MARKING STAMP: OTIS HISTORICAL ARCHIVES
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HEALTH AND MEDICINE
ARMED FORCES INSTITUTE OF PATHOLOGY
1 February 1965
SUBJECT: Personal notes on the Assassination of President
TO: Brig. Gen.. J.M. Blumberg, MC, USA
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology
Washington, DC 20305
- In compliance with your request, attached are Subject
- Before the "Warren Report" was published, in
September 1964, I received Directives by telephone, from
the White House, through your Office and through the
Naval Medical School in Bethesda, not to discuss Subject
autopsy beyond the contents of the Warren Report.
- I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for the
confidence you have shown in my behalf by giving my name
to Cdr. Humes, appointing me as representative of your
Institute in the autopsy of President Kennedy.
Lt. Colonel Pierre A. FINCK, MC, USA
Chief, Military Environmental Pathology Division &
Chief, Wound Ballistics Pathology Branch
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology
Washington, DC 20305
THE AUTOPSY OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY
by Lt. Colonel Pierre A. FINCK, MC, USA.
Commander Humes, MC, USN, Director of Laboratories, Naval
Medical School, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda,
Maryland, called me at home by telephone on 22 Nov 1963, 2000
hours. He told me to go immediately to the Naval Hospital.
Brigadier General Blumberg, MC, USA, Director of the Armed Forces
Institute of Pathology, Washington, D. C., had given my name.
I arrived at the Naval Hospital at 2030 hours. I saw a
helicopter on the ground. A seaman escorted me to the autopsy
room, guarded outside by military personnel and inside by Agents
of the U. S. Secret Service. Rear Admiral Galloway, Commanding
the Naval Center, Cdr Humes and Cdr Boswell, MC; USN, Chief of
Pathology, showed me the wounds in the President's head. The
brain, the heart and the lungs had been removed before my
arrival. X ray films of the head and chest had been taken.
Also present in the autopsy room were : Rear Admiral Kenney,
Surgeon General of the Navy; Rear Admiral Burkley, White
House Physician; one Army Major General; a Brigadier General, Air
Force Aid to the President; Capt Stover, MC, USN, Commanding the
Naval Medical School; Capt Osborne, MC, USN, Chief of Surgery;
Cdr Ebersole, MC, USN, a radiologist; a Navy photographer, Navy
officers and enlisted men; Agents of the U. S. Secret Service and
Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI ).
The Autopsy number assigned to the President by the Naval
Hospital was : A - 63 - 272.
The scalp of the vertex is lacerated. There is an open
comminuted fracture of the cranial vault, many portions of which
are missing. .
The autopsy had been in progress for thirty minutes when 1
arrived. Cdr Humes told me that he only had to prolong the
lacerations of the scalp before removing the brain. No sawing of
the skull was necessary.
The opening of the large head wound, in the right
fronto-parieto-occipital region, is 130 millimeters ( mm ) in
I also noticed another scalp wound, possibly of entrance, in the
right occipital region, lacerated and transversal, 15 x 6 mm..
Corresponding to that wound, the skull shows a portion of a
crater, the beveling of which is obvious on the internal aspect
of the bone; on that basis, I told the prosectors and Admiral
Galloway that this occipital wound is a wound, of ENTRANCE. No
EXIT wound is identifiable at this 'time in the skull, but close
to midnight, portions of the cranial vault are received from
DALLAS, Texas. X ray films of these bone specimens reveal
numerous metallic fragments. Two of the bone specimens, 50 mm in
diameter, reveal BEVELING when viewed from the external aspect,
thus indicating a wound of EXIT. Most probably, these bone
specimens are part of the very large right skull wound, 130 mm in
diameter and mentioned above. This right fronto-parieto-occipital
wound is therefore an EXIT.
There is another wound, in the region of the right trapezious
muscle, at 140 mm from the right acromion and at 140 mm from the
tip of the right mastoid process ( I took these measurements ).
The wound is OVAL, 7 x 4 mm, and shows well demarcated edges.
This wound cannot be probed with the soft probe available.
There is subpleural hemorrhage in the right apical mesial region.
The apex of the right lung is hemorrhagic, without laceration of
On the basis that there is a wound possibly of entrance, which
cannot be probed through the body, I SUGGEST X RAY FILMS BE
TAKEN, ANTEROPOSTERIOR AND LATERAL, OF THE ENTIRE BODY, BEFORE
GOING ANY FURTHER WITH THE AUTOPSY. This radiologic survey does
not reveal any major missile in the President's cadaver. There
are only numerous metallic fragments in the head, in the sagittal
plane. Some of these are recovered and are turned over to FBI
Agents against receipt. I help the Navy photographer to take
photographs of the occipital wound ( external and internal
aspects ) as well as of the wound in the back.
There is a recent TRACHEOTOMY wound ( transversal incision )
with moderate hemorrhage in the subcutaneous tissue. Thanks to a
telephone call from Cdr Humes to Dallas, I found out later that
the surgeon in Dallas had EXTENDED THE EXIT WOUND in the anterior
aspect of the neck to make his tracheotomy. The tracheotomy wound
was examined by the three prosectors. None of us noticed a bullet
wound along its course. THE ORGANS OF THE NECK WERE NOT REMOVED:
THE PRESIDENT'S FAMILY INSISTED TO HAVE ONLY THE HEAD EXAMINED
Later, the permission was extended to the CHEST.
Three civilian embalmers from GAWLER FUNERAL HOME prepared the
body for burial. It took four hours to clean, embalm and dress
the body of the president. The cadaver left the Naval Hospital at
0400 hours, 23 November 1963, in a casket of African mahogany The
officers present saluted the casket covered with a flag.
After the body was placed into a USN ambulance, to be brought
to the White House, 1 saw Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy come out
of the hospital and get into her car, protected by the Secret
Service. She had the same pink dress she was wearing in Dallas at
the time of the assassination.
On Sunday 24 November 1963, 1 went to the Naval Hospital to
help Cdr Humes who had written an autopsy report. Humes, Boswell
and Finck, the three prosectors, signed the Autopsy report in the
Office of Admiral Galloway. ( I had suggested several corrections
in the autopsy report. Commander Humes agreed. While we were
checking the autopsy report in the Admiral's office, the
Television announced the murder of Oswald by Ruby ).
In my discussion with Cdr Humes, I stated that we should not
check the block "complete Autopsy " in the Autopsy
Report Form. In compliance with the wishes of the Kennedy family,
the prosectors had confined their examination to the head and
chest. Humes declared that the block "complete Autopsy"
should be checked.
Cdr Humes called me on 29 Nov 63 that the three prosectors
would examine the brain at the Naval Hospital. I asked if a
representative of the Neuropathology Branch of the Armed Forces
Institute of Pathology would be invited to the gross examination
of the brain. Humes told me that no additional persons would be
admitted. Humes, Boswell and myself examined the formalin fixed
brain. A US Navy photographer was present.
DESCRIPTION : The formalin fixed brain weighs 1500 grams., The
arteries of the base show no arteriosclerotic plaques. The left
hemisphere shows minimal frontal and parietal subarachnoid
There is a parasagittal laceration of the right cerebral
hemisphere, extending from the frontal to the occipital lobes and
exposing the Thalamus.
The Corpus Callosum is lacerated. No metallic fragments are
identified but there are numerous small bone fragments, between
one and ten millimeters in greatest dimension, in the container
where the brain was fixed. The CONVOLUTIONS of the brain are flat
and the SULCI are narrow, but this is interpreted as a fixation
artifact because the change was not observed at the time of
COLOR AND BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS are taken by the US Navy
photographer : superior and inferior aspects of the brain.
Cdr Humes takes SECTIONS from the subarachnoid hemorrhage of
the left cerebral hemisphere and from the laceration of the
right. cerebral hemisphere but does not make coronal sections in
order to preserve the specimen.
On 13 Dec 1963, 1 had the opportunity to examine the weapon
used to kill President Kennedy. I saw the 6.5 mm Carcano Italian
Short Rifle in the Firearms Unit of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI Laboratory).