In 1960 Captain Humes became the chief of anatomic pathology at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. The following year he became the director of the laboratories at the National Medical Center. In that capacity, he conducted an autopsy of President John F. Kennedy.
When interviewed by the Warren Commission Humes insisted "that the bullet penetrated the rear of the President's head and exited through a large wound on the right side of his head." His testimony gave support to the report's infamous single-bullet theory.
Humes retired from the United States Navy in 1967 and became clinical professor of pathology at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
In 1996 Humes was interviewed by Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). His testimony conflicted with that of Pierre Finck and Thornton Boswell. As one newspaper pointed out: "Two doctors, J. Thornton Boswell and James Humes, told the review board that the brain exam occurred two or three days after Kennedy's death. Initially, Humes told the Warren Commission that he, Boswell and a third pathologist, Dr. Pierre Finck, were present when the brain was examined. But when he testified to the review board in 1996, Humes did not list Finck among those present. Boswell maintains Finck was not there. On the other hand, Finck says the brain exam did not occur until much later."
The conflicting testimony caused Douglas Horne, chief analyst for military records, to conclude in a 32-page memo that two separate brain exams may have been conducted, "contrary to the official record as it has been presented to the American people... If true, Dr. Finck's account of a brain exam separate and distinct from the first one would mean that Drs. Humes and Boswell were present at two different brain exams".
James Humes died of lung cancer in a Florida hospital in 1999.
About four o'clock Saturday morning, Doctor James Humes felt relieved as the hearse bearing John Kennedy's embalmed body and reconstructed head departed from Bethesda Naval Hospital. It had been a grueling night for Commander Humes, made all the more demanding on his professional skills by the prestigious nature of his autopsy victim and by all the high-ranking military and naval brass present to witness and supervise his work. Now that it was all over, Humes could relax. He had just one minor detail to complete before he could go home. He telephoned Dr. Malcolm Perry in Dallas, since Dr. Perry had been the surgeon in charge of President Kennedy's emergency treatment at Parkland Hospital.
Dr. Perry's revelation that the president had a bullet hole in his throat must have astounded Dr. Humes. At the autopsy, the three pathologists observed only the large tracheotomy incision in the neck. The reason was simple. Dr. Perry had sliced right through the bullet hole as he made the tracheotomy. Thus, no bullet hole was visible by the time the autopsy began. But now, James Humes faced a serious dilemma. He and his colleagues had failed to include one of Kennedy's wounds in their autopsy findings. Dr. Perry's description of the wound as very small and round sounded like the description of an entrance wound. But with no exit wounds anywhere in the body and no bullets found still in the body, Humes was puzzled. It appeared that both the bullet that entered the president's back and the one that entered his throat had not exited, yet had somehow disappeared.
After thinking about this, Dr. Humes telephoned Dr. Perry again to obtain a more precise description of the throat wound. During their conversation, Humes had a sudden inspiration and shouted, "so that's it!" He went home, attended a school function with his son, and slept for several hours. Then he took his original autopsy notes, stained with John Kennedy's blood, and burned them in his fireplace. Then he drew up a new autopsy protocol based on the new information he had gleaned from Dr. Perry The new report stated that a bullet had entered Kennedy's neck and exited from his throat. Even though there was only slight medical evidence to confirm this, Dr. Humes concluded that it provided the only reasonable explanation for the wounds in Kennedy's body.
Arlen Specter: How would you prefer to do it, Dr. Humes?
James Humes: I would prefer to discuss the wounds, two wounds, we saw posteriorly and the wound, other wound, of the skull before going to that.
Arlen Specter: That is fine, Dr. Humes, do it any way you find convenient. I will give you the other drawing and you can do them both together. Let the third drawing be marked as Commission Exhibit No. 388. (The drawing referred to was marked Commission Exhibit No. 388 for identification.)
James Humes: The wound in the low neck of which I had previously begun to speak is now posteriorly - is now depicted in 385, in 386 and in 388. The second wound was found in the right posterior portion of the scalp. This wound was situated approximately 2.5 centimeters to the right, and slightly above the external occiptal protuberance which is a bony prominence situated in the posterior portion of everyone's skull. This wound was then 2 1/2 centimeters to the right and slightly above that point. The third obvious wound at the time of the examination was a huge defect over the right side of the skull. This defect involved both the scalp and the underlying skull, and from the brain substance was protruding. This wound measured approximately 13 centimeters in greatest diameter. It was difficult to measure accurately because radiating at various points from the large defect were multiple crisscrossing fractures of the skull which extended in several directions. I have noted in my report that a detailed description of the lines of these fractures and of the types of fragments that were thus made were very difficult of verbal description, and it was precisely for this reason that the photographs were made so one might appreciate more clearly how much damage had been done to the skull.
Arlen Specter: Were the photographs made available then, Dr. Humes, when Exhibit 388 was prepared?
James Humes: No, sir.
Arlen Specter: All right.
James 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 of those.
Arlen Specter: Did you submit those yourself immediately after they were taken, Dr. Humes?
James Humes: Again, one of the senior people present, I believe my own Commanding Officer, Captain Stover, took care of tuning 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. These, then, were the three wounds which were quite obvious at the time of the examination.
Colonel Finck testified: "President Kennedy was, in my opinion, shot from the rear. The bullet entered in the back of the head and went out on the right side of his skull. He was shot from above and behind." Commander James J. Humes, senior pathologist and director of laboratories at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, who acted as chief autopsy surgeon, concurred in Colonel Finck's analysis. He compared the beveling or coning effect to that caused by a BB shot which strikes a pane of glass, causing a round or oval defect on the side of the glass where the missile strikes and a belled-out or coned-out surface on the opposite side of the glass. Referring to the bullet hole on the back of President Kennedy's head. Commander Humes testified: "The wound on the inner table, however, was larger and had what in the field of wound ballistics is described as a shelving or coning effect."After studying the other hole in the President's skull, Commander Humes stated: "we concluded that the large defect to the upper right side of the skull, in fact, would represent a wound of exit." Those characteristics led Commander Humes and Commander J. Thomton Boswell, chief of pathology at Bethesda Naval Hospital, who assisted in the autopsy, to conclude that the bullet penetrated the rear of the President's head and exited through a large wound on the right side of his head.
James Humes: I was summoned from my home late in afternoon of that day by the Surgeon General of the Navy and the Commanding officer of the Naval Medical Center, and the Commanding Officer of the the Naval Medical School, and much to my surprise, was told that the body of the late President was being brought to our laboratories and that I was to examine the President and ascertain the cause of death.
Gary Cornwell: Approximately what time of the day or night did the autopsy begin?
James Humes: Well, the President's body, as I recall, arrived about 7:30 or 7:35 the evening and after some preliminary examinations, about 8 or 8:15.
Gary Cornwell: Just very briefly, in what order or sequence did you conduct the autopsy?
James 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 thorax.
Gary Cornwell: Would it be accurate to state that the photographs and the X-rays were taken not only to document the condition of the body at the time you examined it, but also to provide a record of that event?
James Humes: I think that's obvious, yes, sir..
Gary Cornwell: You may have heard part of the testimony which reflected that the panel reviewed your report of the autopsy and, of course, as you know, the panel also spoke with you on one prior occasion. With respect to the ultimate findings that this committee will, of course, need to wrestle with, there is apparently, from the testimony today. One possible major area of disagreement, respect to the location of a bullet wound in the back of the President's head or possibly, depending upon the total body of the evidence, whether there was one or more than one bullet holes in the back of the Presidents head. That is principally what we wish to discuss with you at this time. Let me ask you first, your autopsy report reflected that there was one and only one bullet wound to the back of the President s head, that it did enter in the rear, exited the front. Is that report accurate on those three points, to the best of your knowledge?
James Humes: Absolutely.
In answer to our major question as to whether shots came from a direction other than the Book Depository Building, indicating other gunmen and a conspiracy, we have eye - or ear witnesses inside the building saying the shots came from there. Now, Mr. Holland who was on the railroad overpass, here, insists that he heard a shot from here. And in Mark Lane's book. Rush to Judgment, he writes that fifty-eight out of ninety people who were asked about the shots thought they came from the grassy knoll.
Now, expert opinions differ. All the experts agree that the shots could have come from the rear. But where some experts, such as Dr. Humes, say bluntly that they did, others - such as Dr. Wecht - find it highly unlikely.
CBS News concludes that the most reasonable answer is that the shots came from the Book Depository building, behind the President and Governor Connally. But if the shots came from the rear, and if there were only three of them, can all the wounds be accounted for? The President was struck at least twice. Governor Connally was wounded in the chest, the wrist, and the thigh. One bullet was recovered intact, as well as two large fragments. The Warren Commission concluded that of the three bullets fired, one missed entirely, one struck the President's skull and fragmented, and the third - this one - passed through the President's neck and went on to inflict all the governor's wounds. This is the single-bullet theory. And so we must ask: Could a single bullet have wounded both President Kennedy and Governor Connally?
We asked Arlen Specter, assistant counsel to the Commission, and now district attorney of Philadelphia, and the author of the single-bullet theory.
Arlen Specter: The possibility of one bullet having inflicted the wounds on both the President's neck and the Governor's body came in a very gradual way. For example, the first insight was given when Dr. Humes testified, based on his autopsy findings. And at that time it was made clear for the first time that the bullet that went through the President's neck hit no bone, hit no solid muscle. And, according to Dr. Humes, came out with great velocity.
Now, it was at that juncture that we wondered for the first time what happened to the bullet. Where did the bullet go? The probability is that it went into Governor Connally, because it struck nothing else in the car. That is the single most convincing piece of evidence that the one bullet hit both men, because looking down the trajectory, as I did through Oswald's own rifle, and others did too, the trajectory was such that it was almost certain that the bullet which came out of the President's neck with great velocity would have had to have hit either the car or someone in the car.
At Parkland Hospital a bullet had obligingly rolled off an unoccupied stretcher. It was a bullet from a Manlicher-Carcano, and the Commission promptly identified it as 'The Magic Bullet'. Commission Exhibit 399, as the bullet was marked, was claimed to have rolled out of Governor Connally's thigh wound and lain on the stretcher until the stretcher was later disturbed. Since the Governor still had fragments of a bullet lodged in his thigh, the idea of a bullet rolling out of the wound was not supported. The hospital staff were unconvinced that Connally had ever occupied the stretcher in question, Darrell C. Tomlinson, the senior technician, testifying to his 'best recollection', that it had rolled off a stretcher 'wholly unconnected with the one of Governor Connally'. And then there was CE399 itself. The bullet was in pristine condition (see photograph) and even a witness 'friendly' to the Warren Commission, Commander Humes, the surgeon who led the Bethesda autopsy team, could not accept it. Questioned by Arlen Specter, a Commission lawyer, about CE399 in relation to all Governor Connally's wounds, Humes replied, 'I think that extremely unlikely . . .' Aware that the Parkland doctors had spoken of fragments of bullet remaining in Connally's thigh, Humes said, '. . . I can't conceive of where they came from this missile.' CE399 was in such pristine condition that had they weighed it then added the weight of the fragments removed from Governor Connally's wrist and thigh they would have been looking at a total weight greater than that of an unused bullet of that type. But, regardless of all this, the Warren Commission clung to its single-bullet theory, for without it, their entire case for asserting that Lee Harvey Oswald had, alone and unaided, shot and killed President Kennedy was totally demolished.
As a consequence of the desperate need to maintain their position on CE399, 'the Magic Bullet', the Warren Commission refused to accept evidence from a reliable witness which might have thrown light on how the pristine bullet really found its way to Parkland Hospital. Seth Kantor, a member of the White House Press Corps, rocked the Commission's boat when he reported having met Jack Ruby, who was to slay Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement car park of Dallas Police Headquarters but 48 hours later, at Parkland Hospital less than an hour after the President was shot. He knew Jack Ruby and reported in some detail their handshake and conversation. Could Ruby have been there for the purpose of planting CE399? The Commission were not disposed to finding out. They ruled Kantor was mistaken.
Three military pathologists agree they conducted an autopsy of Kennedy's entire body at Bethesda immediately after it was flown back from Dallas. But the doctors offer conflicting recollections about the timing of a subsequent brain exam.
Two doctors, J. Thornton Boswell and James Humes, told the review board that the brain exam occurred two or three days after Kennedy's death. Initially, Humes told the Warren Commission that he, Boswell and a third pathologist, Dr. Pierre Finck, were present when the brain was examined. But when he testified to the review board in 1996, Humes did not list Finck among those present. Boswell maintains Finck was not there.
On the other hand, Finck says the brain exam did not occur until much later. In a memo he wrote to his commanding officer 14 months after Kennedy was assassinated, Finck said Humes did not call him until Nov. 29, 1963 - seven days after Kennedy's death - to say it was time to examine the brain. In the memo, Finck said all three pathologists examined the brain together and that "color and black-and-white photographs are taken by the U.S. Navy photographer."
The conflicting testimony caused Douglas Horne, chief analyst for military records, to conclude in a 32-page memo that two separate brain exams may have been conducted, "contrary to the official record as it has been presented to the American people."
"If true, Dr. Finck's account of a brain exam separate and distinct from the first one would mean that Drs. Humes and Boswell were present at two different brain exams," he writes.
Humes was ill and could not be interviewed. In a telephone interview, Boswell reiterated that the brain was examined at the initial autopsy of the body and only once more at a separate brain exam a few day later.
"I doubt very much that we would have called him (Finck) back over for that," Boswell said.
Boswell added that the only photos of the brain were taken at the autopsy.
This conflicts with testimony the board obtained from Navy photographer John Stringer, who said he took pictures of the brain two or three days after the autopsy. Stringer also testified that official photos of the brain preserved at the archives do not match those he remembers taking. He cites discrepancies in the angles from which they were shot and the type of film used.
In addition, former FBI Agent Francis O'Neill Jr., who watched doctors remove Kennedy's brain the night he died, told the review board that the archives' photos do not resemble what he saw. "I did not recall it (the brain) being that large," O'Neill said.
Throughout the years, doctors who treated Kennedy in Dallas said his head wound was about the size of a large egg at the back of the head, behind his right ear. The Dallas doctors told reporters then that they believed Kennedy was shot from the front -- a belief that conflicted with the Warren Commission's later conclusion of a single shooter firing from behind.
Humes, chief pathologist for the autopsy at Bethesda, agreed there was a wound to the right rear of Kennedy's head, but he told the board that it was a small entry wound, not an egg-sized exit wound. In contrast to observations in Dallas, Humes said there also was massive damage to the top of Kennedy's skull and right side forward of the ear.
I served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board for just over three years, from August 1995 through September 1998. During that period of time the Review Board granted permission for the staff to take the depositions of 10 persons involved in the autopsy on President Kennedy: as a result, today any American citizen can go to the “Archives II” facility in College Park, Maryland and obtain copies of the transcripts of the sworn testimony of the 3 autopsy pathologists; both of the official Navy photographers; both Navy x-ray technicians; a Navy photographer’s mate who developed some of the post-mortem photography; and both of the FBI agents who witnessed the autopsy.
The Review Board’s charter was simply to locate and declassify assassination records, and to ensure they were placed in the new “JFK Records Collection” in the National Archives, where they would be freely available to the public. Although Congress did not want the ARRB to reinvestigate the assassination of President Kennedy, or to draw conclusions about the assassination, the staff did hope to make a contribution to future ‘clarification’ of the medical evidence in the assassination by conducting these neutral, non-adversarial, fact-finding depositions. All of our deposition transcripts, as well as our written reports of numerous interviews we conducted with medical witnesses, are now a part of that same collection of records open to the public. Because of the Review Board’s strictly neutral role in this process, all of these materials were placed in the JFK Collection without comment.
I have been studying these records for 10 years now. The reason I am here today is because contained within our deposition transcripts and interview reports is unequivocal evidence that there was a U.S. government cover-up of the medical evidence in the Kennedy assassination, yet most members of the public know nothing about this. Let me sound a cautionary note here: no single statement of any witness stands alone. Before it can be properly evaluated, the recollections of each witness must be compared to all of his own previous testimony, and to that of other witnesses—before the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and even with independent researchers—as well as all available documentary evidence.
Having said this, after considerable study of all of these records, I am firmly convinced that there is serious fraud in the medical evidence of the Kennedy assassination in three areas:
The Autopsy Report
The evidence that a draft autopsy report—as well as a first signed version—existed prior to the report in evidence today is both easy to understand, and undeniable.
The First Draft
On November 24, 1963 the chief pathologist at President Kennedy’s autopsy, Dr. James J. Humes, signed a typed statement he had prepared that read as follows:
“I, James J. Humes, certify that I have destroyed by burning certain preliminary draft notes relating to Naval Medical School Autopsy Report A63-272 and have officially transmitted all other papers related to this report to higher authority.” [Author’s emphasis]
On two occasions before the HSCA, in March of 1977 and in September of 1978, Dr. Humes maintained that he had destroyed notes. He repeated this claim in an interview published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in May of 1992. The reasons given in each case were that the notes were destroyed because they had on them the blood of the President, which Dr. Humes deemed unseemly.
The ARRB General Counsel, Jeremy Gunn, had reason to suspect that an early draft of the autopsy report had also been destroyed, based upon an analysis of inconsistencies between Dr. Humes’ previous testimony about when he wrote the draft report, and existing records documenting its transmission to higher authority. After extremely thorough and persistent questioning by the Review Board’s General Counsel in February of 1996, Dr. Humes admitted, under oath, that both notes from the autopsy, and a first draft of the autopsy report (which had been prepared well after the autopsy’s conclusion and had no blood on it), had been destroyed in his fireplace.
The First Signed Version
A simple study of the receipt trail for the transmission of the autopsy report reveals that the first signed report is missing as well.
On April 26, 1965 the Secret Service transferred the autopsy photographs and x-rays, and certain vital documents and biological materials to the custody of the Kennedy family at the request of Robert F. Kennedy. That receipt lists, among other things:
“Complete autopsy protocol of President Kennedy (orig, & 7 cc’s)—Original signed by Dr. Humes, pathologist.”
Evelyn Lincoln, secretary to the late President Kennedy, signed for receipt of all of the items the same day.
Incredibly, on October 2, 1967 the head of the Secret Service signed a letter transferring the original of CE 387, the autopsy report placed in evidence by the Warren Commission, to the National Archives; the National Archives signed a receipt for CE 387 the next day, October 3, 1967.
Warren Commission Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin, in a declassified transcript of a January 27, 1964 Executive Session of the Commission, discusses details of the content of “the autopsy report” which are not consistent with the details of the report in evidence today, CE 387, thus confirming that the first signed version contained different conclusions.
The dilemma presented here can best be summarized by the following rhetorical question: How could the U.S. Secret Service transfer the original JFK autopsy protocol to the National Archives (or to anyone else, for that matter) on October 2, 1967 when they had previously given it to the Kennedy family on April 26, 1965? The answer, of course, is that there were two separate reports. The first smooth, or signed version, was given to the Kennedy family at the specific request of Robert Kennedy, and has disappeared. The second signed version is in the National Archives today.
The destruction of both the first draft and the first signed version of the autopsy report are clear evidence of the ongoing malleability of the autopsy report’s specific conclusions during the initial 2 weeks following the conclusion of the post mortem examination. Furthermore, it is clear that when Dr. Humes testified under oath to the Review Board that there was only one autopsy report, and that he only signed one autopsy report, he committed perjury.
[For those interested in obtaining copies of the relevant documents in the receipt trail, or in studying the likely content of the first two versions of the autopsy protocol, I will make copies of the relevant research memo available at the end of the press conference.]
Two Brain Examinations
My most remarkable finding while on the Review Board staff, and a totally unexpected one, was that instead of one supplemental brain examination being conducted following the conclusion of President Kennedy’s autopsy, as was expected, two different examinations were conducted, about a week apart from each other. A thorough timeline analysis of available documents, and of the testimony of autopsy witnesses taken by the ARRB, revealed that the remains of President Kennedy’s badly damaged brain were examined on Monday morning, November 25, 1963 prior to the state funeral, and that shortly thereafter the brain was turned over to RADM Burkley, Military Physician to the President; a second brain examination, of a fraudulent specimen, was conducted sometime between November 29th and December 2nd, 1963—and it is the photographs from this second examination that are in the National Archives today.
Pertinent Facts Regarding the Two Examinations are as follows:
First Brain Exam, Monday, November 25th, 1963
Attendees: Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell, and Navy civilian photographer John Stringer.
Events: John Stringer testified to the ARRB that he used both Ektachrome E3 color positive transparency film, and B & W Portrait Pan negative film; both were 4 by 5 inch format films exposed using duplex film holders; he only shot superior views of the intact specimen—no inferior views; the pathologists sectioned the brain, as is normal for death by gunshot wound, with transverse or “coronal” incisions—sometimes called “bread loaf” incisions—in order to trace the track of the bullet or bullets; and after each section of tissue was cut from the brain, Stringer photographed that section on a light box to show the damage.
Second Brain Exam, Between November 29th and December 2nd, 1963
Attendees: Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell, Dr. Finck, and an unknown Navy photographer.
Events: Per the testimony of all 3 pathologists, the brain was not sectioned, as should have been normal procedure for any gunshot wound to the head—that is, transverse or coronal sections were not made. The brain looked different than it did at the autopsy on November 22nd, and Dr. Finck wrote about this in a report to his military superior on February 1, 1965. The color slides of the brain specimen in the National Archives were exposed on “Ansco” film, not Ektachrome E3 film; and the B & W negatives are also on “Ansco” film, and originated in a film pack (or magazine), not duplex holders. The brain photos in the Archives show both superior and inferior views, contrary to what John Stringer remembers shooting, and there are no photographs of sections among the Archives brain photographs, which is inconsistent with Stringer’s sworn testimony about what he photographed.
Further indications that the brain photographs in the Archives are not President Kennedy’s brain are as follows:
Two ARRB medical witnesses, former FBI agent Frank O’Neill and Gawler’s funeral home mortician Tom Robinson, both recalled vividly that the major area of tissue missing from President Kennedy’s brain was in the rear of the brain. The brain photos in the Archives do not show any tissue missing in the rear of the brain, only in the top.
When former FBI agent Frank O’Neill viewed the Archives brain photographs during his deposition, he said that the photos he was viewing could not be President Kennedy’s brain because when he viewed the removed brain at the autopsy, the damage was so great that more than half of it was gone—missing. He described the brain photos in the Archives as depicting a ‘virtually intact’ brain.
Finally, the weight of the brain recorded in the supplemental autopsy report was 1500 grams, which exceeds the average weight of a normal, undamaged male brain. This is entirely inconsistent with a brain which was over half missing when observed at autopsy.
The conduct of a second brain examination on a fraudulent specimen, and the introduction of photographs of that specimen into the official record, was designed to do two things:
Until I discovered that the photographs in the Archives could not be of President Kennedy’s brain, the brain photos had been used by 3 separate investigative bodies—the Clark Panel, the Rockefeller Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations—to support the Warren Commission’s findings that President Kennedy was shot from above and behind, and to discount the expert observations from Parkland hospital in Dallas that President Kennedy had an exit wound in the back of his head.
In my opinion, the brain photographs in the National Archives, along with Dr. Mantik’s Optical Densitometry analysis of the head x-rays, are two irrefutable examples of fraud in this case, and call into question the official conclusions of all prior investigations.
[For those who wish detailed verification of this hypothesis, the 32-page research paper on this subject that I completed in 1998 will be made available at the end of this press conference.]
The Head Wound in the Autopsy Photographs
I would like to conclude with some brief closing remarks about the autopsy photographs at the National Archives.
The images of the President’s head wound are inconsistent with both the Parkland hospital observations, and the Bethesda autopsy observations of almost every witness present in the morgue, as follows:
The blowout, or exit wound in the right rear of the head seen in Dallas is not present in the autopsy images, which show the back of the head to be intact except for a very small puncture interpreted by the HSCA as a wound of entry. Furthermore, the autopsy photographs of the head show extensive damage to the top of the head, and to the right side of the head, which was not seen in Dallas during the 40 minutes that the President was observed in trauma room one at Parkland hospital.
Bethesda Naval Hospital
Most witnesses from the autopsy also recall a very large wound at the back of the head, which, as stated above, is not shown in the autopsy photographs. The additional damage many autopsy witnesses recall at the top of the head, and on the right side, is present in the photographs—but not the damage they remember at the rear. One prominent witness, Dr. Ebersole (the radiologist at the autopsy), testified under oath to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel in 1978 that the large head wound in the autopsy photos is more lateral and more superior than he remembered, and said that he recalled the back of the head being missing at the autopsy.
Three Possible Explanations
There are 3 possible explanations for these inconsistencies:
Many JFK researchers have long suspected photographic forgery, but extreme caution is warranted here because all analyses of the autopsy photographs done to date have used “bootleg” materials, and not the original materials in the Archives. The “bootleg” photographs do represent the actual views of the body in the Archives collection, but they are badly degraded, suffer from contrast buildup, and are photographic prints—whereas any true scientific study of these images for authenticity should use the color positive transparencies and B & W negatives in the Archives as subjects, not multi-generational prints of uncertain provenance.
I personally examined magnified and enhanced images of the Archives autopsy photographs at the Kodak lab in Rochester, New York in November of 1997, and I saw no obvious evidence of photographic forgery; but I am the first person to admit that I am not an expert in photographic special effects techniques circa 1963.
I am of the opinion that it is likely that the back of the head appears intact in the autopsy photographs either because the loose scalp was manipulated for photographic purposes, or because the photos in question were taken after a partial reconstruction by the morticians. I was steered toward this opinion by the ARRB testimony of the two FBI agents who witnessed the autopsy. Both men found the images of the intact back-of-the-head troubling, and inconsistent with the posterior head wound they vividly remembered. Frank O’Neill opined under oath that the images of the back-of-the-head appeared “doctored,” by which he meant that the head had been put back together by the doctors. James Sibert testified that the head looked “reconstructed” in these images—he actually used the word “reconstructed” at his deposition.
No final conclusions can yet be drawn about exactly why a large defect in the rear of the head is not shown in the autopsy photographs, when one was seen by so many witnesses. It is sufficient to say that something is terribly wrong here, and that it is an area that requires more study with the original materials. Thank you for your attention.
Law: How were the doctors acting when you were alone with them? What was their manner?
Rydberg: They were quite comfortable. Boswell's always been like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs with its tail on the floor. Boswell's always been jumpy and quiet. Doesn't want to talk about anything. And Captain Humes saw me at Chapel Hill, because I had released another article. I looked up from my desk and here's Captain Humes. He's a civilian at this time, wanting to go to dinner. So, we went to dinner, and I had made sonic mention in another article about doing the drawings verbally, and that he had burned the notes and retyped them because he didn't want blood on the autopsy report.
Law: Did you believe that story?
Rydberg: I know Dr. Humes, and yes, I do. I believe Dr. Humes did retype them and his rationale was because they were messy And if you've been in an autopsy, you know that it is quite messy. But l really think Colonel Finck was definitely was the forensic ballistics expert. He was the only forensics expert who was there at the autopsy, wanted to make sure that that was an exit and an entrance wound (on the head). And not like I drew later...
Law: Give me a little personal profile on Dr. Boswell as you knew him.
Rydberg: Dr. Boswell was a very good pathologist, a very good doctor. But not one who wanted the limelight, or any confrontation.
Law: He wanted to stay out of everything?
Rydberg: Very quiet, yes. I was not as friendly with him, but I knew him. Dr. Humes was very laughing, joking, jovial. I had to go through Humes so I could teach anatomy in the autopsy room in the morgue. I've seen many autopsies. At least three hundred. And he was the head of the department, so, of course he gave me permission to bring my class into the autopsies. All the autopsies. Except that one.
Law: It's been stated before that Dr. Boswell and Dr. Humes were basically pencil pushers.
Rydberg: Well, Dr. Humes was the head of pathology and would be the one who would do the autopsy on Kennedy, because he was the department head. He was basically in the administrative part, but he was a doctor. Boswell was head of the labs, but also assisted Humes. They were the heads of the departments, and then there was the head of medical illustration. They didn't want just the-they wanted the heads-literally (laughs).
Law: Do you feel that these fellows knew very well where those head wounds were?
Law: Because, even before the Records Review Board, they seemed confused as to where the wounds on the head were.
Rydberg: So was Dr. Perry at Parkland.
Law: Is it credible in your estimation, knowing these people the way you did, that, even all these years later, they were so uncertain as to where bullets either entered or exited Kennedy's body?
Rydberg: I really believe honestly that if you go to where the Warren Commission started, LBJ started the Warren Commission, Hoover fed the Warren Commission every bit of information, and Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell, Dr. Perry all the rest of them who might know what really happened-know that the evidence that was saved could not be backed up by anybody. And Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell were facing retirement. They didn't want to lose their retirement. They both gained another rank, too.
Law: Do you think they were the type of people who would just go with the flow?
Rydberg: I think it was a chess game and they were checkmated. I think that always sat wrong with Dr. Humes, that he had to knuckle under.
Law: In essence, there was no choice?
Rydberg: No choice.
Law: So take me back to the dinner that you had with Dr. Humes.
Rydberg: We ate at the Carolina Inn. The UNC owned it. The UNC owns all of Chapel Hill, or did at the time. He wanted to make sure that I knew, from his viewpoint, that those autopsy reports were accurate. He burned them because there was too much of a mess on them. Too much blood. He was trying to back up without causing more clouds over him than I had caused in the article.
Law: So, you wrote this article basically giving the story of him burning the notes, and at some point after that, he looked you up?
Rydberg: He just showed up and just came right in the office.
Law: So how was the atmosphere at the dinner?
Rydberg: Oh, it was fine. We laughed and joked, had a drink and had dinner, in fact we had roast beef. He picked up the tab.
Law: Did he seem sincere?
Rydberg: I knew Dr. Humes well, and we laughed and joked a lot. We didn't go out drinking together, we just didn't do that, but on a professional level he was very open, very warm, very real. But playing a game of chess, sometimes, one gets checkmated. The better part of valor is to do what he did.
Law: In a best-selling book on this case, twenty something years ago it was stated that Dr. Humes would try to get information to people through subtle use of the language. You had to read the language carefully to understand what doctor Humes was saying. Would he be that kind of person?
Rydberg: Yes. And he'd know you knew if he was using that kind of language.
Law: So you knew him as a person who would do this?
Law: That's interesting because he made that curious statement-when he was asked by the House Select Committee to describe where the bullets entered and exited [the head l, he said: "It is impossible for the bullet to either have entered or exited from other than behind." And that's a strange statement to make hearing that it couldn't have done anything but go in the back of the head or come out the back of the head.
Law: So, this would be a Op-off to you in essence, that Dr. Humes was implying something without coming out and saying it?
Rydberg: Yes. He was saving his name and face for the people he knew would know what he was [doing]. If you knew Dr. Humes, you'd know that he could speak that way. And you'd know what he was saying. I talked with him that night at dinner. There was nothing in that cerebral vault or the brain cavity to turn that bullet if it came in from the back and came out the right side. Brain matter has the consistency of scrambled eggs. There's nothing to turn the bullet, Why would it have come out the right side?
Law: Did you discuss this with Humes?
Law: What was his reasoning?
Rydberg: That the findings were that the entrance was at the rear and the exit was at the front.
Law: Have you read either of the doctors' testimony before the Records Review Board?
Law: Do you find it strange that both had trouble finding the entrance wounds?
Rydberg: No. I don't find that. If you know Colonel Finck-we'll have to plan on his factoring in on this one-usually, an exit wound is tile larger of the two. But when you've got a bullet coming in from the right, and you've seen that on the Zapruder film-where Kennedy flies back, his head flies back-it really fragments. The bullet-it was like a dumdum bullet.
Law: Well, according to history, Lee Harvey Oswald used a 6.5 millimeter.
Rydberg: Lee Harvey Oswald didn't hit him from the front.
Law: According to history, the shot didn't come from the front and it wasn't a fragmenting bullet.
Rydberg: Read my book (Head Of The Dog). I've placed everything where it belongs. First of all, that quote unquote "pristine" bullet they found from the neck wound that went through Connolly - I'll put it that way-was not a bullet fired at the time. It was part of Oswald's but it was Ruby who put the bullet on the gurney, which was even the wrong gurney.
Law: That would seem to be how it is to me. Give me a little bit of the feeling for the personalities of these doctors.
Rydberg: Humes was an honorable man. Boswell was also honorable, but he was very-if you want the weak link, that would have been Boswell. He would have buckled.
Law: He would have caved in to the pressure, in essence?
Rydberg: He would have. But Humes would not.
Law: As you've read the testimony before the Records Review Board the doctors had trouble pinpointing the entrance wounds in the head.
Rydberg: And that's another way of speaking. They're saying the same thing"It really wasn't there, it was really in the back, but I'm not going to say that, so I'll have to say it this way." And read between the lines.
Law: These were qualified doctors in your opinion.
Rydberg: All the doctors - any doctor that goes through medical school has about a month of forensics.
Law: So, basically, this double-speak is just that. Trying to tell you something without telling it to you?
Rydberg: Exactly And I know exactly what Dr. Humes was doing. I've read that testimony, and I know exactly what he was saying. You get a bunch of confused old men on the Warren Commission, which they all were, plus the other assistants they had Jerry Ford - that would be enough to confuse anybody. And they're going to come out by not saying it.
Law: So, you feel that when Humes was testifying before the Warren Commission he was trying to leave the true record without coming out and hitting them in the face with it.
Rydberg: Exactly. Because he couldn't jeopardize his retirement, he couldn't jeopardize knowing full well that Hoover was the one feeding the Warren Commission, and Johnson was watching. They only got the information that Hoover wanted them to have. And they also knew, by the time the Select Committee started, that hall of all the evidence was missing, including the brain. Humes would say: "Let me review the evidence." And they would have stated, "We no longer know where it is." In other words, you're on a floating boat on thin ice. So they had to go in just about like I did. Verbally reconstruct it.
Law: When you were having the dinner, did he say anything about the autopsy?
Rydberg: We touched lightly on the autopsy, and it was just a typical Y autopsy. An incision from the shoulder down to the sternum, straight down to the pubic area. A lot of minutiae, so to speak. They did a full autopsy on Kennedy, not a partial - it says in some of the books I've read that it was a partial. Jacqueline only wanted a partial. But it was a full autopsy, or they never would have found out about his adrenal glands, which had nothing to do with the assassination. But the more rhetoric they could throw into the report the less likely you are to single out the important parts. Now, I've seen that "death face" on Kennedy in the morgue in Litton's book, which is another funny thing how he got all that information and I was never allowed to see it. But Humes was an honorable man and he was not going to go down quiet. He was going to leave messages for other people to see what he wanted to say but couldn't.