Testimony Of Capt. George Donabedian

The testimony of Captain George Donabedian was taken at 2:15 p.m., on May 1,1964, at 200 Maryland Avenue NE., Washington, D.C., by Mr. John Hart Ely, member of the staff of the President's Commission.

Mr. Ely - Will you stand and be sworn?
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Captain DONABEDIAN - I do.
Mr. ELY - Please be seated.
My name is John Ely. I am a member of the legal staff of the President'sCommission on the Assassination of President Kennedy.
Staff members have been authorized to take the testimony of witnesses pursuant to authority granted to the Commission by Executive Order No. 11130, dated November 29, 1963, and Joint Resolution of Congress No. 137.
Under the Commission's rules, each witness is to be provided with a copy of the Executive order of the joint resolution, and a copy of the rules that the Commission has adopted governing the taking of testimony from witnesses.
Is it correct that I have provided you with copies of these documents?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Yes.
Mr. ELY - Under the Commission rules, also, each witness is entitled to 3 days' notice before he is required to come and give testimony.
You were not given 3 days' notice. However, each witness can waive that notice requirement if he wishes, and I assume by your presence that you are willing to waive that notice requirement.
Captain DONABEDIAN - I do.
Mr. ELY - Would you state your full name, please?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Captain George Donabedian, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy.
Mr. ELY - And what position exactly do you hold?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Staff medical officer, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.
Mr. ELY - You are an M.D., is that correct?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Yes; I am.
Mr. ELY - How long have you held the position of staff medical officer?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Since July 1959.
Mr. ELY - Prior to the assassination of President Kennedy, had you ever heard of Lee Harvey Oswald?
Captain DONABEDIAN - No; I had not.
Mr. ELY - You, like Lieutenant Colonel Folsom, were called in to give us some help in interpreting the records of Lee Harvey Oswald-- in other words, your testimony does not stem from any personal contact with the man.
Captain DONABEDIAN - Right.
Mr. ELY - I will show you now a document which I have just labeled "Donabedian Deposition Exhibit No. 1."

(The document referred to was marked "Donabedian Deposition Exhibit No. 1" for identification.)

Mr. ELY - Doctor, could you tell us generally what this document is?
Captain DONABEDIAN - This is taken from the health record of the marine.
Mr. ELY - It is, in other words. a photostatic copy-- --
Captain DONABEDIAN - A photostatic copy of a medical document which each military person has. We have the physical examinations on entrance, and any other illnesses that he may develop during his service, which diseases are recorded and the treatments are recorded, and the inoculations he receives.
Mr. ELY - I have numbered the pages of this exhibit in the upper right- hand corner.Because it was previously part of a larger document, Commission Document 82, the pagination of Donabedian Deposition Exhibit No. 1 runs from 132 through171.
Doctor, I would like, first, to refer you to an entry made on page 147 of this exhibit, and dated July 12, 1938.
Could you explain it?
Captain DONABEDIAN - "Bleeding from the rectum. For the past 1 month has noticed bleeding on paper after bowel movement. This a.m., one to two drops bright red blood dropped into stool. Bowel movement light brown and very hard. Examination."
Mr. ELY - The copy at that point becomes illegible.
Captain DONABEDIAN - "Slight irritation and moderate." Anyway, they gave him treatment with mineral oil.
Mr. ELY - And what was the overall diagnosis?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Hemorrhoids was the diagnosis.
Mr. ELY - And what did you say the treatment was?
Captain DONABEDIAN - The treatment was mineral oil, rectal suppository.
Mr. ELY - All right. I would like to show you now an entry which is on page 40, butwhich is chronologically later than the one to which we just referred, and that is the entry dated-- --
Captain DONABEDIAN - 10- 6-- 57. "Urethritis acute. Nonvenereal."
Mr. ELY - Before we get into that, could we discuss the entry of 10- 10- 58?
Captain DONABEDIAN - "Sigmoidoscopy." I don't know what this number is, unless the number of the procedure. They discharged this man on 10- 13- 58.
Mr. ELY - Do you believe that relates to the hemorrhoids?
Captain DONABEDIAN - He may have had some trouble with the lower bowel, or possibly some more bleeding, and they looked inside the rectum and the sigmoid to determine if there was any cause of the bleeding.
Mr. ELY - I would like at this point to refer you to pages 152 through 156 of this exhibit.
I shall let you proceed to explain what these mean without questioning.
Captain DONABEDIAN - On 9- 10- 58, slight burning on urination. "Has urethral discharge."
Mr. ELY - Well, if you cannot read it, there is no point-- --
Captain DONABEDIAN - Then they took a smear.
Mr. ELY - What is the purpose of a smear?
Captain DONABEDIAN - A smear is to diagnose the cause of the infection, the cause of the discharge, to see what type of bacteria was present.
And on 9- 23- 58, report of a urethral discharge sensitivity test. A culture was taken and reported staphylococcal hemolytic. And the sensitivity test to determine what drug we have that will affect that particular bacteria that is causing this. And erythromycin was the drug of choice.
On page 154, on 16 September 58 he evidently went to one of the outlying dispensaries, and they said "Send to the mainside for smear," which means he was sent to the main side dispensary to get the smear taken.
September 1958, the complaint was urethral discharge. They sent him to the labfor a smear.
And here it says, "Gram negative, diplococci intra- and extra- cellular morphological resembling neisseria gonococci."
Mr. ELY - Could you tell us, Doctor, generally, what that means?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Well, this resembles the gonococcus bacteria which causes gonorrhea. And it says here morphologically resembling this germ-- since the only legal diagnosis would be to have a culture made to prove this or disprove it.
And here for his treatment they gave him penicillin, it looks like 400,000units, four times a day, for 3 days, and said "Return on Monday in the p.m., for a repeat smear."
Then on September 30, 1958, "Still has profuse discharge, somewhat clearer,received course of penicillin ending 2 days ago."
In other words, he had finished getting his penicillin. So for this profuse discharge, they treated him with chloromycetin capsules, one, four times a day,and return Monday for smear and culture. Then on September 22-- --
Mr. ELY - I believe the last item was September 20.
Captain DONABEDIAN - Then September 22, 1958, urethral discharge, and it says "September 23"underneath-- "urethral discharge, smear and culture."
The smear showed many pus cells, no organisms noted. The culture showed micrococcus pyogenous vas aurens. This is the type of bacteria that gives adark- greenish color discharge.
Mr. ELY - Does either the results of the smear or the results of the culture say anything about whether or not Oswald had gonorrhea, or can we tell?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Not in this one.
The one above here, we assume he had gonorrhea-- - on the 16th.
Mr. ELY - We would assume he had it, even though, as you pointed out, you could not prove it in court, because it was determined by a smear rather than a culture?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Most of the doctors use this. They may take a smear, and they find that-- intra and extracellular diplococci, they treat the patient for gonorrhea.
Now, the treatment for his micrococcus pyogenous is "continue chloromycetin," Iguess it is four times a day. Yes; it was four times a day. And then continue four times a day. And something was given. And they wanted him to return again.I cannot tell what this is. Instructions, probably. Some instructions were given.
On September 29, 1958, the complaint was urethral discharge. They took a smear.And that was-- "many pus cells were noted, no organisms were noted."
The note underneath is "good response to therapy, has been doing much heavy lifting." They must have given him light duty for 3 days. "To repeat smear, 1 week."
October 6, 1958, the complaint was unrethral discharge. They took a smear. The report was "moderate amount of pus cells, few gram positive cocci."
This is not gonorrhea. "Heavy discharge with occasional burning. Has been doing heavy lifting recently."
"Some heavy discharge with occasional burning of the urination"-- although this says dysurea-- - "has been doing heavy lifting recently."
October 24, 1958, the complaint was unrethral discharge, and they gave him pyridium, one tablet five times a day- one gram five times a day.
No-- "return in 5 days."
They just gave him pyridium, and "d" means to duty, and return in 5 days.
"Smear, few pus cells, some mucus threads noted, occasional gram positive coccinoted."
The next date is hard to tell. Something-- "qid for for 5 days."
The next thing is hard to tell.
Mr. ELY - All right. That entry is illegible.
Captain DONABEDIAN - Page 156. He was admitted to the sick list, 9- 16- 58, diagnosis, "urethritisacute due to gonococcus." This is No. 0303. And in handwriting -- --
Mr. ELY - That is my handwriting, so we will disregard that.
Captain DONABEDIAN - The chief complaint is urethral discharge. "Present illness. Patient complains of a slight discharge and a stinging sensation on urination. Past history-- previous venereal disease. Physical examination, essentially negative,except for thick mucco burn discharge from the urethra. Laboratory. Smear reveals gram negative intra- and extra- cellular diplococci having a morphology resembling gonorrhea."
Unless they took a culture to grow the germ out, they could not absolutely be certain.
Mr. ELY - You mentioned that under this previous history column it mentioned "previous VD." Does that mean that Oswald had had it prior to this time?
Captain DONABEDIAN - At another time, in his past, whenever that would be. It could have been while he was in the service, although we didn't notice in these records. But he could have had it before he came in the service. VD could be any venereal disease. There are five different kinds.
Mr. ELY - But you have not seen any reference in his medical records to any prior case during his military career?
Captain DONABEDIAN - No; except those that we reported within those dates. Treatment was procaine penicillin, 900,000 units, intramuscularly for 3 days.
Now, you remember when we read the other report it looked like 400,000 units. It is most apt to be 900,000 units.
Mr. ELY - It should be noted page 156 contains typewriting rather than handwriting as the other one did. And I believe this entry on page 156 is something of a summary.
Captain DONABEDIAN - This is a summary. He was admitted on 9- 16- 58, and discharged on the same day. But they readmitted these VD cases for statistical purposes, so we can keep track of how many people have been in contact with this. And he was sent to duty under treatment and observation.
Mr. ELY - Would it be fair to say, Doctor, summarizing your testimony as to these few pages, that this looks, as far as we can tell, like a typical case of gonorrhea?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Yes; it does.
Mr. ELY - Nothing extraordinary about it? But it certainly does seem that he did have gonorrhea at this point?
Captain DONABEDIAN - Right.
Mr. ELY - These medical records also contain entries relating to the gunshot wound received by Oswald in connection with the .22- caliber pistol he had stored in his footlocker. I believe those entries are self- explanatory. Also, in filling out his own forms on physicals, Oswald made reference to a mastoid operation which he had had when he was a child. This, also, I think, is something we don't have to go into at this point.
Doctor, I will ask you, in conclusion, if you, in looking through his medical records, have noticed anything which we have not mentioned which seems to you extraordinary-- anything over and above the normal marine's complaints.
Captain DONABEDIAN - No; not offhand. He had a sore throat, which many boys have in the service.He had a cold. And he had one other infection, otitis media, in 1957.
Mr. ELY - That reference appears at page 150.
Captain DONABEDIAN - And they give him penicillin, 600,000 units, 5 days. I see nothing else.
Mr. ELY - In that case, Doctor, we will thank you very much for helping to explain these records for us.
Captain DONABEDIAN - Thank you.