Michael L. Kurtz

Michael L. Kurtz

Michael L. Kurtz was educated at the University of New Orleans (B.A.), the University of Tennessee (M.A.) and Tulane University (Ph.D). Kurtz is currently professor of history at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Kurtz has taken a keen interest in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and has published several books on the subject including Lee Harvey Oswald: A Reappraisal (1980) and The Kennedy Assassination From a Historian's Perspective (1982).

Other books by Kurtz include The Challenging of America: 1920-1945 (1986), Earl K.Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics (1990), Louisiana Since the Longs: 1960 to Century's End (1998), Conflict and Consensus in the JFK Assassination Debates (2003) and The JFK Assassination Debates (2006).

Primary Sources

(1) Michael Kurtz, Crime of the Century (1982)

The huge, gaping hole in the right front of President Kennedy's head was almost certainly caused by an exploding bullet fired from the knoll. The rapid backward and leftward movement of Kennedy's head, as well as the backward and left-ward spray of brain tissue, skull bone, and blood are very strong indicators of a shot from the right front. Assuming that it is authentic, the acoustical tape actually recorded the sound of a knoll shot.

Eye and earwitness testimony furnishes further evidence of a shot from the knoll. Almost three-quarters of the witnesses who testified heard shots from the knoll during the shooting, and three people saw a flash of light there. Five witnesses smelled gunpowder in the knoll area. A witness saw a man fleeing the knoll immediately after the shooting, and two law enforcement officials encountered phony "Secret Service" men in the parking lot behind the knoll within minutes after the gunfire.

An assassin with even the slightest concern with making a successful escape would hardly have selected the sixth floor of the Depository Building for his firing site. He would have been trapped on an upper floor of the building. His only means of escape would have been to descend six flights of stairs and then weave his way through the crowd of spectators and police to freedom.

The Grassy Knoll, on the other hand, provided a natural and ideal sniper's position. The six-foot-high wooden fence and the abundance of shrubbery concealed him from the crowd, yet gave him an undisturbed line of fire at the president. The parking lot right behind the knoll gave him quick access to a getaway vehicle.

(2) Michael L. Kurtz, Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination From a Historians Perspective (1982)

As the motorcade wound onto Elm Street, the assassins got ready for their prearranged synchronized crossfire. When the limousine reached the agreed-on place, the equivalent of Zapruder frame Z177, the gunman on the lower floor of the Depository building fired. The shot struck the president high on his upper back, but it did not penetrate very far into him. The firecracker-like noise heard by some of the witnesses at this time suggested that the weapon had not fired at its full potential.

Less than two seconds later, at Zapruder frame Z208, the gunman in the sixth-floor southwest corner window fired. As he depressed the trigger, President Kennedy jerked forward and downward, apparently in response to the shot that had hit him in the back. The president's sudden motion moved his body out of the line of fire, the bullet instead slamming into Governor Connally's back.

At this point, the assassins had not achieved their goal of killing President Kennedy, but their insurance against failure had not yet been cashed. The marksman behind the Grassy Knoll's wooden fence moved the scope of his rifle and focused the crosshairs on John Kennedy's right temple. As the slow-moving limousine reached the right spot, Zapruder frame Z312, the knoll assassin squeezed the trigger, and the "dum-dum" bullet exploded against the right front side of Kennedy's head.

The gunman in the sixth-floor southeast corner window of the Depository also focused on the president's head. Now, at Zapruder frame 7.327, he fired the final shot in the carefully planned crossfire. Discharged less than a second after the Knoll shot hit the president, this shot entered the rear of the skull near the top of the head, and it exploded out of the huge hole in the front caused by the shot from the knoll.

(3) Michael L. Kurtz, Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination From a Historians Perspective (1982)

Intensive scientific analysis of the Zapruder film by a team of Life researchers, as well as by the Itek Corporation, reveals that the head actually undergoes a double movement. The optically enhanced computer analysis by Itek demonstrated that in frames Z312 through Z313, President Kennedy's head flies rapidly forward. This forward head movement is not apparent to the viewer of the film because the head moves faster than the speed of the film and camera. In frame 314 the head reverses direction and moves rapidly backward until it hits the rear seat in frames Z321...

The most plausible explanation for the forward and backward movement of the head and body is that of a double impact on the head, one shot fired from the rear, and the other from the front. The author has interviewed numerous physicians and veterans who served in Italy during World War II. He has also interviewed several veterans of the Italian Army who used Mannlicher-Carcano rifles and copper-jacketed ammunition. Collectively, these people have seen several thousand gunshot wounds inflicted by Mannlicher-Carcano rifles. Their unanimous experience has been that the type of head wounds suffered by President Kennedy, as well as the double movement of his head, could not possibly have been caused solely by Oswald's rifle....

The (Select House Committee on Assassinations) decided that the first shot was fired from the Depository at Zapruder frames Z157-161 and missed. The second shot, also from the Depository, came at Z188-191 and struck both Kennedy and Connally. The third shot, from the Grassy Knoll, came at Z295-296 and missed. The fourth shot, again from the Depository, came at Z312, struck President Kennedy in the head, and killed him. While the committee's scenario cannot be ruled out, several factors militate against it. First, the evidence against the single-bullet theory is overwhelming. Second, it hardly seems credible that an assassin firing from the knoll, only 50 feet from the president, missed, while one in the Depository, 300 feet away, hit his target. Third, the medical and ballistics evidence already covered argue strongly in favor of a hit from the Grassy Knoll.

A much more plausible scenario, one that fits the constraints both of the Zapruder film and tapes, as well as the medical and ballistics evidence, follows. The first shot, from the Depository, came at Zapruder frame Z177 and struck Kennedy in the back. The second shot, also from the Depository, struck Connally in the back. It came at Z208. The third shot, from the knoll, struck Kennedy in the head at Z313. The fourth and final shot, at frame Z327, came from the Depository and also hit Kennedy in the head. Even the committeee conceded the possibility of this sequence, although it did not place much credence in it.

(4) Michael L. Kurtz, Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination From a Historians Perspective (1982)

The CIA knew that the Cuban government employed assassins and that it had actually carried out an assassination in Mexico. On 19 March 1964, the intelligence agency learned that a "Cuban-American" who was somehow "involved in the assassination" crossed the border from Texas to Mexico on 23 November, stayed in Mexico for four days, and flew to Cuba on 27 November. The CIA also received information that on 22 November, a Cubana Airlines flight from Mexico City to Havana was delayed for five hours until a passenger arrived in a private aircraft. The individual boarded the Cubana flight, and it left for Havana shortly before 11:00 p.m.

These occurrences clearly arouse suspicions of an assassination plot engineered by the Cuban government under Fidel Castro. Various items of information gleaned from the recently declassified FBI and CIA assassination files reinforce those suspicions. On 24 November 1963, for example, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent an urgent telegram to the FBI legation in Madrid: "Spanish Intelligence possesses a report that attributes president's assassination to Castro and claims that Oswald was acting as Cuban agent." The CIA also received similar information from several sources. One claimed that the Chinese Communists and Castro had masterminded the assassination. Another source claimed that a "Miss T" heard Cubans talking about having the president killed. Yet another source in Spain told the CIA that local Cuban officials asserted that Oswald "had nothing to do with Kennedy's murder."