The Suspicious 6.5 mm Fragment

Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Revised and Expanded on 3/25/98

(Note: The original version of this article was written in mid-1996, before Dr. David Mantik was able to establish, through optical density measurements, that the 6.5 mm object seen on President Kennedy's autopsy x-rays is not metallic, that its image was superimposed over a smaller, genuine fragment, and that the 6.5 mm object must have been added to the x-ray after the autopsy. I have retained most of the original wording and assumptions, in part to show how clear it was even then that the 6.5 mm object was evidence of fraud in the autopsy materials.)

On the lateral and anterior-posterior skull x-rays that were reportedly made at President Kennedy's autopsy, there appears a 6.5 mm bullet fragment in the back of the head, slightly below the revised rear head entry wound identified by the Clark Panel and by the medical panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). Both panels concluded the fragment was embedded in the outer table of the skull. The Select Committee's medical panel opined that the fragment sheared off the bullet as the bullet struck the skull.

However, there is considerable doubt that this fragment was present on the body during the autopsy, and hence that it was present on the radiographs that were taken and examined that night. Why? Because none of the autopsy doctors said a word about the fragment. They didn't mention it in any of their notes on the autopsy (at least not in any that are in evidence), and they said nothing about it in their testimony before the Warren Commission (WC). Additionally, Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged lone assassin, supposedly used fully metal-jacketed (FMJ) bullets. According to ballistics and forensic experts, however, FMJ missiles do not deposit sizable fragments upon impacting on skull bone. And even if the bullet had behaved in such an unlikely manner, physics would seem to demand that the fragment would have been deposited above the entrance wound, not below it. The top of the entry hole would have acted like a chisel, scraping off a piece of the jacket as the missile struck the skull at a downward angle of at least 17 degrees in relation to the horizontal plane. There would appear to be five possible explanations for the 6.5 mm fragment:

1. The fragment was present on the body, and hence on the x- rays, during the autopsy, but the autopsy doctors and the radiologist failed to notice it in the skull's outer table or on the x-rays. This is so extremely unlikely as to be virtually impossible. While the attending doctors perhaps could have failed to see the fragment in the outer table of the skull, they could not have failed to notice it on the x-rays. It would have been impossible to miss.

2. The fragment was present on the body and on the x-rays during the autopsy, and was noticed by the pathologists and/or by the radiologist, but for some inexplicable reason the fragment was not retrieved and the pathologists innocently failed to mention it in their reports or in their testimony. This explanation is just about as markedly implausible as the previous one. One of the primary purposes of the autopsy was to recover bullet fragments. Dr. James Humes, the chief autopsy pathologist, indicated to the WC that all the sizable fragments that were seen were recovered, and the 6.5 mm fragment would have been quite obvious. If the pathologists had seen the fragment, why wouldn't they have mentioned it in the autopsy report? Why wouldn't Dr. Humes have at least mentioned seeing the fragment when he testified before the WC? Again, Dr. Humes indicated to the Commission that he and the other prosectors were specifically looking for bullet fragments, that they recovered all the sizable fragments that were visible on the x-rays, and that the fragments they left in the skull were all tiny particles (see, for example, 2 H 353-355).

3. The fragment was present on the skull and on the x-rays during the autopsy, and the pathologists and the radiologist noticed it, but they decided to say nothing about its existence because they realized it was incompatible with a direct hit on the skull by a bullet fired from the sniper's window and that it almost certainly could not have come from the kind of ammunition allegedly used by Oswald. This suggestion is not without merit. But, it is contradicted by Dr. David Mantik's optical density analysis of the 6.5 mm fragment.

One would think that if the pathologists had seen the fragment but decided to conceal its existence, they would have removed it from the skull and made new x-rays, which, of course, would not show the fragment. Then, they and/or others who likewise wanted to conceal the fragment's existence, could have destroyed the old x-rays after the autopsy. If they did remove the fragment, to whom did they give it? Reports on the number of sizable fragments recovered from the skull all said only two were retrieved, both of which are discussed in the autopsy report and both of which were located near the right eye. If the doctors had noticed the fragment but wanted to conceal its existence, surely they would have realized they were taking a terrific gamble by not making new x-rays. Surely it would have occurred to them that the radiographs showing the fragment might surface during their lifetime and that they might be discredited by the disclosure of the fragment's existence. But, perhaps they weren't able to make new x-rays and to destroy the first ones, or perhaps they were willing to gamble that the radiographs would not be made public in their lifetime, rather than risk trying to make new ones and destroying or hiding the old ones.

Yet, there is evidence that suggests that Dr. Humes and the two other prosectors examined x-rays in January 1967 that did not show the 6.5 mm fragment. After examining the alleged autopsy x-rays and photos for nearly five hours, the autopsy doctors signed a statement which said the materials they had just examined "corroborate our visual observations during the autopsy and conclusively support our medical opinion as set forth in the summary of our autopsy report." They could not have truthfully said this if the skull x-rays they viewed contained the 6.5 mm fragment. On the other hand, it's possible that the 6.5 mm fragment was present in those radiographs and that the prosectors simply dissembled because they still believed the public would not see the x-rays during their lifetime.

An alternate version of this theory as it concerns the autopsy doctors could be that the pathologists did not willingly attempt to conceal the fragment's existence, but rather were ordered or otherwise pressured into doing so.

In any case, there are several pronounced problems with this explanation, aside from the issue of what the autopsy doctors would have done in relation to making new x-rays, retrieving the fragment, and so forth. All things considered, this explanation is quite unlikely.

4. There was a fragment on the body and on the x-rays at or near the revised entry point identified by the Clark Panel and by the HSCA, but it, the fragment, was smaller than the 6.5 mm fragment. The autopsy doctors and the radiologist noticed the fragment but decided to say nothing about it for the reasons indicated in the preceding explanation. This suggestion can by no means be ruled out. Furthermore, this explanation could explain the vague reference to a bullet fragment in the back of the head in the 11/22/63 FBI report on the autopsy prepared by FBI agents James Sibert and Francis O'Neill. However, the explanation does raise some of the same questions associated with the previous explanation in terms of why the autopsy pathologists would not have removed the fragment and made new radiographs, etc., etc. These questions, though, are not unanswerable. Again, perhaps the prosectors, and possibly others who were involved in concealing the fragment's existence, believed the x-rays would not be made public during their lifetime. Or, maybe they thought the x-rays would be destroyed before they could be made public, or that the Kennedy family would never allow them to be released.

The vague Sibert and O'Neill reference to a fragment in the back of the head in their 11/22/63 report on the autopsy poses a problem for lone-gunman theorists. Some WC defenders have suggested that the autopsy doctors "misread" the 6.5 mm fragment on the AP x-ray and mistakenly believed it was in the frontal area (near the right eye). According to WC supporters, this would explain why the pathologists didn't mention the fragment. This theory is extremely doubtful. For one thing, how would the pathologists, not to mention the radiologist, have "misread" the fragment's location on the lateral x-ray? Second, the autopsists closely examined the area around the rear head entry wound; among other things, they reflected the scalp back to examine the bone around the hole. How could they have missed the large 6.5 mm fragment if it had been embedded in the outer table of the skull just below the entrance point? Third, the pathologists removed the sizable fragments that they saw on the x-rays in the area of the right eye.

In any event, if we assume Sibert and O'Neill's reference to a fragment in the back of the head is authentic (and not the result of foul play), and that the fragment they mentioned was the 6.5 mm fragment, then how can it be suggested that the autopsists "misread" the 6.5 mm fragment's location on the AP radiograph, since Sibert and O'Neill could have only learned of the fragment's existence from the autopsists? To slightly rephrase the question, since Sibert and O'Neill could have only learned about the back-of-the-head fragment from the autopsy pathologists, how can it be theorized that those same pathologists believed the fragment was in the right frontal region?

Other questions arise: Why is Sibert and O'Neill's description of the back-of-the-head fragment so vague? Why wasn't its exact location stated? Why weren't its dimensions given? Dimensions were given for the two fragments recovered from the right frontal area--why weren't any listed for the alleged fragment "at the rear of the skull"? Furthermore, Sibert and O'Neill said the back-of-the-head fragment was the second largest fragment, yet on the x-rays in evidence the 6.5 mm fragment is the largest fragment. Why the discrepancy? (This conflict tends to support Dr. Mantik's suggestion that if there was a fragment in the rear part of the head at the autopsy, it was not as large as the 6.5 mm fragment now seen on the radiographs, and that therefore the image of the latter was placed over the image of the former.) [As mentioned, after this article was first written, Dr. Mantik was able to establish that the 6.5 mm fragment is not metallic, and that it was placed over the image of a smaller, genuine fragment, and he even duplicated the manner in which the image of the 6.5 mm object was created and superimposed over a smaller, genuine fragment in that location. This is an historic discovery, for it proves the AP x-ray was altered.]

5. There was no 6.5 mm fragment on the body, and thus no such fragment on the radiographs at or near the revised entry point. The x-rays now in evidence are not the original pristine radiographs. This is an entirely plausible suggestion, one that would explain the varied conflicts in the evidence concerning the 6.5 mm fragment and the wounds on Kennedy's head.

What about Sibert and O'Neill's vague reference to a fragment somewhere in the rear of the head? Harrison Livingstone suggests the FBI might have slightly doctored the 11/22/63 report and simply told Sibert and O'Neill that the fragment had been discovered in a later examination of the x-rays. This could explain why the fragment's size and location were not specified. (Or, the reference could be valid and was vaguely worded because the autopsy pathologists purposely failed to mention the fragment's exact location, in which case the previous explanation would be the most likely position.) [Again, Dr. Mantik has now verified that the 6.5 mm object was placed over the image of a smaller, genuine fragment, and it was this smaller fragment to which Sibert and O'Neill almost certainly referred.]

These are not all the problems associated with the suspicious 6.5 mm fragment. There is also the fact that private experts argue that the image identified as the revised entry wound on the x-rays is not an entry wound at all. Additionally, the autopsy doctors told the HSCA that they carefully measured the original rear entry wound, and they placed it a whopping four inches lower than the revised location.

Without question, the 6.5 mm fragment is hard evidence of fraud in the autopsy materials and of the doubtful nature of the claim that Oswald killed 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 Carroll College.He is a graduate in Arabic and Hebrew of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas.In addition, he has completed Advanced Hebrews program at Haifa University in Israel and at the Spiro Institute in London, England.He is the author of five books on Mormonism and ancient texts, including How Firm A Foundation, A Ready Reply, and One Lord, One Faith.He is also the author of a book on the JFK assassination titled Compelling Evidence (JFK Lancer, 1996).