It is beyond dispute that two coffins arrived at Bethesda Hospital on the evening of November 22, 1963, and both were thought to contain the dead body of President Kennedy. “What??” you say. Yes, there were hospital employees who saw the body lifted out of a plain metal shipping casket and unzipped from a “war zone” body bag. Others saw the body removed from the expensive casket in which it was placed when departing Parkland Hospital in Dallas. How can both groups of witnesses be right? You’ll have to read my book to find out (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/ASIN/098882907X). But I’ll give you few clues here.
Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh, military aide to President Kennedy, always publicly maintained that he never left the dead president’s coffin unattended from the time it left Parkland Hospital in Dallas on November 22, 1963, until it arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington, DC, that evening. This assertion always made me doubt David Lifton’s “body alteration” thesis. Lifton, in 1981, published his book Best Evidence, which asserted that JFK’s body had been altered sometime between Dallas and Washington on the day he was murdered, by conspirators who were intent on making it look as if he had been shot from the back instead of the front. This was how, according to Lifton, Lee Harvey Oswald was framed. Lifton had much evidence to support his theory: 1) the wounds as described by the Parkland doctors were not the same wounds described by the Bethesda doctors; in other words, the wounds changed between Dallas and DC; 2) JFK’s body arrived in a coffin at Bethesda that was considerably different from the one in which it departed Parkland; 3) James Humes, Bethesda autopsist, stated that “…surgery of the head, namely in the top of the skull…” had been performed before the body arrived at Bethesda; the problem was, no such surgery had been performed by the Dallas doctors. Lifton theorizes that someone got access to the body as it lay aboard Air Force One awaiting departure to Washington after the assassination. This required the coffin containing the president’s body be unattended for a period of time. All who were aboard the plane, including Jackie Kennedy, admitted that they were not coffin-side for the entire time the plane idled on the runway at Dallas Love Field…except for one General Godfrey McHugh. McHugh never left his dead president’s side, or so he said.
A recent book makes McHugh out to be a liar. According to Steven Gillon’s The Kennedy Assassination 24 Hours After: LBJ’s Pivotal First Day As President, McHugh DID leave the coffin. He furiously roamed around the plane as it sat on the runway at Dallas Love Field, demanding to know what was causing the delay in takeoff. When the pilot told him they were waiting for the judge to arrive aboard Air Force One to swear in LBJ, McHugh confronted Johnson in the plane’s bathroom where the new president was babbling nervously about a worldwide plot. “It’s a conspiracy. They’re going to kill us all,” LBJ sputtered. McHugh was shocked by what he saw, but was oblivious to its real significance. LBJ’s erratic behavior might have been a ruse to distract the one person who was most loyal to JFK, thus leaving the coffin unattended for conspirators to highjack the body. What did they do with the body? Lifton thinks they either smuggled it aboard Air Force Two where it was flown to Washington surreptitiously for body alteration at Walter Reed Medical Center…or it was simply hidden aboard Air Force One, and then pirated off the plane when it landed at Andrews AFB. From there it was airlifted by helicopter to Walter Reed. Either way, JFK’s wounds, according to the sworn statements of attending physicians who treated him at Parkland and performed the autopsy at Bethesda, changed dramatically between Dallas and DC. Of this there is no question.
But I have uncovered evidence that contradicts Lifton’s assertion about where, how, and when the plotters got access to JFK’s body post-mortem. In my new book, The President’s Mortician, I name names and reveal the truth of the cover-up. And it does involve a “shell game” with coffins. In a fiendishly clever covert plot, the conspirators trusted that witnesses would not be able to discern the true meaning of what they saw; thus, innocent explanations were ascribed to sinister happenings. But the plot unravels when you see through the charade.