Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Kill Zone: Reactions (Part 4 of 4)

This final post on the first chapter of Marr's book will cover a number of accounts, descriptions, events and evidence ignored by the Warren Commission and the FBI when conducting their investigation. In this case there are a number of instances so I will try to point out those that, to me, seemed the most relevant and convincing.

The first issue is that of smoke on the grassy knoll. Sam Holland, a worker at the railyard behind the knoll, was watching the motorcade from atop the triple underpass. He heard four shots and was certain the third had come from behind the picket fence the separated the railyard parking lot from Dealey Plaza. Right in that very spot was a puff of white smoke lingering in the air. James Simmons, another railyard worker, gave a similar account. In a filmed interview in 1966, Simmons told the interviewer that "there was a puff of smoke that came from underneath the trees on the embankment directly in front of the wooden fence." Despite telling the same story to the FBI, his official FBI report from 1964 is vague and incomplete. Re-enactments carried out by the HSCA confirmed that puffs of smoke were both possible and common from rifles that would have been used in 1963.

More after the jump...

The second and, in my opinion, the far more intriguing account is that of James Tague. Tague watched the motorcade from the concrete median between Commerce and Main, just out from under the triple underpass. During the shooting, Tague was hit in right cheek by a flying piece of concrete. After explaining to Deputy Sheriff Eddy Walthers what he had seen, they found a mark on the curb that Walthers recognized as being the result of a bullet, and noted so in his final report. Yet this extra bullet, which based on its location would have probably been the fourth, taken as the motorcade sped away, threw a wrench in the 3-bullet theory. After initially ignoring Tague's claims, the FBI investigated further and determined that a bullet had in fact it that spot on the curb, but determined that it was not a first impact mark. I won't attempt to explain the complicated testing that goes on to determine the mass of a bullet, but based on the FBI finding, the only bullet that could have lost enough lead to leave the traces left on the curb was the one in the final headshot, which occurred over 200 feet away from the mark. If the shot was a miss, it was a terrible miss, according to Marrs it would have missed Kennedy by 30 feet. This doesn't fit with the finding that Oswald was able to deliver the other shots with such accuracy.

The final instance is the account of Ed Hoffman, a 26 year old deaf mute. Hoffman watched the motorcade from a position about 200 yards west of the parking lot behind the picket fence: the perfect vantage point to see what, if anything, was going on behind the grassy knoll. Being deaf, he was unaware of the position of Kennedy's motorcade, but he was quite clear in stating that he saw a man in a suit and overcoat running west along the back of the fence with a rifle in his hand. At the end of the fence, he passed the rifle off to a second man in the uniform of a railyard worker, who promptly disassembled the rifle and placed in a bag, and then walked off to the north. The man in the overcoat headed back towards the knoll, walking calmly. Unsure of what was going on, Hoffman looked to the motorcade where he saw the President slumped over and bloody.

Hoffman tried numerous times to alert the authorities, unsuccessfully. Finally, in 1967, Hoffman visited the Dallas FBI. Much like with James Simmons, the FBI report does not accurately express what Hoffman had told others. Again in 1977, a coworker of Hoffman's contacted the FBI because he felt the agents must have misunderstood Hoffman in 1967. This time, with the coworker as translator, Hoffman gave the account as he did to his family in 1963. Unofficially, Hoffman claimed to have been intimidated by FBI agents who told him to drop his story or "you might get killed."

In conclusion, based on the testimony of numerous witnesses from various vantage points in Dealey Plaza, the following is clear: the majority of people heard shots from the area of the grassy knoll, there is evidence that shots where fired from two different positions (the knoll and the depository), and no one can place Oswald on the sixth floor at the time of the assassination, yet three people can place him on the second floor less the 90 seconds after the shots were fired.


  1. Ed Hoffman's testimony is really intriguing to me. Seems like other people could have witnessed that same event, if it did indeed take place.

  2. I'm glad you mentioned that Jim because, although I didn't point this out just to save space, there were a number of aspects of Hoffman's testimony that were independently corroborated by other witnesses, such as the location of police officers on the underpass, the reaction of the crowd, etc. He seems to be the only one who was on the other side of the fence as the assassination occurred and thus, the only credible witness to what really happened back there. However, since the Warren Commission determined that shots only came from the depository, it was decided that Hoffman must have been mistaken.

  3. I too have just gotten into studying this horrific event in our nation's history. My emotions range from crying over such a tragedy seeing Jackie trying to hold her husband and watching him get obliterated in front of her to being so angry I wish I could confront the "guilty conspirators". Another question that I don't know if you addressed was: why did the Secret Service "stand down" as the motorcade turned onto Elm Street? Shouldn't they have been blanketing him on each side of the vehicle jogging along? James Brady comes to mind as to what the "true purpose" of a Secret Serviceman should be. I have heard theories that the Secret Service along with the CIA, Mafia, etc. were all in on it. I know Kennedy had some issues with the Secret Service as early as 1961 and felt his own "band of brothers" could protect him better. Maybe that contributed to the apparent disloyalty of the Secret Service on that fateful day.

  4. Oh, one more thing..I find myself when looking at these fairly low quality photos and videos from that day thinking that it's too bad this happened before the age of handheld camcorders, HD camcorders, etc. because now, nearly every event that happens is captured by someone on their video camera (e.g. Rodney King beating, 9/11, etc.). There surely would have been quite a few people capturing the motorcade on their cameras that day if that had been the case...and we would have had crystal clear images of what actually transpired.