Head Shot: The Science Behind The JFK Assassination: Expanded Edition by G. Paul Chambers.

The assassination of President John Kennedy back in 1963 has been a particular nexus event in some Science Fiction realities. I have to confess that although only six at the time it happened, the full implications of the event didn’t really sink in. Like many of you out there, you tend to remember hearing about the grassy knoll and that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald being later shot by Jack Ruby. As to whether it was a lone madman, Mafia, intelligence agency or even a foreign country has kept the conspiracy theory alive to the present day.

As he presents himself in the introduction, G. Paul Chambers doesn’t have an axe to grind. A former research physicist for NASA, his interest is in putting all the details together and seeing what they reveal scientifically from a forensic angle. Some of it, I found a bit worrying itself.

Take the Warren Commission, set up to do the formal investigation. Several of them had to be urged by patriotism to take part and all of them, including their subordinates, were lawyers not detectives and actually doing it part-time while continuing their normal jobs. You would have thought that with something like the death of a President that this should have taken all their time to resolve. As Chambers points out, they had the assassin in Oswald, why would they want to look for anything else?

His point is to look at all the evidence and what was disregarded by the FBI because it didn’t fit in with what fitted the pattern of guilt rather than where all the bullets came from. If anything, the Commission sought to simplify the evidence. Where the FBI stated Kennedy had a wound ‘just below his shoulder’, the Commission, specifically Gerald Ford, stated is as ‘the rear of the neck’. It’s a shame that the autopsy sheet wasn’t given a full page to read all the details, but the illustration from it clearly matches the FBI report. Ford’s account for clarity, you would have thought he really should have been precise not vague. No wonder the evidence looks confused.

I’m not entirely convinced why Chambers needed to devote a chapter to sciences away from the subject to prove scientific history being correct but as this book is tailored towards a potentially lack of knowledge American audience, this might have been part of the ‘expanded areas’ of this book. If he had to deal with the sciences in this way, I would have thought explaining ballistics and forensics might have been better, although the latter is given adequately later when it comes to explaining the tests carried out to prove that Oswald hadn’t actually fired a gun that day.

It is fascinating seeing Chambers’ calculations of time lapse and no gun shells found on the ground after the assassination. The latter absence is always the suggestion of a professional hit because assassins don’t like leaving evidence. The forensic evidence that there were two assassins shooting from two different directions with different ammunition supports the notion that whatever happened Kennedy was going to die that day. I’m not sure if Chambers idea that both assassins needed to be co-ordinated by walkie-talkies to shoot simultaneously would be required. It would be a lot simpler to shoot when the car cavalcade reached a particular point in the road. You wouldn’t need anything more technical than that.

Where conspiracies lie is why did the FBI substitute different x-rays of the damage done to Kennedy’s head, especially as the photograph of Kennedy’s head on a gurney obviously shows no facial damage.

Stills from the original film footage of the assassination tend to be very blurry and I’m puzzled why no one has put them through digital enhancement to highlight the details. Chambers points out that it’s been done, just a shame the results aren’t in this book.

Without going too spoiler and mostly because it would make more sense for you to read Chambers’ engaging evidence itself, the trajectory points to their having been two assassins and neither were called Oswald because they weren’t situated where he was on the knoll.

From reading all of this, the level of incompetency is staggering, far more than just what the real story is about. Certainly, the Warren Commission needed a better representation of people to analyse the material, even back in 1964. If there is a conspiracy, then it is ensuring that the media depiction stays with the ‘official’ story. That in itself is also a pretty damning mark in the history of the USA.

Chambers investigations only go as far as the examination of the physical evidence of the assassination. He in no way points the finger at anyone. No doubt someone will and should in the future. After all, those who were associated with the assassination at the time must surely be dead by now, so why should they care? Keeping the myth alive certainly does more harm than good. Read and fret.

GF Willmetts

September 2012


(pub: Prometheus Books. 264 page indexed and illustrated small enlarged paperback. Price: $18.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-561-3)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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