Trajectory of a Lie

            By Milicent Cranor

Part I. The Palindrome
Part II. Neck and Torso X-Rays: Selectivity in Reporting
Part III. Big Lie About a Small Wound in Connally's Back

Part II.  Neck and Torso X-rays: Selectivity in Reporting

"Pick a number," says the gypsy, "any number from one to ten."  Suppose you say "Seven."   The gypsy then tells you to look beneath the big black book on the table.  You do so and, magically, you find a small piece of paper contain a single message: "7."  Proof of clairvoyance.  If you had tried again and said "Ten," the gypsy would have asked you to look beneath the teapot.  There you would have found a slip of paper with the number "10" written on it.   In fact, the whole room is seeded with little slips of paper with numbers on them. But the gypsy quickly directs your attention to other matters – he dares not perform more than one demonstration of his clairvoyance per session, or even the most gullible would catch on.

The above scenario demonstrates the power of undetected selectivity.    Once it is detected, it loses its power.  There is a long history of selectivity in the reporting of images on the x-rays of the neck and torso of the late John F. Kennedy.    These images were used to help support the conclusion that a bullet entered the base of Kennedy's neck.  The alleged locations of the neck and throat wounds – if connected – combine to form a line that retraces back to the sixth floor of the Depository Building in Dallas.    A wound at a lower location does not work with this scenario.    Many witnesses, including Kennedy's own physician, George Burkley, said the wound was much lower.

The first radiographic images used to establish this location were several minute opaque spots, reported by the Clark Panel in 1968, to be "metallic fragments" in "the lower neck."  [p.13]    This interpretation was publicly discredited in 1978 by the HSCA when radiologists determined the spots were "artifact" since (a) they did not appear on all x-rays, and (b) since they did appear in several irrelevant places far from the presumed bullet path.  [7 HSCA 98]    The Clark Panel did not report either fact.   There is one other fact the Clark Panel did not report: a Carcano bullet could not have shed fragments under the alleged circumstances.

In 1973, a critic of the Warren Commission published a comment in an obscure medical journal that, if widely publicized, would have been devastating to the conclusion of the Clark Panel: the images could not have represented metal fragments – at least not from a Carcano bullet, and especially not from Commission Exhibit 399.   The late John Nichols, M.D., Ph.D. wrote,

 "Jacketed bullets usually do not leave particles of metal in soft tissue when bone is not struck." [Footnote 1]  

This comment needs to be qualified.   A jacketed, medium velocity bullet like one fired from a Mannlicher-Carcano, will shed lead in soft tissue -- only if the bullet turns sideways and travels in that position for a sufficient length.   This flattens the bullet and squeezes lead from its base – the "toothpaste effect."   (A high velocity jacketed bullet can fragment on impact with soft tissue without turning sideways.)    Commission Exhibit 399, the "magic bullet" that allegedly perforated JFK's neck, has been slightly flattened, so it must have struck something while in a sideways position, or else turned and traveled sideways once inside tissue.  If it had turned sideways in JFK's neck or torso, it would have created tremendous damage, internally and externally.   No such damage has been described.   (C.E. 399 also would not have been flattened so slightly upon striking Governor Connally in the back.  See next section.)    Although Nichols's statement was not publicized, it did appear to inspire some clumsy efforts at damage control on the part of John Lattimer, M.D., [Footnote 2, Footnote 3] who wrote several pro-Warren Commission articles over the years.   See below for details.

In 1978, the HSCA reported a completely different image that could be used to establish an entrance wound at the base of the neck: a shadow said to represent the separation of bone at C-7 and a similar shadow a little lower, at T-1.  It was considered "peculiar" in that there was no displacement of bone. [7 HSCA 98, 99]   Buried in the Hearings is documentation of the fact that similar shadows – even on unenhanced x-rays -- appeared in other places far from any presumed bullet track.  [JFK Exhibit F-34; 7 HSCA 219]    Thus all such "shadows" should have been treated as suspect, but were not. 

Michael Baden, Head of the Medical Panel, appeared to contradict the conclusion of an entrance at C-7 when he said the location of the wound corresponded to the location of holes in the clothing:

"In the jacket and the underlying shirt there is a perforation of the fabric that corresponds directly with the location of the perforation of the skin of the right upper back that, the panel concluded, was an entrance gunshot perforation that entered the back of the President.  This is correspondingly seen in the shirt underneath."   [1 HSCA 196]    

The hole in the jacket was 5.5 inches below the upper margin of the jacket collar, and the hole in the shirt, 5 3/4 below the upper margin of the shirt collar [7 HSCA 83] about where witnesses said the back wound was – well below the base of the neck.   But this impression is then counteracted by claims that Kennedy was leaning forward when he was shot.   The HSCA reinforced this claim with an extremely misleading drawing of Kennedy in profile, leaning way forward, with a bullet entering the base of his neck at C-7. [7 HSCA 100]   The spine itself leans forward at about 45 degrees.  This posture is supposed to show how the back wound became higher than the throat wound.  When the body is viewed in the anatomic position, i.e., ramrod straight, the back wound is lower than the throat wound.  But films show that, before he was hit, Kennedy was sitting up, his face tilted slightly upward as he faced the crowd.   He was not ramrod straight, but he was certainly not as bent over as he appears in the HSCA drawing.    The most revealing photos were taken just as the limousine turned onto Elm Street by witnesses on Kennedy's left.    These photos show a true lateral view.   In my opinion, Kennedy remains in this same position until he begins to sag, late in the film.   The interested reader should verify all of these impressions for himself.  And all of the FBI figures on the trajectory angles should be verified independently.

Below is a table outlining the various interpretations of the x-rays.    All abnormalities on these poorly done, artifact-infested films should have been given equal publicity, as well as their significance:  none.





James Humes, MD


 X-rays were "carefully examined."    [2 WCH 361]


Clark Panel


 In "lower neck" or area of "cervical spine."   (p.13


John Lattimer, MD [Footnote 4]


 "Confirms" Clark Panel findings


John Nichols, MD, PhD [Footnote 1]


Jacketed bullet would not shed lead in these circumstances, a fact not appreciated by the Clark Panel, apparently.


John Lattimer, MD [Footnote 2]


 "New discovery":  fragments bone, not metal, based on his "studies of various materials," but no studies  were described, and no analyses, nor even a rationale was provided  in article.


John Lattimer, MD [Footnote 3]


 Fragments show up on one x-ray only; but in x-rays "in which the splinters lie superimposed over the bodies of the vertebrae, they are no longer visible." Lattimer may have borrowed this reasoning from Nichols who made a similar observation in a different context. [Footnote 5]Gerald Posner reported Lattimer's discredited interpretation in his book, Case Closed.[Footnote 6]




Images obviously too dense to be bone.   (7 HSCA 99)    (To understand, please compare metal fillings to surrounding tooth.)




Identical images in places "far removed" from wound track, such as in the pelvis and thighs. Therefore, the images are "artifacts not uncommonly caused by foreign materials on the film or in the developing solutions."  (7 HSCA 98)      Not reported by Clark Panel or Lattimer.




Unenhanced x-ray: shadow said to represent separation of transverse process (lateral part) of vertebra from vertical spine at C-7 and T-1.   (7 HSCA 98, 99)        Not reported by Clark Panel.


Author of this article


Unenhanced x-ray:   "The first rib appeared to be separated from the sternum..." (JFK Exhibit F-34).     Enhanced x-ray:  "there appear to be fractures of the posterior aspects of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th ribs.  These are artifacts."    (7 HSCA 219)   Significance ignored by HSCA.

Next: Part III. Big Lie About a Small Wound in Connally's Back

1.  Nichols, J.M.   Assassination of President Kennedy.  The Practitioner 1973; 211, November: 625-633.  

2.  Lattimer, G., Lattimer, J.K., Lattimer, J.  The Kennedy-Connally One-Bullet Theory.   Medical Times 1974; 102   November: 33-56.

Lattimer said his conclusion was based on "x-ray studies of various materials."  What studies?  What materials?   The article was decorated with photos of Connally's wrist and thigh x-rays, along with x-rays of two test limbs, all containing lead fragments -- but no bone-versus-lead analysis.    In fact, Lattimer did not even give a theoretical basis for this "new discovery."   All of Lattimer's articles promoting the lone assassin theory are infested with gross inaccuracies supported on the surface by references, which in fact contradict the statements they reference.  I therefore suspected this new revision was some sort of first aid to the cover up, but for mysterious reasons.    What happened between 1972 when this urologist "confirmed" the presence of metal fragments, and 1974?

Since nothing in the body of Lattimer's article explained this peculiar revision, I went through all of his references.   Only one seemed to clear up the mystery:  an article by John Nichols, published the year before, that was mainly concerned with some little known facts about Carcano bullets that contradicted the single bullet theory.  Lattimer had already seen Nichols's descriptions of his experiments, but the final manuscript contained a fact, just mentioned in passing, that Lattimer had not known, or perhaps had not expected would be made public:  "Jacketed bullets usually do not leave particles of metal in soft tissue when bone is not struck."   (Reference #1)

3.  Lattimer, J.K., Schlesinger, E.B., Merritt, H.H. President Kennedy's spine hit by first bullet.  Bull N Y Acad Med 1977; 53: 281-291.   Lattimer wrote,

"Detailed inspections of the xrays...revealed two tiny radio-opaque splinters of what we believe to be bone in the general region of the tip of the transverse process of the sixth cervical vertebra of the right side (Figure 1).  These can be seen clearly in one oblique view, which shows the splinters lying just lateral to the spine.  In the other x-rays views of that area of the neck in which the splinters lie superimposed over the bodies of the vertebrae, they are no longer visible.  The fact that they are no longer visible has made us suspect that they are bone, rather than fragments of metal."    See reference #5.

4.  Lattimer, J.K.  Observations Based on a review of the autopsy photographs, x-rays and related materials of the late President John F. Kennedy.    Resident & Staff Physician 1972; 18: 4-63)  Lattimer is a urologist and self-described "uninvolved observer." p.61

"The x-rays taken specifically of the area between these two bullet holes (which also included a hole in the trachea) showed tiny traces of air in the tissue planes (subcutaneous emphysema) along the line between the two holes in the skin and trachea and also showed two tiny slivers of metal about 4mm and 2 mm in length, along this same track, near its upper (rear) end.  No gross fractures were visible, although a 'graze' of the tip of the transverse process of the seventh cervical vertebra could not be excluded." p.49    Note that Lattimer said "x-rays" (plural) showed the fragments.   Later, he said that only one x-ray showed the image.

"Still another question was: 'Was there any sign of a bullet, a missile wound or missile track in any part of the body other than the head and neck?'  The x-rays were again examined after the photographs with this in mind.  Again, the answer was 'NO.' "  p.57    Note that Lattimer specifically rules out similar images elsewhere.   (The HSCA discredited the x-rays partly because they showed such images in irrelevant places far from the wound track.)

5.  Nichols, J.M. The wounding of Governor John Connally of Texas.  Maryland State Med J 1977; 26(1):58-77.

A friend and fellow pathologist of Nichols who prefers to remain anonymous told me that Nichols sent his manuscripts to Lattimer long before they were published.   I know of one such instance that is confirmed by Lattimer himself.  (The Kennedy-Connally Single Bullet Theory.  A Feasibility Study.  Journal of International Surgery 1968; 50: 524-530).   In this 1968 paper, Lattimer described – and misrepresented -- experiments performed by Nichols which Nichols himself had not published until 1973.  In other words, Lattimer misrepresented Nichols's work before Nichols could even publish it. 

The same anonymous pathologist told me that Nichols tried for 10 years to get his manuscript on Connally's wounds published.  I believe that sometime during those 10 years, Lattimer once again saw a Nichols paper before it was published.    In this paper, finally published in 1977, Nichols expressed the belief that the fragment in Connally's thigh was something other than metal.  His theory about the composition of the fragment may or may not have been correct, but what made this article important was his revelation of a suppressed x-ray, and how different the thigh fragment looked when "the x-ray beam strikes the foreign body without intervention of bone."    (The suppressed x-ray showed the fragment was not buried in the thigh bone as reported by Tom Shires, M.D. of Parkland  [6 WCH 111].  Instead, it was only 8mm beneath the skin, i.e., easily removable for weighing and neutron activation analysis.)   Nichols probably raised Lattimer's consciousness of the significance of disparate x-rays, of how revealing a completely different view can be.   See reference #3.

6.  Posner, G.  Case Closed.   New York: Random House, 1993, p.328

© 2003 Milicent Cranor