James C. Bowles

Communications Supervisor
Dallas Police Department

   “McLain assumed since they were government lawyers working for the flag, motherhood, and Chevrolet coupes, that they wouldn’t lie to you. McLain had no idea, in his naïve innocence, that they were trying to concoct a tale and that he was a vital validator to their chain…”

   After serving a stint in the Navy and later operating a small business, James Bowles joined the Dallas Police Department in 1951. In 1963, Bowles was the communications supervisor of the dispatch office. In the years following the assassination, Bowles transcribed the so-called Dallas Police Tapes and later wrote a manuscript titled “The Kennedy Assassination Tapes: A Rebuttal to the Acoustics Evidence.” Based on his background with the police department, he is recognized as the authority on the inner workings of the radio communications of the Dallas Police Department and corresponding events at the time of the assassination.


      I was at Love Field as part of the reception for the President while my dad, Major, was at Baylor Hospital after suffering a stroke. Before the President arrived, Chief Fisher[1] came over to me and said that Major had taken a turn for the worse and that I’d better take his car over to the hospital before it was too late. So I took his car, rushed to the hospital, and returned as soon as I could. By then the reception at the airport was over. My dad passed away about the same time as Kennedy, so I had to divide my attention between family and department matters for the next couple of days.
Since I was the communications supervisor in charge of the dispatch office, I became involved with the tapes of all radio communications of the Dallas Police Department that day, the same tapes which were analyzed by the Warren Commission and later the House Select Committee on Assassinations. There should be no controversy about the tapes. The tapes are very simple and self explanatory if you accept them for what they’re worth. Now, if you have a bit of imagination, you can use all kinds of dreams and concoctions to try to fabricate anything you want with them. Very simply, the tapes are recordings of the two radio channels operating at that time.
Regular police operations were maintained on Channel 1. All personnel assigned to the Presidential motorcade, which ultimately became involved in the assassination scenario, were on Channel 2.
It’s hard to say whether they operated continuously or not. What we had in there was a sound activated recorder with a delay so it would pick up and hold in the record mode for four seconds after the sound or noise level dropped, and there were two recording systems, one each on the two channel operations. On Channel 1 we used a two phase Dictaphone voice recording. I stress voice recording because it was not a precision quality; it was a stenographic type recording. You had a comparatively dull stylus making a simple impression on a thin celluloid belt.
The Channel 2 activity was a little better in its potential but not as good in reality because of its age. We had an old Gray recorder; I think they called them Gray audiographs. Anyway, it was a thin flat disk with the stylus cutting a groove in the disk much like in the typical phonographic recording. But the machine was old and worn. It was prone quite frequently to repeating itself, picking up transmissions and not letting them go. There were times when it was repeating itself that it didn’t pick up anything. In other words, it just didn’t work. So we have no way of knowing what traffic would have been on Channel 2 had we had a more sophisticated, state of the art, by today’s standards, recording capability.
One point that needs to be clarified which some folks, qualified and unqualified, who have tried to pick up and run with the assassination investigation, don’t seem to understand. They use the words “voice activated” very generally and inaccurately. More correctly, it’s not voice, it’s sound activated. Sound would turn it on if the decibel level was sufficient. They were sound activated, not just voice activated.
At the time of the initial investigation following the assassination, we impounded the tapes and held all records for just that purpose, the ensuing investigation. When the FBI took the tapes and tried to make audible sense out of them, they found that they couldn’t comprehend the tape traffic because they couldn’t understand the speech style used on the radio. The things that were said by the officers on the radio made complete sense to the officers, but they didn’t make a bit of sense to the transcribers. So an FBI agent brought the tapes back to the department, and the chief gave them back to me and asked me to transcribe them for him; of course, understanding that we didn’t have a lot of conspiracy theorists in our midst at that that time. It was fairly obvious that Oswald had killed the President; Oswald then killed Tippit; we captured Oswald, and then Ruby killed Oswald. By the time we got a chance to run the tapes, it was just a matter of organizing the information to support the empirical things that we had before us. So I didn’t go into any effort; in fact, I couldn’t. We didn’t have the scientific measuring devices then to put the tapes on the digital analysis machine, nor did we have good recorders then. Today the voice can be analyzed by voice measurements.
This is no reflection on the Dictaphone people. In fact, they laughed when I told them what the Assassination Subcommittee was trying to do with the Dictaphone belts. The head of the company and their chief engineer said, “I wish we could take credit for being that good. We’d love to run an advertisement, but I don’t think it would be supportable.”
The general capability, for example, for both those recording systems is what is generally referred to as being voice quality, which is also generally applied to telephone level voice quality: somewhere between 200–250 decibels [cps—KAR] on the low side to maybe 2400–2500 on the high side. This doesn’t mean that anything less than that was automatically, at that point, eliminated and cancelled. The machine tried to hear anything that presented itself via sound waves, but it was most specifically designed to hear and translate those that came within the frequency range it was designed to handle. It would try to respond to the other sound sources, but it didn’t do so quite faithfully. The reason I draw that point is that when you start making precise scientific measures of a machine that can’t pick up more than about 2500 cycles recording supersonic frequency indication on the belt itself, they had to be induced from outside; they couldn’t have been produced by the system itself. This was especially true when you consider that we used regular telephone company land lines to transmit radio traffic between field units and radio transmitter tower, receiving tower, and the radio transmitting office from downtown.
What we had was any sound coming from the field came to the radio transmitter tower, then through telephone lines to the dispatcher’s office to be received and to be transmitted, or monitored and recorded by the dispatcher’s office. And all radio traffic from the dispatcher went through the microphone over telephone lines to the tower and then by radio out to the field units. So radio traffic was filtered several times in the process. Both signals originating in and being dispatched to the dispatcher’s office went through telephone company equipment, which again, it was incapable of handling and was designed to filter out any conflicting frequencies below and above the normal voice range. This was what the equipment was designed to handle, and this is what the equipment did handle.
Not having any indication that we should be looking for some mysterious, covert conspiracy indications and not having the equipment to look for it if we did have suspicions, I just made a recording of it with a nice reel to reel tape recorder which the FBI furnished to me and then set about from the original tapes and the original Gray audiograph disks to transcribe the tapes using the originals because, according to the law, that’s the best evidence. The tapes were in as good a condition as you would expect considering the fact that the FBI had tried to transcribe them using a single stylus.
When playing back the original disk, which had a dual control head on it which you just flipped to one side and it recorded, and the other said was playback, if you put it on record, it recorded. When you flipped it to playback, you set it back over and it would play back what you’d recorded. The belt was different; you put the belt on a machine and it used the same stylus. You had a little up, down and neutral position on it; put it one way and you played back, the other way it recorded. I also made backup tapes since it was obvious that there would be damage to the original tapes during the process. They couldn’t take that kind of wear, after wear, after wear and still be considered unaltered. Every use of them has the potential, the probability, the inevitability of alteration.
The tapes themselves were in our custody until we turned them over to the FBI, which would have been in late November or early December, right after the assassination. I believe it was around March of the next year that they returned them to us where they were placed in a safe, probably in Chief George Lumpkin’s office. Eventually they came under the custody of Paul McCaghren within the police department. I have no reason to suspect that the FBI did anything with them because the conversation on the tape is wholly consistent with what people who were actively present remembered from that day. No one determined anything. But here you would have to impeach the integrity of the FBI and their laboratory if you want to question whether or not there was an alteration of the tapes. Remember, even the House Select Committee and the National Academy of Sciences put in computer monitors on the belts and on the tapes so that the consistency of the tapes used indicated no interruption, alteration or changes. Both agreed as well as could be that the tapes at the last instance are the same as the original tapes in the first instance. No hanky panky!
Engineers say that anytime you induce some change there’s liable to be some evidence of difference. There’ll be a frequency change enough that even using similar equipment that there would be an induction of however many cycles it runs on, that you’ll hear a certain amount of interference, a certain noise on the line, and that that noise wasn’t present. The noise that was present was there all throughout. The tape showed no interruptions which would indicate no alteration.
This is what I believe happened to the tapes whenever the House Select Committee felt it convenient to find these supersonic impressions: sound impressions, which were sounds without making sounds. They acknowledged that they found similar impressions throughout the entire belt. Suddenly, when you get within that small parameter, which would be the approximate place to try to look for something that would tend to support shots being fired, they found no such. But they found a convenient array where the approximate separation in time would be the equivalent to the order of the three shots fired, and then they found some others and identified one of those as the fourth shot. All other sound impressions that they found were discounted as having any relevance. This is called selective evidence.
These impression points were all through the tape. What I believe the House Select Committee was doing was trying to look at them as line or transmission originated, which they were not; they were systems originated. You raised and lowered the stylus to listen to it. You had your earphones on, and you had to listen through a transmission with the stylus set in playback, and you’d throw it to neutral, tap it back, put it back down and listen, throw it back to neutral, tap it back. It might be necessary to try ten or twelve times through one small segment to try to differentiate, say, two different people who spoke approximately at the same time, or someone might have said something over someone and you’d try to separate the two. You might go back and forth any number of times, raising and lowering the stylus, and each time you raise and lower it, you’d put a little peck mark on the disk. I don’t know how those read on a computer and the House Select Committee wouldn’t tell me. It might be that they would have no effect. But for some reason, they didn’t want to explain to anyone’s satisfaction, scientific or layman, how you can look on 100 percent of the belt and find similar injections of a sound source, as they called it, and say that these four, because we need them to be exactly there at that time and in exact order, are shots and all the rest are nothing? Now, that’s fantastic! I had my findings ready for them but they declined. They rebutted what they must. But you have to understand what they wanted: a conspiracy. They wanted someone else to be shooting at the President. It was important to them to have someone besides Oswald as the assassin. So they had the difficult situation of absolutely removing Oswald from a solo shooting situation and inserting someone else and being able to prove it or at least open the elastic consideration: someone else must have been shooting, too. To prove this, they needed some kind of scientific corroboration that a second person at least fired at the President. Thus, you can suggest a conspiracy.
In the end, when the House Select Committee made its famous announcement on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, “Our clock has run out. Our committee is adjourned right on time,” they didn’t determine anything: they concluded. Determination implies a bit stronger qualification of evidence. I don’t use words casually if I can avoid it. They didn’t determine anything other than what they decided to determine. They concluded from the processes they chose to use certain conclusions which were wholly inaccurate and unsupportable. As a dedicated career police officer, the thing I am most concerned with is to always be honest and keep things clean. I don’t know whether there was a conspiracy, but as a peace officer I would be a corrupt officer to try to let my personal beliefs inject something as supposed evidence for or against conspiracy because it would compromise any later development. Take for example this mockery of evidence that says a fourth shot was fired from behind the fence on the grassy knoll. The House Select Committee was a very expensive federally funded investigation. If some evidence subsequently turned up that a person was identified as an assassin, and that person did, in fact, fire at President Kennedy but not from the grassy knoll; they instead fired from some other location significantly apart, then they have a multi-million dollar defense built in because the government, through this federally funded investigation, has stated that the only other shot came fro the grassy knoll. There was no other shot fired from here, or there, or somewhere else. Absolutely not! So what they’ve done is to let conjured evidence adulterate the purity of an ongoing investigation. It’s a murder and will never be closed statutorially. It’s open forever!
I don’t know why some people have claimed that the tapes have been altered or how these stories have appeared. Why does anybody ever tell a story different from the truth? Is it a mistake? Is it a belief they have and just don’t know? Is it ignorance on their part of reality, or are they just liars?
I haven’t had the tapes back since 1964, but I’ve seen the tapes since then because the subsequent investigation questioned whether the tapes were in the right continuity or whether somebody might have made substitute tapes and stuck them in. A visual survey of the tapes indicated that they were wholly consistent with what should be there. I even took them to the retired telephone clerk who had signed on the belt, and she confirmed that that was, in fact, her signature and that the belts appeared to be the legitimate originals. That’s the only time I’ve seen the belts since then.
I’ve got a first generation reel to reel of the original tapes after the FBI tapes were made. They are only as clean as they could be after they were recorded and handled by the FBI and then handled for two recordings by myself. Now, from those reel to reel tapes, I have made cassette tapes with a filter and without a filer, and if evidence exists on any true recording, it would be on those tapes. If somebody has a tape that has something that’s not on those tapes, they’re going to have to explain why it’s there. I can’t.
Because of my familiarization with the transcripts of the tapes and because the House Select Committee was leaning so hard on the radio tapes to try to make their case, and since I knew that the tapes could not make their case; in fact, truth was to the contrary, I was assigned to work with them. But instead of working with them, they opted to take Officer McLain to Washington and gave him only minimal information and asked him very carefully couched questions—“Is it possible? Could it be? Is there a chance that?”—and never gave him anything to the alternative.
McLain assumed, since they were government lawyers working for the flag, motherhood, and Chevrolet coupes that they wouldn’t lie to you. McLain had no idea, in his naïve innocence, that they were trying to concoct a tale and that he was a vital validator to their chain. He was their missing link.
The day McLain returned I called Chief Warren and told him that I needed McLain and any person McLain felt comfortable with, and to send them to me. So Chief Warren got in touch with McLain, and he brought Lieutenant Sword over with him. He had no idea what it was about. By this time, Jerry Cohen, of the Los Angeles Times, coincidentally came in to my office, joining several other newspeople who were there. I said, “No, you can’t talk to him yet. Mac, I want you and Lieutenant Sword to go into that office. Here’s a recorder and here are some tapes. Don’t phone anybody, and don’t let anybody talk to you. Sit down in there and listen to these tapes all the way through. Don’t say anything till you’re completely through.”
They were in my office for about four hours listening to the tapes. When they were finished and opened the door and came out, McLain looked at me and said, “J. C., ain’t no way in the world that was my radio stuck open!”
I said, “How do you figure that, Mac?” He replied, “Well, after listening to all this traffic on Channel 2 tapes, it just comes back like it was yesterday. I remember all that conversation.”
I asked, “Well, is there any reason why you didn’t relate to that as fact in Washington?”
“They didn’t let me hear those tapes! They just gave me what they wanted me to hear. They let me listen to a little of this and a little of that, and they would ask me if this was possible. I didn’t know whether it was or it wasn’t! I’d have to admit the truth is, it might be; I don’t remember. So that’s what they told me to answer.”
As a result of that type of an absolute 180 degree back away, Jerry said, “I think what you need to do is take the information you have and write it down. We’re this many years down the pike and twenty or twenty-five years from now there’s still going to be inquiries about this, but your memory and everybody’s recollections are gong to be slim as the years go by, and frankly, when you people die off there’ll be no track record if you don’t create one.” So he said, “I really urge you to take what information you gather, organize it into manuscript format, and then we’ll have one.” So I did and entitled it The Kennedy Assassination Tapes: A Rebuttal to the Acoustical Evidence. And I’m glad I did because we subsequently passed it on to the National Academy of Sciences through the FBI, and they were able to reach the only conclusion that should have been there in the beginning.
Something a lot of people really got their lather up about was whether something was or wasn’t at a certain time. Some people tried to use stop watches to time that belt to say something happened after a certain minute, second, or fraction of a second. That is nonsense, utter nonsense!
My office in communications was off to the side and then there was a larger office which was the telephone room,. The conveyor belt went through behind two rows of desks. Behind a glassed partition there were two dispatchers, Channel 1 and Channel 2, and then behind them was the radio equipment.
The dispatcher had two types of clocks; he had a time stamp clock that didn’t show seconds, just minutes, and he had a digital clock in front of him which had the numerical hour and minutes. That was the usual clock for general sight and time statements. At the same time, the same dispatcher might use the digital clock. There was no way in the world that some six clocks in the telephone room and the two clocks in the dispatching room were synchronized. They could be as much as a minute or two apart. Usually we didn’t change them until they became at least two minutes or more out of synchronization of each other. There was one clock in the office that had a generally reliable time. It was on the back wall of the telephone room. The only trouble was that it was way back in the corner which you could hardly see, and nobody ever looked at it. It was just there. They’d use it only when they wanted to check its time versus the other time.
An officer, depending on the individual circumstance at an individual time, might use either the digital clock in front of him, or he might use the time stamp on the other clock. Using a headset, let’s say the dispatcher turns away to do something and in the process sees the digital clock and says, “224, a disturbance at such and such location—2:13.” He used the digital 2:13. By now the time stamp clock might be reading 2:15.
He puts it in the slot, turns around, and now 125 says, “I’m clear.”
The dispatcher says, “125 clear,” and he looks at the time stamp—2:15, “2:15 KKB364.” Now it would look like to all the righteous world that 125 cleared two minutes after the radio operator dispatched the call at 2:13, but he didn’t. It was almost in one breath. So, under no circumstance could you put any stock in the real world time or any continuity on time references by the belt because there were no time references on the belt; they were only spoken times, and those spoken times had no faithful validity.
More specifically, at the time of the assassination, when Gerald Henslee, who was operating Channel 2, said, “12:30 KKB364 Police Department, Dallas,” it really wasn’t 12:30 by all that I can reconstruct by all other parallels. I used several indices to try to correlate that. There were certain places you could tend to lock Channel 1 and Channel 2 together such as things that transpired where there’s cross talk between the channels or where they used a simultaneous broadcast and went on both channels. I made a big, long sheet of paper where Channel 1 was on one side and Channel 2 on the other and slid these papers back and forth to try to line up conversation in a reasonably faithful lineup. A good close proximity is the best I could do—no one can do better.
One of the things in the rebuttal I wrote was to construct the validity: a conclusion that would self sustain rather than reach a conclusion, and then trying to construct myself into that as my way of proof. And a lot of this happened to fall into place only after all the people who were participants provided information, and then to lay those over and see how well they fitted. So, for a period of three or four months after that, I located a lot of these officers, some after they had retired, to interview them. I included in the manuscript the report of one officer who had gone home that day and wrote down what had happened while the events were still fresh in his mind.
Jim Chaney was the officer who was immediately next to the President, but for some reason didn’t get interviewed by many people. Chaney was a good friend of mine. I helped his sister through physics in high school and, periodically, when Jim was assigned motorcycle duty out in the northeast corner of town, when he had finished what he was doing, he’d stop by my house and sit there in the kitchen at the breakfast table, drink some coffee and talk. Jim wasn’t given to a lot of talk. But by sitting down friendly and quietly, he had some things he wanted to talk about, and I provided him a good listening ear and learned as much about the immediate assassination of President Kennedy from Jim as I did from anybody. This was long before anybody started to talk about a fourth shot or whether or not the head shot was a front or rear shot.
There’s so much proof that there was a rear shot that I really find it hard to even listen with any degree of good manners to people who talk to the contrary. It’s such an absurdity! If the shot, for example, came down from the grassy knoll into the President’s limousine and hit him in the head from the front, how did it get turned around so that it went up in the air because it sure as heck didn’t hit the back of the car anywhere? And if the car is going forward and the bullet hit traveling toward the rear, why didn’t the brain matter fly to the rear of the President instead of forward? The brain matter was hit by the final shot which hit in the back of the head and came out the front as evidenced by the spray forward in the Zapruder film.
Also, the limousine was not driven at a constant speed. This is another one of the things that was an inherent error in the House Select Committee’s scientific analysis. They calculated that the motorcade ran at an average speed of about 11 M.P.H. I can show places in the Zapruder film where it went faster or slower. It did not travel at 11 M.P.H. at a constant rate. You can’t make averages serve you like a master. It’s a point of reference. In this type of situation, you had to deal with each occurrence as a matter of fact at the time it occurred. There were times the limousine almost stopped. When Mrs. Kennedy started out the back and the agent jumped on the back to put her back in and covered them up, it almost stopped.
From what I gather, part of the motorcade stopped briefly before it entered the Stemmons Freeway, although the limousine itself did not. Apparently the lead car driven by Chief Curry and two motorcycle riders, Ellis and Chaney, for a very brief period had a meeting of the minds ahead of the limousine after the shots. This was where Chaney told Curry and Ellis that the President had been hit just prior to their entering the Stemmons Freeway ramp where Sergeant Bellah was waiting for the signal to stop the north bound Stemmons traffic.
Another direct rebuttal to the House Select Committee’s observations, not their findings, concerned the microphone which was stuck in the open position on Channel 1 at approximately 12:28. They wanted to have, running at 11 M.P.H., McLain coming down Houston Street, make a left turn and reverse back, and be so many feet down Elm Street. They took great pride in their revelation until they realized that one of the errors they had was the fact that the motorcycle had a windscreen that filtered the noise from the microphone, and it didn’t square with where he had to be when he turned the corner until suddenly they remembered, “Well, the motorcycle turned this way, the screen is here. His mike didn’t go through the screen.” So beautifully scientific and so utterly absurd! It just didn’t happen that way!
What had happened was that the crowd encroached on the President at the corner of Houston and Elm. This was the last place where there was a large crowd, and it’s also a sharp reverse left turn onto Elm. Making the turn at Elm, the motorcade almost halted, to the point that the next car behind where McLain and Baker were, had to stop for a second. By the time the President got around the corner and the motorcade started to move again, McLain heard what was presumably the first shot because he noticed pigeons jump up from the Texas School Book Depository. Then, in looking around, he was not consciously aware of hearing, in his recollection, any other shots. But he was attracted to his left where there’s an opening in the backdrop to the little pond there in Dealey Plaza. Through the opening in the wall behind the pond, he saw the agent running up behind the limousine. As the limousine almost stopped, the agent jumped on, and he saw Mrs. Kennedy trying to get out and being pushed back in, then the limousine took off. Moments thereafter, almost simultaneously, he heard Chief Curry say, “Go to the hospital! Go to the hospital! Code 3!” At which time, McLain accelerated, turned on his red lights, turned the corner, and started trying to catch up to the motorcade. When he pulled around the corner, he saw Hargis’s motorcycle down and thought something had happened to him. But he noticed at the same time that Hargis was getting to his feet and was trying to run up the hill. Meanwhile, Hargis had heard the chief say, “Get somebody up on the hill!” He didn’t know what it was, but he tried. Curry later said, “No, I didn’t see anything up there. I just didn’t know. It was just a spontaneous reaction.”
At a certain point on the tapes, just after the shots were fired, the President’s hit, and the motorcade’s on the way to Parkland, the open microphone picks up three distinct and one straggler sound of sirens passing the open microphone. The reason I say sirens passing the open microphone is because, in acoustics, there is the Law of the Doppler Effect. Simply stated, this is when a recording source and a sound source pass a certain point the sound blanks itself out and cancels and then picks up again. It’s not a continuum. There is a stop. The microphone had the ability, generally, to pick up sound at a distance of about 300 feet maximum. That didn’t mean that anything 301 feet away could not be picked up and anything 299 feet away would be recorded, but it was just the outer range limits. With that, there must be considered the loudness, the quality of the sound, the atmospheric conditions, and the condition of the microphone itself. But we’re talking about an optimum thing. A siren is a high pitch, high frequency, sound certainly in excess of the normal 2,400 peak range of the voice grade recording.
Projecting by speed, the ability of the motorcade to travel certain segments because of the physical layout, the turns, the ability to get on and off the freeway; and depending on the recollections of the motorcycle operators themselves as to how fast they were riding at given points, indicates a continuum projected long away. It would take them from where they started to where they were at a certain point after the shooting. At the same time these officers would be making the turn off of the service road at Stemmons onto Industrial Boulevard, it’s exactly the same time that the sound on the tapes record the sirens.
There is a distinct recollection by the motorcycle officers that the motorcade came by in three separate groups. There was a front group, middle group, and tail group. In addition, one special agent who got off to a late start had an old siren on his car and came through after all the rest as a straggler. At the same time, when you position where the open microphone was by previously determined acoustical information, this is where the guy who had the open microphone parked his motorcycle. To check this out, if you place two points on a map representing Industrial Boulevard in front of the Trade Mart and figure the distance between the two at being a couple hundred feet around the corner, this is where they would have picked up their speed after they’d made their slow down off the service road from Stemmons and turn onto Industrial. There was a crowd there at the Trade Mart, and this crowd was curious because they thought the President was coming to speak. They didn’t know that he was going to Parkland.
Most of the motorcycles didn’t have electric sirens; they had foot operated sirens, and you had to have a certain amount of speed before they would operate. Navigating the turn onto Industrial would not allow the sirens to work because of the deceleration, but once on Industrial, the 200 feet gave them the opportunity to speed up again and operate the sirens which were picked up at the point of the earliest capability of the open radio microphone from a distance of 282-½ feet. Once the 282-½ feet had been traversed to a point at a 90 degree angle with the open microphone, that’s where the Doppler Effect occurred. The siren’s blank! When the tape is run to the point where another 282-½ feet elapse, then the first range of sirens quit because they are out of range of the open microphone. The second group of motorcycles, the same thing: the sound was picked up and lost where it should have been. It Dopplered where it should and dropped off where it should. The same with the third group.
I didn’t write the law on the Doppler Effect: I didn’t park the motorcycle there; I didn’t sound the siren. I’m only reporting on what happened. The motorcade turned onto Industrial, and in 200 feet, accelerated to 50–55 M.P.H. Fifty-five M.P.H. travels 80.66 feet per second. The siren sounds passed in seven second intervals. The source travelling at 80.66 feet per second for seven seconds will travel 565 feet. That’s 282-½ feet in an approach segment and 282-½ in a departure segment. The middle of that mark is exactly parallel to the motorcycle with the open microphone, exactly where the Doppler would occur.
This particular motorcycle had a defective transmitter which had stuck open intermittently several times during that morning on Channel 1. At the particular time of relevance, though, at 12:28, approximately three minutes prior to the assassination, there was another block of transmission.
During that period beginning at 12:28, we have the dispatcher talk to 83, check him out; 56 asked for traffic checkout on a ’56 Chevrolet, didn’t see the license; 75 said he was in service, and the dispatcher acknowledged that. Then, in the microphone at the same time, he said, “75 clear, 12:28,” then the microphone stuck open for 17-½ seconds. At that time, it was transmitting the sounds of a running motorcycle, not sitting still and idling.
Then the dispatcher answered 38 when he came on the air, “Might tell some of those people out here at Market Hall that there’s people walking across southbound Stemmons here in front of the Marriott Hotel and all the way down south.” As soon as he finished that, the microphone stuck open and continued open again.
During the conversation, the dispatcher said, “10-4, 38. Are you still en route to court?”
And 38 acknowledged “10-4” into the microphone. They’re able to talk over the microphone stuck open because the signal was strong enough and clear enough to come in. So, sometimes you could hear transmissions and sometimes you couldn’t. In this case, 38 overloaded the open transmitter. When he says “10-4,” the microphone continued to stay on for five minutes and the motorcycle’s engine is running.
Then someone came on and said, “Market office.”
And somebody else said, “All right.” Just after that, at about 12:30:55 is when the first shot was fired. The motorcycle engine at about 12:31 then slowed down its idling noise. Apparently he had gotten to where he was going and was running much slower. Then, at 12:31:03, just about three seconds after slowing down, the third shot was fired.
Someone else came on the air about 12:31:02 on Channel 2 and said “I’ll check it.” That was a bleed over from Channel 2.
The same thing happened at 12:28 when on Channel 2, 125 said, “I’m at the Trade Mart now. I’ll head back out that way.” And 4 responded, “Naw, that’s all right. I’ll check it.” At that instant is when we have the same “I’ll check it” being said on Channel 1. The reason this happened, very likely, was this motorcycle slowed down and pulled up close to where a P.A. speaker was tuned to Channel 2, and the operator had flipped on the outside speakers so the officers could stand by the motorcycle and hear it. This occurred just as the “I’ll check it” comment was made. This bleed is what is called crosstalk which put Channel 1 and Channel 2 within a second of each other. Anytime you can bring them within fifteen to thirty seconds, that’s pretty darn good. In this case, it is within one second.
At 12:31:12, 91 said, “Check wanted on P-Pecos.” Following that was the single tone of a bell. This has caused a great deal of confusion for which I have a simple explanation which I can’t prove. A group known as the Young Democrats or the Sons of Liberty, or something like that, was out at the Trade Mart, and they had a replica of the Liberty Bell on a trailer. My best guess is that since it was in close proximity to where the microphone was stuck open on the parked motorcycle, maybe somebody just walked by and went “Bong!” There is no other explanation that I know of to explain a bell. However, it could be an electrical sound caused within the electronics of the system.
The most telling rebuttal to the House Select Committee’s conclusions that McLain’s microphone picked up the shots in Dealey Plaza is that the stuck open microphone was on a three-wheel motorcycle, not the two-wheel solo motorcycle which McLain was riding. It’s easy to tell from the tapes because of the difference in the engine sounds.
On a three-wheeler, the radio is beside the back part of the operator’s right knee near the engine. Any change in engine speed can be heard. Besides that, you can put a strobe cycle on that and measure the throbbing beat. The small flat-head, three-wheel motorcycle engine doesn’t run the same way; they are not nearly as sophisticated, nor do they have the muffler capability that the over-head 74’s had on the Harley two-wheel motorcycle. In addition, on a two-wheeler, the motorcycle radio sits up higher with a crossbar and gas tank arrangement, and the engine is down lower between the officer’s legs. You could sit there with this motorcycle mike open and it would not pick up near the same engine definition. Besides that, when it runs, you would hear a different sound between the two. The engines sounded nothing alike. Thus, it was obvious that the so-called shots in Dealey Plaza were actually recorded at the Trade Mart on the three-wheeler, which meant, absolutely, there were no shots picked up by McLain’s motorcycle radio. In fact, we even know whose motorcycle it was! The House Select Committee was aware of this, but that information didn’t fit their scenario of a conspiracy, which was what they were trying to prove. Remember, if it doesn’t fit to your satisfaction, discount it, explain it away, and maybe nobody will be smart enough to catch it.
Another thing the House Select Committee didn’t want to explain was whether the existing communications’ network that we had back then would record such an audible sound as a shot. Over the years I have heard several shots broadcast over the police radio during the course of our business. These were easily identified as shots. When the House Select Committee came back down here in August of whatever year it was, they blocked off the street one weekend and ran those trials, including shooting a gun from behind the stockade fence. Guess what the recording sounded like? BANG!… BANG!… BANG! You heard gunshots! Now, we heard gunshots in years before the assassination, and we heard gunshots in years after the assassination, but for some strange quirk of fate, the shots fired during the assassination were inaudible sound impressions. The quality of the sounds of the microphone would not change whether it was stuck open or if it were turned on deliberately.
If you were talking to someone on the phone and someone fired a shot on the other end of the line, would you hear a shot? Of course, though, you might not recognize it as a shot because there is an adulteration of the sound. Unless you were expecting the shot, you might not perceive it to be a shot, but there would be the distinct BANG. But again, the House Select Committee found only sound impressions.
Other allowances were not made by the House Select Committee which further made the tests invalid. The firing tests were made in August on a clear, dry, hot day. In November it was a cool, moist, windy day. It’d been raining and the air was fairly heavy, and it was fairly cool. That makes a difference. There was an additional fifteen years of foliage on the trees; there were modifications to the buildings; signs and posts had been moved or removed. For example, the Stemmons sign that the President passed near the grassy knoll is gone. According to their logic, if there were ten objects sticking up from the ground and they found an echo that didn’t connect with anything, “Well, maybe someone was standing there at the time.” Maybe, maybe, maybe! Again, if it doesn’t fit, ignore it!
Let me put it this way: They tried to construct the validity by saying that they ran those tests that August and proved a perfect match on their scenario from a gunshot at the President from the grassy knoll behind the stockade fence; that it was, in fact, the third shot, and from the School Book Depository were shots one, two, and four. No one, again, even mentioned where the bullet went if you fired down into the car from the front, but they made a sport as to how the so-called “magic bullet” changed directions when it hit the President as it went through his neck. How did it change directions and then change directions again to hit Connally? Equally fantastic would be this bullet which flew down and hit the President, then maybe had wings and ZOOM! They also didn’t explain why, when the President was hit, the residue matter went forward, the same way the bullet would carry it. It reminds me of those Dick Tracy cartoons when I was a kid where they’d show the impact and they’d show these little marks away from it. Maybe the House Select Committee thought that Dick Tracy was an authority on ballistics: that if a bullet hits you the residue bounces back at you. It doesn’t! It goes the way the impact carries it. There was also a jerk in the President after he was hit. If you talk to true ballistics’ experts, not mystery buffs, the jerk is not inconsistent with ballistics.
They also wondered why the hole through the President’s coat was lower on his coat. It’s hard to keep your shirt tail in, and it’s hard to keep your coat down when you sit for a period of time. They tend to creep and crawl. If you’re waving, and waving, and waving as was the President, that hard back brace that he was wearing also tends to encourage the coat to creep up. I know from personal experience that every so often in a parade you have to pull your coat back down. I don’t know if, or when, he pulled his coat down, but suppose that his coat had hiked up about four inches in this last bit of maneuvering before the shots, and it happened at a time when he had not pulled down his coat; then his coat would be bunched up to about his shoulders. If his coat was hiked up about four inches, and the bullet goes through, when you lay the coat out over the body, the holes don’t align properly. The hole in the body is in one place and the hole in the coat in another. Does that mean that someone has messed with it? No! The law of physics messed with it. The man was waving and his coat hiked up in the rear. Why try to find spooks and mystery when simple reality can occur?
But naturally, you have these mystics who say that obviously he had been shot at a lower spot, and obviously, since the hole was supposed to have been somewhere else, someone must have doctored the evidence. Some people even feel that the President’s body was detoured on the way to Washington and somewhere, someone made changes in the wounds. With what Jackie Kennedy had been through, is one expected to believe that she would sit still for that? I hardly think so! She just didn’t show that kind of a lack of moxie. I think she would have gone absolutely bananas and had a fire fight if somebody had tried to mess with her or the late president.
In addition, there were twenty people who were present, and there were obvious suspicions and emotions present. Remember, the relationship between the Vice-President and the President was somewhat strained. I don’t think that was a secret. I won’t attribute hostility at a measured level because that’s not my business. But we do know that there was not the greatest accord between the two. There was the emotional connection as to when Kennedy ceased being the President and when Johnson suddenly became the President. Obviously it was technically when the President was pronounced dead at Parkland; ceremonially it was when Judge Hughes swore him in. But in the emotional mind, President Jack Kennedy left Washington, and until they could get out of this mess and back to Washington, till they could ceremonially, appropriately, and with dignity dispose of that which was Jack Kennedy, he was still, by honor, the President. And Johnson, well, who knows? So there was this turmoil. With that scenario in the plane, does it seem logical that the plane was detoured somewhere? Check the flight log. Does it seem logical that something like that could have happened and everybody involved could have kept quiet for all those years? No chance!
Let’s look at the assassination from this perspective, and it’s a very simple thing. Here’s this poor bedeviled individual, Lee Oswald, who gets up in the morning without wakening his wife and leaves almost all his money in a dish along with his wedding band. He then gets his curtain rods, somebody else must have gotten his gun, and takes this package to work. The paper’s found where he took it, or where somebody took it; the grease on the gun and on the paper were the same. No one knew where the curtain rods went; they never turned up, but the gun did: the same gun that Oswald had purchased. But this poor bedeviled little individual, after having probably carried the rifle in this paper up to the sixth floor, didn’t shoot the President. Instead, he goes downstairs just after the shooting, drinks a Coca-Cola in front of his boss and Officer Baker. Poor as a church mouse, he saunters out the front door, goes down the street, gets on a bus, then realizes that it’s not going anywhere. Poor as a church mouse as he jumps out of the bus, runs over to the Greyhound Bus Station, gets in a taxi cab, then tells the driver to take him to a corner address near his house. He goes by his house for some reason. Maybe he just loves mysterious behavior. He then pays the cab driver, walks back to his house, runs in, changes his jacket and shirt, picks up his pistol, sticks it in his belt and runs down the street to the Texas Theater to watch a double-feature movie that he can’t afford to go to because he sneaked in. Now, is that congruent behavior? That’s consistent with what? Doesn’t everybody do that all the time? When in his past had Oswald been a movie fan? He hadn’t. But now, with the crime of the century happening in his presence, the most natural thing to do is go to a movie!
It was a diversion. The man went home not knowing what to expect. He bypassed his house, knowing that he got away from Baker but not knowing how long he could continue to get away. Rather than be caught by the police and held, then be identified and paraffin tested and made with his gun, he did what any person would have done given the chance: he ducked out. Getting on the bus was his natural behavior because that’s how he had normally traveled. Realizing the bus wasn’t going anywhere, he had to take the expense of the cab. He then bypassed his house to be sure that he hadn’t been rapped. Seeing that he wasn’t, he ran back to the house, got his pistol, changed his top clothing and started out. In all likelihood, Officer Tippit saw his furtive movements, and being a good officer, was attracted. When he saw Tippit, and Tippit saw him, that electric moment happened, that “click.” You can’t put it in a bottle and sell it, but if you’re a real police officer, or if you’re a real suspect, you’ll know it and you’ll feel it. You’ll feel the officer’s eyes riveted on you; you’ll feel the suspect’s eyes riveted on you. So he turns around and plays a little cat and mouse.
Anyway, Oswald had been walking along at a fast pace. Others tried to measure the distance and said that you just couldn’t walk it that fast. You can when you’re in a hurry! When the Devil’s behind you, it’s not that hard to do. He’s on his way, remember, to the picture show. He gets as far as Tenth and Patton. Before then, Tippit came on the radio with a very unobtrusive, “78.” The dispatcher was too busy to answer the low profile interrogatory. If he had said, “78!!!,” the dispatcher would have probably answered and Tippit would have asked, “Do you have a description on that suspect at the School Book Depository?” Wouldn’t it have been wonderful? But Tippit, being a kind of low profile, easy-going, hard to stir up sort of guy just said, “78.” He probably figured the dispatcher was too busy for him. So he pulled up and said, “Fella”; Oswald walked over to the door and looked in. Tippit might have said, “Like to talk to you for a minute.” Some words were exchanged which was corroborated by a cab driver nearby. Tippit opened the door and started out around to the front of the car. Oswald, in response, walked around toward the front and BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! He walked off saying, “That damn cop” or “That dumb cop” according to the cab driver.
Oswald then stopped in the yard, spitting distance from the cabbie, dumped his dead brass, reloaded his gun, put it back in his belt, and started walking south on Patton Street. Eyewitness Callaway said, “Hey, what’s going on down there?” Suddenly Oswald made a turn. Then, realizing that he’d probably been made with that khaki jacket on, he peeled it off behind a business while going west on Jefferson. Then he was eyeballed slipping into the Texas Theater. Others say that Oswald was in the Texas Theater when Tippit was shot. Too many eyewitnesses put him slipping in. The cashier knows she didn’t sell him a ticket. The shoe salesman saw him slipping in, found him in the theater, and watched him till the police got there. There are too many physical facts that square. Why in the name of all that is holy would Oswald have suddenly decided to do those funny things like run home and get a pistol, change clothes, and go to a movie? The man’s too poor to ride in a cab unless he’s trying to get away from the Devil. The man’s too poor to jump off his job, run home, pick up a pistol and go to the picture show. What kind of a psycho would do that sort of thing? My little grandson might want to take his cap pistol with him if he was going to see a cowboy movie, but reasonable people don’t take real pistols to movies.
Some have said that it couldn’t have been Oswald who shot Tippit because there was a slight discrepancy in the physical description. Anytime you take five, ten, or twenty people and let them see somebody then ask them to describe what they saw, there will be notable discrepancies.
The Rand Corporation recently conducted a survey which stated that there is about an 89 percent error margin on eyewitnesses, Now, this does not mean all of a sudden that as a potential juror you should discount anything and everything to the 89 percent factor that a witness testifies to, but it does reveal that obviously there is a reasonable potential for error in what an eyewitness might say. You’ve got to consider the accuracy of observation. For example, weight is hard to understand. You don’t say, “How much did he weigh?”
The reply, “He must have weighed 200 pounds.”
“How much to you think I weigh?”
“You weigh about 180.”
“Well, I weigh 220, so apparently this person weighs closer to 240,” because you have a skew. Or you could ask, “How tall was this person?”
“He was well over six feet tall.”
“How tall are you?”
“About 5’8”.”
“Well, then, this guy must have been 6’6” because I’m six feet.”
You don’t generally do this. But the other part of this was that Oswald couldn’t have done it because Oswald wasn’t there; he was at the theater. Malarkey! Oswald was there. But, they might say, this waitress, Helen Markham, said exactly this. The waitress obviously lied. But did she lie deceitfully, or did she inadvertently? The funny thing is she was standing there, after holding a man in her lap, trying to understand what he had been saying, after he had taken four shots, and she hasn’t got a drop of blood in her lap. Now, something has missed the target. In her mind, even today, she might think that she talked to the man, but all the pathologists will tell you that Tippit was dead before he hit the ground, which is why there was so little blood. The blood seepage that was there was gravitational flow before coagulation. His vital functions had ceased. Gravity bleeding was all that was left. Those are physical facts, and when you take the facts and take the conversation; where the conversation is inconsistent with the facts, you’ve got to go with the facts.
Take, for example, the ballistics. The Smith and Wesson pistol that Oswald used was not a standard generic American made Smith and Wesson .38 caliber pistol, so there was no pure ballistics capability because of that unique feature. It was specially made for the British with a resleeved barrel to handle British ammunition, and there weren’t too many made. It isn’t impossible, but what is the likelihood of a person of an approximately similar description within such a close distance and exact time frame having not only the same type Smith and Wesson pistol, but also the same mismatched mess of ammunition both in the pistol and in their pockets? There were two different kinds of cartridges in Oswald’s pocket and in the gun. Ballistics of the hammer fall was approximately identical on both, but because of the looseness of the cartridge in the case, the tests were not the best. They were certain beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the same. Also the ballistics of the bullets fired through the death gun and the bullet fired in tests from the gun taken off Oswald had the same exact similarities, but you couldn’t put them on a perfect match because the bullets didn’t fit the land and grooves.
People stop by the office or call quite frequently to discuss these issues. We’ve had some funny ones, too. One morning my phone rang at home somewhere between 1:00 and 4:00 A.M., and I answered rather sleepily. It was a talk show from Australia, live! I asked, “Do you realize what time it is?”
He responded, “Well, it’s 11:00 A.M. ‘fore noon in Brisbane!”
I said, “Well, it sure isn’t 11:00 A.M. in Dallas!” But he was a congenial fellow, and we went ahead and talked about it.
On another occasion a lady from the New York Democrat Women’s Club called several months after the assassination and asked, “Could I speak with someone who could discuss the assassination with me?”
So I said, “Well, depending on what you’d like to know, I’d be glad to try to answer your questions.”
“Are you permitted to speak about it?”
I said, “Certainly. We don’t have censorship.” So she started asking a lot of questions, much of which came from the Eastern press coverage which was rather tainted, slanted, heated, and emotional. I’m not faulting them because they had their jobs to do. They had a constituency to serve, editors to please, and reputations to live up to, though I think they, at times, were carried away with events. She asked some rather pointed questions without any effort to interfere with the answers.
Eventually she said, “This isn’t consistent with what we’ve been told. Why haven’t you people told us this?”
I asked her, “Why hasn’t someone asked? We don’t own a newspaper up in New York. Anyone who cares to know our side of it, we’re glad to discuss it with them.”
Certainly I’m concerned about how we are perceived; as to how we performed our jobs on the weekend of the assassination, and I think, in general, those people of significance and relevance have treated the Dallas Police Department fairly. As for those weirdos who don’t know from which side of the pot to pour the coffee, I don’t concern myself with their evaluations.

   James Bowles retired from the Dallas Police Department in 1981 and assumed the role of administrative chief deputy for the sheriff’s department. He has been the sheriff of Dallas County since 1984.

[1] The title “chief” is an umbrella term used by Dallas policemen for assistant chiefs as well as the chief of police.

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