The John F. Kennedy X-rays: The saga of the largest "Metallic fragment"

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Purpose—To solve the mystery of the 6.5 mm "metallic" object on President John F. Kennedy’s anterior-posterior (AP) skull X-ray. This image was not seen or reported during the official autopsy on November 22, 1963, but first appeared in the historical record in 1968 with the release of the Clark Panel Report.

Methods—On nine separate days, once with Dr. Cyril Wecht (former president of the American Academy of Forensic Science), I examined the John F. Kennedy (JFK) artifacts at the National Archives. Hundreds of optical density measurements were made from the (supposed) original skull X-rays, with a specific focus on the 6.5 mm object that lies within JFK’s right orbit on the AP skull X-ray.

Results—This essay explains (and demonstrates) how X-ray alteration was feasible in 1963, and identifies a candidate for this darkroom work. Hundreds of optical density data points (presented in graphical form here) expose the paradoxes of this 6.5 mm image. In addition, the phantom image (of an authentic bullet fragment), seen inside the 6.5 object, is consistent with a double exposure in the X-ray darkroom.

Discussion/Conclusion—This mysterious 6.5 mm image was (secretly) added to the original X-ray via a second exposure. The alteration of the AP X-ray was likely completed shortly after the autopsy. Its proximate purpose was to implicate Lee Harvey Oswald and his supposed 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano carbine, to the exclusion of any other suspect, and thereby to rule out a possible conspiracy. The ultimate purpose for such a forgery is left to the historians.

Article Details

How to Cite
MANTIK, DAVID WAYNE. The John F. Kennedy X-rays: The saga of the largest "Metallic fragment". Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], n. 3, june 2015. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 apr. 2024.
JFK, AP X-ray, 6.5 mm, optical density, double exposure, phantom effect, autopsy, conspiracy, John Kennedy, John Ebersole, James Humes, John Fitzpatrick,
Research Articles


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