A Review of Oliver Stone’s JFK: Destiny Betrayed (Chapter 3)

In 1966, when I was nine years old, my dad brought home Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane. My dad was never a believer that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of President John F. Kennedy and the book by Lane surely amplified that belief of his, as well as mine.

In 1991, I went to visit my parents one afternoon and my mom told me that dad had gone to see JFK, the Oliver Stone film. When dad came home, he told me that I really needed to go out and see this film. The next day I did. To both of us, the film further increased our belief that the JFK assassination was indeed a conspiracy.

While dad and I both thought the film was very insightful and informative about who may have murdered JFK and why he had created so many enemies within the United States government, many in the mainstream media gave the movie bad reviews. Like large media outlets like CBSNBC and The New York Times, who had all endorsed the Warren Report, which has been largely discredited in 58 years since it first came out in 1964.

Which takes me to a new Oliver Stone documentary called JFK: Destiny Betrayed. It’s a four-part film that lasts approximately four hours that can be seen on Prime Video and Apple. I had the opportunity to see the film and I thought it was outstanding. The film was directed by Stone and produced by Rob Wilson. The film was written by long time JFK assassination researcher and author Jim DiEugenio. The film is narrated by Whoopi Goldberg and Donald Sutherland.

If you truly care about what really occurred in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963, please watch this film. Yes, I know, we now live in an era of disinformation, via the mainstream media, as well as social media. Unlike that fabricated rhetoric, this film puts out real evidence, much of which was hidden for 30-plus years. This documented information comes from witnesses, physicians, historians, researchers and ballistics specialists.

Chapter 3:

The one doctor who was at both Parkland Hospital in Dallas after the assassination and at the Bethesda Naval Hospital for JFK’s autopsy was Dr. George Burkley, who was President Kennedy’s personal physician. Burkley was also a Rear Admiral in the Navy.

Burkley signed off on the autopsy descriptive sheet at Bethesda, which placed JFK’s back wound at the T-3 level. That is well below the area which set up the magical single-bullet theory put together by Arlen Specter.

Burkley also signed Kennedy’s death certificate on November 23, 1963, which also placed JFK’s back wound at the third thoracic vertebra level.

The death certificate signed by Dr. Burkley is not in the Warren Commission volume, plus the descriptive sheet of the autopsy, which is in the Warren Commission volume, does not have Dr. Burkley’s signature.

It’s important to know that Specter did not depose Dr. Burkley. That could be because of what Burkley told Malcolm Kilduff, the Assistant White House Press Secretary. This is what Kilduff told the media at Parkland after the assassination, “Dr. Burkley told me that it was a simple matter, Tom, of a bullet, right through the head.” While Kilduff uttered these words he pointed towards his right temple.  

In 1967, Dr. Burkley did an interview with the JFK Library and was asked this question, “Do you agree with the Warren Report on the number of bullets which entered the President’s body?” Burkley replied, “I would not care to be quoted on that.”

What is even more interesting than that is what occurred in 1977. At that time, Burkley’s attorney William Illig wrote a letter to Richard Sprague, who was then the chief counsel for the HSCA, telling him that he had information that others beside Oswald must have participated in the assassination and that Burkley was willing to talk about that scenario.

Sprague, who had said he wanted to uncover the CIA’s involvement in the assassination, was forced out of his role as chief counsel of the HSCA two weeks later. As it was, Burkley submitted a written statement to the HSCA, but there is no official record of him being deposed as a witness.

Douglas Horne, who was the Chief Analyst for Military Records for the Assassination Records Review Board (the ARRB), talked about what happened later on with Dr. Burkley.

“In 1982, he told JFK researcher Henry Hurt that there was more than one gunman,” Horne said. “When Henry Hurt tried to re-contact Burkley with more details, Burkley cut him off at the knees. ‘I don’t want to talk about it anymore.’ The very next year, Berkley talked to Michael Kurtz, another JFK researcher. He told him that there was a conspiracy to kill the President. And that he recalled an exit wound at the back of President Kennedy’s head. That’s a very significant statement. That the only doctor we know of that was present at both Parkland for treatment and at Bethesda during the autopsy told Michael Kurtz in 1983 that Kennedy had an exit wound in the back of his head. When Kurtz tried to re-contact Burkley, Burkley cut him off at the knees. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.’ Dr. Burkley was deceased by the time the review board was empaneled.”

At that point Horne and Jeremy Gunn, who was the general counsel for the ARRB, decided to contact the executor of Burkley’s estate, his daughter Nancy Denlea, to have her sign a waiver so the ARRB could go to the law firm that Illig used to work for to see if there were any records which may have indicated what Burkley wanted to tell the HSCA. His daughter said that she would do that, but when Gunn called her on the phone, she had completely changed her mind and terminated the phone call.

In addition to that scenario, there are the many questions regarding JFK’s brain.

This is what Audrey Bell, who was Supervising Nurse of Operating and Recovery Rooms told the ARRB about what she saw at Parkland Hospital. “And he shifted the head a little bit, to the left,” Bell said. “Lifted up the, kind of matted area, the flap. And you could see the…hole, and there was…brain, and spinal fluid…dripping down out of it. Then I noticed that it was dripping down into a bucket.”

Besides the large hole in the back of JFK’s head, seven members of the medical staff at Parland saw the cerebellum at the bottom of the skull.

Dr. Cyril Wecht explains. “The brain consists of two large cerebral hemispheres,” Wecht said. “Lower down, posteriorly, are two hemispheres, the cerebellum. They differ in coloration. They differ in the topographical markings.”

Dr. Michael Chesser, who is a neurologist, said that Dr. Robert McClelland saw a large clump of the cerebellum fall out of JFK’s skull in the emergency room at Parkland. It was obvious to those who saw Kennedy’s head wound at Parkland, that the wound went quite low to the cerebellum.

Yet in the autopsy report at Bethesda, Dr. James Humes did not even mention the cerebellum, nor did he testify about that situation to the Warren Commission.

It’s definitely quite the conundrum. Several people at Parkland saw severe damage to the cerebellum, yet in the autopsy report at Bethesda, it is reported the cerebellum is intact.

In terms of whether or not the cerebellum of JFK was damaged, Dr. Wecht asks this, “Who do you believe? Do you believe these Texas doctors? Or do you believe the two career Naval pathologists working under military control?”

Plus, there is all the brain matter and blood that was inside the limousine, not to mention the brain tissue that Jackie Kennedy went out to retrieve on the trunk of the limo and later gave to one of the doctors at Parkland.

The inside of the limo was a crime scene. So why did the Secret Service make such an effort to clean the inside of the limo at Parkland before shipping it back to Washington?

Plus, in the autopsy report, JFK’s brain weighed 1,500 grams, which is above average for an adult male brain. That makes no sense, with all the eyewitness accounts at Parkland.

In addition, Horne said that FBI agent Frank O’Neill told the ARRB that over half of the mass of the brain was missing at the autopsy.

Horne also mentioned that the ARRB had a consultant, a renowned forensic pathologist named Dr. Robert Kirschner, who said that JFK’s brain was a very well-fixed brain that’s all grey and not pink at all and it’s been fixed for two or three weeks in formaldehyde. Horne said that the hair on the back of his neck stood up because he knew that JFK’s brain had been examined less than three days after he had been killed.

To add more mystery to the issue regarding JFK’s brain, Dr. Humes destroyed his autopsy notes. Plus, there are autopsy photos of the brain which appear to be taken by two different photographers, John Stringer and Robert Knudsen, using the ones which support the lone gunman theory and bypassing the ones that don’t.

Horne said, “Stringer is still the autopsy photographer of record. I think they both took pictures. And I personally think that many of John Stringer’s pictures never made it in the official collection and a lot of the ones we are looking at are Robert Knudsen’s pictures.”

Dr. David Mantik said it best when he quoted Jeremy Gunn of the ARRB, “It’s as if the autopsy materials were meant to hide what was really happening, as opposed to what they usually should do, which is to reveal the full extent of things.”

To add to all of this, JFK’s brain went missing. Dr. Wecht explains. “In August of ’72, I’m there at the National Archives. And I’m looking…I have the executive agreement of April of 1965 and the inventory of October of 1966, a year and a half later. Ah ha. In addition to some x-rays and some photos that are missing, there is a large metal box, which obviously contained the brain, listed in ’65, but no longer listed in ’66. Goodbye brain.”

Finally, after the film JFK was released in 1991, several doctors went to the National Archives to view x-rays of JFK’s skull. What they found was that there were tiny metal fragments right near the forehead which expands from front to back. That is consistent with a shot from the front.

Plus, there is the missing bullet scenario, not to mention bullet damage done to the limo.

After JFK was pronounced dead, Dr. Burkley contacted his assistant James Young at the White House and told him to prepare for the autopsy. Young ordered two assistants of his (Thomas Mills and William Martinell) to go to the limousine, now back in Washington to retrieve some important material for the autopsy. On the flight from Dallas back to Washington, the limo was inspected, and a three-inch triangular piece of bone was discovered on the floor near the rear jump seat.

Besides getting the bone fragment out of the limo, Mills and Martinell also brought back another envelope containing a bullet with a bent tip.

Dr. Randolph Robertson, a diagnostic radiologist, described what happened next. “It went from Mills and Martinell to Young to Humes and it disappears. That evening, there may have been as little as four people who saw that bullet before it disappeared.”

Looking at the Zapruder film, the head shot occurred at frame 313. But there is also a flash of light which occurs at frame 328, which could have been another shot that hit the limo.

Looking at photos, it’s pretty obvious that at least a couple of bullets in the crossfire at Dealey Plaza hit the limo.

Dr. Mantik explains. “There is a lot of damage in the car. The chrome strip that went around the windshield was dented from the inside, which suggested a projectile from the rear. Six witnesses reported a through-and-through hole in the windshield.”

Getting back to Kennedy’s back wound now. At the trial of Clay Shaw in New Orleans, Dr. Pierre Finck shockingly revealed to Jim Garrison that JFK’s back wound was not dissected because an Army general ordered him not to do that. The failure to not do that standard practice led to folly and error, in terms of assessing and locating that wound.

On the autopsy descriptive sheet that Dr. Burkley signed off on, the back wound was located at T-3 level, which also coincided with what FBI agents O’Neill and Sibert wrote in their report about what they saw at the autopsy.

However, the Warren Commission depicted something completely different in terms of the location of the back wound, as well as that of the head wound.

This is what Sibert told the ARRB after looking at the drawing commissioned by Arlen Specter of the Warren Commission. “What a liar. I feel he got his orders from above and how far above, I don’t know. They got that single bullet theory by moving that back wound up to the base of the neck.”

But in order to make the back wound line up with the magic bullet theory, the Warren Commission needed a little help from one of their members. Enter future President Gerald Ford, who moved the back wound up a number of inches. That did not conform with the autopsy photos that the HSCA saw, which placed the back wound at the T-3 level. When confronted about what he had done by the ARRB, Ford simply said, “That it had nothing to do with a conspiracy theory. He was only trying to be more precise.”

To understand what JFK was dealing with early in his presidency, both with the CIA and with the Joint Chiefs, a meeting in the summer of 1961 makes things crystal clear. The meeting was attended by President Kennedy, CIA Director Allen Dulles and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lyman Lemnitzer. In 1993, the first official document describing the meeting was declassified.

In that meeting, Dulles and Lemnitzer were advising Kennedy about the potential effect of a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, which would occur in the fall of 1963. The first-strike attack would occur then because it was felt that the United States would have the optimum advantage over the Soviet Union’s counter-strike capabilities at that time.

After that meeting, JFK said to his Secretary of State Dean Rusk, “And we call ourselves the human race?”

Besides having to deal with foreign policy issues with the Soviet Union, JFK was also trying to resolve matters in the Middle East, Vietnam and Cuba.

Speaking of Cuba, JFK authorized a covert operation under the name of Operation Mongoose, which was headed by General Edward Lansdale. However, Attorney General Robert Kennedy was above Lansdale to make sure this operation did not spin out of control like the Bay of Pigs did in April of 1961. The idea was to keep pressure on Fidel Castro, to make sure he would not further the exportation of communism to Latin America.

Despite later accusations of JFK’s complicity in assassination plots against Castro, there is no documentation to confirm this in the Operation Mongoose file. In February of 1962, General Lansdale asked the Joint Chiefs to come up with a pre-text for a U.S. invasion of Cuba. The following month, the Joint Chiefs revealed a plan to JFK called Operation Northwoods.

The plan called for the CIA to perform terrorist acts and to blame them on Cuba, setting up the invasion scenario. President Kennedy declined that recommendation by the Joint Chiefs.

Horne talked about some of what was in Operation Northwoods. “Sink a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame it on Cuba. The one that scares me the most, which was very specific, take an airliner, and fly it as a drone over Cuba without any people in it. There is a tape recording that would say, ‘We are under attack. Under attack by Cuban aircraft. Oh my God they are going to kill us.’ And then blow up the airplane, this huge drone, to use that to start a war.”

Author and historian John M. Newman, who was in Army intelligence, describes what happened next. “Within a matter of weeks, Lemnitzer says, ‘The hell with the pre-text. The hell with it. Let’s just invade anyway!’ Based on that type of behavior, JFK had no choice but to fire Lemnitzer.

It’s important to know that it was the ARRB which uncovered Operation Northwoods. That all started thanks to the JFK Records Act, which occurred after the release of the film JFK in 1991.

Also in 1961, JFK rejected nine attempts by his military advisors to put ground troops in Vietnam. Both General Douglas MacArthur and General Charles de Gaulle agreed with Kennedy about not sending in U.S. troops to Southeast Asia.

Newman explained how foreign policy issues were confronting JFK at this time, especially because of the pressure he was receiving from his military advisors. “This issue about what to do with Cuba and what to do in Vietnam were inexplicably intertwined,” Newman said. “Because you can’t do all these things at once. We don’t have enough soldiers. We don’t have enough forces. And it’s not just Cuba and Vietnam, it’s Cuba, Berlin, Laos and Vietnam.

“So, Kennedy was most concerned actually about Berlin and was unwilling to put troops in Cuba because he would not be able to react if Khrushchev did something on Berlin. Kennedy understood that. The Chairman on the Joint Chiefs of Staff understood that. That is the context of when it comes to Vietnam. Kennedy tells Lyman Lemnizter, ‘Look, if we aren’t going to go into Cuba, what in the hell would we go into Vietnam for?’

In October of 1962, it was discovered that the Soviet Union had placed medium-range and intermediate-range missiles into Cuba. Despite the Joint Chiefs imploring him to invade Cuba, JFK took another path. He decided to utilize a naval blockade instead.

JFK’s military advisors, led by General Curtis LeMay, saw Kennedy’s decision to not invade Cuba and to use a blockade as pure folly, the equivalent of surrender. In fact, LeMay told Kennedy, “This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich.”

While the Cuban Missile Crisis headed into the second week, with LeMay and the other military advisors still wanting to invade, it was not known to them that Cuba had short range tactical nuclear missiles in place. It was at this juncture when LeMay said this to JFK, “In other words, you’re in a pretty bad fix, at the present time.” At that point Kennedy responded, “What did you say?” LeMay said, “You’re in a pretty bad fix.” JFK then said, “You’re in there with me.”

Finally, the crisis was resolved thanks to a meeting between Robert Kennedy and Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, in which the United States pledged not to invade Cuba and to withdraw U.S. missiles out of Turkey. The Soviet Union agreed to dismantle and to take out the missiles that they had put in Cuba.

The American people were elated with the news that World War III was averted. But the Joint Chiefs, led by LeMay, thought that the U.S. had been defeated by the Soviets and denied the opportunity to topple Castro.

JFK saw it differently. He said, “If we had followed the Pentagon’s advice, nobody would be around to tell the generals they were wrong.”

In terms of how to deal with the situation in Vietnam, it eventually led to NSAM 263 in October of 1963, which called for 1,000 U.S. troops to be pulled out of Vietnam by the end of the year.

Getting back to General LeMay, the ARRB found that he was at JFK’s autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Very few people in the military had a worse relationship with JFK than LeMay did. He disagreed with JFK about the use of the blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis and he was also against the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty that JFK signed in 1963. LeMay also wanted to escalate the war in Vietnam and was open to using nuclear weaponry if need be.

There were about 33 people at Bethesda to witness JFK’s autopsy. There was a gallery with bleachers and all three rows were filled with people.

Among them was LeMay. Paul O’Connor of the Navy was there to help the pathology during the autopsy. He told Horne that during the autopsy that Dr. Humes complained about someone smoking a cigar. He told O’Connor to tell that person to put it out.

So, O’Connor went to the gallery in the bleachers and there was General LeMay sitting in his uniform with a big cigar in his hand. After O’Connor asked him to put out the cigar, LeMay puffed the cigar and blew smoke in O’Connor’s face.

Was LeMay there to gloat at the demise of his nemesis?

You can see my review of Chapter 1 of JFK: Destiny Betrayed here.

You can see my review of Chapter 2 of JFK: Destiny Betrayed here.

Look for my review of Chapter 4 of JFK: Destiny Betrayed in the near future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s