Paul Mandel -- Mysterious Death?

by Magen Knuth
In 1963, Paul Mandel wrote an article for LIFE magazine on the JFK assassination. The article was published in the December 6, 1963 edition. In the article, Mandel claimed

The doctor said one bullet passed from back to front on the right side of the President’s head. But the other, the doctor reported, entered the President’s throat from the front and then lodged in his body.

Since by this time the limousine was 50 yards past Oswald and the President’s back was turned almost directly to the sniper, it has been hard to understand how the bullet could enter the front of his throat. Hence the recurring guess that there was a second sniper somewhere else. But the 8mm film shows the President turning his body far around to the right as he waves to someone in the crowd. His throat is exposed–toward the sniper’s nest–just before he clutches it.

Mandel’s claim was contrary to fact, which can be seen in the Zapruder film. Some conspiracy theorists claim that Mandel must have had access to LIFE’s copy of the Zapruder film and completed a detailed analysis of the film. They further implicitly assert that Mandel must have known the layout of Dealey Plaza. Thus they conclude that when Mandel discovered that the film was inconsistent with the lone assassin theory he either shaded the article to cover up a conspiracy or was coerced into doing so by the editor of LIFE, a veteran of WWII.

Some conspiracy theorists, including Marrs (Crossfire, 559), then claim that because of Mandel’s knowledge of a conspiracy, he mysteriously died. While it is true that Mandel wrote an article with incorrect factual information at a time when a lot of incorrect information was floating around Mandel’s death was anything but suspicious. According to Lois Maiman, Paul Mandel’s cousin, Mandel was diagnosed with melanoma in April 1964. In an email addressed to Peter Mandel, Paul Mandel’s son, Maiman wrote:

He had a pigmented skin area for many years, and in Spring 1964 there was a malignant transformation. The treatment was excision, including a nodule. You all left for London in July 1964. I saw your father approximately once a month from September 1964 through July 1965 (lunch in London, at your house in Highgate). Paul was engaged by his work at the London Observer and tremendously enjoyed sharing the experiences of living in England with your Mom and the Mandel kids. There were signs that he was not as physically robust, but life was good. In Summer 1965, it was apparent that the cancer had progressed. You returned Stateside in August? September? 1965. I think your Dad’s hospitalization was in October (I would telephone him at the hospital) [email to John McAdams dated Sept. 24, 2003].

Paul Mandel died on December 18, 1965. On December 20, 1965, the New York Times ran an obituary, commending Mandel’s eight years at LIFE magazine (pg. 35).

Peter Mandel also remembers his father’s slow death.

I remember that our Christmas tree was up when Mom told us about Dad’s death, and cannot forget that his illness was a long and slow and painful one. Prior to moving back to New York in late Aug. or early Sept. of ‘65 we had lived in London, having moved there in June of ‘64 so my Dad could start up a Sunday magazine for The Observer newspaper there. I know that my Mom and Dad were aware of the cancer diagnosis before we moved to London in the spring of ‘64. It must have been in its early stages then–I was told that he had a “squash injury–a lump under his arm.” In England, he was working hard, and went to work every day, but I could see he was gradually getting thinner and less able to play soccer with me, and I wasn’t exactly sure why. As far as I can remember, he was in New York Hospital for two months or more before he died, and we children did not get to visit him there. To this day, I miss him very much [email to John McAdams dated Sept. 22, 2003].

It makes no sense that a “clean-up” squad would give Mandel cancer and absurd to think that they could cause a cancerous nodule in his body. If they did give him cancer -- a slow death that took one year and eight months -- they gave him more than ample time to go public with what he knew. According to Lois Maiman and George P. Hunt (the managing editor at LIFE), Mandel was still writing throughout his battle with cancer. Hunt wrote in the memorial to Mandel, that he “was well along on a second [novel] when he died” (LIFE, Jan. 7, 1966, vol. 60, No.1 pg. 3). Thus, the conspiracy theorists ask you to believe that Mandel suffered in silence, protecting the very people who were killing him and had killed Kennedy.

This is yet another case of conspiracist writers turning a personal tragedy into conspiracy-book travesty.

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