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Summary of Results from Oswald's Paraffin Tests


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Interesting FBI Memo:

11-23-1963 Section Chief Jim Handley was telephonically informed by SA Hall that "the paraffin was placed on the subject between Midnight and 1AM 11/23."

Oswald was arrested just after 1:30 PM, right? So if the casts were made at 12:30 AM, then that would be11 hours after Oswald's arrest.

Edited by Sandy Larsen
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Here is a very simple way to look at this. Despite the fact the gunpowder burns right past the point the bullet exits the muzzle, some of the heat may be absorbed by the thick metal of the barrel, even though there is only .002 seconds for this transfer to take place. With only this tiny window in time for everything to take place, there is likely still gunpowder burning in the cartridge as the bullet exits the barrel.

If enough heat was absorbed by the barrel to cool the propellant gases to the point the brass cartridge began to shrink, wouldn't this also rob energy from the propellant gases, and drastically reduce the muzzle velocity of the bullet?

Well, I don't think that the cartridge contracts in size due to the propellant cooling off (though that does help), but rather because the cartridge is in tight contact with the barrel and the barrel draws away heat. In fact, if the contact between the cartridge and barrel were perfect, the cartridge temperature would be virtually the same as the barrel temperature. (I say "virtually" because, though brass and steel are great conductors of heat, they are not perfect.)

Electrical engineers study the transfer of heat to heat sinks because power resistors and transistors often need to be cooled, and passive heat-sinking is the cooling method of choice. (Because it is cheep.) When designing a heat sinking system, it is important to minimize the "thermal resistance" from the transistor to the heat sink so as not to delay the transfer of heat. The delay is zero if the thermal resistance is zero. And if there is zero delay, the temperature of the transistor will be precisely the same as the temperature of the heat sink. This despite the fact that heat is continually being produced inside the transistor. A near-zero resistance is accomplished by bolting the transistor directly to the heat sink. (In practice this usually can't be done because the transistor case needs to be electrically isolated from the heat sink.)

Similarly, if a cartridge were in perfect contact with the bore wall, the thermal resistance would be zero and the cartridge would be the same temperature as the barrel. And if that is the case, then the cartridge would contract to the point that it is no longer in tight contact with the bore wall. However, should the contact becomes sufficiently loose, the heat from the propellant would cause the cartridge to expand. The bottom line is the cartridge would be just tight enough against the bore wall that the heat entering it from the propellant would equal the heat loss from it to the barrel. The tightness of the fit would be self-regulating.

An analogy to this self-regulating concept would be a glass of ice water. If someone asked me what the temperature of the water is, I'd say right away and without measuring it that the temperature is precisely 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). Because it has to be. If the temperature were any colder then the water would all freeze. If any warmer, then the ice would all melt. The only temperature at which ice and water can coexist is 32 (0) degrees. It is self regulating, just like the expansion of the rifle cartridge is self regulating.

Unless, of course, the burning powder was producing heat, right up to and past the point the bullet left the barrel, faster than the barrel and chamber were able to absorb that heat. Remember, this whole thing takes place in .002 seconds from the time you pull the trigger.

Edited by Robert Prudhomme
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Look at it this way. Knowing a big cartridge in a short barrelled rifle produces a loud muzzle blast, there is simply no way a 6.5mm Carcano short rifle could have been fired from the Sniper's Nest a mere sixty feet above the heads of the onlookers in Atgens 6, 3.5 - 5.2 seconds before this photo was taken, without very obvious signs of reactions visible on these people.

I agree. Four seconds after the blast I would expect nearly everybody to either be looking around for the cause of the blast, or talking to their friends about it.

So you think the SS agents turned because they heard a bullet whiz by? What does it sound like to have a high-speed bullet pass by?

The only time I heard the sound of a bullet only, unaccompanied by the muzzle blast, was when I was in what they call the "butts" of a military rifle range and targets were being shot at from 100 yards. This is like an underground bunker, down range of the shooters, from which the targets are run up. The bullets were basically going over our heads, only a few feet above them, and we were able to watch them hitting the targets.

Just as it was described by bystanders in Dealey Plaza, the bullets going over our heads made a definite "crack" like the sound of a firecracker as each one broke the sound barrier going by. It was not an offensive or startling sound but it was definitely audible, and if you were an SS agent guarding the President and you heard this within a few feet of your head, you would probably be trying to identify its source.

As Tom pointed out, the muzzle blast was measured at 130 decibels; well past the point of producing physical pain. Most people believe they know how loud this is, having stood behind rifles being fired, but the blast of a rifle cannot be truly appreciated until you are slightly ahead of the muzzle, as the onlookers on Elm St. were. As I said earlier, this will produce instantaneous and very obvious startle reactions within one second of hearing it. The Zapruder film should have recorded all of this but, instead, we see only onlookers standing immobile like statues.

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Here is an interesting collection of photos shared with me by Bart Kamp.

http://www.prayer-man.com/sniper-position-in-daltex-building-by-shell-hershorn/#lightbox[group]/1/

As best as I can tell, the rifle photos were taken from the 6th floor of the Dal-Tex Building. I looked closely at the cars in these photos and could not find anything newer than a '63 Chev Impala, meaning it is very likely these photos were taken not long after the assassination.

Notice anything unusual about the rifle?

Edited by Robert Prudhomme
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Interesting FBI Memo:

11-23-1963 Section Chief Jim Handley was telephonically informed by SA Hall that "the paraffin was placed on the subject between Midnight and 1AM 11/23."

Oswald was arrested just after 1:30 PM, right? So if the casts were made at 12:30 AM, then that would be11 hours after Oswald's arrest.

Assuming no time zone conflicts -- I don't know why FBI didn't use Zulu Time, UT, GMT or whatever you want to name it... Maybe they used DC time in deference to Hoover? Eleven hours is one hell of a lot more than the typical 4 hours, or the 8 hours from Pat Speer's source.

Edited by Tom Neal
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General Atomic Report GA-6152 to the AEC

p.11
"As a result of these studies, the paraffin casts of the hands and right cheek of Lee Harvey Oswald were analyzed by neutron-activation analysis for Ba and Sb by the FBI at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The casts had been previously treated with diphenylamine by the Dallas police. As reported by the Warren Commission, the results were inconclusive--not because of failure of the activation analysis technique (which worked well), but rather because of earlier contamination of the casts, presumably by excessive handling."


Three casts were made Cheek, Left Hand, Right Hand. Usage of the plural "casts", rather than the singular, cast, leaves no doubt that the results of the NAA tests of the cheek AND the hands were "INCONCLUSIVE" due to "earlier contamination."

Thus, the NAA tests provided NO INFORMATION at all in answer to the question, 'Did LHO fire a rifle or a handgun?' and should be completely disregarded in their entirety.

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August 26, 1964

From a talk given by Mark Lane:

"There were traces of nitrate on both hands of many employees of the TSBD because they had been moving inventory on freshly-painted plywood boards."

He is referring to the plywood flooring that was painted gray. It appears that Lane is speculating when he states that nitrates were present on "both hands" of many TSBD employees. Anyone have any additional information?

Edited by Tom Neal
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So you think the SS agents turned because they heard a bullet whiz by? What does it sound like to have a high-speed bullet pass by?

I had a friend who served in a construction battalion during WWII in the Pacific. He told me that one day he was welding on the blade of a bulldozer, and because of the noise of the engine-driven welder, he couldn't hear much else. But he thought that he was working near a nest of bees...until one of his buddies had him get behind the dozer blade because those weren't bees, those were bullets from a sniper. [The sniper was eliminated and my friend wasn't wounded.] So the sound of a high-speed bullet at close range, when you can't hear the muzzle blast, apparently is much like the sound of a high-speed bee or wasp at close range.

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Per Lt. JC Day, DPD took hand prints of BOTH of LHO's hands. Could the ink have caused the positive nitrates test? I believe it contains silver nitrate.

It's incredible that they would do the fingerprints before the paraffin tests.

I thought I read an account of an interview with a DPD detective once, who told the interviewer the police knew the nitrate test was totally inconclusive, but it was a powerful tool in dealing with an accused person. He said many accused people confessed at the mere mention of performing a nitrate test.

Could this be what they were attempting with Oswald, when it became apparent he had no intention of confessing?

Edited by Robert Prudhomme
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The DPD considered the hand tests valid, Bob. The FBI decided they were invalid after Mark Lane revealed that the cheek test was negative. When asked why the tests were still performed, the FBI's Cortlandt Cunningham said it was to pressure people into confessing.

He was bluffing, however. The reality was that most lawyers, prosecution and defense, knew there were problems with the tests, with plenty of false positives and false negatives. As a result, the tests were normally introduced in court as supporting evidence, not primary evidence. This was a wise move, IMO. If they'd been convicting people purely on the tests, they would have to have released them in the late sixties when the tests were abandoned by the scientific community.

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The DPD considered the hand tests valid, Bob. The FBI decided they were invalid after Mark Lane revealed that the cheek test was negative. When asked why the tests were still performed, the FBI's Cortlandt Cunningham said it was to pressure people into confessing.

He was bluffing, however. The reality was that most lawyers, prosecution and defense, knew there were problems with the tests, with plenty of false positives and false negatives. As a result, the tests were normally introduced in court as supporting evidence, not primary evidence. This was a wise move, IMO. If they'd been convicting people purely on the tests, they would have to have released them in the late sixties when the tests were abandoned by the scientific community.

I think you are mistaken on this one, Pat. If you go back and read my posts, you will see why it is far more likely a person will have gunpowder residue on his hands after shooting a revolver than it is he will have GSR on his cheek after shooting a bolt action rifle. I'm sure the FBI knew this as well, and Mark Lane is merely attempting to take credit for making them reverse their decision.

I'll try to find the interview with the DPD detective. I think it might even have been with Will Fritz.

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From a letter to attorney James Lesar from Bertram H. Schur of the AEC:

The AEC's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) did provide technical support to the FBI in the performance of neutron activation analyses on the paraffin casts from the right hand, the left hand, and the right cheek of Lee Harvey Oswald. The results of these analyses are discussed in the testimony of John F. Gallagher set forth in "Hearings Before the Commission..." NEITHER AEC NOR ORNL PREPARED ANY REPORT ON THE RESULTS OF THESE ANALYSES.

[emphasis above is mine]

ORNL provided *technical support* only??? Did the FBI perform the ACTUAL test themselves?

The ONLY report on these test results was written by the FBI! This indicates that the "Inconclusive" result on the cheek AND hands was made by the FBI - the very people who did NOT want the tests performed at all. It appears they delayed the tests until they had COMPLETE control over the performance of the tests, the resulting conclusion, and the dissemination of this information. Golly gee whiz...

Edited by Tom Neal
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The DPD considered the hand tests valid, Bob. The FBI decided they were invalid after Mark Lane revealed that the cheek test was negative. When asked why the tests were still performed, the FBI's Cortlandt Cunningham said it was to pressure people into confessing.

He was bluffing, however. The reality was that most lawyers, prosecution and defense, knew there were problems with the tests, with plenty of false positives and false negatives. As a result, the tests were normally introduced in court as supporting evidence, not primary evidence. This was a wise move, IMO. If they'd been convicting people purely on the tests, they would have to have released them in the late sixties when the tests were abandoned by the scientific community.

I think you are mistaken on this one, Pat. If you go back and read my posts, you will see why it is far more likely a person will have gunpowder residue on his hands after shooting a revolver than it is he will have GSR on his cheek after shooting a bolt action rifle. I'm sure the FBI knew this as well, and Mark Lane is merely attempting to take credit for making them reverse their decision.

I'll try to find the interview with the DPD detective. I think it might even have been with Will Fritz.

It's not an opinion. It is an historical fact that the FBI used the paraffin tests against Oswald in their report to the president, which they expected to be confirmed by the WC. And that the WC planned on similarly using the tests against Oswald when they first outlined their own report. And that they only changed gears on this after Mark Lane started talking about the negative result for Oswald's cheek--which the DPD had not surprisingly failed to mention when reporting on the tests to the press.

It is also a historical (and scientific) fact that rifles leak gsr onto the cheek, and that this was known to the FBI when Cortlandt Cunningham told the WC that he personally wouldn't expect to find gsr on the cheek of someone who'd fired a rifle. Well, this is the give-away. FBI experts do not testify about personal expectations. They testify about what the tests show, and what the FBI's conclusions are based upon these tests.

This is all explained in detail in Casts of Contention:

http://www.patspeer.com/chapter4e%3Acastsofcontention

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