Wednesday, 30 November 2011 18:36

The Lost Bullet: Max Holland Gets Lost In Space

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This farce of a program proves that, as with the three old main networks, the cable TV channels are almost pathologically incapable of telling anything close to the truth about Kennedy’s assassination. All the rules of journalism are now thrown out the window ... with no one exercising any kind of fact checking or standards review, laments Jim DiEugenio.

Max Holland first surfaced in the JFK case when John McAdams did, after the release of Oliver Stone’s film JFK. His first writings appeared in academic historical journals and he took aim at writers on the Kennedy case like Peter Dale Scott. For some strange and unfathomable reason, The Nation then hired him and he wrote about the Kennedy case there for a number of years. He was housed at this time at the Miller Research Center at the University of Virginia. This is supposed to be a sort of scholarly base where academics can do research through grants in aid. One of the directors there was Philip Zelikow; the executive consul of the much criticized 9-11 Commission. After writing for The Nation, he then set up his own web site called Washington Decoded. (For a very good overview of the man’s career concerning this case, click here) But some of his pieces have been turned down by more mainstream organs. So he goes where they will not be refused: the CIA’s own web site.

Robert Stone is a long time documentary filmmaker who has made many films since his first, which was called Radio Bikini in 1988. From 1988 to 2010 he worked for PBS and The American Experience program. While there, in late 2007, he produced and directed a film about the JFK case called Oswald’s Ghost. Although the film was skillfully done, the skill covered up a rather blatant propaganda piece that ignored much of the new evidence and relied on discredited talking heads to pin the Kennedy assassination on Lee Harvey Oswald. (See my review here)

Well, on November 20, 2011, for the 48th anniversary of JFK’s murder, these two teamed up to create another propaganda piece. Presented on the National Geographic cable outlet, it was called The Lost Bullet. The concept for this program goes way back to 2007. At that time Holland and Johan Rush wrote an article for the web site of the History Channel and postulated that the first shot fired in the Kennedy assassination actually came much earlier than anyone had previously supposed. In fact, it occurred even before Abraham Zapruder started filming! If you can believe it, the authors theorized that the first shot came just after the presidential limousine turned from Houston Street onto Elm.

How ‘out there’ was this idea? Way out there. The Warren Commission placed the firing sequence at around Zapruder frame 210 on to about frame 313. The House Select Committee placed the first shot at about Zapruder frame 189. Holland and Rush placed the first shot before Zapruder’s camera rolled so it’s hard to apply a Zapruder frame to it. It may go back to a (theoretical) frame 107. A few months after the first installment of this bizarre theory appeared, it was then repeated in an op-ed piece for the New York Times. How bad was the piece? It was so bad that it was criticized by the likes of Gary Mack and Dale Myers. And in no uncertain terms. They made it clear they thought it was poppycock: both unfounded and sloppily researched. The Holland article went through still another transformation in 2008. This time Holland received help from Seattle attorney and JFK assassination student Kenneth R. Scearce. It was again harshly criticized from the same quarters.

None of this seemed to matter to Holland. Or to his producer Mr. Stone. Why? Because they were on a mission. What was that mission? Well, it is pretty transparent. See, the more you push back the time for the first shot, the more time you give the (lone) assassin to fire the entire shooting sequence. This has been a consistent objective of the Warren Commission advocates from the start. Why? Because to them, it gives their fall guy Oswald the necessary time to fire the proverbial three shots from sixth floor window with a manual bolt action rifle. Holland’s thesis, as we shall see, is so weak that it’s this point that is the actual purpose of the show. (The other problem is the rapidity of the final two shots: according to ear witnesses, almost back to back, which is difficult to imagine with that Mannlicher-Carcano bolt-action rifle. Talking head Holland mentions this but does not deal with it.)


Because this is a Robert Stone production it begins with people crowding around in Dealey Plaza and shots of Robert Groden selling his literature there. As shown in his previous film, Oswald’s Ghost, Stone likes these kinds of shots. It gives him an opportunity to do four things:

  1. Show that this is an ongoing mystery that confuses the public
  2. Blame this confusion on the Warren Commission critics
  3. Show at least one critic selling his products in Dealey Plaza
  4. Ending with his recurrent theme that the real reason for the confusion is that people just cannot accept a socially maladjusted loser like Oswald killed an exalted leader like John Kennedy. (This last refrain originated with CIA asset Priscilla Johnson at the 15th anniversary. Stone actually featured this Agency shill in his previous film, without telling the viewer who she was.)

The narration then continues with a huge whopper. The voice says something like Max Holland will now lead a team of researchers in re-opening the Kennedy case to see if Oswald could really have gotten off three shots the Warren Commission said he did. We are supposed to believe that somehow Robert Stone does not know who Max Holland really is. That he does not know that Holland has been a shameless cheerleader for the official story since at least 1994. That he has spared no time or energy in smearing the critics. Stone doesn’t know that this particular piece of flotsam he is about to demonstrate has been around (and gotten roasted) since 2007? Sorry Robert. You do know. And you are trying to sell the public that you are taking an objective approach, when you are not. Stone’s advocacy will be further demonstrated when he trots out his ballistics expert. If you can believe it, it is Larry Sturdivan. A guy who actually worked for the Warren Commission. And whom Robert Blakey actually used for the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), to prop up the ludicrous single bullet theory. With this deception, the show is not off to a good start. And it gets worse.

The narrator now intones that this show will now tell the truth about what happened to each bullet’s trajectory that day in November 1963. But guess what? It’s the Warren Commission’s scenario: three shots, from that familiar sixth floor window; Kennedy hit twice and Connally once. If you can believe it, the narrator says something like there is a general agreement on this formula. There is none on this either with the general public or with specialists in the case. Especially when a detailed examination of the condition of the Magic Bullet i.e. CE 399, its provenance, and it flight path is provided. As we shall see, this does not happen here. Stone, Holland and Sturdivan are good con artists. They knew better than to go into this matter.

The program now proceeds and Holland says he will work backwards with his three Warren Commission bullets. Therefore, he begins with Zapruder frame 313, the fatal headshot to Kennedy. And with this segment, the program now descends into the purest advocacy. To use one example: Stone and Holland do not even mention the fact that the entry point for this bullet was switched from where the Warren Commission originally placed it. They had it at the base of the skull, right above the neck. Both the Ramsey Clark panel and the HSCA moved this entry point upward by nearly four inches! Which means it went from the bottom of the skull to the top, at the cowlick area. Why do they ignore this problem? Because by ignoring it they do not have to explain that if the bullet came in at the base of the skull, Z frame 313 shows that the bullet could not exit at the Warren Commission’s point at the right temple, above and to the right of the ear. This problem was pointedly illustrated way back in 1967 by Josiah Thompson in his book Six Seconds in Dallas. (See page 111) Thompson also demonstrated that the Warren Commission lied about this issue in their illustrations to cover up this fact. By glossing it over, Holland and Stone continue that cover up.

There is another issue here that the Dynamic Duo conceal. That is the mystery of the 6.5 mm fragment. The Clark Panel saw something on the x-rays that apparently the original autopsy team missed. Namely the existence of a bullet fragment near the rear of the skull. This fragment was also agreed to by the HSCA. The problem is that if that is what it is, it creates another huge problem for the official story. Because the two fragments recovered of this head shot bullet constituted the front and tail of the bullet. Therefore, this fragment must come from the middle of the bullet. So we are to believe that the bullet broke into thirds upon immediate entrance and the rear of the bullet somehow elevated itself over the center of the bullet—which was left behind—and proceeded forward and out with the front of the bullet. The show’s own expert, Sturdivan, has said this is not possible. In the words of Henry Lee, “Something is wrong here.” And neither Stone nor Holland wants to deal with it. Which shows the reader how honest they are. To the program’s credit, during this segment they show high definition scans of the Zapruder film to demonstrate that the driver, Secret Service agent Bill Greer, did turn around, but he did not shoot Kennedy. This was always a nutty theory that no serous critic of the official story advocated. But I am glad they addressed it here.

But then the mendaciousness picks up again. They admit that Time-Life held the Zapruder film in their vaults for years without making it public. Which is true. But they then say the reason was to keep the graphic images of the headshot away from the public. Most informed people would disagree. They would say that Time-Life, with all of its ties to the intelligence community, kept this from the public because this part of the film—with its unforgettable image of Kennedy being hurtled backwards with incredible force and speed against the car seat—betrays a shot from the front. And Oswald was behind Kennedy.

Holland does address this issue. He screen captures a frame from the Zapruder film that shows the blood mist exiting from Kennedy’s skull. It appears to be exiting slightly forward. Because of this, we are to forget about Kennedy being hit so hard from the front that his whole body rockets backward. What Holland does not say is this: When a projectile hits the skull, it creates a medical phenomenon called cavitation. This is, roughly speaking, a pressure center in the brain. This pressure center then finds a means of escape. And often, this comes from a weak point in the skull. Which happens to be near the front. In other words, the exit point has nothing to do with the directionality of the shot.

I could hardly believe what Holland and Stone did next. Using their high definition scans from other films, not the Zapruder film, they panned across the grassy knoll. They then announced that they could not find a man with a rifle there. So they concluded the shot could not have come from the front. Uh, Bob, Max. You could just have shown a close up of the Moorman photograph and given the audience a hint of the Badge Man image. And there are others images in the canon that reveal something funny happening behind the picket fence—not on the knoll. And you then could have related that to the testimony of people like Lee Bowers and Sam Holland to close that argument. Stone and Holland did not. Which reveals this is a propaganda tract.


The show now introduces Mr. Sturdivan formally. It then proceeds to a discussion of some of the evidence against Oswald. It deals with it in about the same way it deals with the headshot. Meaning it does not at all go into the myriad problems the critics have demonstrated with it. For instance, the show mentions something called a “handprint” on the rifle. I think this word invention is to get around the fact that it was not a fingerprint but a palmprint. And of course, the show does not discuss the fact that the FBI expert, Sebastian LaTona, saw no such print when the rifle went to FBI headquarters that night. Neither does the show mention that FBI agent Vince Drain was the man who picked up the rifle from the Dallas Police to ship it to the FBI. No policeman told him at that time there was such a print on the rifle. The palmprint only appeared after the rifle was returned to the Dallas Police and after the FBI found no Oswald prints at FBI headquarters. (Henry Hurt, Reasonable Doubt, pgs. 107-09)

This deceptive technique is fitting for what is about to happen next. Which, even for Stone and Holland, is a bit wild. Using none other than Larry Sturdivan—the inveterate Warren Commission sycophant—they now try to demonstrate that the Single Bullet Theory actually occurred. Before getting to that though, let me mention what Sturdivan had just done for the producers previously. When assaying the headshot, Sturdivan took a page from Gary Mack and his hideous Inside the Target Car. He lined up his marksman from the middle of the picket fence. Not the end. Again, as with Mack, this is deceptive. Anyone who goes to Dealey Plaza will see that the shot from the end of the picket fence is where most people think the fatal shot came from. But Mack wanted to use the other location because then he could lie to the American public and say that a shot from that location would have hit Jackie Kennedy. Which it would not have. And Mack knew that before he said it. So it was a premeditated lie. (See for yourself here)

Well, Sturdivan repeated that same lie here. He only said it in passing, and he framed it with a conditional. But he did say it. So even after this lie has been exposed for what it is, Stone and Holland still feel fit to repeat it. This tells you all you need to know about this program. If only it had stopped there. But it does not.

Sturdivan now trots out to Dealey Plaza, lines up the models in the car, fires a laser at them and presto! He now says that the Single Bullet Theory actually happened. Again, I wish I was kidding but I’m not. Needless to say: Garbage In, Garbage Out. First, Sturdivan lined up the models as Vince Bugliosi did in his book Reclaiming History. Using false dimensions for the car, he has Kennedy way outside of Connally. As Robert Groden will show with photographs in his upcoming book, this was not the case. Secondly, and shockingly, there was no discussion of the flight path through either man. All the program showed was two green dots on the rear of the bodies. And it appeared that Sturdivan showed the rear wound of JFK to be at the HSCA location, down the back. The obvious question here is: Then why did Jerry Ford move that location upwards from the back for the Warren Commission? Holland does not ask this question. Probably because he would then have to admit that this location makes it hard to believe that the bullet would then exit through the neck. There is then no discussion of why the cervical vertebrae in Kennedy were not cracked. Which they would have to be if the bullet exited at the neck. Neither does the show address the curious trajectory through Connally. That is, through the chest, rightward to hit his wrist and then left to hit his thigh.

And obviously, the program does not even mention two very salient facts. First, the overwhelming evidence that the Magic Bullet, CE 399, was switched. (See here for that evidence) And second, the compelling evidence that Connally was hit by a separate bullet. Further, that the FBI knew both of these facts and was complicit in the cover up. By themselves, these two brief articles shatter the cheap dog and pony show that Sturdivan is selling here.

Before leaving this (gaseous) segment of this phony program, let me add one more ersatz announcement in it. Like Inside the Target Car, Stone and Holland hired a military marksman. They actually say that Oswald had the same training in rifle fire that their marksman had. This is so ridiculous as to be ludicrous. Oswald had no special training at all in marksmanship. His training was the same as that of the scores of Marines he took rifle practice with. And in fact, when Henry Hurt interviewed some of Oswald’s military cohorts, they were aghast at the Warren Commission contention that Oswald could have pulled off what happened in Dealey Plaza by himself. He was that poor on the rifle range. (See Hurt, pgs. 99-100) Again, this is a fact that this agenda driven show tries to cover up.


Before proceeding to the program’s fraudulent finale, let us remind ourselves of two main points. The show has not done what it said it would do, that is trace the bullets in the Kennedy case. It has not done this in any real way, or even come close. Further, it has not searched for evidence of any other bullets fired that day, besides the Warren Commission exhibits. Second, it has not in any real sense done a new investigation, or reopened the case. I mean, how could it with Larry Sturdivan there, the man who was involved in the original Warren Commission inquiry? (How Robert Stone missed inviting Arlen Specter escapes me.)

But now the show is about to proceed to its closing summation. The program says there has been generally two schools of thought abut the firing sequence. The Warren Commission allowed six seconds for the shots to be spaced. This began with the president disappearing behind the freeway sign, and then ended with Z frame 313. The HSCA said the shots were begun slightly earlier than that. At about frame 189, which would allow for about seven seconds. Yet this longer time clearly allowed for a conspiracy since the first shot had to be fired through the branches of an oak tree. And almost no one would be able to believe that any marksman could have hit the target with that obstruction there. (Let us not ever forget, the greatest sniper of the Vietnam era, Carlos Hathcock, said that he repeatedly tried to do what the Commission says Oswald did. He failed every time.)

Obviously, Holland is disturbed by these results, which eliminate Oswald as the lone gunman. So what does he do? He says that the first shot happened even before Zapruder started filming! The problem with this is that if one watches the opening frames of Zapruder’s film as the car has entered Elm Street, there is nothing to indicate anyone has fired a shot. And when Vince Bugliosi tried to move the first shot up a bit more than the HSCA did, Pat Speer showed that he embroidered some witness testimony with the liberal use of ellipsis to accomplish that goal. (See here)

Holland first takes out a high definition scan to show what he says is someone or something in the Hughes film in the sixth floor window. Being as objective as I could be, I could not determine if it was a person or boxes. It was that obscure. And for the show to trumpet this as a “new discovery” is more pretentious gas. At the end of Josiah Thompson’s 1967 book Six Seconds in Dallas, he uses the exact same film and frames to make the argument that there are two men in that window. (See pgs. 244-46) Except Thompson brings in supplementary evidence that supports his idea—and it's credible. To show you just how strained this film is, Holland and Stone are so biased that they go beyond saying that this rather indeterminate frame represents a single person. Holland actually said it was Oswald! For pure arrogant zealotry this might match Dale Myers going on national TV in 2003 and lying his eyes out by saying his phony computer simulation had just proven something called the "Single Bullet Fact".

Holland then says that the positioning of the shells at the scene proves there was an early shot and then two close together. On its face, this is silly. One might ask Stone and Holland: Did you do any experiments to prove this? But really it’s worse than that. Tom Alyea was a local TV photographer who entered the Texas School Book Depository before the building was sealed off. He was one of the very first to see the three shells lying on the sixth floor. (Michael Benson, Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination, p. 12) He had trouble filming the shells because of the boxes. Captain Will Fritz then picked them up for him to better shoot a picture. Fritz then threw the shells back on the floor! Which means, of course, that the photos of the shells we have now in the Commission volumes are not of the original crime scene. But Alyea went even further. He told certain researchers than when he first saw the shells they were not scattered as they appear in the volumes today. He stated you could span the three shells with your hand. (Interview with Larry Hancock, 11/19/11)

I now make a further challenge to Stone and Holland: please fire a Mannlicher Carcano rifle and eject three shells from it. Do it one hundred times. Call me when you get three shells ejected perfectly within a hand span. I will tell the reader right now: I will never get that phone call.

Holland also uses the testimony of the three depository workers below the sixth floor who later said that they heard a rifle bolt working and shells falling to the floor above them. What he does not say is that this was not their original testimony in their first Secret Service report. Patricia Lambert long ago wrote about this in a long two-part article. (See here)

Holland also uses witnesses Tina Towner and Amos Euins for this earlier shot. But if one clicks through to the article by Dale Myers I linked to at the start, one can see that he is not faithful to what they originally said. Further, he has selectively used Euins’ testimony in two ways. First, he has cut out the parts that seem to eliminate Oswald as the assassin e.g. seeing a bald spot on the back of his head. (Rodger Remington, Biting the Elephant, pgs. 116-18) Second, he does not detail all the problems with Euins as a witness. For instance Euins told the Secret Service he was not sure if the assassin was black or white. When asked definitively, he told the Secret Service he was black. He then told the police he was white. (ibid, p. 126) When he was asked if he could recognize the man if he saw him again, he said he could not. (Ibid, p. 127) He also said he heard four shots. (Ibid p. 115)

As the reader can see, Holland has shamelessly cherry picked the testimony of a 15-year-old boy.


Holland and Stone now proceed to the climax of their tedious opus. Holland asks: If the shot came that early, with the car that much closer to the window, how did the shot miss? This rhetorical question leaves out two key points. First, Holland and Stone have not come close to proving the shot came that early. Second, they ignore an obvious adjunct question. Namely, if the assassin was going to fire that early on Elm, why did he not fire when the car was right below him on Houston? With a telescopic site, this is close to a can’t miss shot.

Well, this is what Holland and Stone give us as their answer to this question. They say that this shot missed because it hit a traffic light on a metal pole first. Now one has to ask another obvious question: If that were the case, when the assassin went to line up the shot, would he not see the pole and light in his cross hairs?

But further, as Holland states, this has to be the shot that then went forward to hit near James Tague standing on a concrete island beneath the overpass near Commerce Street (and a piece of the curb cut his face). Now this Tague/curb hit had always been very difficult to explain for those maintaining the official fiction of three shots. In fact, the FBI simply decided to cut it out of their report. This eliminated the Magic Bullet fantasy from their version. And this is one reason the Warren Commission did not place that report in the volumes. But yet, the people in Dallas would not let it go away. And finally, the local U. S. attorney wrote a letter to the Warren Commission about it. The Commission then had to include the Tague/curb hit in their report. And this is one of the main reasons that the Single Bullet Theory—or as Robert Groden calls it, the Single Bullshit Theory—exists today. If one bullet hit the curb near Tague and one killed JFK, there is only one bullet left to do the rest of the damage to Connally and Kennedy.

For Holland and Stone to include the Tague hit on the trajectory of this traffic light hit shows just how much they have migrated into outer space. Consider this: they now have a bullet smashing into a traffic light right out of the gate. But then this bullet has the torque left to fly something like 400 feet further—one and a third football fields—and then smash into a curb sending out shards of concrete, cutting open Tague’s cheek.

Again, did Holland and Stone do any experiments on this? For the traffic light is still there. I would have liked to have seen them. I think it would have resembled a Buster Keaton movie.

But it’s even worse than that. As Harold Weisberg found out during a protracted battle with the FBI, the Bureau did some metal testing of the curbstone after they were forced to acknowledge the Tague hit. They found something very odd. There were no copper traces in the concrete sample. (Hurt, p. 136) If one looks at the ammunition allegedly used in the shooting, this would seem impossible. The bullets are literally coated in copper metal. Therefore, as Henry Hurt concludes, this in itself proves, at a minimum, that Oswald did not act alone. (ibid, p. 138) You probably know by now what Stone and Holland do with this key information. That’s right. They don’t mention it. I wonder why.

If you can believe it, it is even worse than that. Because it turns out the producers did do experiments with the traffic light. But only to see if a shot hitting it would leave a hole or not. Holland first reported that there was a hole in the traffic light. But it was later revealed that this was a separation in the metal that was part of the design. And in fact, on the show, Holland admits there is no hole or even a visible dent in the light today. So how does he conclude what he does, that the bullet ricocheted off the light? He says that there is a “white spot” on the light. How this proves a bullet hit it is not discussed in any way. But as Pat Speer notes, the company that did the experiments reported for the program concluded that if a shot hit the light there would have been very visible damage to it; and from street level. So much so that it would have been reported on the day of the assassination. (Follow this link to post 11)

In other words, Stone and Holland likely knew that the reason d’être for their show was wrong--before they went on the air. Does it get much worse than that?

This farce of a program proves that, as with the three old main networks, the cable TV channels are almost pathologically incapable of telling anything close to the truth about Kennedy’s assassination. All the rules of journalism are now thrown out the window. And farceurs like Gary Mack, Robert Stone, and Max Holland are allowed to take center stage carte blanche; with no one exercising any kind of fact checking or standards review. As discussed here, four of the last five cable programs on this case have been abysmal in every way. The only exception was National Geographic’s own The Lost JFK Tapes. But now it appears that that channel has joined up with Discovery Channel to produce a show that actually ranks with the works of Gary Mack/Larry Dunkel. Which I actually thought was not possible. But here it is.

All that Stone and Holland proved is that documentary films can lie as much as fiction films do. In fact, they can lie even more.

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 March 2023 18:01
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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