erik lundegaard

The Most Horrible Thing I've Ever Heard

Lately Iíve been reading ďPopular Crime: Reflections on the celebration of violence,Ē by Bill James. Yes, that Bill James. Along with baseball stats, heís apparently got a bit of a crime-story fixation. He considers himself an amateur sleuth. He has a few corrections in mind for the justice system.

In the book, he goes over some of the more famous murder cases in American history (Lizzie Bordon, Lindbergh Baby, O.J.), some sensational cases in their day that have receded from view (Elizabeth Canning, Mary Rogers, Hall-Mills), and he has a chapter on serial killers that will make you want to flee the planet.

He also talks about the most famous American murder of the 20th century: John F. Kennedy. And itís there that I read one of the most horrible things Iíve ever read.

James begins many of his discussions by saying, basically, Iím just some guy; what the hell do I know? Then he tells you what the hell he knows. This is particularly true here. He says there are a zillion books on the JFK assassinationóthat you can read one a month for 20 years and not be doneóbut he can recommend two: Gerald Posnerís ďCase ClosedĒ and Bonar Menningerís ďMortal Error.Ē I was familiar with the first (Oswald did it, by himself, get over it) but not the second, and thatís the one he really recommends. Bill James: Popular CrimeItís based on the work of Baltimore ballistics expert Howard Donahue. In 1967, CBS News was attempting to recreate what Oswald had done to see that it could be doneóto see if someone could hit a target at that distance with that gun three times in 5.6 seconds. So they hired Donahue. Who did it in 5.2 seconds. Case closed.

Except Donahue became fascinated with the assassination and did his own research and came to his own conclusions.

Three shots were fired that day at Dealey Plaza. This is what Donahue believes happened.

He believes Oswald fired the first two shots. The first missed, but a ricocheted fragment hit the President in the neck. The second shot hit both Kennedy and Connally. Then Oswaldís gun jammed and he never got off a third shot.

So what happened? Who fired the third shot? Was it David Ferrie in the grassy knoll with the candlestick?

Hereís why Donahue believes Oswald didnít fire the third shot:

  1. The third bullet disintegrated upon impact, which a bullet from Oswaldís Carcano rifle would not have.
  2. A Carcano round fired at that distanceófrom Oswald to Kennedyówould not have had the impact the third bullet that hit Kennedy did.
  3. A Carcano round is 6.5 millimeters in diameter. The final, fatal entrance wound was 6 mm wide.
  4. The trajectory of the final bullet, based upon entrance and exit wounds as well as the position of the Presidentís head at the time, traces back, not to the book depository, but to the car directly behind Kennedy.

And who was in the car directly behind Kennedy? The Secret Service.

No, the Secret Service wasnít in league with LBJ and Castro and the Mafia to bring down Kennedy. In some ways, itís worse:

... a Secret Service man, George Hickey, grabbed a weapon when he heard the first shot. Hickeyís weapon accidentally fired, and that bullet, from Hickeyís gun, mortally wounded the President.

Hickeyís gun, an AR-15, uses bullets 5.56 mm in diameter, which disintegrate upon impact. Hickey was also close enough to the President to account for the big blam of the third shot.

An accident. A fucking accident. Thatís how our history changed.

The night I read this I went numb with horror.

I should add that I, like James, donít know anything, but I really donít know anything. I donít know ballistics and trajectories and yadda yaddas. I havenít studied any of it.

But I know what makes sense. Hereís James:

On first hearing this theory, almost no one believes that it could be right. ... But I have read Mortal Error carefully, and I have to tell you, if thereís a flaw in his argument I donít see it. Unlike the conspiracy theories, which are almost universally based on some conversations which tooks place in Russia in 1961, in New Orleans in 1962, or in Tampa in 1972, the Donahue analysis is based primarily upon a detailed, careful study of what happened in Dealey Plaza on November 22.

I still donít know if itís true or not. Most people think it isnít. But of all the conspiracy theories out there, this is the one that fits my worldview. To plot out, and organize, and initiate, a murder of this size and scope, and then disappear from view? Poof? Weíre just not that smart.

But a mistake? A screw-up? A horrible, horrible accident? Oh yeah. Thatís us. Thatís us all over.

JFK and his motorcade, Dealey Plaza, November 22, 1963

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Posted at 07:54 AM on Thu. Sep 12, 2013 in category U.S. History  


jersey maiden wrote:

I had the exact same feeling when I came across “JFK: The Smoking Gun” on Reelz early this month. I wasn't even going to watch it b/c I'm not at all interested in JFK conspiracy theories. But like most people, I am interested in what happened. Once I realized that Donohue was the guy who showed that the single bullet “theory” was actually true, I paid closer attention to the show. But at first I thought the idea that the Secret Service had anything to do with it was just ridiculous.

But just like you, as I continued watching, it made sense. It made more sense than anything I've ever seen about the assassination. Things like the two different types of bullets, and the entrance wound in the back of the head that was *smaller* than Oswald's bullet - I had never heard any of this stuff before. It was simple, it rang true, and it was really upsetting. And it also made other things kind of make sense, like (perhaps) why the Secret Service fought so hard to get JFK's body immediately back to DC, (perhaps) why the brain itself disappeared, and (perhaps) why Oswald said he was a “patsy.” Honestly, this show kept me up half the night, just going over & over it in my mind. It just all fell into place, and like you, I was horrified.

Comment posted on Sat. Nov 23, 2013 at 05:28 PM
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