The Damage to the Back of President Kennedy's Head

For nearly half a century, we have debated the question of whether the back of President Kennedy's head was damaged during the attack in Dealey Plaza. Numerous witnesses and nearly every doctor and nurse at Parkland Hospital, who examined the President's head, reported seeing massive damage there.

But when we look at the autopsy photos, we see no such damage - a fact which has prompted many conspiracy advocates to believe that the photos were forgeries. Clearly, this photo shows no massive damage to the back of the head.

The answer to this apparent dilemma comes from Dr. Boswell himself, who is the doctor whose hand we see in the above photo. This is from his sworn testimony before the ARRB,

A. There was a big wound sort of transverse up like this from left posterior to right anterior. The scalp was separated, but it was folded over, and you could fold the scalp over and almost hide the wound. When you lifted the scalp up, you could really lay it back posteriorally, and there was a lot of bone still attached to the scalp but detached from the remainder of the skull. And I think these parts back here probably reflect that.

Q. Dr. Boswell, I'm sorry to jump in here, but I just want to make sure that the record is going to be clear here. And we can come back to this, and I want you to explain it the best you can. But would it be fair to say first that the diagram that we're talking about is a drawing of the skull of President Kennedy as seen from the top? Would that be fair?

A. Yes.

MR. GUNN: I'd like to ask the reporter if he could read back Dr. Boswell's last answer with regard to the transiting and the direction. When you hear this, I would like you to think if this is what you meant to say. I may have heard it differently from what you said, and I just want to make sure we're all on the same page.

[The pertinent portion of the record, as recorded, was read by the reporter.]


Q. Dr. Boswell, you've just had an opportunity to hear your prior answer read back. Was it correct that there was a wound that went from the left posterior to the right anterior? Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. When you say the left posterior, what do you mean?

A. The left occipital area, and that wound extends to the right frontal area...

In this part of the interview, Boswell states that he was the one whose hand we see in the photo, pulling the scalp up, and toward the forehead,

A. I know this--the flap is stretched forward here, because if this fell back down--with him in this sort of recumbent position, yes, this scalp would fold down and cover this wound.

Q. So you're saying that on the fourth view, which are the photographs that are in your hand right now, the scalp has been pulled back and folded back over the top of the head in a way different from the way that they appeared in the third view, the superior view of the head?

A. Yes.

Q. Is that fair?

A. In the previous one, it was permitted just to drop. In this one, it's pulled forward up over the forehead, toward the forehead.

Q. Who, if you recall, pulled up the scalp for the photograph to be taken?

A. There are about three of us involved here, because there are two right hands on that centimeter scale. I think that I probably was pulling the scalp up.

Boswell's testimony describing a large piece of scalp which was still attached to broken pieces of the skull, clearly explains the discrepancy between the recollections of the Parkland staff and the autopsy photos. The Parkland doctors saw the back of the head when it was laid open. The photos were taken after Boswell covered up the damage by pulling the scalp up and over the defect, giving the appearance that there was no damage there.

This explains why Boswell measured the dimensions of the large defect as 17 cms. front-to-back, in contradiction to Humes' statement that it was only 13 cms. Obviously, Boswell measured with the wound laid open, while Humes measured when the scalp was pulled up to hide much of the damage.

A more powerful corroboration comes from the Zapruder film. During the sharpest frames in the 330's we can easily see the extent and nature of the damage to the back of the President's head, which takes the form of a large, grotesque protrusion. These are among the most disturbing of the Zapruder frames, but they contain extremely important information that makes them well worth the effort required to closely examine them.

This extreme blowup of frame 337 makes it easy to see in detail, the nature of the damage.

As we can see by looking at the orientation of the right ear, the head at that instant was in a relatively upright position. Clearly, the right temple area was blasted out during the terrible explosion at frame 313. But, the large protrusion in the back of the head, appeared much later and well after the 313 explosion had subsided. It is easy to see, in this closeup from frame 317, that the protrusion has not yet appeared. We see the same thing in the Moorman photo, taken at almost the same time, just below it.

It is also critically important, to notice that hair in the upper-forward part of the head is still in place. It will only remain that way, for a few more frames.

As we will soon see, the existence and the cause of that large protrusion in the back of the President's head, is critical to the question of whether he was hit from the front that day. To understand how this happened, we will need to look at an Xray which clearly depicts a large, broken piece of skull, sitting loosely, at the top of the head. Remember Dr. Boswell's statement,

"When you lifted the scalp up, you could really lay it back posteriorally, and there was a lot of bone still attached to the scalp but detached from the remainder of the skull."

Based on the location of the damage as he described it, the encircled skullpiece in the image below, which is clearly, broken away from the rest of the skull, had to have been the bone that was "still attached to the scalp but detached from the remainder of the skull". It is that piece which flipped to the rear, taking with it the hair and scalp that used to be in the upper-forward part of the head.

When that piece of skull was blown out, it flipped to the rear, taking with it, hair that was in the forward part of the head, and which folded back over the inner surface of that broken skullpiece, partially covering it. Looking closely at the condition of the head at frame 337, there is simply no other explanation for what happened.

The final and most important question then becomes, was all this the result of a delayed reaction to the explosion at 313, or was it the result of a second headshot, as top civilian experts have claimed?

Although it might seem unlikely, it could be argued that the broken piece of skull just fell to the rear due to the momentum of the head as it went backward. If that were true, however, it would mean that the skull first resisted the pressure of that enormous explosion, which was hundreds of times greater than the motion of the head to the rear. But what makes that notion beyond improbable, is the fact that as the skullpiece flipped to the rear, it did so with enough force to rip out the scalp and hair which was forward of it. That would require a much greater force than the relatively weak thrust generated by the "jet effect" of the head, as it reversed its original forward motion.

There are other important issues to consider as well, which are more easily explained with videos. The most important of these is the fact that Mrs. Kennedy reached back across the trunk to recover a piece of her husband's brain tissue which she could not have know was there, until she saw it ejected to the rear - and that she could not have seen that happen prior to Zapruder frame 323. To understand that, and other critical issues related to the assassination, please look at my newest video presentation related to the attack in Dealey Plaza. You can see a Quicktime version of it here. Or, you can see it on Youtube, broken into separate parts. Click here to go to part one.

Once we understand what happened, some of the most important controversies that have been debated for decades, disappear. We no longer have to wonder why the Parkland staff saw massive damage to the back of the head which does not appear in the autopsy photos.

It also explains why Dr. Humes told the Warren Commission that the size of the large defect was only 13 cm. front-to-back, while Dr. Boswell said that same dimension was 17 cm. And finally, it confirms the conclusions by the by top independent radiologists who studied the Xrays at the National Archives (Riley, Mantik and Robertson), that there was clear evidence of two shots to the head.

I do hope you will look at my video presentation, linked above. It is the result of 14 years of study and analysis, and presents a different perspective on this crime, in areas that have been largely ignored by old school conspiracy advocates. More importantly, I believe it will convince even the most hardened skeptics, that although Lee Harvey Oswald might have been involved in the attack on President Kennedy, he could not have done this alone.

Bob Harris