Thursday, November 18, 2004

2 Hour Kennedy Assassination Special

There was a 2 hour examination of the Kennedy assassination on Discovery channel the other night. It was really the most interesting documentary on the subject I have ever seen. Instead of spooky music and a stream of "unanswered questions" -- the people involved did some real examination of the subject. These guys in Australia who do ballistics & forensics staged a recreation of the 2nd shot from the Zapruder film. They created torsos made of ballistic gel, made from molds of men fitting the measurements of Kennedy and Connally. The Kennedy torso included sinew material in the neck and shoulder area with some bones. The Governor Connally torso had a ribcage in it. There was an arm gel target in front of Connally’s torso with a stack of bones within the estimated range of his hand placement. And there was a gel target for his left leg. The torsos were covered in an oil-impregnated chamois that behaves very much like human skin.

The torsos were situation on stands representing the seating arrangements of the Lincoln, and they clarified a bunch of things about Connally’s position based on little-known facts like that he was sitting in a more inward jumper seat, further down, and not straight in front of Kennedy. They used a certain model of Mannlicher which was an extremely close cousin of Oswald’s rifle – and here’s something that surprised me – they were able to purchase an unopened box of cartridges from the same production run as that used by Oswald.

They set their sharpshooter up on a crane at the distance and angle from the vehicle that Oswald had shot, at the moment determined by the movie frame. When the sharpshooter fired, the bullet hit within an inch of the reported entry point on Kennedy’s neck. It exited and tumbled down/right and made almost the exact entry wound on the Connally torso and broke the 5th rib as on the real thing. The major difference was that because the shot was off a bit, it hit another rib in the front part of the cage which slowed the bullet down more than the original. The shot still fractured the wrist bone of the arm target but only had enough inertia left to bounce off the knee of the leg target. The ballistics guys said that if it hadn’t hit the second rib the bullet would have had just enough remaining inertia to penetrate the left thigh but not enough to go deeply. In other words it would have gone in about enough to accommodate the bullet falling out on a stretcher.

The damage to the bullet was slightly more severe than the so-called “magic bullet” but not enormously so. They attributed it mainly to having hit that second rib. But by in large it was about the same and a little bit of lead squeezed out the back of it in the same pattern as in the original. Several shots into various materials revealed similar results with this metal-jacketed round and it seems to keep its shape when shot into things. They even shot it something like 42 inches lengthways into a log and when they cut it out it was *still* straight.

It was a very interesting show. Hopefully they’ll air it again.

I wound up sick all last week and back in the hospital with kidney stones yet again. Ugh. Wish me luck. I hope the old Spanish saying holds true; A rolling stone gathers ‘no mas’. ;-)