#JFK : what people really saw and heard- and why they lied under pressure

How the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations
minipulated evidence to dismiss witness accounts of the assassination.

Over six hundred people witnessed the assassination of President Kennedy. The FBI acting on behalf of the Warren Commission interviewed at least two hundred of them.
Regrettably, the Commission seemed unconcerned that the FBI reports on seventy of these interviews did not reveal if the witness had an opinion on the source of the shots. Nor did the Commission conduct an analysis of witness accounts or give any credence to those accounts of witnesses who thought the shots came from the grassy knoll.

Analysis of 178 Witnesses

In 1978 the House Select Committee on Assassinations analyzed the accounts of the witnesses taken by the Warren Commmission and from FBI reports publised in the 26 Volumes of Hearings and Exhibits that accompanied the Warren Report. In analyzing witness accounts, a diligent investigator would consider various issues that the House Committee faild to address.

Accommodating Witnesses

One delicate issue to confront is the truthfulness of some of the witnesses. James Altgens, Associated Press photographer, told the Warren Commission he thought the shots came from behind the Presidential limousine (i.e., the direction of the Depository). (7H517) But on November 22, he wrote in an AP dispatch, “At first I thought the shots came from the opposite side of the street [i.e., the knoll]. I ran over there to see if I could get some pictures . . . I did not know until later where the shots came from.” (See Document 28 in Cover-up)

Jesse Curry, the Dallas chief of police, told reporters on November 23 that although he was driving the lead car of the motorcade, he “could tell from the sound of the three shots that they had come from the book company’s building near downtown Dallas.” (The New York Times, 11/24/63) However, when confronted with the transcript of the police radio transmissions, Curry admitted that just after the shots were fired, he broadcast over his car radio: “Get a man on top of that triple underpass and see what happened up there.” (23H913; 4H161)

Bill Decker, the Dallas Sheriff, was riding with Curry in the lead car, and according to the police transcript, Decker called over Curry’s radio: “Have my office move all available men out of my office into the railroad yard to try to determine what happened in there and hold everything secure until Homicide and other investigators should get there.” (23H913) When Decker testified to the Warren Commission, he did not reveal, nor was he asked, where he thought the shots came from.

House Speaker Tip O’Neill revealed in his autobiography that five years after the assassination:
“I was surprised to hear [Presidential aide Kenneth] O’Donnell say that he was sure he had heard two shots that came from behind the fence.
“That’s not what you told the Warren Commission,” I said.
“You’re right,” he replied. “I told the FBI what I had heard, but they said it couldn’t have happened that way and that I must have been imagining things. So I testified the way they wanted me to. I just didn’t want to stir up any more pain and trouble for the family.”
“Dave Powers [another Kennedy aide] was with us at dinner that night, and his recollection of the shots was the same as O’Donnell’s.” (Man of the House,178)

Erroneous Reports

Another issue to consider is whether or not the Dallas Police and the FBI submitted erroneous reports to the Warren Commission.

Robert Edwards testified before counsel for the Warren Commission, David Belin, that the Dallas Police affidavit he made out on November 22, 1963 contained a statement he did not make.

Mr. Belin. Where do you think the shots came from?
Mr. Edwards. I have no idea.
Mr. Belin. In the affidavit you stated that the shots seemed to come from the building there. Did you really say that or not?
Mr. Edwards. No; I didn’t say that. (6H205)

Richard Dodd, a railroad track supervisor who was standing on the overpass during the assassination, was interviewed by two FBI agents. In their report to the Warren Commission, the FBI agents said that Dodd “did not know where the shots came from.” (22H835) Several witnesses contradicted what was in their FBI reports, and Dodd was one of them. Dodd told Mark Lane in a filmed interview that he told federal agents that “the shots, the smoke came from behind the hedge on the north side of the plaza.” (The film Rush to Judgment)

James Simmons, another railroad worker, was interviewed by two agents of the FBI, who reported that “Simmons advised that it was his opinion the shots came from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository Building.” (22H833) One of the main flaws of the Committee’s analysis is its unquestioning reliance on hearsay reports of FBI agents. Simmons has contradicted what was in his FBI reports, and in a filmed interview, he told Mark Lane, “It sounded like it came from the left and in front of us towards the wooden fence. And there was a puff of smoke that came underneath the trees on the embankment. . . . It was right directly in front of the wooden fence.” Simmons went on to say that he told the FBI agents who interviewed him that he had seen a puff of smoke on the knoll. Evidently, they chose to hand in a false report instead. (The film Rush to Judgment)

Puff of Smoke

At least seven witnesses saw a puff of smoke on the grassy knoll.

o In May of 1966 I spoke with railroad workers Thomas Murphy and Walter Winborn, who were standing on the triple overpass at the time of the assassination. I asked Murphy, “Could you tell me where you thought the shots came from?”

Murphy. Yeah, they come from a tree to the left, of my left, which is to the immediate right of the site of the assassination.
Galanor. That would be on that grassy hill up there.
Murphy. Yeah, on the hill up there. There are two or three hackberry and elm trees. And I say it come from there.
Galanor. Well, was there anything that led you to believe that the shots came from there?
Murphy. Yeah, smoke.
Galanor. You saw smoke?
Murphy. Sure did.
Galanor. Could you tell me exactly where you saw the smoke?
Murphy. Yeah, in that tree. (See Cover-up, 59)

Walter Winborn told me he saw “smoke that come out from under the trees on the right hand side of the motorcade.” The FBI agents who interviewed Winborn for the Warren Commission, however, did not mention in their report that he had seen smoke on the knoll.

Galanor. Did you tell them about that, that you saw smoke on the grassy knoll?
Winborn. Oh yes. Oh yes.
Galanor. They didn’t include it in their report.
Winborn. Well.
Galanor. Do you have any idea why they didn’t?
Winborn. I don’t have any idea. They are specialists in their field, and I’m just an amateur. (See Cover-up, 60)

S. M. Holland, a railroad signal supervisor, was standing on the overpass watching the motorcade move toward him. “I looked over toward the arcade and trees [the knoll] and saw a puff of smoke come from the trees.” (19H480) Later Holland told the Warren Commission, “A puff of smoke came out about 6 or 8 feet above the ground right out from under those trees.” (6H243) The Warren Commission ignored Holland’s testimony and never addressed the fact that five other railroad workers claimed to have seen smoke on the knoll at the time of the shots.


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