More on the back wound

Joel Grant
Bothell, Washington
22 October 1999

I would like to jump into the back-and-forth generated by Professor Rahn's critique of Stewart Galanor's book. I have not read this book and therefore cannot comment about the book per se.  I note, however, that some of Galanor's response and all of Rex Bradford's response concern the "controversy" over the placement of the wound in President Kennedy's back. My view is that the linkage between the wound in the back and the wound in the throat may be simply and decisively stated:

The back wound is undeniably an entrance wound. No bullet was found anywhere in JFK's body. Therefore the bullet had to exit JFK's body. A small wound was noted during trauma treatment in Dallas. That wound could only have been the exit wound associated with the entrance wound in the back.

I do not believe that such a simple and obvious conclusion could be denied in any criminal case except the assassination of President Kennedy. Denial of the simple and obvious in the JFK case is due to the a priori bias noted by Professor Rahn. Those, like myself, who maintain that LHO assassinated President Kennedy and that no credible evidence has yet been uncovered of anyone besides Oswald having prior knowledge of the assassination are also biased. My bias begins and ends with the evidence and the expert analysis thereof. I do not require special pleading. As we shall see, very special pleading is required to deny the conclusion that Kennedy suffered a perforating (through and through) gunshot wound (GSW) through his upper torso and that the bullet traveled from back to front.
    Let's look at Mr. Bradford's basic position:

"One of the more important aspects of the assassination topic, and featured prominently in Ken Rahn's critique, is the location of the wound in the back/neck. That something which should be so simple has engendered so much controversy it itself illuminating, in my opinion. The exact location of this wound is important, of course, because if it is too "low," it would be implausible for a Single Bullet to have been fired from the 6th floor of the Book Depository, enter at this location, and exit through the neck wound."

I agree that it is simple and that the fact that the arguments continue is illuminating. I am sure Mr. Bradford and I would disagree as to what the illumination reveals.
    The only legitimate question is this: is the wound in the back an entrance wound? If the answer is 'yes', given the fact that no bullet was found in JFK's body, the only reasonable conclusion is that the wound in the neck is an exit wound. I submit the wound in the back is inarguably an entrance wound because:

1. It was a tunneling wound with an eccentric abrasion collar.
2. The defects on the back of JFK's coat and shirt were small and were punched inward, that is, from back to front.

I will expand on both points.
    Not all GSW's have abrasion collars, but it is a rare abrasion collar that does not identify the wound as an entrance wound. Those rare occasions are 'shored' GSW's. A shored GSW is a wound (always an exit wound) in which an object of some sort has restricted the expansion of the victim's skin. Shored wounds are typically associated with walls (the victim was pressed against a wall) or floors (the victim was lying on the floor) or tight clothing (almost certainly the case when the bullet exited JFK's throat). It is possible for the sudden forcing of the skin against the shoring material to cause bruising.
    However, since the bruising mechanism is the skin pushing outward to come in contact with floor or clothing or whatever, the wound cannot be of a tunneling type. A tunneling type wound, caused when the tissue struck by the entering bullet is held at an angle or otherwise folded or curved slightly (e.g. a woman's breast or an obese person's roll of fat) may be associated with an eccentric abrasion collar. The angle between the path of the entering bullet and the struck tissue may also contribute to tunneling and to an eccentric abrasion collar.
    The eccentric nature of the abrasion collar on JFK's back wound, by the way, led Dr. Werner Spitz and subsequently some members of the House Forensic Panel to conclude that the angle of bullet to skin, upon initial penetration, was upward. Dr. Martin Fackler, President of the International Wound Ballistics Association told me in a phone conversation that the same eccentricity could be caused by the fact that the bullet entered just above the upper portion of that part of the scapula the wound was closest to. (When it is said that the wound was immediately superior to the upper portion of the scapula the meaning is not that it was higher than the highest point of the scapula; only that is was immediately above the closest point of the scapula, which is a curved feature.)
    Whatever the cause of the eccentric nature of the abrasion collar, the eccentricity and tunneling mark this wound as undeniably an entrance wound.
    As for the clothes, Mr. Bradford dismisses the perforations on the basis of Douglas Horne's examination. But Horne's examination is useless in determining the size and characteristics of the posterior defect. The size was altered by the FBI when they removed a portion of the defect to conduct tests on the cloth.  The tests found traces of copper on the margins of the defect. More than 30 years and countless hands on the jacket have completely altered the nature of the defect.
    The important question is: in what state was the clothing immediately after the shooting? The answer is that both the jacket and shirt had small 1/4" punched-in holes in the back. This is diagnostic of an entering projectile and cannot be associated with an exiting projectile.
    The situation is, as Mr. Bradford notes, very simple. The wild card seems to be the possibility that a bullet struck JFK in the back and fell onto the table in Trauma Room One, likely during external heart massage. It seems to be the case that the prosectors, on the night of 11/22/63, considered this possibility. Had they known the trach site was originally a bullet wound they would not have considered such an outlandish scenario. Had they been thinking more clearly they would not have considered this outcome—period.

1. When a bullet penetrates to a depth greater than its length it creates a permanent wound track that is inevitably smaller than the diameter of the bullet unless the bullet fragments or tumbles. Fragmentation and tumbling leave unmistakable evidence in the tissues. No such evidence exists. On the contrary, the evidence indicates beyond any doubt that the bullet traversed a straight trajectory.
2. Bullets that have penetrated to a depth at least equal to their length do not fall out, even if pushed unless, for some reason, the wound is widely gaping. This is why doctors have to operate to remove bullets.
3. We know the bullet was copper-jacketed because of the presence of copper in the bullet wipe on the back of the jacket. Jacketed bullets were invented in order to increase the velocity of bullets to >1500 fps or so. Without the jacket the bullet could essentially disintegrate in its passage through the barrel of the gun. Therefore we know the initial muzzle velocity of the bullet which struck JFK in the back was at least 1500 fps. We know it was fired from somewhere in Dealey Plaza which means the distance between gun and back was less than 200 feet. The bullet had to have been traveling at greater than 1100 fps (bare minimum) when it impacted JFK's torso. Wound ballistics tests into appropriately prepared gelatin tell us that a projectile—even a round projectile like a BB—traveling in excess of 400 fps will penetrate human tissue. There is no chance the bullet which struck JFK in the back did not penetrate a distance at least (again, bare minimum) equal to several lengths of the bullet.
4. No one in JFK's trauma room reported finding a bullet. The only nearly whole bullet was found on a stretcher in the corridor.

The evidence is clear and leads to only one conclusion. Of course, one may invoke special pleading to try to escape this conclusion. I submit special pleading occurs when a stifling bias is present. Without special pleading one is required to determine what is the strongest evidence and what does that evidence tell us?
    So sorry, but the evidence relating to the relationship between JFK's back wound and throat wound tells us that he was hit in the back by a bullet and that the bullet did what one would expect it to do—it exited from the front.
    All the rest is detail.

Back to Galanor's response to critique
Back to Bradford's response to critique