When this writer decided to take on the Kennedy Assassination as a topic for a blog, it stemmed from nostalgia versus a search for the truth. Reading about 15 pages of an academic’s comprehensive compilation of the various theories and “errors” over the years, taken from the many, many literary accounts was enough to make Ladyjustice’s mind swirl like chocolate –vanilla ice cream! I dare say… even the highly competent true crime and fiction author from Texas, Diane Fanning, would not take on such an assignment in totality!
Conspiracy theories galore, the infamous “single bullet theory”, what really happened on that grassy knoll, anyway? Was the President sitting directly behind John Connelly? Was the autopsy botched? What was the true trajectory of the bullet/bullets? On and on…
“Little LJ” was a mere 9 years old when this monumental tragedy occurred. It’s all too academically overwhelming, even for this “more mature brain” to process. Therefore, the idea was to scale down this pursuit to “lesser known but fascinating facts” for readers.
DID YOU KNOW? That…President Kennedy’s brain supposedly mysteriously disappeared following the events after the autopsy at Parkland Hospital? Yes… indeed! As reported by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, selected excerpts involving Dr. Burkley, Robert Kennedy, and Evelyn Lincoln, the personal secretary to the President and others….
One Important Disappearance – The Brain
Was it the Doctor? Was it the President’s Secretary?
(114) On April 22, 1965, then Senator Robert F. Kennedy sent a letter to Dr. Burkley directing him to transfer in person the autopsy material being kept at the White House to Mrs. Evelyn
Lincoln, the personal secretary of President Kennedy, for safekeeping at the National Archives. The letter also said that Mrs. Lincoln was being instructed that the material was not to be released to anyone without Robert Kennedy’s written permission and approval. This demonstrates Robert Kennedy’s firm control over the disposition of the materials.
(115) In response to this directive, Dr. Burkley notified the Protective Research Division of Senator Kennedy’s request. Before transferring the material, Bouck, Burkley and other Secret Service personnel carefully inventoried all the items present. This was the first official inventory of these materials.
(116) On April 26, 1965 At the time of the transfer, the items now missing, which are those enumerated under item No. 9 of the inventory, were allegedly present.
(117) In his testimony before the committee, Bouck stated that he is quite positive all the autopsy-related material that came into his possession was given to Mrs. Lincoln at the time of the 1965 transfer. He also stated that he was uncertain whether Dr. Burkley had custody of the brain, but that if the brain was part of the autopsy materials in the custody of the Secret Service, it was transported to the National Archives.
118) Dr. Burkley clarified this issue, saying that the stainless steel container mentioned in the inventory held the brain and that he saw the bucket in April 1965, when he and Bouck transferred the autopsy materials to Lincoln. Since this transfer, Dr. Burkley maintains that he has had no further knowledge of or association with these materials.
(118) Dr. Burkley clarified this issue, saying that the stainless steel container mentioned in the inventory held the brain and that he saw the bucket in April 1965, when he and Bouck transferred the autopsy materials to Lincoln. Since this transfer, Dr. Burkley maintains that he has had no further knowledge of or association with these materials.
(120) The next documented transaction involving the materials transferred to Mrs. Lincoln occurred on October 29,1966, when Mr. Burke Marshall, on behalf of the executors of the John F. Kennedy estate, sent a letter to Lawson B. Knott, the Administrator of the General Services Administration, outlining an agreement for formal transfer of materials related to the autopsy to the U.S. Government.
Robert H. Bahruer Archivist of the United States; Herman Kahn, Assistant Archivist for Presidential libraries and James Rhoads, the Deputy Archivist of the United States. After Brewster opened the footlocker, Marshall and Novello departed. The footlocker contained a carbon copy of the letter from Robert F.Kennedy to Burkley on April 22, 1965, and the original letter from Burkley to Lincoln on April 26, 1965, which also listed on the itemized inventory list the materials present at that transfer.
Was it Robert Kennedy? Was it the Federal Government?
(123) Upon inspection, the officials realized that the footlocker did not contain any of the material listed under item No. 9 of the inventory. This material included: 1 plastic box, 9 by 6 1/2 by 1 inches, paraffin blocks of tissue sections; 1 plastic box containing paraffin blocks of tissue sections; plus 35 slides; A third box containing 84 slides; 1 stainless steel container, 7 by 8 inches in diameter containing gross material; 3 wooden boxes, each 7 by 3 1/2 by 1 1/4 inches, containing; 58 slides of blood smears taken at various times during President Kennedy’s lifetime.
Upon interview, Mrs. Lincoln recalled that these materials arrived in a box or boxes, and that within 1 day she obtained a flat trunk or footlocker from the Archives personnel to which she transferred the materials. She added that these materials were kept in a security room in her office in the National Archives.
(130) While Burke Marshall also maintained that he had no actual knowledge of the disposition of the materials, he said it was his speculative opinion that Robert Kennedy obtained and disposed of these materials himself, without informing anyone else. Marshall said Robert Kennedy was concerned that these materials would be placed on public display in future years in an institution such as the Smithsonian and wished to dispose of them to eliminate such a possibility. Marshall emphasized that he does not believe anyone other than Robert Kennedy would have known what happened to the materials and is certain that obtaining or locating these materials is no longer possible.
Harry R. Van Cleve, Jr., General Counsel to the General Services Administration:
“After turning all of this material over to Mrs. Lincoln [on April 26] [Burkley] never saw nor heard anything about its disposition, and that he was surprised to hear that it was not with the remainder of the material he turned over to Mrs. Lincoln. After discussing the problem, Dr. Burkley offered to call Mrs. Lincoln. He did this in my presence and Mrs. Lincoln told him that all of the material he turned over to her was placed in a trunk or footlocker; that it was locked, and that to her knowledge it was never opened nor the contents disturbed by her. She said, however, that sometime after its receipt all of the material concerning the assassination, with which she was working, was turned over to Angie Novello, Robert Kennedy’s secretary.
(134) The memorandum further related that Dr. Burkley told Kelley that Henry Giordano, a former White House driver, was working with Lincoln at the time of the transfer and was then employed in Senator Kennedy’s office.” Van Cleve again and advising him of the contact with Burkley, Kelley related the following:…in my opinion,… the inquiry would have to remain as it now stands that perhaps we were borrowing trouble in exploring it any further,
November 4, 1966, Treasury Department memorandum * * * the transfer to the Kennedy family may have been interpreted by some as indication of U.S. recognition of Kennedy family rights in the items so transferred. At some point thereafter, either upon delivery to the Archives in 1965 or upon acceptance of the letter of gift of October 1966, the materials may be regarded as having been either (1) returned to their rightful owner, the United States Government, or (2) donated by properly executed deed of gift to the United States, thereby resulting in relinquishment of Kennedy family rights in them.
(141) The committee also interviewed Archives personnel to ascertain their present position regarding the missing materials. This suggests that after Novello allegedly took the material from the office of Mrs. Lincoln, it may have been moved from the Archives building as opposed to only being moved to another part of the building as Mrs. Lincoln speculated.) Peterson also says that Robert Bahmer, the Archivist of the United States in 1966, believed that sometime before the transfer of the materials as a gift, Herman Kahn, the Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries supervised the acceptance of the footlocker, along with several other boxes of Robert Kennedy’s materials, for courtesy storage in vault 6-W-3.
Peterson further stated that Herman Kahn, now dead, may have been the only Archives employee present for the transfer and that no record of delivery is available.
The Chain of Custody… Was it the Gravesite Supervisor?
PART IV. ADDITIONAL EFFORTS TO ACQUIRE THE MISSING MATERIALS
(145) After failing to determine the fate of the missing materials by tracing that chain of custody, the committee investigated the possibility that someone had placed the missing autopsy items all of which were physical specimens taken from the body of President Kennedy, in the final grave on re-interment, on March 14, 1967
(146) Metzler supervised the re-interment in 1967 and was present at all phases of the transfer: from the opening of the old site through the transfer by crane of the vault to the closing of
the new site Metzler said there was no way anyone could have placed anything in the coffin or vault during the transfer without his seeing it. Metzler also said that nothing could have been
placed in the vault since 1963 because there was no indication of damage to the vault indicating any disturbance. Metzler stated further that no one placed anything in the new or old gravesite besides the vault.
Selected Report Conclusions:
After the removal from Lincoln’s office, Robert Kennedy most likely acquired possession of or at least personal control over these materials. Burke Marshall’s opinion that Robert Kennedy obtained and disposed of these items himself to prevent any future public display supports this theory.
(149) There are least two possible reasons why Robert Kennedy would not have retained the autopsy photographs and X-rays. First, the only materials retained were physical specimens from the body of his brother: Tissue sections, blood smear slides, and the container of gross material. He may have understandably felt more strongly about preventing the misuse of these physical materials than the photographs and X-rays. Second the Justice Department under Ramsey Clark pushed hard to acquire the photographs and X-rays but did not request the physical materials. Even if Robert Kennedy had wished to prevent the release of all the autopsy materials, he was not in a position to do so when confronted with Justice Department demands.
DID YOU KNOW? A Second Disappearance- The Casket:
JFK’s Family Insisted on Casket’s Disposal
WASHINGTON Jun 01 — It was the Kennedy family that insisted that the polished bronze casket used to carry President Kennedy’s body from Dallas to Washington be dumped into the ocean, newly released documents say.
Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a mahogany coffin and there have been
lingering questions about what ever happened to the casket used in Texas after Kennedy was
assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.
“What I would like to have done is take it to sea,” Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother, told an official of the General Services Administration in February 1966.
Despite concerns that the casket was government property, Kennedy told GSA Administrator Lawson Knott Jr. that he believed it belonged to the family “and we can get rid of it any way we want to,” according to a memo recounting their telephone conversation.
About two weeks later, on Feb. 18, 1966, an Air Force van picked up the casket at the National
Archives building in downtown Washington. To make sure that it would sink, the casket was loaded with three 80-pound bags of sand. Numerous holes were drilled into the coffin and a pine box that encased it. It was bound with metal banding tape and rigged with parachutes to break the impact of hitting the water.
At 8:38 a.m., a C-130 airplane carrying the casket left Andrews Air Force Base and flew off the
Maryland-Delaware coast. The plane descended to 500 feet and at 10 a.m., the tail hatch of the
plane was opened and the 660-pound load was pushed out.
“The parachutes opened shortly before impact and the entire rigged load remained intact and sank sharply, clearly and immediately after the soft impact,” John Steadman, special assistant to the defense secretary, wrote in a Feb. 25, 1966 file memo.
“The aircraft circled the drop point for some 20 minutes at 500 feet to ensure that nothing returned to the surface,” wrote Steadman, who was on the plane.
The drop point — in 9,000 feet of water beyond the continental shelf — was chosen because it was away from regularly traveled air and shipping lines and would not be disturbed by trawling and other sea-bottom activities, the documents said.
The government paid for the bronze coffin, but it was unclear whether it was covered by a law that made certain items of evidence related to the Kennedy assassination government property.
Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach said in a Feb. 11, 1966 letter to the GSA that he felt it was necessary to dispose of the coffin. “I am unable to conceive of any manner in which the casket could have an evidentiary value, nor can I conceive of any reason why the national interest would require its preservation,” Katzenbach wrote.
“It is obvious that it could never be used for burial purposes and its public display would be extremely offensive and contrary to public policy.”
Copyright: 1999 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved
Another Account – Excerpt by The Associated Press.
Kennedy family spokeswoman Melody Miller said Tuesday that destroying the
casket was appropriate and “in keeping with the tradition of President Kennedy’s naval service and his love of the sea.”
The new documents show that the casket was stored in the basement of the National Archives building in downtown Washington in February 1966 when Robert Kennedy, then a U.S. senator from New York, called the GSA, which oversees government property, and asked for it to be released to the military for destruction. Knott told Kennedy that destroying the coffin might “raise loads of questions” in light of an upcoming book about the assassination and said the
Justice Department would have to authorize release of the casket. Kennedy
served as attorney general before he entered the Senate in 1965.
Conclusions by Ladyjustice:
Well, well, well… it appears as if Robert Kennedy was the keeper of the Kennedy flame at the time… protector of the family legacy, keeper of secrets too many to name and “material goods.” Whether it was for the “greater good,” future abuse, to prevent tarnishing the image and exploitation that is rampant with media today, one will never know. It appears that Mrs. Lincoln was the dutiful secretary and did what she was supposed to do and cannot be blamed….The former archivists may hold the secret to the true whereabouts to the brain. As for the casket, isn’t it interesting that the body or remains of John F. Kennedy Jr. also had the same fate ….
References: From John C. McAdams: Associate Professor of Political Science, Ph.D. Marquette University http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/medical.htm;
- The Kennedy Assassinations (lewrockwell.com)
- Robert F. Kennedy’s Documents Should Be Open To Public, History’s Voice Should Be Known (dekerivers.wordpress.com)
- Pinnacle Scaffold and Robert Kennedy’s famous quote (pinnaclescaffold.wordpress.com)