THE SHIFTING SANDS OF THE SINGLE-BULLET THEORY
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Revised and Expanded on 5/11/2001
The single-bullet theory (SBT) has been forced to undergo a number of changes over the years. What is the SBT? Basically, it is that a bullet allegedly struck Kennedy in the back and then exited his throat, then struck Gov. Connally near the right armpit, coursed through his chest, smashing a rib in the process, exited Connally's chest, struck his right wrist, breaking a hard radius bone, and then zipped over to Connally's left thigh, with half the bullet penetrating the thigh and the other half sticking out. According to the SBT, this bullet, which is allegedly the bullet labeled CE 399, did all this damage yet somehow emerged with all of its lands and grooves intact, with no damage to its nose, and with less than 4 grains of substance lost from its mass. The bullet is somewhat deformed at its base, but this damage is not even noticeable from certain angles.
The SBT is an absurd theory that was belatedly invented to avoid a conspiracy conclusion. Why was the theory conceived? Because the Warren Commission had two sets of non-fatal wounds to explain but only one shot with which to explain them because the Commission would not allow that more than three shots were fired. To put it another way, if the SBT is false, then there must have been more than one gunman. Or, if Kennedy and Connally's non-fatal wounds were not caused by the same bullet, then there was more than one shooter, and hence a conspiracy.
The SBT was later rejected by two members of the WC itself. It's a theory that defies common sense, that ignores Gov. Connally's own clear testimony, that ignores the Zapruder film, and that is in conflict with the vast majority of the eyewitness descriptions of the shooting.
As mentioned, it is also a theory that has been forced to undergo drastic changes:
* At first the back wound was above the throat wound, now it's level with or slightly below the throat wound.
* At first the alleged magic-bullet hit came at right around frame 210 of the Zapruder film (Z210), then it was at Z188, but now it's "positively" at Z224.
* At first the alleged magic-bullet hit was the first shot, now it's "positively" the second shot.
* At first the theory required that Connally was rotated 20-30 degrees to the right when the missile struck, but now we're assured the theory can still work even though many of the theory's defenders admit Connally's torso was rotated only 10-15 degrees.
* At first the theory assumed Kennedy was sitting normally in his seat when the missile struck, but now the theory must assume he was leaning so far forward that most of his back was off the seat (a notion that is not supported by the photographic evidence).
* At first the conflict between the holes in the back of the coat and shirt and the official locations for the back wound were explained by speculating that the coat and shirt "bunched" up to or beyond the collar, but now, in response to photographic evidence, we're told the coat and shirt bunched by forming a hump below the collar.
This bizarre theory assumes the shirt--which was tailor-made and on whose tails Kennedy was sitting--bunched in nearly perfect, millimeter-for-millimeter correspondence with the coat. However, photos and footage show that Kennedy's coat was fairly flat, and certainly not bunched into some hump near the collar, shortly before Kennedy was first hit with a bullet. Willis slide 5, which was taken moments before the first hit, shows Kennedy's coat was lying flat or nearly flat on his back when the slide was taken. Professor Josiah Thompson, author of the highly acclaimed book Six Seconds in Dallas, confirmed this fact by studying the original color slide under a microscope. Even assuming the coat was significantly bunched, the odds that the shirt would bunch in nearly perfect correspondence with the coat are astronomically remote.
And let's consider a few other relevant facts:
* No halfway realistic wound ballistics test has produced a bullet as undamaged as CE 399. The two most realistic tests, the All-American Television test and Dr. Lattimer's test, produced bullets that were far more deformed than CE 399.
* In the WC's own wound ballistics tests, bullets that were merely fired into cotton wadding emerged with the same amount of deformation as CE 399, and in one case with slightly more deformation.
* In the WC's tests, bullets fired into the wrists of cadavers emerged with significant distortion.
* In the WC's tests, bullets that were fired through simulated human chests emerged visibly more deformed than CE 399. This shows that if CE 399 had actually gone through Connally's chest, smashing a rib bone in the process, it would have emerged more deformed than it is now.
* No trajectory reconstruction has ever shown the SBT trajectories to be possible without assuming degrees of lean that are nowhere to be seen in the photographic evidence. For example, to get the new SBT's vertical trajectory to work, lone-gunman trajectory reconstructions have had to assume that Kennedy was leaning markedly forward when the missile struck.
* As mentioned, the SBT has undergone drastic changes as new evidence has emerged. At first we were told the bullet traveled downward through the neck, that the wound in the rear was above the wound in the throat. For years we were told there was no evidence of damage to any of the cervical or thoracic vertebra--this was even "confirmed" by the prestigious Clark Panel. Now we know the bullet would have had to travel slightly upward from the back wound to the throat wound, and that there is a noticeable fracture to T1 (some say C7, but that's another issue).
* The narrow slits in the front of the shirt, which were supposedly made by the magic bullet as it allegedly exited the throat, have no fabric missing from them, yet bullets normally remove fabric when they tear through clothing and create holes. When Harold Weisberg examined high-quality photos of the shirt at the National Archives, he found evidence that confirmed the belief that the slits were made by the emergency room nurses as they cut away the president's clothing--he could see the zigzag mark of a cutting blade on the slits:
The dead giveaway of the fabrication that this is where the magical bullet must have exited, according to the official story, is the nonmagical, mute evidence of the slit on the left side. The irregular, zigzag mark of a cutting blade is visible with an engraver's lens no more powerful than the 10-power miniature I carry. (Post Mortem, p. 347, emphasis added)
Weisberg also noticed there is less blood inside the collar band than on the outside, which doesn't fit the single-bullet scenario. If a bullet had exited the throat, one would expect there would be just as much blood, if not more, on the inside of the collar band as on the outside of it. Not only did Weisberg find this is not the case, but he also discovered that where the sides of the shirt overlap, there is no blood at all:
This is less blood inside the collar band than on the outside of the fabric, not consistent with the bloodstains coming from the body side. Where the sides of the shirt overlapped in wearing, no blood. (Post Mortem, p. 347)
As mentioned, most lone-gunman theorists now insist the alleged magic-bullet
hit occurred at Z223-224. But Kennedy's reaction at Z225 proves he must have
been hit well before Z223. Dr. Robert Piziali, an
expert on injuries, admitted under cross examination at the 1992
Dr. Piziali attempted to solve this problem by denying that Z225 shows Kennedy reacting to a wound with his right hand. In fact, Dr. Piziali denied Kennedy is reacting to a wound at all, in any way, in Z225. This is a good example of how SBT defenders will perform an amazing shift in position when confronted with troublesome facts. It is obvious that in Z225 Kennedy is reacting to a wound by the action and position of his right hand, by his left hand, and by the expression on his face, and until recently there was wide agreement on both sides about this fact:
* Itek concluded Kennedy "is clearly reacting to a wound by frame 225."
* The photographic evidence panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded Kennedy is reacting to a wound in Z225.
* Richard Trask, a respected researcher and longtime student of the Zapruder film, observes that Kennedy "emerges from the behind the sign at Z225 clearly having been shot."
* Dr. John Lattimer, a supporter of the lone-gunman scenario, concluded Kennedy shows a "reflex reaction" to a wound in Z225 and opined the wound occurred at about Z220. In fact, in his book Kennedy and Lincoln (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Johanovich, 1980), Lattimer acknowledges that Kennedy's elbows are beginning to "fly upward in frame 224" (p. 241).
* Ardent lone-gunman theorist Gerald Posner opines that at Z225 Kennedy "appears to be reacting to a bullet."
* In fact, we know from the 4/22/64 WC memorandum for the record that when a group of wound ballistics experts, the autopsy doctors, and commission staffers reviewed the Zapruder film frame by frame, with the aid of enlargements, the consensus was that Kennedy "had been definitely hit by frames 224-225" (p. 1). It should be noted that this group included Dr. F. W. Light, the deputy chief of the Biophysics Division at Edgewood Arsenal, and Dr. Alfred G. Olivier, the chief of the Wound Ballistics Branch of the Biophysics Division at Edgewood Arsenal. The group further noted that the Z224-225 reaction may have begun as early as Z199, and also at around Z204-205:
The reaction shown in frames 224-225 may have started at an earlier point--possibly as early as frame 199 (where there appears to be some jerkiness in his [JFK's] movement) or, with a higher degree of possibility, at frames 204-205 (where his right elbow appears to be raised to an artificially high position). (WC memo, 4/22/64, p. 1)
What do we see in Z225? JFK is clearly in distress. His face is contorted and his hands are in front of his chest, right hand above left. Both his forearms are bent inward and his hands are moving up toward his throat or mouth--they are definitely moving upward.
It is obvious Kennedy's face and hands--especially his right hand--are reacting to a wound in Z225. This means the bullet could not have struck him later than Z221. However, the current SBT says the bullet struck at Z223-224 (because of the seeming flip of Connally's lapel in Z224). Failure Analysis expert Dr. Roger McCarthy commented on the problem:
EC: Now, what I'd like to do is, is move to the very next frame, 225. How much time elapsed on that day between time frame 224 was filmed and the time that frame 225 was filmed?
DR. ROGER MCCARTHY: About 56 milliseconds. This camera is running at a shade more than 18 frames/second, so between any 2 frames there's about an 18th of a second or 56 thousandth of a second. . . .
EC: Now, Dr., based upon that, do you have a conclusion or an opinion as to when the President was hit with the bullet--how much before this point?
RM: Yes, as I think Dr. Piziali accurately indicated, there is a latency or a delay of about 200 milliseconds between the time that a message is delivered by either traumatic shock to the spine or by your mind to a muscle before you can get movement. You've experienced that every time you've ever grabbed something hot. You've known it was hot and were burned because of the delay, because you couldn't get--let go or move fast enough to avoid the damage. You knew it, and you just couldn't make your body move fast enough. There's nothing wrong with you; it takes about a fifth of a second to get all the hardware up to full power--to get the muscles to move.
EC: Now, Dr., if, then, the President was hit 200 milliseconds before the movement on [frame] 225, how many frames back in the film would that be?
RM: That would be at 221 at a minimum.
EC: And at 221 he's behind the sign, is that correct?
EC: Alright. If he was hit at 221 and the Governor was hit at 224 according to the prosecution, then could they have been hit by the same bullet?
RM: No. (Killing the Truth, pp. 235-236)
Another strong indication that Kennedy was struck prior to Z223 is the fact that in this same frame we see Jackie, as she has just reemerged into view from behind the freeway sign, has stopped waving, has turned her head toward her husband, and is looking intently at him. Obviously, she noticed something was wrong with him and turned to look at him. Clearly, Kennedy had already begun to react to a wound prior to Z223, and the reaction that we see in Z225 is merely a continuation of that response.
The SBT is impossible. There was more than one gunman firing at President Kennedy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael T. Griffith holds a Masterís degree in Theology
from The Catholic Distance University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical
History from American Military University, a Bachelorís degree in Liberal Arts
from Excelsior College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the
Community College of the Air Force. He also holds an Advanced Certificate
of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from