JFK: The lost bullet

A mixed bag. 60%


This documentary was screened on Australia’s flagship current affairs programme “Four corners” recently. Even without having seen the far superior documentary “JFK: The smoking gun” (screened on SBS TV beforehand and reviewed here by me) you can see that even by its own standards it occasionally slips into poor journalism/analysis. It should be noted up front that this documentary seeks to prove that the findings of the Warren Commission are accurate (cf. the SBS TV documentary). That being said, I did find certain aspects of this documentary illuminating and well done and it may even shed new light on the events of that day.

Since I mentioned that this documentary is flawed, I’ll just go straight into the major ones:

(1) Compared to the far superior “JFK: The smoking” gun, this documentary makes the inexeplicable decision to completely disregard the evidence of ballistics and the autopsy report. Extremely shoddy as a result and not definitive as a result.

(02) Whilst doing a great job in arguing for the truth of there being nothing “magic” about the bullet which hit both the President and Governor Connally and for finding plausible/persuasive evidence for the trajectory of Lee Harvey Oswald’s first shot which missed the president, it is a huge oversight not to have gone into the same level of analysis for the 3rd and lethal shot which devastated JFK’s head. E.g. there is great documentary technique in recreating the assassination with a sniper at the actual site with a laser sight attached to their rifle. The visual of the JFK stand-in in the car with a red laser dot on the back of their neck is compelling in how when that stand-in moves out of the way, the laser dot apparently co-incides with the entry wound of the Governor Connally stand-in. Unfortunately the rest of the route of that bullet is not continued – perhaps due to fearing that viewers might consider its path “magic” or something…but I have read crime articles in newspapers where a bullet takes an odd route after entering someone’s body. In any case, assuming that the documentary accurately reflects the entrance wounds for both JFK and Connally, the demonstration is the best yet of the veracity of the “magic bullet” path…as in it buries that cynical phrase for good.

a)  Likewise, the reconstruction of events to posit a trajectory for the bullet which LHO missed with on his first shot is excellent work. I’m happy to go with their account of that. In support of their theory they find archival footage which shows the scene after the assassination. In a traffic light which they show to be plausibly between LHO and JFK, there is bullet sized hole in it. That to me is persuasive evidence…for that bullet sized hole to have been caused by LHO’s unsuccessful first attempt at JFK’s life. Perhaps this documentary and the SBS TV one are at odds over this too…going on memory, the SBS docu argues that debris from LHO’s missed show hit JFK, prompting the President to say “My God, I’m hit!”. It’s just my impression that the Four Corners’ documentary doesn’t state that JFK was injured via that missed shot…but I could mistaken on these issues.

b)  Anyway, here is the massive oversight of “JFK:TLB”…where is the laser sight experiment or reconstruction for the 3rd, fatal shot? It’s just ASSUMED to have come from LHO. Well, that’s slightly unfair…there is ONE piece of evidence which stands in for something more rigorous…the testimony of a young male African-American, Amos Euins. He testifies to hearing the three shots come from the book depositary where LHO was sniping from. He also testifies that after hearing the first shot (or perhaps the second one), he moved behind cover to avoid being hit from that position. Now, whilst I have no reason to doubt his testimony on the first two shots – which I believe – would not his testimony of where the shot(s) came from after he hid behind cover be more open to doubt? As in he could be mistaken for any number of reasons…position, pandemonium etc. Since “JFK:TSG” now posits another theory about the source of the lethal shot on JFK, then that’s just another obvious reason to go into the same level of analysis of that 3rd shot as was done for the 2nd shot, especially.

Minor flaws:

(3) The testimony of witness Patricia Ann Donaldson is interesting. She gives a verbal description of the three shots that she heard…describing how there was a pause between the first shot and the second shot and then “bam, bam” (i.e. quick succession) between the second shot and the lethal shot. This possibly implies to me that it would persuasively rule out LHO taking the lethal shot on JFK, insofaras he couldn’t have reloaded his rifle (or whatever…I’m not a gun expert here) in order to take that lethal third shot. Many conspiracy theories draw on the fact that it would be physically impossible to take three shots in the reputed six seconds that it took LHO to take his shots. This is a minor flaw by virtue of people’s perceptions of time being “rubbery”…e.g. “time flies when you’re having fun” and ‘time drags when you’re feeling miserable’…along those kinds of lines. Another reason is that, assuming Donaldson is mistaken, the documentary does posit that LHO had some 11 seconds to take all three shots which he was reputed to have taken. Personally, whilst I think that this helps the Warren Commission finding, I don’t think it hurts the theory presented in “JFK: TSG”…even though that assumes a six second time frame for all three shots which were on target.

(4) This is a really weird aspect of the documentary…the focus on the placement of the empty bullet casings in the book depositary. It’s almost as if the documentary is indirectly tackling some conspiracy theory which they do not wish to address explicitly. I believe that for this section of the documentary they call in a contemporary Secret Service agent of the time, John Joe Howlett. The point of this section seems to confirm the findings of the Warren Commission…that LHO acted alone and took all three shots himself. To explain the ‘wayward’ bullet casing in his nest, Howlett posits that LHO took his first shot (only, I believe) from a standing position, then he knelt (I think) for the other two shots. Now, not being a shooter/hunter/sniper/assassin etc., I found this theory to be implausible…or at least warranting further journalistic work to confirm its plausibility. I.e. interview military trained snipers on how likely any sniper worth their salt would be to go for a kill shot from a standing position. It just seems unlikely to me, from a layperson’s perspective. Having corresponded with someone who claims to have checked out the book depositary, they state that the windows are fixed there, insofaras as they would not allow for someone to take a shot from there in a standing position. I have no idea if that is true, or if it only became true after the event (as in perhaps the fixed windows are a recent feature of the building…I don’t know). Furthermore, the issue of the empty bullet casings in “JFK: TSG” addresses this issue, but from a different perspective…I’m relying on a quote from someone who watched the documentary, so I just hope that it is accurate as far as what is stated in that other documentary: “The third bullet casing was a dud, kept loaded in the breach to stop dust getting in during storage of the rifle. It was expelled before Oswald loaded the first of two bullets”. That for me is a plausible account (I assume…apparently gun users do this kind of stuff) of the ‘wayward’ empty casing…i.e. the other two empty bullet casings fell where they did because they were fried at JFK, whilst the other one was discarded manually (presumably) and landed where it did for reasons other than firing at the President. Also, the person who mentioned being at the book depositary also brought forward the common sense view that the crime scene may have been disturbed or tampered with, thus one can’t read too much into the location of the empty bullet casings. All in all, this whole segment seemed to me to really contort their theory in order to make it confirm the Warren Commission’s findings.

05) I noticed that the final moments of this documentary, the lethal shot is obscured. Not sure if that was the case all the way through…but if it was then that perhaps implies to me that any evidence of the third and lethal shot coming from anywhere other than the book depositary was fudged…perhaps. More on that later.

06) Holland mentions militar ammo and the fact that that is meant to pass through people…thus justifying the trajectory of the so-called “magic bullet”. However, having watched the far superior “JFK:TSG”, it’s odd how this bullet’s behaviour is not contrasted with that of the third, lethal bullet, which basically shattered in JFK’s skull. “JFK:TSG” goes into how there are different types of ammo…and how the “magic bullet” shot is plausible for LHO’s type of ammo but that the lethal third shot is consistent with the kind of ammo the Secret Service was using that day…which was of a smaller caliber and designed to shatter in that way. Even though “JFK:TLB” totally ignores the ballistics and autopsy report, I think that the “JFK:TSG” findings do point to a new “magic bullet” problem for adherents of the Warren Commission…namely, how did LHO’s larger caliber bullet go through an entry wound in JFK’s head which was smaller than it (for the kill shot, I mean) and why did his ammo shatter in that way, when it is not designed to do that? “JFK:TSG” has the superior analysis and answers to these kinds of issues.

Okay, now to the parts of this documentary that seem to warrant some merit:

01) Best of all, the enhanced contemporary footage of the time, including that of the Zapruder home movie…but there other sources of footage too, which is a bonus.

02) The great visual demonstration of the debunking of the “magic bullet” shot which used laser sights and stand-ins for the President and Governor.

03) The reconstruction of the trajectory of LHO’s first, missed shot on JFK.

04) The enhanced home movie images from one source (Nix?) shows fine mist of blood in front of JFK’s head for the lethal shot, which the documentary use for the argument that the lethal shot came from behind JFK (the book depositary) and not from in front of the car as many conspiracy theorists hold…the grassy knoll etc. That bloody mist would be early on in the kill shot. I’ve got the name “Max Holland” in my notes as the person saying that that bloody mist confirms that the lethal shot came from behind JFK. Presumably Holland is the on-screen narrator or journalist/whatever of that documentary. Again, I would just reiterate that the analysis of the origin of that third, lethal shot is far short of the documentary’s own analysis of the first two shot’s origin/likely source.

05) The enhanced footage does rule out a recent conspiracy theory I had come across browsing a conspiracy theory magazine, I believe…that the lethal shot was fired from inside JFK’s car by his own staff. The enhanced footage demonstrates that to be merely a man on the front of the car turning around to look at what was happening. Presumably the conspiracy theory magazine was relying on blurry, grainy footage? I.e. in the gloomy image they claim to see the man in the front holding a gun, pointed at JFK or something. Yuh.

06) During the documentary’s reconstruction of the timeline for the missed shot by LHO, they perhaps plausibly extend the window of those three shots to about 11 seconds. Holland states that the gap between the first and second shots is about 6.3 to 6.4 seconds. The gap between the second and third shot is about 4.9 seconds. Again, this raises the issue of what LHO was capable of doing that day. If the first gap is his ‘rhythm’ then perhaps the shorter second gap between shots would rule out him firing that third, lethal shot?

Okay, laying my cards on the table and stating that I am in the “JFK:TSG” camp, I now wonder whether the use of Secret Service agent John Joe Howlett is part of another Secret Service disinformation campaign. Perhaps not, but odd nonetheless. In other words, if you accept the proposition that the Secret Service accidentally killed the president (which would explain their illegal actions in the wake of that as well as their cover-up of it) then it’s safe to assume that they would to falsely ‘confirm’ the Warren Commission findings or muddy the water with further false conspiracy theories on who killed the president.



Further posts by me on this topic:




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