(PART 780)


You have not come up with a single point which undermines [Howard] Donahue's theory [in the book "Mortal Error"]. If you can undermine his work on the bullet trajectories then I will listen to you. In the meantime, if you are going to review books and put your reviews online you should at least have the integrity to represent the key points in those books accurately.


I never even read the book "MORTAL ERROR: THE SHOT THAT KILLED JFK".
I posted my "review" at Amazon.com [linked below] in order to merely point out how utterly stupid Donahue's bullshit is (just from the POV of someone who knows what the actual evidence is in the JFK case).

Amazon.com/DVP Review/"Mortal Error"

There's no need to read a book propounding such an obviously insane theory as the one concocted by Howard Donahue in Bonar Menninger's book. Just as it is totally unnecessary to read Brian David Andersen's book to know that it is filled with BS. (Andersen, btw, thinks that JFK faked his own death; per Kook Andersen, President Kennedy was wearing an exploding "pyrotechnics device" on his head on November 22 in Dealey Plaza. Obviously, anyone buying that book should be locked up in an asylum.)

JFK aide David Powers, all by himself, completely destroys Donahue's theory about Secret Service agent George Hickey accidentally firing the fatal shot. And all sensible people know this, of course.

The JFK case has caused ordinarily sensible people to go off the deep end and has caused them to start believing in all sorts of crazy theories. I see it every day on the Internet. It's hilarious. (Sad, but hilarious.)




As far as I know, CE567/569 were never tested for blood, fibers, or tissue.

And the argument about the head shot and the SBT bullets behaving differently (i.e., one of them was smashed and the other nearly pristine) meaning they couldn't both have been fired during the assassination is totally incorrect.

Tests were performed by Dr. Olivier for the Warren Commission and later by Dr. Lattimer in the 1970s, and those tests conclusively prove that a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet like CE399, after hitting a skull HEAD-ON without hitting something else first will fragment into pieces just like CE567/569. Lattimer's tests and the tests done at Edgewood Arsenal by Dr. Olivier prove this beyond all doubt.

Plus: In 1992, Dr. Martin Fackler did a test to simulate the condition of CE399, by firing a WCC/MC bullet through a human wrist at a reduced muzzle velocity from a MC gun (1100fps). Here is the bullet from that test after breaking a human wrist (it's in better shape than 399):




It's very simple to determine that. There's nothing else except JFK's head that could have possibly caused the fragmentation of 567 and 569.

More details about that can be found HERE.


Excerpts from Vincent Bugliosi's 2007 book "Reclaiming History", concerning the book "Mortal Error":

"The search for any assassin of President Kennedy other than Lee Harvey Oswald has been so intense and persistent that it has even trespassed beyond the margins of conventional irrationality into the allegation--are you ready for this one?--that Kennedy was killed accidentally by a Secret Service agent.


This approaches (but does not rival, since no one can rival) David Lifton's lunacy in theorizing that Kennedy's body was stolen before the autopsy and new bullet wounds were created to make it look like he was shot from behind.


Also, if one bought into Lifton's madcap theory, the reputations of many innocent people would be destroyed, whereas in the accidental assassination theory, no one's is.

In 'Mortal Error', author Bonar Menninger chronicles the odyssey of one Howard Donahue, a firearms expert who flew thirty-five combat missions over Europe in the Second World War and was one of eleven marksmen employed by CBS in 1967 to see if they could duplicate what Oswald did firing at a moving target.

Donahue not only matched Oswald, he beat Oswald, firing three shots with a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle within 5.2 seconds, all of which hit the bull's-eye. This triggered Donahue's interest in the assassination and ultimately led to an obsession in which he said he gave "twenty-five years of my life" to his search for the solution to Kennedy's murder.

Donahue clearly is no kook, and when one reads the first fifty or so pages of his book, one is impressed with the fastidiousness of his research and the commonsense inferences he draws therefrom. But then Donahue and Menninger (basically, his friendly biographer) ask the reader to swallow a story unfit for human consumption.

Donahue believes that three shots were fired in Dealey Plaza. However, Oswald only fired two, one that missed and the other that struck Kennedy and Connally. The third, the fatal shot to the head, was accidentally fired by George Hickey, a Secret Service agent seated in the left rear seat of the presidential follow-up car.

The weapon, he says, that killed Kennedy was an AR-15, an automatic rifle that is the civilian version of the M-16 rifle, the primary American infantry weapon used in Vietnam.

This is how Donahue (through Menninger) says Kennedy was shot: "Oswald fires again [the second and last shot from Oswald, Donahue believes]. So Hickey reaches down and grabs the AR-15 off the floor, flips off the safety and stands up on the seat, preparing to return fire. But his footing is precarious. The follow-up car [the one Hickey is in] hits the brakes or speeds up. Hickey begins to swing the gun around to draw a bead on Oswald, but he loses his balance. He begins to fall. And the barrel happens to be pointing towards Kennedy's head. And the gun happens to go off," hitting Kennedy in the head and killing him. In other words, per Donahue, "the gun accidentally discharged."

Even assuming for the sake of argument that the AR-15 was fired, Donahue's assumption that with the possibility of the shot ending up in thousands of other places in Dealey Plaza (or Hickey's own car or the air above), it just happened to hit Kennedy in the back of his head is more than hard to believe.

But to compound the problem, after a quarter of a century of research, Donahue is unable to come up with any evidence at all that the AR-15 was even fired that day. There were nine other people riding in or on the running boards of the presidential follow-up car, each of whom testified before the Warren Commission or gave a statement, and not one of them, including Agent Glen Bennett, who was seated within a foot or two of Hickey, said the AR-15 rifle or any other weapon was fired in the car around the time of the assassination.

How is it possible that none of them heard the rifle being fired right next to them if it had indeed been fired? As Kennedy aide Dave Powers, who was in Hickey's car, put it, "Someone a foot away from me or two feet away from me couldn't fire the gun without me hearing it."

And among the several hundred or so people in Dealey Plaza that day, not one said they saw or heard any weapon being fired inside the subject vehicle, or anywhere close to it. Indeed, Dealey Plaza witness Hugh Betzner Jr., in a November 14, 1967, letter to assassination researcher Richard E. Sprague, specifically said that he saw the rifle in Hickey's hands and "it was not fired."


The only reference to Hickey having fired the gun was really no reference at all. When Secret Service agent Winston G. Lawson, riding in the lead car (directly in front of the presidential limousine), heard three shots coming from his rear, he turned around and saw Hickey standing up with the AR-15 in his hand. He testified, "The first thing that flashed through my mind...was that he had fired because this was the only weapon I had seen up to that time" (4 H 352-353).

[End Footnote.]

In Hickey's own November 30, 1963, Secret Service report, he said he heard three shots that day. "At the end of the last report I reached to the bottom of the car and picked up the AR-15 rifle, cocked and loaded it, and turned to the rear. At this point the cars were passing under the overpass and as a result we had left the scene of the shooting. I kept the AR-15 rifle ready as we proceeded at a high rate of speed to the hospital."

To support his contention that the reason Hickey's rifle accidentally went off was that he lost his balance and while falling backward the rifle fired accidentally, Donahue relies exclusively on Dealey Plaza witness S.M. Holland, who told Richard Warren Lewis and Lawrence Schiller in 1967, "I actually thought when they started up, he [Hickey] was shot, too, because he fell backwards...It jerked him down when they started off."

But neither Hickey nor Bennett nor anyone else said that Hickey lost his balance and fell backward. Only Holland said this. And Holland's questionable perceptive abilities have been discussed earlier in this book ["Reclaiming History"].

Donahue's other-world conclusion is a textbook example of the fact that if you start out with an erroneous premise, the conclusion based thereon may be logical, but it's wrong. A few, among several, illustrations: Donahue said that since Oswald was located to Kennedy's right rear, a bullet "coming in at a 6% angle from right to left...should have exited through the president's face...yet the actual exit wound was in the upper right portion of the skull"--in other words, too far to the right. Hence, the only geometric sense for such an exit wound would be if the bullet were fired from where Hickey was, slightly to the president's left rear.

But that's because Donahue, a firearms expert but not a photographic one, asserted that at the time of impact, Kennedy 's head was tilted 15 degrees to the left. The reality, however, per the HSCA photographic panel of experts, was that Kennedy's head was tilted 25 degrees, not 15 degrees to the left, at the time he was struck in the head. With that orientation of the head, the trajectory that the HSCA (and Warren Commission) concluded the fatal bullet took now makes perfect sense.

Donahue also finds it incomprehensible that both the back bullet and the head bullet were fired from Oswald's Carcano rifle, because if that were the case the two bullets would not "have behaved so differently"--the back bullet having relatively little damage to it but the head bullet fragmenting into many pieces.

Of course, as discussed elsewhere in this book, the back bullet passed through soft tissue in Kennedy's body and then, after having slowed down, only struck a glancing blow to Connally's right fifth rib and then struck the small wrist bone, whereas the head bullet, striking Kennedy's skull head-on, could be expected to fragment the way it did.

Donahue also questions how a 6.5-millimeter bullet (Carcano round) could create a 6-millimeter hole in the back of Kennedy's head. (The AR-15 round, Donahue points out, is 5.6 millimeters in diameter.) But very frequently the measured wound is slightly smaller than the caliber of the missile that created it because of the subsequent recoil of the tissues of the skin.

We know from the firearms examinations conducted by the Warren Commission and HSCA firearms experts, and the neutron activation test conducted by the HSCA, that all the Winchester Western bullets and bullet fragments in this case matched up with each other. No fragment from any other bullet (the AR-15 bullet is manufactured by Remington Arms, not Winchester Western) was ever found. And the stretcher bullet and two large fragments (Commission Exhibit Nos. 567 and 569) found in the presidential limousine were determined to have been fired from Oswald's Carcano rifle to the exclusion of all other weapons.

For Donahue' s theory to work, in addition to all of the above problems with it, Oswald would have had to fire (as Donahue contends) only two bullets. But we know that three expended shell casings were found beneath the sixth-floor sniper's nest window where Oswald was.

One of the three cartridge shells found on the floor beneath the sixth-floor window, Commission Exhibit No. 543, had a dent on the mouth of it. Donahue says that "the dent in the empty shell found in the depository...would have precluded a third shot from that location."

Donahue's source? Josiah Thompson, a professor of philosophy, not a firearms expert, who says in his book, 'Six Seconds in Dallas', that because of the dent, the cartridge case "could not have been fired in any rifle--its lip will not receive a projectile." Thompson goes on to speculate that the dent occurred before November 22, and therefore the cartridge was not fired that day.

One possibility he failed to consider was what obviously happened. The dent occurred on November 22 when the cartridge shell was being ejected from the Carcano. Not only firearms experts from the Warren Commission, but those from the HSCA concluded that Commission Exhibit No. 543 was fired in and ejected from Oswald's rifle. When asked if the dent could have occurred "during the loading process" of the cartridge into the breach of the Carcano, Donald Champagne, one of the HSCA's five firearms experts, testified, "No sir."

Question: "Could it have occurred during the ejection process?"

Answer: "Yes."

Champagne went on to say that Monty Lutz of the firearms panel (my firearms expert in London [during the 1986 television docu-trial, "On Trial: Lee Harvey Oswald"] who was a past president of the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners) test-fired four cartridges from the Carcano, one of which had a "similar deformation of the mouth of the cartridge case."

Question: "Are you saying then when your panel test-fired CE-139, out of four fired cartridges, one was ejected with a dented mouth?"

Answer: "Yes sir, that occurred during the ejection process in firing the weapon."

Dedicated and sincerely convinced he was correct, Donahue attempted to interview Secret Service agent Hickey himself, but Hickey did not respond. I imagine his position was that Donahue's claim was so absurd it wasn't worth responding to.

Donahue also made every effort to testify before the HSCA, even enlisting the support of his congressional representative in the Baltimore area, where he lived. Donahue was interviewed by HSCA investigators but that's as far as it got, the HSCA refusing to allow him to testify and clutter up the official record with such sublime silliness.

Though Hickey did not respond to Donahue, some other Secret Service agents did not remain mute. For example, when he called Agent Winston Lawson, Lawson said, "That's about the biggest bunch of bull[shit] I have ever heard in my life. That's absolutely ridiculous. That's all I've got to say. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

Agent Richard Johnson [sic] said, "That's way out. My God, that's way out. That's too far out to even think about."

Donahue was led so far astray by his obsession that Menninger writes, "The more he [Donahue] thought about it, the more he was inclined to believe the government had probably made the right decision in keeping the truth from the American public in 1963...There could have been no way of knowing how the American people would have reacted to news that Kennedy had been killed accidentally."

In other words, even before the Warren Commission, the U.S. government knew Hickey had killed Kennedy and suppressed this fact from the American people. My, my.

The back cover of 'Mortal Error' reads, "On November 22, 1963, two men shot the President of the United States. They had never met or heard of each other. They did not work for the same people. They knew nothing of each other's existence. One of them meant to kill the President. The other actually did...The Warren Commission was wrong. The conspiracy theories about the CIA and the Mafia are wrong. 'JFK', the movie, is wrong. Here is the hard evidence pointing to the bullet, the gun and the man who killed John Kennedy. And the real reason behind the cover-up."

Fortunately, 'Mortal Error' has not been mortal in its impact. Other than Howard Donahue and his biographer Bonar Menninger, I know of no serious student of the assassination who takes the book or its contents seriously."

-- Vincent Bugliosi; Pages 925-929 of "Reclaiming History: The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy" (c.2007)


David Von Pein
December 2, 2009
December 3, 2009