Here are some of my random thoughts about the National Geographic documentary "JFK: The Lost Bullet", produced by Robert Stone (director of "Oswald's Ghost" in 2007):
1.) Assassination researcher Max Holland attempted to bolster his "11 seconds" shooting timeline with an interesting discovery: A possible bullet hole in a portion of the metal traffic-light frame which hung above Elm Street on 11/22/63 when President Kennedy was assassinated. A "white spot" on the traffic light can be clearly seen in a Secret Service re-enactment film from November 27, 1963, just five days after the assassination (see photo below).
Now, whether that white spot seen on the traffic light was caused by a bullet fired from Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle, no one can say for sure (not even Max Holland). But it is an intriguing discovery nonetheless. Or is it?.....
There's an angle of the "possible traffic-light defect discovery" that has me scratching my head:
It turns out that in a written report called "The DeRonja-Holland Report: Technical Investigation Pertaining To The First Shot Fired In The Kennedy Assassination", which is a report that appeared online at the "Washington Decoded" website on November 20, 2011 (the same day the "Lost Bullet" program first aired on television), Max Holland had essentially eliminated the white spot on the traffic light as being a possible bullet hole way back in June of 2011 (see photo below). But Mr. Holland then went ahead and said it possibly WAS a bullet hole on the "Lost Bullet" special anyhow. That's a strange situation.
It seems rather disingenuous and dishonest on the part of producer Robert Stone and the other people connected with the production of the "Lost Bullet" program to allow Mr. Holland's comments (regardless of when they were put on film) about a possible bullet defect in the traffic light to be aired in the special on 11/20/2011.
I suppose it's possible that the NatGeo producers just couldn't bear to edit out the one thing that was, by far, the biggest "new" revelation (or "bombshell", if you prefer that word) that came out of the one-hour "Lost Bullet" documentary. So, they just let the viewers think that the "defect" (white spot) that we see in the traffic light could possibly have been caused by a bullet from Lee Harvey Oswald's gun.
But if that last statement I just made is correct, then if I were Max Holland, I'd be boiling mad and fit to be tied. Because the net result of the "Lost Bullet" program (as it aired on November 20th, 2011), plus factoring in the information produced in the "DeRonja-Holland Report" (which clearly has Mr. Holland's name on it as a co-author) is this:
A.) There's almost no way in the world that the "white spot" that we see on that traffic light (in the 11/27/63 Secret Service film) is the result of a bullet.
B.) Max Holland, five months before the "Lost Bullet" special aired, knew full well that Point A above is true.
C.) The National Geographic Channel went ahead and aired Holland's opinion anyway that the white spot could still be a bullet defect in the traffic light.
Any way you slice it, there's a bad odor coming from this whole "traffic light" situation, in my opinion.
Perhaps, however, there's something about this whole thing that I'm missing. But based on the NatGeo special (as it aired), in conjunction with the Technical Report with Mr. Holland's name on it, I'm not quite sure what that missing "something" might be.
Perhaps Max Holland still thinks that the white spot on the traffic light IS, indeed, a bullet defect--even AFTER he saw for himself, in June 2011, the same type of traffic light which has a "gap" in its metal structure to account for what looks like a hole or defect. I just don't know.
2.) Via laser beam technology, the "Lost Bullet" researchers re-staged the
Single-Bullet Theory. The laser-beam "shooter" wasn't on the sixth floor of the Book Depository exactly (because the sixth-floor corner window has been closed off for years), but instead was perched outside the sniper's window on a crane or cherry-picker device that hoisted him six floors above Elm Street. His "shot" lined up (generally) with the SBT shot.
It would have been nice, however, to see some more details of this "SBT" part of the program, which was very brief, and only showed the "victims" (the stand-ins for JFK and Connally) in tight close-ups, and I really couldn't tell if the men were lined up correctly in the car; and I couldn't really tell whether they had Connally turned far enough to his right. And there was no indication of where the "laser shot" would have exited on JFK's body. So this segment, while okay, could have been better, IMO.
3.) Some assassination figures who haven't been seen in decades turned up for the "Lost Bullet" filming in Dealey Plaza, including 63-year-old Amos Euins, who was a key witness on 11/22/63, as he actually got a look at the gunman on the sixth floor of the Depository, and he saw the rifle in the window, which Euins said resembled a "pipe" to him. It's good to see Amos again. And, boy, he looks great at age 63 too. I'd swear he was in his 40s or early 50s.
But there's something strange going on with Mr. Euins' comments in "The Lost Bullet", too. Euins told the Warren Commission in 1964 that he heard "four [shots], to be exact" (at 2 H 204). But it would seem that now, in 2011, Euins has switched to being a "3 Shots" witness. Strange indeed. So, take much of this program's content with a large grain of salt by your side.
Former Secret Service agent John J. Howlett and Dealey Plaza witnesses Tina Towner and James Tague also made appearances. And Max Holland & Company definitely want America to believe that Tague was wounded by Oswald's FIRST shot, although Tague (at least prior to 2011) always maintained he wasn't stung in the face by the first bullet. He always said it was a later shot that struck him.
Wound ballistics investigator and author Larry M. Sturdivan also appeared in the program. Sturdivan wrote one of my favorite books on the John F. Kennedy assassination, "The JFK Myths", which came out in 2005.
4.) A detailed digital restoration of several of the assassination films was done for the program, including the films taken by Abraham Zapruder, Robert Hughes, Orville Nix, Tina Towner, Mark Bell, and Elsie Dorman.
And while the restoration of the films was nice to see (albeit in very choppy, interrupted segments--a few seconds here, then a few seconds there), I can't really see where it actually aided Mr. Holland's cause in coming to his unique conclusion that Oswald's first (missed) shot struck the traffic light PRIOR to Zapruder frame 133 (i.e., prior to the time when Zapruder resumed filming the motorcade after briefly stopping his camera).
In fact, the film that helped Holland by far the most wasn't an "assassination" film at all. It was, instead, the previously-mentioned film taken by the U.S. Secret Service on November 27, 1963, during a filmed reconstruction of the shooting in Dealey Plaza (the film which shows the white spot on the traffic light structure at the corner of Elm and Houston Streets).
5.) A pretty large mistake was made by the narrator near the start of the 1-hour "Lost Bullet" show (or it could have been an outright lie), when he said that both lone-assassin believers and conspiracists alike agree on the fact that just TWO bullets struck President Kennedy and just ONE bullet struck Governor Connally.
I don't know where the "Lost Bullet" script writers got their information, but as most students of the assassination know, there are many conspiracy theorists who believe that JFK was struck by more than just two bullets on November 22, 1963.
In fact, from my online experience, the vast majority of conspiracy theorists who participate regularly in Internet discussions firmly believe that a MINIMUM of three shots struck JFK's body; and many of those conspiracists also think Governor Connally was hit at least twice. (And if you happen to be in league with Professor James H. Fetzer, then you believe that a total of SEVEN bullets struck the two victims -- 4 bullets hit Kennedy and 3 hit Connally -- which is, of course, an absolutely absurd scenario.)
6.) The "Lost Bullet" producers tried to pass off an audio clip of NBC's Tom Pettit describing the shooting of Oswald as actually being a description of the frenzied scene in Dealey Plaza after JFK was shot. An interesting piece of deception there. No big deal, of course. But it certainly wasn't accurate.
Overall, I think "JFK: The Lost Bullet" was just a "so-so" documentary. In fact, it was probably even a little worse than "so-so" as far as these kind of JFK specials are concerned (even though I agree with Max Holland's "lone gunman" conclusion).
The restored film clips were nice to see, especially the Dorman and Towner films, which looked really crisp and sharp. But it didn't look to me like the Zapruder Film was any clearer or sharper than the 1998 MPI restored digital copy that I own, or the stabilized version that can be seen here.
And the laser-beam test that was done from the approximate (but not exact) position of where Lee Harvey Oswald was firing from was also fairly good, but, as mentioned, I would have liked to see some more details of that laser test, particularly from a variety of camera angles, in order to confirm the correct alignment of the two victims (especially an overhead angle, which WAS an angle that was used during another part of the documentary, but was not used during the "laser beam" segment).
I can hear the conspiracy theorists' complaints about that SBT laser test now -- "They didn't have the angles right at all!" -- "The wounds are in the wrong places altogether!" -- "They didn't fire any REAL bullets into the stand-ins for Kennedy and Connally!" -- "They didn't even go INTO the building to do the test! They were perched on a crane OUTSIDE the sixth floor! So this test is worthless!" -- Etc., etc.
Max Holland's "11 seconds" and "Traffic Light" theories could possibly be accurate. Nobody can know with 100% certainty, of course. And since Max is attempting to fill in a gap concerning the shot that MISSED the limousine's occupants, it becomes a very difficult (if not impossible) task to really "prove" anything beyond all reasonable doubt regarding the timing of Oswald's first shot and what happened to that bullet after it left LHO's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.
Holland didn't address the problem that his theory has with respect to one very important timing issue -- that being: John Connally's "timing" of that first shot.
Like Mr. Holland, I too believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of President John Kennedy, but "JFK: The Lost Bullet" doesn't really bring anything new or extraordinary to the table that wasn't already known prior to 2011. Nor does this program really do very much to reinforce the idea that Oswald was the lone killer of America's 35th President. And some portions of "The Lost Bullet" seem to me to be just downright deceptive.
David Von Pein
As a side note to Max Holland's analysis concerning the possibility of Lee Harvey Oswald's first (missed) shot striking a portion of the traffic light structure at the corner of Elm and Houston Streets in Dealey Plaza on 11/22/63, it's rather interesting to take note of the fact that the Warren Commission itself, way back in 1964, was essentially acknowledging that a theory like Holland's could conceivably have some merit when the Commission said this on Page #117 of its 888-page final report:
"Even if it were caused by a bullet fragment, the mark on the south curb of Main Street cannot be identified conclusively with any of the three shots fired. Under the circumstances it might have come from the bullet which hit the President’s head, or it might have been a product of the fragmentation of the missed shot upon hitting some other object in the area." -- Warren Report; Page 117
David Von Pein
December 13, 2015