The line of damage through the neck into the throat

    There is a widespread belief among JFK researchers that after Dr. Finck was unable to use his finger to probe the path of the bullet that entered JFK's neck/upper back, that was the end of it, and any connection to the wound in the lower throat was tenuous and guesswork. In fact, these two wounds are connected much more tightly than that: the autopsy surgeons found at least three more sites of inner damage that formed a straight line between the two wounds. Here are the passages from the autopsy report that describe these wounds:

Back/neck wound (page 3)
    "Situated on the upper right posterior thorax just above the upper border of the scapula there is a 7 x 4 millimeter oval wound. This wound is measured to be 14 cm. from the tip of the right acromion process and 14 cm. below the tip of the right mastoid process."

Throat wound (page 3)
    "Situated in the low anterior neck at approximately the level of the third and fourth tracheal rings is a 6.5 cm. long transverse wound with widely gaping irregular edges. (The depth and character of these wounds will be further described below.)"

Back/neck wound and throat wound again (pages 45)
    "2. The second wound presumably of entry is that described above in the upper right posterior thorax. Beneath the skin there is ecchymosis [escape of blood into the tissues from ruptured blood vessels] of subcutaneous tissue and musculature. The missile path through the fascia and musculature cannot be easily probed. The wound presumably of exit was that described by Dr. Malcolm Perry of Dallas in the low anterior cervical region. When observed by Dr. Perry the wound measured "a few millimeters in diameter", however it was extended as a tracheostomy incision and thus its character is distorted at the time of autopsy. However, there is considerable ecchymosis of the strap muscles of the right side of the neck and of the fascia about the trachea adjacent to the line of the tracheostomy wound. The third point of reference in connecting these two wounds is the apex (supra-clavicular portion) of the right pleural cavity. In this region there is contusion of the parietal pleura and of the extreme apical portion of the right upper lobe of the lung. In both instances the diameter of contusion and ecchymosis at the point of maximal involvement measures 5 cm. Both the visceral and parietal pleura are intact overlying these areas of trauma."

Thoracic cavity (page 5)
    "The bony cage is unremarkable. The thoracic organs are in their normal positions and relationships and there is no increase in free pleural fluid. The above described area of contusion in the apical portion of the right pleural cavity is noted."

Lungs (page 5)
    "The lungs are of essentially similar appearance the right weighing 320 Gm., the left 290 Gm. The lungs are well aerated with smooth glistening pleural surfaces and gray-pink color. A 5 cm. diameter area of purplish red discoloration and increased firmness to palpation is situated in the apical portion of the right upper lobe. This corresponds to the similar area described in the overlying parietal pleura. Incision in this region reveals recent hemorrhage into pulmonary parenchyma."

Summary (page 6; third paragraph)
    "The other missile entered the right superior posterior thorax above the scapula and traversed the soft tissues of the supra-scapular and the supra-clavicular portions of the base of the right side of the neck. This missile produced contusions of the right apical parietal pleura and of the apical portion of the right upper lobe of the lung. The missile contused the strap muscles of the right side of the neck, damaged the trachea and made its exit through the anterior surface of the neck. As far as can be ascertained this missile struck no bony structure in its path through the body."

My summary
    The autopsy doctors are telling us that five points of damage formed a straight line between the entry of the bullet high in the back/neck and its exit low in the throat: (1) the entrance wound just above the right shoulder blade; (2) the tissues and muscles just inside that wound; (3) the top of the right lung and protective tissue; (4) the right strap muscles of the neck and the trachea, both near the point of exit; and (5) the exit wound in the low throat.
    Nonmedical people may understandably find this series of wounds and the strong evidence they collectively present hard to picture. Dr. John K. Lattimer, the first non-Warren physician to examine the photos and X-rays from the autopsy that were being stored in the National Archives, anticipated this problem and prepared the following drawing and commentary, which appear on pages 180 and 181 of his 1980 book Kennedy and Lincoln: Medical & ballistic comparisons of their assassinations.

Lattimer's explanation of the diagram
    "This diagram of the neck wound is based on personal observations of the photographs and X-rays. Because the National Archives requested that no tracing be made, it is not precise. Its purpose is to clarify the relative positions of the wounds in the neck and the various findings which together indicated that all were consistent with the entry of a bullet into the upper back that ranged downward and medially through the base of the neck and exited low on the trachea in the midline, just below the collar button, causing a nick in the knot of the necktie. The findings were:
    A. Bullet Hole in Back of Suit Collar and Shirt. The coat and shirt were probably humped up on the back of the President's neck (see fig. 83) when the first bullet struck him. The FBI found a punched-in round hole in the back of the coat consistent with a 6.5 mm bullet, with the broken cloth fibers bent inward, indicating that this was a wound of entry. The cloth fibers of the shirt were bent inward in the same manner. Traces of copper from a bullet such as Oswald used were found on the margins of this hole in the coat by the FBI, also indicating that it was a wound of entrance.
    B. Bullet Hole in Back. The bullet hole in Kennedy's upper back, about two inches below the crease of his neck, and about two inches to the right of the midline.
    C. Halo around Bullet Hole. The bullet hole had around it a faint but definite halo, or circumferential bruise, typical of a wound of entry from a high-speed bullet.
    D. Spine Struck by Bullet. Tiny slivers of bone could be seen in the upper (rear) area of the bullet track on the A-P X-ray film of the right shoulder and neck area. Since no lateral X-ray film was taken of this area, it was possible to determine only that they lay near the high (rear) end of the bullet track, but not the exact distance they lay from the surface. They were near the tip of the transverse process of the cervical vertebrae, which the bullet obviously grazed. They are represented diagrammatically only. (See fig. 82.)
    E. & F. Pleura and Lung Bruised. The autopsy report described a 5 cm bruise on the dome of the right pleura and also on the upper tip of the right lung, but no perforation of either, compatible with the passage of a high-speed bullet close above this point.
    G. Air in Tissues. There were tiny traces of air, visible in the X-rays, in the tissues along the bullet track, near the hole in the trachea.
    H. Hole in Trachea. There was a ragged hole in the right side of the trachea, seen by the surgeons at Parkland.
    I. Tracheostomy. There was a gaping 6.5 cm transverse tracheostomy incision low on the neck where the Dallas surgeons had enlarged the bullet hole in order to insert a tracheostomy tube. (See fig. 80.)
    J. Holes in Front of Shirt. There were 1 cm vertical slits in both sides of the overlapping portion of the shirt immediately below the collar band and touching it just below the collar button. (See fig. 84.)
    K. Nick in Necktie. There was a nick or crease through only the outer layer of fabric of the lower left side of the knot, compatible with the passage of a spinning 6.5 mm bullet at high speed. A bloodstain extended downward from this nick. (See fig. 85.) (J. K. Lattimer, Resident and Staff Physician, May 1972)"

My comment
    This striking analysis by Dr. Lattimer removes any remaining doubt that a bullet from the rear entered high on Kennedy's back/neck and exited at the bottom of his throat, just as the Warren Commission concluded it did. From here it must have hit either Connally or the limousine. Since Connally was hit in his right back by a nonpristine bullet and that part of the limousine was not hit by any bullet, it is obvious that the bullet from Kennedy also passed through Connally. This clearly and simply establishes the single-bullet theory.

Back to The SBT