Friday, October 31, 2003

Nellie Connally and the three bullets

Nellie Connally, the wife of former Texas Gov. John Connally and the last surviving occupant of the limousine that was carrying President John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated, has finally published a book detailing her experience.
One key point she makes in her book which is discussed in this NY Times article is her insistence that three shots struck targets inside the limo on Nov. 22, 1963.

“After shots rang out — and Mrs. Connally is adamant that three bullets, not two as officially established, found their mark — the president was dead, her husband gravely wounded as she struggled to stanch his blood, and the course of history forever altered.”

The problem with this statement is that the Warren Commission official version of events states that only two shots struck the limo occupants and a third shot missed. I will discuss the significance of this in a moment. The NY Times article summarizes it thusly:

”The Warren Commission and subsequent investigations have concluded that the first shot, fired by Lee Harvey Oswald from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, went wild, that the president and the governor were both hit by a second bullet, and that President Kennedy alone was hit by a third shot.

Mrs. Connally is not dissuaded by this information, as well she should not be.

"Well they're wrong," Mrs. Connally said this week at the beginning of a publicity blitz for the book... "I was there, they weren't. When they argue with me, all I have to say is, `Were you in that car?' The answer has to be no because there wasn't anybody else...
“All I'm saying is there were three shots and I know what happened with each shot," she said.”

But Mrs. Connally says despite this she still believes the conclusion reached by the Warren Commission is correct.

“She said, however, that she was not a conspiracist and that she believed — and that her husband's own exhaustive study of records as Treasury secretary proved — that Mr. Oswald was the lone gunman.
"A $15 gun and a scrambled-egg mind caused all that horror," she said.”

Unfortunately, it is more complicated than that. There is a very good reason why the Warren Commission determined that only two bullets struck the limo that day. Any other outcome would discount the lone gunman theory on which the Warren Commission staked its entire investigation.

Thanks to the Zapruder film, there is a very clear frame-by-frame timeline of when the first and last shots struck their targets to within a fraction of a second. There is not enough time between the moment when Kennedy is clearly reacting to the shot that struck his throat and the moment when Gov. Connally is struck for a gunman using a bolt-action rifle to have fired two separate shots. Since the Warren Commission began its investigation with the predetermined conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots using a bolt-action rifle from the sixth floor of the Book Depository building, they had to come up with some way to shoehorn this inconvenient Zapruder evidence into their lone gunman theory. That is when Arlen Specter, the future Republican senator from Pennsylvania, came up with the infamous “Magic Bullet” theory in which Kennedy and Connally were supposed to have been struck by the same bullet (and Connally had a delayed reaction to his wounds).

The third bullet, they determined, had been fired before Kennedy was hit the first time and completely missed the motorcade. They had to account for at least three bullets because that is how many empty shell casings were neatly piled up for them to find on the sixth floor of the book depository. Plus, we know at least one bullet missed because there was a curbside mark where a bullet had struck next to the motorcade and a bystander who suffered a cut on his face from flying concrete fragments.

The “magic bullet” theory, and by consequence the lone gunman theory, is a bunch of bull. There is lots of evidence that disproves the theory without having to rely on Mrs. Connally’s recollection. The most obvious might be that the bullet fragments pulled out of Gov. Connally’s wrist and the fragments that were left in weighed far more than the amount of mass that was missing from the “pristine” magic bullet that was conveniently found on a cot at the hospital. You also have the testimony of the doctor’s who worked on Kennedy who descibed the wound in his throat as an entry wound (shortly before obscuring it by performing a tracheotomy). They also said the wound in his back was an entry wound that had no point of exit into the chest cavity. The “magic bullet” theory depends upon the back wound and neck wounds being connected and the neck wound being an exit wound.

I don’t presume to know what really happened on that day nearly 40 years ago. But I am pretty clear about what DID NOT happen and I am thoroughly disgusted that we as a nation continue to prop up this fiction about a lone gunman. Of course, I also understand that it is more comforting for people to assume that the perpetrator of this heinous crime was caught and punished rather than living with the knowledge that the conspirators - whoever they were - got clean away with the crime of the century.

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