John Kennedy Assassination: The Ordeal of Malcolm Perry
Written by James DiEugenio
Using recent evidence discovered by Rob Couteau, Jim DiEugenio revisits the experiences of Parkland Hospital Dr. Malcolm Perry regarding the anterior neck wound he observed in President Kennedy and the concerted and persistent efforts to manipulate his testimony and obscure the clear evidence of a frontal entrance wound.
On the afternoon of the JFK assassination, within an hour or two after his death, there was a press conference at Parkland Hospital. Three important pronouncements were made. In fact, they were so important that they should have shaped the case in a permanent manner.
First, acting press secretary Malcolm Kilduff talked about how Kennedy had died.
When he did so, he pointed to his right temple and said something like: it was a matter of a bullet through the head. Very shortly after, Chet Huntley said the same thing live on NBC television. On the air, he revealed his source to be Dr. George Burkley, President Kennedy’s own personal physician.
Dr. Kemp Clark, chief of neurosurgery—the man who actually pronounced Kennedy dead—said he observed a large gaping hole in the rear of Kennedy’s skull. (Michael Benson, Who’s Who in the JFK< Assassination, p. 80) Dr. Malcolm Perry, who cut a tracheostomy across the bullet wound in Kennedy’s neck, said that the wound was one of entrance. (James DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, p. 367)
Therefore, from these three pieces of evidence, one would have had to conclude that Kennedy was hit from the front. That implication would be almost inescapable. Therefore, some strange things happened with this key press conference. First of all, there is no film available of it today, which is remarkable in and of itself, because, as one can see from pictures and film snippets, there were many reporters in that conference room. It is very hard to comprehend how not one of them called for a film camera to cover the initial public pronouncement of President Kennedy’s death. Second, initially, the Secret Service told the Warren Commission that they did not even have a transcript of this conference. According to former Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) analyst Doug Horne, there are two real problems with the Secret Service saying this. First, according to Horne, the Secret Service went around collecting the films of this press conference. Thus making it disappear. (See Horne at Future of Freedom Foundation conference of May 18th. This is at the FFF web site.)
But further, the Secret Service lied to the Commission about having the transcript. In responding to Commission counsel Arlen Specter’s request, Chief of the Secret Service James Rowley wrote a letter to chief counsel J. Lee Rankin. He said that he could not locate either the films or the transcript of this press conference. (DiEugenio, p. 367) As the ARRB proved, this was a lie, because they found a transcript of that press conference that was time stamped, “Received US Secret Service 1963 Nov. 26 AM 11:40”. (ibid) Does it get much worse than that? In other words, the Warren Commission’s own investigators were keeping important pieces of evidence from them—and then lying about it.
As most of us know, Perry was pressured to alter his first day story. By the time of his appearance before the Commission, he now said that the edges of the wound were neither ragged nor clean and that the wound could have been an exit or entrance. Gerald Ford got him to say that the reporting from the press conference was inaccurate. Allen Dulles applied the icing on the cake: he said Perry should issue a retraction—which, of course, he just had. (DiEugenio, pp. 166–67)
The reason Ford and Dulles could do this is because, in all probability, the Secret Service had absconded with the films and the transcript. But further, Perry had been worked on. As the Church Committee had discovered, a man named Elmer Moore had taken it upon himself to convert Perry to the Commission’s point of view. Moore was a Secret Service agent who was forwarded to work for the Commission. One of his first assignments was to take up a desk at Parkland Hospital and convince the doctors there that they were wrong and the autopsy report was correct. One of his priority targets was Perry. (DiEugenio, p. 167)
As Pat Speer later discovered, this story about Moore gets even worse. After he performed his assignment in Dallas so effectively, he got a promotion to longer term one. He became the aide de camp to Commission Chairman Earl Warren. (DiEugenio, p. 168)
But it was not just Moore—and it was not just a couple of weeks later. As Horne stated during that FFF conference, Nurse Audrey Bell testified that Perry told her he was getting calls that evening directing him to alter his testimony.(DiEugenio, p. 169) This is now backed up by a startling piece of evidence surfaced by author Rob Couteau. Martin Steadman was a reporter at the time of the JFK assassination. Couteau discovered a journal entry by Martin that is online. Steadman was stationed in Dallas for several days after the assassination gathering information. Some of it got in print and some of it did not. From all indications, the following did not.
One of the witnesses he spent some time with in Dallas was Malcolm Perry. Steadman was aware of what Perry had said at the press conference about the directionality of the neck wound. Steadman wrote that, about a week after the assassination, he and two other journalists were with Perry in his home. During this informal interview, Perry said he thought it was an entrance wound because the small circular hole was clean. He then added two important details. He said he had treated hundreds of patients with similar wounds and he knew the difference between an exit and entrance wound. Further, hunting was a hobby of his, so he understood from that experience what the difference was. And he could detect it at a glance.
Steadman went on to reveal something rather surprising. Perry said that during that night, he got a series of phone calls to his home from the doctors at Bethesda. They were very upset about his belief that the neck wound was one of entrance. They asked him if the Parkland doctors had turned over the body to see the wounds in Kennedy’s back. Perry replied that they had not. They then said: how could he be sure about the neck wound in light of that? They then told him that he should not continue to say that he cut across an entrance wound, when there was no evidence of a shot from the front. When Perry insisted that he could only say what he thought to be true, something truly bizarre happened. Perry said that one or more of the autopsy doctors told him that he would be brought before a Medical Board if he continued to insist on his story. Perry said they threatened to take away his license.
After Perry finished this rather gripping tale, everyone was silent for a moment. Steadman then asked him if he still thought the throat wound was one of entrance. After a second or so, Perry said: yes, he did.
What is so remarkable about this story is that it blows the cover off of the idea that the autopsy doctors did not know about the anterior neck wound until the next day. Not only did they know about it that night, they were trying to cover it up that night.
But things always get worse in the JFK case. And this issue does also, because, if the reader can comprehend it, that night was not the first time Perry was told to revise his story—or to just plain shut up. Bill Garnet and Jacque Lueth have written, produced, and directed a documentary called The Parkland Doctors. It was shown at the CAPA Houston mock trial a few years back, but only to those in attendance, not to the viewing audience. Robert Tanenbaum is the host of the documentary. He let me see it at his home two years ago. It is a good and valuable film, since it features seven of the surviving doctors at that time, 2018.
Towards the end of the program, Dr. Robert McClelland made a bracing comment about Perry. He said that as Perry was walking out, a man in a suit and tie grabbed him by the arm. After he got his attention, he forcefully said to Malcolm, “Don’t you ever say that again!” I turned to Tanenbaum and said: “This is about ninety minutes after Kennedy was pronounced dead.” Tanenbaum said, “Jim, they knew within the hour.” At the very least, someone knew that there had to be a cover story snapped on.
Malcolm Perry was a victim of a large-scale crime. The evidence above indicates that the cover up was planned with the conspiracy. I would love to know who that well-dressed man who accosted him was.
One last point. When Elmer Moore was asked to appear before the Church Committee, he brought a lawyer with him. (DiEugenio, p. 168)
One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000). See “About Us” for a fuller bio.