Monday, November 18, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions on fhe JFK Assassination (Pt. 6): Oswald's Rifle and The WC Rifle Tests

We continue now with frequently asked questions to do with Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano Rifle, alleged to be the weapon used to kill JFK, and the rifle tests the Warren Commission used.

   Exactly how good a rifleman was Oswald-   any measures or testimonies?

From the records available, Oswald's highest rating was achieved on Dec. 20, 1956, not long after entering the Marines. This was 'sharpshooter'. Three grades are used in all: expert marksman, sharpshooter, and marksman. The shots made in Dallas on 22 November, 1963 - if made by one person and on the moving targets specified - would have required a 'master expert marksman' level of skill, or  the 'best of the best'. In other words, the caliber associated with the three experts enlisted by the Warren Commission (to try to simulate the shots) but as we  will see (below) none of them were able to hit the head or the neck in 18 rounds, and for a stationary target and rifle with its sight fully reconstructed!

By the time Oswald was discharged from the Marines, he was barely able to qualify in any defined shooter category - with a 191 score (or Marksman). Corporal Nelson Delgado, the marine most familiar with Oswald's skills, referred to his being tagged with the label of 'Maggie's Drawers', meaning he was a lousy shot. In effect, what we see is just the opposite of what one would expect for the alleged assassin. His shooting skills never adequate to begin with, then deteriorating over time, as opposed to improving!

Logically, also, bear in mind that regular practice would have been required in the Marines and Oswald deteriorated in skill even in this environment. It is rather illogical, therefore, to suppose that in an environment ('civilian') which required no regular training (and for which no evidence of any extraneous 'practice' exists)  Oswald's skills would have significantly improved to the level of being able to make the shots attributed to him on Nov. 22, 1963. At best, therefore, his skill rating would've been no greater than 'marksman', if that.
What about the rifle tests that the Warren Commission used to try to duplicate Oswald’s alleged shots? How reliable or authentic were they?

Let’s go through this in some detail, covering each aspect, including: a) who was recruited for the tests, b) How the tests were conducted, c) the results.

a)     Who was recruited?
A first guide for the accuracy of selection would have been to choose riflemen at or just barely above Oswald’s last calibrated grade. That would have been ‘Marksman’. But instead of this, the Warren Commission enlisted three “master marksmen” also professionals, and members of the National Rifle Association[1]. This would have meant they had frequent practice.   The bottom line is that the choice of these three (two of whom were civilian gunners in the Small Arms Division of an Army Ballistic Research Laboratory, the other regular Army) was not a faithful replication of the human factor.
b)     How were the tests conducted?
Oswald was presumed to have fired from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, so effectively six stories up or 60’ in altitude. However, the experts were allowed to fire from a tower only half this altitude (30’)[2]. In addition, while Oswald had to have fired at a limousine moving at 11 mile per hour, the experts fired at stationary targets[3].  The target area was also magnified for the experts, to the whole upper torso of the target prop’s body – while Oswald was limited to the head and neck.

More to the point, the rifle was altered away from the one Oswald used.  The rifle sight itself was rebuilt and “metal shims were fitted to provide a degree of accuracy previously absent’. When Ronald Simmons, the Chief of the Infantry Weapons Evaluation Branch of the Army’s Ballistics Research Division was asked about this he replied: “Well, they could not sight the weapon in using the telescope”[4]. He added that the aiming apparatus had to be rebuilt by a machinist[5], with two shims added, one to adjust for the elevation, the other for the azimuth.
In other words, had they actually used the rifle in the same condition Oswald was alleged to have had it, then they’d likely not have hit the side of a barn.

Again, the replication was contrived, and unfaithful to the facts of the case as claimed by the Warren Commission. If they were invested in those facts, and they were as invested in the truth, they ought to have emulated the conditions exactly, not fudged them for hopeful success.
a)     What was the outcome?
These Master Marksmen each fired two series of three shots each (18 rounds in all) at 3 stationary targets placed at distances of 175’, 240’ and 265’ (the last coming nearest to the distance from the Texas School Book Depository to the head shot).  Even Chief Simmons admitted that the targets were not placed where they ought to have been to emulate conditions on November 22, 1963.
Just one of the three expert riflemen was able to get off three shots in under 5.6 seconds – the designated time interval for total shots declared by the Warren Commission. And most to the point: none of the total 18 shots fired struck the targets (ibid.). in the head or the neck. In other words, from a technical standpoint of duplicating Oswald’s alleged shots- this trio of experts failed. Another key aspect: for the duration of the 18 rounds, two of   the “master” riflemen were unable to reload and fire at the stationary target as rapidly as Oswald purportedly did for the moving limo! (The Mannlicher-Carcano had a bolt action recycling time of 2. 33 secs)

More explicitly, in terms of the fatal head shot, the Mannlicher-Carcano fires full-metal jacketed bullets and would not likely have left the 'lead snowstorm' seen in the radiology photos . Forensics expert Vincent DeMaio, MD also noted that "military bullets, by virtue of their full metal jackets, tend to pass through the body intact, thus  producing less extensive injuries than hunting ammunition."
Are there any other anomalies concerning these rifle tests?
Yes. The full results were not disclosed in the Warren Commission Report itself. The Commission was also surely prevaricating (based on the jury rigged conditions we’ve seen, i.e. above ) when they claimed the “weapon was tested under conditions which simulated those in the assassination”.
No way. Not when stationary targets are substituted for moving limos, and the whole rifle sight has to be reconstructed because sighting couldn’t be done with the telescope proper. Not when the altitude is only half of that of the purported shooter, and 18 rounds were needed to even get three shots off in the time, never mind none of the three struck where the Kennedy bullets did.
As for Oswald, I doubt he'd been able to get the same three shots off even benefiting from the same advantages as the three Army-NRA experts. The fact is he didn’t and couldn’t because their own failure proves more than anything else (except for the acoustic tests)  he wasn’t the shooter. Any shooter – at least in terms of an injurious shot. Former Justice Dept. Special Agent Walt Brown offers perhaps the most trenchant observation on Oswald’s alleged rifle (Brown, op. cit. p. 26):
"The Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was an anachronism even by the time its weary Italian users were surrendering them en masse in the 1940s. The gun had begun its production run in 1891 and can be seen today for what it was: a product of mass warfare concepts of its  time, in which huge armies charged each other, volleys were fired, and the bullets hit someone or something."
This may, of course, be one reason most Europeans believe Americans are idiots if they don't realize how useless this Italian rifle was, and especially if they think a lone assassin could have used it to make the world class shots (from a partially obstructed  6th floor window) on Nov. 22, 1963.
How come Vince Bugliosi (in 'Reclaiming History') insists critics  are wrong by saying that no rifleman has ever duplicated Oswald's feat?  He points to an example in the Warren Commission of a mysterious soldier named "Miller" (no first name given) who a commanding officer said actually bettered Oswald's feat.

How can I say this other than bluntly? Bugliosi is a LIAR  - as much or moreso than Gerald Posner. He also seems to have an even more active imagination than Posner. First, there never was any such person as “Miller”. He is a confection and nothing more, a red herring. The Warren Commission actually enlisted three master marksmen (professionals), and members of the National Rifle Association – NONE of whom had the name “Miller”. (Hearings Before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, 1964: Vol. II, p. 243, Government Printing Office)
The notable bottom line (not Bugliosi's phantoms) is that the choice of these three expert marksmen  (two of whom were civilian gunners in the Small Arms Division of an Army Ballistic Research Laboratory, the other regular Army) was not a faithful replication of the human factor. That is, choosing riflemen with the same skill level, aptitude as Oswald, i.e. marksman - no higher.
This lie about "Miller" is but one example, and despite Bugliosi writing (Introduction, p. xxxix): "I will not knowingly omit or distort anything." 
Another example: Bugliosi (p. 1003) insists that one of the first critical authors of the Warren Commission , Mark Lane, never mentioned in his book Rush to Judgment, that Oswald had been arrested. Bugliosi’s exact words are: “He doesn’t even mention Oswald’s arrest”. 
But when I checked my copy of Lane’s book I found (p. 81) not only the details of the place of arrest but the time and the exact words:   “Oswald was arrested in the Texas Theater at approximately 1.50 p.m. that day” as well as other confirmations. 
The question that emerges is: If Bugliosi can lie with impunity about even a minor pro forma (generally accepted) event as concerns the critical pro-conspiracy community, how many larger events would he be prepared to misrepresent in the interest of his propaganda? 
There will be more to do with Bugliosi's bollocks and balderdash in another FAQ )

[1] Hearings Before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, 1964: Vol. II, p. 243 (Government Printing Office)
[2] The Warren Commission Report, p. 137.
[3] Op. cit. p. 133.

[4] Op. cit. (Vol. II), p. 250.

[5] Ibid.



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