The tubby yet gentle-looking man was wearing a baseball cap with some kind of feather in it. He had a pear-shaped body, owl glasses and a shirt that strained against the stomach, looked like your typical retired American tourist on holiday in Rome or something. Except he was born in 1941 so at the time of the TV interview, 1988, would have been 47 years old. He seemed somehow decades older. He had a hesitant, shy voice as he walked around the grassy knoll area in front of a British TV crew. Yet what he said was dynamite. He had not talked to the media for 15 years, until an article appeared in the Dallas Morning News in 1978, and now, ten years later, he appeared just this once for a foreign documentary crew. At the time of the interview, 1988, he worked for the Dallas Department of Consumer Affairs and was leading a quiet life. The TV documentary interview can be seen here.
Gordon Arnold was a 22 year old soldier on leave on that fateful day, November 22, 1963, who had just arrived back in Dallas after army training. He parked in the carpark behind the picket fence and started walking towards the railway underpass, carrying his camera, when he claims he was stopped by a man in a “light coloured suit” who said he shouldn’t be there. He was young and cocky and so said why not. The man showed Gordon a CIA badge and that was good enough for Gordon, who walked around the front of the fence, sensing that the man was following him out of the fenced area, and positioned himself on a small extrusion on the grass in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the motorcade, which he intended to film.
Just as he saw the nose of Kennedy’s limousine head down Elm Street he felt – rather than heard – a bullet whiz past his head. He hit the dirt, and because he was in the shade of the trees in front of the picket fence that could explain why he doesn’t immediately seem to appear in the various shots of the grassy knoll area taken that day. He heard two shots from what seemed like a bolt action rifle – which meant that the man was a pretty darn good shot and then all of a sudden there was a policeman kicking Arnold’s butt and telling him to get up. Arnold told the man dressed as a cop to ‘go jump in the river’. Another guy with a firearm also came up – was he crying? – was waving the gun back and forth. The man who kicked his butt asked him if he had taken any film. Arnold said yes. The ‘cop’ said he wanted the film. Here are more Arnold testimonies in print.
Arnold said he could have anything as long as he pointed that gun somewhere else. The man took the camera, tore out the film and chucked the camera back. Arnold ran straight neck to his car and went home. The next day he flew to Alaska to continue his military service. Many sceptics have said that Arnold’s testimony has to be false because they have not been able to identify him from the shots taken of the grass knoll by bystanders in the moments immediately before or after the assassination. (There are a few of those.) But he was in the shadows, and he may have been seen by at least one person in the motorcade, former senator Ralph Yarborough, who said, in 1978, at the same time as Arnold was interviewed that “Immediately on the firing pf the first shot I saw the man you interviewed throw himself on the ground. He was down within a second of the shot being fired and a thought to myself. There is a combat veteran who knows how to act when the weapons start firing.”
Arnold did not contact the FBI or the police, did not appear before the Warren commission or the house committee of Assassinations. Later analysis of a figure in the background of a poor quality snapshot of the scene caught by a bystander could, when resized, turn out to be the gunman, according to one Kennedy researcher, be the gunman. We will see that in the next blog post. Meanwhile another witness who claimed to see a man firing at the grassy knoll was Jean Hill.
In the grassy space in the centre of Dealey plaza – ie, on the other side of the motorcade than where where the grassy knoll was situated – stood two attractive young women, Mary-Ann Moorman and Jean Hill, in their early thirties.
The girls were not so interested in Kennedy. They had come to Dealey plaza to take photos of motorcycle policemen they fancied. Hill had just moved to Dallas from Oklahoma and Moorman was showing her Dallas and there was some romantic relationship going with one of the cops. When Kennedy’s limo turned into Elm Street, Moorman started snapping photos with her Polaroid. As the president was waving to people on the north side of Elm Street, Moorman jumped out and shouted “Hey Mr President”. As he turned her way – that is the moment when he was hit. While Mary hit the ground, Jean stood standing, frozen like many others. As later told to writer Jim Marrs, She saw a man firing from behind the picket fence and a puff of smoke emerge.
Jean Hill gave a short testimony to the Dallas sheriff on that day. And was the lead figure in a front page report of the local paper the next day s indicating that she thought she saw “..someone in the motorcade in street clothes shoot back at a person running up the hill.” She was interviewed by the Warren commission and said there they she had heard “four to six shots”. This was very different from the three shots the Warren commission claimed. This meant it was a conspiracy. She was probably the closest eyewitness to Kennedy when he was shot. She told the FBI around this time, 23 March 1964, that “everyone in the vicinity seemed to be in a trance wondering what had happened”. She added that she observed a man in a raincoat wearing a hat running from the grassy knoll towards the railroad tracks. She crossed the road, nearly getting hit by one of the motorcyclists in the process. But, like the engineer, Price, saw the man disappear along the railway lines. She told the Warren commission later:
Jean Hill: I thought it was just people shooting from the knoll – I did think there was more than one person shooting.
Arlen Specter: You did think there was more than one person shooting?
Jean Hill: Yes, sir.
. She later came to say that the Warren commission was “all wrong”.
Obviously these witness testimonies are devastating to the idea of the lone gunman of Lee Oswald’s sole guilt (later we will see whether he is even partially guilty.) Devastating to the story pumped out by mainstream television, newspapers and history books for decades. Both Hill and Arnold were criticised by Kennedy conspiracy sceptics. In the Arnold case because he couldn’t be pinpointed except (maybe) by ex senator Yarborough. Jean Hill claimed some changed small details in her testimonies.
She got very active in the Kennedy investigation movement, meeting up with other researchers in the Dallas on a regular basis, and some, such as Peter Whitney, claim that her story became more and more elaborate and detailed as she took in their impressions and made them her own.. She also wrote a book about it and became very tired of the whole affair. One obviously can’t vouch for their particular 50 year old testimonies and they might be wrong. But even if they were fake, that Arnold wasn’t there and Hill was making up details – and I am not saying they are making things up– the overall case against there having been just a single gunman are overwhelming, as we have seen in previous blog posts and we shall see in coming blog posts.