Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mr. Holland’s Opus: Max Holland and National Geographic Channel’s "The Lost Bullet"

by DALE K. MYERS with TODD W. VAUGHAN



Fig. 1 – Opening Title of National Geographic Channel’s “JFK: The Lost Bullet” [NatGeo TV]

If you knew little to nothing about the JFK assassination, you might have found the National Geographic Channels’ (NatGeo) fast cutting, visually stimulating docu-mystery about the so-called “lost bullet” last November interesting and informative.

Unfortunately, for the rest of us, NatGeo’s second foray [1] into the JFK assassination, JFK: The Lost Bullet, is an embarrassing potpourri of assassination “facts” as seen through the eyes of reputed assassination scholar and “historian” Max Holland.

If this all seems terribly familiar, I’m afraid it is.

Author Max Holland (The Kennedy Assassination Tapes) has made multiple attempts to sell what no doubt will be the promotional anchor of his yet-to-be-published book on the Warren Commission – the idea that the first shot fired at the Kennedy motorcade missed its target because it struck a traffic signal pole overhanging Elm Street.

Mr. Holland’s ever evolving theory first surfaced in February 2007 and despite endless revised attempts to sell it, few are buying.

If you’ve been in the dark about this issue for the last four years, you can get up to speed with these three past entries: Max Holland’s 11 Seconds in Dallas, Holland Déjà vu, and Cherry-Picking Evidence of the First Shot.

As far as the latest go-round goes, NatGeo dishes out lots of eye-candy, but in spite of all their hoopla, they fail to deliver any credible evidence to support Holland’s theory. In fact, the night the program was broadcast, Holland released a detailed report on his theory that directly contradicts the final conclusion of the documentary.

If you’ve already heard enough, feel free to stop reading right here. For the more inquisitive types, here’s a detailed run down of the shenanigans behind this latest attempt to sell Holland’s as yet unproven theory.

The Lost Bullet

In the opening minutes of the one hour NatGeo documentary, the narrator sets up the program by explaining that the Warren Commission never pinpointed “the time and location of all three shots” and that the original investigators only accounted for two of the three bullets fired that day.

“That leaves one that has never been accounted for,” the narrator tells us, “the lost bullet of the JFK assassination.”

According to NatGeo, “a team led by JFK assassination scholar Max Holland” returned to the scene of the crime to re-open the case “with the help of cutting-edge technology, eyewitnesses who haven’t spoken publicly in decades, and newly restored versions of some of the best evidence there is – the home movies that captured the assassination as it happened. Their goal: to discover what no official investigation has ever determined. If Oswald fired all three bullets as the Warren Report concluded, what exactly happened to each one.”

Apparently, looking for the “lost bullet” wasn’t enough to fill fifty minutes of programming (in fact, the lost bullet segment only accounts for half of that), so the producers spend the first half hour tramping over ground that has been documented to the N-th degree elsewhere and far better than they manage in this take. But, you wouldn’t know that, watching this production. According to NatGeo, Mr. Holland is uncovering new secrets at every turn.

The first shot to receive Holland’s scrutiny is the fatal head shot. (The producers decided to work backward from the last shot; presumably to keep viewers in their seats until they got around to the only reason to watch this program – the shot that spawned the so-called lost bullet. That’s television, folks.)

To determine the source of the fatal bullet, the producers decided to rely largely on home movies. The only apparent reason for this approach was to tout the new high definition transfers of the Zapruder and other amateur home movies supplied by the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas, who handles the licensing for this material. [2]

New film transfers

During the introductory segment of the program, the narrator breathlessly tells viewers that the films of the assassination have been “restored to a state more pristine than the day they were exposed to the Dallas sunshine of November 22, 1963.” Exactly how something could be more pristine than the day it was created is not explained.




Fig. 2 – NatGeo’s juxtaposed original Zapruder frame (left) and new HD digital transfer (right). [NatGeo TV]

If that seems a little overstated, consider the fact that as the narrator makes this statement, viewers are shown the absolute poorest quality version of the Zapruder film I’ve ever seen, juxtaposed with the new HD transfer. The implication, of course, is that we’re going to see something we’ve never seen before – which, while technically true, is misleading at best.

Yes, the films have been transferred to a high definition format and yes, David J. Markun of Henninger Media Services is correct when he says, “This is the first time anybody’s ever seen the Zapruder film in high definition.”

But, come on! Other researchers and filmmakers haven’t been exactly working in the dark over the last two decades.




Fig. 3 – MPI’s 1995 digital scan of Zapruder frame Z162.[MPI]

A high quality digital version of the Zapruder film (including the sprocket-hole area that captured additional imagery) has been available to the public since 1995 when MPI released their documentary “Image of an Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film.”




Fig. 4 – National Archives’ digital video scan of Zapruder frame Z162 from a 35mm print. [NARA]

Even the thirty-five millimeter National Archives print utilized for the new HD transfer here appeared in the 2003 ABC News special “Peter Jennings Reporting: The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy.”

While both of these digital versions have only been available in video resolution (720x480 pixels) and not high definition (1920x1080 pixels), there is an important point to be made here: Image resolution is only as good as the source material.

In other words, an 8mm movie film frame scanned at video, high definition or even IMAX resolutions cannot become sharper or clearer than its native resolution. A soft, somewhat blurry 8mm film frame will still be soft and somewhat blurry no matter how high the scanned resolution.

Ken Weisman, at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, says as much in the NatGeo program when he described the scanning process: “This is an 8mm Oxberry gate that we bought specifically to scan 8mm films. And an 8mm frame is very, very small. In the case of this scanning process, the resolution of the scan is actually higher than the native resolution of the film itself.” [emphasis added]

In other words, don’t expect to see anything more than you can see at the film’s native resolution. And when it comes to 8mm film resolution (in which the image area is only 0.130 inches high by 0.177 inches wide), digital video is more than adequate to display the nuances of the original film’s resolution. High definition is sexy and cool, but frankly, at nearly three times the resolution of video it’s overkill for 8mm film sources.

The fatal head shot

Despite these realities, the NatGeo special claimed that the new HD transfers helped resolve one of the most ridiculous theories ever - that Kennedy’s limousine driver, William Greer, fired the fatal head shot.

This bizarre theory used poor quality, high contrast versions of the Zapruder film to fool people into believing that Greer’s dastardly deed was on camera. But anyone looking at even a reasonably clear video version of the Zapruder film – and believe me, many people did years ago when this ludicrous notion was first proposed – can see that Greer has both hands on the wheel at the moment of the fatal head shot.

But who would know that after watching NatGeo’s crime-solver?




Fig. 5 – Both of driver William Greer’s hands are visible – left (yellow arrow), right (red arrow) – in the National Archives’ digital video scan of Zapruder frame Z312 from a 35mm print. [NARA]

According to the narrator, after applying the high definition transfer and enhancement process to the Zapruder film, “the driver of the limousine appears with new clarity” (as if common sense doesn’t enter into the equation at all) and consequently it is clear that he doesn’t have a gun in his hand. Yea, no kidding.

The impression left with uninformed viewers, of course, is that Mr. Holland with the aid of a new high definition transfer of the Zapruder film has solved one of the enduring assassination mysteries.

To dismiss allegations that the fatal head shot was fired from the grassy knoll, Mr. Holland assembled his team in Dealey Plaza, roped off the street, and staged an elaborate reconstruction of the presidential limousine’s route down Elm Street using Fred Nicholas Ciacelli’s custom 1961 limousine replica – the same one used in Oliver Stone’s JFK.

Not that any of this was necessary, since Holland’s discussion of the fatal head shot amounted to revisiting the nearly fifty-year-old recollection of one eyewitness – Amos Lee Euins, who said that all of the shots came from the Texas School Book Depository – and taking yet another look at some high definition film transfers.

In the program, we see Mr. Holland and senior engineer Michael Wilder of Image Trends, Inc., in Austin, Texas, seated at two monitors.




Fig. 6 – Max Holland examining pages from Dale K. Myers’ 2007 synchronization chart of amateur films of the Kennedy assassination. [NatGeo TV]

Holland is examining several pages from a chart I created for my 2007 report, “Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination,” showing how nine amateur films of the JFK assassination synchronize to form a continuous moment in time. (More on this in the section, Documentary flim-flam)

“This is extremely exciting,” Holland says while gesturing to a frame of the Mark Bell film on the monitor, “because, as far as I’m concerned this is new film about the assassination that’s never been able to be viewed or evaluate because it’s never appeared with such clarity.”

Of course, the Mark Bell film is not new, having been used in many other documentaries in the past. It’s also one of the amateur films included in my 2007 report which Holland is seen holding in his hand. Of course, what Holland meant to say was that it only seemed like a new film given its high definition treatment. Okay, so what does this new transfer show?

Bell’s film lingers on the area of grassy knoll in the minute after the presidential limousine left Dealey Plaza. The sprocket-hole area is visible for the first time but adds nothing of any real importance. To my own eye, the transfer doesn’t look any better than the digital version I’ve been looking at for the better part of ten years.

“Now he’s panning over the grassy knoll area,” Holland narrates. “We see there’s nobody there to the extent it provides negative information about an alleged assassin up there. There is nobody.”

Negative information? I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a film that only shows the front of the stockade fence on the grassy knoll doesn’t offer much proof that no one is standing behind the fence with a gun in their hand.

Next, NatGeo offers up a high definition transfer of the Orville Nix film, shot from the side of the street opposite Zapruder.

“The home movie by Orville Nix shows something even more crucial after enhancement,” the narrator declares. “At the terrible moment of the fatal shot – Bullet C – a fine mist can be seen pushing forward from the front of President Kennedy’s head. To Holland, it adds to the evidence that Bullet C didn’t come from the grassy knoll but from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository.”

Here again, the high definition transfer of the Nix film doesn’t provided us with anything that we haven’t been able to see before - even in standard video versions. The spray of brain matter exiting from the front of the President’s head has always been visible. It’s equally visible in the Zapruder and Muchmore films too, no enhancement required. NatGeo makes it sound as if it’s only visible in the Nix film after their high definition enhancement.

As any JFK assassination scholar worth his salt knows, there’s plenty of hard reality to eliminate the grassy knoll as the source of the fatal shot without resorting to the Mark Bell or Orville Nix films, neither of which move the argument one way or the other and whose only purpose seems to be to provide more gee-whiz to a rather slow moving documentary.




Fig. 7 – Wound ballistics expert Larry M. Sturdivan behind the stockade fence atop the grassy knoll. [NatGeo TV]

The only person to offer any real proof about the source of the fatal head shot was wound ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan who appears momentarily on camera to say, “It’s obvious that any shot from here [behind the fence] particularly the head shot would have exited Kennedy’s head on the left and probably gone into Jackie or if it missed Jackie would have hit the car. None of those things happened.”

Alas, NatGeo offered no graphic illustration or animation to demonstrate Mr. Sturdivan’s point. In fact, he was whisked from the screen as quickly as he appeared.

The narrator tells us that Holland’s team has now “traced the third shot or Bullet C back to [the sniper’s] window.”

Huh? The only inference drawn between the sniper’s nest window and the fatal head shot was when eyewitness Amos Euins said that all of the shots came from that window.

Of course, if you were serious about providing a definitive answer about the source of the fatal shot you would simply point out that the bullet fragments that passed through President Kennedy’s skull, and that were subsequently recovered from the floor of the presidential limousine, were scientifically proven to have been fired from Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository to the exclusion of all other weapons on the planet.

But, NatGeo doesn’t even mention the physical evidence. Instead viewers are asked to accept a conclusion about the most controversial gunshot in American history based on two grainy 8mm films (one that admittedly shows nothing to support or refute a grassy knoll shot and the other that only indicates the shot came from somewhere behind the limousine) and the account of a single eyewitness.

NatGeo’s look at the single bullet theory is equally superficial, covering old ground with lasers, a live re-staging of the moment of impact, and yet another look at the appropriate frames of the Zapruder film.

“So, Holland has shown how bullet ‘B’ could hit both men but only if it came from Oswald’s location in the book depository,” the narrator tells us.

It’s all a big yawn, unless of course, you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past forty-eight years.

Searching for the lost bullet

Thirty minutes into the program, NatGeo finally turned its attention to the only reason anyone has tuned in – the so called “lost bullet,” which, according to the narrator, has “baffled investigators since 1963.”

As everyone who has studied the assassination knows, three spent cartridge cases were found in the sixth floor sniper’s nest and since we know there were two hits with one bullet – the single bullet – and another hit to the president’s head, then one of the bullets must have missed. It was never recovered. Holland refers to this bullet as Bullet ‘A’.

“It didn’t hit anybody that [the Warren Commission] knew of really so they didn’t spend any time worrying about it too much,” Holland assures us. “But in retrospect with the benefit of hindsight we see how important it is because if it’s the first shot it defines the total length of time that Oswald had to fire three shots.”

Wait, just a minute. This introduction to the “lost bullet” segment makes it sound as if the Warren Commission was not only unaware that a bystander had been slightly wounded by a possible errant shot, but spent little time even questioning what happened to the bullet Oswald fired from the third shell casing found on the sixth floor.

The way NatGeo presents it, Max Holland is the first person to ever wonder about the missed shot and what significance it might have on how the shooting sequence unfolded.

Truth be told, investigators looked into the missing bullet question during the earliest phases of the investigation. Retired Secret Service agent John Joe Howlett appears on-camera in this very segment of the program telling viewers, “…we really started looking at all we could to see what happened to that bullet.”

The 1964 Warren Report itself devoted four pages to questions about the missing bullet (in a section aptly titled, “The Shot That Missed”), including an in-depth analysis which weighed the evidence for and against the possibility that any one of the three shots heard that day was the one that missed. They also discuss evidence of a bullet fragment strike on the Main Street curb and the testimony of James T. Tague who was standing nearby and was apparently hit on the cheek by flying debris from that bullet impact. [3]

Because the bullet was never recovered, the Commission was forced to conclude, “The wide range of possibilities and the existence of conflicting testimony, when coupled with the impossibility of scientific verification, precludes a conclusive finding by the Commission as to which shot missed.” [4]

As to the missing bullet and its relationship to the total time span of the three shots, the Warren Commission again weighed in, explaining in the section, “Time Span of the Shots,” that since the time span between the shot that struck the president’s back and the one that struck his head was 4.8 to 5.8 seconds, a missed shot fired between those two bullets would mean the total time span was no more than 5.8 seconds. If the missed shot was fired before the president was hit in the back or after he was hit in the head, then the total time span would be increased by a minimum of 2.3 seconds (the time calculated by the FBI to be the minimum time needed to operate the rifle). That would push the total time span to a minimum of 7.1 to 7.9 seconds for the three shots. [5]

“If more than 2.3 seconds elapsed between a shot that missed and one that hit,” the Report states, “then the time span would be correspondingly increased.” [6]

In the end, the Warren Commission concluded “that one shot probably missed the Presidential limousine and its occupants, and that three shots were fired in a time period ranging from approximately 4.8 to in excess of 7 seconds.” [7]

Maybe it’s just me, but unlike Holland’s suggestion, it seems as if the Warren Commission explored the missed shot and the total time span of the shooting pretty well, even providing for the possibility that the time span of the shots might have been longer if Oswald had taken more time than the minimum between an early missed shot and his first hit.

Mono vision

The way Mr. Holland tells it, everyone became mesmerized by the visual power of the Zapruder film in the years after the release of the Warren Report.

It quickly became the dominant perspective, Holland tells the NatGeo audience, “and that was because people assumed he had filmed the whole thing.”

Really? That’s not the way I remember it. Bootleg copies of the Zapruder (and other amateur films) fell into the hands of independent researchers beginning in the late 1960s providing them an opportunity to study the assassination sequence themselves without being restricted to just those frames (Z171-334) thought to be pertinent by the FBI’s Lyndal Shaneyfelt.

Does Holland really think the Warren Commission critics just sat on their hands and accepted the Commission’s reconstruction of the shooting, and consequently their assessment of the Zapruder film, without checking the film for themselves?

I got my hands on a bootleg Super 8mm print of the Zapruder film in 1975. Although I was only armed with a horrible quality copy and a hand-cranked movie editor, I was still able to spot Governor Connally turning sharply to the right between Z162-167. I realized right then that his movements matched his testimony and indicated a shot in the mid-Z150s – much earlier than the Warren Commission ever considered.

Three years later, the House Select Committee on Assassinations’ (HSCA) photographic panel, using a far superior quality copy of the Zapruder film, noticed the same thing I (and I suspect others) did. The HSCA ultimately concluded that a shot was fired earlier than previously thought. [8]

As other amateur films of the assassination became available, researchers searched for clues to the shooting. Despite the intense scrutiny over the past two-plus decades, no one has ever found any evidence to indicate that any shots were fired before Zapruder began recording the presidential limousine’s journey down Elm Street. And trust me, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

A different idea

“Now Max Holland has a different idea,” the NatGeo narrator tells us. “The missing bullet could have been fired earlier during a gap in time when Zapruder wasn’t recording.”

The NatGeo program never explains why Mr. Holland seized on the idea of a first shot being fired before Zapruder re-started his camera, although the answer was revealed in February 2007, when Holland first pitched this theory.

According to Holland, a great many of the ear witnesses reported hearing a longer pause between shots one and two than between two and three. Since the generally accepted shooting scenario of Z160, 223, and 313 is more evenly spaced, Holland believed that if the first shot was fired before Zapruder restarted his camera, the shot cadence would better match what the ear witnesses remember.

While exploring the shot cadence idea, he realized that an earlier shot would also place the limousine in the proximity of a traffic light mast hanging over Elm Street which might explain why the first shot missed. Hence, the theory that the first shot was deflected by the traffic light mast was born.

Yet the basis of Holland’s theory (the cadence of the shots as heard by the ear witnesses) fails the most elementary test – what it sounds like.

Here’s a link to an audio recording of a Mannlicher-Carcano being fired at the intervals proposed by Holland – the equivalent of Z107, Z223, and Z313:

HOLLAND SHOT SCENARIO LINK - MP3 [Right-Click: Save Link As...]

Listen to it and imagine you’re an ear witness to the shooting. Does it really sound like the last two shots are spaced closer together than the first two?

Yes, technically more time elapses between the first two shots (6.3 seconds) than the last two (4.9 seconds). But does it sound like the last two shots are closer together?

If you’re standing in Dealey Plaza to see the president and suddenly, without warning, three shots ring out in the cadence proposed by Holland (and demonstrated in the audio clip above), are you really going to remember the last two shots being closer in time than the first two?

Mr. Holland has been sent this recording on multiple occasions and so far has refused to comment.

Ear witnesses

There’s another point that should be discussed since it relates directly to the recollections of ear witnesses in Dealey Plaza. Anyone who has studied the ear witness accounts of the assassination knows that often there is no direct correlation between the number of shots heard and the events transpiring in from of them.

Some witnesses heard only two shots, but from their description we know they are talking about the last two. Sometimes, we can tell they are talking about the first two. In many cases, when comparing what some eyewitness saw and what they heard, it is clear that some of those who heard three shots – the last two being bunched very closer together in time (as in pow…pow-pow) – are actually talking about the last two shots, with the double-sound occurring at the moment of the head shot.

Secret Service agent Clint Hill is one of those double-sound ear witnesses. He recalled hearing only two shots, but remembered that the fatal head shot had a different ring to it than the first one, “I think I described it in my statement at though someone was shooting a revolver into a hard object – it seemed to have some type of echo.” [9]

Taken as a whole, the vast majority of ear witnesses who heard three shots thought the last two shots were closer together in time than the first two (This is Holland’s jumping off point for his theory.) But how reliable are these ear witness accounts?

We know from the evidence (the shell casings on the sixth floor, the recovered bullet and bullet fragments, the operating speed of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, and the images of the event in the Zapruder film) that three shots were fired (two hits and one miss) and we also know what the general minimum cadence of the shots would have been.

And yet, while the vast majority of witnesses heard only three shots, there is a general disagreement as to the cadence, though it can be said that the majority thought the last two were closer together than the first two. In fact, in some cases the last two are described as being so close together that they could not have come from the same rifle.

What explanation can there be for so many ear witnesses hearing the opposite from what the evidence shows?

Vincent Bugliosi makes an interesting argument in his book, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, writing, “Apart from the fallibility of eye and ear testimony, though the ear witnesses heard the first shot, it could have been such a shock to their senses that only the sound (which many erroneously thought was that of a firecracker or car backfire) registered, not the sound in relation to the very next sound they heard. By the time of the second shot they may have regained their mental and auditory acuity, now knowing shots were being fired, but they were in no position to compare the space between the second and third shots with that of the first and second.” [10]

In addition, we know that the gunshots would have sounded differently to each ear witness depending on where they were standing in Dealey Plaza – their admittedly fallible mind attempting to distinguish between the sound made by the muzzle blast, the shock wave of the bullet passing their position, the impact the bullet made, and the subsequent echoes produced by the surrounding buildings, monuments, and railroad underpass.

Wound ballistics expert, Larry Sturdivan, who testified for the HSCA, has an excellent chapter on the auditory properties of supersonic bullets and their effects on ear witnesses in his book, The JFK Myths: A Scientific Investigation of the Kennedy Assassination. [11]

Bottom line? There’s no reason to give substantial weight to the idea that the first shot was fired as early as Holland theorizes based on ear witness testimony alone. In fact, Holland’s theory (as demonstrated in the audio clip above) runs counter to his own supposition that the majority of ear witnesses were correct when they described the last two shots being bunched closer together in time than the first two.

Of course, if there was hard evidence – physical and/or photographic – to support the ear witness testimony, then Holland’s theory might have some teeth. But does it?

Where is the evidence?

Obviously, the simplest way for Holland to prove his theory is to locate the spot on the traffic light mast where the bullet struck (the original mast is still there today) and hope it left some trace of metal that could be linked to Oswald’s ammunition.

But cutting to the chase is not the way television shows are produced. They and their advertisers prefer to go the long way around the barn. And so it is, in this case.

First, before examining the traffic signal pole, Mr. Holland takes a look at the Robert Hughes film, another amateur film that shows the motorcade turning onto Elm Street shortly before Zapruder begins filming.




Fig. 8 – Frame H593 of the Robert Hughes film showing the presidential limousine turning the corner onto Elm Street below the sixth floor sniper’s nest window (arrow). [Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza]

Taken from a block away, the Hughes film shows the southern face of the depository – including the sixth floor sniper’s nest window – just as the presidential limousine passes under it.

The NatGeo narrator reminds us again that we’re looking at a new high resolution scan of the film. With the portion of the film depicting the sixth floor window enlarged to fill the screen, Holland tells us, “As far as I know, this has never been able to be seen by the human unaided eye. As the loop starts right here you can see the shape in the window – Lee Harvey Oswald getting into position to fire the first shot.”




Fig. 9 – HD scan of the Robert Hughes film showing the sixth floor sniper’s nest window. [Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza / NatGeo TV]

Let’s stop right here. First of all, what in the world does Mr. Holland mean that the Hughes film has “never been able to be seen by the human unaided eye”? Does anyone have any idea?

If he means that we’ve never seen a high resolution transfer of the Hughes film before, I refer you to the discussion above about scanning low resolution source material in high resolution. As I said then, the process doesn’t add resolution. If he’s suggesting that the sixth floor window seen in the Hughes film has never been analyzed before, he’s wrong.

The Hughes film was first analyzed by the FBI laboratory and the U.S. Navy Photographic Interpretation Center in 1964 after Hughes personally delivered the film to the FBI office in Dallas. They concluded that the film “does not depict the form of a person or persons” in the sixth floor window and that the object seen is “probably a stack of boxes later determined to have been in the room.” [12]

Itek Corporation studied the film in 1967 and 1976, applying computer enhancement techniques to the sixth floor corner window. They concluded that “the motion of an object or person was detected in the sixth-floor corner window” and that the “identification of this object was not possible despite enhancement techniques applied to the imagery.” [13] According to Itek Corp., the object in the window changes shape, appearing to move “from the edge toward the middle of the window.” However, Itek’s plot of the shape shows it initially located center-right and moving toward the center of the sixth floor window as the sequence ends. [14]

Based on the trajectory of each of the three shots and Hughes’ viewing angle of the sixth floor window, Oswald’s firing position (including Holland’s own re-staging, which we’ll discuss in a moment) could not have been where Itek detected a moving object. So, what was this moving shape?

The answer came two years later, in 1978, when the photographic panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations took another more sophisticated look at the Hughes film using computer enhancement and motion analysis and concluded that what Itek perceived as a moving object was in fact photographic artifacts.

In their final report, the HSCA photographic panel noted that changes in image contrast and focus from frame-to-frame was largely responsible for most of the perceived motion seen in the window. The remaining motion was quantified by tracking the shape change. The results demonstrated that “the perceived motion was apparent rather than real.” [15]

The photographic panel also examined the closed sixth floor windows adjacent to the open sniper’s nest window and found the same type of photographic artifacts present. In conclusion, the panel wrote, “…the Panel did not attribute this pattern of changes to the motion of any recognizable object such as a person. While the overall pattern of changes is not necessarily inconsistent with human motion, the Panel still concludes that the perceived motions are attributable to photographic artifact.” [16] [emphasis added]

According to Mr. Holland, though, the shape-shifting form is not only identifiable as a person, but is in fact Lee Harvey Oswald getting into position to fire the first shot. Obviously, that’s wishful thinking, at best.

Nevertheless, the NatGeo narrator tells us that, “Hughes stops filming just as the president’s limousine turns onto Elm Street. If Hughes had kept his camera on for just a few more seconds we might have seen a rifle emerge to fire Bullet A.”

Not really, since a shot this early would require Oswald to be standing with the barrel inside the window in order to acquire the necessary downward trajectory. Even Holland’s own re-staging of Oswald’s shooting position for NatGeo affirms that fact (as we’ll see in a moment).

Amos Euins speaks

The program finally turns to the question of when the first shot was fired and here Mr. Holland offers up the recollections of 63-year-old Amos Lee Euins as his expert witness.

This isn’t the first time Holland has relied on Euins to bolster his theory. When Holland first pitched this theory back in 2007, he claimed that Euins was one of those who said the presidential limousine was near the black and white highway signs under the traffic light mast at the time of the first shot.

That turns out not to be true, as we have pointed out more than once, but that hasn’t stopped Holland from continuing to use Euins to prop up his first shot silliness.

In fact, Amos Euins, who was fifteen-years-old in 1963, has been quite malleable when it comes to the details of his account of the assassination. It’s worthwhile and illuminating to take a moment and compare what Mr. Euins has said over the years with how Holland and NatGeo treat their star witness.




Fig. 10 – Amos Lee Euins, age 15, at the time of the Kennedy assassination. [CBS News Archive / NatGeo TV]

Within a minute or so of the assassination, Dallas police sergeant D.V. Harkness drove his three-wheel motorcycle down the Elm Street extension, dashed into the crowd gathering near the west side of the book depository, and asked if anyone had seen where the shots came from. An unidentified man pointed to Euins and said, “This boy here saw it.” [17]

Euins told Harkness that the shots came from the “last window” on the southeast corner of the book depository, “It was [the window] under the ledge.” [18]

Harkness put Euins on the back of his three-wheel motorcycle and drove to the front entrance of the book depository where he put Euins into the back of Inspector J. Herbert Sawyer’s car. [19] Harkness walked over to his three-wheel radio and six minutes after the assassination broadcast the information on the police radio:

“I have a witness that says it come from the fifth floor of the Texas - ah - Depository
Bookstore at Houston and Elm. I have him with me now. I'm gonna seal off the building.” [20]

Harkness later said that in his haste he miscounted the floors of the building. The window under the ledge was in fact the sixth floor sniper’s nest window. [21]




Fig. 11 – Dallas police officer D.V. Harkness (left) and eyewitness Amos Lee Euins (right) at the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository shortly after the shooting. [CBS News Archive / NatGeo TV]

The assistant news director of KRLD-TV and radio in Dallas, James R. Underwood, had overheard Euins telling Harkness that he had seen a “colored man” lean out one of the depository windows with a rifle. After Harkness put Euins into the police car, Underwood asked him, “Did you see someone with a rifle?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Were they white or black?”

“It was a colored man,” Euins replied.

“Are you sure it was a colored man?”

“Yes, sir.” [22]

Secret Service agent Forrest V. Sorrels arrived and accompanied Euins (and eyewitness Howard Brennan) over to the sheriff’s office at Main and Houston to get a statement. Euins told Sorrels that he had come to Dealey Plaza with another “colored boy” who ran off at the sound of the first shot. Euins said that upon hearing the noise he looked up and saw a man in the window with a rifle. Asked if he could identify him, Euins told Sorrels, “No,” that he couldn’t tell if he was “colored or white.” [23]

At the sheriff’s office, the youngster told authorities, “…I saw the President turn the corner in front of me and I waved at him and he waved back. I watched the car [go] on down the street and about the time the car got near the black and white sign I heard a shot. I started looking around and then I looked up in the red brick building. I saw a man in a window with a gun and I saw him shoot twice. He then stepped back behind some boxes. I could tell the gun was a rifle and it sounded like an automatic rifle the way he was shooting. I just saw a little bit of the barrel, and some of the trigger housing. This was a white man, he did not have on a hat. I just saw this man for a few seconds. As far as I know, I had never seen this man before.” /s/ Amos Lee Euins. [24]

One week later, Euins told the FBI, “…that the car in which the President was riding had turned the corner and was proceeding on down Elm. He stated since he could no longer see the President’s car, he happened to glance up and noticed what appeared to be the barrel of a rifle protruding from the window near the top of the Texas School Book Depository Building. He stated he saw a man’s hand on what appeared to be the rifle stock and that he knew it was a rifle because he heard the shots fired. He stated he could not tell anything about the man and that he never saw anything other than what appeared to be his hand on the stock.” [25]

Two weeks later, on December 14, 1963, the FBI interviewed Euins again. This time Euins said that at 12:15 p.m., he was standing on the corner awaiting the motorcade when he noticed “what appeared to be a metal rod” sticking out of the southeast corner of the fifth floor of the book depository. He said “he did not pay any attention to this rod” and shortly thereafter the presidential motorcade approached. [26]

Not only is this the first time Euins mentioned seeing the rifle before any shots were fired, but it’s pretty hard to believe that any gunman would risk doing such a thing fifteen minutes before the motorcade even entered the area.

Euins told the FBI that when the president’s car passed his position he waved and the president waved back. After “the president’s car started down the hill, he heard what he thought was a car backfire and he looked around and also glanced up at the TSBD building, and on the fifth floor where he had seen what he thought to be a metal rod, he noticed a rifle in the window and saw the second and third shots fired.” Although he could see the man’s hand on the trigger housing and a bald spot on the top of his head, he did not see his face and could not identify him. He was certain, however, that he was a white man because his hand was visible outside the window. Euins also told the FBI that he heard a fourth shot and that after the fourth shot the gunman began looking around and so Euins “at this time hid behind a concrete partition.” Euins then saw the man withdraw the rifle and step back from the window. [27]

Three and a half months later, on March 10, 1964, Euins was questioned by the Warren Commission. By then, Euins’ memory had improved considerably.

“I was standing here on the [southwest] comer,” Euins told the Commission. “And then the President come around the corner right here. And I was standing here. And I was waving, because there wasn't hardly no one on the corner right there but me.”

Actually, amateur films of the area where Euins claimed to be standing show it packed with spectators.

“I was waving,” Euins told the Commission. “[The President] looked that way and he waved back at me. And then I had seen a pipe [right as he turned the corner], you know, up there in the window, I thought it was a pipe, some kind of pipe…” [28]

This is the second time Euins claimed to have seen the rifle sticking out of the window before any shots were fired. The first time, he told the FBI that he spotted it about fifteen minutes before the Kennedy motorcade even reached Dealey Plaza. This time, he claimed to have seen the rifle barrel just as the president’s car turned the corner at Elm and Houston. Given his earliest statements (in which he failed to mention this important fact) and the natural inclination for one to keep their eyes on the president and not be looking around, this is pretty hard to accept

More important, this is at odds with Holland’s theory, which has Oswald firing the first shot while in a standing position (as you’ll see in a moment), which means that the barrel would have been inside the window frame, not sticking out the window as Euins claimed.

Returning to his testimony, Euins then heard a noise that he thought was a backfire and noted that people nearby started looking around. [29]

He started looking around too and glanced up and noticed what appeared to be the barrel of a rifle protruding from the sixth floor window. And just as he looked up and spotted the rifle – POW! – the second shot was fired. [30]




Fig. 12 – Amos Lee Euins showing CBS News in 1967 where the shots came from. [CBS News Archive / NatGeo TV]

Euins told the Commission that he then moved to a position behind the northeast concrete pedestal adjacent to the nearby reflecting pool. [31]

You’ll note that this is different from what he told authorities earlier. He told the FBI three weeks after the shooting that he hid behind the concrete pedestal when the gunman started looking around after all of the shots had been fired.

According to what he told the Commission, however, Euins was behind the pedestal when he saw the man in the window – one hand on the barrel and the other on the trigger – fire a third shot. [32]

Asked how many shots he heard altogether, Euins told the Commission, “I believe there was four, to be exact.” [33]

Okay, let’s review Amos Euins’ story so far. He arrives at the southwest corner of Elm and Houston fifteen minutes before the motorcade in the company of an unidentified companion. Euins spots a “metal rod” sticking out of the sixth floor window fifteen minutes before the motorcade arrives (or just as the presidential limousine turns onto Elm Street, depending on which version you accept). He waves at the president as he turns the corner. The limousine travels further down Elm Street and “about the time the car got near the black and white sign” Euins hears what he thinks is a backfire. His companion runs away at this point. The presidential limousine disappears from Euins’ line-of-sight and he starts looking around as do other nearby spectators. He glances up and sees a “pipe” sticking out of the sixth floor sniper’s nest window (again, if you accept one version of the events). Just as he spots it, the second shot rings out. Euins seeks cover behind the concrete pedestal adjacent to the reflecting pool (or he continues to stand there throughout the rest of the shooting – again, depending on which version you believe). He watches as the gunman (initially described as a “colored man”) fires a third (and in the case of his Warren Commission testimony, an additional fourth) shot.

Sounds a bit convoluted, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this is typical of many eyewitness accounts which often mix fact and fantasy along with a liberal dose of self importance – especially in a case of this magnitude. Toss in the fact that this particular witness was a fifteen year old black youth in the deep south of the early 1960s and you’ve got the potential for a skewed version of reality.

A new vision

Now, let’s fast forward to 2011. Sixty-three year old Amos Euins returns to the scene-of-the-crime in the company of Max Holland, with NatGeo’s cameras rolling.

The narrator tells us that Euins is “one of the few to recall where the president was when he heard the first shot,” which is absolute nonsense as anyone remotely familiar with the eyewitness testimony in this case knows.

Quite a few witnesses have “pinpointed” the president’s location at the time of the first shot – many of them supported by films and photographs. Unfortunately many of them are now deceased and can’t appear on-camera, but more importantly, many of them place the president’s car further down Elm Street at the time of the first shot than Mr. Holland’s theory dictates.

“[Euins] placed [the president’s limousine] at a specific point in time,” Holland tells viewers, “just as the president passed a black and white sign.”

Stop. That’s not what Amos Euins said in 1963. As the record shows, he clearly told investigators that the limousine passed his position, traveled further down Elm Street, and “about the time the car got near the black and white sign” he heard the first shot.

The president’s car hadn’t passed a black and white sign, as Holland wants viewers to believe, he was just approaching it. Why is Holland so insistent on twisting Euins’ initial statement? There can be only one reason – because it doesn’t conform to Holland’s grand theory.

Gee, if only Euins would agree that the black and white sign he mentioned wasn’t a sign that the president was approaching but rather was a cluster of black and white highway signs that he had just passed, then Holland’s ground-breaking theory would have some bite to it.




Fig. 13 – Amos Euins, age 63, gestures toward a replica limousine on Elm Street as Max Holland looks on. [NatGeo TV]

Presto! With NatGeo cameras rolling, we see Euins standing with Holland on the spot where he witnessed the assassination 48 years earlier. (Actually, he’s standing behind the pedestal where he hid after the shots were fired, but hey, why bother with such trivial details?) He gestures toward a replica of the presidential limousine positioned near three large overhead highway signs, and then toward a cluster of small highway signs near a traffic light mast a short distance behind it. We hear this exchange:

Holland: Which sign?

Euins: Right there (pointing toward the smaller cluster). Telling you which highways are which.

Holland: Right. The U.S.highways.

Euins: Yes, Sir.

Holland: And the car is now in approximately the position it was.

Euins: Right. It was just right there – at the embankment right there – about where it’s at right now when the first shot sounded out. [34]




Fig. 14 – (Top) A replica cluster of highway signs on the north side of Elm Street; (Bottom) Amos Euins points toward a group of small replica highway signs (arrow) positioned where the originals once stood on the north side of Elm Street. [NatGeo TV]

It’s nothing less than pure television magic! Here’s Amos Euins telling us nearly five decades after-the-fact that the singular black and white highway sign he mentioned in 1963 was actually a cluster of small highway signs at the corner of Elm and Houston, and that at the time of the first shot the president’s car wasn’t approaching the sign(s), as he said in 1963, but had already passed it.

Never mind the fact that the cluster of small highway signs that Euins is pointing to were manufactured specifically for the NatGeo program (the originals long ago removed) and positioned to complete Holland’s vision, while the R.L. Thornton freeway sign that also existed in 1963 (and to which Euins was clearly alluding in his earliest statement) was not. How convenient.

Given the stage dressing, is it any wonder that Euins’ “recollection” now conforms with Max Holland’s theory of an early first shot?

Despite all this finagling, there is no escaping the fact that on the day of the shooting, young Euins told authorities that after the president’s car turned the corner, he watched the car go on down the street, “and about the time the car got near the black and white sign I heard a shot.”

Now I ask you, does that sound like Euins is talking about a cluster of small highway markers located directly across the street from his position at the corner of Elm and Houston, or does that sound like he’s talking about a single sign located a short distance further down Elm Street?

In 2007, we argued that Euins could only have been referring to the R.L. Thornton freeway sign, a black and white sign that was located at the foot of the north pergola embankment. Sound familiar?

“[The president’s car] was just right there – at the embankment right there,” Euins tells Holland, “about where it’s at right now when the first shot sounded out.” [emphasis added]

A photograph taken in May, 1964, during the FBI’s re-enactment of the assassination shows the black-and-white R.L. Thornton sign located at the foot of that embankment.




Fig. 15 – A 1964 photograph of the black and white R.L. Thornton freeway sign located at the foot of the embankment mentioned by Euins. [Malcolm Barker / The Sixth Floor Museum]

Can there really be any doubt what Euins meant on the day of the shooting? Can there really be any doubt that Euins was talking about the R.L. Thornton freeway sign in 1963, and not the cluster of small highway signs back at the corner of Elm and Houston, when he described the position of the president’s limousine at the time of the first shot?




Fig. 16 – Enlargement of a 1964 photograph depicting the black and white R.L. Thornton freeway sign. [Malcolm Barker / The Sixth Floor Museum]

Of course, you’d never know from watching the NatGeo program that the embankment area that Euins was talking about was the former location of the R.L. Thornton freeway sign, which today is one of three overhead signs spanning Elm Street near the same location.

Holland and NatGeo could have replicated the R.L. Thornton freeway sign (just as they did with the small cluster of signs positioned near the traffic light mast) to help Euins and the viewing audience visualize the scene just as it was in 1963, but they didn’t. Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder why?

Still, there’s more. Euins says something during the NatGeo program that suggests the limousine might have been even closer to the R.L. Thornton sign at the time of the first shot than the guesstimate given in the program.

During a sequence which was filmed while they were discussing how to position the limousine to match its location at the time of the first shot, Euins’ says, “Right as it passed – like I say – that - that big pillar - pillar there. That would be better (unintelligible)…” [35]

The pillar that Euins is referring to is the sixteen foot high concrete tower standing on the north side of Elm Street in front of the book depository. To conform to Euins’ recollection that the limousine was passing the pillar at the time of the first shot, Holland positioned the limousine so that, from Euins’ perspective, the figure of President Kennedy lined up with the pillar.




Fig. 17 – Euins gestures toward a concrete pillar adjacent to the replica limousine. The red arrow shows the original location of the R.L Thornton freeway sign. [NatGeo TV]

The first problem with this approach is that we don’t know where Euins was standing at the time of the first shot. The NatGeo program shows Euins standing behind the reflecting pool pedestal, but we know from the contemporary record that Euins, by his own admission, didn’t move to that location until after the shooting started. If you move Euins’ position, the line-of-sight changes.

Secondly, what exactly does “right as it passed” mean? Does that mean the nose of the limousine was in line with the pillar? Does it mean the middle of the limousine was in line with the pillar? Does it mean the trunk of the limousine had just cleared the pillar?

While this kind of ambiguity is perfect for those molding history, let’s not forget that this kind of testimony is hardly exact, especially five decades after-the-fact.

And when it comes to Holland’s theory of an early first shot versus a first shot that occurs between 2.0 and 2.8 seconds later, ambiguity doesn’t really cut it. [36]

For instance, during that short span of time, the limousine would have only traveled 22 to 34 feet – about 1.62 times its own length – at most. [37]

Can anyone really be sure of the limousine’s exact position based on this kind of ambiguous testimony?

Where is he?

One bothersome aspect of Euins story is the fact that his exact location at the time of the shooting remains unknown. While Euins appears in a number of films and photographs after the shooting, he does not appear in any films or photographs before or during the shooting.




Fig. 18 – (Top) Warren Commission Exhibit 365 with Euins’ markings; (Bottom) Euins told the Warren Commission in 1964 that he watched the motorcade from position ‘A’ then moved to position ‘B’.

In 1964, Euins marked Warren Commission Exhibit No.365 (an aerial photograph of Dealey Plaza) with the letters A, B, and C – indicating where he was standing at the time of the first shot (A), where he moved to take cover (B) and where he ran to after the shooting was over (C). Those markings show that Euins was standing in the area adjacent to the curved wall rimming the reflection pool and that he moved south to take cover behind the concrete pedestal. [38]




Fig. 19 – Euins told Holland in 2011 that he watched the motorcade from position ‘A’ then moved to position ‘B’.

During the 2011 NatGeo program, Euins re-enacted his movements showing viewers how he stood at the Houston street curb (quite a bit south of the position he indicated in 1964) and how he moved northwest (not south as he indicated in 1964) to a position behind the reflecting pool pedestal as the presidential limousine turned onto Elm Street.

However, Euins’ 2011 re-enactment doesn’t conform to the positions or timings spelled out in his contemporary statements or as seen (or not seen, as the case may be) in the photographic record.




Fig. 20 – Composite image from Dorman film frames of the corner of Elm and Houston at the time of the shooting. Where is Euins?

The Dorman, Bell, and Hughes films record the area where Euins claims to be before, during, and after the shooting. Yet, Euins and his alleged companion are not apparent in any of them. [39]




Fig. 21 – Mark Bell film frame B007 shows the presidential limousine (yellow arrow) turning the corner onto Elm Street and the south side of the pedestal (red arrow) where Euins told NatGeo he was standing. [Mark Bell / The Sixth Floor Museum]

This has a direct bearing on Euins’ statements regarding the position of the President’s limousine at the time of the first shot, since his vantage point would certainly affect his perception.

Words like “near” and “about” and “passed” only have meaning if we know the relationship of the speaker to their surroundings. And even then, such testimony carries a limited amount of weight because of the ease with which human memory can be altered – a fact well documented.

Here, Holland and NatGeo had an opportunity to bring an eyewitness back to the scene-of-the-crime and stage a re-enactment that could, with the right questions asked, potentially clear up contradictions in the contemporary record and allow viewers to see the event unfold just as the witness saw it.

But we don’t get that here. Instead, we get Max Holland’s version of what happened – a vision of history that not only adds even more contradictions to the record but goes out of its way to shape what we do know into some twisted historic epiphany.

Once again, the chance for television to educate and enlighten gets flushed.

Another eyewitness

Amos Euins is not the only witness Holland uses to support his early shot theory.

“Another witness tells the same story,” the NatGeo narrator assures us, as we see Mrs. Patricia Ann Donaldson (the former Patricia Ann Lawrence) standing at curbside. [40]

Mrs. Donaldson (nee Lawrence) was a stenographer employed with the MacMillan Company located in the Texas School Book Depository in 1963. She told the FBI the day after the shooting that she was standing with another employee in front of the depository when the motorcade came by. Mrs. Kennedy was looking toward the other side of the street and the President was “looking in her direction and she had waved. She heard the [first] shot fired as the President was waving…” [41]

In the NatGeo program, Mrs. Donaldson appears briefly on-camera standing on the finger-like extension of north Elm Street directly in front of the entrance to the book depository – the same place where she stood 48 years earlier.




Fig. 22 – After the limousine passed her, Patricia Ann Donaldson heard a shot and looked back up over her left shoulder at the book depository. [NatGeo TV]

We can see the rear of the limousine positioned about 44 feet west of her location as she says, “This is approx where - I - the car was in this position when I heard the first shot. And when I heard the first shot fired, I turned to my left and looked up at the building. I knew it came from over my head and from that building. And then I turned back around and there was two shots rapidly and I saw that – that Kennedy was hit.”

Stop. The position of the limousine that we see and to which Mrs. Donaldson refers, is well after the limousine passed under the traffic light mast. In fact, it is approximately the equivalent of Zapruder frame 134, which can be verified by comparing NatGeo’s sniper viewpoint (seen earlier in the program) with Mrs. Donaldson’s view of the limousine from ground level. [42]




Fig. 23 – Sniper’s view (top) and comparison ground view (bottom) shows the limousine at approximately the equivalent of Zapruder frame Z134. [NatGeo TV]

This deception is unknown to the casual viewer who is led to believe that they are viewing eyewitness testimony that supports Holland’s thesis, not undermines it.

But that’s not all. Holland asks a follow up question to Mrs. Donaldson’s comment that the last two shots were fired in rapid succession.

Holland: “And there was more time between the first and second shots?”

Donaldson: “Oh, yes. The first shot - there was a pause and then there was – bam-bam.”

“Amos Euins recalls the same sequence of shots,” the narrator assures us.

We see Euins standing with Holland in Dealey Plaza as Euins describes the cadence of the shots which seem to be identical to what Donaldson heard, “Like – pow ( pause), pow-pow…“

“According to these witnesses,” the narrator implores, “Bullet A [the first shot] came measurably earlier than the two that hit their mark. Perhaps, just as JFK’s limousine passed the book depository…”

Wait a minute. Never mind the fact that Euins has morphed from a four shot to a three shot witness or that these eyewitnesses both thought the limousine was further down the street than Holland’s early traffic mast deflected shot necessitates. Let’s focus a minute on the cadence of the shots.

Holland’s theory proposes that Oswald fired three shots over the course of 11.3 seconds – 6.4 seconds between the first two, and 4.9 seconds between the last two. Yes, technically, more time elapses between shots one and two than between shots two and three. But, as we discussed earlier, ear witnesses to the assassination who thought the last two shots were bunched together inevitably remember the last two shots as being practically on top of each other – a cadence completely at odds with Holland’s theory.

This gets back to one of our central premises – an audio recording of the cadence of the shots, as suggested by Holland’s early shot theory, sounds evenly spaced, not bunched in the way these ear witnesses remember. How in the world does this reality support his early shot theory? As we‘ve said before, Mr. Holland has yet to address this issue.

And what about the veracity of the eyewitnesses Holland uses? Is he going to argue that they are merely mistaken about the timing of the shots? If so, does that mean they’re wrong about everything? Are they not only wrong about the limo’s position, but the cadence of the shots as well? Where in the devil is the ear and eyewitness support for Holland’s grand theory?

The pattern of shells

Next, NatGeo arranges to test Holland’s theory that the first shot was fired earlier than previously thought by replicating the sixth floor corner of the book depository in a studio and attempting to duplicate the grouping of the three shells found there on the day of the shooting.




Fig. 24 – Dallas police photograph of the three shells (circles) found in the sixth floor sniper’s nest. [91-001/390 / Dallas Municipal Archives and Records Center]

“One of the pieces of evidence was the somewhat peculiar arrangement of expended cartridges,” Holland says. “Two were together, one was further away.”

Holland believes that the shell pattern is indicative of two firing positions – one for the first shot and a second for the last two.

This was, by far, the most interesting part of the program. But once again, NatGeo blew the chance to give the reconstruction some real meaning.

In the DVD release of the NatGeo program, retired Secret Service agent John Joe Howlett demonstrates the two firing positions thought to have been used by Oswald.




Fig. 25 – Former Secret Service agent John Joe Howlett at NatGeo’s studio sniper’s nest recreation. [NatGeo TV]

“We don’t know exactly what Lee Harvey Oswald did in 1963,” Howlett says. “There was a box about where I am sitting right now that had his fingerprints on them. And from this box, if he leans forward, he can look out and see the Main and Houston intersection where the motorcade was making its turn. He could also stand up, with a rifle, get the first shot off; go down on his knees, and do the second and third shots.”




Fig. 26 – Former Secret Service agent John Joe Howlett demonstrates two firing positions. [NatGeo TV]

Howlett’s revelation may be news to some, but two firing positions are evident if one simply gives some thought to the trajectory angles necessary to accommodate the three shot sequence proposed by the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

The steep angle of a shot fired in the Z160 range, as proposed by the HSCA, could only have been accomplished from a standing position. My own computer model confirms that fact.

In the NatGeo program, Marine marksman Macklen Burr is shown replicating the distinct shell grouping by using the two firing positions Howlett described.




Fig. 27 – Marine marksman Macklen Burr replicates the shell grouping using two firing positions. [NatGeo TV]

“[The test] corroborated the idea that there were two distinct firing positions,” Holland tells the audience, “one for shots two and three, and a different one for the first shot.”

The impression left with the viewer is that Holland’s thesis was corroborated by this firing position test, but that’s nonsense. The test didn’t prove anything since Holland and NatGeo didn’t attempt to replicate the shell pattern from any firing position other than their own theory. In particular, they failed to test whether the same shell pattern would be produced by Oswald firing the first shot in the Z143 to Z158 range.

As a matter of fact, since a first shot fired in the Z143 to Z158 range would still require Oswald to fire from a standing position and since that position’s relative relationship to the surrounding boxes would be nearly identical to the one proposed by Holland, we are absolutely assured that the same shell pattern would be produced.

Instead of a meaningful test of Holland’s theory against the populist belief, we get more television hocus-pocus. Yet another blown opportunity to deepen our understanding of the assassination.

Why did the first shot miss?

Why the first shot missed when the limousine was closest to Oswald’s sniper perch is a question that has been kicked around for many years.

Some have suggested that the oak tree branches that came between Oswald and the limousine shortly after the president started down Elm Street might have deflected an early shot.

However, wound ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan notes that contrary to popular belief the branches “could not deform or appreciably deflect a bullet that accidentally struck it” although penetrating a substantial amount of wood would induce yaw (tumbling) to the bullet’s path. [43]

Many others over the last four decades, including Holland, seem to assume a key fact in explaining the first missed shot – the first shot must have missed because of a deflection (i.e., off the traffic light pole, a tree branch, etc.). Why? Why does everyone assume that Oswald’s first shot missed because it hit an intervening object? Isn’t it possible that the first shot missed simply because Oswald’s aim was poor?

Just because Oswald’s last two shots were on target, why does everyone assume that the first shot would also have been – accept for divine intervention in the form of an occluding object?




Fig. 28 – Sniper’s view of Elm Street during the 1963 Secret Service re-enactment of the assassination. [Secret Service / NARA / NatGeo TV]

There are a million-and-one reasons why a first shot could have been way off target, as any avid hunter will tell you. It may be that Oswald simply fired prematurely (buck fever anyone?). Or perhaps, Oswald intended to wait until the limousine was further down Elm Street to fire the first shot, but when the moment arrived, the target was so deliciously close that Oswald couldn’t resist firing earlier than planned and hurried that initial shot?

We know from the physical arrangement of the sniper’s nest and the steep downward trajectory that a shot fired as earlier as Z143-158 (and certainly earlier, as Holland proposes) couldn’t be accomplished from the same shooting position as the last two shots. Oswald would have to stand. Did the half-open window interfere with Oswald’s line-of-sight for such a shot?

We also know that the first shot was the only left-to-right tracking shot in the entire shooting scenario. This is a key point. A tracking shot is one of the hardest to accomplish and even more difficult considering the cramped, closed quarters that were dictated by the arrangement of the sniper’s nest. Did the barricade of boxes interfere with Oswald’s attempt to track the limousine?

Personally, I don’t see a problem with the first shot missing simply because of the difficulty of the shot. No half-baked theories needed. But for Holland, the traffic light mast at Elm and Houston is the only possible impediment to Oswald’s perfectly aimed efforts.

NatGeo could have had someone shinny up the pole right then to see if there was evidence of a bullet strike (the original traffic mast is still there today), but that would spoil all the fun and shorten the program. Instead, they opt to first explore the what-ifs of a traffic mast bullet strike.

“If Bullet A [the first shot] somehow defected off the traffic pole,” the narrator asks, “where did it go? This man might have the answer.”

The Tague hit

NatGeo is referring to James T. Tague, the only person besides the President and the Governor to be wounded (albeit slightly) that day in Dealey Plaza.

Arriving on the scene just as the motorcade entered Dealey Plaza, Tague was standing on Commerce Street near the mouth of the Triple Underpass when the shooting erupted.

With NatGeo cameras rolling, Tague returned to the scene in 2011 and re-told his story.




Fig. 29 – Eyewitness James T. Tague returns to Dealey Plaza to tell his story. [NatGeo TV]

“Somebody throws a firecracker – I thought,” Tague tells NatGeo viewers. “Turned out it was the first shot. There was a pause and then the crack-crack of two rifle shots. After the third shot, I ducked back behind the concrete for protection and a picture taken seconds later shows me coming back from behind the concrete. Well, I’m standing here and the guy comes running up in a suit and he looked up at me and says, ‘You got blood on your face.’ It was at that point that I remembered that something had stung me during the shooting.”

Tague had been hit by a tiny fragment of lead or a particle of concrete kicked up by a ricocheting bullet. Of course, those familiar with the case know that police found evidence of the ricochet – a mark on the Main Street curb a short distance away from Tague’s position.




Fig. 30 – Bullet mark on the Main Street curb. [Dallas Morning News]

In August 1964, the FBI determined through spectrographic analysis that a lead bullet fragment had definitely struck the Main Street curb about 260 feet from the president’s car at the time of the fatal head shot. By then, the chapter on the basic facts of the assassination had already been written for the Warren Report, so a paragraph was inserted that read, “…the mark on the south curb of Main Street cannot be identified conclusively with any of the three shots fired. Under the circumstances it might have come from the bullet which hit the President’s head, or it might have been the product of the fragment of the missed shot upon hitting some other object in the area.” [44]




Fig. 31 – Sniper’s nest view shows how Kennedy’s limo at the time of the head shot (red circle), the sewer cover (yellow circle), the Main Street curb bullet mark (yellow arrow), and Tagues’s location (red arrow) line up. [91-001/079 / Dallas Municipal Archives and Record Center]

So which shot was the one that struck the curb and wounded Tague? Was it an errant first shot or the third and final fatal head shot?

“Max Holland believes it could have been the deflected bullet ‘A’ [the first shot],” the NatGeo narrator tells us.

But, that’s not really possible if one is going to cite Tague’s testimony, is it?

In a UPI release dated June 5, 1964, Tague said he heard three reports which he believed were shots and on the second shot he felt a sting on his cheek. [45] [emphasis added]

A month later in July, 1964, Tague told the Warren Commission that he had received a minor cut on his face after the second or third shot, “…I heard what sounded like a firecracker. Well, a very loud firecracker. It certainly didn’t sound like a rifle shot. It was more of a loud cannon-type sound. I looked around to see who was throwing the firecrackers or what was going on and I turned my head away from the motorcade and, of course, two more shots. And I ducked behind the post when I realized somebody was shooting after the third shot.” [46] [emphasis added]

Asked how long after the shooting did he feel the sting, Tague said, “I felt it at the time, but I didn’t associate, didn’t make any connection, and ignored it. And after this happened, or maybe the second or third shot, I couldn’t tell you definitely – I made no connection…” [47] [emphasis added]

Asked, “Do you have any idea which bullet might have made that mark [on the curb]?” Tague replied, “I would guess it was either the second or third. I wouldn’t say definitely on which one. [emphasis added]

In response to the question, “Did you hear any more shots after you felt yourself get hit in the face?” Tague said, “I believe I did…I believe it was the second shot, so I heard the third shot afterwards….I heard three shots.” [48] [emphasis added] Tague added that because there was no echo he was certain there were only three shots. [49]

Pretty clear, isn’t it? Tague thought he was hit by a fragment from either the second or third shot and since we know the second shot ended up hitting Kennedy and Connally, he must have been hit by a fragment from the third shot – the fatal head shot. [50]

Any possibility it was a fragment from the first shot, as Holland’s theory demands? Not a chance.

In 2003, Tague wrote about his experiences in Truth Withheld: A Survivor’s Story in which he emphatically stated, “One thing I have always been positive of is that the first shot was not the shot that hit the curb near me.” [51] [emphasis added]

NatGeo doesn’t mention a word about which shot Tague thought was the one that skipped off the curb. Not a peep. Instead, viewers are led to believe that Tague’s testimony supports Holland’s thesis. Nice. Starting to get the picture?

In an effort to pooh-pooh the idea that the Tague hit was the result of a fragment from the fatal head shot, Holland later wrote, “However, for a large lead core fragment from the third shot to strike the curb, initially it would have had to exit the president’s head in an upward direction to avoid hitting the custom chromed-steel parade rail, front windshield, chromed trim molding, and the sun visors, both of which were flipped upward (adding another 3-4 inches of height to the top of the limousine). Zapruder frame 262, figure 30, left, depicts the effect from the raised sun visors. Then, over a distance of approximately 270 feet, this same lead fragment would have had to drop a vertical distance of nearly 16 feet, while at the same time retaining sufficient mass and kinetic energy to leave a visible mark and metal smear on the curb. This scenario is highly improbable, given the large mutilated fragments, Warren Commission Exhibits 567 and 569, recovered from the limousine.” [52]

You’ll note that Holland fails to offer any scientific support for his personal claim that it’s “highly improbable” that the fatal head shot was responsible for the Tague’s injury. The reason is simple – it’s not improbable. In fact, according to scientific principle, it’s aerodynamically sound.

“If a large core fragment cleared the windshield and trim, it could have been the source of the lead smear on the curb near James Tague and the small cut on his face,” writes wound ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan in his book The JFK Myths: A Scientific Investigation of the Kennedy Assassination. “The path does not have to be perfectly straight, as the bullet fragment must have been deflected a bit as it passed through the president’s head.” [53]

The reason is simple aerodynamics. Bullets are designed to fly point-first and straight through the air, Sturdivan explains, but when they enter the body, or something equally dense, they not only yaw, but the yawed penetration causes them to take a curved path. The yaw is caused by lift, like an airplane wing. In tissue, the lift forces are greater than in air due to the greater density of the material being penetrated and consequently the unstable bullet will yaw to a larger angle. That’s why even undeformed bullets follow a curved trajectory through soft tissue. [54]

Was it even possible for a bullet fragment from the head shot to travel 260 feet and still strike the curb with sufficient energy that it could go on to wound Tague?

Yes, says Sturdivan, “From directly above, this trajectory would look almost a straight line from the depository to the curb. From laterally, the bullet would have changed direction going through Kennedy’s head, broke apart into fragments traveling upwards, and exited the skull – some impacting near the top of the windshield and at least one clearing the windshield and arcing under gravity to hit the curb near Tague. If I knew the exact angles, I could estimate the velocity that would result in that trajectory (from the head to the curb). It would still be a rough estimate, as I wouldn't have a good estimate of mass or aerodynamic drag, related to shape and orientation. But it’s certainly possible.” [55]

Dead end

Forty-one minutes into the program, NatGeo finally gets around to determining if there’s any real evidence to support Max Holland’s early first shot theory.

“If the lost bullet of the JFK assassination deflected off a traffic pole in Dealey Plaza,” the narrator tells us, “it might have left a tell-tale mark. It’s along shot…”

Yea, no kiddin’. It’s been forty-eight years since the gunfire in Dallas, but as unbelievable as it sounds, the traffic signal mast pole at Elm and Houston today is the same pole that was there in 1963. How’s that for luck?




Fig. 32 – A cherry-picker carrying Holland, DeRonja, and Howlett approaches the traffic mast. [NatGeo TV]

Tension builds as we see Holland and forensic metallurgist Frank DeRonja rise up toward the traffic mast in a cherry-picker.

“So we went up there with great anticipation,” Holland says, “because I thought, despite the passage of time, that if the first bullet really did hit that, there might be still a gouge there – noticeably.”

DeRonja and Holland closely examine the area where the pole would have crossed Oswald’s view of the president.




Fig. 33 – (L to R) DeRonja, Holland, and Howlett examine the mast for bullet marks. [NatGeo TV]

“And we found nothing,” Holland says.

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not one iota of physical evidence to back up Holland’s folly. He might as well be talking about pigs flying around the moon. But wait, there’s more.

“It’s a frustrating dead end,” the NatGeo narrator tells us. “Looking for new leads, Holland tries one last restored film from Dealey Plaza – the home movie taken by a thirteen-year-old girl.”

The young girl referred to is Tina Towner, who filmed the presidential limousine as it made the turn from Houston onto Elm Street.

In 2011, NatGeo asked Ms. Pender to return to Dealey Plaza and share her recollection of the event. Curiously – or should we say unbelievably – they never asked her about the shot sequence on-camera. [56]




Fig. 34 – Tina Towner Pender in Dealey Plaza in 2011. [NatGeo TV]

Little wonder. Tina Towner Pender has always told the same story about what happened and it doesn’t jibe with Holland’s theory.

“As soon as the front of the limousine came into view from behind the crowd, I began shooting film,” Towner told Teen magazine in 1968. [57] “When I couldn’t see anything but the back of the limo I stopped taking pictures.” [58] A second or two later, the first shot rang out. [59]




Fig. 35 – Towner frame T160, the last frame showing the presidential limo as it approaches the R.L. Thornton freeway sign (red arrow), just 0.82 seconds before Zapruder began filming. [Tina Towner Pender / The Sixth Floor Museum]

A first shot fired a second or two after Tina Towner stopped filming equates to Zapruder frames Z136 to Z155, [60] a time range at odds with and well after Holland’s early first shot theory, but yet in complete accord with what has been generally accepted for more than three decades.

So, once again, instead of real history, we get more fantasy and half-truths from Holland and NatGeo. In this instance, Ms. Towner-Pender’s 2011 appearance is used to do nothing more than create an idiotic “new lead.”

Ms. Pender is seen to say that Holland’s positioning of the replica limousine is too centered in the middle lane. They way she remembered it, the limousine was favoring the left side of the center lane as it turned the corner.

This is presented as a big revelation to Holland, who apparently only then bothers to go back and check Towner’s film to discover that Ms. Pender’s memory is spot-on – the limousine is favoring the left-center road stripes.




Fig. 36 – Towner frame T145, showing the relationship between the presidential limo and the left-center lane road stripes (red arrow). [Tina Towner Pender / The Sixth Floor Museum]

This is apparently only a revelation to Holland. Not only does Towner’s film show the limousine hugging the left-center road stripes, but this can be deduced by looking at the Dorman film which shows the limousine cutting the Elm and Houston Street corner sharply. Has Holland even looked at the filmed record?

You’ve got to wonder just how Holland sold this lemon to NatGeo? I mean, really, on what strength of evidence did he convince NatGeo that this early shot fantasy had any merit? Where is the evidence?

Forty-three minutes into the program, Holland’s foolishness is cast as a “discovery” which causes the self-described assassination scholar to re-think his theory. He concludes that the shift in Kennedy’s position relative to the signal mast might mean that it was the traffic light assembly itself that was winged by Oswald’s first shot and not the mast.

Remember, folks, this is four years after Holland announced to the world that Oswald’s first shot clipping the traffic light mast – the new paradigm of the Kennedy assassination – was a done deal.

Unfortunately, the 1963 traffic signal light was replaced long ago, dashing any hope of Holland finding real physical evidence to back the latest version of his theory. But that minor fact doesn’t stop Holland and NatGeo from building to another big revelation.

The big revelation

“Did a traffic light deflect the first attempt at President Kennedy’s life?” the NatGeo narrator asks. “Going back over all the films of the assassination, Holland and agent Howlett make a potentially ground breaking discovery.”

Drum roll, please.

We see Holland holding photographs showing frames from the Secret Service re-enactment conducted in 1963.




Fig. 37 – Max Holland holds still frames from a 1963 Secret Service re-enactment film. [NatGeo TV]

“These are screen grabs or stills from the Secret Service training film made on November 27th – five days after the assassination – by John Joe Howlett,” Holland says, “and he called me up because after we realized that the signal was in play he was looking for any indication of an irregularity in the signal. As he played the film, he stopped it at this location when the signal is against the light sky.”

The Secret Service re-enactment footage freezes to show a spot of light shining through the corner of the traffic signal assembly.




Fig. 38 – Holland points out a “defect” in the traffic signal light hanging over Elm Street. [NatGeo TV]

"And he saw this white spot, which might mean something,” Holland says cautiously.

Cautious or not, we know exactly what Holland is insinuating – the spot of light is a bullet hole. We see replays of the secret service film from multiple angles, each showing in dramatic fashion the same spot of light.

My own first thought was that we were seeing nothing more than light passing between where the traffic light assembly and the framing attached (in fact, you can see the same spot of light on the current traffic signal assembly). But, hey, what do I know?

In the end, Holland tosses caution to the wind and declares his conclusion before God and man, “We believe that the bullet hit the signal which deflected it on down Dealey Plaza and the bullet then hit the curb which was what caused Tague’s injury.”

Who is this anonymous “we” that Holland says buys into this deflection stuff? NatGeo? Holland’s team? Assassination historians everywhere? We’re not told. But apparently we’re expected to believe that the strength of Holland’s conviction resides in the number of people who agree with him.

NatGeo’s narrator tells us that “Holland and his team still want to know how a bullet from a high powered rifle would behave after hitting this obstruction. The actual traffic light has since been removed from its mast in Dealey Plaza, making the theory difficult to prove.”

Don’t they mean impossible to prove without the original traffic light or any physical evidence? And as we’ll see in a moment, Holland and his team already know how a bullet will behave upon hitting the traffic light. Who’s zoomin’ who, here?

To invoke the idea that JFK: The Lost Bullet has somehow changed history, NatGeo tells us that the entire assassination timeline would expand under Holland’s thesis.

“So it wasn’t six seconds in Dallas,” Holland says, “it was eleven seconds – or even a little more. And any marksman skilled with firearms could have done this. And certainly Oswald had more than enough training to pull this off.”

The six seconds Holland refers to harkens back to the Warren Report which gave a minimum time spread of 5.6 to 7.9 seconds for all three shots. [61] The HSCA raised the time spread to a little more than 8.4 seconds in 1979. [62]

Since the time range starts with the first shot, Oswald only needed to get off two additional shots in 8.4 seconds – more than enough time to operate the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.

While Holland’s proposed 11.3 second timing obviously gives Oswald even more time to fire two additional shots, it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that the earlier figures were inadequate.

It’s flat out false to claim, as NatGeo does, that “Max Holland has built a case for what no official report ever managed to supply – a clear explanation for the missing bullet fired by Lee Harvey Oswald.”

Please. Holland has built nothing but an opus of illusion that cannot stand up under the simplest of examinations as rebuttal after rebuttal has shown.

Finally, the program concludes with Mr. Holland’s most audacious statement to date, “If you don’t accept my explanation of exactly what occurred, I still think you have to accept the idea that Zapruder didn’t capture the whole thing. And give me a better explanation.”

Good Lord, is he kidding? The idea that Zapruder didn’t capture the entire shooting sequence is predicated upon accepting Holland’s early shot thesis – an unproven theory that has been taken apart six ways from Sunday. How’s that for circular logic?

This is the fourth detailed exposé of Holland’s cockamamie theory in as many years. We’ve shown time and time again that Holland’s theory has no support whatsoever among eye and ear witnesses, physical law, or scientific evidence.

As for Holland’s request for a better explanation, just about anything else would suffice, assuming there is some real, believable evidence to back it up. As we’ve said before, we’re not against the idea that Oswald’s first shot might have been earlier than previously thought. We’d just like to see some believable evidence for it, you know?

Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer those who claim to be historical scholars to actually do scholarly work before running off to the newspapers and cable networks crowing about a history changing theory that has no evidence to support it.

Frankly, you can count the authors of this article among those who are sick and tried of addressing Holland’s first shot nonsense and hereby promise that our next rebuttal will be consist of this simple one-line statement, “Ditto, Mr. Holland.”

The DeRonja-Holland Report

If you thought the NatGeo television documentary was bad, hang on to your seat. Here’s the part that really takes the cake.

On the very day that NatGeo broadcast JFK: The Lost Bullet, Max Holland released a report he co-authored with Frank DeRonja entitled, “Technical Investigation Pertaining to the First Shot Fired in the Kennedy Assassination, 22 November 1963.” [63]

That report contains a startling admission – months before the NatGeo program aired, tests were conducted which proved that the “bullet hole” in the traffic signal light wasn’t a bullet hole after all.

That’s right, NatGeo’s “ground-breaking” discovery that Oswald’s first shot put a bullet hole through the traffic signal light turned out not to have happened at all!

What’s more, two separate inspections of the mast arm failed to locate any evidence that it deflected Oswald’s first shot.

Still, the report says, even without any physical evidence to prove it, a deflection off the signal mast arm is “the only reasonable explanation” that ties together the somewhat dubious accounts of a select group of eyewitnesses.

You’ve got to wonder if NatGeo was in the dark about all this or simply willing to look the other way for the sake of making “good” documentary television?

First shot witnesses?

At the onset of their report, DeRonja-Holland state that most forensic metallurgical examinations do not let “extraneous factors influence the observations and determinations” of the inspector, however, because of the long time period between the shooting event and their examination, they did consider from the start the observations of three eyewitnesses whose testimony “had never been adequately explained before and could provide valuable clues or insights as to what might have happened.” [64]

I see. So, abandoning protocol and allowing bias to steer the conclusion is a good thing in this case? Apparently the physical evidence to support Holland’s theory is so weak (or as we’re about to see, non-existent) that eyewitness testimony – the least reliable evidence –must serve as the foundation for drawing a conclusion.

The report goes on to assure us that the observations of the three eyewitnesses are “all exclusively associated with the first shot.” [65]

Really?

The first witness cited by the report is Mrs. Donald S. Baker (nee Virgie Rachley) who reportedly saw an object strike the pavement near the president’s car in conjunction with the first shot.

Two days after the shooting, Baker (nee Rachley) told the FBI that “…She observed President Kennedy’s car pass her point of observation and almost immediately thereafter heard three explosions spaced at intervals which she at first thought were firecrackers. It sounded as though these sounds were coming from the direction of the Triple Underpass, and looking in that direction after the first shot she saw something bounce from the roadway in front of the Presidential automobile and now presumes it was a bullet bouncing off the pavement…” [66] [emphasis added]

How could she see the first bullet strike the pavement if she heard the shot and had time to look in the direction of the sound [she thought the sound was coming from the Triple Underpass]?

As we all know, a rifle like Oswald’s fires a bullet that travels faster than the speed of sound. Therefore, Mrs. Baker couldn’t possibly have turned after hearing the shot and observed that bullet strike the pavement.

Unlike her earliest statement, when she testified to the Warren Commission in July, 1964, as Mrs. Donald S. Baker (she had married in February), she didn’t make clear which direction she was looking when she heard a noise, only that she saw sparks come up from the pavement behind and to the left of the president’s car immediately after. It reminded her of a firecracker going off and she thought at the time that some nearby boys had tossed it out there. After learning that the “noise” was a shot, she decided she had seen a bullet hit the pavement. [67]

Unfortunately, we’re left wondering whether the account she gave in her earliest statement (i.e., that she turned and looked to see the bullet strike after she heard the sound of the shot) was the more accurate one.




Fig. 39 – Warren Commission Exhibit 354 showing Rachley-Baker’s position (1) and where she saw the bullet strike (2). The red arrow notes the position of the R.L. Thornton freeway sign.

What Holland doesn’t tell readers is that Mrs. Baker marked an aerial photograph of Dealey Plaza, showing where she was standing and where the bullet struck. [68] Her mark shows the bullet struck after the presidential limousine passed the R.L Thornton freeway sign – which is of course much later than Holland’s early first shot theory demands.

The second witness cited by DeRonja-Holland was Dallas police officer J.W. Foster, who is described as one of “several witnesses [who] associated the first shot with a disturbance in the turf adjacent to a concrete skirt around a manhole cover” on the south side of Elm Street. This also is false.

Foster never said that the first shot struck the turf area. In fact, he didn’t see any bullet impacts. [69] Researcher Todd W. Vaughan, who has researched the sewer cover issue extensively (and is one of the authors of the article you’re reading), spoke with Foster in 1985 and asked him specifically if he saw a bullet strike the sewer cover or the nearby turf and Foster answered, no.




Fig. 40 – Sewer cover and concrete skirt along the south curb of Elm Street. [91-001/096 / Dallas Municipal Archives and Record Center]

The DeRonja-Holland report only mentions an interview given twenty-five years after-the-fact, to author Larry Sneed in which Foster said that “[the bullet] struck the skirt near the manhole cover and then hit this person (a reference to James Tague) who had stood by the column over on Commerce Street.” [70] While Foster connected the two events at the time – the alleged sewer strike and the Tague hit – he never said or knew which bullet was responsible.

It is Holland’s assumption alone that the bullet responsible for all this mayhem was from the first shot.

Finally, the third witness cited by DeRonja-Holland as being exclusively associated with the first shot is James T. Tague, the eyewitness who, as we’ve already shown, is absolutely adamant that the injury to his cheek was caused by the second or third shot, not the first shot.

So, once again, Holland’s citations don’t live up to the billing.

Inspection one

On July 10, 2010, nearly a year before NatGeo camera’s started rolling in Dealey Plaza, Max Holland and Frank DeRonja arranged to close off the north lane of Elm Street and inspect the traffic light pole thought to have deflected Oswald’s first shot.

Using a scissor lift and a low power microscope, Holland and DeRonja examined the portion of the mast arm that Kennedy would have passed under (assuming the limousine was in the center of the middle lane) on November 22, 1963.

“The limited inspection of the mast arm on July 10 yielded no discernable metal damage from a bullet,” the DeRonja-Holland report states. It was decided that “only an open-ended inspection under laboratory-like conditions would yield a conclusive result.” [71] In other words, they would need to confiscate the mast arm.

Inspection two

In conjunction with filming for NatGeo’s JFK: The Lost Bullet, Holland and DeRonja returned to Dealey Plaza on April 10, 2011, and inspected the traffic mast arm again. [72]

SAM, Inc., an Austin-based surveying firm hired by NatGeo television, took laser measurements of the distances and angles between the sixth floor window, the traffic signal mast and the sewer cover skirt thought by Holland to have been inadvertently struck by Oswald’s first shot. [73]

The angle from the sixth floor window to a coupler/clamp on the mast arm (used as a reference point) was found to be 32 vertical degrees down and 65 lateral degrees away from the south face of the book depository. The clamp itself was found to be 78 feet away from the sniper’s window.

Further measurements determined that the sewer cover was approximately 327 feet from the clamp at a vertical angle of approximately minus 6 degrees. [74]

That means that a bullet fragment from Holland’s first shot miss would have to ricochet off the traffic mast at a near horizontal angle, retain enough velocity to travel more than the length of a football field, strike the corner of sewer cover’s concrete skirt with enough force to propel it through the nearby turf (turning up the sod in the process), and still travel another 115 feet and strike the Main Street curb with enough power to splatter lead or concrete fragments in Tague’s direction with enough force to draw blood.




Fig. 41 – Frank DeRonja and Max Holland search for the lost bullet in 2011. [NatGeo TV]

Despite the fact that treasure hunters and history enthusiasts have trampled these grounds for better than four decades with all manner of electronic devices, DeRonja and Holland spent twenty hours combing the area around the sewer cover with a metal detector searching for fragments from the “lost” bullet. Needless to say, they didn’t find anything.

A second inspection of the traffic signal mast was conducted for evidence – any evidence – of the theoretical bullet strike. Again, DeRonja-Holland came up empty handed.

The traffic signal assembly

After two inspections failed to turn up any support for Holland’s theory of a signal mast hit, DeRonja-Holland turned their attention to the traffic signal assembly itself.

This apparently only came about because eyewitness Tina Towner Pender happened to mention during the re-staging of the limousine’s path in Dealey Plaza for NatGeo that Holland’s presumption that the limousine was in the center of the middle lane was wrong. Towner-Pender recalled that the limousine was more left of the center of the middle lane. [75]

Holland only then reviewed Towner’s film for the proper placement of the presidential limousine (a rather astonishing admission) and “discovered” that Towner-Pender was right. Consequently, it was determined that Kennedy would have passed under the traffic signal assembly as well as the mast. [76]

The original traffic signal assembly has long since been replaced, and so the possibility of ever establishing whether it was hit by one of Oswald’s bullets has likewise disappeared. [77]

However, while scrounging through photographs and films looking for evidence of possible bullet damage, retired Secret Service agent John Joe Howlett discover “what appeared to be a bullet hole near the bottom right back plate” in films he took during the Secret Service re-enactment of the shooting conducted in November 1963. [78]

It was this “bullet hole” that provided the big revelatory moment at the tail end of NatGeo’s television documentary. And while NatGeo cautioned that Holland and his crew “still want to know how a bullet from a high powered rifle would behave after hitting this obstruction,” the “bullet hole” revelation was obviously meant to convince viewers that Holland had indeed found “evidence” of the lost bullet.

What viewers didn’t know, however, was that in June, 2011 – five months before the NatGeo program aired – Holland and his crew determined that the so-called “bullet hole” was not a bullet hole at all, but rather was a gap between the right and bottom back plates that produced the “bullet hole” effect. [79]




Fig. 42 –DeRonja-Holland exhibit showing light passing through the gap (bottom arrow) between the right and bottom back plates of the signal assembly. [DeRonja-Holland Figure 18]

Some have questioned why Nat Geo failed to mention this key fact in their television program? Didn’t they not know of the results of DeRonja and Holland’s examination?

One thing should be obvious to even the most infantile minds by now. Without the “bullet hole” in the traffic signal assembly, NatGeo doesn’t have a show. Anyone wonder why the DeRonja-Holland report, which contained information that was known five months earlier, wasn’t published until the day NatGeo’s JFK: The Lost Bullet aired?

Not only did DeRonja-Holland know that the “bullet hole” was bogus but they conducted tests on a replica of the traffic signal assembly that proved that a high-powered bullet like those fired from Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle would have torn up the metal housing in such a way as to certainly be noticeable in the aftermath of the shooting.

Wound ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan, hired by NatGeo to consult Holland’s team, warned them that Oswald’s bullets would have ripped open the traffic signal like a .22 caliber bullet rips open a tin can.




Fig. 43 –DeRonja-Holland exhibits showing bullet damage caused by test firings into an exemplar traffic signal assembly. [DeRonja-Holland Figures 24, 26]

“I’m glad to see that they tested what I told them,” Sturdivan told me after reading the DeRonja-Holland report. “The results are exactly what I would have expected.” [80]

The DeRonja-Holland report concludes that three separate test firings conducted on September 22, 2011, “revealed that an exemplar Eagle signal could deflect a bullet from its flight path [the exact angles were not determined], but could not do so without sustaining very visible damage. It appears that if Oswald’s first shot had been deflected by the Eagle signal, the damage to the traffic light would have been easily observable from a street level position. It surely would have been noticed in the wake of the assassination.” [81]

And so, not only was the “bullet hole” bogus, but a month before NatGeo aired the Lost Bullet documentary, DeRonja and Holland discovered that the traffic signal could not possibly have taken a bullet strike without the original investigators noticing.

How’s that for truth in documentary television programming?

Yet another look at the mast arm

With the traffic signal assembly eliminated as a possible deflector of Holland’s early first shot, DeRonja and Holland once again turn their attention back to the mast arm. Did it actually deflect Oswald’s first shot?

Answer: DeRonja and Holland don’t know. That’s right, after four years and two inspections of the mast arm, DeRonja and Holland have no physical evidence to support Holland’s early first shot theory.

Nevertheless, they conclude that the “examination results and observations are consistent” with an early deflected first shot and that Max Holland’s theory is “the only reasonable explanation” that ties together the eyewitnesses who saw a bullet strike near the presidential limousine, a bullet strike near the sewer cover, and the wounding of James Tague.

How exactly does Holland’s unified theory work?

According to the DeRonja-Holland report, if a bullet struck the surface of the two-inch round steel pipe one-eighth of an inch from the top surface centerline it could be deflected at the minus six vertical degree angle required to reach the sewer cover concrete skirt 325 feet away.

The report acknowledges that the bullet’s impact with the steel pipe would only create a slight indentation on the pipe itself (because of the small bullet contact angle and the relative hardness of the steel metal) and that since the lateral deflection would be dependent on a number of factors (including bullet rotation, shape, and hardness as well as impact velocity) it was not possible to determine the specific angle of deflection other than to say that a “lateral deflection to the right would place the bullet on a path in a general direction toward the manhole cover/concrete skirt.” [82]

The DeRonja-Holland report also states that the first shot bullet’s impact with the steel mast pipe would cause a “deformation of the bullet and an immediate separation of the jacket from the bullet core.” According to DeRonja-Holland, the separated copper bullet jacket would strike the pavement near the presidential limousine (accounting for eyewitness observations), while the ricocheting lead bullet core would miss the presidential limousine altogether, going on to kick up the turf at the sewer cover skirt, skipping out to hit the Main Street curb, and wounding Tague.




Fig. 44 –Holland’s first shot deflection theory as illustrated in the DeRonja-Holland report. [DeRonja-Holland Figure 28]

This is all a bit of fantasy, though, isn’t it? Didn’t DeRonja and Holland just get done telling us that it was impossible to determine the specific angle(s) of deflection because of numerous unknown factors?

But the most important question is how would a bullet behave upon striking the traffic signal mast arm? What kind of physics is involved and how would that affect a bullet’s impact on a steel pipe?

Reality check

Larry M. Sturdivan is a wound ballistics expert who has spent a lifetime studying the characteristics of bullets in flight and their behavior as they strike solid masses or penetrate the human body. He provided expert opinion for the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978 and served as an on-camera consultant for NatGeo’s JFK:The Lost Bullet.

What does he have to say about Holland’s theory?

“If [the bullet] barely touched the surface [of the mast],” Sturdivan said, “it would be a true ricochet. In that case, the deflection angle would be very small and the damage variable, but the bullet would remain intact. The real question is what would happen to the bullet in a more-direct strike. In this case the bullet would be shattered and small pieces of lead would go in directions that would cover a significant range of angles.” [83]

Would the collision between a bullet, like the one fired from Oswald’s rifle, and the steel mast arm cause the bullet to shatter? The answer is, yes.

“The impact of a bullet on a steel signal light mast pole, like the one in Dealey Plaza, would produce the kind of fragments you find in a catch box at the shooting range – just minute fragments and dust,” Sturdivan says. “This includes jacketed (full or soft point/hollow point) 9mm, .38 caliber, .44/.45 caliber handgun rounds and any hunting bullets that might be fired from a rifle.” [84]

“The only large piece might be a portion of the jacket,” Sturdivan explains. The bullet’s jacket would shatter, “almost like a shell with an explosion inside.” [85]

As far as the severity of the fragmentation, Sturdivan says there is a small range of impact angles that would result in something intermediate.

“But this is a very narrow range of impact angles,” Sturdivan adds, “one that I don't remember seeing in the Biophysics range [at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds]. Most impacts of bullets on armor plate resulted in disintegration of the bullet. Sometimes a steel core from an armor penetrating bullet (generally .50 caliber) would be found relatively intact, but this has no bearing on the bullet in question.” [86]

“[In any event, you would not be able to determine the angle of impact] from the evidence left on the mast,” Sturdivan says. “What DeRonja and Holland really were looking for was a trace of gilding metal and/or lead left in a gouge (from zero to a fraction of a millimeter deep) on the mast. Frank DeRonja could have analyzed this residue to determine whether it could have come from the specific lot of ammunition that Oswald used.

“Any speculation that a chunk of lead from such a strike could have hit Tague is pure fantasy.” [87] [emphasis added]

Sturdivan emphasizes that even if DeRonja and Holland had found a mark on the mast arm caused by a bullet from Oswald’s rifle, they wouldn't have been able to determine either the angle of the fragments coming off the mast, or the extent of damage to the bullet.

“However, there isn’t any angle of impact that could result in a large piece of pure lead going far enough or fast enough to make the mark on the curb near Tague,” Sturdivan insists. “A ricocheting bullet that glanced off the mast arm only slightly would still hit the car or the street below and a bullet striking at an angle great enough to deflect toward Tague would disintegrate on impact.” [88] [emphasis added]

What about Holland’s idea that a lead fragment had enough velocity to strike the Elm Street sewer cover skirt, then skip through the turf and continue on to strike the Main Street curb near Tague?

“In this very rare case, a chunk of lead could possibly have the mass and velocity required to do what Holland imagines but not the angle of direction,” Sturdivan replies. [89] [emphasis added]

“The deflection angle is simply too great for large pieces of pure lead to remain intact. Both physics (the extreme force on the bullet required to change its direction abruptly) and years of observing bullet impacts on steel in the shoot room [at Aberdeen Proving Grounds] leads me to this conclusion.” [90]

The bottom line is that any bullet that ricochets off the mast arm could only hit the street or turf near the car. It could not deflect down Elm Street toward the sewer cover skirt, Main Street curb, and eyewitness Tague, as Holland imagines. Why? Because the angle required by Holland’s theory would necessitate a more direct bullet impact, and consequently, the bullet’s disintegration. [91]

End Game

And so, four years after foisting his early missed shot theory into the public arena, Max Holland still has no hard, physical, real evidence that it ever really happened.

Oh, he still holds hope that something can be found to support his perpetual fantasy, noting in the DeRonja-Holland report that “there is a possibility, even at this late date, that observable damage can be located on the mast arm portion that has not yet been made accessible for examination,” [92] recommending that “an inspection, preferably under laboratory conditions, be conducted of the remaining five feet of the mast arm after all signage has been carefully removed.” [93]

Good idea. But, don’t you think it would have been better if Mr. Holland had petitioned for the mast arm inspection before declaring his theory the new paradigm of the Kennedy assassination on the Internet, in the New York Times, and on the National Geographic Channel?

Is this the new mantra of scholars, journalists, and historians? Do we now treat theory and conjecture as fact, and then look for support?

And what of NatGeo’s handling of this whole affair?

Documentary flim-flam

In mid 2010, I was approached by a Dallas post-production house whose representative told me that they were bidding on doing the graphics package for a program on the Kennedy assassination being produced by the National Geographic Channel. They were interested in purchasing the computer model I had created and which was seen in the 2003 ABC News special, “Peter Jennings Reporting: The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy.”

The representative refused to discuss the particulars of the NatGeo program, which is typical in this competitive field, but did say the budget for graphics was limited, which is why they were looking for an easy solution to depicting Dealey Plaza in 1963. In the end, I declined to sell them the model and they wound up using a relatively inexpensive pseudo blueprint of the plaza as a stand-in for a detailed model. [94]

Eight months later, in early 2011, I learned that the NatGeo program was a co-production between Iwonka Swenson (NatGeoTV) and Robert Stone (Oswald’s Ghost) intent on exploring questions about the assassination with only a “minor” portion dedicated to Max Holland’s early first shot theory. [95]

I realized right then that the call from the Dallas post-production house eight months earlier had been referring to this same program.

I was told that when my name came up, the principle participants of the NatGeo program were under the impression that I had “declined to cooperate with their current project some time ago.” [96] Of course, this was only partially true. Eight months earlier I only declined to sell my computer model to a third party, having no idea who was involved or for what purpose.

But let’s be honest. There is no way in the world that Max Holland was going to allow me to be involved in the production of this program given my well established opinion of his theory, nor would I be interested in being involved. And obviously, NatGeo was less interested in producing an objective look at Holland’s theory as they were in producing another gee-whiz show that somehow never really got around to lifting the curtain of mystery that enshrouds the Kennedy assassination.

Look at it this way, television will never be interested in “solving” the JFK assassination. These shows are cash cows and no one is interested in butchering the cow. That’s why every show always ends with the idea that it’s still a mystery.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was contacted by co-producer Iwonka Swenson in early October, 2011, and asked if I would sign a release form allowing them to use a short sequence which showed “paperwork held in [an] expert’s hand, which, I believe, includes research conducted by you.” [97]

The “expert” turned out to be Max Holland and the so-called “paperwork” was in fact several pages from my 2007 report, “Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination,” which showed how nine amateur films of the JFK assassination synchronized to form a continuous timeline.

Ms. Swenson wrote that the “aim of the documentary is to explore how the eyewitness films and photographs taken of the moments immediately before, during, and after the assassination have become the focus of much speculation and controversy over the last half century” and that by examining new digital transfers of eyewitness films they hope to “find clues to unraveling the mystery of the assassination and a new three-dimensional reality of the assassination will be revealed.” [98]

”Your work in the JFK assassination field is renowned,” she continued. “I have enjoyed reading about your research throughout the process of making this film.” [99]

She offered to put a ‘Special Thanks’ to me into the program in exchange for the signed release. [100]

Needless to say, it didn’t escape me that she avoided mentioning Max Holland’s involvement in the project or the fact that (as it would turn out) the entire program was dedicated to promoting his theory.

When I telephoned her, I explained my position on Holland’s theory and that I wasn’t particularly interested in being associated with any program that promoted his unproven theory. [101]

I’ll spare you the details, but after several weeks of back and forth, during which I told NatGeo that I would not sign a legal release without seeing the program that I was signing off on, NatGeo’s legal counsel told me to shove it (in no uncertain terms) and that regardless of whether I cooperated or not, they were going to broadcast the program as is, which they did.

After the program aired, I formally requested that the special thanks to me, “Dale K. Myers,” be removed from the end credits (that’s correct, the credit had been mastered into the final program before I was contacted in October). I also reiterated that “I strongly protest the association of my name with a television program that I was not consulted about, had no say or input into, or had anything to do with in any way including the common courtesy of offering me the opportunity to accept or decline the use of materials created by me.” [102]

NatGeo eventually scrubbed my credit from the U.S. broadcast version of the program, as well as from the National Geographic Channel’s website, but acknowledged that they were unable to remove it from each and every master that had been created “so you may in the future see your acknowledgement on some other version of the program.”

Welcome to the world of television, folks, where some production entities will damn well say and do whatever they want and to hell with anybody that says otherwise.

Show us the evidence

It’s been four years and counting and we’re still asking the same basic question: Where is the evidence for Max Holland’s early first shot? I’m talking about real evidence, the kind that stands up under the most basic scrutiny? This is the fourth outing and we’re still getting The Amateur Hour.

Mr. Holland has tried every conceivable dodge of that basic question – critics have a vested interest, no one can think outside of the box, the Zapruder film has mesmerized everyone, etc.

In the meantime, all anybody really wants is evidence. Evidence, Mr. Holland. That’s what it’s all about. That’s all it has ever been about. Show us the real honest-to-god evidence that supports your theory.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: It’s not hard to imagine that Oswald might have fired a first shot earlier than anyone had ever considered before. It’s just that no one has yet uncovered any believable, cohesive evidence that it actually happened – Mr. Holland’s opus, notwithstanding. [END]



Footnotes:

[1] The first was NatGeo’s The Lost JFK Tapes: The Assassination

[2] Email, Gary Mack to Dale K. Myers, November 21, 2011

[3] WR111-17

[4] Ibid, p.117

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] 6HSCA17; Although the HSCA’s acoustic report was later rejected by the National Academy of Sciences’ 1982 review, the photographic panel’s observations regarding the earliest Zapruder frames remain unchallenged.

[9] 2H138

[10] Bugliosi, Vincent, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, W.W. Norton and Company, 2007, p.482 footnote

[11] Sturdivan, Larry M., The JFK Myths: A Scientific Investigation of the Kennedy Assassination, Paragon House, 2005, pp. 103-114

[12] 25H858, CE2585 p.3; 25H873, CE 2591

[13] HSCA Record 180-10001-10398, Itek Corporation, “John Kennedy Assassination Film Analysis,” 1976, p.12

[14] Ibid, p.5

[15] 6HSCA119

[16] 6HSCA120; A similar test was conducted for the PBS/Frontline program “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?” in 1993 with identical results.

[17] 6H309-10, 312

[18] 6H313

[19] 6H310

[20] Ibid; DPD Radio recordings, C-2, 12:36 p.m.

[21] 6H313

[22] 6H170

[23] 7H349, 350

[24] 19H474 Decker Exhibit 5323; Euins later told the Warren Commission that he never told authorities that the gunman was a white man. He said he told them that the man had a white bald spot on the top of his head which he could see because of the way the gunman held his head as he looked down the barrel of the rifle. (2H207-08) No doubt the sheriff deputy taking his statement concluded that the man must have been white and had no hat because of Euins’ description. It’s important to note that Euins also told the Commission that shortly after the shooting a construction man who was working behind the depository told police that a man with a bald spot on his head ran out of the back of the building. (2H205-06) A construction worker named Howard Brennan did witness the assassination, talked to police near the front of the building shortly afterwards, appeared in news film footage getting into a police car with Euins, and was taken to the sheriff’s office with Euins. However, Brennan never described the gunman as having a bald spot to anyone. Some have questioned Euins veracity as a witness based on an FBI interview of his stepfather, John Eddie Jones, who told investigators that “the boy had told him he had seen the previously related incident, but that he was not sure whether Euins had seen it, or whether he had just imagined it....” (FBI 105-82555 Oswald HQ File, Section 55, p.34 – FBI Interview of John Eddie Jones, dated November 29, 1963, CD205, p.11)

[25] FBI 105-82555 Oswald HQ File, Section 55, p.33 – FBI Interview of Amos Lee Euins, dated November 29, 1963, CD205, p.10

[26] FBI Interview of Amos Lee Euins, dated December 14, 1963, CD205, p.12

[27] Ibid

[28] 2H203

[29] 2H209; When asked by the Warren Commission whether he had any impression as to the source of the first noise, Euins said no. (2H209)

[30] Ibid

[31] 2H204; Euins showed CBS News in 1967 how he ducked down behind the pedestal.

[32] Ibid

[33] Ibid; In Euins’ second telling of the shot sequence to the Commission, he said a fourth shot was fired after the third.

[34] It’s not clear from the program whether Holland had asked Euins to position the car or whether Holland positioned the car and then asked Euins to confirm that position. Obviously, the former would have been better if the goal was an unbiased result.

[35] This sequence shows the replica limousine positioned closer to Elm Street as Euins gestures toward the concrete pillar, moving his arm up and down. The original camera audio was mixed under the narrator’s voice track in the final edit of the program, but can be heard on the DVD release when the narrator track is muted.

[36] Holland theorizes that the first shot was fired 1.4 seconds before Zapruder began filming. Most researchers believe the first shot was fired about Z143-158, or 0.55 to 1.2 seconds after Zapruder began filming, based on the reaction of Governor Connally and other eyewitnesses. Vincent Bugliosi writes in Reclaiming History, “If Governor Connally were reacting to the sound of a shot between Z162 and 167, when might that shot (with its contemporaneous sound) have been fired? Human reaction times in response to the sound of gunshots were measured and published in the 1939 experimental work of C. Landis and W. Hunt. (Landis, C. and Hunt, W., The Startle Reaction, Holt Rhinehart, 1939) For “head movement,” “movement of neck muscles,” and “initiation of arm movement,” Landis and Hunt found that the reaction time was 0.06 to 0.2 seconds – that is, the equivalent of 1.1 to 3.7 Zapruder frames. (6HSCA28) Since Connally’s reaction begins at Z162, the sound of the shot would have been heard by Connally at about Z158–Z161. The caveat to the Landis and Hunt study is that it presupposes that one always reacts to hearing the sound of a gunshot instantaneously. This is, on its face, a clearly unwarranted assumption. One may hear a shot and only react in the mind, not moving at all.” (Bugliosi, Vincent, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, W.W. Norton and Company, 2007, p.469 footnote) Of course, Connally was an avid hunter and testified that he immediately recognized the first shot as a rifle shot, so we know the time it took him to react was relatively fast. But, how fast? The eyewitness testimony of Bonnie Ray Williams narrows the moment. Viewing the motorcade from the double-set of fifth floor windows immediately below the sniper’s nest window, Williams testified, “After the President’s car had passed my window, the last thing I remember seeing him do...was he pushed his hand up like this. I assumed he was brushing his hair back. And then the thing that happened then was a loud shot...” (3H175) Viewing the Zapruder film, one can see Kennedy brushing his hair back (just as Williams describes) between Z133 and Z143. One second later (Z162), Governor Connally begins to react. Consequently, the eyewitness accounts of Connally and Williams, along with the supporting film evidence, suggests that the first shot was fired between Z143 and Z157, which means Connally was exhibiting a reaction to the first shot in less than a second – a perfectly reasonable time period given known human reaction times and the governor’s experience with firearms.

[37] The synchronization of amateur films of the assassination, as detailed in my 2007 report, “Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination,” shows the presidential limousine picking up speed during this period, averaging 10.2 mph (14.95 feet/sec). Based on this average, the twenty-one foot limousine would have traversed 22 feet by Z143 (1.47 seconds) and 33.79 feet by Z158 (2.26 seconds).

[38] 16H961 WCE365

[39] While the contemporary record clearly shows Euins’ presence in Dealey Plaza immediately after the shooting, his actions before and during the shooting could not be verified photographically.

[40] The image here is oddly reversed (apparently to create a better visual flow) and slightly disorienting, especially for those familiar with the crime scene. This is not the first time the NatGeo editor has flipped the image horizontally. There are plenty of examples throughout the program – Oswald in the hallway, citizens running in the Hughes film, Tina Towner Pender standing at curbside, etc.

[41] FBI Interview of Patricia Ann Lawrence, dated November 24, 1963, CD5, p.51

[42] The approximate Zapruder frame equivalent was confirmed using computer models.

[43] Sturdivan, op.cit., p.139 footnote 66

[44] WR117

[45] FBI 62-109060 JFK HQ File, Section 77, p.13

[46] 7H553

[47] 7H555

[48] Ibid

[49] 7H557

[50] Holland argues in the DeRonja-Holland report that “Tague was unsure about associating his minor injury with a particular shot (the first, second, or third). However, in his Warren Commission testimony under oath in July 1964, he recalled that he heard a shot or shots after his right cheek was stung. This means that he did not sustain his injury from the third shot, which hit President Kennedy in the head, because that was the last shot; and because the second bullet was retrieved from Governor John Connally’s thigh, Tague could not have been harmed by it. Therefore, his injury could only have been caused by the first shot fired, according to his testimony.” (The DeRonja-Holland Report, I. Observed Phenomena Associated with the First Shot, para 7 footnote 6) Yet, Holland’s assessment is wrong. First, Tague was very clear in his testimony that the injury to his cheek occurred at the time of the second or third shot. In later years, he thought it was after the second shot, but was adamant it was not at the time of the first shot. Second, the sound of the shot that caused his injury would not have reached him until after he was struck due to the distance between his location and the source of the muzzle blast. Therefore, his recollection that he heard a third shot after he was struck would be consistent with being struck by fragments from the third shot.

[51] Tague, James T., “Truth Withheld: A Survivor’s Story,” Excel Digital Press, Inc., Dallas, Texas, October, 2003, p.137

[52] The DeRonja-Holland Report, I. Observed Phenomena Associated with the First Shot, para 7, footnote 6

[53] Sturdivan, op.cit., p.124

[54] Ibid, p.128, footnote 60

[55] Telephone conversation with Larry Sturdivan, November 7, 2011; Email, Larry M. Sturdivan to Dale K. Myers, December 14, 2011

[56] She reportedly was not asked about the shot sequence off-camera either.

[57] Towner, Tina, “View from the Corner,” Teen, June, 1968, p.49

[58] KXAN-TV report, “Witness to JFK death remembers,” November 23, 2011

[59] Email, Gary Mack to Dale K. Myers, November 21, 2011. “Tina has always said, and we've been good friends since 1978, the first shot came right after she stopped filming. She has always believed the first shot came within a second or two.”

[60] My synchronization work on the amateur films of the assassination, detailed in my 2007 report, “Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination,” demonstrates that Towner stopped filming 0.82 seconds before Zapruder re-started his camera (Z133). A first shot fired one to two seconds after Towner stopped filming would therefore equate to the Zapruder frame range Z136 to Z155.

[61] WR117

[62] HSCA Report, p.47

[63] http://www.washingtondecoded.com/site/2011/11/the-.html

[64] The DeRonja-Holland Report, I. Observed Phenomena Associated with the First Shot, para 1-4

[65] Ibid

[66] FBI Interview of Virgie Rachley, dated November 25, 1963, CD5, p.66

[67] 7H508-11

[68] 16H949 WCE 354, marks 1 (Rachley-Baker’s position) and 2 (the bullet strike)

[69] 6H248-53

[70] Sneed, Larry A., No More Silence: An Oral History of the Assassination of President Kennedy, Three Forks Press, 1998, pp.212-213

[71] The DeRonja-Holland Report, II. Dealey Plaza Signal Assembly: First Inspection, para 10

[72] The DeRonja-Holland Report, III. Dealey Plaza Signal Assembly: Second Inspection, para 1

[73] Ibid, para 6-7

[74] Ibid, para 8-10

[75] The DeRonja-Holland Report, IV. Review of Photographic Records, para 1-3

[76] Ibid, para 3

[77] Ibid, para 6

[78] Ibid, para 7

[79] The DeRonja-Holland Report, V. Examination of a Traffic Signal Exemplar, para 1-3

[80] Telephone conversation, Larry Sturdivan with Dale K. Myers, November 22, 2011

[81] The DeRonja-Holland Report, VI. Firearms Testing of Eagle Signal Exemplars, para 11

[82] The DeRonja-Holland Report, VII. Re-evaluation of the Mast Arm as the Deflecting Object, para 4

[83] Email, Larry M. Sturdivan to Dale K. Myers, November 22, 2011

[84] Email, Larry M. Sturdivan to Dale K. Myers, December 14, 2011

[85] Email, Larry M. Sturdivan to Dale K. Myers, November 22, 2011

[86] Email, Larry M. Sturdivan to Dale K. Myers, December 14, 2011

[87] Email, Larry M. Sturdivan to Dale K. Myers, November 22, 2011

[88] Email, Larry M. Sturdivan to Dale K. Myers, December 14, 2011

[89] Ibid

[90] Ibid

[91] Ibid; Sturdivan addressed the question of what would have happened to a bullet strike on the street or turf near the president’s car at the time of the first shot in his book, The JFK Myths: “…the first shot was at an angle much too steep for the bullet to have ricocheted from wherever it hit. It would have disintegrated on impact with the street or fragmented on impact with the soil, leaving the resulting bullet fragments embedded too deeply beneath the grass of the plaza to ever be found and recovered… It is unlikely, however, that any fragments from this splattered bullet would have traveled far enough to scratch James Tague’s cheek.” (Sturdivan, Larry M., The JFK Myths: A Scientific Investigation of the Kennedy Assassination, Paragon House, 2005, pp.239-40) Holland argues that Sturdivan’s analysis couldn’t be true because “no bullet mark was observed or found in the roadway by anyone in the aftermath of the assassination,” (The DeRonja-Holland Report, VII. Re-evaluation of the Mast Arm as the Deflecting Object, para 6 footnote 15) which assumes that investigators actually looked for such a mark. If they did, there is no record of it. Holland also argues that no fragments from the disintegration of the bullet core struck any spectators in the immediate vicinity of the president’s limousine, then uses Zapruder frame Z152 (showing spectators lining Elm Street) to bolster his argument. Of course, Zapruder’s camera view compresses the relative distance between spectators and gives the false impression they are standing closer together. This is easily proven false by examining other amateur films of the same area (i.e., the Dorman film). But more important, the fact that no one felt being struck by the kind of minute particles such a disintegrating bullet would have produced doesn’t eliminate the possibility that they might have been struck. Finally, Holland argues that the sparks reportedly seen by witnesses in conjunction with the first shot could only have been caused by a “bullet jacket after its separation from the lead core during a low-angle bullet ricochet from the mast” is patently false.

[92] The DeRonja-Holland Report, VIII. Conclusions

[93] The DeRonja-Holland Report, IX. Recommendation

[94] Private Files, Dale K. Myers

[95] Private email, February 20, 2011

[96] Ibid

[97] Email, Iwonka Swenson to Dale K. Myers, October 6, 2011

[98] Ibid

[99] Ibid

[100] Ibid

[101] Telephone conversation, Dale K. Myers with Iwonka Swenson, October 7, 2011

[102] Email, Dale K. Myers to Iwonka Swenson, November 26, 2011

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I knew there would be thoroughly convincing rebuttal eventually coming from Messrs. Myers and Vaughan after that subpar, mostly inaccurate NGC documentary.

Thanks for the in-depth article. It's well worth reading, even though it seems like I've read parts of it three times before, lol.

Paul C. said...

Nice article. My impression of the NGC program was "not too bad, and could easily have been worse". As you point out, it was clear that the producers and editors came up with the show's structure and it's major hook ("The LOST Bullet") in post-production.

Ray P said...

I think it's remarkable how easily people accept conspiracy theories. So many WANT to believe that there is always something dark at work. I have no problem at all believing that Oswald was the lone and only gunman. CASE CLOSED!!

grendelkiller said...

Excellent article. On the day after Aaron Kosminski was proven to be Jack the Ripper, using DNA; perhaps Mr Holland and co. will examine DNA on the almost unblemished, "magic" bullet to reveal JFK and the Governor's DNA. Absurdity of the NATGEO programme, cause me to make this comment. Kudos. Apologies,and respect to JFK