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"JFK: Destiny Betrayed" Misleads on the Harper Fragment

Updated: Mar 24


Screen shot from JFK: Destiny Betrayed of the Harper Fragment


Oliver Stone's so-called documentary series, JFK: Destiny Betrayed, misleads viewers into thinking the Harper fragment was occipital bone that came from the back of Kennedy's head. Here is an excerpt from a transcript: (14:48 in episode two)


Whoopi Goldberg: To make this even worse, if one looks at the official back of the head photo, there appears to be nothing missing, but there likely was something. This was a piece of bone that did not arrive in Washington until after the autopsy was over. And if it came from the back of Kennedy's skull, it created even more problems for that picture.


Dr. David Mantik: The Harper fragment was a piece of fresh skull bone that was found in Dealey Plaza, not on the day of the assassination, but later by Billy Harper.


William Harper: And, uh, reached down, and picked it up, and at that time, knew that I had something that most likely was significant.


Dr. Gary Aguilar: It was found in a position that the FBI said was to the left and rear of where Jack Kennedy was when he was assassinated. It was then taken in by this medical student in to his professors and they looked at it and they said it looked like it was occipital bone, which is back here.


Whoopi Goldberg: It measured approximately three by two inches, and therefore would have fit neatly in the rear skull wound visualized by Dr. McClelland. This bone was given to the FBI on the 25th, after the autopsy report had been written by Dr. Humes. The FBI gave it to Kennedy's physician, Admiral Burkley, at which point it disappears. All we have today are the pictures taken of it in Dallas. This bit of evidence raises the question: If the rear of the skull in the official autopsy was mostly filled in with bone fragments found in the limousine where does the harper fragment fit?

Screen shot from JFK: Destiny Betrayed showing the Harper Fragment fitting in the so-called McClelland drawing.


A medical student, William Harper, found a bone fragment in Dealey Plaza on November 23rd, 1963. Here is an FBI report:

Harper took the fragment to his uncle, Dr. Jack C. Harper, who then took it to Dr. A. B. Cairns. who was the chief pathologist. It does appear that his analysis was just cursory:


So was the Harper fragment part of Kennedy's occipital bone?


Here is excerpt from a discussion by members of the pathology panel while they were interviewing Humes and Boswell:


Dr. Angel reiterated this in a report to the HSCA:


Here is his diagram of the Harper fragment:


The House Select Committee on Assassinations found that the Harper fragment is not occipital bone:


(324) Paper cutouts were prepared to approximate the shape and size of the bone fragments demonstrated in X-rays Nos. 4, 5, and 6 and the photograph of the "Harper bone fragment." The panel attempted to locate the correct position of these fragments and then, using the paper cutouts, to place these bone fragments on a human skull for the purposes of reconstruction. The largest of the X-ray fragments — that on which outer beveling and tiny metal fragments are evident — completes a portion of the exit perforation, with the suture line fitting into the coronal suture; the Harper bone fragment completes the circular perforation in the suture line immediately superior to the temporal bone. No other exit or entrance perforation is identified.


The phrase "immediately superior to the temporal bone" indicates the Harper fragment is parietal bone


Now that we know it was parietal bone, it is necessary to figure out where the Harper fragment was found.


Dr. Aguilar said that the Harper fragment "was found in a position that the FBI said was to the left and rear of where Jack Kennedy was when he was assassinated." There is no support for this statement in the original record. Basically, Dr. Aguilar was just applying his own interpretation to the FBI language above - that Harper said the fragment was found 25 feet south of the spot where President Kennedy was shot. Harper and the FBI were not saying on November 25th that the fragment was found 25 feet south of where the limousine was at the time of the head shot. In fact, they could not have known where that was, at the time.


Thanks to researcher Howard Roffman, we know exactly what the location was 25 feet south of. He wrote William Harper a letter in 1969 asking about the location of the fragment:


Here is a map of the location:


To put this into perspective Louis Girdler took this map and highlighted the location of the limousine at frame Z-313::

The orange arrow shows a trajectory of a shot from the grassy knoll. The blue arrow shows the shot from the TSBD, and you can see just how that shot could have caused the Harper fragment:

Only the most doctrinaire conspiracist would claim that an alleged grassy knoll shot could drive the Harper fragment where it was found.

An analysis of the Zapruder film by Itek Corporation also supports a shot fired from behind the limousine as the source of the forward movement of the Harper fragment:


JFK: Destiny Betrayed misleads viewers on the Harper fragment. It was parietal bone, and the actual location of the fragment is consistent with a shot fired from behind the limousine.


Furthermore, if you believe that the Harper fragment is occipital bone, then you must also conclude that the autopsy x-rays have been altered. Apparently, that is a bridge too far for JFK: Destiny Betrayed. Better to leave that implied, but left unsaid.



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