Gordon Arnold was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1941. After completing his education he joined the United States Army and was based at Fort Wainwright in Alaska.
Arnold was home on leave on 22nd November, 1963, and decided to take his movie camera to Dealey Plaza in order to film the visit of President John F. Kennedy. While walking by the Grassy Knoll he was stopped by a man claiming to be a member of the Secret Service. He later told Jim Marrs: "I was walking along behind this picket fence when a man in a light-colored suit came up to me and said I shouldn't be up there. I was young and cocky and I said, "Why not?" And he showed me a badge and said he was with the Secret Service and that he didn't want anyone up there. I said all right and started walking back along the fence. I could feel that he was following me and we had a few more words. I walked around to the front of the fence and found a little mound of dirt to stand on to see the motorcade."
Arnold claimed that the first shot was fired from behind him. After the firing had finished, Arnold claimed that a policeman with a gun forced him to hand over the film in his camera. Arnold returned to Fort Wainwright and was never interviewed by the Warren Commission or the House Select Committee on Assassinations about what he had seen on 22nd November, 1963.
After leaving the army Arnold became an investigator for the Dallas Department of Consumer Affairs. It was not until the summer of 1978, that Arnold decided to speak about his experiences in Dealey Plaza on 22nd July, 1963. Arnold gave an interview to Earl Goltz, a reporter with the Dallas Morning News. The article appeared on 27th July, 1978. Interviews with Arnold also appeared in Reasonable Doubt (Henry Hurt) and Crossfire (Jim Marrs).
Some researchers have doubted Arnold's testimony but it has been supported by the testimony of Ralph Yarborough who told a newspaper reporter from the Dallas Morning News: "Immediately on the firing of the first shot I saw the man you interviewed throw himself onto the ground. He was down within a second of the time the shot was fired, and I thought to myself, 'There's a combat veteran who knows how to act when weapons start firing.' "
Gordon Arnold died in 1997.
Gordon L. Arnold, a former Dallas soldier, said he was stopped by a man wearing a light-colored suit as he was walking behind a fence on top of the grassy knoll minutes before the assassination. Arnold, now an investigator for the Dallas Department of Consumer Affairs, was not called by the Warren Commission and has not been interviewed by the House Assassinations Committee.
Arnold said he was moving toward the railroad bridge over the triple underpass to take movie film of the presidential motorcade when this guy just walked towards me and said that I shouldnt be up there.
Arnold challenged the mans authority, he said, and the man showed me a badge and said he was with the Secret Service and that he didnt want anybody up there.
Arnold then retreated to the front of the picket fence high up on the knoll just to the west of the pergola on the north side of Elm Street.
As the Presidential Limousine came down Elm towards the triple underpass, Arnold stood on a mound of fresh dirt and started rolling his film.
He said he felt the first shot come from behind him, only inches over his left shoulder, he said.
I had just gotten out of basic training, Arnold said, In my mind live ammunition was being fired. It was being fired over my head and I hit the dirt.
Arnold, then 22, said the first two shots came from behind the fence, close enough for me to fall down on my face. He stayed there for the duration of the shooting.
His fence position, under the shade of a tree, may have locked away his story for 15 years as the Warren Commission and later other assassination researchers scanned photographs and movie footage of Dealey Plaza for witnesses to the shooting.
The first two shots that Arnold heard did not come from the Texas School Book Depository Building because you wouldnt hear a whiz go over the top of your head like that. He said, I say a whiz you didnt really hear a whiz of a bullet, you hear just like a shock wave. You feel it . . . You feel something and then a report comes right behind it. Its just like the end of a muzzle blast.
He said he heard two shots, and then there was a blend. For a single bolt action, he had to have been firing darn good because I dont think anybody could fire that rapid a bolt action.
The next thing I knew someone was kicking my butt and telling me to get up. Arnold said, it was a policeman. And I told him to go jump in the river. And then this other guy - a policeman - comes up with a shotgun and he was crying and that thing was waving back and forth. I said you can have everything Ive got. Just point it someplace else.
Arnold took his film from the canister and threw it to the policeman. It wasnt worth three dollars and something to be shot. All I wanted them to do was to take that blooming picture (film) and get out of there, just let me go. That shotgun and the guy crying over there was enough to unnerve me for anything.
Two days later, Arnold was on a plane reporting for duty at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He hadnt given police in Dealey Plaza his name and never told his story to authorities, because I heard after that there were a lot of people making claims about pictures and stuff and they were dying sort of peculiarly. I just said, well, the devil with it, forget it. Besides, I couldnt claim my pictures anyway; how did I know what were mine?
It is perhaps significant that Arnold never intended for his identity to be associated with the story. He sought no publicity, he says, for he was fearful of being connected with the incident. He agreed in 1978 to talk with Earl Golz, then of the Dallas Morning News. According to Arnold, Golz agreed not to identify him. However, when the story was published, Arnold was fully identified, even in terms of his job with the consumer-affairs department in Dallas. Golz has confirmed this to the author, explaining that at the last minute his editor refused to run the story without giving Arnold's identity.
Support for Arnold's claim to have been on the grassy knoll came from a surprising source. After the story appeared in the Morning News, former U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough, who was riding with Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson two cars back from the President at the time of the ambush, got in touch with the newspaper to say that he had observed just such an incident: "Immediately on the firing of the first shot," Senator Yarborough told the reporter, "I saw the man you interviewed throw himself onto the ground. He was down within a second of the time the shot was fired, and I thought to myself, 'There's a combat veteran who knows how to act when weapons start firing.' "
I was walking along behind this picket fence when a man in a light-colored suit came up to me and said I shouldn't be up there. I was young and cocky and I said, "Why not?" And he showed me a badge and said he was with the Secret Service and that he didn't want anyone up there. I said all right and started walking back along the fence. I could feel that he was following me and we had a few more words. I walked around to the front of the fence and found a little mound of dirt to stand on to see the motorcade... Just after the car turned onto Elm and started toward me, a shot went off from over my left shoulder. I felt the bullet, rather than heard it, and it went right past my left ear... I had just gotten out of basic training. In my mind live ammunition was being fired. It was being fired over my head. And I hit the dirt. I buried my head in the ground and I heard several other shots, but I couldn't see anything because I had my face in the dirt. (His prone position under the trees on the knoll may explain why Arnold did not appear in photographs taken of the knoll at that time.) I heard two shots and then there was a blend. For a single bolt action (rifle), he had to have been firing dam good because I don't think anybody could fire that rapid a bolt action... The next thing I knew, someone was kicking my butt and telling me to get up. It was a policeman. And I told him to go jump in the river. And then this other guy - a policeman - comes up with a gun. I don't recall if it was a shotgun or what. And he was crying and that thing was waving back and forth. I felt threatened. One of them asked me if I had taken any film and I said yes. He told me to give him my film, so I tossed him my camera. I said you can have everything, just point that gun somewhere else. He opened it, pulled out the film, and then threw the camera back to me. All I wanted to do was get out of there. The gun and the guy crying was enough to unnerve me.
Arnold's presence on the Grassy Knoll has been questioned by some researchers because he doesn't appear in photographs taken that day. His position well under the overhanging trees on the Knoll left him in deep shadow. He was seen, however, by at least one person in the presidential motorcade. Former senator Ralph Yarborough, who was riding in the same car as Vice President Johnson, confirmed Arnold's position in 1978...
Corroboration of Arnold's story may have come in 1982 with discovery of a figure in the background of a snapshot made at the instant of the fatal head shot to Kennedy by a woman standing on the south curb on Elm Street.