The Ongoing Kennedy Casket Mystery

by Jacob G. Hornberger Future of Freedom Foundation

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On the 49th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, among the glaring issues that cry out for explanation is the multiple delivery of Kennedy's body to the Bethesda morgue on the evening of the assassination. After almost half-a-century, the government agencies and government officials who were involved still refuse to provide an explanation into that highly unusual and very mysterious episode. In fact, they still won't even acknowledge that it happened despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that it did happen.

The facts are detailed in an article I published on November 22, 2010, entitled, u201CThe Kennedy Casket Conspiracy,u201D which was based on two books: Best Evidence by David Lifton and Inside the Assassination Records Review Board: The U.S. Government’s Final Attempt to Reconcile the Conflicting Medical Evidence in the Assassination of JFK by Douglas P. Horne.

Here's what happened:

After Kennedy was declared dead at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, his body was wrapped in sheets and placed into an extremely expensive, heavy, ornate casket. The casket was taken from Parkland and delivered to Dallas Love Field, where it was placed into the back of Air Force One, the plane in which the new president, Lyndon Johnson, was now traveling.

A few hours later, the plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C. The casket was removed from the plane and placed into an automobile in which the deceased president's wife Jacqueline was riding. The automobile slowly made its way to Bethesda Naval Hospital. It arrived in the front of the hospital at 6:55 p.m. and the casket was officially carried into the morgue at 8:00 p.m. (after an unofficial secret delivery of the casket into the morgue at 7:17 p.m.). In the meantime, Mrs. Kennedy was escorted into the hospital to a VIP waiting lounge.

There was one big problem, however, one that Mrs. Kennedy was unaware of: The expensive, heavy, ornate casket which she thought contained the body of her husband didn't. Unbeknownst to her, her husband's body had secretly been removed from the Parkland casket and placed into a body bag and a cheap shipping casket similar to those used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War.

That cheap shipping casket, with the president's body inside it, was secretly placed into a black hearse containing a team of men in suits, who secretly transported the casket to the back of the Bethesda facility, where the morgue was located.

A waiting team of soldiers carried the cheap shipping casket, with the president's body in it, into the morgue at 6:35 p.m., even while Mrs. Kennedy was still slowly traveling from Andrews Air Force Base to the Bethesda facilities under the assumption, erroneous as it was, that her husband's body was still inside the expensive, heavy, ornate casket that was riding in the back of her car.

How do we know this happened? Because it was witnessed by several Navy and Marine enlisted men who were there and saw it happen.

Moreover, their eyewitness accounts are buttressed by two documents that were discovered in the 1990s by the Assassination Records Review Board, the agency that had been created in the wake of the storm over government secrecy in the Kennedy assassination produced by Oliver Stone's 1991 movie u201CJFK.u201D

The first document was a written report of the funeral home that handled the embalming of the president's body. It contained the following notation: u201CBody removed from metal shipping casket at NSNH at Bethesda.u201D

The second document was an official military report filed four days after the assassination by Marine Sgt. Roger Boyajian, which stated in part: u201CThe detail arrived at the hospital at approximately 1800 [6:00 p.m.] and after reporting as ordered several members of the detail were posted at entrances to prevent unauthorized persons from entering the prescribed area…. At approximately 18:35 [6:35 p.m.] the casket was received at the morgue entrance and taken inside.u201D (Brackets added.)

Who were the other enlisted men who confirmed the early delivery of the president's body into the Bethesda morgue?

They included E-6 Navy corpsman Dennis David, who later became a Navy officer and who served for 11 years in the Medical Services Corps, until he retired from active duty in 1976. It was under his supervision that a team of sailors offloaded the cheap shipping casket from the black hearse containing the team of men in suits and carried it into the Bethesda morgue.

In fact, David said that when he saw Mrs. Kennedy walking into the front of the Bethesda hospital at 6:55 p.m., he knew what she did not know: that the expensive, heavy, ornate casket from Parkland that was sitting in front of Bethesda Naval Hospital did not contain the deceased president's body.

Also confirming the early delivery of Kennedy's body to the Bethesda morgue were E-4 Navy corpsman Paul O'Connor, E-5 Navy corpsman Floyd Riebe, E-4 Navy corpsman Jerrol Custer, E-4 Navy corpsman Ed Reed, and E-4 Navy corpsman James Jenkins.

The overwhelming weight of the evidence renders a virtually inescapable conclusion: that some time between Parkland Hospital and Andrews Air Force Base, unidentified agents of the U.S. government secretly removed the president's body from the expensive, heavy, ornate casket into which it had been placed at Parkland and then secretly delivered it in a cheap shipping casket to the Bethesda morgue at 6:35 p.m.

The president's body was later officially carried into the Bethesda morgue at 8:00 p.m. inside the expensive, heavy, ornate casket into which it had been placed at Parkland Hospital. That was confirmed by an official report filed by Army 1st Lt. Samuel Bird, who headed up an honor guard of soldiers in dress uniform and white gloves representing all the branches of the military.

How did the body get reinserted into the expensive, heavy, ornate casket from Parkland? That fascinating story is detailed in my article, u201CThe Kennedy Casket Conspiracy.u201D

But the more important questions are: Why did the government do this? What was the purpose of the secret, early delivery of the president's body to the Bethesda morgue? Who were the team of unidentified men in suits who secretly transported the president's body to the Bethesda morgue? Were they military men? CIA? Secret Service? Why was the entire episode kept secret? Why have U.S. military officials steadfastly refused to provide any explanation for what they did?

It seems to me that there can be only one conclusion drawn from all this: government officials were up to no good. I don't see how there can be an innocent explanation placed on what happened here. If there were an innocent explanation, wouldn't it have been provided by now?

Of course, there are those who will claim that this just didn't happen – that the government, especially the military, would never do anything like this. The problem with that reasoning, however, is that it places those who engage in it in a very discomforting position, for it places them in a position of accusing all those enlisted men, along with the funeral home, of lying and, even worse, of having entered into a conspiracy to concoct a fake and false story involving the early delivery of the president's body into the Bethesda morgue.

Think about it: There are only two alternatives here. Either those enlisted men and the funeral home are lying or they're telling the truth. There are no other choices.

Now, ask yourself: Why would those enlisted men and the funeral home lie about such a thing? More important, how in the world would they have entered into a conspiracy to concoct such a story on the very day of assassination? How would they have gotten together to plan such a thing? Why would they have done so? What would have been their motive?

Obviously, the notion that those enlisted men conspired with the funeral home to concoct such a story would constitute one of the most ridiculous and outlandish conspiracy theories ever devised by man. Yet, that's where those who challenge the veracity of those enlisted men and the funeral home find themselves – as proponents of a patently ludicrous conspiracy theory.

Indeed, if those men had really entered into such a conspiracy, don't you know that they would have been immediately investigated, court martialed, and prosecuted, especially when Marine Sgt. Boyajian filed his official report with the Department of the Navy four days after the assassination confirming the early delivery of the president's body to the Bethesda morgue? Would U.S. military officials really have made E-6 Navy corpsman Dennis David a Navy officer and permitted him to continue serving in the military until he retired if he had actually been a co-conspirator who had helped concoct a fake and false story about the early delivery of the president's body to the Bethesda morgue?

Once one realizes that the possibility of such a conspiracy among those enlisted men and the funeral home is virtually nonexistent, then that leaves but one alternative: they were telling the truth – that there was, in fact, an early, secret delivery of the president's body into the Bethesda morgue in a cheap shipping casket.

The episode obviously cries out for explanation. Even though the participants in it might well be dead by now, if there is an innocent explanation for it, there almost certainly would be records within the Navy as to why it occurred and why the military felt it was necessary to keep it secret.

It seems to me, however, that there can be only one explanation for what happened and, unfortunately, it's a dark and nefarious one: to alter Kennedy's body prior to the start of the official autopsy to hide evidence of shots having been fired from the front, so as to cover up evidence of a conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy.

Don't forget, after all, that the team of doctors that treated Kennedy at Parkland held a press conference immediately after the president had been declared dead, at which they announced that the hole in the front of Kennedy's neck was an entry wound. Don't forget also that several witnesses verified that there was a big hole in the back of Kennedy's head that denoted an exit wound, indicating that the shot that hit him in the head had also come from the front.

It is undisputed that the accused shooter of the president, Lee Harvey Oswald, was situated behind him and, therefore, could not have fired any shots into Kennedy from the front.

If the purpose of the early delivery of the president's body to the Bethesda morgue was to alter the body to cover up forensic evidence of a conspiracy in his assassination, then other occurrences in Dallas would start to make sense. We would now understand why the team of Secret Service agents at Parkland Hospital brandished guns, threatening the use of deadly force, to prevent the Parkland medical examiner from conducting the autopsy, as Texas law required. It would also make sense as to why Lyndon Johnson would wait for the president's casket to be delivered to his plane instead of immediately taking off and returning to Washington. It would also explain the need to place the autopsy under the control of the military, which could be relied upon to follow orders, do their duty, and keep the entire episode top secret.

If the government's original plan for secrecy in the Kennedy assassination had been followed, we would never have found out about the early delivery of the president's body into the Bethesda morgue. Don't forget that the government initially ordered that official records in the assassination be kept sealed for 75 years, which would have meant that all those enlisted men would have taken their testimony to the grave. In fact, to doubly-ensure their silence, they were all ordered by the military on the weekend of the assassination to sign written secrecy oaths and threatened with severe reprisals if they ever violated them. It was only because of demands in the 1970s and 1990s that much of the government secrecy surrounding the Kennedy assassination be lifted that people were able to finally learn about the early, secret delivery of the president's body to the Bethesda morgue.

Now that we know what happened, why can't the government, especially the military, come clean and provide an explanation into why all this was done? What harm to national security could possibly occur with a truthful explanation? If there's an innocent explanation, then let's have it. If the explanation isn't innocent, Americans are entitled to it anyway.

What doesn't wash is continued silence, 49 years after the assassination, about what was obviously a very important part of the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination.

Reprinted from The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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