The fundamental theory of the “Single Bullet” is that one projectile from Lee Harvey Oswald’s Mannlicher Carcano rifle wounded both President Kennedy and Governor Connally. This theory is the basis of the Warren Commission’s assertion that Oswald was the lone gunman in the assassination. Conversely, most conspiracy theories regarding the assassination center around attempts to disprove the single bullet, derisively referring to the concept as the “Magic Bullet” theory. Of course, even conspiracy theorists and debunkers can agree that there’s no such thing as “magic”, so the question remains: did one bullet injure both men?
According to the single bullet theory, the projectile entered President Kennedy in the back, exited through his neck, entered Governor Conally in his back, exited his chest, entered his wrist and eventually lodged itself in his thigh. Conspiracy theorists assert that in order to cause this much damage, the bullet would have to “zig zag” through the Presidential limousine and is therefore not possible. This idea was dramatically depicted for movie audiences in Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK, as seen in the clip below.
However, this analysis of the single bullet theory is fundamental flawed, as it does not correctly depict the location of President Kennedy or Governor Connally in the Presidential limousine. It shows Governor Connally as seated directly in front of President Kennedy, facing forward and at the same heigh as the President. In actuality, Governor Connally was on a jump seat several inches below and significantly inboard of the President, turned to his right. This orientation of the two men is corroborated by the numerous photographs and films of the assassination, as well as the testimony of Governor Connally himself. When analyzed with this correct configuration, the trajectory of the bullet is clearly possible. See the computer analysis with commentary below.
Many conspiracy theorists have trouble believing that the bullet could have passed through two men. In fact, the single bullet was specifically designed to do so. All of the the bullets fired from Oswald’s rifle were full metal jacketed as are all modern military bullets per the Hague Convention of 1899. A full metal jacket bullet is designed to pass through the individual being struck rather than expand within their body. This type of bullet causes less tissue damage and is therefore considered to be a more humane form of projectile, thus its universal adoption by the international community. Autopsy x-rays of Kennedy confirm that the bullet did not in fact remain in the President’s body. So if the bullet passed through Kennedys body as it was designed to, the question is, “where did it go?” Since Connally was seated in front of Kennedy, it is not only possible for him to have been hit by the single bullet, it’s the only logical outcome of its trajectory.
Perhaps the reason that so many people continue to believe that the single bullet was not possible is due to Connally’s assertion that he was not hit by the same bullet as President Kennedy. He claimed to have heard what were either shots from multiple riflemen, or shots from an automatic weapon. However, Governor Connally was clearly in a state of shock and extreme pain, which is not particularly the best time to carefully examine what is happening around you. In fact, Connally didn’t even realize that he had been injured in the thigh and wrist until the morning after the assassination when someone told him as much. If Connally didn’t even know where he was hit, it is unlikely he could possibly have any idea where the fire was coming from and at what rate. Even if he did, Connally stated that all of the shots came from behind and saw no shooters on the Grassy Knoll.
So while the debate is likely to continue over the validity of the single bullet theory, one thing is for certain: there is nothing magic about it.