Francis X. O'Neill

Francis X. O'Neill served in the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) during the Second World War and according to an interview with William Matson Law "dropped some of the first bombs over Europe during the war."

O'Neill joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1957. He was assigned to the Baltimore office because of his military background.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November, 1963, he was sent to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland "to assume jurisdiction over any violations that might fall within our purview." James W. Sibert was also sent to the air base "so there would be two of us to be a witness to whatever might happen." J. Edgar Hoover then sent a message via Ed Tulley at FBI headquarters, to make sure that these two agents remained with Kennedy's body.

Sibert and O'Neill accompanied the coffin from the Andrews Air Force Base to Bethesda Naval Hospital. The agents also attended the autopsy carried out by Dr. Joseph Humes. Sibert and O'Neill wrote up a FD 302 report on what they witnessed.

Arlen Specter, the assistant counsel to the Warren Commission , interviewed both Sibert and O'Neill on 12th March, 1964. However, as a result of what they told Specter, they were not called to testify before Earl Warren and his committee. Their FD 302 report also became a classified document.

When Joseph Humes was interviewed by the Warren Commission he 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. The report eventually stated: "A bullet had entered the base of the back of Kennedy's neck slightly to the right of the spine. It traveled downward and exited from the front of the neck, crossing a nick in the left lower portion of the knot in the President's necktie."

When the FD 302 report was eventually declassified it became clear why Sibert and O'Neill were not asked to appear before the Warren Commission. It included the following passage: "During the later stages of this autopsy, Dr. Humes located an opening which appeared to be a bullet hole which was below his shoulders and two inches to the right of the middle line of the spinal column." As Jim Marrs points out in Crossfire: "If the President's wound was between the shoulder blades, this was lower than the position of the neck wound making for an upward trajectory - totally inconsistent with the idea of shots from sixty feet above and behind the President."

On 12th September, 1997, Frank O'Neill provided a deposition to the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). He was also interviewed by William Matson Law for his book, In the Eye of History: Disclosures in the JFK Assassination Medical Evidence (2005). O'Neill rejected the account given by Arlen Specter about the single-bullet theory: "You go back to the veracity of the individuals who were eye-witnesses - Governor Connally denied the single-bullet theory one hundred percent. He's an eyewitness. He's right there. This is the man who was there. He was the one who was hit. He should know what happened."

Francis X. O'Neill died on 3rd February, 2009.

Primary Sources

(1) James W. Sibert and Francis X. O'Neill, FD 302 report (22nd November, 1963)

During the latter stages of this autopsy, Dr. Humes located an opening which appeared to be a bullet hole which was below the shoulders and two inches to the right of the middle line of the spinal column.

This opening was probed by Dr. Humes with the finger, at which time it was determined that the trajectory of the missile entering at this point had entered at a downward position of 45 to 60 degrees. Further probing determined that the distance traveled by this missile was a short distance inasmuch as the end of the opening could be felt with the finger.

Inasmuch as no complete bullet of any size could be located in the brain area and likewise no bullet could be located in the back or any other area of the body as determined by total body X-Rays and inspection revealing there was no point of exit, the individuals performing the autopsy were at a loss to explain why they could find no bullets.

A call was made by Bureau agents to the Firearms Section of the FBI Laboratory, at which time SA Charles L. Killion advised that the Laboratory had received through Secret Service Agent Richard Johnson a bullet which had reportedly been found on a stretcher in the emergency room of Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Texas. This stretcher had also contained a stethoscope and pair of rubber gloves. Agent Johnson had advised the Laboratory that it had not been ascertained whether or not this was the stretcher which had been used to transport the body of President Kennedy. Agent Killion further described this bullet as pertaining to a 6.5 millimeter rifle which would be approximately a 25 caliber rifle and that this bullet consisted of a copper alloy full jacket.

Immediately following receipt of this information, this was made available to Dr. Humes who advised that in his opinion this accounted for no bullet being located which had entered the back region and that since external cardiac massage had been performed at Parkland Hospital, it was entirely possible that through such movement the bullet had worked its way back out of the point of entry and had fallen on the stretcher."

(2) William Matson Law, In the Eye of History (2005)

O'Neill went on to say there was no cutting of the body of the president until the X-rays were developed. "Humes pointed out to Sibert and I the many fragments of bullets and skull that was in the skull cavity." He does not mention seeing the sliver of what appears to be a bullet in the right part of the skull, which is quite obvious in the frontal X-ray (photo 7) and should have been mentioned in the 302 report that Sibert and O'Neill made from their notes-nor does O'Neill remember seeing this metal fragment when the ARRB showed him the Kennedy AP X-ray during his testimony in 1997, indicating, I believe, that the X-rays now in the archives are indeed composites, as suggested by Dr. David Mantik. Mantik has run tests on the X-rays and believes they are composites, i.e., forgeries. I believe O'Neill holds part of the key to this and gives confirmation to Mantik's suspicions, even though, because of his nature and background as a government agent and later State Congressman, he is incapable of believing that John E Kennedy was killed as a result of a government conspiracy. Plainly he has not studied the case in all aspects, e.g., the Dallas witnesses to the assassination, the paper trail of documents, the actions and inaction of the Secret Service in the days leading up to and including the aftermath of the assassination, and, of course, what happened at the Bethesda morgue. He holds keys he does not know he possesses, keys locked in memory.

The most stunning portion of the manuscript on Kennedy that O'Neill sent me was yet to come: "Humes pointed the many fragments of bullets or skull that was in the skull cavity. Parts of the brain were still within the cavity, but not much." (emphasis mine) This fits directly with Paul O'Connor's recollection that when President Kennedy was taken from the casket and the sheets were unwrapped from around the head, there was no brain to be removed; only fragments were left inside the cranium...

O'Neill says in his unpublished work that no cutting was done on the body until the X-rays were developed. "The X-rays were returned to a small room within the autopsy room and viewed." O'Neill goes on to say the head wound was "massive": "Humes pointed out to Sibert and myself the gaping wound at the right rear of the president's head and the tremendous damage done to the brain therein." He goes on to explain that Humes had started the autopsy by doing the Y-incision on the chest - "of course, after he dictated the normal procedural information relative to his observations in relation to the body." O'Neill then says that "Pierre Ruck from the crimes institute [Armed Forces Institute of Pathology] arrived at that time to help with the procedure." Humes then "indicated the bullet had fragmented upon hitting the skull" and removed two fragments of metal. "He measured one and told Sibert and me it was 7 by 2 millimeters. The other one was measured 1 by 3 millimeters." They placed the fragments in a glass jar. The agents then signed a receipt "for both missiles." O'Neill then claims that he and Sibert helped turn Kennedy's body over. "The first thing that everyone noticed was the large scar on the president's back due to an operative procedure."

(3) Frank O'Neill, deposition before the Assassination Records Review Board (12th September, 1997)

Q: And let me say, in the way of preface, these photographs have been identified as having been taken of President Kennedy's brain at some time after the autopsy - after they have been set in forrnalin. Can you identify that in any reasonable way as appearing to be the - what the brain looked like of President Kennedy?

A: No.

Q: In what regard does it appear to be different?

A: It appears to be too much.

Q: Could we now look at - let me ask a question. If you could elaborate a little bit on what you mean "It appears to be too much."

A: Well, from this particular photograph here, it would seem that the only section of tire brain which is missing is this small section over here. To me, that's not consistent with the way I recall seeing it. I do recall a large amount of what was identified to me as brain matter being on the back of Kellerman's shirt - I mean, Kellerman's jacket and Greer's jacket. And to me, that was a larger portion than that section there. This looks almost like a complete brain or am I wrong on that? I don't know.

Q: Could we take a look - if we could keep this one out for just a moment, and take a look at the ninety view, which is described as the superior (top) view of the brain, color photograph #50. Just so itt is clear to you, the basilar view is going to be the brain from the bottom. The superior view is going to be the brain from the top. And what I am showing you now would be the left hemisphere of the brain, and the portion aver here is the right hemisphere of the brain. The correlation is the portion down there. Does that look approximately the size of what you recall President Kennedy's brain being when it was removed front the cranium?

A: In all honesty, I can't say that it looks like the brain that I saw quite frankly. I - as described before, I did not recall it being that large. If other people say that this is what happened, so be it. To me, I don't recall it being that large. It could have been, but I can't swear to it on a stack of Bibles that it was.

(4) William Matson Law, In the Eye of History (2005)

Law: Were you surprised you were not called before the Warren Commission?

O'Neill: Yes. Because we had pertinent information and the information that was given to the Warren Commission as a result of our interview with Mr. Specter was not a hundred percent accurate.

Law: I've been told that there were officers of high rank in the autopsy room that night. Is that true?

O'Neill: There was the commanding officer of the hospital. There was a rear admiral. There was a General Godfrey McHugh, who was on the airplane with Kennedy and was his military attache; he was a one-star general. And there was a Major General Wehle who tried to enter and I kicked him out and he came back in and told me he was there to get another casket because the other one was broken. There was no one else.

Law: I have your testimony to the ARRB. They asked you about the bullet wound in the throat and you said, "Well, I question it. I'll tell you more later." Why did you question the bullet wound to the throat?

O'Neill: Because there was no such thing as a bullet wound in the throat at that particular time. We only learned about the bullet wound in the throat in particular - well, let me see-we learned about that after the doctors - not "we" - but it was learned by the doctors who performed the autopsy after they had called down to Dallas to speak to the hospital. Ah, I think it was Malcolm Perry?

Law: Malcolm Perry was the attending physician.

O'Neill: That's the only time that they became aware that there was a bullet wound in the throat.

Law: Do you believe there was a bullet wound in the throat?

O'Neill: I have no idea. It was not a question - I mean it was a question-there was not a question in my mind about a bullet wound in the throat, it just never came up. It was a tracheotomy, period, until we found out that it was performed over the bullet wound - over a wound-because they weren't sure it was a bullet wound at that time.

(5) William Matson Law, In the Eye of History (2005)

O'Neill and Sibert are adamant that the single-bullet theory is wrong. "That's Arlen Specter's theory," O'Neill told me. It's quite evident from my conversations with them that they have no respect for the one-time assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, now Senator from Pennsylvania. When I questioned Jim Sibert about the single-bullet theory and Arlen Specter, he went as far as to say, "What a liar. I feel he got his orders from above - how far above I don't know." When I suggested to O'Neill that his description to the ARRB of President Kennedy's hands being "clenched" was possible confirmation of Thorburn's position, he took pains to tell me, "his hands were sort of clenched, put it that way. Yes, in other words, they weren't laying down flat - I don't know whether they tried to arrange his hands or not, but they were in a clenched position. Not fully clenched at all." The single-bullet theory is key to the "lone-nut" scenario. If, in fact, a bullet did not hit Kennedy in the back, come out his throat, hit Governor Connally in the back, exit his right chest, slam into his right wrist, breaking the bone and cutting the radial nerve, and then pierce his left thigh and fall out in remarkably pristine condition onto a stretcher at Parkland Hospital, then there was more than one assassin and, hence, conspiracy. The single-bullet theory is the linchpin of the government case against Lee Harvey Oswald. If the theory is false, the lone-assassin concept crumbles to dust.

Governor Connally said, "it is not conceivable to me that I could have been hit by the first bullet, and then I felt the blow from something which was obviously a bullet, which I assumed was a bullet, and I never heard the second shot - didn't hear it. I didn't hear but two shots. I think I heard the first shot and the third shot." To the end of his life Connally rejected the single-bullet theory. And Frank O'Neill said: "You go back to the veracity of the individuals who were eye witnesses - Governor Connally denied the single-bullet theory one hundred percent. He's an eyewitness. He's right there-this is the man who was there. He was the one who was hit. He should know what happened."

Darrell Tomlinson, who found the bullet at Parkland Hospital, refused to identify it as Warren Commission Exhibit 399 and insisted that the bullet he found came from neither Connally's nor Kennedy's stretcher." There is evidence that the bullet was actually on a stretcher used that day by little Ronald Fuller. The FBI report by Sibert and O'Neill stated, "a bullet entered a short distance... the end of the opening could be felt with a finger." At the Clay Shaw trial in 1969, Pierre Finck said, "The back wound's depth was the first fraction of an inch."

More metal remained in Connally's body, in the wrist and thigh wounds, than is missing from CE 399.

Surely this is enough evidence to damn the single-bullet theory!

(6) Frank O'Neill, unpublished manuscript on the John F. Kennedy assassination.

Immediately upon viewing the body it was evident that a tracheotomy had been performed. Humes, viewing the body, indicated that some type of surgical procedure had been performed in the head region, possibly cutting of hair- or removal of some slight tissue to view the massive wound in the right rear of the president's head. The information relative to the surgical procedure was made by the physicians not by the FBI agents. We merely reported what we heard.

(7) Jefferson Morley, The Man Who Did Not Talk (November, 2007)

There have also been interesting developments from the crime scene, perhaps the most important of which may seem like a no-brainer: The famous 26-second Zapruder home movie of JFK's murder contains original undoctored photographic imagery of the assassination. This authentication was deemed necessary by the Assassination Records Review Board, created by Congress to oversee the release of JFK records, because a vocal faction of JFK conspiracy theorists in the 1990s started claiming that the film had been surreptitiously altered to hide evidence of a conspiracy. (Their theory refuted, these conspiracy theorists abandoned the JFK field for greener pastures of 9/11 speculation.) However, this isn't to say that there aren't some legitimate and uncomfortable questions about assassination-related photographs.

"The only caution I have in the photographic record concerns the JFK autopsy material," says Richard Trask, a photo archivist in Danvers, Massachusetts who has the world's biggest collection of JFK assassination imagery, and has written two books on the subject. "That is an area that always makes me pause. What was happening during the autopsy if there was a cover-up or just incompetence, I don't know. It is the only area of the JFK story that I have some doubts about."

As well he should. The JFK medical evidence is worse than a mess -- it is a documented national scandal that awaits decent news coverage. The new evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the photographic record of Kennedy's autopsy has been tampered with by persons unknown. The sworn testimony and records developed by the Assassination Records Review Board in the late 1990s allow no other conclusion.

Among the key post-Stone revelations in the JFK medical evidence:

Autopsy photographs of Kennedy's body are missing from government archives, according to sworn testimony from doctors and medical technicians involved in the autopsy. The origins of other autopsy photos in the collection cannot be determined.

Two FBI agents who took notes during the autopsy gave detailed sworn testimonies rejecting the so-called single bullet theory which girds the official story that Oswald alone killed Kennedy.

Dr. James Humes, the chief pathologist at JFK's autopsy, admitted under oath that he destroyed a first draft of his autopsy report. Humes had previously only admitted to destroying his original notes.

Dr. Gary Aguilar, a San Francisco ophthalmologist who has written about the autopsy, is emphatic. "The medical evidence is really stark evidence of a cover-up in my view," he says. "The story is so extraordinary that it is hard for some people, especially in mainstream media organizations, to come to grips with it. There's just no doubt that there were very strange things going on around the president's body that weekend."

Sounds like a paranoid fantasy? More than a few of the people who participated in the JFK autopsy have sworn to it.

Saundra Kay Spencer was a technician at the Navy's photographic laboratory in Washington. She developed the JFK autopsy photos on the weekend after Kennedy's death. She kept her oath of secrecy for 34 years. When she spoke to the ARRB in 1997, Spencer displayed the efficiency of a career military woman. She was well prepared with a sharp memory for the details of her involvement in the amazing events of November 22-24, 1963. Her testimony, after reviewing all the JFK autopsy photographs in the National Archives, was unequivocal. "The views [of JFK's body] we produced at the [Naval] Photographic Center are not included [in the current autopsy collection]," she said. "Between those photographs and the ones we did, there had to be some massive cosmetic things done to the President's body."

FBI agent Francis O'Neill was present during the autopsy and took notes. In 1997, he also viewed the photographs. Referring to an autopsy photograph showing the wound in the back of Kennedy's head, O'Neill said, "This looks like it's been doctored in some way. I specifically do not recall those -- I mean, being that clean or that fixed up. To me, it looks like these pictures have been. . . . It would appear to me that there was a -- more of a massive wound. . ." O'Neill emphasized he was not saying the autopsy photographs themselves had been doctored but that the wounds themselves had been cleaned up before the photograph was taken.

James Sibert, another FBI agent present at the autopsy, had a similar reaction to the photos. "I don't recall anything like this at all during the autopsy," he said under oath. "There was much -- well, the wound was more pronounced. And it looks like it could have been reconstructed or something, as compared with what my recollection was."

What both men were objecting to was the lack of a big hole in the back of JFK's head which would be somewhat indicative of a so-called blowout wound caused by a shot from the front.

The retired FBI agents were especially scathing about the single bullet theory positing that one bullet caused seven non-fatal wounds in Kennedy and [Texas] Governor Connally and emerged largely undamaged on a hospital stretcher.

They took notes on the autopsy as Dr. Humes examined Kennedy's body. Both said the autopsies concluded the bullet that hit Kennedy in his back had not transited his body. But chief pathologist Humes took another view in his autopsy report, writing that the bullet had emerged from Kennedy's throat and gone on to strike Governor Connally. But Humes's credibility is undermined by the ARRB's discovery that he destroyed not only his notes, but also his first draft of the autopsy report without ever revealing its contents or even existence.

Sibert later told a JFK researcher of the single bullet theory: "It's magic, not medicine."