the second page ofExhibit 1, and when
you say "this," you're referring to the small fragment at the bottom of the page. Is that correct?
BOSWELL: And the beveling is such on both the wound here-- or the remaining bone that is
someplace in this area, but not shown in this diagram, and in this piece which, when put there,
shows the approximate dimensions of the wound, and the beveling on the bone shows entrance and
However, according to the autopsy report, as well as Finck’s personal report to Blumberg, the larger skull
fragment from Dallas allegedly comprised a portion of anexit hole through the skull, which again was part of the
large exit wound on the right anterior side of the head.
In theautopsy report, the exit wound was described as a huge defect on the top of the skull. In addition, portion of
the exit ho le was described as being present on a fragment arriving from Dallas. There was no mention of a
portion of the alleged exit hole through the skull being present in the remaining skull bones:
There is 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. In this region there is an
actual absence of scalp and bone producing a defect which measures approximately 13 cm. in
Received as separate specimens from Dallas, Texas are three fragments of skull bone which in
aggregate roughly approximate the dimensions of the large defect described above. At one angle of
the largest of these fragments is a portion of the perimeter of a roughly circular wound presumably
of exit which exhibits beveling of the outer aspect of the bone and is estimated to measure
approximately 2.5 to 3.0 cm, in diameter.
Similarly, in his W arren Commission testimony,Humes said the remaining bones in the skull showed no signs of
a bullet exiting there (“W e did not have the bone.”). The exit point could only be detected after the fragments
from Dallas had arrived. And the exit perforation was only present on one of these fragments:
Commander HUMES: Having ascertained to our satisfaction and incidentally photographs
illustrating this phenomenon from both the external surface of the skull and from the internal
surface were prepared, we concluded that the large defect to the upper right side of the skull, in
fact, would represent a wound of exit. A careful examination of the margins of the large bone defect
at that point, however, failed to disclose a portion of the skull bearing again a wound of – a point of
impact on the skull of this fragment of the missile, remembering, of course, that this area was
devoid of any scalp or skull at this present time. We did not have the bone.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 108
I mentioned previously that there was a large bony defect. Some time later on that evening or very
early the next morning while we were all still engaged in continuing our examination, I was
presented with three portions of bone which had been brought to Washington from Dallas by the
agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. T hese were--
However, the thing which we considered of importance about these three fragments of bone was
that at the margins of one of them which was roughly pyramidal in shape, there was a portion of the
circumference of what we interpreted as a missile wound. We thus interpreted it this because there
was, the size was, sufficiently large for us, for it to have the curve of the skull still evident. At the
point of this defect, and I will draw both tables of the bone in this defect, at the area which we
interpreted as the margin of a missile wound, there was a shelving of the margin. This would, to us,
mean that a missile had made this wound from within the skull to the exterior. To confirm that this
was a missile wound, X-rays were made of that fragment of bone, which showed radio-opaque
material consistent and similar in character to the particles seen within the skull to be deposited in
the margins of this defect, in this portion of the bone.
It is noteworthy that Humes, when describing the skull fragment(s) from Dallas suddenly switches from referring
to three fragments to referring to just one: “...as to wherethey had been recovered. It seems to me they felt it had
been recovered either in the street or in the automobile...”
Finck, on the other hand, described in hisreport to Brig. Gen. Blumberg that portions of the exit wound could bee
seen not in just one, but in two fragments received from Dallas (in all three of them as determined from his
Summary; first excerpt below). No exit wound was identifiable in the skull itself. Finck also extended the exit
wound into the frontal bone, whereas the autopsy report confined it to the temporal, parietal and occipital bones.
Later in the evening, I examined three bone fragments sent from Dallas and corresponding to the
large head wound approximately 130 mm. in diameter in the right side of the cranial vault. After
identifying their anatomic external and internal surfaces, I noticed that the beveling of the fragments
was apparent when viewed from outside. I stated then that these portions of bone were part of a
wound of exit.
No EXIT wound is identifiable at this time in the skull, but close to midnight, portions of cranial
vault are received from DALLAS, Texas. X ray films of these bone specimens reveal numerous
metallic fragments. Two of the bone specimens, 50 mm in diameter, reveal BEVELING when
viewed from the external aspect, thus indicating a wound of EXIT. M ost probably, these bone
specimens are part of the very large right skull wound, 130 mm in diameter and mentioned above.
This right fronto-parieto-occipital wound is therefore an EXIT.
It was not until the three pathologists had reviewed the autopsy materials on January 20th, 1967, that they
described a portion of the exit hole (“the other half of the margin of the exit wound”) as still being attached to the
skull. In theirreport about the review they stated the following about the exit wound in the head:
The autopsy report further states that there was 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, with an actual absence of scalp and bone measuring approximately 13 cm. (5.12 inches) at
the greatest diameter. In non-technical language, this means that a large section of the skull on the
right side of the head was torn away by the force of the missile. The report further states that one of
the fragments of the skull bone, received from Dallas shows a portion of a roughly circular wound
presumably of exit which exhibits beveling of the outer aspect of the bone, and the wound was
estimated to be approximately 2.5 to 3.0 cm, (1 to 1.18 inches) in diameter. X-ray Nos. 4, 5 and 6
show this bone fragment and the embedded metal fragments. Photographs Nos. 17, 18, 44 and 45
show the other half of the margin of the exit wound; and also show the beveling of the bone
characteristic of a wound of exit. Photographs Nos. 44 and 45 also show that the point of exit of the
missile was much larger than the point of entrance, being 30 mm. (1.18 inches) at its greatest
diameter. Photographs 5 - 10 inclusive, 32-37 inclusive, 44 and 45 show the location of the head
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 109
wound, and verify the accuracy of the W arren Commission drawings (Exhibits 386 and 388, Vol.
XVI, pp, 977 and 984) which depict the location of the head wound.
The pathologists had apparently already forgotten that photographs Nos.17, 18, 44 and 45 were supposed to
depict a “missile wound of entrance in posterior skull, following reflection of the scalp”, as they (Humes and
Boswell) had stated three months earlier when they made aninventory of the autopsy photographs and x-rays.
However, whenDr. Finck was asked by HSCA’s Medical Panel in 1978 about the fragments from Dallas and
whether part of the exit wound was still present on the skull, he didn’t remember much and was unable to identify
what photograph No. 44 depicted:
Dr. BADEN: Can I give you X ray No. 6 if that will refresh your recollection in any manner about
the fragments brought to you in the course of the autopsy?
Dr. FINCK: Well, I see three bone fragments with metallic fragments contained in those bone
fragments but I cannot give the direction of the crater.
Dr. BADEN: Would those to your recollection be the three fragments bro ught to you in the course
of the autopsy that were X rayed in the course of the autopsy?
Dr. FINCK: Probably.
Dr. BADEN: Is there a suggestion there of gunsho t entrance or exit wound on one of those
Dr. FINCK: I would have to see the specimen itself to see what is outside, what is inside and on
what surface there was beveling on the X ray film. I don't see that.
Dr. PETTY: Yes, but, Dr. Finck, you have already said you have examined the three fragments of
bone and this X ray film is of those three bone fragments and that you identified in the three
fragments the outer surface and the inner surface of the skull and that the beveling of the crater was
to the outside. Can you point on those three fragments where the beveling was regardless of which
surface is shown?
Dr. FINCK: I don't know.
Dr. PETTY: You don't recall?
Dr. FINCK: I don't recall.
Mr. PURDY: Can you state whether or not those X rays are representative of the size of the bone
fragments or are they larger or smaller than the bone fragments?
Dr. FINCK: I don't know. I would not know. I don't recall.
Mr. PURDY: W hen you examined the skull itself, that was still intact?
Dr. FINCK: The skull was not intact.
Mr. PURDY: The part of the skull that was still attached. Did you see any evidence in that of an
exit wound at the margin of the large defect?
Dr. FINCK: I don't recall.
Dr. BADEN: I give you No. 44 and ask if this in any way refreshes your memory?
Dr. FINCK: No.
Mr. PURDY: Do you see anything on that photograph which would rep resent the exit hole of a
Dr. FINCK: I don't know what this is.
Mr. PURDY: His answer is no. I will point out at this time at the margin of the skull there is no t a
straight edge, there is a variation there. Could that audible semi-circle be an exit wound?
Dr. FINCK: No. Hazy, blurred.
In discussions with the forensic pathology panel of theHSCA, Humes described photograph No. 44 as depicting
an exit wound, i.e., a portion of the exit hole was still attached to the skull:
Dr. HUMES: There was what we interpreted to be an exit wound, in the location to which I point.
The bone that would correspond and complete that circle or ellipse, that might have been made by
that exit wound, was missing at the time we began the examination. Later on that evening, several
hours into the evening, we were presented with, another fragment of bone, not the one that you are
examining now [photos supposedly of the Harper fragment], and that fragment had a corresponding
semicircular defect which almost completed this, what we interpreted to be an exit wound, but not
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 110
The panel, aided by D r. J. Lawrence Angel, who was an expert on the anatomy of the human skull, tried to
determine which part of the skull was actually shown in photograph No. 44. After a lengthy discussion they
arrived at the conclusion that he alleged exit wound comprising the semicircle seen in that photograph, was a little
in front of the coronal suture. And Humes was very clear about the portion of the skull seen in the photographs
being either parietal or temporal bone (“That’s exactly what it is.”). Dr. Angel also identified the largest triangular
piece of bone allegedly arriving from Dallas, as a portion of the frontal bone.
Dr. PETTY: No. 44. Dr. Humes could probably tell more where that is than I can. This is the right
cheek as I understand it, is that correct, Dr. Humes? And this then is the right shoulder and the flap
turned back at the time of the autopsy ?
Dr. HUMES: Yeah.
Dr. ANGEL: Well, this must be well forward then on the frontal bone, I was interpreting it as being
-- this itself as being near the pterion.
Dr. BADEN: Yet here is the gap.
Dr. HUMES: That is not frontal bone where that semicircle is– it’s either temporal or parietal bone,
Dr. ANGEL: I don’t see how it can be. That’s what it looks like to me.
Dr. HUMES: That’s exactly what it is.
Dr. ANGEL: What’s bothering me is what part of the flesh is that?
Dr. PETTY: That’s the cheek, the right cheek.
Dr. ANGEL: If that’s the right cheek then it can’t be-- has to be more o r less.
Dr. PETTY: Yeah.
Dr. ANGEL: It’s really hard to be sure, square this with the X-ray which shows so much bone lost
in this right frontal area.
Dr. PETTY: So that placing the outshoot wound in the right frontal bone toward the coronal suture
is probably about where it was.
Dr. HUMES: Uh-huh.
Dr. BADEN: And this would place the exit gunshot wound just anterior and almost incorporated
into the lateral aspect of the coronal suture line.
Dr. ANGEL: A little in front of it, yes.
Dr. BADEN: Then it’s slightly in front of and just superior to the temporal bone.
Dr. ANGEL: Apparently above the hairline. His hairline was fairly low; he wasn’t getting bald like
me. So, I think an exit wound about there would fit, then, the fragment that you have.
Dr. BADEN: Just anterior to the coronal suture line?
Dr. ANGEL: Just anterior to the coronal suture line, yes. Well above pterion, far above pterion near
the point where the temporal line crosses the coronal suture.
Dr. BADEN Do you have a name for it?
Dr. ANGEL: Stephanion.
Dr. Angel also prepared amemorandum to the Medical Panel (HSCA Appendix to Hearings, Volume VII,
Addendum E) describing where in JFK’s skull he thought the damages were located based on viewing the autopsy
photographs and x-rays, and what was supposed to be photographs of the Harper fragment found in Dealey Plaza.
In this memorandum, Dr. Angel reiterated his conclusions from the abovementioned meeting with the Medical
Panel a month earlier. He stated that theHarper fragment was a portion of the parietal bone, and that the large
fragment depicted in x-raysNos. 4-6 was a portion of the frontal bone. Since this piece of bone could be placed
into the defect in front of the coronal suture (parietal bone) seen in pho tographs Nos. 17 , 18, 44 and 45, it has to
be the frontal bone anterior to the coronal suture/parietal bone that is missing in those photographs. This location
is clearly seen in the three skulldrawings in Dr. Angel’s memorandum. Consequently, those photographs are
showing the anterior portion of the skull, rather than the rear of the skull. This is what Dr. Angel wrote:
X-rays 4, 5, and 6 show a large piece of skull vault, clearly frontal bone with an apparent jagged
line indicating coronal suture, about 7 to 6 cm long. The apparent inferior (right) border is 6 cm
long and at the irregular right angle which it makes with the jagged (coronal) border are several
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 111
radiopaque marks (part of bullet?). The third (anterior) edge of the fragment is curving. This large
fragment appears to be the upper part of the frontal bone, extending more on the right than on the
left, and leaving spaces both in front and to the right. The two smaller fragments in X-rays 4, 5, and
6 are insufficient to fill these gaps.
The exit area through the right frontal above the boss can account for the small semicircular notch
35 mm above the right orbit, the radiopaque mark near this, and at the upper right part of the track
can explain the radiopaque markings on the triangular frontal fragment just in front of the coronal
suture above stephanion.
The HSCA Medical panel apparently accepted Dr. Angel’s interpretation and the consensus reached at the
meeting with Boswell and Humes as to what photographs Nos. 17 and 44 depicted. However, they were a little
vague about the location, using the term ‘frontoparietal region’ in theirreport:
(315) Black and white photograph No. 17 and color transparency and print No. 44 are closeups of
the margins of the fracture line in the right frontoparietal* region after reflection of the scalp. On
the margins of this fracture line is a semicircular defect which appears to be beveled* outward,
although the photograph is not in sharp focus. Computer-assisted image enhancement* of this
photograph revealed the defect more clearly. (Seefig. 25, a closeup photograph of the semicircular
exit defect on the margin of the fracture line in the right parietal region.)
But a little later in the samereport, the panel interpreted the same pictures as showing the entrance wound in the
rear of the skull, in the parietal bone, rather than the alleged exit wound. The semicircular defect is not described
as a portion of an exit wound at all:
(330) The panel examined photographs (including Nos. 17, 18, 44, and 45) they were taken from
the front right side o f the body, with the scalp reflected down and away from the fractured skull
bones and with the brain removed. The lens was focused on the interior-posterior deepest portion of
the wound, apparently in an attempt to depict the interior of the bullet perforation of the posterior
region of the skull. In the photograph prepared from color transparency No. 45, the exterior bone
fragment with the semicircular defect is more in focus than the base of the skull in the depth of the
picture which is out of focus. In the photographs prepared from positive color transparency No. 45,
the exterior fragment is out of focus, but the depth of the photograph is in sharper focus. The
photographs, also studied using the computer-assisted enhancement technique,* show a possible
portion of the beveled* inner table corresponding to the semicircular margin of the entrance wound
at the back of the head in the right posterior parietal bone.
Moreover, contrary to Angel’s statement the panel apparently concluded that the triangular piece was part of the
parietal bone, because in Ida Dox’ drawing of the wound that piece seems to originate from behind the coronal
suture (Figure 29; HSCA Appendix to Hearings, Volume VII, page 125). Perhaps the panel realized that if they
accepted Dr. Angel’s interpretation, then they would have to admit that photographs Nos. 17, 18, 44 and 45
actually showed the interior of the anterior portion of the skull, with the frontal bone missing, rather than the
alleged entrance wound in the rear of the skull. And then they would have to admit that the medical evidence had
been tampered with.
Boswell and Humes probably also realized that, so although they knew what photographs Nos. 17, 18, 44 and 45
depicted when discussing them with the Medical Panel of HSCA, in later testimonies before the ARRB, they were
apparently unable to orient the same photos, nor were they able to explain whether the images were supposed to
show the alleged entrance wound in the rear of the skull (from the inside) or the margins of the fabricated large
exit wound (from the outside) in the top of JFK’s skull. When asked about these photographs in his ARRB
deposition,Boswell could provide no explanation for the discrepancies between their previous descriptions. But
his conclusion, i.e. “I think they were both wrong, ....”, was obviously correct:
GUNN: Let me show you two different descriptions that have been made in two documents. The
first one that we've been referring to isExhibit 13, which is the 1966 inventory. That refers to the
photograph as being "missile wound of entrance in posterior skull, following reflection of scalp."
So that is how that is described in November of 1966. But then in anotherdocument dated in
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 112
handwriting – and I don't know whether that date is accurate – January 26, 1967, but also signed
apparently on January 26, 1967, by yourself and Dr. Humes, that photograph is described not as a
posterior wound but as the exit – not as the posterior entrance wound but as an exit wound.
Photograph Nos.17, 18, 44, and 45 show the other half of the margin of the exit wound and also
show the beveling of the bone characteristic of a wound of exit.
BOSWELL: Well, I see that, but I – I can't identify anything else in here to tell where we are. This
is a different appearance of scalp, but there are other things in here that I can't identify. This looks
like part of the chest flap that's down here. The hair and the bone – this is skull, I'm sure o f that.
GUNN: To me as a lay person, it appears as if in November of 1966, View 7 is being described as
an entrance wound, and in January of 1967, two months later, it's being described as an exit wound.
First, do you have any reason for thinking that my understanding is inaccurate? Is there a switch in
how those two photographs are described?
BOSWELL: Yes, I agree, and I have no explanation for that. I think they were both wrong, and I
think the reason is that it's just such a terrible photograph.
When examining these photographs during hisARRB deposition, Humes at first appeared to be unable to orient
them. He denied that they showed a wound of exit as they had described it in 1967, and which he apparently had
agreed upon when discussing that wound with the Medical Panel of the HSCA. Finally he seems to identify a
wound of entrance, supposedly in the rear of the skull, close to the ruler in those photographs (where the Medical
Panel of HSCA also had identified a wound):
GUNN: The first question for you would be whether you can orient those photos so as to describe
what is being represented in the photographs.
HUMES: Boy, it's difficult. I can't. I just can't put them together. I can't tell you what--
Q: Can you identify whether that is even posterior or frontal or parietal?
HUMES: Not with any certainty, no. Very disappointed. No, I can't.
HUMES: Now, this is the wound of exit that you're talking about. This is certainly not the wound of
exit that we're talking about here.
GUNN: [...] Does your description from 1966, three years after the autopsy, help you today identify
or orient the photographs inView 7?
HUMES: Well, now, I guess now that I look at it, perhaps it does. The black and white one, down
here opposite the edge of the ruler, I presume that is what we're talking about right there.
Q: Okay. You're referring to something that is very near the po int of the--
HUMES: Right, right there.
Q: --ruler where the centimeter marks are?
HUMES: Right. It's not anywhere near as clear as I would have hoped it were to be. But that I have
to presume is what we're talking about right there, because that's about the size of the location, as I
can see where it is. The scalp is reflected downward, as you can see here.
Q: So would it be fair to say that--
HUMES: This here again would be it, you see; there, there, and– you lose it here with all this
business. I don't know. I have trouble with this. I can't really recognize it there.
Q: So this is a portion that, if the ruler were on the bottom of the– if the ruler were placed at the
bottom of the drawing, this would be slightly above the corner of the uppermost part of the ruler?
HUMES: That's my belief, yes, sir.
Q: And that is what you believe to be, as best you can tell now--
Q: --to have been the entrance wound--
HUMES: Yes, sir.
Q: --in the posterior skull?
HUMES: Yes, sir. Without major conviction, but I believe that's the case.
Earlier in his deposition, however, Humes had described that part of the exit wound was present in the skull,
contradicting his previous Warren Commission testimony:
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 113
GUNN: After you examined the occipital bone, what did you next do in the autopsy?
HUMES: Well, we looked with care at the margins of the defect in the skull, and we found a similar
situation where the bone fragments that were placed– that remained in place, halfway in place, were
shelved on that outer table of the skull. And when we got the fragments from Dallas, they were
similarly– we almost could complete the circle of what appeared to be the actual exit wound
because it was shelved on the outer table, and we almost could put it all together, that wound. Not
the defect, but the wound.
Q: So unlike the wound in the occipital bone, the wound towards the front, there was a nick or a
half-circle or some such thing showing what you understood to be the exit, and you were able then
to complete that wound when the fragments came?
HUMES: When the fragments came, almost, because they're all flying around, you know. These
fragments are– it's like, you know, working with clouds, because they were– you had to put them
together with great care to make that out.
Certainly, it was like working with clouds, since this exit wound was largely an imaginary wound.
Boswell’s skull drawing
The outline of the anterior margin of the skull bone visible in photographsF:8 (NA:17) bear a strong resemblance
to the zig-zag line in front of the straight transverse line in Boswell’s skull drawing onpage two of the autopsy
face sheet (Figure 9). I therefore think the straight line across the top of the skull in that drawing actually
represents the incision (saw cut) they made through the coronal suture before removing the brain, and that the zigzag
line, which may not have been drawn to the same scale, is part of the anterior margin of the opening into the
skull seen in F:8. What looks like a bullet wound close to the ruler in the photographs, might correspond to what
is described as ‘globe rt [right] eye’ in the drawing. If this interpretation is correct, it confirms the conclusion
reached by Dr. Angel that these photographs (Nos. 17, 18, 44 and 45) show the anterior portion of the right
parietal (and maybe also temporal) bone, immediately behind the coronal suture, and that the ‘missing’ portion of
the skull is in the frontal bone. Which shows that we are looking into the anterior portion of the skull, and no t into
the rear of the skull, in those photographs. W hat looks like the inner aspect of an entrance wound inside the skull,
might possibly be a wound through the forehead, corresponding to the bullet-like wound above the right eye that
some witnesses observed in the unedited autopsy photographs.
Actually, Boswell’sskull drawing in the autopsy face sheet may show all the alterations they inflicted on JFK’s
head during the second autopsy. The large area marked with ‘10' on the left side of the head may represent the
large defect that is seen on the ‘right’ side of the head in the autopsy photographs depicting the ‘superior view of
the head’ (F:6, F:7). Similarly, the roughly square piece marked with ‘3 cm’ in the left anterior portion of the
skull, might represent the bone flap seen in front of the ear on the ‘right’ side of the head in photographsF:3 and
F:5 (Figure 9).
Finally, the triangular shaped area marked with ‘4/3/6' in the rear of the skull, might represent the size of the area
of missing skull there. I am not so certain that the wo rd ‘missing’ refers to the area of the skull on which it is
written, since it is connected to the rear of the head with a dotted line. So the drawing might rather indicate that a
6 x 4 x 3 cm triangular piece of bone was missing from the rear of the skull, around the midline. T hat is exactly
the area where morticianRobinson said there was a large defect in the skull, and where the original autopsy
photographs apparently showed a large hole, which were later filled in by retouching. Another po ssible
interpretation is that the triangular area in the drawing represents the fragment of occipital bone recovered from
the limousine, which again might be the fragment seen in the photographs of theright side of JFK’s head, as
discussed previously (Figure 1). However, the size of that area does not correspond to the reported fragment size
of 10 x 6.5 cm, unless the figures represent inches rather than centimeters.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 114
Figure 9Comparison of two autopsy photographs of President Kennedy with the autopsy skull drawing. Note
similarity between zig-zag line in drawing [bottom right] with saw cuts in the skull shown in photo [left]. The straight
line across the skull in the drawing appears to be the coronal suture were saw cuts were made during the first autopsy
(blue arrows in photo). The circle in the drawing seems to correspond to a ‘bullet’ wound in the interior of the
anterior portion of the skull. The area marked with ‘10' in the drawing is similar to a defect created on the left side of
the head [top right]. Hence, the photograph of the interior of the skull [left] depicts the anterior portion of the skull.
The scalp as been reflected backward exposing the parietal bone. In the bottom of the photograph retouching seems
to have been done, possibly to conceal the saw cuts made toward the rear of the head in order to remove the skull cap
In addition to the above mentioned discrepancies in the statements of the three pathologists regarding the head
wounds, there also seems to be a discrepancy as to the degree of fragmentation of the bullet passing through
JFK’s head. According to the autopsy report and m ost of the testimonies by the pathologists, the bullet apparently
did not fragment much, except shedding numerous tiny fragments as seen on the skull x-rays. Hence, the exiting
major portion of the bullet allegedly produced a single circular hole of about 2.5 to 3.0 cm in diameter in the top
of the skull, but causing fractures in the adjacent skull bones, so that the exit hole was found in at least two pieces
of bone. This scenario is depicted in Commission Exhibit388 and described by Humes in his Warren
Commander HUMES: Our interpretation is, sir, that the missile struck the right occipital region,
penetrated through the two tables of the skull, making the characteristic coning on the inner table
which I have previously referred to. That one portion of the missile and judging by the size of the
defect thus produced, the major portion of the missile, made its exit through this large defect.
A second portion of the missile or multiple second portions were deflected, and traversed a
distance as enumerated by this interrupted line, with the major portion of that fragment coming to
lodge in the position indicated.
Perhaps some of these minor fragments were dislodged from the major one as it traversed
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 115
I will label as Point "B" the area of exit of a portion of the missile that entered posteriorly, I say a
portion because a small fragment was seen in the position previously noted which was recovered.
However, we concluded that a very significant portion, perhaps the largest portion, made its exit
and accounted for this very large defect, for the multiple fractures of the skull and for the loss of
brain and scalp tissue at this point.
Commander HUMES: As I mentioned previously, at one angle of this largest pyramidal shaped
fragments of bone which came as a separate specimen, we had the portion of the perimeter of a
roughly what we would judge to have been a roughly circular wound of exit. Judging from that
portion of the perimeter which was available to us, we would have judged the diameter of that
wound to be between 2.5 and 3 cm.
However,Finck, who first listened to Humes’ testimony before he testified himself before the Warren
Commission, repeatedly described an extensive fragmentation of the bullet within the skull. How that cluster of
fragments could produce asingle circular defect in the skull bone with a diameter of 2.5 and 3 cm is difficult to
figure out unless you are a wound ballistics expert like Finck.
Colonel FINCK: The difficulty in interpreting the path in line A-B of Commission's Exhibit 388 is
that, one, there is, as stated before, a large wound of exit, and, two, there is a secondary path as
indicated by the fragments recovered. So we can have an assumption and state that the general
direction, the general path, the general angle of this missile was from behind and above, and that
the bullet, markedly fragmented, went out of the President's head o n the right side, but that a
portion of this bullet which badly fragmented was recovered within the skull.
Colonel FINCK: In C-D, Commission's Exhibit385, due to the fact that there was no
fragmentation, I can say that it is a straight line from behind and above, whereas here, due to the
fragmentation and to the dual path, I can't give a precise angle, but I can say that the injury is
consistent with a wound produced by one bullet producing many fragments.
Colonel FINCK: I would think that I would consider the midportion of this exit would labeled B,
Exhibit 388, as the wound produced by most of the fragments and the major portions of the
fragmenting bullet. This is only a small portion of it which makes me say that this is a secondary
Representative FORD: From your numerous case studies, is it typical for a bullet, for a missile in
this circumstance as shown in 388, to fragment to the degree that this one apparently did?
Colonel FINCK: Yes, it is quite common to find a wound of exit much larger than the wound of
entrance for weapons commonly used.
Representative FORD: But is it typical for the missile to fragment to the degree that this one did as
shown in Exhibit 388?
Colonel FINCK: Yes; it is.
By not pinp ointing exactly where the alleged exit wound was on the top of JFK ’s skull, it became very difficult to
determine the bullet trajectory and the place from where the alleged shot from the rear of President Kennedy had
been fired. Consequently, it became almost impossible to evaluate the credibility of their findings.
Summarizing, we find that the large exit wound fabricated in the top of JFK’s skull during the second autopsy is
mainly located in the frontal bone in front of the coronal suture in photographs Nos. Nos. 17, 18, 44 and 45, and
apparently also in x-rays Nos. 1-3. In the photographs showing the right side of the head (Nos. 5-6, 26-28) the
wound also comprises the parietal bone, indicating that the entire skull cap had been removed before those
pictures were taken. Hence, only the latter photographs are somewhat consistent with the location of the head
wound (chiefly in the parietal bone) as described in the autopsy report and depicted in Warren Commission
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 116
What happened to the body at the completion of the second autopsy?
It is not clear from the statements of the witnesses of the second autopsy what happened to the President’s body
when the autopsy was completed. According to Lipsey, the internal organs were not put back into the body. It
appears that some reconstruction of the newly inflicted head wounds was attempted, possibly by Dr. Osborne.
Apparently Lipsey had been ordered by General Wehle to ascertain that the body was brought back to the casket
in the White House after the second autopsy. Hence, it would seem reasonable to expect that that is what
happened. Lipsey’s suggestion to the HSCA staff that the body ought to be exhumed in order to find out what
kind of wounds President Kennedy had sustained, is another indication of the same. But I don’t think we can be
entirely sure of that until the body of President Kennedy actually is exhumed.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 117
THE TRUE WOUNDS ON PRESIDENT KENNEDY
I think there is no doubt that Humes, Boswell and Finck and many others have consistently lied about the true
nature of the wounds inflicted on President Kennedy during the assassination on November 22nd, 1963. Both of
the wounds in the head, as described in the autopsy report, seem to have been fabricated, mainly in the minds of
the three pathologists, but in part also on the body of JFK during the second autopsy. H ence, the descriptions of a
large wound in the right rear of the head given by numerous witnesses both at Parkland and Bethesda, are correct.
Dr. McClellandis one of those witnesses, and he gave a very accurate description of this wound to the Warren
Dr. McCLELLAND: As I took the position at the head of the table that I have already described to
help out with the tracheotomy, I was in such a position that I could very closely examine the head
wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been extremely blasted. It had
been shattered, apparently, by the force of the shot so that the parietal bone was protruded up
through the scalp and seemed to be fractured almost along its right posterior half, as well as some of
the occipital bone being fractured in its lateral half, and this sprung open the bones that I mentioned
in such a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself and see that probably a
third or so, at least, of the brain tissue, posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue
had been blasted out. There was a large amount of bleeding which was occurring mainly from the
large venous channels in the skull which had been blasted open.
According to the FBI repo rt from the autopsy, one corner of the 10 x 6.5 cm piece of skull bone that was found in
the limousine and brought to the autopsy room, showed evidence of an exiting bullet. Ebersole testified that this
fragment was a piece of occipital bone. As discussed previously, this might be the bone fragment that is visible
behind the right ear of JFK in the autopsy photographs showing the right/anterior profile of his head. Mortician
Robinson told the the ARRB that the central portion in the rear of Kennedy’s skull wasmissing when they tried to
reconstruct the skull at the completion of the first autopsy. Hence, the large wound seem to have extended from
just behind the right ear towards the midline in the rear of the skull, thus comprising mainly the occipital bone,
but probably also the posterior part of the right parietal and temporal bones.
The missing portion of the occipital bone in the center of the skull, might have been the Harper fragment that was
found in Dealey Plaza the day after the assassination, as agent Hill suggested in his Warren Commission
testimony, before Mr. Specter interrupted him with a stupid question to prevent him from providing further details
about the wound in the rear of JFK’s skull:
Mr. SPECTER: When, in relationship to the second shot, did Mrs. Kennedy move out of the rear
Mr. HILL: Just after it.
Mr. SPECTER: You say that it appeared that she was reaching as if something was coming over to
the rear portion of the car, back in the area where you were coming to?
Mr. HILL: Yes, sir.
Mr. SPECTER. Was there anything back there that you observed, that she might have been
Mr. HILL: I thought I saw something come off the back, too, but I cannot say that there was. I do
know that the next day we found the portion of the President's head.
Mr. SPECTER: Where did you find that portion of the President's head?
Mr. HILL: It was found in the street. It was turned in, I believe, by a medical student or somebody
Mr. SPECTER: Did you have any difficulty maintaining your balance on the back of the car after
you had come up on the top of it?
The Harper fragment was originally determined to be a portion of the occipital bone by. Dr.Cairns in Dallas.
However, Dr. Angel, after having examined photographs allegedly of the same fragment, described it as a portion
of parietal bone in hismemorandum to the HSCA. The fragment itself has gone missing, and I don’t know if we
can be certain that thephotographs allegedly of the Harper fragment actually depict the original fragment found
by Mr. Harper. I think it is likely that a switch has been made, just like they did with the large fragment from the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 118
Figure 10Zapruder frame 313 [left] of the fatal head shot of President Kennedy
shows that brain matter is being extruded along the margins of a large defect in the
right rear of JFK’s head. The main direction of the extruding brain matter is probably
toward the right rear of JFK, being caused by a bullet passing through the skull from
the left temporal area. However, before the large bone fragment in the rear of the skull
pops out, the extruding brain matter is reflected from the inside of the detaching
fragment and is thrown in the opposite direction toward the sides and front of the
head. This is similar to what happens when a jet of water hits a concave surface and is
thrown back toward its origin [right].
limousine. Anyway, the missing portion in the rear of JFK’s skull, as described by mortician Robinson, would
have to be occip ital bone.
The witness testimonies as to the size and location of the wound in the right rear of President Kennedy’s head are
also corroborated by the Zapruder film, if only the images are correctly interpreted. Frame 313 of the Zapruder
film has been taken as evidence that there was a frontal explosion of JFK’s head, and that the extant autopsy
photographs accurately reflect this damage in the top of the head. Now, those autopsy photographs obviously
show a fabricated wound, and in my opinion there is no sign at all of an explosion of the top of the head in the
Zapruder film. Instead, it is evident from that film that the main damage was confined to the rear of the head. The
peculiar visual effect seen inZapruder frames 313-315 can be explained in the following manner (Figure 10):
A bullet hitting Kennedy on the left side of the head, traversed the skull and exited (more or less fragmented)
from the rear of the skull. The exit of the bullet from the rear of Kennedy’s head was followed by an extrusion of
brain matter in the same direction. However, the large piece of mainly occipital bone that became detached from
the right rear of the head, did not pop out immediately, but opened up like a lid. Thus, for a fraction of a second
there was just a narrow opening at the margins of this fragment. The jet of brain matter being extruded from the
head hit the interior, concave surface of this detaching fragment, and for a brief moment portions of brain matter
were thrown back (reflected) more or less in the opposite direction, including forward across the top and right
side of the JFK’s head, hitting Mr. and Mrs. Connally, Greer and Kellerman in the limousine. Then the bone
fragment became fully detached and was thrown forward along the right side of JFK’s head, while the rest of the
extruding brain matter exited to the right rear of Kennedy (not visible because of shadows). The forward spray of
brain matter became particularly obvious since the sun beams came from the opposite (left) side of the limousine
relative to Zapruder.
What we see in these Zapruder frames is similar to what happens when a jet of water hits a concave surface (like
the bottom of a cup): the water will be thrown back more or less toward its point of origin (Figure 10). The same
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 119
scenario is also seen every time a rocket is launched and the flames and smoke hit the ground and is thrown back
up alongside the rocket.
Hence, I think the wound o f entry was in the left temporal area asDr. Marion Jenkins tried to tell Mr. Specter of
the Warren Commission, even though Dr. Jenkins later denied he had seen a wound there. Father Oscar Huber
and Dr. Robert McClelland have also mentioned a wound in K ennedy’s left temple.
Dr. JENKINS: No – I don’t know whether this is right or not, but I thought there was a wound on
the left temporal area, right in the hairline and right above the zygomatic process.
Mr. SPECTER: The autopsy report discloses no such development, Dr. Jenkins.
Dr. JENKINS: Well, I was feeling for – I was palpating here for a pulse to see whether the closed
chest cardiac massage was effective or not and this probably was some blood that had come from
the other point and so I thought there was a wound there also.
In the extant autopsy x-ray of the right side of the skull (No. 2), which I think shows the left side, the temporal
area has been removed in order to create the large exit wound. Hence, it is not possible to determine from that xray
whether there was a wound in the left temporal area or not (I have not seen x-ray No. 3 allegedly showing the
left side of the skull). There, is no indication of a bullet hole in the left temporal area in the autopsy photographs
showing theleft side of the head, but a small entry wound could easily have been made invisible by retouching.
The wound in JFK’s back (upper thorax) that is depicted in the autopsy photographs, is not the original wound,
but a wound that was created on the left side of the spine so that a left-right reversal of the images could be used
to conceal the large defect in the right rear of the head. Hence, we can’t use the autopsy photographs to determine
the location and nature of that wound, but the location of the bullet holes in Kennedy’s shirt and coat suggests
where the true wound in the back was located.
These holes were about 15 cm below the top of the collar of the coat andshirt, and 4-5 cm to the right of the
midline, so the wound in the back was well below the base o f the neck, where the W arren Commission’s G erald
Fordplaced it. The location is also a little lower than shown in the autopsy face sheet and lower than the
fabricated back wound in the autopsy photographs (Figure 4). Other witnesses have placed the wound below the
right shoulder. According to several witnesses of the second autopsy, the bullet that hit Kennedy in the back, did
not exit from the front of the body. That was also the conclusion of the autopsy doctors at the completion of the
first autopsy. The bullet may have hit a rib or the spine and partly fragmented.
The tracheotomy wound depicted in the extant autopsy photographs appears to be in the same location as the
original wound (lower third of the neck), but several witnesses have noted that it looks much larger than what they
observed at Parkland Hospital or at Bethesda during the first auto psy. It is likely that the pathologists had to
extend the wound slightly before photographs were taken to conceal that the original wound had been sutured
after the first autopsy. T here is also a triangular area of different co lor (lighter) on the right (anatomical) margin
of the wound in photographsF:1 and F:2, which appears to have been retouched (Figure 7). The same area has a
darker color than the adjacent skin in the photograph showing the rightprofile. The retouching of that area might
have been done to conceal an incision, Or the purpose may have been to conceal an incision made by the
morticians when the body was embalmed. T hus, it is common practice to use the carotid artery and jugular vein
for injection of the embalming fluid and drainage of blood, respectively, during the embalming process (or the
femoral artery and vein). It is likely the pathologists dissected and examined that area more closely during the
second autopsy, but that may have been done after the photographs were taken.
This bullet wound in the tracheotomy incision seems to have been connected with a bullet hole high in the back of
the neck, as determined by probing during the second autopsy. I think the bullet wound in the front of the neck
was an entrance wound, just as the doctors at Parkland originally stated. Hence, a fragment of the bullet seems to
have exited in the back of the neck, close to the skull. Custer recalled seeing numerous bullet fragments in the
C3/C4 area in x-rays of the cervical spine. Thus, it seems likely that portions of that same bullet ended up in the
A bullet fragment exiting the back of the neck might have caused the hole under the collar of the President’s coat
that allegedly was created when the FB I took a control sample from that area. Dr. Humes described this hole in
his Warren Commissiontestimony. From Mr. Specter’s questions it appears Humes was supposed to answer the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 120
defect was only in the inner layer of the collar, but Humes states both layers were perforated “in an irregular
Mr. SPECTER: Taking 393 at the start, Doctor Humes, will you describe for the record what hole,
if any, is observable in the back of that garment which would be at or about the spot you have
described as being the point of entry on the President's back or lower neck.
Commander HUMES: Yes, sir. This exhibit is a grey suit coat stated to have been worn by the
President on the day of his death. Situated to the right of the midline high in the back portion of the
coat is a defect, one margin of which is semicircular. Situated above it just below the collar is an
additional defect. It is our opinion that the lower of these defects corresponds essentially with the
point of entrance of the missile at Point C on Exhibit 385.
Mr. SPECTER: Would it be accurate to state that the hole which you have identified as being the
point of entry is approximately 6 inches below the top of the collar, and 2 inches to the right of the
middle seam of the co at?
Commander HUMES: That is approximately correct, sir. This defect, I might say, continues on
through the material. Attached to this garment is the memorandum which states that one half of the
area around the hole which was presented had been removed by experts, I believe, at the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, and also that a control area was taken from under the collar, so it is my
interpretation that this defect at the top of this garment is the control area taken by the Bureau, and
that the reason the lower defect is not more circle or oval in outline is because a portion of that
defect has been removed apparently for physical examinations.
Mr. SPECTER: Now, does the one which you have described as the entry of the bullet go all the
Commander HUMES: Yes, sir, it goes through both layers.
Mr. SPECTER: How about the upper one of the collar you have described, does that go all the way
Commander HUMES: Yes, sir; it goes all the way through. It is not – wait a m inute, excuse me it is
not so clearly a puncture wound as the one below.
Mr. SPECTER: Does the upper one go all the way through in the same course?
Commander HUMES: No.
Mr. SPECTER - Through the inner side as it went through the outer side?
Commander HUMES: No, in an irregular fashion.
Both holes in the coat were also described by the Medical Panel ofHSCA (HSCA Appendix to Hearings, Volume
VII, p. 82). They stated that the second defect in the collar “did not penetrate the full thickness of the coat”.
(238) The second defect was artificially created in the FBI laboratory to obtain a sample of material
for subsequent studies. It is located just below the collar and 3.3 centimeters to the right of the
midline. It measures 0.9 centimeter in vertical diameter and 0.8 centimeter in transverse diameter.
This defect does not penetrate the full thickness of the coat and was identified in the testimony of
Special Agent R. A. Frazier of the FBI laboratory as the site of a control cloth sample removed and
analyzed by the laboratory.
I find it very unlikely, or at least incredibly stupid, that the FB I should have taken a control sample of the coat in
the collar, when they could have taken that sample virtually anywhere else on the coat. So I would suspect that
there actually was second a bullet hole in the coat under the collar, possibly only through the inner layer. That
suggests that a bullet fragment exited there, but it may have lost most of it’s velocity and penetrated only the inner
layer of the collar of the coat.
It is also evident from the witnesses of the second autopsy (e.g. Knudsen, Lipsey) that there was no connection
between the bullet path in the neck and the wound in the back as the autopsy report claimed. However, we might
assume that when the pathologists determined the abovementioned bullet path through the neck, they realized they
had to move the entrance wound in the back from below the scapula up to the base of the neck, so that they could
get the imaginary bullet path as close as possible to the actual bullet path there.
In summary, I think there were three wounds of entry and two wounds of exit on President Kennedy. One bullet
hit Kennedy in the front of the neck, injuring the trachea and the cervical spine; a portion of that bullet may have
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 121
exited in the back of the neck. A second bullet hit Kennedy in the back below his right shoulder. T his bullet did
not exit from the body. Fragments of the bullet may have caused some damage to the lungs and pleural cavities. A
third bullet hit Kennedy in the left temporal area and exited in the occipital region, possibly a little to the right of
the midline, and blowing out a large portion of the rear of the skull mainly on the right side. The right portion of
that blown out segment of the skull was recovered in the Presidential limousine, whereas the center portion of that
segment was missing at the completion of the first autopsy.
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 122
Figure 11Possible location of two shooters in Dealey Plaza and sequence of
shots during the assassination of President Kennedy and the wounding of Governor
Connally. The first two shots were fired almost simultaneously, one from the rear and
one from in front of the limousine hitting JFK in the back and throat, respectively, at
approximately Z-200 [top left]. They sounded like a single shot. The third shot, fired
from the rear, hit Governor Connally in his back at approximately Z-295 [top center].
The fourth shot, fired from the Southern Knoll, hit President Kennedy on the left side
of his head at Z-312 [top right].
THE SHOOTING IN DEALEY PLAZA
Based on the nature and location of President Kennedy’s and Governor Connally’s wounds, examination of the
Zapruder film, and other evidence in the case, I think this is what happened in Dealey Plaza on November 22nd,
1963 (Figure 11):
There were two gunmen. One was located on the Southern Knoll, i.e. the parking lot in the southwestern corner of
Dealey Plaza. This was the front shooter. The other was located on one of the upper floors of either the Texas
School Book Depository or the Dal-Tex Building. T his was the rear shooter. Each gunman fired two shots.
The two gunmen fired their first shot virtually simultaneously, giving rise to a firecracker like sound
(approximately at Zapruder frame No. 200). The first shot from the front shooter hit Kennedy in the front of the
neck, whereas the first shot from the rear shooter hit Kennedy in the back below his right shoulder. Then there
was a pause of about 5 seconds. The rear shooter then fired his second shot (approximately at Zapruder frame No.
295). The bullet narrowly missed Kennedy’s head, but hit Governor Connally in his back and inflicted all the
wounds he sustained. About a seco nd later (at Zapruder frame No. 312) the front shooter fired his second shot,
the bullet hitting Kennedy in the left temporal area and blowing out the right rear of his skull. Thus, the front
shooter fired the fatal head shot. Since the two shooters fired almost simultaneously the first time, there were only
three audible shots in total.
I won’t go into a lengthy discussion about the proposed scenario, since what actually happened in Dealey Plaza is
not the issue of this article. I am convinced that Governor Connally was not hit until about Zapruder frame No.
295, which is about a second before President Kennedy was hit by the fatal head shot. This is consistent with
Connally’s own testimonies about being hitafter he had turned toward his rear to look at the President (after he
had heard the first shot) and was in the process of turning forward again when he was hit. Many witnesses have
said that the two last shots came in rapid succession. I would think the short interval between the latter two shots
were the main reason why the Warren Commission proposed the single bullet theory. If they had said that the
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 123
second audible shot hit Connally, they would have had to determine the exact time (Zapruder frame) when he was
hit, which would have been too close to the fatal head shot for there to be only one shooter.
I also think that the shooter in front of the limousine was located in or around the Southern Knoll rather than on
the Grassy Knoll. On the Southern Knoll there would have few people in the vicinity, since most spectators
gathered alo ng the streets where the motorcade traveled. And with one shooter on the Southern K noll and one in
the TSBD or Dal-Tex Building, both shooters would be firing in the same general direction, making it difficult to
determine whether the bullets had entered in the back and exited in the front of the body, or vice versa. From the
Southern K noll the shooter would have been able to fire a third shot on the President if necessary.
The firing was apparently coordinated since both shooters opened fire at the same time. The simultaneous firing,
together with the peculiar echos in Dealey Plaza, made it very difficult for the witnesses there to determine from
where the shots had been fired. From the position of the two men in the limousine, it is clear that the second bullet
from the rear shooter only narrowly missed Kennedy’s head. If that bullet had hit him, it would have saved the
conspirators a lot of trouble in covering up the fact that it was the front shooter on the Southern Knoll that fired
the fatal sho t.
The abovementioned scenario is largely corroborated by FBI director Hoover in histelephone conversation with
president Johnson on November 29, 1963, one week after the assassination. They apparently knew there were
more than one shooter, since they use “they” rather than “he” (Oswald). And one of the shooters had to be in front
of the limousine, otherwise they co uldn’t have concluded that Governor Connally was hit because he got in
Kennedy’s way. That was a wrong conclusion, since Connally was actually hit from a shot from the rear. Anyway,
Connally was obviously hit by a shot that missed President Kennedy (not by the magic bullet). And was the fatal
head shot “the third shot which hit the President” or the third shot fired?
President JOHNSON: How many...how many shots were fired?
President JOHNSON: Any of them fired at me?
HOOVER: No. All three at the President....and we have them. Two of the shots fired at the
President were splintered... but they had characteristics on them so that our ballistics experts were
able to prove they were fired by this gun...the third shot which hit the President....he was hit by the
first and the third...the second shot hit the Governor. The third shot is a complete bullet....and that
ruled [sic] out of the President’s head...it tore a large part of the President’s head off...and, in trying
to massage his heart at the hospital....on the way to the hospital...they apparently loosened that and
it fell on to the stretcher. And we recovered that. And we have that. And we have the gun here also.
President JOHNSON: Were they aiming at the President?
HOOVER: They were aiming directly at the P resident. There is no question about that...this
telescopic lens which I’ve looked through, it brings a person as close to you as if they were sitting
right beside you and we also have tested the fact that you could fire those three shots....were
fired...within three seconds. There had been some story going around in papers and so forth that
there must have been more than one man....because....no one man could fire those shots in the time
they were fired. W e have just proved that by the actual test we’ve just made...
President JOHNSON: How did it happen they hit Connally...
HOOVER: Connally turned....to the President....when the first shot was fired....and I think in that
turning....it was were he got hit.
President JOHNSON: If he hadn’t turned....he probably wouldn’t have got hit?
HOOVER: I think that is very likely.
President JOHNSON: Would the President ’ve got hit the second one?
HOOVER: No, the President wasn’t hit with the second one....
President JOHNSON: I say, if Connally hadn’t been in his way?
HOOVER: Oh, yes...yes...the President would no doubt have been hit...
President JOHNSON: He would have b een hit three times....
HOOVER: He would have b een hit three times....[...]
BK Gjerde (2004): Second Autopsy of JFK 124
KENNEDY WAS KILLED IN A COUP D’ETAT
Although I have not stated it specifically before, it ought to be very evident that President Kennedy was
assassinated in a coup d’etat involving Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Secret Service and the Military,
particularly the Navy. Apparently Hoover and the FBI also assisted, particularly in the subsequent cover-up and
the framing of Oswald as the killer. Whether the CIA participated or not cannot be determined from the medical
The Secret Service, assisted by elements in the Navy and the Army, were in total control of the autopsies and the
autopsy materials, and they must therefore have been responsible for the forgery of the medical evidence. Hence,
it is reasonably to assume that they wanted to cover-up an assassination their own people had executed. And they
couldn’t have done that cover-up without the knowledge of and the consent of the new President. So it is
reasonable to assume that the former Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, and his associates were behind the
assassination and the coup. However, I will leave it to others to find out who actually was involved in the coup.
Admiral George C. Burkley, the President’s personal physician, seems to have played a key role in the
assassination and the subsequent medical cover-up, since he and his associates in the Navy and Secret Service
were in charge of the two autopsies at Bethesda and the handling of the autopsy materials. In fact, the
assassination seems to have originated from the Executive Office Building of the White House, where Vice
President Johnson, Admiral Burkley and the Secret Service had their offices.
Since the Secret Service and the FBI were involved in the conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, every piece of
evidence from the assassination these agencies processed must be looked upon with great suspicion. The other
evidence may be just as falsified as the medical evidence presented in this article.
What is particularly astonishing in this case, is the large number of people that must have been involved in the
assassination and the subsequent cover-up and/or must have known about it at that time and I the ensuing years.
How could so many people remain silent? Was it out of fear or out of conviction?
Copyright 2004 Bjørn K. Gjerde
First published: April 30, 2004