Mrs. Kennedy

It is hard to think of an aspect of this crime that has been more flagrantly misrepresented than the actions of Mrs. Kennedy during these critical frames. In it's 1963 article on the Zapruder film, Life magazine, which had recently acquired the rights to the Zapruder film, made the claim that the First Lady, "climbed out on the trunk"an assertion that was never really challenged, but repeated endlessly over the years, even in books by Warren Commission critics.

Of course, this led to the natural conclusion that she was trying to escape from the limousine, or more charitably, to have been trying to assist Special Agent Clint Hill. As we will see, neither of those claims were correct.

First, Mrs. Kennedy never, ever "climbed out on the trunk" In fact, neither her legs, nor any part of her lower body ever touched the trunk's surface. Neither did she make any effort to climb over the back seat or get out of the vehicle. It is easier to prove these points by showing her animated, in the Zapruder film, which you can see here. But the following series of stills, should also make the point.

The key to understanding what is happening here is to watch her right arm and hand. She is very obviously, reaching back to grasp at something. There is no attempt whatsoever, to escape and not even an acknowledgment of Clint Hill's presence. In fact, we see her completely ignore his outstretched hand, as she rushes to return to her seat. If anyone has even the slightest doubt about the actions being described here, I cannot urge strongly enough, that he or she look at this part of the film repeatedly, and in slow or stopped motion.

 Not surprisingly, Clint Hill, who was just inches from the First Lady, saw the same thing that we see in the Zapruder film. This is what he told the Warren Commission,

Between the time I originally grabbed the handhold and until I was up on the car, Mrs. Kennedy--the second noise that I heard had removed a portion of the President's head, and he had slumped noticeably to his left. Mrs. Kennedy had jumped up from the seat and was, it appeared to me, reaching for something coming off the right rear bumper of the car, the right rear tail.. 117

Looking at figure 59, we can see that at its furthest extension, during the Z370's Mrs. Kennedy's right hand is partially obscured by the right handhold on the limousine trunk. This is probably why we are unable to see the object she is reaching for. For many years, a handful of researchers have argued that she must have been trying to retrieve a piece of brain tissue or skull that was blown to the rear from her husband's head. 

Of course, it's hard to imagine anything else that might have been out there that would have caught her attention. But what seems to have been overlooked, amounts to far more powerful and objective corroboration for this notion. Mrs. Kennedy, in fact, made it very clear at that time, exactly what she had recovered from the trunk. This is from Mrs. Connally's Warren Commission testimony,

..and then after the third shot she said, "they have killed my husband. I have his brains in my hand" and she repeated that several times, and that was all the conversation.118

Years later, in an article by Robert Rees, Mrs. Connally reported the sequence of events that transpired after the President was fatally wounded. This is how Rees reported her story,

"I thought my husband was dead,". Connally stated somberly. From behind her came Jackie's tortured wail, "Jack! Jack! They've killed my husband! I have his brains in my hands!". The Secret Service man yelled for the driver to pull out of the motorcade. On his radio phone he related to the motorcyclists to head to the nearest hospital. "We pulled out of line at a terrific speed,", Connally recollected.

If Mrs. Connally's recollection was correct, she heard the first lady shouting "I have his brains in my hand", even before Roy Kellerman told Greer, the driver, to get out of Dealey Plaza, and before the limousine "pulled out of line". Of course, we know that Kellerman gave Greer those instructions well before the limo exited Dealey Plaza. Likewise, we can easily see in film footage, that the limo also pulled out to the right, to pass the lead car, before it was even on the Stemmons exit ramp.

It is also clear that Mrs. Kennedy had nothing in her hand when she turned to reach across the trunk, so she had to have acquired the brain tissue afterward. Governor John Connally heard Mrs. Kennedy say exactly the same thing.

Mr. SPECTER. Did she say anything more?
Governor CONNALLY. Yes; she said, I heard her say one time, "I have got his brains in my hand."119

For our purposes, Governor Connally's testimony is even more significant than his wife's. This is because the Governor, by his own admission, lost consciousness before the limousine had even left Dealey Plaza. He did not awaken until after it had arrived at Parkland hospital. This is more from Governor Connally's testimony,

At about that time, we began to pull out of the cavalcade, out of the line, and I lost consciousness and didn't regain consciousness until we got to the hospital.120

This left only a scant few seconds of consciousness during which he could have heard the First Lady's comment about holding brain tissue in her hand. We therefore, know that she must have said this immediately, upon returning to her seat. Final corroboration comes from Parkland hospital doctor, Marion Jenkins, who stated,

I noticed that her hands were cupped in front of her, as if she were cradling something. As she passed by, she nudged me with an elbow and handed me what she had been nursing in her hands - a large chunk of her husband's brain tissues.121

Mrs. Kennedy's visible actions in the Zapruder film, her own words, and Clint Hill's recollection, confirm that she retrieved a piece of brain tissue from the trunk, at a point near the right handhold, which was located directly behind the President. But a careful study of her actions during those critical seconds, tells us a bit more.

The Shot

Simple logic tells us that Mrs. Kennedy would not have risen in her seat and reached back to retrieve the brain tissue unless she realized it was there. But her actions, turning, rising, and reaching back across the trunk, were carried out very quickly and almost in a single motion, with no apparent attempt to first locate the tissue.

This is one place where interested readers should examine their own copies of the Zapruder film, in order to confirm what I am saying. As was mentioned some time ago, Mrs. Kennedy and others in the limousine, quickly dropped their heads in reaction to the gunshot at Z-285. By frame 312, when the President was was first hit in the head, Jackie was looking downward and away from her husband. At that instant she could not have seen any of that terrible damage. Her head remained in that downward position until she looked up, at precisely Z-323, at which point, she looks directly into the massive head wound. It is important, that she never takes her eyes off that area, until frame 337, when she begins to turn and rise from her seat. She then gets up, and reaches back across the trunk. At no point does she hesitate or stop to look around.

We can draw one, extremely important conclusion from all this. Whatever provoked Mrs. Kennedy to turn and retrieve the tissue, happened between Z-323 and Z-337. It may even be possible to pin down the exact frame.

After the explosion at Z-313, we see only one frame that suggests a possible bullet strike. That came at precisely, Zapruder frame 323. The most glaring aspect of that frame is the pair of highly visible flaps in the right temple area, which for a brief instant, flared out into an ugly, distended oval. Immediately afterward, they fell back into the same, flaccid state they were in before.

My first impression of this phenomenon was that this was the result of another shot from the rear. But that would be inconsistent with a great deal of evidence pointing to the cowlick region being blown out then. The answer may be that the bullet which struck the President at frame 323, was an explosive round, which as one firearms expert told me, could have caused a shock wave that resonated within the skull and resulted in the distension of these flaps.

This explosion was not anything like the massive display we saw at 313, but it certainly could have caused the bullet to break up into smaller fragments, that exited in the general area of the cowlick. Whatever it was, we know that something caused this highly visible reaction, and it is hard to think of a cause that was not related to a bullet strike. Mrs. Kennedy provided us with another clue in her December, 1963 interview with journalist, Theodore White, when she described what had to have been her view of tissue and bone being blown out from the President's head,

      ..I could see a piece of his skull coming off; It was flesh colored not white - he was holding out his hand - and I can see this perfectly white piece detaching itself from his head - then he slumped in my lap..122

Undoubtedly, the "flesh colored"material was brain tissue, rather than skullbone, unlike the "perfectly white piece"which may well have been the piece of skull that Charles Brehm saw, land in the grass. She again talked about that "flesh colored"piece, in this part of her Warren Commission testimony,

      And all I remember is seeing my husband, he had this sort of quizzical look on his face, and his hand was up, it must have been his left hand (It was actually, his right hand). And just as I turned and looked at him, I could see a piece of his skull and I remember it was flesh colored.123

Mrs. Kennedy provides one more clue, when we examine her reaction immediately following Zapruder frame 323. At that instant, her right hand snapped away from her husband's head at extreme speed, as though she had touched a hot stove. Watch that hand in the images below. It travels through more than 180 degrees during the 5/18ths of a second following the suspected Z-323 shot.


We might suspect that this reaction was the result of revulsion as she looked into the devastation of her husband's head. But, revulsion cannot provoke a startle reaction, which would be necessary to provoke such an extremely rapid response.

One other point might be of interest here. As was previously mentioned, Mrs. Kennedy told Theodore White, that she saw "flesh colored"skull and a "perfectly white piece"being separated from her husband's head. Obviously, the white "piece"was skullbone, but why would she claim to have seen flesh colored skullbone? In her Warren Commission testimony, she likewise, stated that she saw "a piece of skull and I remember it was flesh colored"Notice, that she never once describes any of this material as brain tissue.

So why would she have identified what was certainly brain tissue, as flesh colored skullbone? Since she repeatedly shouted about the brain tissue she carried all the way to Parkland hospital and then turned over to Dr. Jenkins at Parkland, she had to have known what it was. Yet, she never once, stated that she held tissue, always substituting, "flesh colored"skull of some kind. She also told the Warren Commission that she had no recollection of going out on the trunk.

    You know, then, there were pictures later on of me climbing out the back. But I don't remember that at all.124

We might accept that Mrs. Kennedy's mind blanked out the horror of all this, if it wasn't for her actions immediately afterward, repeatedly shouting about the tissue she held and then carried to the hospital. We also know, from her detailed descriptions of brain and bone being blown out of her husband's head, that she was fully capable of dealing with and remembering the more grisly aspects of what happened. Yet somehow, Mrs. Kennedy seems to have been incapable of remembering anything related to reaching back across the trunk, or to the brain tissue she held in her hand, all the way to Parkland hospital.

There is no way to prove it, but I find it hard not to suspect that Mrs. Kennedy was told, probably by FBI people, not to mention the fact that she retrieved brain tissue from a point directly behind the President. This might not have been done with sinister intent. At that time, there was still strong suspicion that Oswald was connected to Fidel Castro's Cuba, and/or the Soviet Union. The argument, which was probably believed by some members of government, was that they dared not find evidence of conspiracy, since it would point to the communists, which in turn, would could force the United States into a position where it would have to retaliate, and risk precipitating a third world war.

Mrs. Kennedy insisted that her interview with Theodore White not be published until after her death. It may be, that she intended to say more (or did say more), since she made no reference at all to reaching across the trunk or retrieving anything there. But if she was indeed, told not to talk about the brain tissue, she left us with a very obvious clue, when she repeatedly referred instead, to "flesh colored" bone.

1 Warren Commission reports Vol. III, P. 404

2 Warren Commission reports Vol. III, P. 407. Of course, the 4.6 seconds Frazier mentioned was the time required to aim and fire twice.

3. WC internal memo by Wesley Liebeler, dated 9/6/64

4 Despite the failure of every shooter in every test, the HSCA still concluded that Oswald could have carried out the feat, since there were a couple of near-misses.

5. Warren Commission report p.115 (St. Martin's Press edition).

6. Warren Commission Report Vol. 5 p. 174

7. Warren Commission Reports Vol. III, p. 292

8 Warren Commission Reports Vol. VI p. 297

9. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p.287

10. Warren Commission Report Vol. 7, p.478

11. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p.486

12. Warren Commission Report vol. 7, p. 439

13. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 4, p.353

14. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6 p. 263

15. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p.172

16. Warren Commission reports, Vol. III, p. 267 Officer Baker at first, volunteered no specific opinion about the timing of the shots, but when pressed by Belin said he thought they were evenly spaced. This seems to be in contradiction to his recollection that he was looking upward at the pigeons that were startled by the first shot, and then heard "two extra shots".

17. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 2, p.118

18. Original Treasury dept. report dated 11/22/63

19. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 18, p.801

20 Interview in the documentary film, the Men Who Killed Kennedy

21. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p.388

22. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 2, p.160

23. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 5, p.565

24. Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.512

25. Warren Commission report, Vol. II, p. 76

26. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p.176

27. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6 p. 371

28. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 3, p.282

29. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 18, p.800

30. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 2, p.182

31. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p.184

32. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p.394

33. . Warren Commission Report Vol. 7, p.345

34. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p. 552

35. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 19. p.531

36. Original Treasury dept. report dated 11/22/63 - Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.782

37. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 3, p.179

38. Warren Commission Report Vol. 7, p.498

39. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 19, p.535

40. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 2, p.150

41. Original Treasury dept. report Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.730

42. Original Treasury dept. report 11/22/63- Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.733

43. Treasury dept. report - 11/29/1963 - Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.746. McIntyre, and others among these witnesses may well have actually heard the 2nd, 3rd and 4th shots based on his descriptions of events.

44. Original Treasury dept. report dated 11/22/63 - Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.782

45. We know from previous photos that the door near Taylor had been at least partially open during much of the motorcade. He probably meant that he pushed it far enough open, to step out.

46. Warren Commission Report, Vol. 18, p.802

47 Original Treasury dept. report.

48. Original Treasury Dept. report 11/22/63

49. Original Treasury dept. report 11/29/63- Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.740

50 The extra-wide frames were printed in Vol. 18 of the Warren Commission reports.

51 Original Treasury Dept. report 11/22/63

52 WCR Vol. II, p. 139

53. Warren Commission Report Vol. 4, p. 147

54. Original HSCA testimony.

55. Warren Commission Report Vol. 4, p.147

56. Warren Commission Report Vol. 4, p.133

57. Warren Commission Report Vol. 4, p.147

58. Documentary film, Rush to Judgment - the Plot to Kill Kennedy, by Mark Lane

59. Warren Commission Report Vol. 7, p.473

60 Ibid

61. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 5, p. 180

62. Ibid

63 WCR Vol. 5, page 180

64 Original Treasury Dept. report 11/29/63

65. Original Treasury dept. report 11/29/63- Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.724

66. Warren Commission reports, Vol. 2, p.74

67 Ibid

68. Warren Commission reports, Vol. II, p.76

69. Warren Commission Report Vol. 2, p. 118

70. Ibid

71 HSCA report Vol. II, page 23

72 HSCA reports Vol. 5, p. 613

73. Description of "startle reaction"from the online Encyclopedia Britannica

74. HSCA report Vol. 6, p. 28

75. Ibid

76. Warren Commission Report Vol. 2, p. 118

77 The identity of "Babushka Lady"is a very controversial issue.

78 FBI report dated 11/24/1963

79 Ibid

80 p.544, Pictures of the Pain by Richard Trask from 11/22/1963 interview

81 Interview with WFAA television, 11/22/63.

82. Interview in documentary film, "the Men Who Killed Kennedy."

83. Ibid

84. Ibid

85. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p. 552

86 WCR, Vol. pages, 488 - 490

87 Ibid.

88. Original Treasury Dept. report, dated 11/22/63

89. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p. 243

90. Warren Commission Reports, Vol. 7, p. 509 Rachley was also cited on her recollection of "sparks"in Case Closed, by Gerald Posner.

91. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 2, p. 72

92 Ibid

93. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 5, p. 180

94 WCR Vol. II, p. 78

95 WCR Vol. II, p. 150

96 WCR Vol. VI, p. 176

97. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p. 552

98 Original Treasury dept. report.

99 WC report Vol. 6 p. 168

100 WC report Vol. 4 p. 145

101 Interview Jan. 11, 1997

102 Ibid

103 WCR Vol. IV, p. 110

104 From an email reply to Dr. Gary Aguilar. For the bullet Wright gave Thompson, see p. 175 of Six Seconds.

105 Although the explosion takes place at Z313, most experts believe the bullet struck one frame earlier, at Z312.

106 Warren Commission reports, Vol. II, p. 378

107 Ibid

108 p. 209, Pictures of the Pain by Richard Trask. Trask cites a typescript of interview with B.W. Hargis within photograph collections of the Dallas Times Herald.

109 Warren Commission reports, Vol. 6, p. 291

110 Warren Commission reports, Vol. 6, p. 280

111 Warren Commission reports Vol. 7, p. 518

112 Documentary film, Rush to Judgment - the Plot to Kill Kennedy, by Mark Lane

113 Warren Commission reports, Vol. 7, p. 107

114 Videotaped statement from documentary film, the Men Who Killed Kennedy

115 Clark Panel final report 1968

116 HSCA Reports Vol. I, p. 300

117 Warren Commission report Vol. 2, page 138

118 Warren Commission reports, Vol. IV p. 148

119 Warren Commission reports Vol. IV p. 134

120 Ibid

121 p. 71 Pictures of the Pain by Richard B. Trask

122. Interview with Theodore White - Dec. 1963

123. WCR Vol. 5 p. 179

124. Ibid

125. From a draft by Dr. David Mantik, dated April 19, 1994

126. Paper published in 1994, entitled What Struck John