How about [Gerald] Posner's bullet which hits a tree branch which strips off the jacket entirely allowing the lead core to go on to hit the curb near [James] Tague?


That's what I certainly believe happened--although, admittedly, it's just a guess...but I think it's by far the best guess, and it's a guess that solves two problems.

One, if the bullet hit the tree and separated the jacket from the lead core....the lead can go on out to hit Main St. and then James Tague; hence, no copper tracing on the curb. Perfectly reasonable, IMO.

Two, with the bullet now split into two parts, the copper jacket can strike Elm St., resulting in the "sparks" that some witnesses said they saw near JFK's limo. While the other portion of the bullet can separately go on out to meet Mr. Tague without having to perform any hopping, skipping, or jumping from one curbstone to yet another.

I completely disagree with Vince Bugliosi's explanation concerning the first-shot miss and the Tague wounding...which, btw, Vince only briefly mentions in his book ["Reclaiming History"]. He gives the whole matter two short paragraphs in the main text of his book, on pages 471 and 472.

Plus, Vince talks briefly about the matter again on pages 311, 315, and 316 of the endnotes on the CD-ROM disc that comes with the book. In the endnote on page 311, Bugliosi says this:

"With respect to the bullet or bullet fragment that struck the concrete skirt surrounding the sewer cover and ricocheted through the nearby turf, continued on to the south curb of Main Street, and ricocheted again, causing minor wounds to Tague’s cheek, from the Book Depository Building the sewer cover is not on line with the mark on the curb on Main Street (CD 1518, p.46). None of this is evidence of a fourth bullet, only evidence of what may have happened to Oswald’s first missed shot or to a fragment of the bullet that struck the president in the head." -- Vincent Bugliosi; Page 311 of Endnotes in "Reclaiming History"

Based on everything Vince Bugliosi has written in "Reclaiming History", Vince's best guess seems to be that Oswald's first (missed) shot hit the Elm Street pavement on the fly (without being deflected by the oak tree in front of the Book Depository), and then the same bullet, or a portion thereof, somehow found its way (at grass level all the way?) over to Main Street to hit the curb there and cause Tague's cheek injury.

I, myself, find that scenario hard to swallow, although I cannot disprove it, of course; nor can anyone else. Since we're talking about a bullet that missed the limo occupants completely and was never recovered, all we can do is guess. But I find Posner's "guess" to be the best that it can explain multiple questions surrounding the shooting -- e.g., the sparks on the Elm pavement and the non-copper tracings on the Main curb and Tague's wounding.

I respect Vince Bugliosi's opinion re: the first shot at Z160...I just don't agree with his complete scenario of the path that bullet followed. (At least we agree about one thing about the first shot though -- when it was fired by Oswald -- Z160. I agree with VB on that 100%.)

As a footnote to the above discussion about the Tague wounding -- I must also point out that Mr. Bugliosi does mention in a footnote on page 315 of the endnotes in "Reclaiming History" that Gerald Posner's tree-branch deflection theory "is possible".

MAY 2015 EDIT --- But there are, indeed, additional possibilities when it comes to the topic of "The Missed Shot", such as THIS very intriguing theory that is based on scientific tests and analysis performed by Luke and Michael Haag in 2013. From the Haag tests, it seems quite possible that Oswald's first bullet could have missed everything in Dealey Plaza and completely disintegrated after impacting the asphalt of Elm Street.




Which is also why he [Lee Harvey Oswald] would not have shot before the limo went under the oak tree. He would have to point the rifle down and track across his field of view, which is the most difficult kind of shot.


Which is probably why he missed with shot #1. He either rushed the shot or some other forever-unknown variable influenced Oswald's aim. It's a guessing/parlor game, of course. I've admitted that. Nobody can know these things for sure.

Vincent Bugliosi believes that Oswald just couldn't resist the sight of JFK's head looming large just beneath the sixth-floor window, so LHO abandoned (temporarily) the use of the pre-arranged west/southwest rifle-rest boxes and aimed almost straight down at JFK, and missed.

Bugliosi says on page 471 of "Reclaiming History" -- "Apparently Oswald couldn't resist a target so temptingly close."

With the rifle being a little more unstable for this first shot (since Oswald couldn't use the rifle-rest boxes at that point), Bugliosi postulates that this "unstable" nature of the weapon was a possible contributing factor in Oswald's first shot being a miss, with the shot missing the oak tree and hitting Elm St. on the fly, then ricocheting over to Main Street (per Vince B.).

I, however, will stick with the scenario of the bullet striking the oak tree first; because the very same bullet bouncing off of TWO curbs just doesn't quite add up, IMO.

There's also a slight timing problem with VB's "temptingly close" theory too. Because Vince believes, as do I, that the first shot came at approximately Z160 on the Zapruder Film.

But Z160 doesn't put the car right AT the corner (with the corner itself being the point where the car would be pretty close to being directly below Oswald's perch, as illustrated below via these photos taken from Commission Exhibit 875):

But Z160 has the limousine at a point on Elm that is well PAST the actual Elm/Houston corner.

The ultimate "I Just Can't Resist Shooting At JFK Now" time would have been when JFK was right AT the corner of Elm and Houston, which, of course, would have been a few seconds before Abe Zapruder even started filming.

Another random thought (as this guessing game continues):

Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, per the FBI's firearms expert Robert Frazier, fired bullets high and to the right when using the 4-power scope. [See Frazier's Warren Commission testimony, at 3 H 404-405.]

If this was also the case when Oswald was shooting at JFK on November 22, and Oswald for some reason forgot this quirk about his scope when he squeezed off his first shot that day (if he used the scope at all, which is also debatable, of course), that could be at least a partial explanation as to why his first shot missed and struck the nearby tree, a tree that would have been to Oswald's RIGHT if he was aiming a little to the tree's LEFT through the scope just as JFK's car was nearing it from LHO's point-of-view (as illustrated in CE888 and CE875, shown below).




Bottom Line (re: the "missed" shot):

Nobody can know for certain what happened to that bullet. And nobody can know for certain whether the "oak tree" theory is accurate or not.

But, given the overall evidence (which certainly indicates that three shots and only three shots were fired during the assassination, with all three of those shots coming from Oswald's Sniper's Nest in the TSBD and from Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, with two of those three bullets striking the victims in the limousine), I think the best guess re: the one missed shot is that that bullet did, indeed, hit the oak tree (which is a tree that was located to the RIGHT of Oswald at the time he fired that shot at approx. Z160, which fits in pretty well with a misaligned scope that might very well have been aiming "HIGH AND TO THE RIGHT" during the shooting, although that's another thing we'll never know for sure; it's quite possible that the scope became misaligned when Oswald dropped the gun amongst the boxes after the assassination).

From Gerald Posner's book:

"Art Pence, a competition firearms expert, told [Gerald Posner], "If a 6.5mm bullet struck a hard tree branch, it could tear itself apart by its own rotational speed. It would then fragment, with maybe the largest fragment, the tip, being up to one-third of the bullet, flying off. And if the tree was oak--[it was]--it has tremendous compressive strength, and the wood could easily suffer less damage than the bullet that hit it."" -- Page 325 of "Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald And The Assassination Of JFK" (Via an interview author Gerald Posner had with Art Pence on February 21, 1992)

Posner also adds this:

"When Dr. John Lattimer performed shooting experiments with the same 6.5mm ammunition as that used by Oswald, he discovered that the lead core "often" separated from the jacket." -- Gerald Posner; Page 325 of "Case Closed" (footnote)

In addition:

We also have the proof in this very case (the JFK assassination) that the lead core and a sizable portion of the copper jacket of a Western Cartridge Company/Mannlicher-Carcano bullet can, in fact, separate after hitting a hard object, because that very thing did occur in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963, with the proof coming in the form of the two large bullet fragments that were found in the front seat of the Presidential limousine (CE567 and CE569).

One of those two fragments didn't contain any lead at all (CE569), and thus was not utilized for testing purposes by Dr. Vincent Guinn when he performed his NAA tests for the HSCA.

So, portions of the copper jacket and lead core of Oswald's bullets CAN, indeed, separate from each other after striking a hard object.




I mean the entire prosecution of the lone gunman in this book [Case Closed] depends on a bullet shedding its core from a tree branch, continuing on its path and mysteriously hitting the curb and wounding Mr. Tague.


I don't think that is a fair assessment of the "entire prosecution of the lone gunman" case as laid out by Gerald Posner in "Case Closed".

Yes, Posner thinks the bullet hit the oak tree and then the lead core separated from the copper jacket. I think that's probably the correct scenario to account for Tague's minor injury too. And such a scenario is certainly physically possible, as proven by some of Dr. John Lattimer's experiments, in which he fired Carcano bullets into tree limbs, with the copper jacket "often" separating from the lead core [see "Case Closed", page 325, footnote].

It might seem quite strange to some people that the exact same type of Mannlicher-Carcano FMJ bullet could split in two after striking an oak tree branch, and yet remain totally intact and undamaged after penetrating several feet of a pine tree (which has been proven in demonstrations). But, under certain conditions and circumstances, apparently both of those things can and will happen to a Carcano bullet.

But since we're talking about the MISSED shot that struck no limo victims, we are, after all, really only talking about GUESSWORK when it comes to what happened to that bullet. And Mr. Posner certainly understands it's guesswork too.

Yes, he seems pretty sure in his own mind that Oswald's first shot struck the oak tree and deflected to the Main Street curb. But that doesn't necessarily mean that an alternate scenario couldn't also be correct. Such as the theory that has a fragment from the head shot doing the damage to the curb and Tague. And I doubt that Posner himself is so stubborn that he has totally dismissed at least the possibility of that latter "head shot" scenario being true.

David Von Pein
November 2, 2007
July 23, 2010
December 18, 2013