What was the “single-bullet theory”?
It was Arlen Specter’s deductive guess, since proven fact, that one 6.5-millimeter rifle bullet fired by Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963, caused a non-fatal wound to President John F. Kennedy’s neck, then passed through Texas Gov. John Connally’s chest and right wrist, and finally lodged loosely in Connally’s left thigh.
Four seconds later, Oswald’s next bullet struck Kennedy in the skull, killing him. Connally survived.
The ‘magic bullet.’ In the fiction film “JFK,” the single-bullet explanation was presented as the “magic-bullet theory,” with a diagram distorting the relative positions of Kennedy and Connally, and altering even the initial trajectory of the bullet, to suggest the bullet had to take an impossible zigzag path to pass through both men.
But the actual positions of the two men in the 1961 Lincoln Continental limousine demonstrate that the bullet from Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle easily could have passed through the president’s upper back and neck and the governor’s chest and wrist before stopping at that thigh.
Note that the jump seat Connally sat on was mounted a few inches inboard -- that is, a few inches to Kennedy’s left. The seat was 2.5 inches, or possibly 3 inches, inboard of Kennedy's seat. Connally himself was at least 6 inches inboard of JFK.
At the same time, Kennedy’s seat was 3 inches higher than Connally’s. It’s also possible Connally's legs were angled a little more to the right, putting Connally in a better position to chat with Kennedy.
Wrist deflection. To hit Connally’s thigh, the bullet had to turn slightly downward from his wrist. The bullet hit the thick bone in Connally’s wrist, so a deflection was likely.
(Also note that, before it struck Kennedy, the bullet is calculated to have traveled 189 feet from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. After it passed through Kennedy, it began to tumble before it hit Connally.)
The single-bullet fact has been called a magic-bullet hoax by those who peddle a variety of false and fantastic theories that more than one person fired on Kennedy and Connally at 12:30 p.m. that bright and bloody day in Dealey Plaza, Dallas.
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* In 1964, Arlen Specter was junior counsel to the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The panel was called the Warren Commission because its chairman was Chief Justice Earl Warren.
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Also of historical interest: Notable quotations of Barack Obama.