Electronic Assassinations Newsletter

Issue #2 "New Discoveries in the Recently Released Assassination Files"

Appendix E
The "Analytical Chemistry" Article

Wallace Milam

The article in Number 28 of Transactions of the American Nuclear Society was very helpful, since it contained Guinn's characterization of Western Cartridge Company Mannlicher ammunition as "somewhat ... heterogeneous" within a given bullet, and also gave data and insights into the FBI's 1964 NAA tests. It was obvious, however, that the two-page text represented only an abstract or a summary. In late February, I called the current editor of Transactions in an attempt to get the entire article. I was informed that the complete article had never been published in Transactions, but that Dr. Guinn had delivered an address on the same topic in June, 1978 (3 months before testifying to HSCA), to a convention in San Diego. The editor doubted that the text of the speech had ever been published.

I decided to turn to Dr. Guinn himself. A telephone call to the University of California Irvine revealed that Dr. Guinn had moved two years previously to the University of Maryland in College Park. After several tries, I finally spoke with Guinn on March 5, 1993. He indicated that the complete text of his speech was printed in Analytical Chemistry in 1979.

The April, 1979 issue of Analytical Chemistry contains a 6-page article by Vincent P. Guinn. It is titled, "JFK Assassination: Bullet Analyses" (Volume 51, No. 4, pp. 484A-493A), and is a brief account of Guinn's entire involvement with Mannlicher ammunition and the Kennedy assassination. I found the article added to both my information about Guinn's work and also my doubts about his conclusions:

1. The piece opens with a "background" to the Kennedy assassination which is little more than a brief for the prosecution. Guinn accepts Oswald as an "avowed Marxist" and follower of Fidel Castro, asserts that Oswald's palmprint was found on the rifle (glossing over the dubious history of how that "fact" entered the chain of evidence), and generally adheres strictly to the Warren Commission's official line.

2. Guinn's also included comments about the work done on paraffin casts of Oswald's cheek and hands at Oak Ridge. Guinn wrote:

The FBI took the Oswald paraffin casts to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and analyzed them by neutron activation analysis [NAA] for the possible presence of primer residue ... still there after the Dallas dermal nitrate tests. The effort was thwarted by the fact that the casts were badly contaminated, essentially as much Ba and Sb being found on the outside surfaces of the casts as on the inside surfaces--which had been in contact with Oswald's skin. The right cheek cast, if it had not been contaminated by improper handling, might have established that Oswald had recently fired a rifle. (p. 484A)

Not only do the remarks betray a tendency to judge what might have been instead of what was found, they also indicate a first hand knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the analysis at Oak Ridge in 1964.

3. On page 486A, Guinn wrote, "I analyzed a number of samples of WCC/MC 6.5-mm bullet lead from all four of the production lots made by WCC..." >From his report to HSCA, we know that Guinn's "number" was actually 14, only three of which were broken apart and tested for intra-bullet homogeneity. While fourteen is indeed a number, it hardly represents an exhaustive or even significant study of that bullet, as I believe his comment implies. We know also that Guinn erred in his assumption that he had tested from all WCC manufacturing lots.

4. On the same page, Guinn wrote that he found the bullets to be "fairly homogeneous" in Sb and Ag contents, though tremendously heterogeneous from bullet to bullet and lot to lot. What we know, of course, is:

a) that Guinn had described the bullets as "somewhat ... heterogenous" the year before;

b) that he had tested only 3 bullets, finding one "fairly homogeneous for all three elements," another "not so homogeneous in Sb," and the third "not homogeneous in Sb and Ag";

c) that in his HSCA testimony, he had cast off all reservations and stated point blank that one always found homogeneity within a given bullet;

d) that this statement, lacking evidentiary support, was a keystone of HSCA final conclusions about what happened in Dealey Plaza.

5. Guinn clearly knew he was dealing with recycled lead when he did his analyses. He wrote (p. 496A):

The range of Sb values was especially large, all the way from around 20 ppm up to 1200 ppm. Although still in the range of unhardened lead they clearly were not made from virgin lead but instead obviously contained appreciable and variable amounts of recycled lead-some of which was antimony-hardened lead.

"Appreciable and variable amounts of recycled lead." What implications might this have for finding homogeneity at any level within a batch of Mannlicher bullet lead? Guinn seems to have accepted this an explanation for the "tremendous" heterogeneity from lot to lot and bullet to bullet but never have considered that it might account for his "somewhat heterogeneous" intra-bullet findings.

5. I had hoped that the article might shed light on how Guinn came to do his work for HSCA, but he simply stated, "In the early summer of 1977, the author received a phone call from a member of the U. S. House of Representatives' Select Committee on Assassinations...." without naming the individual who called. (p. 496A)

6. The account in Analytical Chemistry was also noteworthy what it did not contain. Though he relates how Mr. Gear brought specimens from the National Archives and remarks on the tight security maintained around them on the UC Irvine campus, Guinn does not report that the fragments he received and tested were different in size and number than those the FBI had tested in 1964, a fact which he admitted with some puzzlement in his HSCA testimony.

7. To my astonishment, Guinn reported exact compositions for the two bullets he believed to have struck the occupants of the limousine. Without qualification, he wrote that one of the bullet [by inference the one which he believed struck Kennedy in the head] had 622 ppm Sb and 8.1 ppm Ag, while the other [by inference CE 3, the stretcher bullet] had a composition of 815 ppm Sb and 9.3 ppm. How can such assertions be made by a scientist in light of:

a) the fact that Guinn knew from his own laboratory tests that individual bullet fragments had varied from one another by as much as 625 ppm (175%) in one case, 84% in another case, and even his "fairly homogeneous" bullet fragments had varied by 173 ppm (16%).

b) the fact that Guinn, by his own admission, had data which showed the FBI had taken 17 readings from the same bullet he now bluntly stated had 815 ppm, and their readings varied from 636 to 1125 ppm.

In the face of his own laboratory tests results and FBI data both of which clearly indicated that Sb values could vary tremendously, Guinn went ahead and assigned specific amounts of Sb to h two bullets.

How did he arrive at these figures? He AVERAGED the compositions of the fragments he had assigned to the two bullets. (For the "stretcher bullet"/Connally wrist fragment: 833 and 797 antimony and 8.8 and 9.8 ppm silver; for the three "head fragment 602, 621 and 642 ppm antimony, 8.1, 7.9 and 8.2 ppm silver. Averaging these amounts yields the compositions Guinn had reported.)*

Consider the scientific travesty being perpetrated here:

a) Guinn takes only one measurement of bullet lead from each sample, although he knows that wide variations can be expected from bits within that sample;

b) He takes his test result and assigns it to the whole sample;

c) He then takes two or three whole samples and matches them using data based on his demonstrably-false assumption;

d) In following this procedure, Guinn obtained tainted data (steps a and b), then combined the products of his tainted data, producing a multiply-tainted final result (step c). Then, with neither reservation nor shame, he announced those results as if they came from stone tablets.

________________________________________________________________________ *In Analytical Chemistry, Guinn reports the Ag values in CE 399 as being 8.8 ppm. In his report to HSCA, Guinn listed the AG concentration as 7.9 ppm. If the HSCA value is correct, this means that the two pieces of metal, CE 842 and CE 399 (which supposedly are parts of the same bullet), were closer in Ag concentration to the fragments Guinn assigned to the other bullet than they were to each other!


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