Testimony Of Dr. Gene Coleman Akin

The testimony of Dr. Gene Coleman Akin was taken at 11:30 a.m., on March 25, 1964, at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas, Tex., by Mr. Arlen Specter, assistant counsel of the President's Commission.

Mr. SPECTER - May the record show that Dr. Gene Akin is present in response to a letter request that he appear to have his deposition taken in connection with an inquiry being conducted by the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. Dr. Akin is being asked to appear here today to testify concerning his knowledge, if any, about the condition of President Kennedy on arrival in Parkland Hospital and his treatment here.
With that preliminary statement of purpose, Dr. Akin, will you rise and raise your right hand, please?
Do you solemnly swear the testimony you shall give before the President's Commission in this deposition proceeding will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Dr. AKIN - I do.
Mr. SPECTER - Will you state your full name, please?
Dr. AKIN - Gene Coleman Akin.
Mr. SPECTER - What is your profession?
Dr. AKIN - Medicine.
Mr. SPECTER - Are you duly licensed to practice in Texas, to practice medicine?
Dr. AKIN - Yes.
Mr. SPECTER - Do you have any specialty?
Dr. AKIN - Anesthesiology.
Mr. SPECTER - And are you board-certified?
Dr. AKIN - No.
Mr. SPECTER - Are you working toward board-certification?
Dr. AKIN - Yes.
Mr. SPECTER - Would you outline briefly your educational background?
Dr. AKIN - Premedical school at University of Texas in Austin, medical school, Southwestern Medical School Branch of the University of Texas, internship, Dallas Methodist Hospital, and anesthesiology residence at Parkland Memorial Hospital, starting in July 1962.

Mr. SPECTER - And, in what year did you graduate from medical school?
Dr. AKIN - 1961.
Mr. SPECTER - And how old are you at the present time, Doctor?
Dr. AKIN - Thirty-four.
Mr. SPECTER - Did you have occasion to render assistance to President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963?
Dr. AKIN - Briefly.
Mr. SPECTER - Would you state how you came to be called into the case?
Dr. AKIN - I was notified while I was on duty in the operating suite of the hospital that anesthesia assistance was needed in the emergency room. President Kennedy supposedly had been shot and had been brought to the emergency room, and I immediately went down the back elevator to the emergency room to see if I could be of assistance, and when I walked in, a tracheotomy was being performed. President Kennedy still had an endotracheal tube, an oro-tracheal tube in place, and the connector from this to the Bird respirator was removed. The anesthesia machine had been simultaneously rolled into the room and Dr. Jenkins connected the anesthesia machine to the oro-tracheal tube and it stayed there for a brief period, until the tracheotomy tube was placed in the tracheotomy, at which time I connected the breathing tubes from the anesthesia machine to the tracheotomy and held this in place while Dr. Jenkins controlled the ventilation with 100-percent oxygen from the anesthesia machine.
Mr. SPECTER - Did you assist Dr. Jenkins then in his work?
Dr. AKIN - Only insofar as I held the endotracheal connector in place into the tracheotomy tube.
Mr. SPECTER - What doctors in addition to Dr. Jenkins then were present, if any, at the time of your arrival?
Dr. AKIN - You mean everybody in the room? I don't know that I can name all of them.
Mr. SPECTER - Name as many as you can, if you will, please?
Dr. AKIN - There was Dr. Jenkins, there was myself for a brief period, there was Dr. Giesecke, Dr. Jackie Hunt--they left shortly after arriving. I heard later that they had gone across the hall to Governor Connally's room to assist him; Dr. Malcolm Perry, Dr. Charles Baxter, Dr. Kemp Clark, Dr. Bob McClelland, Dr. James Carrico, Dr. Ron Jones, was there, I think, shortly after I arrived, and Dr. Fouad Bashour came in from cardiology; Dr. Don Seldin walked in briefly, I can't remember the team that worked on the cutdowns on the legs---I can't remember that. This is sort of hazy, because it was a couple of days later we went through the same business over again and I am liable to say that there was somebody there that worked on Kennedy that actually had worked on Oswald, because I was on the Oswald mess too. This is all that I remember were positively there. I remember their being there, but there were others that I am not sure of.
Mr. SPECTER - What did you observe as to the President's condition?
Dr. AKIN - He looked moribund in my medical judgment.
Mr. SPECTER - Did you observe any wounds on him at the time you first saw him?
Dr. AKIN - There was a midline neck wound below the level of the cricoid cartilage, about 1 to 1.5 cm. in diameter, the lower part of this had been cut across when I saw the wound, it had been cut across with a knife in the performance of the tracheotomy. The back of the right occipitalparietal portion of his head was shattered, with brain substance extruding.
Mr. SPECTER - Returning to the wound which you first described, can you state in any more detail the appearance of it at the time you first saw it?
Dr. AKIN - I don't think I could--this is about all I noticed. I noticed this wound very briefly and it was a matter of academics as to how he sustained the wound. My attention, because of my standing on the right side of the patient who was lying supine, my attention was very soon directed to the head wound, and this was my major concern.
Mr. SPECTER - And as to the neck wound, did you have occasion to observe whether there was a smooth, jagged, or what was the nature of the portion of the neck wound which had not been cut by the tracheotomy?
Dr. AKIN - It was slightly ragged around the edges.
Mr. SPECTER - And when you said that--
Dr. AKIN - No powder burns; I didn't notice any powder burns.
Mr. SPECTER - What was the dimension of the punctate wound, without regards to the tracheotomy which was being started?
Dr. AKIN - It looked--it was as you said, it was a puncture wound. It was roughly circular, about, I would judge, 1.5 cm.. in diameter.
Mr. SPECTER - What did you mean when you just made your reference to the academic aspect with the wound, Dr. Akin?
Dr. AKIN - Well, naturally, the thought flashed through my mind that this might have been an entrance wound. I immediately thought it could, also have been an exit wound, depending upon the nature of the missile thatmade the wound.
Mr. SPECTER - What would be the circumstances on which it might be one or the other?
Dr. AKIN - Well, if the President had been shot with a low velocity missile, such as fire from a pistol, it was more likely to have been an entrance wound, is that what you mean?
Mr. SPECTER - Yes.
Dr. AKIN - If, however, he had been shot with a high velocity military type of rifle, for example, it could be either an entrance wound or an exit wound.
Mr. SPECTER - Why do you say it could be either an entrance wound or an exit wound with respect to the rifle?
Dr. AKIN - Well, because a high velocity missile coming from a military rifle, especially if the missile were a jacketed missile, a copper- or steel-jacketed missile, itself, the missile itself is not distorted when it passes through soft tissue, and the wound made when the bullet leaves the body, is a small wound, much like the wound of entrance, but like I said, I didn't devote much time to conjecture about this.
Mr. SPECTER - How much experience have you had, if any, on gunshot wounds, doctor?
Dr. AKIN - I can't really give you, say, how many cases a week I see of this. Most of my experience with this is in an anesthetic situation with patients coming into the hospital, having sustained gunshot injuries, most of them are injured with low velocity missiles, smaller caliber--.22 caliber to .38 caliber, and most of them are not injured in a through and through fashion. In other words. I don't see too many exit wounds, the bullets are slow moving, and they enter the body and don't leave it. They usually stay in it, so consequently I could not be considered an expert in exit wounds.
Mr. SPECTER - Is that the general line of bullet wounds which come into Parkland Hospital, would you say?
Dr. AKIN - What I have just described, you mean?
Mr. SPECTER - Yes.
Dr. AKIN - Yes; I think so. Most of the people seem to be shot with cheap ammunition fired out of inferior weapons.
Mr. SPECTER - Would your experience with the type of bullet wounds you have just described be about the same as the other doctors have here at Parkland, or would there be some difference between what you have seen on bullet wounds and what the other doctors have seen?
Dr. AKIN - I think so, except there is one difference--I am not ordinarily on duty in the emergency room, so I am not very often the first doctor to see one of these people injured in this fashion. When I see them they are people who have sustained a gunshot injury, but who lived to make it to the operating room. We, I'm sure, have a lot of people who are shot and who are dead on arrival at the emergency room, and they are examined by the emergency room physicians, and I never see them, so there would be a lot of people down there that I never have seen. They might be injured with a hunting rifle or a good quality ammunition, and I would not have seen them.
Mr. SPECTER - Dr. Akin, permit me, if you will, to give you a set of facts which I will ask you to assume for the purpose of giving me an opinion, if you are able to formulate one. Assume that the President was struck by a 6.5 ram. missile which had a muzzle velocity of approximately 2,000 feet per second at a time when the President was approximately 160 to 250 feet away from the weapon. Assume further that the bullet entered the President's body in the upper right posterior thorax just above the upper border of the scapula at a point 14 cm. from the tip of the right acromion process and 14 cm. below the tip of the right mastoid process. Assume further that the missile traveled through or in between, rather, the strap muscles without penetrating either muscle but going in between the two in the area of his back and traveled through the fascial channel without violating the pleura cavity, and that the bullet struck the side of the trachea and exited from the throat in the position of the punctate wound which you have described you saw, would the wound you saw be consistent with a wound of exit under the factors that I have just outlined to you?

Dr. AKIN - As far as I know, it is perfectly compatible from what you have described, except when you say it passed through without injuring the strap muscles, are you talking about the anterior strap muscles of the neck or are you talking about the posterior muscles of the neck?
Mr. SPECTER - The anterior strap muscles of the neck.
Dr. AKIN - It's a matter of clarification because there are no strap muscles posterior, by my terminology. Yes, this is perfectly consistent with what I know about, or what I have been told by military experts, concerning high velocity missile injuries.
Mr. SPECTER - And what is the basis of your information from the military experts you just referred to?
Dr. AKIN - Military rifle demonstrations when I was a senior student at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio. We took a brief two day tour there with demonstrations of high velocity missile injury.
Mr. SPECTER - With respect to the head wound, Dr. Akin, did you observe below the gaping wound which you have described any other bullet wound in the back of the head?
Dr. AKIN - No; I didn't. I could not see the back of the President's head as such, and the right posterior neck was obscured by blood and skull fragments and I didn't make any attempt to examine the neck.
Mr. SPECTER - Did you have any opportunity to observe the President's clothes?
Dr. AKIN - I noticed them.
Mr. SPECTER - With respect to examining the shirt, for example, to see what light that would shed, if any, on the trajectory of the bullet?
Dr. AKIN - No; I didn't. The front of the chest was uncovered, the pants had been loosened and lowered below the iliac crest, and the only article of clothing I noticed in particular was his back corset.
Mr. SPECTER - What did you observe with respect to the back corset which you just mentioned?
Dr. AKIN - It had been loosened and was just lying loose.
Mr. SPECTER - Can you describe the corset, indicating how wide it was?
Dr. AKIN - The only portion I saw was the front portion of the corset and it was about, I'd say, 5 or 6 inches in width, and made out of some white heavy fabric with the usual straps and buckles.
Mr. SPECTER - Did you notice any Ace bandage strapping the President's buttocks area?
Dr. AKIN - No.
Mr. SPECTER - Was that area of his anatomy visible to you?
Dr. AKIN - Not his buttocks, he was lying supine.
Mr. SPECTER - Was President Kennedy ever turned over, to your knowledge?
Dr. AKIN - Not while I was there.
Mr. SPECTER - And how long were you there altogether, Dr. Akin?
Dr. AKIN - Oh, probably 15, maybe 20---perhaps 20 minutes.
Mr. SPECTER - Were you present when he was pronounced to be dead?
Dr. AKIN - Yes--I didn't leave until Dr. Clark and Dr. Jenkins had mutually agreed that nothing else could be done.
Mr. SPECTER - What time was he pronounced dead?
Dr. AKIN - 1300 hours.
Mr. SPECTER - And what, in your opinion, was the cause of death?
Dr. AKIN - Massive gunshot injury to the brain--primary cause.
Mr. SPECTER - You have already described some of the treatment which was performed on the President; could you supplement that by describing what else was done for the President?
Dr. AKIN - Other than the placement of chest tubes, artificial respiration, brief external cardiac massage---I don't know. Anything else I said would be hearsay, and I understand that he did receive some cortisone. He received so much Ringer's lactate, but this is not of my own personal knowledge.
Mr. SPECTER - How many bullets were involved in the wounds inflicted on the President, Dr. Akin?
Dr. AKIN - Probably two.
Mr. SPECTER - Have you ever changed any of your original opinions in connection with your observations of the President or any opinions you formed in connection with what you saw?
Dr. AKIN - You mean as to how he was injured?
Mr. SPECTER - Yes, as to how he was injured.
Dr. AKIN - Well, no; not really because I didn't have any opinions, necessarily. Any speculation that I might have done about how he was injured was just that, it was just speculation. I didn't form an opinion until it was revealed where he was when he was injured and where the alleged assassin was when he fired the shots, so I didn't have any opinions. It was my immediate assumption that when I saw the extent of the head wound, I assumed at that point that he had probably been hit in the head with a high velocity missile because of the damage that had been done. The same thing happened to his head as would happen to a sealed can of sauerkraut that you hit with a high velocity missile.
Mr. SPECTER - Did you have any opinion as to the direction-that the bullet hit his head?
Dr. AKIN - I assume that the right occipitalparietal region was the exit, so to speak, that he had probably been hit on the other side of the head, or at least tangentially in the back of the head, but I didn't have any hard and fast opinions about that either.
Mr. SPECTER - Have you been interviewed by any representative of the Federal Government prior to today?
Dr. AKIN - You mean concerning this matter?
Mr. SPECTER - Concerning this matter.
Dr. AKIN - I think I was probably interviewed by a member of the Secret Service some weeks ago.
Mr. SPECTER - What did you say to him?
Dr. AKIN - Virtually the same thing, as I recall--I didn't make as long a statement, he just wanted to know where I was and what I did and I told him briefly and that seemed to satisfy him.
Mr. SPECTER - And is that the only time you have been interviewed by any representative of the Federal Government concerning this matter prior to today?
Dr. AKIN - Yes; as far as I can remember.
Mr. SPECTER - And before I started to take your deposition, did you and I have a very brief discussion about the nature of the deposition and the questions I would ask you?
Dr. AKIN - Yes.
Mr. SPECTER - And did you give me about the same information, exactly the same information you have put on the record here this morning?
Dr. AKIN - To my knowledge; yes.
Mr. SPECTER - Do you have anything to add which you think might be of assistance to the President's Commission in their inquiry?
Dr. AKIN - No; I don't think so. I don't know exactly if there is any disagreement or discrepancy in the testimony from the various people who have testified, so I don't know. This is all I saw.
Mr. SPECTER - That's fine. Thank you very much, Dr. Akin.
Dr. AKIN - That's all right, thank you.