The Kennedy Assassination Tapes
A Rebuttal to the Acoustical Evidence Theory
James C. Bowles
CHAPTER THREE - WHAT DID HAPPEN IN DEALEY PLAZA
Behavior is largely a product of knowledge, training and opportunity. Behavior, when it cannot be analyzed by facts, can be analyzed by empirical data and reconstruction. Exotic exercises such as the acoustical analysis are unnecessarily extreme, and in this event, produced results which are incorrect.
To enable the reader to pick up a feel for what happened, let's start at the beginning and work through the motorcade. Limiting one's determination on a mere guess about what might be found on a few inches of tape is unreasonably impractical and violates the concepts of research structuring.
At 11:37 a.m. (Channel 2 time), Air Force One landed at Love Field and taxied to its assigned parking area. President Kennedy assembled with his entourage, greeted a few people personally, waved to the crowd gathered about, and took his place in the right rear seat of SS100X, his black 1961 Lincoln Continental limousine. The first lady was seated to left his while Governor Connally occupied the right front jump seat and his wife, Nellie, the left jumpseat. Special Agent William R. Greer drove while Assistant Special Agent in charge Roy Kellerman occupied the right front seat. The President objected to agents on the side or rear boards. Neither did he want escort motorcycles to be between him and the crowd. Four motorcycles followed the President as did a '56 Cadillac with eight special agents.
A few minutes after its start the motorcade reached Lemmon Avenue and turned south towards the downtown area. The carefully developed, carefully rehearsed, checked and rechecked plans would take the President through the heart of the central business district during the noon hour before it circled back toward its destination, the Trade Mart in the Industrial District, two miles northwest of downtown Dallas. This would afford the President maximum public exposure in the brief time available.
Continuing south on Lemmon to Lomo Alto, President Kennedy ordered his driver to stop so that he could recognize a group of young school girls holding a sign requesting him to say hello. The motorcade then resumed its southerly route with nothing more eventful than Chief Curry giving a few instructions to the escorting motorcycle officers: move up, hold back, speed it up a bit. Nothing of a significant nature, just a vast crowd viewing a lengthy motorcade containing a star visitor and an impressive supporting cast. It was then just a little past 12:06 p.m., Channel 2 time.
The motorcade crossed Oak Lawn Avenue, reached Turtle Creek Boulevard, then turned right toward town. A few blocks further along, Turtle Creek Boulevard becomes Cedar Springs Road. At 12:16 p.m. (Channel 2), Chief Curry reported the motorcade location as Cedar Springs and Fairmount Street. In some 26 minutes the motorcade had traveled almost 5 miles, an average speed of just over 11 MPH.
At 12:20 p.m., the motorcade reached McKinney Avenue, traveling south on Harwood Street. Between McKinney and Ross Avenue the crowd swelled in numbers, and as orders were passed by radio, the loud cheering was clearly audible in the background. Continuing south on Harwood to Main Street the motorcade turned right to go west through the heart of the retail and office district. Again, with each radio communication, the din of the well-wishers was audible in the background.
By now the motorcycles were heating up and running roughly. So much slow driving inhibited cooling and permitted carbon to build up on the spark plugs. The strain of precision riding, of listening to the radio and watching, and the constant crowd noise made the approaching west end a welcome sight.
By 12:29 p.m. (Channel 2), the motorcade had passed Market Street on Main. The horizon ahead opened up, indicating their nearness to Dealey Plaza, an open, green area, and for practical purposes, the end of the motorcade. After Dealey Plaza the crowd thinned out. The motorcade would turn north onto Stemmons Freeway where, only two and one quarter miles away, they would reach the Trade Mart and have a rest while President Kennedy addressed a luncheon. With less than 900 feet remaining, it was almost 12:30 p.m. Just a right turn off Main onto Houston Street, then 220 feet to Elm Street. A hard left turn would put them westbound on Elm, and then they would be out of the downtown congestion and on the freeway.
The lead motorcycles and Chief Curry slowed to a near stop some two-thirds of the way down Elm, near the Triple Underpass, so named because Elm, Main, and Commerce Streets merge at this point to pass under a series of railroad tracks. The motorcycle sergeant, supervisor of the escort, who will be identified hereafter as "A," paused near Chief Curry and along the south curb of Elm Street. Seeing the President's limousine well back, having just turned onto Elm Street and almost stopped, he took advantage of the opportunity for a careful look at the handful of people standing on the railroad right-of-way over Elm. Panning his eyes from left to right, he noted the occupants of the grassy knoll, and then, the President. At that instant, the first shot sounded. The sergeant, a veteran officer as well as a military combat veteran, knew instantly that it was gunfire rather than backfiring motorcycles or a firecracker. Before he could believe and react to his observation, he heard a second shot fired and observed that the President was hit. He was still watching when the third and last shot struck. The sergeant had just turned his back to the grassy knoll the instant before the shooting started, and he was less than 100 feet from the proposed second assassin's site. There was never a doubt in his personal determination that there were three shots and only three, that all three were fired from somewhere to the right rear of the limousine, and that none was fired from the grassy knoll which was immediately to his left. The sergeant was interviewed by a Committee investigator, but his information was neither used nor impeached.
Another motorcycle officer who will be identified as "B" was stopped along the south curb of Elm, near Chief Curry, and he, too, took a look around and saw nothing which in any way might resemble an assassin poised to fire. This officer, just as the sergeant, is certain that only three shots were fired, that they came from the direction of Elm and Houston, and that no shot was fired from the area of the grassy knoll. This officer was interviewed, but his testimony was neither used nor impeached.
An officer, identified as "C," was riding to the right rear of the President's limousine and a second motorcycle away from the president. He was coming to a stop as the first shot was fired. He had just finished looking ahead in the direction of the grassy knoll and saw nothing that would command his attention. He had thought the sound was from overheated motorcycle backfiring near Elm and Houston as the sound definitely came from the rear of his position. He was looking directly at President Kennedy from a distance no greater than ten to twelve feet. The first shot seemed to have missed, and Governor Connally started to turn. He heard the second shot and saw that the President had been hit in the back near the base of his neck, and that the President grabbed his throat. He also saw Governor Connally jerk, apparently hit too. Then, his eyes frozen on this sight, the third shot struck with ghastly effect, that shot, too, coming from the right rear of the limousine. His mind clearly recorded that three shots were fired and that they were fired from the direction of Elm and Houston Streets. He wrote a journal(7) recording his observations that same day, suggesting the "Single Bullet Theory" before there was one. He, too, was interviewed, but his testimony was neither used nor impeached.
Another motorcycle officer, identified as "D" and one of the two assigned to the left rear of the limousine, was looking at the same scene. He, too, observed the same order and effect of each shot. His recollections corroborate the other; that three shots were fired from the direction of Elm and Houston, and that no shots were fired from the grassy knoll. His testimony was taken, but it was not used, nor was it impeached.
Another of the officers escorting President Kennedy, the officer immediately to his right, Jim Chaney, is deceased. However, in his lifetime he related a like experience with regard to shots and direction. It was this officer who, immediately after the shooting, sped away, west to Elm to inform Chief Curry what had happened. His statement is in the record, but it was not used.
Chief Curry, driving a sedan, and accompanied by Dallas County Sheriff Bill Decker, Dallas Area Secret Service Chief Forrest V. Sorrels and Special Agent Winston Lawson, was having trouble trying to determine through his rearview mirror what was happening. He was aware that the motorcade lead had slowed or stopped on turning. Then he noted some form of confusion back at the limousine. Moments later, Officer Chaney pulled up next to Chief Curry and informed him that the President had been shot and appeared dead. Receiving this information from a trusted officer with an outstanding reputation, Chief Curry ordered the motorcade to Parkland Hospital. His broadcast was on Channel 2.
A motorcycle officer, here referred to as "E," was northbound on Houston Street near the driveway to the County Jail and approximately opposite Officer McLain. He heard the first of three shots and his attention was attracted by the sudden flurry of a large number of pigeons roused from their roost on the roof of the Book Depository by the first shot. While still focusing on this, and while slowly continuing north on Houston, he heard the second, then the third shot. From what he had seen and heard, he concluded that the shots had been fired from up in the Depository Building. He drove to the entrance, parked, spoke briefly with the building superintendent, then entered the building. He has no doubt that three shots were fired, that they were fired from the Texas School Book Depository, an observation confirmed by physical evidence. His testimony, too, is a matter of record. But it was neither used nor impeached.
At the time motorcycle officer "F" made his turn from Main to Houston on the same course, at a distance of 100 to 150 feet behind Officer McLain, he heard the first, the second and the third shot. He, too, has never doubted the clarity and accuracy of his observations. Likewise, his testimony is a matter of record. He was interviewed, but his information was neither used nor impeached.
Officer McLain was northbound on Houston approaching Elm when the motorcade started to back-up ahead of him due to the press of the crowd and the acute angle of the left turn from Houston to Elm. At or about the time he stopped, some 100 feet south of Elm Street, he heard one shot, and noticed the pigeons flushed from the roof of the Book Depository, the same as officer "E" had noticed on the first shot. Having heard only one shot, McLain could only believe it was the first shot because of the flight of the pigeons. He remained stopped until he heard on his radio Chief Curry's instructions to go to Parkland Hospital. Since "E" continued north to the Book Depository, and since "F" was stopped well behind him, and since the crowd was cheering and screaming, there is no likelihood that he could have heard those instructions over someone else's speaker; no other speaker was within 100 feet of his position.
A few minutes before the motorcade reached Main and Houston Streets, a three-wheel motorcycle officer, referred to here as "G," passed through Elm Street and started up the on-ramp leading to Stemmons Freeway, northbound, when he heard the motorcade sirens coming from Dealey Plaza. He pulled over on the shoulder of the on-ramp and stopped while the motorcade passed him en route to Stemmons Freeway, northbound. He waited momentarily until the last vehicle passed, and then he reversed his course, driving the wrong way against the one-way traffic flow of the on-ramp for a few hundred feet to Elm Street. Next, he turned left and drove eastbound on Elm Street the wrong way, against the one-way traffic flow for nearly 1000 feet to Elm and Houston. When questioned regarding vehicles which passed him westbound during his eastbound, wrong-way travel, he stated emphatically that none had passed him. Asked how he could be so positive, he admonished that you watch for this when you are going the wrong way. Driving slowly over the route, it took from one to two minutes to complete the trip.
As the motorcade passed through Elm Street lanes of the Triple Underpass, they were witnessed by another observer, the officer working district #38 who had checked out of service, en route to Municipal Court.(8) He had been traveling south on Stemmons Freeway near the Trade Mart where he observed pedestrians walking across Stemmons Freeway, and he radioed that information to the Channel 1 dispatcher, the message ending at a projected time of 12:29:10 p.m. Continuing south, he exited the freeway at the Triple Underpass, Commerce Street lanes eastbound just as the motorcade exited westbound at approximately 12:31:14 p.m.
As the motorcade left Elm Street toward Stemmons Freeway northbound, Sheriff Decker used Chief Curry's radio. He told the Channel 2 dispatcher to instruct the Sheriff's Department dispatcher to order all available officers out of the sheriff's jail and offices and into the area surrounding the Book Depository in an effort to stabilize the area until additional Dallas officers could arrive and control the situation.(9) The Channel 2 dispatcher passed these orders along to the sheriff's dispatcher, who in turn carried out his sheriffs orders. He had office personnel to pass instructions, and then he broadcast over the Sheriff's Department radio, "Attention All Units, Attention All Units. . . ."
The motorcade, having reached Stemmons Freeway, picked up speed on its northbound journey, passing over Continental Avenue, some units at near 70 MPH. Considering the estimated speeds possible in exiting Dealey Plaza, and for navigating the narrow on-ramp, and allowing for the "blind" approach from the on-ramp onto Stemmons, the motorcade passed over Continental at approximately 12:31:43 (Channel 1), some 35 seconds after starting its rush to the hospital.
Officer "H," a three-wheel motorcycle operator, had finished his earlier traffic assignment and was en route to his next assignment, the motor pool at the Trade Mart. Having been on Channel 1, he heard the noise caused by the open microphone before switching to Channel 2. He traveled west on Ross Avenue to Lamar Street, then north on Lamar to the Continental Avenue underpass, just north of McKinney Avenue. As he reached Lamar and McKinney, he heard Chief Curry order officers to "go to the hospital." Since nothing had been said regarding a problem, the broadcast was a bit baffling. Continuing on his way he reached the Stemmons Freeway overpass over Continental Avenue in approximately 34 seconds, in time to hear a "mass of sirens." (See Chapter Five for corroboration.) Then he saw the motorcade on Stemmons over Continental. As the motorcade was passing Officer "H," he turned right and accelerated up the on-ramp to northbound Stemmons, travelling some 55 MPH. He followed behind the last vehicles in the motorcade at full throttle. Officers on Stemmons north of Elm had blocked northbound traffic there, so no traffic approached him from the rear. The motorcade traveling 20 to 30 MPH faster (his estimate) was pulling away at a rate of about 36 feet per second, so that while he could not keep up with them, he could keep them in sight. He followed them to Parkland Hospital. During the trip, no police or motorcade vehicle passed him. When questioned as to his certainty, he responded that when you are traveling in the middle of a freeway at top speed on a vehicle as small and unstable as a three-wheel motorcycle, you are a bit paranoid about other traffic overtaking without seeing you, and that he was constantly alert to that possibility, and that none approached nor passed him.
At about this same time, the Channel 2 dispatcher asked Chief Curry for ". . . any information whatsoever . . .", to which the chief responded, "Looks like the President's been hit." This message was acknowledged at 12:32 (Channel 2). Only those officers who witnessed the incident knew that he had, in fact, been shot and at least seriously if not mortally wounded.
Moments later, as the motorcade approached the Oak Lawn Avenue overpass, some trucks which were on Stemmons prior to the emergency were in the traffic lane the motorcade would use to exit the freeway a short distance ahead. Chief Curry instructed the lead escorts to "Get those trucks out of the way."
The motorcade passed over Oak Lawn and moved closer to the right-hand lane. Approximately 1000 feet further along, they exited the freeway on an off-ramp to their right, and continued in a northerly direction on the service road parallel to the freeway. The service road carried the motorcade to the intersection of Stemmons and Industrial Boulevard, the location of the Trade Mart. The motorcade arrived at that intersection at 12:32:59 (Channel 1).
They turned right onto Industrial Boulevard, passed the side entrance to the Trade Mart, the initially intended stop for the President's luncheon address and continued on toward Harry Hines Boulevard. Immediately parallel to Hines, a pair of railroad tracks cross Industrial at grade level. On crossing the railroad tracks, Industrial drops downhill, losing several feet in elevation. Also, the roadway bears a little to the right before it starts bearing left to merge with northbound Hines Boulevard. This represented the worst section of roadway on the entire trip. Some motorcade vehicles crossed too fast and nearly wrecked.
Completing the turn, the motorcade continued north on Hines almost 3000 feet to the emergency entrance to the Parkland Hospital compound. They then continued to the emergency dock, arriving at approximately 12:34 (Channel 1). They had covered the three and one-third miles in about three minutes, a desperate but futile effort.
As they entered the emergency area behind the main building, Chief Curry ordered, "Keep everything out of this emergency entrance." Officer "B," a lead motorcycle officer, stopped at the last turn behind the building and set up a control point, screening those vehicles allowed to enter after the motorcade. In addition to Officer "H," Officer "J," also a three-wheel motorcycle officer, had joined the motorcade. Another three-wheel officer, "I," was nearer than the motorcade was to Parkland on hearing the orders to go to the hospital. He arrived moments ahead of the motorcade. Officers "C" and "I" assisted the Secret Service Agents in the back seat of the President's limousine as Officer McLain stood near. At first, Mrs. Kennedy would not allow anyone access to the President. Someone then suggested removing Governor Connally first. He was assisted up and out of the limousine and onto a stretcher and was taken inside. His recollection was substantially correct; he was raised up but was in a trauma state and required assistance. The removal of the governor seemed to stir Mrs. Kennedy to reality and she released the President. Officer McLain then assisted Mrs. Kennedy from the limousine and kept her nearby. Having access to the President, officers and secret service agents covered his head with Agent Hill's coat, lifted him out, placed him on a stretcher and took him inside, accompanied by Mrs. Kennedy, McLain, Officers "C," "I" and "J," and several Secret Service Agents.
Inside, the President was taken into Trauma Room 1, across from the Governor in Trauma Room 2. An officer waited outside for a while with Mrs. Kennedy. Officer "J" was posted at an outer door by a Secret Service Agent who assumed the initiative. Vice President Johnson was taken to an inner room and placed under close guard.
Considering the consummate state of shock and a total feeling of unreality, it is understandable that some of the participants would have difficulty in remembering everything that followed, much less the exact order of events. Officer "J" remembers an altercation between a Secret Service Agent and an FBI Agent which very few people witnessed and not many were even aware of; it was that sort of an incident born of stress, confusion and despair; it was the kind of a day you want to forget as soon and completely as possible. Officer "H" remembers how press photographers tried to enter the emergency waiting room window; that as fast as he collared one and removed him another would take his place. Officer "C" remembers refusing a judge entry even though he was present to hold the inquest. That officer had not been told that the President was dead, but he had been told to keep everyone out. Officer "H" recalled that after he assisted in transporting the President's body out of the trauma room and into an a waiting ambulance, a Secret Service Agent availed himself of the ambulance and drove away, leaving the ambulance owner-operator standing in bewilderment on the emergency dock.
Conditions at Parkland began winding down to mild pandemonium. Chief Curry left with an escort to return President Johnson to Love Field. Some officers departed, a few reporting to Elm and Houston, and some responding to a call in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas where Officer J. D. Tippit had been shot and killed in an unexplained incident. A few officers remained behind at Parkland and engaged in miscellaneous conversation, perhaps in an effort to release tension and emotion. One officer mentioned that it had been a particularly bad day for him as his microphone had stuck open during the emergency and he hadn't realized it, and that he had made a statement which he really regretted. All of this information was available to the Committee had they accepted.
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7. See Part II, Chapter Six, for details.
8. See Part II, Chapter Five, for details.
9. Chief Curry and Sheriff Decker ordered men into the railroad yards as a reactionary and precautionary measure. They had observed people (Mr. Holland and his crew) on the overpass, a place where they should not have been. The chief and his party, the railroad crew, and an officer assigned to the overpass had a clear view of the area. They observed nothing specifically wrong.
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