The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Three Doctors Who Treated JFK the Day He Was Shot

Aired December 23, 2003 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Kennedy has been shot by a would-be assassin in Dallas, Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go on to Parkland. Code three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a shot of the emergency room where President Kennedy died on Friday.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive, the doctors who tried to save JFK relive that awful day inside Trauma 1 at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Their vivid memories of the president on the operating table, as Jackie Kennedy looked on in shock and horror. Plus, Bob Schieffer, the veteran CBS newsman who was in Dallas that day and personally brought Lee Harvey Oswald's mother to the police station. The whole story next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We have quite a panel assembled for you tonight. In Washington with us is Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of CBS News "Face the Nation," was a police reporter for "The Fort Worth Star-Telegram" on this date 40 years ago. Also here is Dr. Ronald Jones, one of the first doctors to see the president at Parkland Hospital. He worked on Kennedy in the trauma room, was then chief resident of surgery. He was 31 years old at the time. Two days later, he treated Lee Harvey Oswald. He's now chief of surgery at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

In Parkland is Dr. Charles Baxter. Dr. Baxter was in charge of the emergency room at Parkland that day, helped treat the president, has vivid recollections of Mrs. Kennedy in the trauma room. Here in Washington is Dr. Robert Grossman, a doctor in the trauma room treating Kennedy, 30 years old then, in his first job. He was an instructor in neurosurgery, examined the head, now professor and chairman at the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine. And in Dallas is Gary Mack. Gary is a curator, 6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. That's the Texas school book depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have fired at President Kennedy, the first to theorize, by the way, that the Dallas Police Department may have unknowingly recorded the assassination. Later, we'll be joined by two other doctors, and we'll introduce them to you then.

We'll start with Dr. Jones. When did you first -- what were you doing at the moment you heard?

DR. RONALD JONES, TREATED JFK 11/22/63: Dr. Malcolm Perry and I had been finishing a vascular procedure and came down to the cafeteria in the main hospital. We were eating lunch, and over the loudspeaker came some stat pages for the chief of surgery and the chief of neurosurgery. Very unusual for that to happen, and this was repeated a couple of times.

KING: "Stat page" meaning?

JONES: Meaning answer immediately. And so I got up and went to the front of the cafeteria to a telephone and called the operator. And I said, What are you paging everyone stat for? And she said, The president's been shot, and they're bringing him to the emergency room, and they need physicians right away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is a bulletin from CBS News. In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas.


KING: Remember your first thought?

JONES: Well, you had this sudden rush of adrenaline, this flush of the face, palpitations, probably, and you realize that you were going to be treating the president of the United States.

KING: Dr. Baxter, were you in the emergency room?

DR. CHARLES BAXTER, TREATED JFK 11/22/63, RAN PARKLAND ER: No. I was in the student health service.

KING: Did you get that same page?

BAXTER: No, I got a phone call from the head nurse in the emergency room, Doris Nelson, and she said, Come quickly. The president's been shot. And being furthest from my mind, I said, Well, what else is new today, Doris? And she said, I'm not kidding. And there was no other words spoken. I took off running for the emergency room.

KING: Dr. Robert Grossman, were you in the trauma room?

DR. ROBERT GROSSMAN, EXAMINED JFK'S HEAD WOUND 11/22/63: At the time we also got a phone call, I was sitting in my lab in the medical school building.

KING: You were all young guys.

GROSSMAN: We were all young. And chatting with Kemp Clark, the chairman of our department. And I got a phone call saying, The president's been shot. Come to the emergency room. I told Kemp, and we thought it was a prank. But then we looked at each other and we also started running.

KING: Gary, you are the curator of the museum. What were you doing then?


KING: That day.

MACK: I was, a senior in high school in Denver, Colorado. And like all these gentlemen speaking with you, I remember vividly where I was and what I was doing. Sure do.

KING: Did the teacher announce it?

MACK: Yes, the vice principal walked in, and he stood right next to our table. This was in the cafeteria. I was having -- we were having lunch. And just stood there, and his bottom lip was quivering. It was very odd. And gradually, all the noise and that died down, and he made the announcement. Of course, we were all just stunned. But I remember the -- I remember the tiniest thing, like I was eating cream of potato soup. And the week then ended, you know, went on from there.

KING: Bob, where were you?

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS, LOCAL NEWSPAPER REPORTER IN NOVEMBER 1963: Well, I was sound asleep. I was the night police reporter at the "Star-Telegram," so I didn't get off until 3:00 o'clock in the morning. My brother, Tom, who was in high school -- our mother had given him permission to stay out of school so he could go and see the president, who spoke at a breakfast in Forth Worth that morning. And in fact, Tom was one of the last people in Fort Worth to shake hands with the president. He's somehow wiggled his way over next to the limo, and when the president got ready to get in, he shook his hand.

But anyway, he came and woke me, and he said, You better get to work. The president's been shot. Well, it's -- you know, you're sound asleep. It was -- I'll never forget it. I dressed as quickly as I could. I got to the newspaper. As I was driving down there, it came over the radio he was dead, and I just -- you know, I lost it.

I mean -- we didn't know, Larry, what had happened. I mean, you know, nothing like this had ever happened. I mean, we didn't know if we were under attack from the Soviet Union. We didn't know what this was about. They closed off the borders to Mexico.

But I got to the city desk. I was just trying to help out. I grabbed a phone, and a woman said, Anybody there can you give me a ride to Dallas? And I said, Lady, you know, this is not the taxi service. Well, you know the rest of the story. She said, Yes, I heard it on the radio. I think my son is the one they've arrested. And it was Lee Harvey Oswald's...

KING: You drove his mother to Dallas.

SCHIEFFER: ... mother. So another reporter and I drove her to the Dallas police station.

KING: All right, Dr. Jones, what happened? You were the first to see him, right?

JONES: Right. I...

KING: Brought in on a stretcher?

JONES: When I turned around from answering the phone, I told Dr. Jenkins, chief of anesthesia, and Audrey Bell (ph), who was the operating room supervisor, that the president had been shot. And he said, Well, I'll get an anesthesia machine down there. And she said, I'll get the OR ready. Because we thought he was probably shot, but we would be able to resuscitate him and operate and he would survive.

But I told Dr. Perry -- we ran out of the back side of the cafeteria, down some steps, into the emergency room and went to trauma room one and two. The door to trauma room 2 was closed, and that was where Connally was. We didn't know he had been injured. And went into trauma room 1. Mrs. Kennedy was on the left. And as I looked at him, he was motionless. He was staring. His eyes were open. And I never saw any evidence of life.

But I saw a small hole in the midline of the neck, just below the Adam's apple, and I knew that he had an injury to the back of his head. Dr. Carrico was the second-year resident and was trying to place an endotracheal tube into the windpipe to gain access for an airway.

KING: Did you know he was dead?

JONES: Dr. Carrico had indicated that he thought he saw some agonal respirations, but that was what triggered the effort to resuscitation. But if you looked at him, he looked like he was moribund. And in retrospect, he probably was.

KING: Dr. Baxter, what's the first thing you noticed?

BAXTER: I thought that he was having a few breathing -- that he was breathing a few breaths. And we could barely hear a heartbeat. And an EKG was hooked up very rapidly, and his heart was, in fact, beating. But he was obviously agonal. He just had every appearance, as Ron described.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the scene at Dallas's Parkland Hospital as the body of President Kennedy was brought out and taken to Dallas's Love Field to be flown to Washington. The body is now en route by plane to Washington. Also en route to Washington is the 36th president of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson.


KING: We're back. Dr. Grossman, Robert Grossman, you examined the head wound?

GROSSMAN: Yes. When Dr. Clark and I came in, he was surrounded by physicians, as Dr. Jones said, trying to resuscitate him. And you could see that the right side of his head had suffered a major wound, but I don't think anyone had had time to examine him closely. So Kemp and I went to the head of the stretcher, Kemp on the left, I on the right, and we lifted up his head. He had very thick, bristly hair. And when you parted the hair, you could see that the right posterior part of the head -- back here, right when I'm putting my hand -- this part was simply blasted out. There was a large plate of bone that was hinged upward, and you could see the brain tissue was all macerated and white. As Ron said, there was no active bleeding.

Then we lifted his head up further, and he had a small opening in the back of his head. I've got a skull model here I could show now or later. I can show people where it was. We lifted his head up like this. And you could see in the back here, there was an opening about the size of a quarter, which was clearly a bullet entry wound. And then there was this massive, gaping wound on the side of his head, with the plate of bone blown up.

KING: So he was dead.

GROSSMAN: I thought that -- also that I saw some gasping, that he was trying to fight the respirator, but it was perfectly clear that he could not live very long. I thought he might remain in a coma for some hours or even some days with the brain stem intact. And the whole attention of the world would be focused on Parkland, at that point. But it was clear to me that the bullet had entered the back of his head and blasted out this part of his head. This was an exit wound. As you know...

KING: So what was the little hole in the front of the neck?

GROSSMAN: There was a hole in the front of the neck, which everyone thought was an entry wound. But as you know, we did not undress him. When it was clear that he was dead, I think out of respect for a dead person and respect for the president, we did not undress him.

KING: Was Mrs. Kennedy in the room?

GROSSMAN: As Ron said...

KING: All this time?

JONES: Yes. When I entered, she was at the left of the door, as Dr. Perry and I entered. And as looked at him, between us, we said, Dr. Perry will do the tracheotomy. And I'll do a venous section here to isolate a vein to get IV fluids and blood going. And so that's what we started with.

KING: And you're doing what doctors do. You're doing everything you can.

JONES: You've got an airway and you're trying to...


KING: Would you have done that with any patient in that condition?

JONES: Yes. And that was, I think -- we saw a lot of trauma and a lot of gunshot wounds at that time, and this was a reflex that you automatically do. I think if you'd had to stop and think about it, and knowing it was the president of the United States, it might have been a little harder. But I think most of us thought this was an entrance wound, and in the back of the head was an exit wound.

KING: Dr. Baxter, what was Mrs. Kennedy doing in that room all that time?

BAXTER: Mrs. Kennedy was in the room and sort of circling around. And I asked her to please wait outside and had the nurse to escort her outside to a chair right outside the room. I explained to her that it was not going to be pretty. And then we turned to work on the chest. Dr. Carrico was having trouble ventilating the patient, and we put a chest tube in on the left. Then we saw the bullet hole in his neck, or rather, the little wound, very small wound, in his neck, and we proceeded with a tracheostomy, and there was very little tissue damage there, not anything that would cause any problems with breathing. But we did get an endotracheal tube in and were sure that we had him adequately ventilated. And of course, it didn't help at all.

KING: Who pronounced him dead, Dr. Grossman?

GROSSMAN: Dr. Clark did. He was the most senior surgeon there. He was 38 and...

KING: Can you tell us, what determines he was dead?

GROSSMAN: Because we could not get the heart started. There was cardiac massage. EKG showed no organized activity. And after about 15 minutes of very intensive work, it was clear his heart couldn't be started.

KING: What are you -- what's going through you? This is not just another patient. I mean, I know you're working hard, and you would if it were a Thursday night shooting of an alcoholic in a bar, you'd be working this way. But it's not an alcoholic on a Thursday night in a bar. It's the president. So what's going through you?

GROSSMAN: Well, I think, as Bob Schieffer said, everyone's mind, I think, said, What does it mean for the country? Is this the start of World War III.

KING: So you're thinking that as the same time you're working.

GROSSMAN: Absolutely, you're thinking of that. And also, there was an awesome feeling because you knew he was the president. There was almost an aura about him which almost seemed to fade as he died. Even though I'm not a superstitious person, there was really quite a...

KING: There was an aura?

GROSSMAN: It seemed to me. I was really very in awe of the situation.

SCHIEFFER: I'm just wondering, listening to the doctors -- you thought at the beginning that the -- this wound was an entrance wound. Did that lead you to believe that this shot, as you came to know what we all know about now, could not have come from above and behind the president? Are you satisfied, I guess is what I'm saying, with the conclusion the Warren Commission came to?

GROSSMAN: I think if you look at the autopsy report and all the other re-reviews, I think it's clear that the neck wound was an exit wound. The bullet entered...

SCHIEFFER: It looked that way at the beginning to you?

GROSSMAN: It looked like an entrance wound, but there was no way of telling whether entrance or exit and nobody...

KING: The autopsy makes it clear it was...

GROSSMAN: I think it was clear that...

KING: All right, let me...

GROSSMAN: ... the bullet went in the back and came out the neck.

KING: We'll get a break and come right back. We'll ask Gary about the museum and lots more on this incredible day. Don't go away.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like the president's been hit! (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stand by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten-four. Parkland has been notified 12:32.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep all traffic off of the emergency entrance to Parkland Hospital and all emergency equipment off of Industrial Boulevard.


KING: We're back. Joining us now from Parkland Hospital for a few moments is Dr. Adolph Giesecke. He was staff anesthesiologist on that day. He attached the EKG monitor. Was he given anesthesia, Doctor?

DR. ADOLPH GIESECKE, ATTACHED EKG MONITOR TO JFK: No, he was not given any anesthesia, only resuscitation.

KING: Did you know that you were fighting a losing cause?

GIESECKE: I really didn't stay in the room long enough to tell. When -- like Dr. Jones, I was in the cafeteria, sitting at the same table with Dr. Jenkins when the news came that the president had been shot. Dr. Jenkins ordered me to go to the operating room to get some equipment, which I did. Dr. Jenkins went on directly to the emergency room.

I came to the emergency room with an electrocardiographic monitor, which wasn't routine equipment in the emergency room in those days, and an anesthesia machine. Dr. Jenkins asked me to hook up the electrocardiographic monitor, which I did with needle electrodes. Those little patch electrodes are a product of the space exploration and were not available in 1963.

Then after I hooked up the electrocardiogram, my recollection was that there was no activity on the EKG. But at that point, I was called across the hall to take care of the governor. Governor Connally was also injured in that episode. And I spent the rest of the day with the governor. I gave the governor's anesthetic, so that was very time-consuming.

KING: By the way, how -- I'll ask you, Gary, how does the museum treat all this? Do you deal with all what happened at the hospital, or do you deal only with what happened at Dealey Plaza?

MACK: Oh, we cover the entire subject as best we can in a neutral way. And one of the difficulties -- and this has come up in the show already -- is how to make some sense of some of these things. For example, most of the medical people at Parkland describe a big hole in the president's head in the rear or right rear, and yet the autopsy photographs and X-rays of the body don't show a big hole over here. How do you make sense of all that?

KING: Dr. Jones?

JONES: I think the explanation for it is that some of those films that -- and the pictures that were taken at the autopsy had pulled the scalp up and perhaps covered this large hole because you can see an occasional picture where there's an entrance wound of the skull.

KING: That is now a federal crime, to shoot a president, right? And then therefore any president was shot, they would do an autopsy at Bethesda. But at that time, when that body was taken to Maryland, that body should not have been removed from Dallas, right?

JONES: By law, it should not. Earl Rose was the chief medical examiner there...

KING: And he was chasing the car. JONES: And when you're murdered in Dallas County, the law is that you're autopsied in Dallas County.

KING: Now, they made him out to be a buffoon.

GROSSMAN: Well, he tried to stop the procession or the casket being removed. He stood in front of it. But the Secret Service men were furious. They had failed in their job, and they weren't having any interruptions. And I remember very vividly one of them just taking him and smashing him against the wall, and then the procession went out.

KING: I asked the others. Dr. Giesecke, did you -- were you aware this is the -- I mean, how did you feel? This is not just another patient.

GIESECKE: At the time, we were focused, of course, on trying to save a life. And I think all doctors who are presented in any situation, they try to save the life first. After it was all over, then, and after the governor's anesthesia was over and we had him safely in the recovery room, we all kind of sat down and realized what we had done and that this was going to be a very historic thing. And Dr. Jenkins requested that we all write down or dictate notes on what we remembered, the details of what we remembered. We all did that. That appeared as a publication in "Texas Medicine" in January, 1964, and it's quite moving to read.

KING: Dr. Baxter, is it true? Did you stop the doctors from opening the chest for a heart massage?


KING: Because?

BAXTER: Because we knew then from Dr. Clark that the head was essentially blown off, the brain was missing, and there was no chance for survival. And to have opened his chest would really have been, to my mind, malpractice.

KING: Who told Mrs. Kennedy, Dr. Jones?

JONES: Well, I think she was in the room and probably knew. She likely knew when he arrived in the emergency room. But after I put in a left chest tube and Dr. Baxter and Dr. Peters put in a right chest tube, I think that's when we hooked up the EKG machine. And all this was done within a matter of less than 10 minutes.

KING: Did someone tell her, though?

GROSSMAN: Dr. Clark told her because he had declared her dead.

KING: Him dead.

GROSSMAN: And he went over and he comforted her as best he could. She had been crying. She had brain and blood on her pink dress. And he told her. KING: Let me get a break. In a little while, a Dr. Charles Petty will be added to the panel. We thank Dr. Adolph Giesecke for joining us. The rest of the panel will remain. We'll return right after this.



KING: By the way, if you're in Dallas, you must visit that museum.

You've been there?

SCHIEFFER: Yes. Can I just say a word about that Larry? Because this is a wonderful thing that they've done. And they could have really made a mess of this. There were people in Dallas that wanted to bulldoze this building. They wanted to forget about this. But wiser heads prevailed. They have made this is a place of scholarship. It's done with great dignity. In democracy, we need accurate history. That's what this museum is all about.

KING: I agree 100 percent. A beautiful memorial in the middle too. By the way, you understand, Gary, that the sixth floor museum has remembering Jack, intimate and unseen photographs of the Kennedy that explores the life of JFK through photographs Jacques Lowe and there's a book being released in conjunction with.

Is that right?

MACK: That's true. Jacques Lowe was the Kennedy family's favorite photographer and he shot over 40,000 pictures. All those original negatives were stored in building right next the World Trade Center in New York and those negatives were vaporized. So, what survives today are contact sheets. You know, little tiny images made directly off the negatives before they were destroyed and through a computer enhancement, they're sharpened and cleared somewhat. So, at least they survive in that manner.

KING: Dr. Jones, did the FBI and secret service come into that room?

JONES: There were probably agents in the room behind me. That room was so full of people because they didn't know who needed to be in and who didn't need to be in. But there were -- I think the president's doctor was in there, as well as agents in there.

KING: Did you speak to this them?

JONES: I spoke to them as I left the room. After we had noted that he was dead for sure, I walked out of the room and I was immediately met by a gentleman who had a badge in the palm of his hand that literally filled it and said I'm with the FBI and need to know the condition of the president so I can call J. Edgar Hoover. That's when I realized that I was probably the first one out of the room and this was not announced and no one knew that he was dead. I walked just a few more feet, and another individual said I with the secret service and I need to tell Joseph Kennedy the condition of his son. And I tried to take them to a telephone in the emergency room.

KING: Dr. Grossman, did a priest come and give last rites?


KING: Was he at the hospital at the time?

GROSSMAN: I don't know if he was or not.

KING: When he was announced dead, what happened in the room?

Was there -- what did everybody do -- gloves come off?

GROSSMAN: I think people were just emotionally drained. I think people looked at each other. I think, there was no organized plan, Ron, was there?

I think people just out of respect felt they should just leave.

JONES: I left before the priest arrived and so I didn't see him come in. We were told before we did a little bit of closed chest massage that Mrs. Kennedy did not want him pronounced until the priest arrived.

KING: Was there anybody else in the emergency room that day, Dr. Baxter?

Were other people being treated?

BAXTER: In the emergency room, yes. It was full. But you didn't see any of them, because they have -- the Secret Service had virtually emptied the hallways. So that when you entered the room, there was only FBI people or Secret Service people that contacted you all the way from the door into the room.

KING: But I mean, if someone were having a heart attack, would they have been treated well that day?

BAXTER: Yes. There was plenty of personnel around to take care of them. Certain number went with Mr. Johnson to another part of the emergency room. Principally, I think because no one knew if this was the conspiracy or what it was. And they wanted to isolate Mr. Johnson from what was going on with the president and Mr. Connally.

KING: Now, Gary, you theorize that the Dallas police had tapes of this -- audiotapes of the shooting?


MACK: Well, back in the mid-70s, I heard a tape recording of the Dallas police radio broadcast, and there was an open microphone for about six or seven minutes before, during and after the assassination and the conspiracy folks thought that this was done deliberately to block communications. I just asked to me what was a simple question, where is the open microphone?

And the answer was that, well, we think he was in the motorcade. So I said well if he's in the motorcade, then the shots have to be here also in this recording.

So this eventually went to the House Assassinations Committee. They hired experts to analyze the recording. And the analysis came back four shots, not three. And of the four the third came from the grassy knoll, based primarily on that the House on Assassination Committee colluded there was a conspiracy to kill the president. That was in 1979, then 1982, a follow up study says no shots on here at all. So, what we have now is two groups of experts, they both stand by what they did and who do you believe?

KING: What do you believe?

MACK: I think the guys got it right were the first ones.

KING: Four shots?

MACK: That's right. That's only because I've gotten to know those gentleman. I understand how they applied the work. And there's some photographic confirmation that shows that the officer in question could have been in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, like a lot of the things with the Kennedy assassination, that's not definitive either.

KING: Bob, do you think we'll ever know -- to many people gone now.

SCHIEFFER: No. I think we won't. I mean, so much time has passed. My own view is that I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shot. I have not yet heard enough evidence to convince me that somebody else may have helped him but I'm keeping an open mind about that because at this point who can say?

KING: What was Dallas like when you reached the city?

SCHIEFFER: It was just total bedlam, Larry. Again, it was confusion. People -- the thing it's hard for us to understand now is we hadn't been through anything like this. You know, we can all remember everything about that day. Where we were, what we were doing but when we got to Ronald Reagan and when that fellow shot at Ronald Reagan, there was so much violence since that day in Dallas that we have to stop and think where we were. We almost -- it's sad to say, we almost got used to it.

KING: Yes. Schieffer, you're driving with Mrs. Oswald.

Is she talking to you about her son?

SCHIEFFER: Yes. It was one of the most bizarre conversations I have ever had. Some of things she said, I mean, here the president is not -- his body is not yet cold and she's talking about how everybody will feel sorry for his wife. And give her money and no one will give her money and she'll starve to death. And the things she said were so outrageous, I didn't put them in the story that I wrote in the "Star Telegram" the next morning. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I thought this poor women is under this emotional pressure and I probably should have done it.

KING: It was a major exclusive?

SCHIEFFER: Yes. I wrote a pretty long story about it but I just -- I thought I can't do this. And as I came to understand, the woman was totally fixated on money and I should have done it.

KING: Dr. Jones, you treated Lee Oswald two days later?

JONES: Yes. I was out at Parkland staffing a stab wound to the neck which was a negative exploration. It was in the office in the operating room. And a phone call came in...

KING: Oh my god.

JONES: ... and a nurse spoke for just a few minutes -- just a few second and turned to me and said Dr. Jones, they've shot Oswald and they're bringing him to the emergency room.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This ambulance comes to the same emergency room entrance to which President Kennedy was brought on Friday. Through the same entrance now goes the man accused of assassinating the president.


JONES: And I had seen Dr. Perry (ph) and Dr. Jenkins (ph) in their office up the hall and I went up there and told them that he had been shot and...

KING: Did you see him?

JONES: ... we went down the elevator to the emergency room and actually arrived before Oswald arrive. And they wheeled him into the room. He was not moving. And couldn't tell that he was breathing much but this time, I listened to the chest, and he did have a heart beat. So, we knew he was alive and Dr. Jenkins intubated him. I did a venesection (ph) in the same vein, the left arm had been on President Kennedy. And I put a chest tube in on the left side because he had an obvious entrance wound just above the rib cage on the left.

KING: What killed him?

JONES: Massive blood loss. He, if you remember when Ruby shot him, he turned like this and that went right through the back portion of the abdominal area and did major vascular injury. He would have been better taking the shot straight on. And we had him to the operating room within about seven or eight minutes from the time he hit the emergency room. KING: And he died how soon thereafter?

JONES: He lived about an hour and 15 minutes. We -- and hour or so. The operation started at 11:42, I believe, and he was pronounced dead as you saw on the black board at 1:07 p.m. And he had injuries to his left chest, his diaphragm, his spleen. He had blew a major artery off the aorta his the spermatic artery, into the right renal artery and the right kidney and the bullet to came to lodge in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) also. It came to lodge just under the skin on the right side.

KING: The whole world went mad that weekend. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the basement floor of the Dallas city hall. And that's a scuffle on the basement floor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been shot. Oswald has been shot.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oswald has been shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to switch now...





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the approximate location where a bystander named Jim Tague stood, and while he was watching the motorcade approach him on Elm Street, when the shots started, one of the shots struck this curb near here and splattered and cut him on his right cheek.

The single bullet theory explains the shooting in light of the fact that a bystander was also wounded. Investigators found three empty shells up in the book depository, and presumed only three shots were fired.

One shot hit President Kennedy in the head. That's very visible in the Zapruder film. Another shot missed and struck the curb here and wounded the bystander. Therefore, one bullet must -- the remaining bullet must have done all of the other damage, which was through Kennedy's upper back, out his throat, into Texas Governor John Connally, through the top of his wrist, out the bottom of his wrist and into his left thigh.


KING: We're back. We're going to spend a few moments now at Parkland Hospital with Dr. Charles Petty. He was not in Dallas that day. He -- in the late '70s, though, as chief medical examiner for Dallas County, he was a member of a medical panel that reviewed the assassination for the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations. What conclusion did you come to, Dr. Petty?

DR. CHARLES PETTY, REPORTED TO HOUSE ASSASSINATION COMMITTEE: Well, there are a number of conclusions. I think the most important was that Kennedy was struck by two bullets, both entering from the back.

KING: Do you buy any of this single bullet theory? Hitting him and Connally?

PETTY: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

KING: You do? How does that happen?

PETTY: Yes, I do.

KING: ... because Nellie Connally said that would be virtually impossible for the bullet to hit both of them, because John Connally was turning.

PETTY: Well, I don't think there's any question about that. The bullet that struck Mr. Connally obviously was traveling at a relatively low velocity. It had lost some of its velocity in going through President Kennedy. Then it went on and did not penetrate the chest, as has been reported. It skirted around the chest, following the curvature of the rib. And then it had enough velocity to go through the governor's wrist, and then still enough to strike and wound him in the thigh.

KING: There is still controversy over the autopsy in Bethesda. Have you seen it?

PETTY: I have seen the autopsy report. Yes.

KING: Is it well done? Is it conclusive?

PETTY: I thought it was done under a great deal of difficulty, because the autopsy surgeon did not have complete control of the autopsy room. I think that in itself the autopsy was well done. I don't think there's any question about that. And well reported.

KING: In retrospect, what should have been done differently?

PETTY: In retrospect, I believe that Commander Hume should have had complete control of the autopsy room, which he did not because of so much high brass that was present there.

Secondly, in retrospect, I believe that the people, the physicians who worked with both of them in the Parkland Hospital area should have been taken out to Bethesda and been there at the time of the autopsy.

KING: Dr. Jones, do you concur?

JONES: That could have certainly helped the communication...

KING: You could have helped.

JONES: ... knowing that he had been shot in the back, and them knowing that he had a wound in the top (ph) of his neck.

But I think the single bullet theory requires a lot of -- a lot of assumptions, and then, after you go through the fact that it -- that it made all the wounds for Kennedy and for -- and Governor Connally, then he's brought in on a stretcher, his clothes are taken off after he's resuscitated. A sheet is placed over him. He's taken on that stretcher up to the operating room, he's transferred onto an OR table. Jane Wester, the nurse, folds the sheets up. No one has seen a bullet during that entire time. His clothes are in a brown paper bag on the lower part of the stretcher, so they're not on the stretcher.

The stretcher is taken back down the elevator and parked at the elevator unattended for a while, and then as Mr. Tomlinson comes up and moves the stretcher, a bullet falls off that no one has ever seen.

KING: Dr. Baxter, do you think you should have been at the autopsy?

BAXTER: I think it would have helped. It would have been at least a little additional information for the commander.

KING: Dr. Grossman?

GROSSMAN: They should have given them more time. The drawings were done very hastily. There's no accurate marking of dimensions. The photographs are out of focus. They should have had time to develop them and check them.

KING: What was the rush?

GROSSMAN: That's the question. I don't know.

KING: President put a rush on it, didn't he, Bob Schieffer? Didn't Johnson say I want this out fast?

SCHIEFFER: I believe that's correct, Larry. But I was not here in Washington. I was back at the Dallas police station when all that part was going on. So I'm not...

KING: Was the press murmuring about all this, conspiracy?

SCHIEFFER: No. What we were trying to do is we were trying to find Oswald and talk to him. I had -- when I had arrived with Oswald's mother, I didn't tell the Dallas police who I was. I was a reporter. I just let them assume I was the detective. In fact, I asked if they had a little room where I...

KING: Oh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you press people.

SCHIEFFER: ... could let -- put Mrs. Oswald -- so that -- yeah, exactly. It was a little different day.

And in fact, they found me a room for her. And, late in the day, I asked Captain Will Fritz if it would be possible for her to see Oswald, and they took us all into a little holding room off the jail and they were going to bring him down. And finally someone for the first time, somebody asked me who I was, and he...

KING: You would have met him?

SCHIEFFER: He told me I'd better excuse myself immediately, which I proceeded to do.

KING: Dr. Petty, do you think we know the whole story or we'll never know the whole story?

PETTY: I suppose there are details we will never know, but I think basically the story has been pretty well told.

KING: Thank you very much, Dr. Petty, for joining us, and we'll wrap the things up in our final moments with Bob Schieffer, Dr. Ronald Jones, Dr. Charles Baxter, Dr. Robert Grossman and Gary Mack. We'll be right back.


KING: Let's find out how each of our panelists feels now 40 years later. Do you think about it a lot, Dr. Jones?

JONES: You start to think about it at the time of the anniversaries and perhaps this is the most that the United States has thought about this is at the 40th anniversary.

KING: What about you, Robert?

GROSSMAN: I think about it a lot. I must say, Larry, that it took me weeks to realize how drained of emotion that I was after going through this. Like the doctors, reporters concentrate on what's in front of them to try to get the job done. You don't realize until later the significance of what you've been involved in.

But the way I felt during those days, I never felt that way again until 9/11. These are two stories that I hope to God I'll never experience that kind of feeling again.

KING: Dr. Baxter, was there any other major emergency at Parkland that day?

BAXTER: No, I don't think so. We were so concerned with Mr. Connally after the president was pronounced dead that that consumed the rest of the afternoon.

KING: How did you come to be curator at the museum, Gary?

MACK: Well, I'd contacted as a consultant when the museum was in its planning stages and I knew a little bit about the films and photographs that were available so they needed someone like me to help tell the story eventually when the museum opened. So it developed that way.

KING: Are you still looking for any memorabilia or do you have everything?

MACK: We're looking for everything we can find, especially the films and photographs. Just a year ago, a man walked in with 17 photographs he'd taken in Dealy Plaza before and after the assassination. He didn't think those pictures were important but for history, they're invaluable and he donated them to us.

JONES: Speaking of pictures, I had a picture taken of trauma room one about three or four weeks after it so that picture is available, although trauma room one is no longer there. I do have a photo of it as it was at that time.

KING: What's at Parkland now, where this was?

GROSSMAN: I went there myself a few weeks ago. Trauma room one is no longer there. It's a plaque on the wall and there is a waiting room for the X-ray department where trauma room one was. But the new trauma room one, I also took a picture of, doesn't look too different from the old one. The equipment is a little more modern but about the same size.

KING: There's nothing in the equipment and advances we have made today, is there, Dr. Jones -- I don't want to make a statement, I'm asking -- that could have saved him.

JONES: No. He had such an injury to the brain that I think that would have been a lethal wound. But we didn't know that at the time that we started the resuscitation and it was only later that that was determined.

KING: Anything today might have saved Oswald?

GROSSMAN: No. I don't think so. Again, amount of trauma, blood loss, it was too great.

KING: Did the hospital ever recover, you know, did it leave this imprint for days and months around. Did people talk about it, think about it? Cafeteria, walking around the hospital. You were the most famous hospital in the world.

JONES: We became known as a trauma hospital after that and we wrote up one of the first trauma books on care of the trauma patient. We learned some things from this and we implemented hotlines where red phones where you could call out and call in because when the Secret Service and FBI wanted to call out, you couldn't get a line out.

We established a trauma research center there. Better communication. We established an ambulance service in the early '70s. So a lot of things came out of this that we learned.

SCHIEFFER: Larry, I don't think America was ever quite the same after that day. I think that was the day that we lost our innocence, really. The way we covered the news changed. The way we came to think of our presidents, up until that point, we thought they were larger than life almost bullet-proof.

We learned that they were mortal men and I think it began what was years of cynicism. Because after that came Watergate, Vietnam and all of that. It's a testament to the strength of this country that it didn't come apart during those days.

KING: Those pictures seen at the World Trade Center.

SCHIEFFER: Yes. Just one more of these odd little things that happened that are connected to the assassination.

KING: Thank you all very much for sharing these memories with us. I'll be back and tell you about tomorrow night right after these words.


WALTER CRONKITE, ANCHOR: From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1:00 p.m. Central standard time, 2:00 Eastern standard time. Some 38 minutes ago.



KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay tuned now for news around the hour on your most trusted name in news, CNN.


Was Shot>

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.