PSC404, Spring 2001
nswers to assignment 3
Warren Report Chaps. III–V

Warren Commission Report Chapters III–V.

Answer these questions:
1. Name the persons who saw the rifle being fired from the sixth-floor window or being withdrawn after the shooting. Who saw the most? Howard Brennan (saw a man firing at least the third shot), ninth-grader Amos Lee Euins (saw a man firing at least two of the shots), James N. Crawford (movement in window), Mrs. Earle Cabell (“projection” from window), television newsreel cameraman Malcolm Couch (rifle being withdrawn), and Robert Jackson, staff photographer of the Dallas Times Herald (rifle being withdrawn). Brennan saw the most (a man coming and going, then firing the last shot).

      2. Describe the bullet fragments found in the presidential limousine. Which ones were traced ballistically to C2766? Were any traced to another weapon? Two large fragments from the front seat, nose and base of WCC/MC bullet(s), 44.6 and 21 grains. Three tiny fragments under Mrs. Connally’s jump seat, <1 grain each. The large fragments were traced to C2766 to the exclusion of all other weapons.

      3. How was the windshield of the presidential limousine damaged, and what does the nature of the damage imply about the direction of the shot? Cracks on outside, lead fragments on inside. Must have been hit by a projectile from the rear.

      4. Describe how the nearly whole bullet was found in Parkland Hospital. What did the Commission conclude about its origin, and why? What was the condition of this bullet? Was it “pristine”? A stretcher on the ground floor was bumped, and the bullet “rolled out.” Bullet traced to C2766 to exclusion of all other weapons. Stretcher presumed to be Connally’s because it could not have been Kennedy’s. Therefore, bullet from Connally. (In case you are worried about it's being a plant, neutron-activation analysis later matched the lead in this bullet to fragments from Connally's wrist.)

      5. Why did the autopsy physicians conclude that the tiny rear wound in JFK’s head was one of entrance, and that the large wound on the right side was one of exit? The tiny wound was one of entrance because of beveling between the inner and outer surfaces and the clean, smooth edges. (See diagram about beveling in Lifton's "Best Evidence.") The large wound was one of exit because (a) exit wounds are larger than entrance wounds, (b) one of three large fragments from the large hole wound was beveled in a way that indicated a wound of exit; and (c) tests on human skulls showed that an MC bullet actually created this kind of large wound in the same general area. Dr. John K. Lattimer later confirmed reason (c).

      6. Using the appropriate diagram (with timings derived from the Zapruder film), show why the Warren Commission felt that the body wounds to Kennedy and Connally had to have been produced by the same bullet (the single-bullet theory). Can you think of any other evidence pro or con? Kennedy was hit at Z210 at the earliest; Connally hit the latest at Z240. The difference in time is ≤1.6 seconds. Since an MC rifle can’t be aimed and refired in <2.3 sec, either (a) two shooters from the rear, or (b) one bullet hit both men. Other evidence pro = general alignment of the two men, nature of Connally’s wounds, absence of second bullet in body or limousine. Strictly speaking, the evidence for the SBT is supportive rather than probative. But no other explanation has emerged that is as simple and explains as much. Thus, the SBT must be the default explanation, or working hypothesis, for the wounds to the two men’s bodies.

      7. The commission laid out the evidence against Oswald in the following sequence. Very briefly note the strengths and weaknesses of each piece of evidence.
a. He owned and possessed the rifle that shot all bullets that were recovered (and maybe all the tiny fragments, too—but that’s another story). Rifle ordered but under the name of A. Hidell, a known alias of Oswald used on several occasions. Printing on order form and envelope was LHO's. Not clear whether A. Hidell could have received mail at Oswald's box. His palmprint was found on the barrel. Fibers consistent with his shirt also found on the barrel. He was photographed with a rifle like the one found. Marina had seen him with it numerous times.
b. He brought that rifle to the TSBD on the morning of 22 November 1963. He brought something long and bulky with him that morning. Called it “curtain rods,” although he needed none for his rented room. Some say that the brown paper bag was several inches too short to have been that particular rifle.
c. He was on the sixth floor of the TSBD a half-hour before the assassination.. Charles Givens saw him on the sixth floor with a clipboard about noon that day. He said he would take an elevator down but didn’t. Clipboard was later found on sixth floor.
d. He was seen firing one or more shots from the southeast window, pausing a moment to observe his handiwork, and then withdrawing the rifle. Several people, most notably Howard Brennan, saw a figure in the window. Brennan’s description was good enough for Patrolman Tippit to stop Oswald in Oak Park. But Brennan declined to identify Oswald in a lineup, although he later said he could have but was afraid to because he thought the assassination was the work of Communists.
e. Six months earlier, he had used the same rifle to try to kill retired Army General Edwin H. Walker in cold blood, but just missed when the general moved at the last moment. No eyewitnesses to the shooting, and the DPD never solved it. Oswald later told Marina he had done it, and showed her a notebook of plans. He retrieved the rifle a few days later. He left a general note for her, describing what to do if he were captured. Reference to their baby help to narrow down the time when the note was written.
f. Two weeks after the Walker incident, Oswald set out to kill Richard M. Nixon while Nixon was visiting Dallas, but was physically restrained by his wife Marina. Marina saw him with a pistol, and he told her what he was about to do. She may have even locked him in the bathroom. But the Commission decided that Marina may have been confused about the incident.
g. He was a good enough shot to potentially succeed at all these attempts.. It cannot be proven that he was not good enough. His test scores from the Marines were good but not great. The four-power telescopic sight would have helped considerably. Assuming the first shot missed, there would have been plenty of time available, 4.8 to 5.6 seconds, to fire the third shot carefully. Anyhow, the three shots were not so great—the first missed the car completely (assuming there really were three shots), the second missed the head (the presumed target) and went into the neck/back, and the third shot came within an inch or so of missing the head.

      8. Describe the security precautions taken by the DPD for the transfer of Oswald to the County Jail. More than 70 officers were assembled; armored truck to be used; basement office cleared. What might the police have overlooked? Ramp, stairs, lights. Should have cleared entire basement. Should have transferred Oswald in secret and at night.

      9. How did Jack Ruby enter the basement of the DPD building? Apparently just walked down the ramp from Main St. Is there any evidence that he was assisted in doing so? No; he was apparently not noticed or else allowed in because he was a semiinsider.

      10. Discuss the timing of Ruby’s arrival in the DPD basement Sunday morning relative to his earlier activities that morning. At 11:17 am, he sent a money order from Western Union office nearby. At 11:21, he shot Oswald. He probably could not have arrived in the basement more than 30 sec before Oswald appeared. What does this say about a possible conspiracy involving Ruby? Considering that Chief Curry announced that Oswald would be transferred any time after 10 a.m., either Ruby was acting on his own without planning the shooting in advance or he was part of an intricate conspiracy that could keep him apprised of Oswald’s whereabouts so that he could time his arrival to appear casual. Given the unpredictabilities of standing in line at Western Union and that Oswald was already 90 minutes late to be transferred, no respectable conspiracy would want to have Ruby arrive so late.

Back to Assignments and Answers
Back to PSC404 Spring 2001
Back to JFK Home Page