The co-conspirators celebrate: Members of the Warren Commission present their report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. L-R: John McCloy, J. Lee Rankin (General Counsel), Senator Richard Russell, Representative Gerald Ford, Chief Justice Earl Warren, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Allen Dulles, Senator John Sherman Cooper, and Representative Hale Boggs. Credit: LBJ Library photo by Cecil Stoughton
Newly released documents show that Warren Commission member Congressman Gerald Ford pressed the panel to change its description of the wound and place it higher in Kennedy’s body. Ford wanted the wording changed to: “A bullet had entered the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine.” The panel’s final version was: “A bullet had entered the base of the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine.”
This crucial change only came to light in 1997, when the Assassination Record Review Board released handwritten notes made by Ford that had been kept by J. Lee Rankin, the Warren Commission’s chief counsel. Ford’s change is even at odds with his own declaration in the Oct. 2, 1964 issue of Life: “I personally believe that one of these three shots missed entirely – but which of the three may never be known. I believe that another bullet struck the president in the back and emerged from his throat (and went on to strike Connally.)”
When the alteration was brought to Ford’s attention in 1997, he said it “had nothing to do with (thwarting) a conspiracy theory” and was made “only in an attempt to be more precise.” Assassination researcher Robert Morningstar, however, called the change “the most significant lie in the whole Warren Commission report.” He pointed out that if the bullet had hit Kennedy in the back, it could not have gone on to strike Connally the way the commission said it did. Morningstar contended that the effect of Ford’s editing suggested that a bullet hit the president in the neck – “raising the wound two or three inches. Without that alteration, they could never have hoodwinked the public as to the true number of assassins.”
Ford’s alteration supports the single-bullet theory by making a specific point that the bullet entered Kennedy’s body ”at the back of his neck” rather than in his uppermost back, as the commission staff originally wrote.
Harold Weisberg, a longtime critic of the Warren Commission’s work, said: “What Ford is doing is trying to make the single bullet theory more tenable.”