The Bullets That Killed Kennedy

4 December 2017

The Strange ballistics involved in the Kennedy assassination are just one of the many factors that have fuelled an enormous number of conspiracy theories and proposed assassins. Forty-two groups, eighty-two assassins, and 214 people have been proposed at one time or another according to former Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi. To help shed light on what may have happened I compare the Kennedy shooting to a very similar shooting in the 1940's, alongside the fascinating details surrounding it.

Familiar with the Kennedy shooting? Jump straight to the findings.

Background

The press had chosen to wait at the motorcade's intended destination point at the Texas Trade Mart where Kennedy intended to give a speech. Apparently an American president on parade through hundreds of adoring fans wasn't itself worth filming. Consequently all audio-visual evidence came from an amateur 8mm, a few photographs, an audio recording and the many eye-witnesses. Accusations of all sorts of evidence tampering and witness tampering and murder followed. The Warren Commission, set up to assess the evidence, concluded three shots were fired. The later formed United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded at least four and likely two assassins. What is agreed is that the president was struck and killed by two bullets. Three casings were found in the Texas School Book Depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald fired.

Oswald's Gun
Oswald; the likely assassin, used a World War II surplus Italian Carcano Model 91/38 and 6.5 x 52mm Mannlicher–Carcano ammunition.

The First Shots

Many in the crowd dismissed the first shot- Texas Governor John Conally riding in front of Kennedy recognised it as a high-powered rifle shot from his experience in the military and as a life-long hunter. It seems this first shot missed. Conally didn't hear the second shot; it tore through both men creating an astonishing list of injuries. It hit Kennedy in the upper back, penetrated his neck and slightly damaged a spinal vertebra and the top of his right lung. The bullet exited his throat and nicked the left side of his suit tie knot, then penetrated Governor Conally's back destroying four inches of his rib and exited through his chest creating a two and a half inch wound. It then entered his arm above his right wrist and shattered his radius bone into eight pieces before lodging into his left thigh. In doing this the bullet traversed 15 layers of clothing, 7 layers of skin, and approximately 15 inches of tissue, struck a necktie knot, removed 4 inches of rib, and shattered a radius bone before embedding itself in Conally's thigh. The theory that only a single bullet did all this is called the Single Bullet Theory and the Magic Bullet Theory by its critics. The bullet was later found on the hospital gurney that bore Governor Conally with its copper jacket perfectly intact and the bullet undeformed but for a flattened side.

Magic Bullet
Undamaged- the 'Magic Bullet'
Magic Bullet-flattened side
The flattened side from the bottom
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