The President's (Warren) Commission has generated divisive findings that some declare are conclusive. However, repeated aspects of the of the single bullet theory do not find support from the Commission's own experts. Unfortunately, the lower evidentiary threshold of a "preponderance of evidence" did not require these discrepancies to enjoy additional review. If an unbiased and complete review occurred, it would regard all testimony by the Commission witnesses. They would not ignore relevant contending evidence to the advantage of their predisposed findings.
We must first assess the Commission's claims and notably these claims do not state any definitive pattern of the shots or their order. The Commission in effect only described what is possible and did not limit themselves to a single sequence of shots but three separate possible sequences but they state attempts to be as "precise as possible".i Ironically, Commission supporters often demand an exact sequence from those who oppose the Commission and it is not incumbent upon those who discover the Commission's many failings to correct them.
Now having defined the hypothetical nature of some Commission assertions, what do the ballistics experts state exactly? Are the conclusive claims about the Commission's findings reasonable? Robert Frazier of the FBI did conclude bullets found were fired by C2766 (Oswald's Carcano) "to the exclusion of all other weapons" three other Bureau agents corroborate his findings. However, when conducting testing simulations the Bureau and Secret Service agents fail to provide a substantial review. The vehicle used was not the Presidential limousine but a similar Secret Service vehicle; this would not provide the exact environment of the assassination and even slight differences could affect the testing outcomes.
Officials claimed any discrepancies were accounted for but feasible problems continued during the recreation. Two Bureau agents were used having "approximately" the same physical characteristics as Kennedy and Connally. They sat in the alternate car in the "relative positions" of Kennedy and Connally" and thus, two men similar to the victims sat in a similar car in similar positions.ii Yet none of that is exacting inquiry and allows for assumptions and substantial error of key measurements, angles, and trajectories. One does not need to be a ballistics expert to note the need for measurements of greater accuracy.
The standard for a recreation should include at least a majority of the original conditions and related items. The Commission recreations determined the "alinement (sic) of points of entry was only indicative and not conclusive that one bullet hit both men."iii Dr. Light, one of three Army Ballistics Branch experts believed the evidence was "insufficient" to form a conclusive determination and the two experts who supported the Commission hypothesis stated the Commission view was "probable", not conclusive.iv Additionally, these experts had only the information offered by the Commission and not all the evidence available.
The asserted chain of official custody often cited by some critics is not the only account offered to the Commission. Counsel Rankin states, "...the problem is difficult to determine because we have a statement from the hospital (Parkland) that the bullet that was more whole than the others was found on a stretcher which they brought the President in to the hospital on, and then we have testimony later that goes back on the same ground in which the person in charge of the stretcher and the attendant said this bullet was found under the blanket on the stretcher Governor Connally was on, and it is a complete..." Commissioner Russell interrupts, "I thought it was found on the stretcher of the President." Rankin affirms, "That was the first story..."v Despite the Commission crediting Parkland Engineer Tomlinson with finding the bullet, Tomlinson does not affirm which stretcher it was found upon.vi These conflicts offer a possible problem with the actual origins of the "single bullet".
Officials consult imprecise drawings with conflicting details in place of the original photographic evidence.vii Commission Lead Counsel Rankin states, "We have an explanation in the autopsy that probably a fragment came out of the front of the neck, but with the elevation the shot must have come from, and the angle, it seems quite apparent now, since we have the picture of where the bullet entered in the back, that the bullet entered below the shoulder blade to the right of the backbone, which is below the place where the picture shows the bullet came out in the neckband of the shirt in front, and the bullet according to the autopsy didn't strike any bone at all, that particular bullet, and go through."viii The Bethesda doctors' presumptions influenced Commission determinations and the earlier Parkland statements contending the single bullet theory were largely ignored.
Yet even autopsy officials supporting the official wound placement, dispute the single bullet theory.ix x Dr. James Humes and Dr. Pierre Finck both did not support the single bullet after reviewing the medical evidence.xi xii Dr. Ebersole and Ms. Spencer did not the support the wound placement and thus, the single bullet theory.xiii xiv Remaining fragments within the two victims and the lack of damage to the bullet do not support the Commission's findings and Governor Connally's clothing is laundered shortly after the assassination. Only a single official discovering and handling Commission exhibit 399 at Parkland Hospital could subsequently identify the bullet in evidence as the same projectile.xv The single bullet theory remains not a very conclusive idea.
The original statements of over twenty Parkland and Bethesda medical staff contend the wound placement and the essence of the single bullet theory. Different wounds would not support the official findings and they possibly support a second gunman and conspiracy. Dozens of additional witnesses are ignored who stated the Grassy Knoll area was the origin of at least one shot. The Commission exhibited a pattern of ignoring dozens of witnesses if they offered contending evidence and this includes Commission experts.
Repeated modern televised attempts to prove the single bullet proposition have claimed to solve all serious questions. However, like former officials many of the tests did not use exacting standards and if these tests truly desired accuracy, would they not actually use the building the crime allegedly occurred in? Would they not conduct at least cursory inspection of the Knoll area as a firing point based on so many witnesses? In my view, perhaps accuracy is not the overriding concern for some but ratings. The single bullet theory might be well known, yet it remains inconclusive.
i. Report of the President's Commission, Chapter II The Assassination, Number of Shots, pp. 110-117
ii. Report of the Pres. Com., Chapter II, The Trajectory, p.97
iii. Ibid, The Trajectory, The First Bullet that Hit, p. 107
iv. Ibid, p. 109
v. President's Commission Executive Session, January 27, 1964, p. 196
vi. Report of the Pres. Com., p.79-81
vii. Hearings of the Present's Commission, Volume XVI, Commission Exhibit 386, Schematic drawing made at Bethesda Naval Hospital from description of what Comdr. James J. Humes observed, p. 977
viii. Pres. Com. Exec. Session, Jan 27, p. 193
ix. Assassination Records Review Board Hearings, Dr. James Humes, p. 144
x. Hearings of the Pres. Com. Vol. VI, Dr. Gene Akin, Dr. Charles Baxter, Dr. Charles Carrico, Dr. William Clark, Dr. Don Curtis, Dr. Marion Jenkins, Dr. Ronald Jones, Dr. Robert McClelland, Dr. Malcolm Perry , Dr. Paul Peters, Dr. Kenneth Salyer, Nurse Diana Bowron, pp. 1-134
xi. Hearings of the Pres. Com., Vol. II, Testimony of Dr. Pierre Finck, p. 382
xii. Hearings of the Pres. Com., Vol. II, Testimony of Dr. James Humes, pp. 374, 375
xiii. Hearings of the House Select Comm. on Assassinations, Medical Panel, March 11, 1978, p. 3
xiv. ARRB, Deposition of Saundra Spencer, 1997, p. 38-58
xv. Hearings of the Pres. Com., Vol. XXIV, Rifle Bullet C1, p. 412