By Robert Schlesinger |
Every year since 1992, Oakland Community College, the largest community college in the state of Michigan, has offered a course on one of its five campuses entitled "The JFK Assassination." As instructors of this course, our students learn throughout the semester about John F. Kennedy the man, his administration and that fateful day in Dealy Plaza fifty years ago.
The final half of the course involves the trial of Lee Harvey Oswald as if Jack Ruby had never murdered him. Students role play important characters that testified in front of the Warren Commission and are cross-examined by peers regarding their testimony. On the last day of the semester, the class, acting now as a jury, convenes to decide whether Lee Harvey Oswald is guilty of shooting the 35th President of the United States of America.
One important fact that comes out early in the trial is that Lee Harvey Oswald tested negative when given a paraffin test on his cheeks. When someone fires a Mannlicher-Carcano, the rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository that day, residue emits from the chamber onto the cheek of the individual. We know this because all of the FBI marksmen that tested the very same Mannlicher-Carcano tested positive for residue when given a paraffin test.
So Oswald never had residue on his cheeks. What does this prove? A conspiracy? We think not.
Perhaps we should consider that, if Oswald was the lone gunman, we know that he fired only three shots. We know that one shot deflected off the curb and knocked a piece of concrete that cut James Tague on the chin (a bystander near the entrance of the triple underpass on Elm St). This left two shots to complete all of the wounds on President Kennedy and Governor Connally. So let's talk simply about the president's wounds.
There is a good deal of discrepancy regarding a shot that Kennedy took to the back. The autopsy face sheet verbally described in the death certificate that there was an entry wound at the president's third thoracic vertebrae. Conversely, the Warren Commission moved that entry wound from the third thoracic vertebrae 5 to 6 inches up to the base of the neck. This was necessary for the Warren Commission to account for a bullet that exited through the throat and caused further damage in the front seat to Texas Gov. John Connally.
If the death certificate would be given more credibility than the Warren Commission then a peculiar problem faces lone gunman theorists. How does a bullet, when entering the third thoracic vertebrae in a downward trajectory, leave the throat?
This discussion leads us to the throat wound. When JFK was brought to trauma room one in Parkland Hospital, the attending surgeon identified the wound as a wound of entry. Parkland doctors had their fair share of experience with bullet wounds, so their identification should not be questioned. The president was still alive and efforts were being made to save him so a tracheotomy was made. The doctors used the wound of entry and enlarged it so a tube could be inserted.
Dr. Robert N. McClelland, a Parkland surgeon on duty that day, was in trauma room one and was asked to assist with the tracheotomy. As he assisted, he came behind the president, behind his head, and he announced to the other doctors present that there was a wound of exit at the back of his head. McClelland was 18 inches away from the president's head for a good seven to eight minutes.
For further evidence, we need go no further than two motorcycle officers that were riding in the left rear behind the presidential vehicle. Both motorcycle officers were splattered with brain tissue. One officer, Bobby Hargis, was struck so hard that he thought that he had been hit with a bullet on that day. Pieces of the president's skull were found in the left rear. This nullifies the concept that Kennedy's head was moving towards a shooter.
If we stop the physical evidence here. we must consider that there was more than one shooter. A wound of entry in the head, near the temple, as announced to the press that day, and a wound of entry in the throat. Neither of those could have been caused by a shooter in the Texas School Book Depository. More than one shooter defines that a conspiracy took place.
Unfortunately, the autopsy completed on Kennedy was less than complete. The body of the president was taken illegally from Parkland Hospital and flown back to Bethesda where doctors that had rarely completed an autopsy before in their lives worked on the president's body under the observation of superiors. When Parkland Hospital doctors call Bethesda to tell them to explore the throat wound for a bullet, it did not take place.
The hope that all this could be explained by one "magic bullet" is so incredible it is laughable. The bullet, Commission Evidence 399, is a pristine bullet that was found after the fact in Parkland and eventually used by the Warren Commission to explain how a single missile could take multiple twists and turns to not only kill the president but to wound the governor multiple times. The commission itself proved its pristine bullet impossible when it tested the same type of bullets by firing into human cadavers and dead animals. The result is that the test bullets were so deformed that Commission Evidence 399 could not have possibly done the damage discussed.
Was there a conspiracy? Multiple shots from multiple directions prove this fact.
About Michael Vollbach Professors of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Oakland Community College
About Ronald Burda Professors of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Oakland Community College
Jefferson Morley Moderator of JFK Facts
Larry Sabato Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics
John McAdams Professor of Political Science at Marquette University