Rant of the Week

Zapruder Notes 2011


This is a rambling, improvisational discussion of some elements of the Kennedy Assassination.  Look, it's been a rambling, improvisational assassination.  A good conspiracy theorist is allowed to wander.

A friend of mine is convinced that he Zapruder film shows that Kennedy and Connally were hit by the same shot.   A version of the Zapruder film we looked at about five years ago seemed, to me, to be ambiguous on the issue.

There are now clearer reproductions of the frames of the Zapruder film available. 

Firstly, it seems reasonable to me that there was a first shot that missed the limousine entirely, and many if not most of the eye-witnesses remember it.  In fact, Kennedy himself, and Connally, appear to be startled by the sound and seem to be looking in the direction it came from just before the first hit.

Kennedy was hit while blocked from Zapruder's view by the Stemmons Freeway sign.  He emerges from the sign beginning to clutch his throat with his hands, in obvious pain.  Connally does not emerge from the behind the sign puffing his cheeks out and clenching his fist.  He has not yet been hit.  And if he has not been hit, there is a second gunman, because Oswald could not have fired again by frame 234.

Here are links to the critical frames:

Frame 160: First shot fired, a miss; reactions of people in limo and out.  Poignantly, a young girl (Rosemary Willis, aged 10) running alongside the limousine stops and looks in the direction of the crowd on the opposite side of the road.  She is on record: she remembers that she stopped running because she heard the first shot.

Frame 230: Kennedy is definitely reacting to the throat wound.  I don't think anybody seriously disputes this.  Connally may or may not have been hit by now but if he was hit by the same bullet as Kennedy it is very odd that he is not reacting at all.

If you watch the Zapruder film in motion, you can see Connally's sudden, involuntary, abrupt movement a few frames later which could only have come in response to a shot.  If you watch the film in motion, the two reactions seem almost simultaneous-- but that is partly because Kennedy has been hidden behind the sign.  His reaction obviously started earlier than Z230.  If you examine it frame by frame-- which, logically, is the way you should look at it to understand what really happened-- the two reactions are not simultaneous.

Dale Myers, among others with an axe to grind, insists that Connally was hit by the same bullet, and that his reaction at 234 proves it.  But Kennedy has already been reacting for at least four frames, probably more. Four frames-- 1/4 of a second-- may not seem like much, but it is much, much longer than it takes for a bullet to travel through two bodies.  For all practical purposes, Connally's and Kennedy's reactions should have been at exactly the same instant.  Myers has to argue that Connally's reaction was delayed, even though this bullet struck his ribs and shattered his wrist bone because Oswald could not have fired two shots between the time that Kennedy disappears behind the sign and the time he emerges clutching his throat.

And no matter how you cut it, you can't really argue that Connally's reaction was delayed if he was reacting to the same physical event as Kennedy.  The bullet took out a piece of his rib and shattered his wrist.  Connally's jacket puffs forward after Kennedy is already clutching at his throat.   Well, yes you can argue it....  In this age of instant, omnipresent video, we have seen lots of strange things.  We see the driver of the limousine applying the brakes after hearing a shot.  That's about as crazy as you can get.

There are literally hundreds of books on the issue but in my mind there is no way around "conspiracy" if Connally was not hit by the same shot as the one that caused Kennedy's throat or back wound (or both).

Frame 224: Connally's jacket flips in front of his shirt.  This is probably the point at which Connally was actually hit.  Since Kennedy is already reacting to a shot, it simply is not possible that it was the same bullet.

Frame 236: Connally is clearly in pain, and his shoulder has dropped.   If you jog between the two frames repeatedly, it seems pretty clear to me that Connally is trying to see what is happening in all the frames from emergence behind the sign to 230.  Somewhere before 234, he has been hit. 

Dale Myers, among others, argues that 224 and 225 show Connally being hit.  This page illustrates the point.  Well, no they don't.  They slip and slide around the issue, but the truth is Kennedy had to have been hit earlier.  He is already reacting with his hands to his wound while Connally has not even grimaced yet.  This is consistent with John Connally's own memory of the event. 

It's not a slam dunk and people should learn to live with the uncertainty.  You can make a case for 225, but the same arguments-- sudden movement, body twisting, grimace-- apply equally well to 234, suggesting a third possibility: that Connally was indeed hit by the shot that made Kennedy's throat wound, but then was hit by a second shot at 234.  Since Kennedy was hit shortly afterwards again, there would have had to have been two shooters.

However, because Kennedy is already reacting to the shot as he emerges from behind the Stemmons Freeway sign, it is possible that Connally was hit immediately after Kennedy.  The famous jacket flap-- the movement of his dark jacket over his white shirt-- argues for it.*  Those who are opposed to a conspiracy theory have to argue that it was the same bullet because it is impossible for Oswald to have fired two shots in such a short period of time (perhaps 1/2 second).  But it is equally impossible that the bullet hung in the air for 1/4 second before continuing on to hit Connally.  This was one of the first points seized upon by conspiracy theorists and it remains one of the most persistent. 

Politics colours everyone's perceptions of what the facts mean in the Kennedy assassination.  Conservatives know that if there was a conspiracy, it was their conspiracy.  The conspiracy was the expression of powerful and corrupt institutional forces determined to assert their control over government in the face of the self-confident, independent, sophisticated Kennedys. 

John Connally's own testimony is that he heard the first shot, and he thought it hit Kennedy.  He didn't hear the second shot which hit him.  That leaves it possible-- if, admittedly, less likely, that two shots were fired so close together that many witnesses thought they only heard one.  As everyone knows, there would have been an echo.  And some witnesses reported a "flurry" of shots, though most seem to have heard one shot distinctly, and then a "flurry".  In some ways, the reactions of Kennedy and Connally and Connally's extensive wounds would be better explained by a "flurry" of shots-- but the Warren Commission, of course, desperate to economize on assassins, made it all the work of a single bullet.

*Finally, another website points out -- eureka! -- that the bullet did not even go through the jacket lapel in the first place!  So what the hell is that black thing flapping up in front of John Connally's shirt?  You got me.  Or maybe it's a kind of fluke combination of his shoulder going down in pain, the jacket pushed out where the bullet came through, the momentum of the car.....  who knows. 

The very last thing I will point out is that it is possible that one shot hit both Kennedy and Connally at the same instance and for reasons undiscovered they reacted at different speeds.  After all, Kennedy was President.  His reaction time should have been faster.  (I'm kidding.)  Connally was turning.  Kennedy was waving.   Who knows?  It's not the craziest idea in the world.

In either case, I must point out two obvious facts:  firstly, the timing of the the shots does not, in any case, prove that Oswald fired them, or that he was alone.  Secondly, Dale Myers, who glibly asserts that his "analysis" proves the shots could only have come from the 6th floor window "sniper's nest" is a total dink and completely discredits himself on this account.  If the conspiracy analysts are ridiculous sometimes with their assumptions about pristine bullets and manholes and post-assassination alterations to the body, his claim that his data about the angle of the shot is so accurate and precise that he can positively identify the exact window-- as if he didn't know already know which one it was-- that it came from... it's beyond ridiculous.   Talk about junk science.   Why or why could he not have simply made his point without leaping to a conclusion which can only be political.

The only way to give credibility to a conclusion like that would be if you could take the raw information about the assassination, the physical properties of the car and the road and the buildings, give this information to a scientist who had never even heard of the Kennedy assassination, and ask him to please try to determine where the shots came from.   I'll bet he would not come back with "exactly" this or that or anything.   Although, it would be pretty funny, and not to Dale Myers, if he came back with:  behind the car, about 6th floor, in some kind of book depository.

And he still cannot prove that Oswald acted alone (or that he even acted, other than to flee when he realized he had been set up) and he should know that and stick to what he can or cannot prove-- not to the grand conclusion he really cares about.  Given the incompetence of the investigation-- which all a conspiracy really needs to succeed-- we will probably never know the truth.  And that's probably the way the real powers that be like it.

All Contents Copyright Bill Van Dyk 2011 All Rights Reserved