Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK

book by Bonar Menninger

Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK is a 1992 non-fiction book by Bonar Menninger describing a theory by sharpshooter, gunsmith and ballistics expert Howard Donahue that a Secret Service agent accidentally fired the shot that actually killed President John F. Kennedy. It provided the basis for the 2013 documentary and book JFK: The Smoking Gun by Colin McLaren.


Chapter 1 A Chance Telephone CallEdit

  • Would Howard be interested in writing an article for the magazine supporting the Warren Commissions conclusions? Donahue agreed... but he told the editor he needed to do a little research first. "I just want to be sure they're right," he said.
    • p. 10

Chapter 3 The CriticsEdit

  • While less inclined to believe the Warren Report, he nonetheless found most of the critics work to be worthless from a ballistics standpoint. Consequently, he decided to focus solely on the ballistics and forensic aspects of the assassination.
    • p. 28
    • Describing the development of Donahue's thoughts

Chapter 5 The Head ShotEdit

  • Donahue was stunned. In one afternoon, his confidence in the Warren Report was effectively destroyed.
    • p. 47

Chapter 6 A Fortuitous EncounterEdit

  • Donahue telephoned the editor he'd been working with at True magazine and told him he wouldn't be able to finish the article endorsing the Warren Commission's conclusions after all. "I found a few inconsistencies and I don't know if I'll be able to resolve them", Donahue said. He added with a laugh, "I'll stay with this and figure it out. I'll be back in touch." Actually, Donahue had no plans for abandoning his work. In just eight months, working on weekends and evenings in his cluttered basement den, he had been able to construct a rebuttal to the critics of the Commission's single bullet theory that effectively destroyed their principal arguments. More important, he was sure he'd identified two serious flaws in the Government's explanation of the head wound, flaws those same critics has (sic) missed entirely.
    • p. 57

Chapter 7 Kennedy's Unknown WoundEdit

  • "Well, you know more about guns than I do," he said. "But that would certainly explain the strange antics of the government."
    • p. 65
    • Dr. Russell Fisher, head of a medical panel which reviewed the autopsy in 1968

Chapter 9 The DiscoveryEdit

  • Howard here. You're not going to believe this, and God help me if I'm wrong, but I think we can do the story. I found the gun.
    • p. 108
    • Telephone call made by Donahue

Chapter 12 Katie Donahue Forces the IssueEdit

  • Of course, Donahue's understanding of the fatal shot in no way precluded the possibility that Oswald was involved in some kind of conspiracy.
    • p. 146

Chapter 17 TodayEdit

  • As for Donahue, he never doubted that his conclusions were correct. "I started out on my investigation with no preconceptions," Donahue said. "If anything, I was trying to prove the Warren Commission right. And after I made my discovery, I tried very hard to prove it wrong. I wanted to be wrong. But I found nothing to indicate that I was."
    • p. 237
  • I do not believe that George Hickey is to blame for what happened. He was a brave man trying to do his job.
    • p. 237
    • Howard Donahue speaking
  • We should have put the Kennedy assassination to rest a long time ago. Now I've given twenty-five years of my life to this. It's up to the American people to decide who is right and who is wrong. I've done what I can.
    • p. 273
    • Howard Donahue speaking

Note from the PublisherEdit

  • For the first time, we began to understand Donahue's reaction over the years as he tried to get a hearing and found himself dismissed on the basis of palpable nonfacts.
    • p. 252

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