Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Strange Case Of JFK's Personal Physician

In perusing HSCA (House Select Committee on Assassinations) on-line documents recently, I came across this disturbing document filed by George Burkley, JFK’s personal physician. Let me give some background first. The Dallas Parkland doctors, in the early afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963, described two wounds on the president—a wound of entrance on the throat, near the Adam’s apple, and an exit wound, about the size of a fist, on the lower right rear of the president’s head, in the occipital-parietal area.

The Bethesda Naval autopsy doctors, hours later on the evening of Nov. 22, 1963, saw a completely different set of wounds on the president. The throat wound had been enlarged to three times its Dallas size, and appeared to be a wound of exit. There also appeared to be a bullet’s entrance wound on the upper back, near the shoulder blade. The head wound was massive and involved nearly the entire top right portion of the president’s head. THE OCCIPITAL-PARIETAL WOUND WITNESSED BY THE DALLAS DOCTORS HAD DISAPPEARED! That portion of the president’s head appeared to be intact at Bethesda. The only conclusion a reasonable person could draw was that the president’s body had been altered sometime between Dallas and Washington D.C. Thus, also, was the direction of the shots reversed. All evidence of shots from the front was erased. Only evidence of shots from the rear remained. (Was this trajectory reversal at the heart of the plotters' scheme to frame Oswald?)

In 1976 Burkley was contacted by an investigator for the HSCA named Richard Sprague. Through his lawyer, Burkley made a statement to Sprague that “others besides Oswald must have been involved.” Burkley surely became convinced of a conspiracy after seeing the conflicting wound patterns on the corpse on Nov. 22, 1963. Burkley was perhaps the only doctor who saw the body’s condition in both Dallas and Washington. But when Sprague was fired from the HSCA, Burkley’s testimony was never taken. Instead, he submitted the below affidavit:

Reference copy, JFK Collection: HSCA (RG 233) AFFIDAVIT I, VICE ADMIRAL GEORGE G. BURKLEY (M.C.) (Ret.) living in Los Angeles, California, being duly sworn make oath as follows:

I was interviewed in January, 1978 by T. Mark Flanagan, Jr. and Donald A. Purdy, Jr. of the staff of the Select Committee on Assassinations. During the interview I set forth the substance of the information which follows. At this time I reaffirm that this information is accurate and truthful to the best of my knowledge. This statement is made freely, voluntarily, and with out threats, promises, assurance, or remuneration from any source. I was Personal Physician to President John F. Kennedy in November 1963 and accompanied President Kennedy on the Texas trip. I was at Parkland Hospital and later at Bethesda Naval Hospital on the evening of November 22, 1963. I saw President Kennedy's wounds at Parkland Hospital and during the autopsy at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. There was no difference in the nature of the wounds I saw at Parkland Hospital and those I observed at the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital. 1. I was with President Kennedy in Dallas. I arrived at the Parkland Hospital within five minutes of the President's arrival. I checked the Presidents physical condition, gave the doctors working with the President the blood type and some adrenal medication (Sol U Cortef) to place in the intravenous blood and fluids which were being administered. My findings clearly indicated that death was certain and imminent. 2. One of the doctors reported to me vital signs of life no longer could be elicited. I rechecked the vital signs of President Kennedy and there was no sign of life. I reported to Mrs. Kennedy who was nearby in the treatment room that President Kennedy was dead. 3. I remained with the President's body in the treatment room until the body was placed in the coffin and I saw it closed. There was no movement or manipulation of the body other than removal of the intravenous equipment during that time. 4. In Dallas I traveled from the hospital to the Air Force One in the ambulance with the President's body in the casket and also on the plane; the casket was neither opened or disturbed in any way. 5. I had ordered the United States Naval Hospital to be prepared for performing an autopsy on the body of John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, the permission having been granted by Mrs. Kennedy while enroute. It was to be a complete autopsy with no limitations and no curtailment in time necessary for completion. 6. I traveled from Andrew's Air Force Base in the ambulance with the President's body to the Bethesda Naval Hospital and accompanied the coffin to the autopsy laboratory and saw the body removed from the coffin and placed on the autopsy table. 7. I directed the autopsy surgeon to do a complete autopsy and take the time necessary for completion. I supervised the autopsy and directed the fixation and retention of the brain for future study of the course of the bullet or bullets. 8. The autopsy material was retained in a secure area and subsequently turned over by Captain Stover USN to me and a member of the Secret Service. We took this material immediately to the EOB Building where it was placed in a locked file cabinet by the Secret Service. 9. Senator Robert Kennedy, representing Mrs. Kennedy and the Kennedy family, directed that the autopsy material be transferred to the National Archives. This was done on April 26, 1965. See attached letter of transmittal with listing of individual items. The notation under Item #9, one stainless steel container, 7" in diameter x 8", containing gross material, represents the container of the brain. This material was accepted and signed for by Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln and witnessed by three people. Signed copies of these affidavits are attached. I understand that this affidavit may be introduced and received into evidence by the Select Committee on Assassinations of the United States House of Representatives, and may lead them to make various findings of fact, and the statutes applicable to Congressional investigations, including but not limited to those concerning false statements, obstruction, or misleading, would subject me to criminal penalties for not telling the whole and complete truth in this affidavit.

GEORGE G. BURKLEY SIGNATURE Vice Admiral George G. Burkley (M.C.) USN (Ret.) Personal Physician to President John F. Kennedy

Interesting that Dr. Burkley, possibly the only medical person who saw the body in both places (Parkland and Bethesda), signs an affidavit which states that the wounds he saw were unchanged from Parkland to Bethesda. All other medical personnel testimony contradicts his affidavit--the Dallas doctors saw one set of wounds, the Bethesda doctors saw another set of wounds. Therefore, Burkley's statement is at odds with all other known medical testimony concerning JFK's wounds. One then must choose to believe Burkley or all the other doctors (and there were dozens). I tend to discredit Burkley's affidavit, because it is refuted by all other medical descriptions of the two wound patterns. Also, Burkley has no explanation for FBI agents' Sibert and O'Neill testimony that one of the autopsy doctors stated "surgery of the head area had been performed." No such surgery took place in Dallas, so when and where had this surgery been performed? Burkley gives us no clue.


Bill Z. said...

Wow, ya so Burkley lied in this afidavit. I wonder what was his motivation for it especially after he had admitted that he believed in a conspiracy earlier?

It is frustrated how many people have been proven liers in this case. The details are so fantastic that it is no wonder the public still believes the official story. One just has to read the well documented research available on the subject to really have a chance of seeing the truth. It is as Jim Marrs wrote in his introduction, "don't believe me," do the research yourself.

They got away with the "big lie," and what I don't understand is why so many people who were obviously not part of the plot felt it necessary to help cover it up?

Samuel said...

"Fear" is the reason--fear for their life.--if they can get JFK no one is safe.

Historicus said...

Or maybe Admiral Burkley told the truth. Not all the ER doctors described the head wound the same way. It may simply be a problem of semantics. The doctors in TR1 went to work immediately to save the President with several emergency procedures at once. After he died on the table and was given Catholic last rites the SS Agents were in a hurry to get the body and Mrs Kennedy back to DC.

There was no time for ER doctors to examine the body before, during, or after the intense efforts to save the President. Keep in mind he was laying in the anatomical position on the operating table which means on his back, with his head tilted up so they could do a tracheotomy on his throat. That means any wound in the posterior part of the skull would not be visible without lifting or turning the head. Only a large wound on top of the head as seen in the Zapruder film would be visible to so many witnesses in TR1.

The autopsy team of 3 pathologists, one of them an Army expert on gunshot wounds, located the massive head wound in the same part of the skull as seen in the Zapruder film. So it is more likely some of the ER staff made a mistake in describing this wound and were unaware of entrance wounds on the back of the head and torso.

The pathology team had the responsibility to methodically locate all wounds over several hours during the autopsy. By then the body had been cleaned so a careful examination could be made. Therefore it is more likely an ER team of doctors engaged in a traumatic situation might make a mistake than another team of doctors whose primary job is to carefully examine the entire body with the help of X-rays.

Patrick Collins said...

It would be medically impossible even now to disguise a frontal entry wound to fool the autopsy surgeons in the time allowed on 22 Nov 1963 and for the type of wound JFK had on the side of his head.

The wounds were the same, but the appearance could have differed slightly as blood coagulated and matted the hair and scalp and bone could have moved slightly.

I agree with Historicus.

Patrick Collins said...

"The details are so fantastic that it is no wonder the public still believes the official s

Exactly the opposite is true. the majority of the public think there was a conspiracy. Of course most of the American public know very little about the details of the assassination so a poll of all adult ages and cross sections of society is pretty meaningless.

In 2013/14 however a poll of 40+ year olds indicated that approx 60% believed in a conspiracy and 40% believe Oswald acted alone.

Of those who thought there was a conspiracy opinion was widely divided as to who which ironically means that Oswald is actually the favourite!

rrangassamy said...

Crenshaw and Perry both saw brain matter dripping from the cerebellum and a large gaping wound in the posterior part of the head

Patrick Collins said...

"Crenshaw and Perry both saw brain matter dripping from the cerebellum and a large gaping wound in the posterior part of the head"

No they did not. They saw what the medical evidence shows, a largely parietal wound - ie above the ear which extended somewhat toward the occipital and temporal bones. Neither would have seen the back of the head as it was cushioned into the gurney padding.

McClelland thought he saw cerebellum, but it is unlikely, there were around 15 medical staff attending JFK, one would NOT expect them all to observe the wounds exactly as they occurred.

Keep reading conspiracy nonsense like Lifton, Marrs and Livingstone and you'll continue believing in myths.

Tim Fleming said...

The Dallas doctors described the head wound as in the "occipito-parietal" area; the Bethesda doctors described it as "parietal...extending into the temporal region." The head wound grew to three times its original size by the time the body reached Bethesda. If you read propaganda spewed by Bugliosi and Posner, you will never find the truth.

Patrick Collins said...

"The head wound grew to three times its original size by the time the body reached Bethesda."

Absolute tripe.

And so you think Lifton's theory is correct and the wound was altered ...? Or that there was a pre autopsy examination...? Are you nuts?

I worked a little with David Lifton in the 80s, I was due to go to LA and assist with his second book - which has still not surfaced. I could not afford it or the time.

I did however meet 2 of the Dallas doctors in Dallas - I think that was in 1983.

There is no discrepancy between the Parkland wound reality and Bethesda.

May I ask, how many forensic pathologists have you met and discussed the JFK case with ref the wounds / ballistics..? I have worked with several on the JFK case when researching for Central TV and the BBC - though that was way back. I did run the whole thing through with a forensic pathologist here in the UK a couple of years back:-

To alter the wound so as to "reverse the bullet path" would be impossible now - even give 12 hours or so and certainly it could never fool a pathologist.

Humes et al would HAVE To have been involved in a cover up for Lifton's or any body alteration theory to hold up.

In my work on the JFK case - which has been extensive (I met and interviewed over 20 witnesses to the shooting) I have come to the conclusion that sensible pro conspiracy theorists are a rare breed. Tony Summers is one. Mary Ferrell was another - I spent a lot of time with her in the 80s - as I recall she was highly dismissive of Lifton and did not believe there was a shooter on the Knoll.

Paul Hoch is another A lister on Nov 22 63 and he now (I am told) now thinks Oswald probably acted alone. I agree. The two shots that struck from the rear did so between 5.2 and 6 seconds apart. If there was a missed shot, it was almost certainly NOT fired between the two that struck. This makes the shooting unremarkable and 50+ years of wayward thinking that Oswald got off three shots in 5.2 seconds is just nonsense.

I would not call VB or Posner's work as propaganda.....neither books are perfect, but essentially treat the evidence in a responsible and balanced manner.

We know the truth Tim, we knew it by Nov 23rd 1963.If there had been a conspiracy, we would know by now.

Had Oswald been framed, he would not have been framed with an unreliable Carcano - prone to jamming, but effective when working.

Let me guess you also think that.......

Oswald was in the lunch room...
His rifle was planted
The bullets were planted...
Oswald did not shoot Tippit....
The body was altered....
The cover up was pre planned as part of the assassination plot
Ruby was in on the conspiracy
So were the DPD and some of the Secret Service....
And LBJ maybe.....

Am I right...?

Tim Fleming said...

I've been very tolerant of your misinformation, but my patience is wearing thin. I've allowed you to come on my site and insult me. Clean up your act, or you are out. I've never heard of you, and doubt you have any credibility, but let's just be civil for now. Forget all the evidence of a plot, and you must overlook a mountain of it, just answer one question: You say Oswald acted alone? Why did he do it? You lone nutters can never answer that question. It certainly wasn't for the notoriety; he denied doing it. James Leavelle asked him as he was dying, "Is there anything you want to tell me?" According to Leavelle, Oswald just shook his head, in essence denying he had any part in the murder of the century.

Patrick Collins said...


I had never heard of you either.

If you don't want me on your site, fine. I really don't care.

My credibility is solid. I have worked for the BBC and Central TV on the JFK case. I studied the assassination for masters thesis - under Hugh Trevor Roper at Cambridge. My credentials are pretty damn good.

I spent a lot of time in Dallas and New Orleans in the 80s also.

Anyway, unlike you probably, I have met people who were there and who worked the case.20+ witnesses etc....

If you would like to discuss the case - let me know and I can give you my mobile.

I am a decent guy, well educated and balanced. I am writing a book on the JFK assassination with a US law Prof as my editor. I looked for conspiracy, but I do not think it exists.

Your attitude is somewhat aggressive - I probably know a lot more about the JFK case than you do = just a hunch.

If you want to discuss the case

Patrick Collins said...

What are your credentials Tim and your track record on investigative analysis within either academia or the media for example...?

Have you been to Dallas?

Have you spent time with witnesses? DPD? FBI...?

What about ballistics experts? Forensic pathologists...?

If so, perhaps we should talk - I am always interested in a new slant on the case...?

Tim Fleming said...

I am in the process of writing a book on the case. I have new information which I would be foolish to reveal now to you. I am saving it for my publisher. Yes, I've been to Dallas many times. Lived there in the summer of '78, and have talked to many people about the case. I don't want to be unkind, but lone nutters disinterest me. They are the most incurious people on the planet. A homicide detective once told me that those who believe in coincidences when investigating a murder case are doomed to get it wrong. And in the JFK case there are a thousand and one coincidences lone nutters must overlook. Never in the history of murder investigations have there been so many people--establishment media, government agents, and disinformationists like GP and VB--willing to ascribe innocent explanations to such blatantly suspicious circumstances. For Chrissakes, Bugliosi even denies that de Mohrenschildt was CIA. Examining a case with blinders on is now way to solve it. And I will never understand lone nutters' motivation for their beliefs. They are so adamant and vehement that they get furious at the mere mention of conspiracy. Why the intransigence? Why not open minds? Why not say, "gosh, the fact theorists(I refuse to use the derogatory term) really raise some valid points. I respect their tenacity for the truth and how they cherish JFK's memory and legacy (You'll notice how here in America the presidency has been reduced to rubbish), but I just don't agree." No, lone nutters are dug in and have a preposterously naïve spin on every fact that truth hunters excavate. It is tiring and unproductive. I don't like negative people around me as I pursue a lifelong obsession. Plus, my time is so limited now. I guess what I am trying to say is if you want to comment...fine. As long as it's respectful. I may or may not engage, but you and I both know we are highly unlikely to change the other's mind.

Patrick Collins said...


I am unable to post. I work in IT - I think you need to check on your blog settings. I am meeting the character count and getting tired of clicking on anti robot image checks.....

Patrick Collins said...

Ref book

I know the feeling, I started mine over ten years ago and it is still nowhere near finished and I wonder if it ever will be. I just think it has been thrashed around so much that there is no new story to tell. Though I do have a somewhat original approach in trying to keep it all as neutral and balanced as possible and I do have a outstandingly capable editor who is an eminent US law professor. So lucky with that.

Yes, I am sure that is wise. If you have something new, you may be able to get some sales in the USA at least.

I often wonder if there are some photos and or films that never saw the light of day – not hidden, but simply left unprocessed in a draw or cupboard, up in a loft.

I don't want to be unkind, but lone nutters disinterest me. Then you mean you are ambivalent to them rather than not interested.

They are the most incurious people on the planet. Well some may well be, but I certainly don’t fit into that category. I have an open mind on the JFK case and in fact looked very hard for a conspiracy when I was writing my thesis on the case. In fact I erred on the side of conspiracy until around the mid 90s – after Oliver Stone’s movie JFK which I thought was a great piece of film making, but a fantasy.

A homicide detective once told me that those who believe in coincidences when investigating a murder case are doomed to get it wrong.

Yes and no, coincidences are a fact of live and do occur.

And in the JFK case there are a thousand and one coincidences lone nutters must overlook.

I totally disagree.

Ref VB and GP Yes point taken, neither are squeaky clean. I am not sure why so many pro LN supporters seem to think there was nothing to Oswald. I would think Oswald almost certainly had intel connections and George DM was little doubt a player in that game.

Examining a case with blinders on is now way to solve it.

Yes I agree, but I would say many pro conspiracy supporters are just wired up that way and have a different set of blinkers on.

I don’t really have any motive – I just want the truth – it would not change me one bit if it turns out there was a conspiracy. Though I think it would have been very difficult to cover up for all these years. But yes it is possible there was more to Oswald and I must say the Mexico City trip is quite fascinating as is the time in New Orleans.

They are so adamant and vehement that they get furious at the mere mention of conspiracy.

Not in my experience, I find most of the people I communicate with who think Oswald acted alone are pretty polite and balanced and say bring it on – I am open. On the contrary I find most of the pro C people I have debated with to be really offensive and insulting toward me personally. And by the way very one sided in terms of how they see the case.

My book takes each main area and makes a case For and Against conspiracy and then makes a call on each point.

Why the intransigence? Why not open minds? Why not say, "gosh, the fact theorists(I refuse to use the derogatory term) really raise some valid points.

Fair point, but you would find people like Mike Majerus and Prof Greg Gordon (ex of N.Dakota Uni) in the US and Barry Ryder here in the UK quite open minded, they just like me , conclude Oswald acted alone.

No, lone nutters are dug in and have a preposterously naïve spin on every fact that truth hunters excavate.

Not sure I would agree with the naïve bit at all. I don’t think either you should lump them all into the same bag either.

It is tiring and unproductive. I don't like negative people around me as I pursue a lifelong obsession.

Can’t argue with that – I just find the aggressive nature of many of the people who have a go at me on say Amazon to be pretty negative – works both ways!

I will honour that request Tim. Yes, by the way, I am sure neither would change the others mind. I am though open to what I call the more sensible theories. Not the Leroy Blevins 13 shot theory or the 5 shooters, Oswald was completely innocent theories…….