JFK: The smoking gun
JFK: The Smoking Gun (2013)
The awful truth is staring you in the face. 10/10
I have had a casual interest in the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy since I was a child and saw the great (as I remember it) documentary/mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald in “On trial: Lee Harvey Oswald” (I’ll call him “LHO” from now on). Even though the details of that documentary now escape me, I do recall my disbelief that the jury assembled for the ‘trial’ of Oswald found that he was solely responsible for the assassination (as per the findings of the Warren Commission). It would be interesting to revisit that documentary in the wake of this seemingly definitive documentary. Lastly, I also remember seeing Oliver Stone’s “JFK” but the details of that escape me too. Yet again, it would be interesting to revisit that drama in the wake of the puzzle seemingly being solved by this current documentary.
So, as a casual observer of this conspiracy theory laden event par excellence, I have to say that “JFK: The smoking gun” is either the starting point or the end point of anyone who wants answers to the mystery of “Who shot JFK?”. For some, definitive proof will never be enough, so this documentary should start as a jumping off point for them…as in they MUST heed the findings here, lest they seem obstinate. For example, I think it was in “On trial: Lee Harvey Oswald” where I first heard of “the magic bullet theory”. The effect of this theory is to lead one to suppose that any scenario where LHO’s bullet is supposed to have hit the targets it was meant to is so ludicrous as to be ruled out of hand. “JFK: The smoking gun” proves that the bullet DID in fact do what it was supposed to have done and it only seems “magic” if the assumptions that you make about the layout of the car are false. So, assuming that the layout presented in “JFK:TSG” is correct, there’s just no way in the world you can credibly dismiss that bullet as having “magic” properties. It’s just ludicrous to assert that it is anymore.
“JFK:TSG” is presented by an Australian former detective Colin McLaren. He treats the assassination as a ‘cold case’ and goes through The Warren Commission’s report, in the wake of reading a theory by Howard Donahue (a ballistics expert) later documented in Bonar Menninger’s book “Mortal error: The shot that killed JFK”. In the wake of JFK’s assassination, Donahue was involved in a television network’s recreation of the assassination to ascertain whether LHO could indeed have fired off three shots in under six seconds. Donahue could…but after three attempts…suggesting that LHO is unlikely to have done so, seeing as he only had one attempt to do this. So, in essence, McLaren’s documentary is basically overkill for those who think ballistics science is inadequate…for whatever reason. McLaren finds testimony to support Donahue’s theory.
The basic findings of this documentary are as follows:
01) LHO fired two shots at JFK. His first missed the target BUT, via a ricochet, JFK was hit by debris, which prompted his comment of “My God, I’m hit”.
02) LHO fires off his last shot. It hits his target and also injures Governor Connally. Due to the seating layout, the ballistics stack up such that there is nothing “magic” about the bullet’s trajectory. It fits the injuries sustained by both occupants of the car.
03) In a car behind JFK, Secret Service agent George Hickey, arming himself with a rifle in the wake of the (potentially) non-lethal shot on JFK picks up an automatic rifle in order to counter-attack the would be assassin but is knocked back by his car accelerating away, accidentally firing off a shot…the shot which impacts with devastating results on JFK’s head.
04) The Secret Service, knowing full well that one of its own killed JFK, systematically covers up this truth at each and every opportunity#.
05) The Warren Commission also is a white wash, with Assistant Counsel Arlen Spector actively derailing any opportunity for the truth to become known about the Secret Service’s involvement.
I would add here that what I outline here ties in neatly with LHO famously claiming “I’m just a patsy”. He’d know full well that the lethal shot was not fired by him. So, he could either claim that the kill shot was not his own…or that he did not in fact fire any shots (which the other documentary on this event which I reviewed after I posted this – “JFK: The lost bullet” – proves to be the case…he was denying all involvement in the assassination).
Where there is scope for the conspiracy theorists, I’m sure, is the extent to which the Secret Service’s killing of JFK was accidental, as well as the usual stuff about who LHO was involved with. This documentary does not answer those questions…it assumes – probably quite rightly – that the lethal shot was accidental and does not delve into who LHO was involved with…perhaps due to that being so murky as far as definitive answers go.
I’m satisfied that the account presented here is accurate and best fits the facts…the ballistics evidence and the testimony of the time all reinforce the account…in ways which the Warren Commission’s findings don’t. It was staggering to read how unprofessional the Secret Service agents were the day before the assassination and it’s an open question as to how justified their cover up was in the wake of this tragedy. # Not raised (conspiracy theory, anyone?) is if the Secret Service themselves orchestrated the assassination of LHO due to his being knowledgeable on the lethal shot not being fired by himself. As a casual follower of this historic event and its aftermath, I’m not sure if that theory is regularly trotted out or not. But given the fact that McLaren finds good evidence to show that the Secret Service actively sabotaged the investigation into JFK’s assassination, they would have the motive to murder LHO as well.
Interestingly, George Hickey waited over two years before suing Menninger over the contents of his book. It was dismissed due to exceeding the statute of limitations. When the book was later re-released in paperback, he sued again. The publisher etc. settled out of court…Hickey had ground out a ‘win’ for himself. I’m not sure that ‘victory’ is good for history. I hope that Jackie Kennedy knew the truth of what happened too and that it was ‘only’ the public who were ‘protected’ from this awful truth.
The review above is pretty much a re-edited version of my IMDB review for this movie, which is, as yet, not up yet (having posted it yesterday, 05/11/2013). Since IMDB has a word limit for reviews (roughly under 1,000 words), I couldn’t include all the comments I made in my notes for this film…so, below, I’ll rectify that:
* As I mentioned earlier, for me, as a non-expert or scientist, I’m happy to take as authoritative Donahue’s findings, ballistics wise, which do settle the matter for me. E.g. his findings that the devastating shot on JFK could not have come from LHO’s rifle. The science behind that is the fact that the entrance wound on the lethal shot was – from memory – around 6mm. A bullet creates an entrance wound slightly larger than its own size. LHO’s bullets were 6.5mm, therefore if they provided the kill shot, the entrance wound in JFK’s head would have been BIGGER than than 6.5mm…therefore LHO did not make the kill shot.
* To expand on my comments about the Secret Service, McLaren provides evidence that they were drinking into the early hours of the morning on the day of the assassination…to 5:00 a.m., I believe. No doubt this would have impaired their ability to react effectively when the attempt was made on JFK’s life. That appalling lack of professionalism also meant that George Hickey (who was not guilty of such ill discipline) was pushed into a role he was not trained for, due to other agents being unable to perform their duties that day.
– Secret Service Agent Sibert O’Neill (edit…looks like I conflated two people here: F.B.I. agents James Sibert and Francis O’Neill) took notes during JFK’s autopsy (hopefully I have the right agent here as my notes aren’t clear to me now) and Assistant Counsel Arlen Spector of the Warren Commission questioned him on this outside the Commission. If I can try and reconstruct my notes here, Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman made sure he got all such notes and medical evidence (as in autopsy photographs from the medical staff). When Spector learned that O’Neill had taken notes, he made sure not to have him testify before the Commission. Kellerman was the last person to be in possession of all that kind of evidence…the medical staff had handed over all pictures etc to him…and those documents and that evidence disappeared from the record after Kellerman took possession of them.
– Whilst Kellerman (?) seems to have been actively involved in derailing the Commission, Warren himself seemed earnest to find the truth…Warren demanded to question Ralph Yarborough, a politician in the motorcade who smelled gunpowder in his vicinity at the time of the shooting (thus putting into doubt the LHO as the lone gunmen scenario). Yarborough never testified, despite Warren’s demand that he appear. Despite this discovery, McLaren does declare that the Warren Commission was not interested in finding the truth. The Yarborough demand though does complicate issues…for me at least…as far as to what extent Warren himself was trying to railroad the findings.
– The Secret Service also broke the law by breaking the chain of evidence in the Dallas hospital, by insisting that JFK’s body be flown to Washington before an autopsy had been performed…even though the doctor at the scene insisted that this law be observed. Later on in the process, one of the doctors, I believe, is told (by the Secret Service?) to fabricate evidence by planting bullet fragments consistent with LHO’s munitions in an x-ray of JFK’s skull…to cover up the fact that the bullet fragments in the original x-ray suggested bullet fragments consistent with the kind of munitions used by the Secret Service detail that day. Unsurprisingly, the Secret Service rifles used that day in Dallas were withdrawn…the implication being that this was done so in order not to tie their weapons to the ones which caused JFK’s fatal injury. McLaren also finds evidence of the Secret Service lying that they did not have that kind of weapon on the day of the assassination.
– The President Bill Clinton era “The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992” required the relevant bodies to provide their records of this era. The Secret Service destroyed their documents one week before this came into force! The Act was intended to reexamine the evidence/crime.
* Amusingly, one of the production companies behind this documentary is “Zapruder”…you see this company listed on a lot of Australian wit Andrew Denton’s productions…as “Zapruder’s other films”…the famous footage of the assassination is, of course, by Abraham Zapruder. Denton finally gets to make a film which ties in with his conceit! Edit in…I’m assuming that this is the case…or perhaps a credit is actually given to the Zapruder who filmed the assassination.
In summary, as a layperson, it seems to me that Donahue’s older work scientifically establishes the basic mechanics of who shot who and when. I.e. it’s maths, it’s science. You can’t argue with it. Donahue’s theory is made out by the maths and science. McLaren just finds evidence of the time which perhaps humanises the evidence for those whom maths and science isn’t a strong point. E.g. he says that the wind was blowing in a certain direction that day at a certain speed. The wind factor was such as to rule out people on the ground smelling gun smoke from LHO’s vantage point. I.e. it is consistent with a Secret Service Agent firing the lethal shot for people to have smelled that Agent’s gun smoke at the time…and there were numerous people who testified to smelling gun smoke near the motorcade.
Further posts on this topic by myself: