Harold A. Rydberg

Harold A. Rydberg

Harold A. Rydberg was born in Chicago on 25th April 1940. He was raised in Sarasota, Florida and in 1958 he joined the United States Navy. After completing his training he became a paramedic. In 1959 he was posted to the Naval Hospital on Parris Island in South Carolina

In 1961 he attended the Medical Illustration School at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. He graduated in 1962 after completing a didactical course in advanced anatomy and physiology, surgical procedures and the multi-level disciplines of the medical arena. Rydberg remained at Bethesda where he became head of the Medical Illustration Department.

In March 1964, Rydberg had a meeting with Captain John Stover, the Commanding Officer of the Navy Medical School. Stover explained that Joseph Humes and Thornton Boswell were about to testify before the Warren Commission. Rydberg was ordered to prepare medical illustrations of the wounds sustained by John F. Kennedy. When he asked Humes why they were not using the photographs taken at the autopsy, he was told they were considered to be "too shocking" and had been sealed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and were therefore not available for testimony.

Over the weekend of 14th/15th March 1964, Rydberg worked in a small office at Bethesda with Joseph Humes and Thornton Boswell. Rydberg was not allowed to take in any photographs of John F. Kennedy. Boswell told him: "that they had no photographs, no X-rays, that I was going to have to do this one verbally... We'll tell you what to draw."

After leaving the United States Navy Rydberg worked as art director at Alabama University School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina. Harold A. Rydberg now teaches at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is also the author of the book, The Head of the Dog (2001).

Harold Rydberg was interviewed by William Matson Law for his book, In the Eye of History: Disclosures in the JFK Assassination Medical Evidence (2005). He believes that Joseph Humes and Thornton Boswell were forced to give false testimony before the Warren Commission: "Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell were facing retirement. They didn't want to lose their retirement. They both gained another rank, too."

Primary Sources

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

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: You know Dr. Finck a little?

Rydberg: Oh, yeah.

Law: Okay. Let's go down the line here. Since you know these people and I don't

Rydberg: Finck was not at my wedding (laughs).

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?

Rydberg: Yes.

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?

Rydberg: Yes.

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.

Rydberg: Exactly

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?

Rydberg: Yes.

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?

Rydberg: Yes.

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.

Law: Let's go to Finck.

Rydberg: The only thing I know about Colonel Finck - I did meet him, and he also reviewed these drawings - but I don't remember him being up there with Galloway and Captain Stover and Boswell and myself and Humes. But he was a very strong-armed do-it-my-way-or-no-way type colonel in the army. Special Forces and all the rest of this garbage. Intelligence, you know. That's an oxymoron (laughing). He was the one that they called to do the covers.

Law: The covers?

Rydberg: Well, look at him. He's in Calley. He's in Kennedy. He's in Pitzer.

Law: It does seem rather strange.

Rydberg. The denominator weaves a pretty strong cloth.

Law: He does seem to pop up in.

Rydberg: Any time you want it covered or you want somebody to blame, call Finck. Aptly named. He was a very deadly man, I'll put it that way. I've seen other officers like him, people in Special Forces. Like Liddy, that Nixon had put in his hand in a flame and burn it? That's about like him. He was one you wouldn't turn your back on. I wouldn't.

Law: Well, that sounds ominous.

Rydberg: I'll probably hear from him. If I do, I'll e-mail you (laughing)...

Law: Is there anything for the historical record that you would like people to know?

Rydberg: For the historical record - it was one of the biggest cover-ups to enhance two people's futures: Johnson and Hoover.