When Was The Back Wound Found?

The autopsy proper was over by around 1am Saturday morning, when the FBI agents left. It is likely that the back wound was not found until very late in the autopsy, possibly (see Dr Weston below) as late as when the body was being washed &/or sewn up by the morticians. This has the consequence that the controversial 'back of the head' pictures must have been taken after the brain was removed, which would have been essentially impossible if the back of the head was as 'intact' as it might appear to be in those pictures. The brain had been removed by the time Dr Finck arrived. The back wound is clearly visible in pictures taken at the same time, and with the body in the same position, as it is in the back of the head pictures. So the back wound had been found by the time all these photos were taken. And Finck says :" I found the wound of entry in the back of the neck". Thus the brain is out in those pictures. See below for details.

"When I arrived at the hospital at approximately 8:00 o'clock at night on the 22nd of November, 1963 X-rays of the head had been taken prior to my arrival, and Dr. Humes had told me so over the phone when he called me at home, asking me to come over. After I found the wound of entry in the back of the neck no corresponding exit, I requested a whole body X-ray, "(Finck,Shaw Trial)

The only x-rays taken after Finck arrived were these 'whole body' x-rays, in which the torso appears eviscerated.

"Q: When you first saw the body of President Kennedy, had the scalp been reflected at all? A: Well, the scalp must have been reflected for the reason that the brain had been removed before my arrival, which means the scalp must have been reflected in order to be able to remove the brain." (Finck, ARRB)

This implies, bearing in mind the conclusions of this page, that the scalp had been reflected before the 'back of the head' photos were taken - at which time the rear scalp was 'un-reflected', by Boswell, for the sake of the photograph.

"I helped the Navy photographer to take photographs of the occipital wound, external and internal aspects as well as the wound in the back." (Finck, Letter to Gen. Blumberg) Again, this implies that the brain had been removed when autopsy #42 was taken.

"Mr. McCloy.
Did you examine any of the fragments which were removed from the President's skull?
Colonel Finck.
I only saw one fragment shown to me when I arrived at Bethesda, and it was an elongated black metallic fragment, and that is the only one I saw to my recollection. I was told that it had been removed from the brain of President Kennedy in the anterior portion of his head." (Finck, Warren Commission Testimony)

Thus we know that not only had the brain been removed, but that the metal fragments had been removed from JFK's skull by the time Finck arrived.

"There is another wound, in the region of the right trapezious muscle, at 140 mm
from the right acromion and at 140 mm from the tip of the right mastoid process
( I took these measurements ). The wound is OVAL, 7 x 4 mm, and shows well
demarcated edges." (Finck, Letter to Gen. Blumberg)

"Q Did you make any incisions at any place
before taking the photographs?

A Well, depending on which photographs
you're talking about. We didn't photograph the
wound in the occiput until the brain was removed,
you know. " (Humes ARRB)

The above establishes, yet again, that the boh/back pictures were taken after the brain was removed.

Here's Kellerman, confirming that it was Finck who found the back wound:

Mr. Specter.
When did they lift him up and first observe the hole in the shoulder?
Mr. Kellerman.
They had been working on him for quite some time, Mr. Specter--through the photos and other things they do through an autopsy. And believe it was this Colonel Finck who raised him and there was a clean hole.

Floyd Reibe recalls Finck examining the back wound. He seems to have no memory of anyone examining it before Finck's arrival:

[15] RIEBE: Well, when they sat him up -
[16] DSL: Yeah.
[17] RIEBE: - right after, I think it was
[18] Colonel Finck, an Army ballistics specialist, came
[19] in.

Q: Did you observe any wounds on any other part
of President's Kennedy's body?
A: Yes, in the back.
Q: What did you observe on the back?
A: Well, it looked like - it looked like a
bullet hole. But when, I think it was, Colonel Finck
tried holding that with his finger, it didn't go
anywhere or so they said.

Q: So if I understand correctly, Colonel Finck
put his finger into the wound to try to see how far
down it would go, but it didn't go very far?

A: It didn't go very far. (ARRB)

O'Connor said for a while there was no discussion of any other wounds until later on when they found the
bullet wound in the "...back in the neck
... just above C-7." O'Connor said it was approximately dead center in the mid-line of the back...
O'Connor added that he didn't‘think the doctors were trying to establish anything by the autopsy, saying they were "...just glanced at the throat wound..." and
later found the hole in the back.
(Paul O'Connor HSCA interview)

During the latter stages of the autopsy, Dr. HUMES, located an opening which appeared to be a bullet hole which was below the shoulders and two inches to the right of the middle line of the spinal column. ...
Also during the latter stages of the autopsy, a piece of the skull measuring 10 X 6.5 Centimeters was brought to Dr. HUMES .. On the basis of the latter two developments, Dr. HUMES stated that the pattern was clear that one bullet had entered the President's back and had worked its way out of the body during external cardiac massage .

(Report by Francis X. O'Neill)

Q: In other words, you would have told Arlen
Specter that the doctors firmly believed that the
bullet had worked its way out duting cardiac
A: Yes. Now, bear in mind, also, that
this whole situation with talk about external cardiac
massage was taking place not at the beginning, not
in the middle, but towards the end of the autopsy
And that they were very interested to know
what that wound was in the back .And this is the
only explanation which they had.(O'Neill, ARRB)

Q: Let’s turn to what we’ve been calling the back wound.Whcn was it -When, during the course of the autopsy, was it discovered that there was a wound in what you’ve been calling the
Well, I don’t think it was right at the initial start of the autopsy. I know it was after the original incision was made. But when they raised him up, then they found this back wound And that’s when they started probing with the rubber glove and the finger, and - and also with the chrome probe.
(Sibert ARRB)

A: He was on his back and I examined all external areas of the cadaver. While on the table I asked to have the cadaver turned over so as to make an examination of the skin of the entire cadaver. (Finck,Shaw Trial)

“Who gave the order not to probe the throat wound?”
“Burkley. Burkley gave all the orders like that. He says, ‘Don’t do that because the family doesn’t want you to do that.’ We didn’t even know there was a bullet hole in the back, his back.”
“You didn’t . . .“
We didn’t even know it until about two hours into the autopsy.”
“That there was a hole in his back . . .“
“No. We turned him over and ‘Oh, look, there’s a hole!’ That’s . . that’s the way that night went. It was just absolutely crazy!”

(Paul O'Connor , Livingstone Interview, HT2)

Document Provided to ARRB by Francis X. O’Neill, Jr. on September 12,
1997 Containing Recollections of Events Surrounding JFK Assassination :

"After completion of the procedure on the front of the
body we assisted in turning it over. One must realize that at
that the body had never been turned over in Dallas. We were
aware, from information furnished by Kellerman and Greer, that
external cardiac massage was performed by the attending Dallas
physicians. Upon viewing the rear of the President the first
thing that everyone noticed was the large scar on the President's
back due to. an operative procedure. Jim Sibert noticed a small :
hole in the upper right rear of the back and pointed it out to
. Humes and Finck.
They said it was a bullet wound. Humes and Finck
probed the wound with a surgical probe and their fingers. and
determined that since the extremity of the hole could be felt
there was no exit for the wound."

There is also this rather involved passage from Ebersole's interview with the HSCA FPP, which indicates that Dr Weston was of the belief that the back wound was not found until just before the body was about to be sewn up :

Weston: [Quoting from the Sibert & O'Neill report] ". On the third page of their report they say specifically that following the
removal of the wrapping it was ascertained that the President
clothing had been removed and it was almost apparent that a
tracheotomy had been performed; namely, in the top of his
skull. All personnel, with the exception of medical officers
needed in the taking of photographs and x rays were requested
to leave the .autopsy room and remain in the adjacent room.
The implication is then, he goes on to say, upon comple-
tion of X rays and photographs it was my understanding that
from the very beginning it was their intentions to take a
certain number of X rays at least of the head and neck and the
chest which probably represents the first series."

IE, these 'early' x-rays were taken 'pre-evisceration' & were all the x-rays it was initially intended to produce. He continues:

" Then it goes on to say X rays of the brain area which was removed,
half of the missile which appeared to enter the back of the
skull and disintegrated fragments could be observed along the side of the skull.
The largest description has to do with the examination of the skull.
Now then he goes on to say during the latter stages of this
autopsy Dr. Humes located an opening which appeared to be
a bullet hole which was below the shoulders
to the right of the middle line of the spinal
This opening was probed by Dr. Humes with the finger
at which time it was determined that the trajectory of the missile had entered at a downward position for 45 to 60 degrees.
Further probing determined that the distance traveled
by this missile was a short distance inasmuch as the end of
the opening could be felt with the finger, inasmuch as a
complete bullet of any‘size could be located in the brain
area and likewise no bullet could be located in the back or
any other areas. An inspection revealed there was no point
of exit. The'individuals performing the autopsy were at a
loss to explain why they could find no bullets.

Weston explains the second series of x-rays (post- evisceration) as being taken just after the back wound was discovered, in order to try to locate this newly discovered missing bullet .This would indeed be very 'late' in the autopsy. He continues:

"And it was subsequent to that time that I believe you took the post-
visceration autopsies
. Now is that consistent?"

Ebersole is effectively sunk on his 'early back wound discovery', but he throws this back at Weston:

"Dr. Ebersole. Does it seem reasonable to you that a pathologist would carry out an autopsy of this nature without looking at the front and back of the body? My remembrance is
that we were aware of the wound of entrance relatively early in the game."

To which the answer would have to be 'no', but that this is exactly what appears to have happened. Baden comes in to rescue Ebersole:

"Mr. Baden. That is what he said,and that Dr. Humes probed...
Dr. Weston. No, no, no. [Only Weston seems to understand the point he has just made..]
Dr. Ebersole. I did not say that.
Dr. Weston. It is in the latter stages of the procedure. As a matter of fact, there is another record somewhere that it indicates it was about the time that they were ready to sew the body up that they were washing it and they then discovered the wound"

I wish I knew what document Weston is referring to. : )

Weston's analysis is consistent with the other accounts of the back wound being found very late. This may explain how come the autopsists did not immediately call the Dallas doctors about the tracheotomy as possible exit site. It was simply too late to do so.

Midnight, or so.

Finally, what time was the well known phone call to the FBI lab made that 'solved the mystery' for Humes? (When he heard that a bullet had been found on a Dallas stretcher.)

"Question: What time did Agent Sibert call Agent Killian at the FBI
Answer: Some time between 11:00 p. m., and 12:00 midnight"
(Sibert/O'Neill, summary of interview with Arlen Specter)

The autopsy began around 7.30pm. Finck arrived around 8 pm. If the back wound was found before Finck arrived, then the back wound was an absolute unsolved mystery for no less than FOUR HOURS or so, and it took the FBI guys four hours to pluck up the courage to call Killion to enquire about 'ice bullets' or 'the type of bullets that fragmentise completely'.

On the other hand, if we believe Finck himself, Kellerman, O'Connor, Sibert and O'Neill, the back wound was found relatively late in the autopsy, and the very late call to Killion becomes a little more rationally explicable. According to Finck himself ( Finck, Letter to Gen. Blumberg ) the autopsy was over by midnight.

From all this we can see that
1) The boh pictures were taken after the brain was removed.
2) The rear skull must neccessarily have been removed to get the brain out BEFORE the boh piks were taken.

Therefore there can be very little 'intact' skull behind the flap of scalp Boswell is lifting in the boh pictures.


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