Was There an “Early Entry” of JFK’s Body Into the Bethesda Morgue?

The lynchpin event for the claim that JFK had pre-autopsy surgery and even a  so-called fraudulent autopsy is an alleged clandestine “early entry” of JFK’s casket and body into the Bethesda morgue at roughly 6:35 pm on November 22, 1963.

This early-entry scenario is necessary to provide sufficient time for pre-autopsy surgery of JFK’s wounds in order to remove  evidence of any frontal shots, that is, evidence of  conspiracy.  Now if the casket and body entry is later, say 7:17 pm (as the testimony of several FBI and SS agents maintained) or even 8:00 pm (as the Honor Guard report indicated), then the case for pre-autopsy surgery and a fraudulent autopsy is weakened substantially.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Where is the extraordinary proof that JFK’s body entered the Bethesda morgue at approximately 6:35?



The only contemporaneous written confirmation of an early casket entry is contained in a so-called “after action” report filed by Sergeant R.E. Boyajian (USMC) on November 26, 1963.  Boyajian says in his report that he and 10 other Marines were tasked by Admiral Calvin Galloway (commanding officer at Bethesda) with providing security at the various Bethesda Naval Hospital entrances to “prevent unauthorized persons from entering the prescribed area.” After some confusion about which entries to guard, he then says:

“At approximately 1835 (6:35 pm) the casket was received at the morgue entrance and taken inside.”

The rest of Boyajian’s report is concerned with recounting some minor skirmishes that his Marines had with unruly reporters. He concludes his report by stating that at approximately  0345  (3:45 am, November 23rd) “the casket was removed from the morgue” with Jackie Kennedy and several other associates in attendance.

His one-page report.

It is important to note that Boyajian never provided an actual description of the casket that was received.  What sort of casket was it? If the time for his observed casket entry is correct–approximately 6:35 pm–then the casket he saw could not have been the infamous bronze, ornamental casket that was off-loaded from Air Force One at Andrews Air Base around 6:10 pm. That particular casket was en route to the Bethesda morgue in a Navy ambulance from Andrews and would arrive by most accounts around 7:00 pm or so.  So either Boyajian’s report is incorrect about the time of arrival (if he is, then he could well have seen the ceremonial casket) or he saw another casket entirely. We just don’t know.

We  also never learn from Boyajian’s report exactly how “the casket” he saw arrived at the morgue entrance. Was it delivered by an ambulance, a hearse, a car? And who delivered the casket? How many men were involved and were they in plain clothes, hospital clothes, or were they in service dress?  We don’t know any of this since the Boyajian report is silent on these matters.

Of course the most important question is whether the casket that Boyajian saw actually contained the body of the slain president. Or any “body” for that matter. Was Boyajian told  that JFK was in that casket?  Not in the report.  Or did he actually see the casket opened and confirm for himself that JFK was inside?  Not in the report.  In short, there’s absolutely nothing in the report that would confirm that Boyajian had  first or second-hand knowledge that the casket received at the morgue actually contained JFK’s body. For all we know, that particular casket  could well have been empty.

The Assassinations Records Review Board (AARB) followed up with R.E. Boyajian in a telephone call in April of 1996.  Aside from confirming the basic facts reported in his 1963 action report, Boyajain added one additional detail from memory. According to the interviewer, Boyajian asserted that he now remembered seeing “the body briefly from a distance when he was asked to deliver a message to the morgue…”

Now to be clear, this is a 33 year old remembrance without any corroboration; in addition, it is ambiguous. Was it the body of the president he saw at a distance? Unclear from the transcript.  And even if it was JFK’s body, we have no idea when Boyajian made his alleged observation. Recall that several FBI and SS agents  testified to the AARB that THEY delivered JFK’s  ceremonial casket and body from the Navy ambulance to the morgue at around 7:17 that evening;  Boyajian could well have seen JFK’s body then.  So “seeing the body”—as a stand-alone statement—does nothing to confirm an early-entry scenario. Finally, Boyajian told the AARB’s Douglas Horne in a telephone call in 1996 that he (now) had “no memory” of seeing the casket arrive at the morgue at all (!) even though his report  states that “the casket” was “received” at 6:35. Very strange.

In summary, R.W. Boyajian’s  “after action” report does not provide extraordinary proof that JFK’s corpse arrived at the Bethesda morgue around 6:35 pm on November 22nd.



The only other serious witness account of an “early entry” at the morgue that evening was one provided by Navy corpsman Dennis David who was the “chief of the day” at Bethesda Hospital on November 22nd. The link to David’s testimony to the AARB.

In a telephone interview with AARB’s Douglas Horne on 2/6/1997, David claimed that around 6:45 pm on November 22nd a “black hearse” arrived at the morgue loading dock; the driver and the other front-seat
passenger “were wearing operating room smocks”; that there were 4 or 5 other men in the hearse; and that they and several Navy sailors off-loaded a “gray shipping casket” and brought it into the anteroom adjacent to the morgue.  David then dismissed his sailors and he “went back upstairs to an administrative office.”

Dennis David never maintained that he had first-hand knowledge that JFK was actually in the shipping casket. Indeed he explicitly denied it. The AARB’s Douglas Horne writes in his notes of the interview that “He (David) emphasized that he had no direct knowledge, by observation, that President Kennedy was in the gray shipping casket.” That would  seem pretty definitive.

Yet David would later maintain  that one of the autopsy doctors,  Dr. Boswell , was himself at the loading dock at 6:45 and that Boswell would later confirm to David that JFK had, indeed, arrived in that shipping casket. The AARB’s Douglas Horne appears to accept this story at face value when he writes in July of 2013:

“… Dr. Boswell, who was present on the loading dock when the shipping casket arrived, confirmed to Dennis David later that night, that it had indeed been President Kennedy in the shipping casket.”

Is there any corroboration for such a claim? No; in fact there is testimony under oath by Dr. Boswell that appears to directly contradict David’s recollections.

Dr. Boswell’s testimony.

Dr. Boswell’s told the AARB  that he was “moonlighting” in November of 1963 and that in the early evening of November 22nd  he “… went over to Suburban Hospital about 6:00 and did my work there  for a couple of hours…and arrived back at Navy 7:30 or so…”  He then describes his meeting-up with Dr. James Humes (and not Dennis David) at the loading dock; the arrival of a bronze casket with a broken handle (not any gray shipping casket) off-loaded from a Navy ambulance; the opening of that casket and seeing the President “wrapped in sheets and a pillowcase around his head…” Clearly none of this has anything whatsoever to do with the Dennis David account of an early arrival of a gray shipping casket.

Boswell also recalls that the damaged bronze casket “was removed by Gawler’s (Funeral Home) and then another one was brought in…”   When that swapping of caskets occurred is not clear. What is clear is that JFK’s body would ultimately leave the Bethesda morgue (in the early morning hours of November 23rd) in that “other” substitute casket provided by Gawler’s, after the autopsy and embalming procedures were completed.

In short, Dennis David fails to  provide any extraordinary evidence that JFK’s body arrived in a gray shipping casket around 6:45 pm. Moreover, Dr. Boswell’s testimony before the AARB  does not corroborate any of David’s recollections.

Dennis David made  several other strange claims that further weakens his overall credibility. For example, he asserted that he actually handled “bullet fragments” while preparing a report for some unnamed SS agent. He claimed that he actually watched “portions of a B&W 16 mm movie film” of the autopsy. He claimed that he saw color slides and prints that “made it clear that President Kennedy was hit from the front…” Finally he claimed that he underwent hypnosis  in 1994 to recover assassination memories. All of this  (except the hypnosis) is very difficult to take seriously.  Needless to say, none of Dennis David’s claims have ever been independently confirmed.

To conclude, neither R.E. Boyajian’s report nor Dennis David’s testimony to the AARB  can substantiate the extraordinary claim that JFK’s body entered the Bethesda morgue early on November 22nd. Indeed, there is direct, first hand testimony under oath–by several FBI and SS agents who accompanied the bronze, ceremonial casket from Andrews to Bethesda–that it did NOT. See, for instance, the AARB
testimony of FBI SA James Sibert. 

Thus, absent convincing proof that the body of JFK entered the morgue early, any additional extraordinary claims–such as pre-autopsy surgery–are markedly weakened, if due to time-line considerations alone. Nonetheless, this and other important claims will be examined more closely in PART THREE, forthcoming.



Now It must be emphasized that none of this discussion is meant to impugn the motives or integrity of other JFK assassination investigators whose views may differ from mine on these matters. They have labored in the JFK assassination vineyard for decades and their views are well-known and respected. I have made my views on this particular issue known here for the first time.  As always, interested readers are free to check the original sources I provide and decide which account of events accords most closely with both the official reports and testimony under oath.

Finally, the “early entry” controversy, though important in many respects, is really “small potatoes” when it comes to the much larger issue of “regime change” and U.S. foreign policy interventionism. Whether JFK was killed by elements of the U.S. government or by some “lone nut” does not change the fact that his death provided, unfortunately, a golden  opportunity (which it maximized) for the deep state to further expand the national security apparatus to the detriment of both prosperity and individual liberty.  That is the real political importance and tragedy of the assassination.

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts