Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kennedy's Assassination: No Shots from the Grassy Knoll

Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963.
President Kennedy with his wife, Jacqueline, and Texas Governor John Connally and Mrs. Connally in the presidential limousine shortly before his assassination. Photo Courtesy Wikipedia.
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There are a few dates for which I can remember my whereabouts: the births of my children; the assassinations of President Kennedy and Doctor Martin Luther King; and 9/11.

As it is the forty-fifth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I recall that I was a young U.S. Army wife, living in Germany when the assassination was announced (we received a phone call from the duty officer on our post.) Upon learning this sad news, the entire post was placed on alert and dependents stood by for orders to evacuate; it was, after all, during the Cold War.

Fast forward to another U.S. Army post, Fort Benning, Georgia. I and other Army dependents are sitting on bleachers in the middle of a parade field awaiting the demonstration of the 1st Air Cavalry air assault helicopters. We are discussing among ourselves how ridiculous that noisy helicopters were to be used in battle. The enemy would know when and from which direction they were coming. Then we heard the choppers in the distance. People in the crowd looked in different directions, apparently guessing the direction from which the choppers would be arriving. They came in low, just above the trees, straight at us. I was one of those who was looking in the wrong direction, behind me.

Fast forward again to Texas: I have just arrived at my sister's house. I knock on the screen door, which is latched. My brother-in-law greets me. I try to peer inside but the sun is bright in my eyes and the house is dark. I talk with him through the screen for a few minutes and he tells my my sister will return shortly. I finally ask if he will let me in. He laughs saying, "I can't; I'm up here, on the roof."

The class I had come from was one in audiology in which the professor stated that humans are not adept at localizing sound on the vertical dimension (i.e., above or below). I hadn't believed him. I pointed out to him that we look up when we hear a plane. He responded that "looking up" when we hear an aircraft is a learned response. I had also had my hearing tested at our university clinic that day and learned that I had better than normal binaural hearing. But my brother-in-law and the choppers, which I suddenly recalled, gave me anecdotal evidence that at least one person with normal hearing did not know the direction from which those sounds, above her head, originated.

You will recall hearing that the assassin of JFK fired from the sixth floor of the book repository, well above the heads of the crowd. You may also recall that many witnesses who were interviewed stated that they heard gun shots from the grassy knoll. Given what I know of how poor we humans are at determining where a sound is coming from if it's not on the horizontal plane, and the fact that none of the "sound experts" took into consideration how humans localize sound, I believe that witnesses at Dealey Plaza were guessing about the origination of those gunshots. And according to reports I have read, their testimonies were given much weight. Just like the spectators of the 1st Air Cavalry, some witnesses at Dealey Plaza guessed right and some guessed wrong. I do not think shots were fired from the grassy knoll.


  1. Interesting thoughts. You and my mom would have some interesting conversations. She loves reading about the Kennedy assassination and has never discussed sound localization/determination before.

  2. There is a new book coming out soon called -
    The Grassy Knoll Witnesses - Who Shot JFK?
    It is the best case for a shot from the right front. Available from in about 3 weeks 3/09

  3. Anonymous,
    Thanks for stopping by and for the tip about the book. I'll get the book!

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