Hogwash and the True Disbelievers


The Navy pathologists who performed the autopsy on John F. Kennedy have broken a long silence on their work. In interviews conducted by Dr. George M. Lundberg, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, they have made it clear that their own professional knowledge of physics, physiology and anatomy left them with no doubt that the two bullets that struck the president were fired from above and behind.

Dr. James J. Humes put it this way regarding the fatal shot: "The pattern of the entrance and exit wounds in the skull prove it. [What that bullet did] happens 100 times out of 100. This is a law of physics and it is foolproof. Everything else is hogwash." Dr. Humes and Dr. Thornton Boswell, the other Navy pathologist who performed the autopsy, were highly qualified, experienced professionals. Both had performed autopsies on gunshot victims. That is important to remember at a time when one of today's most outspoken critics of the prevailing wisdom on the Kennedy assassination is a physician who was a junior resident (not specializing in pathology) in Dallas in 1963.

One of the "proofs" that something funny went on at Bethesda Naval Medical Center where the autopsy was performed is that Dr. Humes burned his notes. In the JAMA interview he points out he did so after copying them for the record. He burned the original because he remembered a macabre exhibit purporting to be the blood of Abraham Lincoln on a chair. His notes were stained with Kennedy's blood. "I vowed that this type of revolting object would not fall into the wrong hands."

An alienated distrust of authority generally fuels the dark, burning suspicion of everything "the government" and "the establishment" do. Dr. Boswell speculates that in hindsight it might have been a good idea to have alongside the two Naval officers "a civilian pathologist like Russell Fisher, who was right next door in Baltimore. We didn't need him to confirm our findings, but it might have removed doubts about military control." Probably not. After all, a panel of world-class experts on autopsies -- including Dr. Fisher of the University of Maryland and radiologist Dr. Russell Morgan of Johns Hopkins -- reviewed the material years ago and came to the same original conclusion, and that did not stop the "Who Killed Kennedy?" industry, as the Oliver Stone movie "JFK" attests.

Lincoln's bloodstained chair exhibit is a reminder that such events as a presidential assassination remain a subject for awe and speculation forever. Buffs still debate the "truth" about the Lincoln assassination. The JAMA interviews certainly won't convince the "JFK" fans. The interviews are valuable to those interested in knowing the truth. So would publication of documents relating to the assassination that the federal government still has locked up. But nothing can convince the true disbelievers things are what they seem. Nothing.

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