PART III. SUBSEQUENT HISTORY OF MATERIALS
(114) On April 22, 1965, then Senator Robert F. Kennedy sent
a letter to Dr. Burkley directing him to transfer in person the
autopsy material being kept at the White House to Mrs. Evelyn
Lincoln, the personal secretary of President Kennedy, for safekeeping
at the National Archives. The letter also said that Mrs. Lincoln
was being instructed that the material was not to be released
to anyone without Robert Kennedy's written permission and approval.
This demonstrates Robert Kennedy's firm control over the disposition
of the materials.
(115) In response to this directive, Dr. Burkley notified
the Protective Research Division of Senator Kennedy's request.
Before transferring the material, Bouck, Burkley and other Secret
Service personnel carefully inventoried all the items present.
This was the first official inventory of these materials.
(116) On April 26, 1965, Burkley and Bouck transferred the
materials to Evelyn Lincoln. A letter from Burkley to Lincoln
documenting the exchange included the inventory, which documented
that a stainless steel container 7 by 8 inches in diameter, containing
gross material was transferred. On the last page of the inventory,
Lincoln wrote: "Received, April 26, 1965, in room 409, National
Archives, Washington, D.C., from Dr. Burkley and Robert Bouck."
At the time of the transfer, the items now missing, which are
those enumerated under item No. 9 of the inventory, were allegedly
(117) In his testimony before the committee, Bouck stated
that he is quite positive all the autopsy-related material that
came into his possession was given to Mrs. Lincoln at the time
of the 1965 transfer. He also stated that he was uncertain whether
Dr. Burkley had custody of the brain, but that if the brain was
part of the autopsy materials in the custody of the Secret Service,
it was transported to the National Archives.
(118) Dr. Burkley clarified this issue, saying that the stainless
steel container mentioned in the inventory held the brain and
that he saw the bucket in April 1965, when he and Bouck transferred
the autopsy materials to Lincoln. Since this transfer, Dr. Burkley
maintains that he has had no further knowledge of or association
with these materials.
(119) Mrs. Lincoln was not an employee of the National Archives
during this period; she was only assisting in the transfer of
the official papers and items of President Kennedy and in this
capacity occupied an office in the National Archives. Consequently,
although the autopsy materials were in the confines of the building
the National Archives did not have authority or responsibility
(120) The next documented transaction involving the materials
transferred to Mrs. Lincoln occurred on October 29, 1966, when
Mr. Burke Marshall, on behalf of the executors of the John F.
Kennedy estate, sent a letter to Lawson B. Knott, the Administrator
of the General Services Administration, outlining an agreement
for formal transfer of materials related to the autopsy to the
(121) Pursuant to this agreement, which constituted a deed
of gift, Burke Marshall met with various representatives of the
Government on October 31, 1966, in room 6-W-3 of the National
Archives to transfer formally the materials related to the autopsy.
These materials were contained in a locked footlocker for which
Ms. Angela Novello, the personal secretary to Robert F. Kennedy,
produced a key. Others in attendance for the transfer were William
H. Brewster, special assistant to the general counsel GSA, who
unlocked and opened the footlocker; Harold F. Reis, executive
assistant to the Attorney General Robert H. Bahruer Archivist
of the United States; Herman Kahn, Assistant Archivist for Presidential
libraries and James Rhoads, the Deputy Archivist of the United
States. After Brewster opened the footlocker, Marshall and Novello
(122) Bahmer, Reis, Rhoads, Kahn, and Brewster then removed
all the material from the footlocker and inspected it. The footlocker
contained a carbcounsel GSA, who unlocked and opened the footlocker;
Harold F. Reis, executive assistant to the Attorney General Robert
H. Bahruer Archivist of the United States; Herman Kahn, Assistant
Archivist for Presidential libraries and James Rhoads, the Deputy
Arcon copy of the letter from Robert F. Kennedy to Burkley on
April 22, 1965, and the original letter from Burkley to Lincoln
on April 26, 1965, which also listed on the itemized inventory
list the materials present at that transfer. (123) Upon inspection,
the officials realized that the footlocker did not contain any
of the material listed under item No. 9 of the inventory. This
1 plastic box, 9 by 6 1/2 by 1 inches, paraffin blocks of
1 plastic box containing paraffin blocks of tissue sections
plus 35 slides.
A third box containing 84 slides.
1 stainless steel container, 7 by 8 inches in diameter,
containing gross material.
3 wooden boxes, each 7 by 3 1/2 by 1 1/4 inches, containing
58 slides of blood smears taken at various times
during President Kennedy's lifetime.
(124) The last date these items were accounted for was the
April 26, 1965 transfer of the autopsy materials to Lincoln.
(125) The committee contacted Lincoln to determine what happened
to the materials in item No. 9, the missing materials, following
their documented transfer to her in April 1965. She informed
the committee of an interview and subsequent affidavit that Burkley
and Bouck brought her some materials in the spring of 1965 that
Dr. Burkley identified as being related to the autopsy of the
President. She recalled that these materials arrived in a box
or boxes, and that within 1 day she obtained a flat trunk or
footlocker from the Archives personnel to which she transferred
the materials. She added that these materials were kept in a
security room in her office in the National Archives.
(126) Mrs. Lincoln stated that within approximately 1 month,
Robert F. Kennedy telephoned her and informed her that he was
sending Angela Novello, his personal secretary, to move the footlocker
that Dr. Burkley had transferred. She believed they wanted the
materials moved to another part of the Archives, presumably where
Robert F. Kennedy was storing other materials. Angela Novello
soon came to her office with Herman Kahn, Assistant Archivist
for Presidential Libraries, and one or more of his deputies,
to take the trunk. Lincoln believes she had Novello sign a receipt
for the materials, which was Lincoln's routine practice, but
she is uncertain where it would be today. Lincoln also said that
she gave Novello both keys to the trunk. She added that the trunk
was never opened while it was in her office.
(127) Lincoln had no further direct contact with the material,
but did state that after the assassination of Robert Kennedy,
she began to wonder what happened to it. Consequently, she contacted
Kenneth O'Donnell, former aide to President Kennedy, to make
sure the family was aware of its existence. Mrs. Lincoln said
it was her understanding that Mr. O'Donnell then called Senator
Edward Kennedy, subsequently calling her back to tell her everything
was under control.
(128) Because of Lincoln's statement and other reports that
Novello produced the key to the footlocker in December 1966,
the committee interviewed Novello and also obtained an affidavit.
She informed the committee that she had no recollection of handling
a footlocker, of possessing a key or keys to such a footlocker,
or of handling any of the autopsy materials.
(129) The committee also contacted Burke Marshall and Senator
Edward Kennedy to determine their knowledge of the missing materials.
Senator Kennedy indicated that he did not know what happened
to the materials, or who last had custody of them.
(130) While Burke Marshall also maintained that he had no
actual knowledge of the disposition of the materials, he said
it was his speculative opinion that Robert Kennedy obtained and
disposed of these materials himself, without informing anyone
else. Marshall said Robert Kennedy was concerned that these materials
would be placed on public display in future years in an institution
such as the Smithsonian and wished to dispose of them to eliminate
such a possibility. Marshall emphasized that he does not believe
anyone other than Robert Kennedy would have known what happened
to the materials and is certain that obtaining or locating these
materials is no longer possible.
(131) Since Marshall offered the opinion without any verification,
the committee continued to search for the missing materials and
to examine any issue related to the autopsy materials in general.
The committee interviewed Harold F. Reis, Executive Assistant
to the Attorney General who attended the 1966 transfer of the
autopsy materials to the National Archives, as well as Ramsey
Clark, the Attorney General in 1966, to determine their knowledge
of the missing materials. Clark stated that he initiated the
action to acquire the materials transferred in the October 1966
deed of gift pursuant to Public Law 89-318, enacted on November
2, 1965. This law provided that the acquisition by the United
States of certain items of evidence pertaining to the assassination
of President Kennedy had to be completed within the year. When
Clark learned the time limit for obtaining the evidence was approaching,
he contacted Robert Kennedy, who was not sympathetic to the Government's
need to acquire the autopsy material. Rather heated negotiations
ensued between Clark and Burke Marshall, the Kennedy family representative,
which resulted in the October 29, 1966 agreement constituting
the deed of gift. Clark stated that he had only requested transfer
of the autopsy photographs and X-rays and did not recall any
discussions with Robert Kennedy about any other autopsy materials.
Consequently, the brain and the tissue segments were not an issue
in the procedures and negotiations during the October 1966 transfer.
The committee could not ascertain if the physical specimens were
ever discussed in the negotiations, what type of approval Robert
Kennedy gave for transforming the materials, or what procedure
was employed to separate the photographs and X-rays from the
material now missing.
(132) The next reference to the missing materials and the
other autopsy materials in the custody of the National Archives
occurred in 1968. Ramsey Clark, the Attorney. General, arranged
for an independent review of the autopsy evidence by a group
of pathologists-commonly referred to as the Clark panel--as a
result of growing skepticism concerning the assassination and
Warren Commission investigation. In a memorandum to the files
on February 13,1969, Thomas J. Kelley, the Assistant Director
of the Secret Service, reflected on the report of the Clark panel,
in which the physicians had commented that the materials they
reviewed were included on the inventory list that accompanied
the letter from Burkley to Lincoln on April 26, 1965. Kelley
asserted that this reference to the autopsy materials by the
Clark panel physicians was phrased in this manner because the
doctors did not have access to the materials listed as comprising
item No. 9 on the inventory list. The memorandum also noted that
after discovering in October 1966 that these items were missing,
Archives personnel conducted a careful search but could not determine
(133) After discussing the "missing" materials with
Harry R. Van Cleve, Jr., General Counsel to the General Services
Administration, and agreeing that they should attempt to ascertain
their disposition, Kelley said he would contact Dr. Burkley.
Kelley's memorandum related the following: [T]hat after turning
all of this material over to Mrs. Lincoln [on April 26] [Burkley]
never saw nor heard anything about its disposition, and that
he was surprised to hear that it was not with the remainder of
the material he turned over to Mrs. Lincoln. After discussing
the problem, Dr. Burkley offered to call Mrs. Lincoln. He did
this in my presence and Mrs. Lincoln told him that all of the
material he turned over to her was placed in a trunk or footlocker;
that it was locked, and that to her knowledge it was never opened
nor the contents disturbed by her. She said, however, that sometime
after its receipt all of the material concerning the assassination,
with which she was working, was turned over to Angie Novello,
Robert Kennedy's secretary.
(134) The memorandum further related that Dr. Burkley told
Kelley that Henry Giordano, a former White House driver, was
working with Lincoln at the time of the transfer and was then
employed in Senator Kennedy's office.
(135) After contacting Van Cleve again and advising him of
the contact with Burkley, Kelley related the following: I * *
* further advised him that, in my opinion, we should not contact
Giordano. He agreed with this and stated he felt that the inquiry
would have to remain as it now stands; that perhaps we were borrowing
trouble in exploring it any further, and assured me that the
Archivist had made a thorough search of all of the material on
hand to make sure that the material in question had not been
received by the Archivist at another time or under other circumstances.
(136) Thus, the General Services Administration, which oversees
the National Archives, decided not to pursue the search for the
missing materials any further. The officials involved were apparently
satisfied with knowing that the National Archives did not have
any responsibility in their disappearance and did not wish to
instigate trouble by pursuing any investigation. (137) In 1971,
a controversy, not directly involving the missing materials,
arose over the chain of custody of the autopsy materials being
stored in the National Archives and who should have access to
them. John Nichols, a pathologist, began court proceedings in
the Federal courts, challenging the agreement of October 29,
1966, which contains several restrictions limiting public access
to the autopsy materials. An issue raised by the suit was whether
the Kennedy family ever had any legal right to control the autopsy
materials at any time and, consequently, whether any deed of
gift from the family which contained restrictions limiting public
access could be valid.
(138) Both the Federal District Court and the Tenth Circuit
Court of Appeals upheld the agreement. The Court of appeals stated
that the "letter of agreement of October 29, 1966 is a valid,
binding agreement and that the restrictions imposed thereby are
(139) The legal department of the Congressional Research Service
analyzed the Nichols case for the committee. The CRS noted that
while the "Nichols decision represents only the determination
of one circuit until the question is addressed elsewhere it would
seem to represent 'the state of the law?'" The CRS stated
that until the April 1965 transfer, the autopsy materials were
"in Government hands with no intervening transfer of like
having occurred." It then observed: At this point, however,
as suggested in the November 4, 1966, Treasury Department memorandum
* * * the transfer to the Kennedy family may have been interpreted
by some as indication of U.S. recognition of Kennedy family rights
in the items so transferred. At some point thereafter, either
upon delivery to the Archives in 1965 or upon acceptance of the
letter of gift of October 1966, the materials may be regarded
as having been either (1) returned to their rightful owner, the
United States Government, or (2) donated by properly executed
deed of gift to the United States, thereby resulting in relinquishment
of Kennedy family rights in them.
(140) The CRS ended by saying that two conclusions are irrefutable.
First, the autopsy photographs and X-rays are now the property
of the United States; and second, the letter of agreement between
the Government and the Kennedy family remains enforceable.
(141) The committee also interviewed Archives personnel to
ascertain their present position regarding the missing materials.
In response to committee requests, Trudy H. Peterson, Assistant
to the Deputy Archivist of the United States, prepared a written
statement. In this document, Peterson noted that just prior to
the October 1966 transfer of the materials to the Archives, the
locked footlocker was brought to the National Archives building,
although she does not specify from where. This suggests that
after Novello allegedly took the material from the office of
Mrs. Lincoln, it may have been moved from the Archives building
as opposed to only being moved to another part of the building
as Mrs. Lincoln speculated.) Peterson also says that Robert Bahmer,
the Archivist of the United States in 1966, believed that sometime
before the transfer of the materials as a gift, Herman Kahn,
the Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries supervised
the acceptance of the footlocker, along with several other boxes
of Robert Kennedy's materials, for courtesy storage in vault
6-W-3. Peterson further stated that Herman Kahn, now dead, may
have been the only Archives employee present for the transfer
and that no record of delivery is available.
(142) In response to a subsequent committee inquiry concerning
Herman Kahn, Peterson stated that Kahn dealt with members and
representatives of the Kenn edy family during 1964-68 on numerous
issues, including the courtesy storage of Robert Kennedy materials.
He was present for the October 1966 transfer and, according to
Marion Johnson of the National Archives, was one of the original
holders of the combination to the safe cabinet in which the autopsy
material was stored. Kahn also allegedly accompanied Novello
when Novello apparently removed the autopsy materials from the
office of Lincoln.
(143) In response to another committee request, the Office
of Presidential Libraries conducted a thorough but unsuccessful
search of the office files for 1965-66 for documentation regarding
the transfer of the autopsy materials to the physical custody
of the Archives. Additionally, two members of the Presidential
Libraries staff who worked under Herman Kahn at that time stated
in interviews and affidavits that they could not recall any pertinent
details concerning the autopsy materials. The staff of the John
F. Kennedy Library also reviewed their files, with negative results.
Further, one Archives employee, Marion Johnson, Archivist, Office
of the National Archives, National Archives and Records Service,
remembered that he became aware of the footlocker containing
the autopsy materials shortly before the October 31, 1966 transfer,
but was not aware of its contents until after the transfer. Additionally,
at the request of the committee, on July 18, 1978, Clarence Lyons
and Trudy Peterson conducted a thorough but unsuccessful search
of the security storage vault for the tissue sections and the
container of gross material.
(144) Given these efforts and findings, it appears that Kahn
and Novello removed the autopsy material from the office of Mrs.
Lincoln shortly after April 1965. The material was then either
kept in another part of the Archives, probably a Robert Kennedy
courtesy storage area, or removed from the building to a location
designated by Robert Kennedy. The circumstantial evidence would
seem to indicate that Robert Kennedy then decided to retain possession
of all physical specimen evidence and transferred only the autopsy
photographs and X-rays to the Government. The committee has not
been able to verify how or when the item No. 9 materials were
removed from the other autopsy materials or what subsequently
happened to them.
PART IV. ADDITIONAL EFFORTS TO ACQUIRE THE MISSING MATERIALS
(145) After failing to determine the fate of the missing materials
by tracing that chain of custody, the committee investigated
the possibility that someone had placed the missing autopsy items
all of which were physical specimens taken from the body of President
Kennedy, in the final grave on reinterment, on March 14, 1967.
The persons contacted who were present for the ceremony could
not recall any additional package or material being placed in
the grave. The Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery
from 1951 to 1972 John Metzler, informed the committee that he
attended the burial of the President and the reinterment. At
the time of burial, the coffin was placed in a "Wilbur"
vault, which has a lid and vault that operate on a tongue and
groove system. Tar is placed on the points of contact of the
grooves to insure a tight fit and permanent seal. Metzler witnessed
the lowering of the lid and the sealing of the vault, and believed
that the only method to open the vault subsequently would be
to break the lid on the main portion of the vault.
(146) Metzler supervised the reinterment in 1967 and was present
at all phases of the transfer: from the opening of the old site
through the transfer by crane of the vault to the closing of
the new site Metzler said there was no way anyone could have
placed anything in the coffin or vault during the transfer without
his seeing it. Metzler also said that nothing could have been
placed in the vault since 1963 because there was no indication
of damage to the vault indicating any disturbance. Metzler stated
further that no one placed anything in the new or old gravesite
besides the vault.
(147) In the course of its investigation the committee contacted
numerous other people in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the
missing materials. They included:
1. Dr. James J. Humes, autopsy pathologist;
2. George Dalton, former White House aide and assistant to Mrs.
Lincoln at the National Archives;
3. Edith Duncan, administrative assistant to Robert Bouck, Protective
Research Section, Secret Service;
4. Joseph D. Giordano, former White House aide and assistant
to Mrs. Lincoln at the National Archives;
5. Frank Mankiewicz, former assistant to Robert F. Kennedy;
6. Harry Van Cleve, former General Counsel of the General Services
7. Lawrence O'Brien, former aide to President Kennedy;
8. David Powers, former aide to President Kennedy;
9. Ken Fienberg, aide to Senator Edward Kennedy;
10. P.J. Costanzo, Superintendent of Arlington NationalCemetery;
11. Dr. James Boswell, autopsy pathologist;
12. Dr. Pierre Finck, autopsy pathologist;
13. Adm. George Galloway, commanding officer of the National
Naval Medical Center in 1963;
14. Capt. John H. Stover, commanding officer of the U.S. Naval
Medical School in 1963;
15. Bruce Bromley, former Justice Department attorney who was
called briefly from private practice to serve as counsel to the
16. Carl Eardley, former Justice Department official;
17. Harold Reis, former Justice Department official;
18. Sol Lindenbaum, former Justice Department official;
19. National Archives personnel; and
20. Thomas J. Kelley, Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret
PART V. CONCLUSIONS
(148) Despite these efforts, the committee was not able to
determine precisely what happened to the missing materials. The
evidence indicates that the materials were not buried with the
body at reinterment. It seems apparent that Angela Novello did
remove the footlocker containing to the materials from the office
of Mrs. Lincoln at the direction of Robert Kennedy, and that
Herman Kahn had knowledge of this transaction. After the removal
from Lincoln's office, Robert Kennedy most likely acquired possession
of or at least personal control over these materials. Burke Marshall's
opinion that Robert Kennedy obtained and disposed of these items
himself to prevent any future public display supports this theory.
(149) There are least two possible reasons why Robert Kennedy
would not have retained the autopsy photographs and X-rays. First,
the only materials retained were physical specimens from the
body of his brother: Tissue sections, blood smear slides, and
the container of gross material. He may have understandably felt
more strongly about preventing the misuse of these physical materials
than the photographs and X-rays. Second, the Justice Department
under Ramsey Clark pushed hard to acquire the photographs and
X-rays but did not request the physical materials. Even if Robert
Kennedy had wished to prevent the release of all the autopsy
materials, he was not in a position to do so when confronted
with Justice Department demands.
(150) Consequently, although the committee has not been able
to uncover any direct evidence of the fate of the missing materials,
circumstantial evidence tends to show that Robert Kennedy either
destroyed these materials or otherwise rendered them inaccessible.