Review of “We Were There: Revelations of the Dallas Doctors Who Attended to JFK on November 22, 1963” by Allen ChildsBe the first to comment
Dr. Childs’s book is a collection of reminiscences of his classmates at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and other physicians who played a role in the treatment of President Kennedy and Governor Connally. Many of his classmates served in some capacity at Parkland Hospital in 1963.
The short excerpts in this book come from personal correspondence, oral histories taken by the Sixth Floor Museum, testimony before the Warren Commission, and various articles or statements made by the doctors since 1963. The author does not present these materials in support of any overreaching assessment (or conclusion) regarding the source or nature of the shots that killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally. However, Dr. Childs on several occasions endorses statements or offers opinions which are factually incorrect and too important to be ignored.
- 1. Statement by Dr. Ronald Jones: The author refers to this statement in his Introduction (p. xiii) as follows:
“Late in this project, I came upon a startling revelation in Dr. Ron Jones’s oral history. After taking his Warren Commission deposition at Parkland, chief counsel Arlen Specter told Jones, “We have people who would testify that they saw somebody shoot the president from the front. But we don’t want to interview them, and I don’t want you saying anything about that, either.”
Later in the books, before quoting from Dr. Jones, the author (p. 156) states” What follows is the most remarkable revelation that I came upon in researching this book. It appears that readily accessible accounts of the shooting were being ignored.” The detailed quote from Dr. Jones is set forth at page 156-57:
“Now, Arlen Specter talked to me after the deposition outside the room in Parkland Hospital in the administrator’s office, and he said . . . that was a fairly intense query that he did with me, and . . . but afterwards, he said in the hall—and this is in March of 1964—he said, ‘We have people who would testify that they saw somebody shoot the president from the front.’ From either . . . off the bridge, as I recall. I think there was a rail bridge in front of that street. ‘But we don’t want to interview them, and I don’t want you saying anything about that either. But we do have those people.’ And so, for years, I didn’t say anything about that, and in retrospect, I think now it’s pretty well known that there are people [smiling] who would testify to almost anything or that they saw this or saw that.
This statement by Dr. Jones is simply untrue. As Jones admits, he never said anything along these lines before he began providing his oral history to the Sixth Floor Museum – a process that began in 1997, and was supplemented by additional memories in 2005, 2012, and 2013.
Before endorsing and publicizing a statement that the Warren Commission ignored relevant evidence, Dr. Childs should have given former US Senator Arlen Specter the opportunity to respond to this accusation before he died early this year. This is how Arlen would have replied.
First, the Warren Commission did not ignore people who believed that they saw someone shoot the president from the front of the limousine or heard shots from the grassy knoll. The commission reviewed FBI or Secret Service interview reports of several such witnesses and took the testimony of some of them.
Second, Specter was an experienced and discreet prosecutor and would never make a statement about the commission’s investigation or strategy to a third party such as Dr. Jones, especially a statement that would impeach his own investigation.
Third, Specter gave Dr. Jones the opportunity during his testimony on March 24, 1964 to offer his own view that the president was shot from the front.
Dr. Jones was deposed by Specter on March 24, 1964, took the oath, and testified about his actions and observations when he was a resident surgeon attended JFK. At page 56, Dr. Jones was asked by Specter whether he had “any speculative thought as to accounting for the point of wounds which you observed on the President, as you thought about it when you were treating the President that day, or shortly thereafter?” Dr. Jones, who had confirmed that the doctors had never examined the president’s back, answered as follows:
“With no history as to the number of times that the President had been shot or knowing the direction from which he had been shot, and seeing the wound in the midline of the neck, and what appeared to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull, the only speculation that I could have as far as to how this could occur with a single wound would be that it would enter the anterior neck and possibly strike a vertebral body and then change its course and exit in the region of the posterior portion of the head. However, this was – there was some doubt that a missile that appeared to be of this high velocity would suddenly change its course of striking, but that the present – at that time, if I accounted for it on the basis of one shot, that would have been the way that I accounted for it.”
- 2. The Warren Commission Ignored Critical Evidence: Dr. Childs (p. 147) quotes from a book written by a commission critic to the effect that a deaf-mute named Ed Hoffman saw the motorcade from the Overpass with a clear view of the grassy knoll and observed a gunman firing a rifle from behind the white fence. Childs writes that “the police never focused on what he [the deaf-mute] had to say.” What Childs neglects to say is that this particular witness did not come forward with this statement until 1967 – three years after the investigation; he changed his statement when it became clear that he could not have observed what he said he did from the location where he first stated he was; he came forward a decade later in the 1970s with a different version of what he saw; and came forward with yet a different story in the 1980s. Mr. Hoffman’s family told investigators that this unfortunate individual had a long history of making stories up. (Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, 873-85)
- 3. The Commission Ignored Nitrates Evidence: The author (at p. 147) quotes from another book written by a commission critic to the effect that the commission ignored the results of a paraffin test showing no nitrates on Oswald’s cheeks which Childs characterizes as “a near impossibility if Oswald had recently fired a rifle.” He claims that “the negative findings on his face hang unexplained in the corridors of time.” It clear that Childs did not look in the right corridors, because the Warren Commission and all other responsible investigators of the assassination agree that the paraffin test does not produce reliable results – in short, the presence of nitrates does not prove that the person used a weapon and the absence of such nitrates does not prove that a person did not use a weapon. (Warren Commission, 560-61, Bugliosi, 164-65)
There are other examples in this book of what I believe to be the author’s naivety. He rejects, for example, the unanimous testimony of 16 experienced pathologists that the bullet that killed the president came from behind and above the motorcade, saying that they did had not examined the body of the president. These pathologists in 1968, 1975, and 1978 based their findings on a careful examination of the autopsy x-rays and photos. The Parkland doctors, who were properly consumed with the effort to save the president’s life, did not have the opportunity to examine the body of the president or have access to these subsequently developed autopsy materials.
Dr. Childs should not have been so cavalier in dealing with this very controversial subject. He has become an unwitting member of the conspiracy cohort and, in so doing, impeaches his integrity and diminishes the contribution of his book.
Howard P. Willens, Author of History Will Prove Us Right