MARKING STAMP: OTIS HISTORICAL ARCHIVES
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HEALTH AND MEDICINE
ARMED FORCES INSTITUTE OF PATHOLOGY
1 February 1965
SUBJECT: Personal notes on the Assassination of President
TO: Brig. Gen.. J.M. Blumberg, MC, USA
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology
Washington, DC 20305
Lt. Colonel Pierre A. FINCK, MC, USA
Chief, Military Environmental Pathology Division &
Chief, Wound Ballistics Pathology Branch
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology
Washington, DC 20305
THE AUTOPSY OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY
by Lt. Colonel Pierre A. FINCK, MC, USA.
Commander Humes, MC, USN, Director of Laboratories, Naval Medical School, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, called me at home by telephone on 22 Nov 1963, 2000 hours. He told me to go immediately to the Naval Hospital. Brigadier General Blumberg, MC, USA, Director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D. C., had given my name.
I arrived at the Naval Hospital at 2030 hours. I saw a helicopter on the ground. A seaman escorted me to the autopsy room, guarded outside by military personnel and inside by Agents of the U. S. Secret Service. Rear Admiral Galloway, Commanding the Naval Center, Cdr Humes and Cdr Boswell, MC; USN, Chief of Pathology, showed me the wounds in the President's head. The brain, the heart and the lungs had been removed before my arrival. X ray films of the head and chest had been taken.
Also present in the autopsy room were : Rear Admiral Kenney, Surgeon General of the Navy; Rear Admiral Burkley, White House Physician; one Army Major General; a Brigadier General, Air Force Aid to the President; Capt Stover, MC, USN, Commanding the Naval Medical School; Capt Osborne, MC, USN, Chief of Surgery; Cdr Ebersole, MC, USN, a radiologist; a Navy photographer, Navy officers and enlisted men; Agents of the U. S. Secret Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI ).
The Autopsy number assigned to the President by the Naval
Hospital was : A - 63 - 272.
The scalp of the vertex is lacerated. There is an open
comminuted fracture of the cranial vault, many portions of which
are missing. .
The autopsy had been in progress for thirty minutes when 1
arrived. Cdr Humes told me that he only had to prolong the
lacerations of the scalp before removing the brain. No sawing of
the skull was necessary.
The opening of the large head wound, in the right
fronto-parieto-occipital region, is 130 millimeters ( mm ) in
I also noticed another scalp wound, possibly of entrance, in the right occipital region, lacerated and transversal, 15 x 6 mm.. Corresponding to that wound, the skull shows a portion of a crater, the beveling of which is obvious on the internal aspect of the bone; on that basis, I told the prosectors and Admiral Galloway that this occipital wound is a wound, of ENTRANCE. No EXIT wound is identifiable at this 'time in the skull, but close to midnight, portions of the cranial vault are received from DALLAS, Texas. X ray films of these bone specimens reveal numerous metallic fragments. Two of the bone specimens, 50 mm in diameter, reveal BEVELING when viewed from the external aspect, thus indicating a wound of EXIT. Most probably, these bone specimens are part of the very large right skull wound, 130 mm in diameter and mentioned above. This right fronto-parieto-occipital wound is therefore an EXIT.
There is another wound, in the region of the right trapezious
muscle, at 140 mm from the right acromion and at 140 mm from the
tip of the right mastoid process ( I took these measurements ).
The wound is OVAL, 7 x 4 mm, and shows well demarcated edges.
This wound cannot be probed with the soft probe available. There is subpleural hemorrhage in the right apical mesial region. The apex of the right lung is hemorrhagic, without laceration of the pleura.
On the basis that there is a wound possibly of entrance, which cannot be probed through the body, I SUGGEST X RAY FILMS BE TAKEN, ANTEROPOSTERIOR AND LATERAL, OF THE ENTIRE BODY, BEFORE GOING ANY FURTHER WITH THE AUTOPSY. This radiologic survey does not reveal any major missile in the President's cadaver. There are only numerous metallic fragments in the head, in the sagittal plane. Some of these are recovered and are turned over to FBI Agents against receipt. I help the Navy photographer to take photographs of the occipital wound ( external and internal aspects ) as well as of the wound in the back.
There is a recent TRACHEOTOMY wound ( transversal incision ) with moderate hemorrhage in the subcutaneous tissue. Thanks to a telephone call from Cdr Humes to Dallas, I found out later that the surgeon in Dallas had EXTENDED THE EXIT WOUND in the anterior aspect of the neck to make his tracheotomy. The tracheotomy wound was examined by the three prosectors. None of us noticed a bullet wound along its course. THE ORGANS OF THE NECK WERE NOT REMOVED: THE PRESIDENT'S FAMILY INSISTED TO HAVE ONLY THE HEAD EXAMINED Later, the permission was extended to the CHEST.
Three civilian embalmers from GAWLER FUNERAL HOME prepared the body for burial. It took four hours to clean, embalm and dress the body of the president. The cadaver left the Naval Hospital at 0400 hours, 23 November 1963, in a casket of African mahogany The officers present saluted the casket covered with a flag.
After the body was placed into a USN ambulance, to be brought to the White House, 1 saw Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy come out of the hospital and get into her car, protected by the Secret Service. She had the same pink dress she was wearing in Dallas at the time of the assassination.
On Sunday 24 November 1963, 1 went to the Naval Hospital to help Cdr Humes who had written an autopsy report. Humes, Boswell and Finck, the three prosectors, signed the Autopsy report in the Office of Admiral Galloway. ( I had suggested several corrections in the autopsy report. Commander Humes agreed. While we were checking the autopsy report in the Admiral's office, the Television announced the murder of Oswald by Ruby ).
In my discussion with Cdr Humes, I stated that we should not check the block "complete Autopsy " in the Autopsy Report Form. In compliance with the wishes of the Kennedy family, the prosectors had confined their examination to the head and chest. Humes declared that the block "complete Autopsy" should be checked.
Cdr Humes called me on 29 Nov 63 that the three prosectors would examine the brain at the Naval Hospital. I asked if a representative of the Neuropathology Branch of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology would be invited to the gross examination of the brain. Humes told me that no additional persons would be admitted. Humes, Boswell and myself examined the formalin fixed brain. A US Navy photographer was present.
DESCRIPTION : The formalin fixed brain weighs 1500 grams., The arteries of the base show no arteriosclerotic plaques. The left hemisphere shows minimal frontal and parietal subarachnoid hemorrhage.
There is a parasagittal laceration of the right cerebral hemisphere, extending from the frontal to the occipital lobes and exposing the Thalamus.
The Corpus Callosum is lacerated. No metallic fragments are identified but there are numerous small bone fragments, between one and ten millimeters in greatest dimension, in the container where the brain was fixed. The CONVOLUTIONS of the brain are flat and the SULCI are narrow, but this is interpreted as a fixation artifact because the change was not observed at the time of autopsy.
COLOR AND BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS are taken by the US Navy photographer : superior and inferior aspects of the brain.
Cdr Humes takes SECTIONS from the subarachnoid hemorrhage of the left cerebral hemisphere and from the laceration of the right. cerebral hemisphere but does not make coronal sections in order to preserve the specimen.
On 13 Dec 1963, 1 had the opportunity to examine the weapon used to kill President Kennedy. I saw the 6.5 mm Carcano Italian Short Rifle in the Firearms Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI Laboratory).