Chapter 8, Part 1:
Assassination in the Fourth Dimension

Between the Signal and the Noise
by Roger Feinman

(Wherein Lifton suddenly recovers from his selective amnesia to revise an alleged self–revelation in Best Evidence [“And then I thought, and then I knew, and then I had an insight, and then it hit me, but I couldn’t be sure, so I thought about it some more, but my head began to hurt, and then I couldn’t remember when I thought about it the first time, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum.”])

A subtle thread that runs throughout Best Evidence is its author’s consideration of theories which he ultimately rejects. Usually, these theories are presented as Mr. Lifton’s original thoughts. In any event, it is generally not made clear to his readers whether he is jettisoning his own ideas, or ideas that he picked up from other researchers. I have devoted this chapter to a specific case study of Mr. Lifton’s method.

One of the very few correct statements that Mr. Lifton makes in his Compuserve essays pertains to our discussions in the late Seventies: “Feinman’s focus was on Dr. Burkley, and his posture at the autopsy.” Lifton says about him:

[B]oth at the autopsy and in the report he wrote the next day, Burkley apparently treated that hole on the body (i.e., the wound at the front of the throat) as nothing more than a tracheotomy [sic]. (Note: In Best Evidence, I explain this in terms of Burkley’s honestly not knowing about the throat wound, because he arrived several minutes late in the Emergency room and the wound was hidden by the trach tube. See Chapter 14, “The ‘Low’ Back wound question …”, p. 375 in hardcover. [Sic])

Because Dr. Burkley supposedly possessed this knowledge, yet hid it from the autopsy doctors, in my conversations with Feinman, I (or he, I don’t remember who) dubbed this the “I’ve–got–a–secret” hypothesis.

It was Feinman, and it was then a working hypothesis. For reasons that I explained at the Midwest Symposium, I now regard it as a virtual certainty. Mr. Lifton discussed his understanding of the “I’ve–got–a–secret” hypothesis in Best Evidence as though it were another idea that had simply popped into his head — an original conception — without ever mentioning my name. In the process, he exaggerated the hypothesis far beyond what I was prepared at the time to state publicly. I raise that point so readers may judge his protestations that he wanted to credit me for the Perry transcript, and that he would have credited me with any other research that I might agree to give him.

Here is how Mr. Lifton’s book dealt with the hypothesis:

If to avoid altering the body, the doctors were recruited into a plot, then, to deceive the bystander witnesses, the doctors would also have to sham the autopsy — for example, bend over a body which showed frontal entry and pretend not to see what was really there. Indeed, they would have to make false oral statements, at least for the benefit of the FBI, as they performed the examination.

If the body was unaltered, and the autopsy doctors both shammed the examination and then falsified their report, still another problem would remain: the X–rays and photographs.

In any homicide investigation, the autopsy X–rays and photographs are an integral part of the autopsy protocol. In this case, Chief Justice Earl Warren declined to make them a part of the Warren Commission’s evidence, but that was purely his option. He could have decided otherwise. Indeed, one reason the Warren Commission attorneys said they felt confident the autopsy doctors could not have lied was that they could not have known whether the Commission would ultimately demand to see that evidence.

It was easy to say such evidence could be faked, but in practice the technical problems were anything but trivial. X–rays of the head might be tested for authenticity through dental identification, and photographs of the head wounds would have to be convincingly faked from several angles — a near impossibility.

From a technical standpoint alone, it made no sense to attempt such a feat — in effect, to leave the most important evidence, the body, unaltered, buried in a cemetery, where an exhumation would readily reveal the lie — when to avoid these problems it was only necessary to recognize that the body was evidence and make plans to alter it prior to autopsy.

(BE, p. 458)

Maybe not, if they didn’t know of the throat wound until later during the autopsy, or believed the wounds were unrelated.

What is even more irritating, however, is Mr. Lifton’s invention of facts and post hoc revision of his book. First, there is not a scintilla of evidence to support Mr. Lifton’s current assertion that, at the autopsy, “Burkley apparently treated that hole on the body … as nothing more than a tracheotomy,” and so far as we know, Dr. Burkley did not write a report the next day. If Lifton is aware of such a report, let him produce it. Second, but far more crucial, Mr. Lifton did not write in Best Evidence that Dr. Burkley arrived “several minutes late in the Emergency room.” He asserted that Burkley arrived at 12:53 p.m., some 15–20 minutes after the President’s arrival, and too late to observe the throat wound.

Dr George Burkley and JFK at Parkland Hospital

Dr. George G. Burkley, the President’s official White House physician and a Navy Admiral, was doubly distinguished as the one medical doctor who was with John F. Kennedy throughout the day and night of November 22–23, 1963. Burkley was the only physician who was close to both the pre– and post–mortem treatment of the President, but he was never called to testify before the Warren Commission. It does not appear that he was ever interviewed by representatives of the Secret Service or the FBI. Although he was interviewed by the HSCA, those interviews have been sequestered.

Burkley, formerly portrayed as a passive bystander in the events immediately following the assassination, was in fact an active participant. Moreover, Burkley seems to have been an important, busy and knowledgeable figure in the events immediately following the assassination: Of prime significance to our discussion of Mr. Lifton’s Best Evidence, Burkley was the link between Parkland and Bethesda that has never been officially acknowledged; he was present in the emergency room at Parkland Hospital, where he witnessed and assisted his medical colleagues’ efforts to revive the President; and, he was present during the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital that evening.

In this chapter, I shall examine the evidence to support the proposition that Burkley had the opportunity to see, learn or know about the wound in the President’s anterior neck during the emergency treatment at Parkland hospital. The significance of this issue is cataclysmic: The autopsy pathologists have claimed ignorance of that wound at the time they performed their examinations as their excuse for having failed to trace the alleged course of a missile from the presumed entrance wound in Kennedy’s upper back, through the upper thoracic region, and out the throat. After surveying the evidence, I shall then discuss the manner in which Mr. Lifton chose to deal with this subject.


Burkley rode in the rear of the Dallas motorcade in the “VIP bus.” (CE 1126) The Warren Report tells us that “Admiral Burkley, the President’s physician, arrived at the hospital between 3 and 5 minutes following the arrival of the President,” since the riders in his car “were not exactly aware what had happened” and the car went on to the Trade Mart first. (WR 53) Burkley later confirmed this statement (George G. Burkley, recorded interview by William McHugh, October 17, 1967, page 16, John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program)

In their testimony, several of the Parkland Hospital doctors recalled Burkley being in the Emergency Room. For example, Dr. Charles Carrico testified: “Admiral Burkley, I believe was his name, the President’s personal physician, was there as soon as he got to the hospital.” (3H 363) Several nurses also reported seeing Burkley in the Emergency Room.

Admiral Burkley actually participated in the President’s treatment. He supplied the treating doctors with hydrocortisone because of JFK’s adrenal condition. “Burkley produced three 100–mg vials of Solu–Cortef from his bag, murmuring, ‘Either intravenously or intramuscularly.’” (Manchester, William. The Death of a President. Harper & Row, New York: 1967, page 184.)

Admiral Burkley arrived in Trauma Room One before Dr. Perry arrived. Dr. Perry performed the tracheostomy. Therefore, Admiral Burkley arrived in time to see the undisturbed throat wound. The analysis breaks down to two simple questions:

  • What were Burkley’s movements immediately following the shooting?
  • Did Burkley actually arrive at Parkland too late to render any assistance to the dying President, as Mr. Lifton states as fact?

The Time Factor in Trauma Room One

The presidential limousine arrived at the Emergency Room loading dock at 12:34 p.m. (Report of Secret Service Agent Emory Roberts [CE 1024 at 18 H735]; Rowley’s report [CE 1026 at 18H 810])

There was a delay in getting treatment for the President. The delay in removing JFK from his car probably consumed much of the concomitant “delay” in Burkley’s arrival.

Consider the testimony of Secret Service Agent Forrest V. Sorrels:

“We went around to the emergency entrance. I jumped out of the car, and I expected to see stretchers there, out waiting, but they were not. And I ran to the entrance door there, and at that time they began to bring stretchers out, and I said, ‘Hurry up and get those stretchers out,’ and someone else, probably one of the police officers, also said to hurry up and get the stretchers out.

“There was a lot of confusion around at that time.”

(7H 347)

On November 29, 1963, Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman, who rode in the front seat of the presidential limousine, filed a report on his activities, which the Warren Commission reprinted as Exhibit 1024. On page two of this statement, he reported that Secret Service agents ran into the hospital to get a stretcher. (Commission Exhibit 1024 at 18H 725)

Here is Roy Kellerman’s testimony on this matter:

Mr Specter
With respect to the state of readiness of Parkland Hospital at your arrival, how long after you got there were stretcher bearers at the front door?
Mr Kellerman
To the best of my knowledge, there were no stretcher bearers at the car — none.
Mr Specter
At your arrival?
Mr Kellerman
Yes, sir.
Mr Specter
Did some come shortly after you arrived?
Mr Kellerman
No, sir.
Mr Specter
Well, what sequence did follow with respect to the arrival of the stretchers?
Mr Kellerman
When we arrived at the hospital I had called to the agents to go inside and get two stretchers on wheels. Between those people and police officers who also entered the emergency room, they brought the stretchers out. I did not at any time see a man in a white uniform outside, indicating a medical person.
Mr Specter
When did you first see the first indication of a doctor?
Mr Kellerman
When we got in the emergency room itself proper.
Mr Specter
And do you know which doctor that was?
Mr Kellerman
Not by name or sight; no, sir.
Mr Specter
How many doctors did you see at that time?
Mr Kellerman
The room was full.
Mr Specter
Who were the individuals who brought the stretchers on wheels, if you know?
Mr Kellerman
Agents who were in the follow–up car, police officers who were ahead of us on motorcycles.

(2H 102)

UPI White House Correspondent Merriman Smith was in the press pool car, the sixth and final vehicle in motorcade. (Manchester, op. cit., p. 167) Smith provided this eyewitness account in a memoir published on the third anniversary of the assassination:

Not until we pulled up at the Parkland Hospital emergency entrance in a screaming skid and I ran to the side of the Kennedy car did I know for certain that he was badly hurt.

When I saw Mr. Kennedy pitched over on the rear seat and blood darkening his coat, and Gov. John Connally of Texas slumped face up on the floor with brownish red foam seeping from his chest wound, not one hospital orderly, doctor or nurse had reached the vehicle. Several careless authors would have their readers believe that medical attendants were on the scene at this point. They were not. I was there.

(Washington Post, November 20, 1966, pp. E1, E5.)

William Manchester wrote, “There wasn’t an attendant in sight.” (Manchester, op. cit., p. 169)

Dave Powers, Clint Hill and Roy Kellerman attempted to remove Kennedy from the car, but Jackie refused to let him be moved. (O’Donnell, Kenneth and Powers, David, Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, Little Brown and Co., Boston: 1972, p. 31; Manchester, William. The Death of a President, Harper & Row, New York: 1967, [Hard cover] p. 170) Moreover, they could not have removed him without first removing Connally from the jump seat. The braking of the limousine upon arrival at the emergency room loading dock jarred Connally into consciousness. He was removed from the jump seat of the limousine first. (CE 1024, id.)

Jackie held on, conversing with Secret Service Agent Clint Hill. (Manchester, op. cit., p. 171) Hill put his coat over JFK’s head and coaxed Jackie out of the limousine.

Manchester discusses the “second wave” of arrivals at Parkland

Parkland was still recoiling from this first invasion when the second, denser wave arrived from the Trade Mart. The interval was bound to be brief because the buildings were so close, and two circumstances virtually eliminated it. The first was the motorcade schedule. Drivers had been told that the procession would pick up speed after leaving Main Street, and in the excitement which followed the shots they accelerated so rapidly that during the twelve seconds of Officer Clyde Haygood’s pistol–in–hand ascent of the overpass embankment every vehicle in the caravan, including the Signals car, swept past him. The second factor was communications. Curry’s alarm had been intercepted by all Dallas police radios at the Mart. The men there who had heard it were preparing to escort any member of the Presidential party who could establish his credentials.

(Manchester, op. cit., page 173.)

The route from Dealey Plaza to the Trade Mart was cleared (Sorrels testimony, 7H 347). Manchester’s narrative continues:

There were some stragglers …

Among the last to learn that anything had gone awry were the passengers of the hapless VIP bus. They had been instructed to go directly to the rear of the Trade Mart. But there were no Dallas policemen at the rear entrance. The guards were Texas state policemen who weren’t tied into the radio network and didn’t know what had happened. None of them, moreover, had seen a White House pass. They had been told that Secret Service agents would vouch for bona fide Kennedy people. But most of the agents had left for Parkland after picking up Kellerman’s distress signal over the Charlie network. The result was an icy reception for Dr. Burkley …

Suddenly Dr. Burkley vanished. Burkley had never deserted Evelyn [Lincoln] before but he sensed that something terrible had happened. The atmosphere was ominous. Strangers were reeling around in circles.… With his chief pharmacist’s mate in tow, the doctor flagged Agent Andy Berger, who was about to leave in a police cruiser. The physician had just tossed his black bag on the floorboard when Chuck Roberts of Newsweek ran up. “Let me go with you,” Chuck begged. Burkley, usually gentle, slammed the door in his face; the cruiser skirred into Harry Hines Boulevard and dropped the doctor outside Parkland’s emergency entrance minutes after the President’s disappearance within.

(Manchester, op. cit, page 174)

In the meantime, Parkland nurse Diana Bowron went out to the Emergency Room loading dock to meet the presidential limousine. She helped take the stretcher carriage bearing JFK back inside to Trauma Room 1. Carrico was there. Nurse Henchcliffe was already setting up IVs. So, it was just the three of them there at first, when Kennedy was wheeled into the room for treatment:

Mr Specter
And who was in the trauma room when you arrived there?
Miss Bowron
Dr. Carrico.
Mr Specter
Where did Dr. Carrico join you?
Miss Bowron
At the — I couldn’t really tell you exactly, but it was inside major surgery. Miss Henchcliffe, the other nurse who is assigned to major surgery, was in the trauma room already setting the I.V.s — the intravenous bottles up.
Mr Specter
And were there any other nurses present at that time when the President arrived in the trauma area?
Miss Bowron
I don’t think so, sir.
Mr Specter
Were there any doctors present besides Dr. Carrico?
Miss Bowron
I didn’t notice anybody — there may have been.

(6H 136)

Dr. Charles Carrico was the first doctor to reach Kennedy.

Mr Specter
Who was the first doctor to reach President Kennedy on his arrival at Parkland Hospital?
Dr Carrico
I was.
Mr Specter
And who else was with President Kennedy on his arrival, as best you can recollect it?
Dr Carrico
Mrs. Kennedy was there, and there were some men in the room, who I assumed were Secret Service men; I don’t know.

(6H 2)

The Warren Report concluded: “The first physician to see the President at Parkland Hospital was Dr. Charles J. Carrico, a resident in general surgery.” (WR 53) There were also two nurses in attendance. (ibid.) This is corroborated by Perry’s testimony. (3H 367)

The President was being wheeled into T–1 when Carrico first saw him. (3H 359). Drs. Don Curtis and Martin White were also present (ibid.) Because of the President’s inadequate respirations and the apparent airway injury, Carrico inserted a cuffed endotracheal tube into the mouth and down the trachea past the injury. The cuff was inflated and the tube was connected to a respirator. This was the Bennett machine — also known as the Bird machine (an acronym). (6H 3) After this procedure, Carrico listened to the chest: “Breath sounds were diminished, especially on the right, despite the fact that the endotracheal tube was in place and the cuff inflated, there continued to be some leakage around the tracheal wound. For this reason, Dr. Perry elected to perform a tracheotomy, and instructed some of the other physicians in the room to insert chest tubes, thoracotomy tubes." (6H 3)

Dr. Perry went to Trauma Room 1 from the dining room accompanied by Dr. Ronald Jones. (6H 8; 3H 367) When they arrived, Carrico had just inserted the endotracheal tube. (6H 8) Carrico was attaching the Bird respirator. (6H 9; 3H 368)

Interim Assessment:

The delay in getting treatment for President Kennedy obviously consumed several precious minutes. The initial resuscitative attempts performed by Dr. Carrico before the arrival of Dr. Perry must have consumed several more minutes. No one was keeping a record of the time that had transpired, but it is reasonable to conclude that Dr. Burkley’s detour to the Dallas Trade Mart did not prevent him from arriving in the Parkland Emergency Room at an early point in the President’s emergency treatment. Despite the lack of “a clock,” by reconstructing the sequence of the President’s treatment it is nevertheless possible to identify a specific event upon which we can more precisely peg Burkley’s arrival at his patient’s side. The key to this analysis is the hydrocortisone.

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Roger Feinman: Between the Signal and the Noise

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