Controversy and speculation has always swirled around the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and it continues even today, almost 50 years on. This author wasn't around when this tragic historical event occurred, but many people still remember the fateful day like it was yesterday. Imagine being Jackie Kennedy and bearing witness to your husband's murder, his head being mangled by a bullet, blood spraying profusely everywhere, and parts of his brain flying into the air. It's impossible to accept that she ever fully overcame the tragedy.
The intention of this article is not to convince anyone about what exactly happened that day, like the numerous JFK assassination theories or conspiracy theories. Believe it was a CIA agent who murdered the President, if you will, or think, along with most, that Lee Harvey Oswald was the killer. Here are the JFK autopsy photos, and decide for yourself what came to pass.
Here is the back view of a normal skull with parts identified. This is important to reflect upon as one looks at these pictures of JFK post-mortem.
Next, we see a front X-ray view of JFK's skull. Notice the complete absence of the right side of his head. After the bullet penetrated the President's skull, a large piece of the projectile traveled forward and to the side, causing part of the cranium to explode as it exited.
The bullet, which, it was determined, came from a very high position above President Kennedy, gained speed and momentum from the distance it traveled and resulted in an irregular, roughly circular, 5-inch-wide wound in the top right side of the President's head, as seen in the following images.
By the time JFK was examined at the morgue, rigor mortis had apparently already set in. He was described as being in a hopeless condition; the right side of his head was, after all, missing.
As one can see from this photo, the medical staff at the Parkland Hospital in Dallas performed a tracheotomy on President Kennedy in the hope of reviving him. It didn't matter that a crucial part of the President's brain was missing. They were desperate to make an attempt to resuscitate him. JFK was pronounced dead approximately 30 to 40 minutes after he was fatally wounded.
Contrary to what some believe, the President was shot from the back, not the front, as this source explains. When President Kennedy was struck in the head by the bullet, his body went into violent convulsions not unlike seizures. This is what caused the President to fall backwards and to the left. Also, his head, despite a large chunk of it being missing, stayed mostly together. In other words, skin kept the now displaced bone pieces from fully detaching from the body.
Trajectory of the bullet
Note that the skull fragments are enlarged only to show detail, not what actually happened.
What many people either don't know about or don't remember is the other bullet wound that President Kennedy suffered. This was possibly the more controversial wound because it was never properly photographed, and because it was reportedly tampered with by the medical staff performing the tracheotomy on the President.
It is believed that this other bullet – which was fired first – went through the upper part of the back of the President's neck, between his shoulder blades, and out through his throat where the tracheotomy was performed.
Back of JFK's head
Through a very detailed investigation, it was determined that the President was only hit by two bullets, with the gunshot wound to the neck/back area superficial and not fatal, while that to the head proved to be the death blow. Both shots are believed to have come from the rear while the President was leaning forward and talking to his wife, as they went down the incline of the infamous Dallas street.
Some people argue that this picture of the President's back is inaccurate and reflects manipulation of the body. However, as far as we can tell, it is a true and accurate autopsy photo.
One of the arguments pertaining to the photo's inaccuracy rests on the lack of holes in the President's jacket. However it seems somewhat fruitless to this author to argue this point as the bullet injury to the back/neck was not the fatal blow. It was, as you will see more graphically in the next image, the head shot that ended the President's life.
One thing is for certain. No matter how one felt about JFK or his political views, he didn't deserve to be gunned down in this way. The President is probably best remembered for that horrible day, November 22, 1963, when he should be held in our minds for the accomplishments he made during his life.
The last words JFK heard before he was murdered were those of Nellie Connally, wife to the Governor of Texas (both were traveling in the limousine with him). "Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you," she said. Then as the mortally wounded President slumped over, gasping his last breath, his wife said these chilling words: "They have killed my husband," and "I have his brains in my hand."
This site reflects the intrigue surrounding JFK's assassination and confirms that the National Archives and Records Administration has over 2,000 square feet of archives on the events that took place. Everything is there, including clothing and the windshield of the limo that the President rode in that day.
Here's a digitally remastered video of the JFK assassination.
My deepest thanks goes to Debra Conway for permitting me to publish the photos in this article.