Max Holland: Says Zapruder film only missed the first shot fired by Oswald

[Max Holland is the author of “The Kennedy Assassination Tapes.” Johann Rush, a television photographer, filmed Lee Harvey Oswald demonstrating in August 1963. This article in the Times was first published in extended form on Mr. Holland's website, Washington Decoded. It was republished by HNN in February 2007..]

FORTY-FOUR years ago today, a clothing company owner named Abraham Zapruder filmed the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas. And for 44 years, most people have presumed that his home movie captured the assassination in its entirety. This presumption has led to deep misunderstandings.

The majority of witnesses in Dealey Plaza heard three shots fired. Lawmen found three cartridges in Lee Harvey Oswald’s nest on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Yet Zapruder’s film captured only two shots clearly. As a result, the film has been scoured for evidence of another shot, presumably the first one fired at the president. Research has yielded contradictory findings.

But what if Zapruder simply hadn’t turned on his camera in time?

Zapruder’s 26-second movie has two distinct parts. Approximately seven seconds after he started filming from the north side of Elm Street, Zapruder stopped his Bell & Howell Zoomatic at frame 132 because only Dallas police motorcycles were driving by. He did not restart his camera until the president’s limousine was clearly in view. Consequently, Z 133 is the first frame to actually show the president’s Lincoln — a frame exposed several seconds after the car had made the sharp turn onto Elm Street from Houston Street — and, we believe, after Oswald had squeezed off his first shot....

In May 1964, with the help of surveyors, the Warren Commission first considered the idea that a shot could have been fired before Zapruder restarted his camera. The commission later heard testimony that included references to what the staff labeled “Position A.” It did not appear on the Zapruder film, but represented the “first point at which a person in the sixth-floor window of the book building ... could have gotten a shot at the president after the car had rounded the corner.”

If the commission had followed up this insight, it would have conceivably been able to describe the duration and intervals of the shooting sequence: that Oswald fired three shots in approximately 11.2 seconds, with intervals of 6.3 seconds and 4.9 seconds between the shots.

Why would this have mattered? Because the lack of a clear explanation for the shooting sequence was a key reason the Warren Report fell into disrepute....

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