EXCLUSIVE: The Final Analysis: Assassination of John F. Kennedy – How Many Shots Did Kennedy Take? – Excerpt From the Latest Book by Jerome Corsi and David Mantik

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Excerpt from the New Book: David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D. and Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D., The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: The Final Analysis (2024)

Forensic Analysis of the JFK Autopsy X-Rays in the National Archives Prove Scientifically JFK Took Three Shots to the Head: Two from the Front and One at a Low Angle From the Rear

In 2015, when Michael Chesser, M.D. visited the National Archives, he paid particular attention to the fragment trail near the forehead on the two lateral JFK autopsy skull X-ray films. I [David Mantik] had previously noted the presence of metallic debris at that site in my survey of all metal on the extant films at the Archives. (See Figure 3.9.)

As seen in Figure 3.4, Chesser identified a fragment trail that entered the upper right forehead near the hairline. The trail appears to widen from front to back, consistent with a frontal entry but not with a rear entry. The largest fragment lies at the rear, precisely where it would be expected. There is no obvious exit at the end of the fragment trail—as confirmed by both my OD data and multiple radiologists.

Figure 3.4
Metal Fragment Trail from a Frontal Bullet—Shown Between the Two Blue Diverging Lines, with an Apex at the Forehead.
This bullet entered the right forehead near the hairline; the fragment trail widens to the rear.
The largest metal fragment is circled.

Note: Figures 3.4 through 3.8 are excerpted from his lecture: Michael Z. Chesser, “The Application of Forensic Principles for the Analysis of the Autopsy Skull X-Rays of President Kennedy and a Review of Brain Photographs,” Kennedys and King (formerly CTKA), November 27, 2017.

Chesser presented this visual essay for the mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, November 16-17, 2017.

Chesser identified the point of entry of this frontal shot as two “white knobby” objects on the inside of the right forehead (Figure 3.5). He determined that these two “white knobby” objects were metallic, and not bone. I had previously noted this as well.

Figure 3.5
Entry Site (Within the Dotted Rectangle) into the Right Forehead. Notice the two “white knobby” objects just inside the frontal (forehead) bone, near the center of the box.

Figure 3.6 is a close-up of the two “white knobby” objects just inside of the right forehead.

Figure 3.6
Close-up: The “Two “White Knobby” Objects Just Inside the Frontal (Forehead) Bone.

At the entry site (Figure 3.7), Chesser simulated the tiny, almost dust-like, particles. This was high in the right forehead near the hairline.

Figure 3.7
Chesser’s Simulated Fragment Trail Near the Right Forehead.
Fragments are also present at the entry site (to the right of the tiny red arrowhead and inferior to the two “knobby” objects).

Figure 3.8 identifies the entry of this forehead shot. Chesser clarified: “The fragment trail supports a right frontal entry site at approximately this location [referring to the dot placed on Kennedy’s forehead as shown on the photograph]. An entry wound at this location would have been covered by hair, and easily missed by the Parkland personnel, who focused on resuscitation and the profusely bleeding right occipital wound.”[1]

Figure 3.8
Right Frontal Entry (Solid Blue Dot on JFK’s Forehead in the Photograph).The photograph is from Love Field on November 22, 1963.

Chesser’s independent observations of the lateral X-ray film precisely mirrored my observations and analysis. In Figure 3.9, I have highlighted (via the long blue line with the arrowhead) the fragment trail from the frontal entry at JFK’s right forehead.[2]

Figure 3.9
Bullet Fragment Trail from the Frontal Shot (Thin Oblique Arrow).
This is my reproduction (done at the Archives) of all metallic debris.
The bullet entered the right forehead near the hairline.
The largest ellipse represents an amorphous metallic opacity, possibly mercury. This is not a single piece of solid metal.

The vertical arrow (at the rear) identifies the authentic fragment described in their 302 report by the two FBI agents who attended the JFK autopsy, James Sibert and Francis O’Neill, (labeled in this book as SOF). This was not removed at the autopsy. It served as an anchor in 3D space for the 6.5 mm fake on the AP X-ray film. The fragments in the trail must lie within soft tissue in the right hemisphere. Note that SOF lies too far from the trail to be part of it. Most likely, it represents shrapnel (from the rear).

Copper residue was identified at the holes on the back of the coat and shirt; the holes were likely caused by shrapnel. SOF most likely represents metallic shrapnel from a bullet that struck Elm Street. There are at least three arguments for shrapnel, as follows: (1) at least five witnesses (including several in the Warren Commission [WC] volumes) reported such a bullet (or even bullets) glancing off Elm Street; (2) on the skull X-rays at the Archives, I have observed tiny metal fragments to be widely scattered on both sides of the skull—all government investigations have ignored these; and (3) low energy X-ray scattering[3] showed metal at the holes on the rear of the shirt and coat; spectroscopic data confirmed that this metal was copper, consistent with a (partially) copper-jacketed fragment. On the other hand, no metal was found on the front of the shirt. This negative result for the shirt implies either (1) a non-metallic projectile or (2) an entry superior to the shirt collar. Furthermore, as showed metal at the holes on the rear of the shirt and coat; spectroscopic data[4] confirmed that this metal was copper, consistent with a (partially) copper-jacketed fragment. On the other hand, no metal was found on the front of the shirt. This negative result for the shirt implies either (1) a non-metallic projectile or (2) an entry superior to the shirt collar.[5] Furthermore, as would be expected for shrapnel, the pathologists reported that the back wound was very shallow. For additional evidence that shrapnel caused the back wound, note that the abrasion collar was located at the inferior edge of this wound;[6] this implies a rising projectile. In other words, the back wound was not caused by a descending bullet, e.g., a sabot from the County Records Building.[7]

Stavis “Steve” Ellis, a Dallas Police Department solo motorcycle officer, was in charge of the motorcycle escort. He offered firsthand testimony:

About the time I started on a curve on Elm, I had turned to my right to give signals to open up the intervals since we were fixing to get on the freeway a short distance away. That’s all I had on my mind. Just as I turned around, then the first shot went off. It hit back there.[8]

He saw the shot hit the south side of the curb on Elm Street:

It looked like it hit the concrete or grass there in just a flash, and a bunch of junk flew up like a white or gray color dust or smoke coming out of the concrete.[9]

Ellis explained the concrete impact was from the first shot. After that, he heard two more shots (three shots altogether):

The sounds were all clear and loud and sounded about the same. From where I was, they sounded like they were coming from around where the tall tree was in front of that building [the TSBD]. Of course, I’m forming an opinion based on where I saw that stuff hit the street, so I knew that it had to come from up that way, and I assumed the others came from the same place.[10]

Royce Skelton, a mail clerk at the Texas-Louisiana Freight Bureau, witnessed the assassination from the Triple Overpass. He testified to the WC:

After those two shots, and the car came on down closer to the triple underpass, well, there was another shot—two more shots I heard, but one of them—I saw a bullet, or I guess it was a bullet—I take it for granted it was—hit in front of the President’s car on the cement, and when it did, the smoke carried with it—away from the building [the TSBD].[11]

Skelton testified that when the shot hit the pavement, it “scattered” into a “spray.” He saw spray go westward (in the downhill direction that the limousine was moving).[12]

Harry Holmes was an inspector for the US Post Office Department. He observed the scene via binoculars from his office window on the fifth floor of the terminal annex building at the corner of Houston and Commerce Streets. He testified to the WC about three firecracker-like sounds, one of which caused “dust fly up” that flew “off of President Kennedy.”[13]Mrs. Donald Baker, a bookkeeper in the TSBD, watched the motorcade from the front of the TSBD. She testified to the WC that she saw “sparks” from an apparent firecracker that hit the street behind the limousine as it passed her on Elm Street.[14] Ira David Wood III noted in his extensive JFK Assassination Chronology: “On hearing the first burst of firing, [Dallas County] Sheriff [Bill] Decker glances back and thinks sees a bullet bouncing off the street pavement.” Wood added: “Motorcycle officer James Chaney will also tell newsmen this day [November 22, 1963] that
the first shot missed. It is suggested that JFK is hit by small pieces of the street pavement and stops waving for a moment.”[15]

However, since copper residue was found on the coat and shirt (only on the back), it is unlikely that the clothing holes were caused by bits of street pavement, unless the street was paved with copper.

Chesser summed up his conclusions about the frontal shot to JFK’s right forehead as follows:

This is what I saw on the original right lateral skull x-ray at the archives. There is a gap in the bone—not very big, maybe 3 mm, but remember that this is a composite of all the material between the x-ray machine and the film—when viewed from the side, a hole in the frontal bone may not be seen at all, and if it is, it won’t appear as wide as its actual width. I think that this defect is probably due to a combination of an entry wound and associated radial fracture line(s).[16]

He explained his findings:

The most important finding here is the proximity of these tiny metallic fragments to this bone defect. This location, on the intracranial side of the bony defect, is highly suggestive of an entry wound. One of the principles of skull ballistics is that the largest fragments travel the furthest from the entry site, with the smallest fragments traveling the least distance, and that is exactly what is seen on this right lateral skull x-ray. Tiny fragments were seen on the inner side of this right front skull defect, and the largest fragments were noted in the back of the skull.[17]

Chesser concluded that the fragment trail was due to a bullet entry at the right forehead near the hairline. He added that on the AP X-ray film, the fragment trail is located superiorly, trailing upward and backward on the right side. [18]

In James DiEugenio’s and Oliver Stone’s documentary JFK: Destiny Betrayed (the four-hour version of Stone’s 2021 JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass), there is a segment in which Drs. Chesser, Aguilar, and I discuss the frontal shot to JFK’s right forehead.

Narrator [Whoopi Goldberg]: After the film JFK was released, several doctors went to the National Archives to view the X-rays of Kennedy’s skull. They saw details in these X-rays which presented yet another problem for the Warren Report’s claim that Kennedy was only shot from the rear.

Dr. David Mantik: Well, the government investigators did claim that there was no evidence of a shot from the front. But they didn’t tell us a few things that were very important, which we have learned only in recent years. We have seen tiny metal fragments right at the forehead.
Dr. Michael Chesser: When you look at the X-rays that are stored at the archives now, on the lateral X-ray there is a fragment trail. It actually expands from front to back, and there are dozens of very tiny dustlike fragment particles up in this location.

Dr. David Mantik: Now why is that important? Well, what we know is that the larger bullet fragments travel farther, whereas the smaller ones tend to stay near the entry site. That’s what we see on these X-rays. In other words, we can reasonably interpret these as being consistent with a frontal bullet, but being radically inconsistent with a posterior bullet.

Dr. Gary Aguilar: And that’s not evidence you can erase. You can’t make that disappear, but that’s incontrovertible evidence of a shot from the right front by a non-jacketed bullet.[19]

In my interview with DiEugenio for the 2021 Oliver Stone documentary is another sequence about the frontal shot to the right forehead:

James DiEugenio: Now, did the House Select Committee say that one of the reasons that they thought that all of the autopsy materials [were] genuine was because there was no evidence of a shot from the front?

Dr. David Mantik: On the lateral X-rays in particular, the findings of Dr. Chesser and myself are quite remarkable. We have seen tiny metal fragments right at the forehead on these lateral X-rays and Chesser in particular has seen a small hole in the skull consistent with the passage of a bullet through the forehead. None of the government investigations have ever told us about these things.

Further, most of the bullet fragments that we see on the lateral skull X-rays are in the anterior half of the skull. These are for the most part very, very tiny. Many of them are only one millimeter or so in size. In other words, we can reasonably interpret these as being consistent with a frontal bullet, but being radically inconsistent with a posterior bullet.[20]

Kinetic energy explains why larger fragments travel farther than smaller fragments. Kinetic energy = 1/2 mv2, where m = mass and v = velocity. Thus, a particle with more mass has more kinetic energy. Besides that, though, smaller fragments decelerate faster—the drag forces on them are relatively greater. Hence, the tiny particles near the forehead suggest an entry near that site. The larger fragment at the right rear provides additional evidence for a frontal entry. As expected, larger fragments travel farther.

WC Exhibit 387 is the official autopsy report (see Appendix J), signed by Humes, Boswell, and Finck. The pathologists noted: “Roentgenograms of the skull reveal multiple minute metallic fragments along a line corresponding with a line joining the above-described small occipital wound and the right supra-orbital ridge.” [21] In his 2021 presentation to the Future of Freedom Foundation,[22] Chesser called this a “bald-faced lie.” He is correct; there is no such trail—no metallic fragments are visible along that low-lying path. This lie by the pathologists suggests that they felt they had to acknowledge the metallic trail, so they simply displaced it downward (by 10 cm) in order to avoid a second headshot.

In September 1977, immediately before the HSCA made the JFK X-ray films public for the first time, Russell Morgan, MD (the sole radiologist for the Clark Panel), almost surely to avert professional humiliation, essentially recanted his earlier opinion. In a statement reported in the newspapers[23] at the time, Morgan said he was no longer so certain that the single bullet that hit JFK’s head from the rear was a Mannlicher-Carcano round. Instead, he suggested that the fragmentation of the bullet (i.e., the fragment trail) was so severe that the bullet might have been a so-called “dum-dum” (hollow point) round. With this statement, Morgan had essentially exonerated Oswald. He had also thereby left the 6.5 mm object free-floating in fantasy land; he simply ignored it! After all, this 6.5 mm fake does not lie on the fragment trail. Nonetheless, it had been the keystone for the Clark Panel’s daft cowlick entry wound—which they had elevated by 10 cm above the WC’s entry site. Morgan also admitted, for the first time, that he now favored exhuming JFK’s body to answer questions about the bullet fragments.[24] Unfortunately, for the truth, he had withheld all of his new-found insights from the Clark Panel report, so that (in 1977) he was nine years too late. In any case, the HSCA ignored his new insights.

In his interview with DiEugenio for the 2021 Stone documentary, Chesser also commented on this sleight-of-hand elevation of the (proposed) rear entry site:

Dr. Michael Chesser: The [Warren] Commission placed the entry of a bullet fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository low in the back of the head, right next to the external occipital protuberance. The Clark Panel and the HSCA moved u[ this wound four inches, into the parietal bone. Four inches is quite a distance from the original location of the entrance wound. They did this for several reasons. They knew that an entry in the lower location would cause enormous damage to the cerebellum—and to their story. In the fake brain photograph the cerebellum is untouched. In the autopsy report, Commander Humes described a fragment trail beginning near the external occipital protuberance. The extant X-ray films disprove this.

James DiEugenio: So there is no diagonal that leads upward in the present X-rays?

Dr. Michael Chesser: The X-rays at the archives do not show a fragment trail extending from low up to here. They show a fragment trail from the back of the parietal bone to the frontal bone. But the fragment trail doesn’t fit the conclusions of the Clark Panel or the House Select Committee. For several reasons. I think the most important reason is that the tiniest fragments on that trail, and there are dozens of them, are very thin or just inside the frontal bone. And the largest fragments are at the back of the skull. This goes against all forensic evidence that the tiniest fragments are not going to travel that far. So it’s impossible for a shot here, in the back of the skull, to result in all of the tiniest bullet fragments in the frontal region.

James DiEugenio: You’re saying that the fact that there’s all these dustlike particles in the front of the skull would indicate a point of entry from the front.

Dr. Michael Chesser: Yes it does. It’s very strong evidence.

James DiEugenio: And you’re also saying that because the larger fragments were in the back, that would also indicate a shot from the front.

Dr. Michael Chesser: Yes.[25] [End of colloquy.]

However, even after this unwarranted elevation by the HSCA, the debris trail is still too high—the trail actually lies noticeably above the HSCA’s entry site. Chesser concurred. During the 2015 JFK Lancer Conference, he stated: “I think that one of the reasons that they [the HSCA] moved the entry wound up was due to the fragment particle trail shown in the right lateral skull x-ray. If a line is drawn from the Warren Commission entry site to the proposed exit site, you’ll notice that the particle trail doesn’t correspond with these sites. The prominent particle trail is located in the upper portion of the skull.”[26]

The HSCA illustrated their hypothetical trajectory for the sole headshot (Figure 3.10).

Figure 3.10
HSCA’s Imaginary Hypothetical Trajectory: From the TSBD to the Parietal Skull.

Figure 3.10 is from Michael Z. Chesser, MD, “The Application of Forensic Principles for the Analysis of the Autopsy Skull X-Rays of President Kennedy and a Review of Brain Photographs,” Kennedys and King, November 27, 2017, op. cit.


[1] Michael Z. Chesser, MD, “The Application of Forensic Principles for the Analysis of the Autopsy Skull X-Rays of President Kennedy and a Review of Brain Photographs,” op. cit.

[2] My tedious, but precise, identification (performed while at the Archives) of all apparent metallic debris on both the lateral and AP X-ray films is also shown in color in my hardcover book, p. 379.

[3] Jerry McKnight, “Bugliosi Fails to Resuscitate the Single-Bullet Theory,” Mary Ferrell Foundation, n.d., https://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Essay_-_Bugliosi_Fails_to_Resuscitate_the_Single-Bullet_Theory.html.

[4] “Description of President Kennedy’s wounds,” Appendix to Hearings Before the Select Committee on Assassination of the U.S. House of Representatives Ninety-Fifth Congress Second Session, vol. 7, op. cit., p. 83.

[5] Among other witnesses (e.g., Diana Bowron), Charles Carrico clearly implied that the throat wound lay above the collar (“Testimony of Dr. Charles James Carrico and Dr. Malcom Oliver Perry, “Hearings before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, vol. 3, op. cit., at pp. 361-362). For further discussion of its location, see my hardcover book, pp. 10-12.

Charles James Carrico and Dr. Malcom Oliver Perry, “Hearings before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, vol. 3, op. cit., at pp. 361-362). For further discussion of its location, see my hardcover book, pp. 10-12.

[6] “Summary of the forensic pathologists’ perspective of wound ballistics,” Appendix to Hearings Before the Select Committee on Assassination of the U.S. House of Representatives Ninety-Fifth Congress Second Session, vol. 7, op. cit., p. 175. The trajectory was slightly upward.

[7] This, however, cannot totally rule out a sabot. After all, more bullets than CE 399 litter this farcical case.

[8] Larry A. Sneed, “Stavis Ellis,” in No More Silence: An Oral History of the Assassination of President Kennedy (Dallas, TX: Three Forks Books, 1998), pp. 142-153, at p. 145.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

See also: Bonar Menninger, Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK, op. cit., pp. 68-78. Howard Donahue was the protagonist in this book. In a simulation, he was the one rare marksman who succeeded in hitting a JFK-like target within the allotted time. I had the pleasure of meeting Howard Donahue and his wife at their home in Maryland.

[11] “Testimony of Royce G. Skelton,” Hearings before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, vol. 7, op. cit., pp. 236-239, at p. 238.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Testimony of Harry D. Holmes,” Hearings before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, vol. 7, op. cit., pp. 289-308, at p. 291.

[14] “Testimony of Mrs. Donald Baker,” Hearings before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, vol. 7, op. cit., pp. 507-515.

[15] Ira David Wood III, “22 November 1963: A Chronology,” in Murder in Dealey Plaza, ed. James H. Fetzer, op. cit., pp. 17-118, at p. 36.

Wood’s JFK Assassination Chronicle is also available as a Kindle e-book, https://amzn.to/3NK5Moz.

[16] Michael Chesser, MD, “A Review of the JFK Cranial x-Rays and Photographs,” Assassination of JFK, n.d., https://assassinationofjfk.net/a-review-of-the-jfk-cranial-x-rays-and-photographs/. This is from Chesser’s lecture for the 2015 JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas, Texas.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] James DiEugenio, “JFK: Destiny Betrayed (Annotated Transcript of Four-Hour Film)” in JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2022), pp. 155-190, at p. 169.

[20] Ibid., “Interview Excerpts: Dr. David Mantik,” pp. 264-272, at p. 269.

[21] “Clinical record of autopsy protocol prepared by the Naval Medical School, Bethesda, Md., on the autopsy performed on President Kennedy,” in Hearings before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, vol. 16, CE 387, op. cit., pp. 978-983. at p. 981. See Appendix J.

[22] Michael Chesser, “Reviewing the Autopsy X-Rays,” op. cit.

[23] Lansing State Journal (Lansing, Michigan), September 16, 1977, p. 9. Curiously, Voyager I was launched on September 5, 1977, just eleven days before Humes publicly viewed the JFK X-ray films with the HSCA. Despite his alarming comments, Morgan was not further interrogated by the HSCA, and no one asked about Voyager either. The article was titled “Expert Backs Warren Report,” when it more accurately should have been titled “Expert Questions Warren Report.”

[24] For the complete newspaper article about Morgan’s near confession, see my hardcover book: The JFK Assassination Decoded: Criminal Forgery in the Autopsy Photographs and X-rays. The excerpted newspaper article appears immediately after the dedication to the e-book, JFK’s Head Wounds: A Final Synthesis—and a New Analysis of the Harper Fragment.

[25] James DiEugenio, “Interview Excerpts: Dr. Michael Chesser,” in JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, op. cit., pp. 292-298, at pp. 293-294.

[26] Michael Chesser, MD, “A Review of the JFK Cranial x-Rays and Photographs,” op. cit.

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