Skip to comments.JFK and the corset that helped to kill a president
Posted on 11/24/2004 12:03:50 PM PST by weegee
JFK and the corset that helped to kill a president
Back brace made Kennedy an almost stationary target
By JAMES RESTON JR.
Two years ago, historian Robert Dallek revealed new details about the extraordinary range of shots, stimulants and pills President Kennedy took to control his physical pain and present his youthful image to the world. Important and interesting as these details are, they should not distract us from the one medical remedy that probably killed the president: his corset.
Members of Kennedy's inner circle had often witnessed the painful ritual that Kennedy endured in his private quarters before he ventured in public, when his valet would literally winch a steel-rodded canvas back brace around the president's torso, pulling heavy straps and tightening the thongs loop by loop as if it was a bizarre scene out of Gone With the Wind.
Once in it, the president was planted upright, trapped and almost bolted into a ramrod posture. Many would wonder how JFK could ever move in such a contraption. And yet move he did, and, besides his painkillers, his corset contributed to the youthful, high-shouldered military bearing that he presented glamorously to the world.
But this simple device imparted a fate almost Mephistophelean in its horror to the sequence of events in Dallas 41 years ago.
In researching my biography of Gov. John Connally of Texas 15 years ago, I was put on to the critical importance of Kennedy's corset in the ghastly six seconds in November 1963 by a former Texas senator, the late Ralph Yarborough, who was in the motorcade that day.
Yarborough growled softly about that "damned girdle," and this led me to the remarks of two doctors, Charles James Carrico and Malcolm Oliver Perry, buried in Volume 3 of the 26-volume set of testimony that attended the Warren Commission report.
In November 1963, Carrico was the 28-year-old resident in the emergency room of Parkland Hospital who first received the injured president in the trauma room; Perry came quickly to the emergency room to supervise the case and then to pronounce the president dead a half-hour later.
Before the Warren Commission, Carrico told of removing Kennedy's back brace in the first seconds after his arrival. He described the device as made of coarse white fiber, with stays and buckles.
Apart from the never-ending controversy over how many bullets Lee Harvey Oswald actually fired from the Texas School Book Depository, most experts agree with the Warren Commission that Oswald's first bullet passed cleanly through Kennedy's lower neck, missing any bone, then entered Connally's back, streaking through the governor's body and lodging in his thigh. This was the first so-called magic bullet.
When Connally was hit, he pivoted in pain to his left, his lithe body in motion as it swiveled downward, ending up in the lap of his wife, Nellie.
But because of the corset, Kennedy's body did not act as a normal body would when the bullet passed through his throat. Held by his back brace, Kennedy remained upright, according to the Warren Commission, for five more seconds. This provided Oswald the opportunity to reload and shoot again at an almost stationary target.
The frames of the Zapruder film confirm this ramrod posture: Kennedy's head turns only slightly in those eternal seconds, and his upper body almost not at all, from frame 225 (when the first shot entered his neck) to the fatal frame of 313.
Without the corset, the force of the first bullet, traveling at a speed of 2,000 feet a second, would surely have driven the president's body forward, making him writhe in pain like Connally, and probably down in the seat of his limousine, beyond the view of Oswald's cross hairs for a second or third shot.
With no bones struck and the spinal cord intact, the president almost certainly would have survived the wound from the first bullet. Both Carrico and Perry testified to this likelihood (and apropos of the decades-long controversy, both testified that the small, round, clean wound in the front of Kennedy's neck was an exit wound rather than an entry wound).
To Perry, under the questioning of then-assistant counsel now senator from Pennsylvania Arlen Specter, the injury was "tolerable"; the president would have recovered. Because the bullet had passed below the larynx, the wound would not even have impaired his speech later.
In the new focus on cortisone shots, codeine painkillers, barbiturates, stimulants such as Ritalin, and gamma globulin injections, the simple corset needs to be emphasized, tragically, in the context of those medical strategies Kennedy used to create the illusion of the vigorous leader.
--Reston's forthcoming book is on the Spain of Christopher Columbus and will be published by Doubleday next year.
So what does this say about the presumed affair Kennedy had with Marylin Monroe? Another legend building myth?
Even during his Administration.
Whose corset do you think he was wearing?
Some say Marilyn's but I still maintain it was Hoover's.
"So what does this say about the presumed affair Kennedy had with Marylin Monroe? Another legend building myth?"
Perhaps another corset was keeping something else ramrod-stiff?
The corset may have contributed but trying to both use and eliminate the mob and trying to kill Castro had a lot more to do with his death than anything else.
Which one of us can ever actually be confident to say "would surely" about anything like this?
There was not a lot of time, just mere seconds, between the throat wound and the head wound on that day. How can anyone PREDICT that such and such a thing would have happened.
The corset did not kill Kennedy.
The human being, who with malice and aforethought, squeezed a trigger on a rifle, pumping bullets into Mr. Kennedy, KILLED HIM.
One more JFK book? This poses an intriguing contretemps, but it also raises the question, "If he was so rigidly
braced that he couldn't move to avoid the 2nd bullet that burst open his skull, HOW did he ever step into and sit down in the limo in the first place?" The McGruder film
also shows the President lifting his arms to wave to the crowds, turning his shoulders, bending an ear to Jackie,
and seemingly without restriction of any kind.
The damn limo should have had a bulletproof shield front and
back like those fitted onto the cars of the Pope!
But, after downloading and using the controversial JFK Reloaded software where you can "be" Oswald, I now believe it's possible.
People claim "you can't make 3 shots in x number of seconds". It is only 2 shots that must be made once the clock has started counting. Oswald had time to line up that first shot.
All this info is very old and has been hashed out decades ago.
One should remember however that it is not always the force and direction of a bullet that moves a body that has been hit. Nerve jump can do strange things. If Kennedy had not had on his back support, he might have remained upright anyway if the bullet passed through without hitting bone and then hit Connally passiing more energy to the governor's body than to Kennedy's.
Another little known fact is that LHO was ALSO a robot as no man could fire the shots so quickly.
JFK was a trans-vestite?
Interesting, but, if the small round hole in Kennedy's neck was an exit wound, Oswalt must have been using a high powered bb gun. The exit wound almost always is ten times bigger than the entry wound.
Oops! No bone was hit, only flesh, but wouldn't the exit wound still have been larger, had the slug been lead, or hollow point lead?
After all his planning and practice, would Oswald have been so inept as to have used a steel jacketed slug? Not hardly.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda...
..."you can't make 3 shots in x number of seconds". ...Oswald had time to line up that first shot.
Thanks for this contribution. I had never heard this so cogently stated before.