The Day Kennedy Died

by Christopher Paul on July 8, 2011

This is an older article but Longreads tweeted it not too long ago.

It’s an interview/story of one of the doctors who worked on JFK the day he was shot. Later, he also worked on Oswald when he was shot.

If you’re a JFK history buff like my father, you’ve probably read this — or know the details already — but this is the first time I’ve ever read an interview of the surgeons to worked on the President.

The account is rather vivid but this is one of my more favorite parts:

“As their fingers moved in and out of the president’s body, and through that afternoon, the doctors debated where the bullet came in and went out. Perry said he assumed the smaller hole in Kennedy’s neck was an entrance wound. They knew nothing of the events downtown, where some witnesses claimed a gunman by the infamous grassy knoll fired a shot from in front of the moving president. Lee Harvey Oswald fired from behind Kennedy as the limousine moved away from the book depository. At the time, the doctors hypothesized that perhaps a bullet entered at the front of the throat, ricocheted off the bony spinal column, and moved upward out the back of Kennedy’s head. At that point, the doctors were unaware of the wound in Kennedy’s back.

McClelland stared at the hole in the back of the president’s head. He looked at where the skull crumpled slightly around the edges. Knowing nothing else of the assassination at the time, he, too, assumed a bullet had come out of that opening.

He wouldn’t feel confident in his initial assessment until 11 and a half years later, when he and his wife watched an episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. As the couple got ready for bed, Carson introduced his guest, a young, ambitious television host named Geraldo Rivera. Rivera had with him footage of the assassination previously unseen by the public, footage known simply as “the Zapruder film.” Shot by Abraham Zapruder, an immigrant from the Ukraine, the 8-millimeter Kodachrome movie shows the motorcade through the duration of the assassination. As McClelland watched it for the first time, he saw the back of the president’s head blasted out. He saw the president swayed “back and to the left,” a phrase later repeated ad nauseum in Oliver Stone’s JFK. McClelland was convinced he had been standing over an exit wound.”

The original article was written in 2008 and the whole thing is worth a read. The author, Michael J. Mooney, had an article in GQ the other week which also was featured on Longreads. I haven’t gotten to that one, yet, but its in my Readability queue.

The Day Kennedy Died – D Magazine via Longreads

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