Nov. 22, 1963, a young Dr. Jay Cox was the Officer of the Day at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. Earlier in the day was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and his body was brought to Bethesda for the autopsy. Dr. Cox experienced history first hand, and he’s ready to share his observations.
Dr. Cox is a Depoe Bay resident and a member of the Lincoln City Rotary. On Wednesday, May 8 at Salishan, Dr. Cox will outline what he remembers about President Kennedy’s autopsy before the Rotary Club of Lincoln City and what he has since learned about Oswald and Jack Ruby, the man who was arrested for shooting Oswald.
Dr. Cox has assembled news clips from the assassination and the events that unfolded during the Oswald killing. Dr. Cox last had his talk with the Lincoln City Rotary in 2013 and said he continues to talk about it due to its immense interest it sparks.
“I’ve probably given this talk about 30-40 times throughout the years,” Dr. Cox said. “People seem really interested because of all the conspiracies that surround it. Last time I spoke on it the room was packed with over 100 people.”
On the day of the JFK assassination Dr. Cox was on call for orthopedic surgery and having just been promoted to Lieutenant Commander, he was also standing watch for the first time as Officer of the Day for the Medical Center. This meant that he was in charge of the entire hospital operation from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. the following morning. At around 5:30, he was notified that the president’s body was coming to Bethesda.
“I was the first one informed that Kennedy’s body was being sent to our hospital,” Dr. Cox said. “At that point my job was to assemble the medical team and get things ready to go. After that, it was out of my hands.”
Dr. Cox said he was not part of the autopsy team, but as officer of the day, he oversaw everything from the arrival of the body to escorting Jackie and Robert Kennedy and Robert McNamara.
“It was my job to get them to the tenth floor waiting area where they waited until the autopsy was finished,” Dr. Cox said.
That night Dr. Cox watched the autopsy, saw the X-rays and provided security and will be sharing what he saw as well as explain how many of the conspiracy theories developed. According to Dr. Cox, what they found during the autopsy drew a pretty straightforward conclusion.
“At the end of the autopsy that night there was no doubt in anyone’s mind at Bethesda that all shots came from the rear and there was no evidence of multiple shooters,” Dr. Cox said. “As we turned the body over, we immediately saw two wounds; one in the back of the President’s skull and the other wound in his back. The exit wound from the head was very obvious because it took out the right half of the skull and part of the brain.”
As for the bullet in the back, Dr. Cox said they originally didn’t find an exit wound for the bullet. But after receiving a call from the Dallas doctors that they had done a tracheotomy, the medical team decided the bullet went in the back and came out in the throat.
“The importance of that is that we knew the President had been shot from behind, not from in front,” Dr. Cox said. “It just shows where the confusion was. Dallas doctors never turned Kennedy’s body over and never saw the wounds in the back.”
Dr. Cox said having the Kennedy family presence in the hospital has also played a role in the conspiracy theories. The Kennedy family was waiting on the 10th floor for the autopsy to conclude, which added extra pressure to the doctors at Bethesda.
“They kept calling us to see when we would finish, so there was pressure to finish quickly,” Dr. Cox said. “Normally, the doctors would carefully trace the wounds, but because they felt they were under pressure they did not do that.”
Although it seemed pretty cut-and-dry for Dr. Cox and the rest of the Bethesda staff, that has been how it has been interpreted in the eyes of many. But Dr. Cox has an answer for every theory, and has studied this historical event thoroughly since that day.
I became a student of what happened that day and can share the story of the events in Dallas to the autopsy conclusion in Bethesda,” Dr. Cox said. “I’ve had a lot of calls from conspiracy theorists but my goal has always been to get the truth out there.”
The JFK talk is at 12 p.m. at Salishan and is $13 per person. The public is welcome, but they must pre-register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by messaging the Lincoln City Rotary Facebook page. Registrations are due by 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 1.