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January 6, 2011

Information on the Death of William Pitzer
Allan Eaglesham

At 7:50 PM on October 29, 1966, the body of Lieuteant Commander William Bruce Pitzer was found in a pool of blood on the floor of the television studio in Building 144 of the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), Bethesda, Maryland [1]. He had a bullet wound in the right temple, and a revolver was on the floor near the body.

FBI agents were summoned to assist agents of the Naval Investigative Service Office in the investigation, as was the deputy medical examiner for Montgomery County. The official conclusion from the investigation was that LCDR Pitzer had committed suicide.

Nine years later, an article was published in the Waukegan News-Sun [2] in which an anonymous colleague suggested that Pitzer had been murdered -- as part of a coverup of conspiracy -- possibly as a result of his possession of a movie generated during the autopsy on President Kennedy's body at the Bethesda Medical School (a division of the NNMC) .

In 1976, the revised edition of the third volume of Penn Jones' self-published series Forgive my Grief contained an entry on William Pitzer (here) that stated that Pitzer was "reminded repeatedly" by "military personnel...never to reveal...what he saw while taking pictures [at the Kennedy autopsy]." The second page of this entry (here) is drawn from the Waukegan News-Sun article, but I have been unable to trace the source of information that William Pitzer was reminded "repeatedly never to reveal...what he saw while taking pictures" [3].

In due course, the anonymous colleague revealed himself to be Dennis David, a key witness for author David Lifton in developing his body-alteration theory as described in Best Evidence [4].

The theory that William Pitzer was murdered has been discussed in several books, notably those by Harrison Livingstone [e.g. 5].

Acknowledgments I thank Harold "Skip" Rydberg for the September 1965 photograph of then-Lieutenant Pitzer,
Tim Toidze for providing a VHS version of Kennedy's Assassination: 13th Version, and Kenneth Hersh for the pages from Forgive My Grief.

Sources & Notes
[1] Eaglesham ARJ Palmer RR (1998) The Untimely Death of Lieutenant Commander William B. Pitzer: The Physical Evidence. Here.
[2] Peterson A (1975) Another link in JFK death? Waukegan News-Sun May 1. Here.
[3] In an email to me dated December 18, 2010, Dennis David -- the then-anonymous source of the information in [2] -- stated "Sorry, I have no idea of Bill ever stating 'a horrifying debriefing.' The article in unfamiliar to me."
[4] Lifton DS (1980, 1988) Best Evidence. New York: Carroll & Graf.
[5] Livingston HEL Groden R (1989, 1990) High Treason. New York: Berkley. Livingstone HEL (1992) High Treason 2. New York: Carroll & Graf. Livingston HEL (1994) Killing the Truth. New York: Carroll & Graf. Livingstone HEL (1995) Killing Kennedy. New York: Carroll & Graf. Livingstone HEL (2004)The Radical Right and the Murder of John F. Kennedy. Victoria, BC: Trafford.
[6] Marvin D (1995) Bits & Pieces: A Green Beret on the Periphery of the JFK Assassination. The Fourth Decade May 1995, 2(4) 14-18. Here.
[7] Heiner K (2004) Without Smoking Gun. Walterville, OR: Trine Day.
[8] The Men Who Killed Kennedy Part 6. .
[9] Eaglesham A (2004) Coverage of the Pitzer case in the Documentary Kennedy's Assassination: 13th Version. Here.
[10] Douglass JW (2008) JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis.
[11] Law WM Eaglesham A (2004) In the Eye of History. Southlake, TX: Lancer.
[12] Eaglesham A (2007) The Putative Pitzer Movie: A Discussion. Here.
[13] Rinnovatore J (2009) JFK 11/22/63: Body/Casket Chicanery at the Bethesda Morgue. Here.
[14] Rinnovatore JV (2010) JFK 11/22/63: Where Was the Throat Wound Altered? Here.
[15] Horne, D.P. (2009) Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, e.g. pp. 1003-1006. Self-published.
[16] Rinnovatore JV Eaglesham A (2010) JFK 11/22/63: Who Took the Pre-Autopsy Photographs? Here.

I began investigating LCDR Pitzer's death in 1997, which led to publication of a series of articles on this Website. The information was summarized in 2005 in three articles:

  • The Case for Homicide (here)
  • The Case for Homicide Reconsidered (here)
  • Opinion: The Wound was Self-Inflicted (here)
  • In 2009, forensic experts Cyril Wecht and Herbert MacDonell examined photographs taken at the autopsy on William Pitzer's body, and concluded -- as I had, although they were unaware of it -- that the death resulted from a self-inflicted wound (here).


    The purpose of this article is to provide interested parties with information on this case that is, in the main, not readily available elsewhere. Please note that, due to commitments to members of the Pitzer family, I am not at liberty to show the photograph of the death scene or those taken at the autopsy. Anyone wishing to see these may do so by prior arrangement (). (A small, partial representation of the death scene is shown here in Figure 2 and the entry wound may be seen here, reproduced by kind permission as an essential part of Dr. MacDonell's appraisal of the autopsy photographs here.)

    I welcome comments and would be particular interested to hear from anyone who disagrees with my appraisal of the available information.


    Obituaries were published on October 31 and November 2, 1966:



    This was obtained via a request under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act.

    FBI File, pp. 1-3a
    Cover page; explanation of redaction codes; initial teletype, reporting the death, from Baltimore to Washington, DC.

    FBI File, pp. 4-30
    Follow-up teletype with preliminary feedback from the autopsy; Letter to Hoover from the Naval Investigative Service Office (NISO) seeking examination of items of evidence; AIRTEL communication from SAC Baltimore to Hoover suggesting suicide; Feedback to the NISO on examined evidence; Notes initialled by Pitzer.

    FBI File, pp. 31-51
    More feedback to the NISO on examined evidence; Letter to Hoover from the NIS enclosed with nine fingerprint cards to help in the identification of latent prints found at the death scene; Feedback to the NISO on the latent prints; Final FBI report cover pages.

    FBI File, pp. 52-72
    Final FBI report table of contents; Eyewitness interview report; Incident report from the eyewitness; FBI report from the investigating agent; Rough sketch of the death scene; Report that investigating NISO agent found three blank .38 cartridges on Pitzer's desk; FBI reports resulting from examination of evidence; Record of examination of NNMC firearms log book; Record of collection of finger and palm impressions from the deceased; Record of interview, apparently with Mrs. Pitzer; Record of two withheld pages.

    FBI File, pp. 73-89
    Records of interviews with family members; Record of two withheld pages; Record of interview with Naval Medical School duty doctor who examined the body; Records of interviews with autopsy doctors; Record of interview with deputy medical examiner for Montgomery County, Maryland; Autopsy protocol.

    FBI File, pp. 90-116
    Records of interviews with colleagues and associates; Record of interview with a clerk at the Western Auto Store; Record of interview with a neighbor who played golf with Pitzer's son on the day of the death; Records of interview with psychiatrist and psychiatrist's aide; Record of one page withheld.

    FBI File, pp. 117-138
    Record of production of vouchers showing Pitzer's recent excursions; Records of recent banking transactions; Bank statements; Record of interview with a banker whom Pitzer had approached for assistance with a prop for a television program, and discussion of loan applications; Record of interview with Pitzer's family doctor; Note sent by a lady friend; Note sent by Pitzer to the lady on the afternoon of his death; Records of interviews with the lady; Conclusion: This case is being placed in a closed status as all logical investigation has been conducted and nothing inconsistent with suicide has developed and investigation did disclose circumstances consistent with suicide and reasons for suicide.

    Perhaps the most important component of the FBI file is the autopsy protocol. A retyped version is provided here because the original is difficult to read:

    Autopsy Protocol

    In fact, the copy quality on some pages of the FBI file is such as to render the text illegible. I will be happy to help with "interpretation" if the reader requires it ().


    This nineteen-page document was obtained from Daniel Marvin who obtained it from Harrison Livingstone. It has fewer redactions, and comparison allows identification of some of the interviewees in the FBI file.

    Informal Investigation Report

    Efforts to obtain the report from the formal NISO investigation -- refered to in the informal report -- were fruitless; I was told that it had been destroyed, per routine practice, after 25 years.


    LCDR Pitzer's grave is #284 in section 37 at Arlington National Cemetery:

    Interment Record


    The books mentioned already [5] deal briefly with LCDR Pitzer's death from a pro-homicide persective. In 1995, ex-Green Beret Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Marvin authored an article in the JFK-research journal The Fourth Decade in which he claimed to have been solicited, in 1965, by a CIA agent to assassinate William Pitzer [6].A more comprehensive treatment of the case by author Kent Heiner [7] also takes a pro-murder stance, with emphasis on Daniel Marvin and his claim that he was asked, but refused, to "terminate" Pitzer. The sixth edition of the television series The Men Who Killed Kennedy includes a segment on Pitzer's death and Marvin's claim [8]. Another made-for-television documentary, which hasn't been shown in the United States, Kennedy's Assassination: 13th Version, also includes a segment on Pitzer with an interview with Marvin; it contains several inaccuracies [9]. All of these treatments of the case suffer similarly: none draws on the evidence in the death-scene and autopsy photographs. Several of them are based on the errant assumption that William Pitzer was left-handed.

    A recent discussion of the Pitzer case, and Daniel Marvin's claimed role, is in JFK and the Unspeakable [10]. The five-page treatment is firmly pro-homicide. In this otherwise excellent treatise on the Kennedy assassination, author James Douglass chooses to ignore the most recent forensic evidence and emphasizes the Marvin component. Although Douglass makes several references to William Law's book, In the Eye of History [11], the pro-suicide content in the appendix of that book is passed over.


    In a discussion of the "putative" Pitzer movie of the autopsy on President Kennedy's body, I made a case for it being generated via a closed-circuit television feed from Walter Reed Hospital [12]. Since then, new appraisals of the available evidence -- from James Rinnovatore [13, 14] and Doug Horne [15] -- suggest that alterations of President Kennedy's wounds occurred at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Although the available evidence suggests that William Pitzer killed himself, it is possible that he was responsible for recording on film the pre-autopsy on President Kennedy's body [16].





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