William Bruce Pitzer joined the US Navy in 1939. He saw action during the Second World War and the Korean War. He later joined the US Navy Medical Service Corps and was eventually appointed Chief of the Educational Television Division of the Naval Medical School. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, he was given a senior position at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland.
On 22nd November, 1963, an autopsy was carried out by Dr Joseph Humes on the body of John F. Kennedy. A few days after the assassination, a colleague, Dennis D. David, found Pitzer working on a 16-mm film, slides and black and white photos of the Kennedy autopsy. David noted that those materials showed what appeared to be an entry wound in the right frontal area with a corresponding exit wound in the lower rear of the skull. Jerrol F. Custer, an X-ray technician at the hospital, later stated that Pitzer had photographed the proceedings, including the military men who attended the Kennedy autopsy. It was also rumoured that Pitzer had copies of Kennedy's autopsy photographs.
According to Dr. Joseph Humes, Pitzer was not present at the autopsy. However, he admitted that the Bethesda Naval Hospital was equipped with closed-circuit television. This was the responsibility of Pitzer and over the years had used these facilities to make instructional movies. It is therefore possible that Pitzer had secretly made a 16-mm movie film of the autopsy on President Kennedys body, without being present in the autopsy room when it was carried out.
After 28 years in the US Navy Pitzer decided to retire. He told friends he had been offered a good job working for a network television station. It is believed that he intended to make a programme about the Kennedy assassination.
On 29th October 1966, Lieutenant Commander William B. Pitzer was found dead at the Naval Medical School, Bethesda. Investigations by the Naval Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation later concluded that a gunshot wound to the head had been self-inflicted.
During the weekend on which Pitzer died, the Kennedy family transferred formal possession of the materials relating to the late presidents autopsy to the National Archives. An investigation carried out by Dr. Cyril H. Wecht in 1993 revealed that some items were missing. This included Kennedy's brain that had been stored in a stainless-steel container.
FBI files on the investigation, released in 1997 under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that there was a strong possibility that Pitzer had been murdered. The paraffin tests of Pitzers right palm and back of hand were negative, indicating the absence of nitrate, therefore no exposure to gunpowder. FBI tests indicated "that the revolver must have been held at a distance of more than 3 ft when discharged".
Although there were links between Pitzer and the revolver found near the body, the FBI could find no record of Pitzer acquiring live ammunition. The autopsy showed both an entry and exit wound to the head. It also revealed a third wound that was not related to the gunshot to the head.
Pitzer had been busy writing notes to people in the time just before he was killed. However, he did not leave a suicide note. One of these notes was found on the floor near Pitzer's body. It bore a partial heel print that was not from the shoes Pitzer was wearing.
In May 1995, ex-Special Forces Colonel Daniel Marvin claimed to have been solicited by an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency to "terminate" William Pitzer. An interview with Marvin later appeared in the sixth episode of the television series The Men Who Killed Kennedy (November, 1995).