In December 1966, Army Captain Sam Bird’s one-year tour of duty in Vietnam was coming to an end. He was set to be transferred from a combat zone in which he had been operating to a safe zone in the rear and then sent home. However, according to a written account entitled “The Courage of Sam Bird” by B. T. Collins, one of his subordinate officers, Bird “conned his commanding officer into letting him stay an extra month with his beloved Bravo Company,” a move that would prove to be a near-fatal mistake.
For high school, Sam had attended Missouri Military Academy, where he was a company commander his final year. He received the school’s highest possible honor — the Legion of Honor for industry, integrity, and abiding loyalty.
Sam then attended the Citadel, the prestigious military college in South Carolina. During his senior year, he served on the regimental staff, the highest-ranking group within the corps of cadets. He graduated with several honors, although not without the following controversial incident: Army officers who are assigned to military schools are called “tactical officers.” The group of tactical officers at the Citadel were called the “South Carolina Unorganized Militia.” Sam submitted an essay on the group in a class being taught by a tactical officer who Sam didn’t particularly like. It seems that Sam’s paper emphasized a bit too heavily the initials of the tactical officers’ group. Sam received an “F” on the paper.
Upon graduation in 1961, Sam was commissioned an Army 2nd Lieutenant. After attending infantry school, he attended Ranger School, which was the most difficult and arduous program in the U.S. Army. After graduating from Ranger School, he attended Airborne School, another highly rigorous program that trains soldiers to parachute out of planes.
In 1965, Airborne Ranger Sam Bird was promoted to captain. His commanding officer in the Third Infantry Division wrote, “Captain Bird’s performance of duty during the period covered by this report was outstanding in every respect. This officer is definitely general officer material and should be promoted and schooled well in advance of his contemporaries.”
The Vietnam War
Sam Bird decided that he wanted to serve in Vietnam, where U.S. troops were increasingly being killed. Among the dead was First Lt. Dave Ragin, who had served on the same regimental staff as Sam at the Citadel. Sam served 10 months at Fort Benning preparing for Vietnam at the Pathfinder and Infantry Officer’s Career Course. In 1966, he was transferred to Vietnam, where the life span of an infantry officer was growing exceedingly short.
I highly recommend reading the aforementioned “The Courage of Sam Bird.” It’s a short article, but the author, B. T. Collins, provides a perfect description of the military man that Sam Bird was. Collins points out that when Bird was in Vietnam, he always put the welfare of his men first and, unlike so many other officers in the military, never had them do anything that he himself was unwilling to do. Collins, who himself lost an arm and a leg in combat in Vietnam, makes it clear that Bird was the epitome of military professionalism, duty, and integrity. His article is posted at: https://www.tapsbugler.com/the-courage-of-sam-bird.
Sam Bird considered it his patriotic duty to volunteer for Vietnam. Like so many other young men during that time, Sam had bought into the notion that by fighting communists in Vietnam, he would be protecting our freedoms here at home. At Sam’s 15th class reunion at the Citadel, World War II Gen. Mark Clark, the school’s president emeritus, said to Sam, “On behalf of your country, I want to thank you for all you did.” Sam responded, “Sir, it was the least I could do.” He later stated, “I had friends who didn’t come back. I’m enjoying the freedoms they died for.”
On January 27, 1967 — Sam Bird’s 27th birthday and just before he was set to return home — he was ordered to take part in an airborne assault on North Vietnamese forces. The standard policy was to land infantry units on the outskirts of enemy units and then have them attack the enemy. This time, however, some superior officer in the rear got the bright idea of having his soldiers land in helicopters in the middle of a North Vietnamese regimental headquarters.
Not surprisingly, Sam’s unit came under unbelievably heavy enemy fire. Sam was hit in both legs. And then came the shot that ripped through his skull, carrying away about one-fourth of it. His executive officer, Lt. Dean Parker, scooped what was left of Sam’s brain and inserted it back into Sam’s head.
Miraculously, Sam Bird survived his wounds, but only after high-risk surgery that required the removal of more parts of his brain. Later, he had a steel plate put on his skull, which was then later replaced by a plastic plate. He ended up a paraplegic, one who suffered from severe short-term memory loss, difficulty in thinking and communicating, and periodic extremely severe headaches. He moved in with his parents, who resigned themselves to taking care of him for the rest of his life. He never complained and remained convinced that his sacrifice had been worth keeping America “free.”
Me and VMI
One of the reasons that the Sam Bird story hit home with me in a personal way was that I had the same mindset that Sam had when I entered Virginia Military Institute in 1968. Like Sam, I had been taught to believe that fighting the Reds in Vietnam was necessary to keep our nation “free.” One difference between Sam Bird and me, however, was that I “broke through” to the truth before I graduated from VMI in 1972.
By that time, I had come to the realization that the war in Vietnam was just one great big crock, which was why I was demoted to first-class private my senior year rather than be promoted to a cadet officership like Sam was. Sam Bird never came to that realization, believing to the day he died that he had sacrificed himself to protect “freedom” in America. Another difference was that by the time I graduated, the war in Vietnam was winding down. Even though I was, like Sam, an infantry officer, I was spared the misfortune of being sent to Vietnam to kill “gooks” or die in the name of “freedom.”
Love at second sight
In September 1971, a woman named Annette Blazier reentered Sam Bird’s life. They were both 32 years old. He and Annette had known each other in grade school. One day, after a failed marriage, Annette moved back to Wichita, Kansas, with her young son Eric. Learning that Sam was in Wichita living with his parents, she decided to visit him.
It was love at second sight. After a courtship that involved things like going to the movies with Sam in a wheelchair, he proposed marriage to Annette. Over the objections of both sets of parents, she accepted. The marriage took place, and the couple moved into their own home.
Needless to say, taking care of Sam was not easy, especially given that, on top of everything else, he had a catheter and could not control his bowel movements. Moreover, Annette had to manage a special lift to get him into bed. Some people figured that Annette had married Sam for his Army salary, since by then he had been promoted to major.
I discovered a 1993 biography of Sam Bird online entitled So Proudly He Served. The author? Annette Bird, along with a writer named Tim Prouty. By this time, I was sufficiently intrigued by the Sam Bird story that I decided to purchase the book. It is not a short summery of Sam’s life. Instead, it is a long, detailed account (413 pages) of Sam Bird’s life. By the time I finished reading it, I had reached a firm conclusion: Annette Bird was a special woman who deeply loved the man she married, and she did not want him to be forgotten. It was also crystal-clear to me that she had brought 12 years of extreme happiness to Sam Bird’s very difficult life — and that he had done the same for her.
On October 18, 1984, after 12 years of marriage to his beloved Annette, Sam Bird’s body simply couldn’t take it anymore. He passed away at the age of 44. Although he had not died in Vietnam, his name was added to the Vietnam Memorial.
A side note about the book I purchased: I mistakenly thought I was buying a new copy. Instead, the copy I received had the following inscription in it: “To Ron Turney ’78. With warm wishes. Annette Bird. March 21, 1994.” I googled Ron Turney and discovered that he was a 1978 graduate of the Citadel who had gone on to become a Navy pilot. He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2018. Somehow, his book had ended up in my possession.
Sam Bird and the JFK assassination
There is another reason, however, why the Sam Bird story has impacted me so deeply. Although he and his wife Annette were never aware of it, the fact is that Sam Bird played a critically important role in establishing the fraudulent nature of the autopsy that the military establishment conducted on President Kennedy’s body on the evening of his assassination.
As longtime supporters of The Future of Freedom Foundation know, we have published many books and articles and sponsored several conferences and video presentations detailing the fraudulent nature of the JFK autopsy. Why is a fraudulent autopsy so important? Because there is no possible innocent explanation for a fraudulent autopsy. It necessarily proves criminal culpability in the assassination itself. Once one concludes that
the national-security establishment conducted a fraudulent autopsy, one has also automatically concluded that the national-security establishment orchestrated and carried out the assassination itself. There is no way around it.
No autopsy in Dallas
At 1 p.m. Central Time on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was declared dead at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. At that point, Dr. Earl Rose, the Dallas County medical examiner, announced that he was going to conduct an autopsy on the president’s body. Rose was operating under Texas state law, which mandated that after any homicide, the county medical examiner was required to conduct an autopsy.
At that time, it was not a federal offense to assassinate a president. Therefore, no federal department, agency, or officer, including the Secret Service, the FBI, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the Justice Department, had any jurisdiction over any aspect of this crime.
Immediately after Rose made his announcement, a team of Secret Service agents led by a man named Roy Kellerman went into action. Declaring that he was operating under orders and sporting a Thompson submachine gun, Kellerman told Rose in no uncertain terms that he would not be permitted to conduct the autopsy and that the president’s body was going to be taken back to Washington.
Rose stood his ground and refused to budge, pointing out the
requirements of state criminal law with respect to homicides. The members of Kellerman’s team pulled their coats back to brandish their guns. One apparently large Secret Service agent physically picked up Rose, carried him to a nearby wall, and wagged his finger in his face. Amidst screaming, yelling, and a stream of profanities, Kellerman’s team forced their way out of Parkland Hospital with the heavy, ornate, funeral-type casket into which the president’s body had been placed. Hospital personnel later stated that they were scared to death.
Kellerman’s team delivered the body to the new president, Lyndon Johnson, who was waiting for it at Dallas’s Love Field. Johnson had already ordered aides to remove seats from the back of Air Force One to make room for the casket, which makes it a virtual certainty that it was LBJ who issued the order to Kellerman to prevent Rose from conducting the autopsy and to bring the body immediately to Johnson.
Sam Bird’s Joint Service Casket Team
Johnson’s plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland at approximately 6 p.m. Eastern Time. There were plenty of competent forensics pathologists in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia to perform the autopsy. Johnson chose not to use any of them. Instead, he delivered JFK’s body into the hands of the military, notwithstanding the fact that the military had no jurisdiction whatsoever over any aspect of the crime. The military forced the enlisted men who participated in the autopsy to sign secrecy oaths vowing to never disclose what they had seen and done and then threatened them with court martial or criminal prosecution if they ever did so. One enlisted man later stated that they put the fear of God in them.
The Dallas casket was removed from Air Force One and placed in a Navy grey ambulance in which Jackie Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy rode. It slowly made its way to the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, where the autopsy was to be conducted. The ambulance stopped in the front of the facility at approximately 6:55 p.m. Mrs. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy got out, went into the front of the facility, and were escorted to the 17th floor to await the autopsy and the embalming of the president’s body.
Lt. Sam Bird was in charge of what was known as the Joint Service Casket Team, or Honor Guard. It was his team that carried the Dallas casket into the morgue, which was located at the back of the Bethesda facility. Bird’s team carried the casket into the morgue at 8 p.m. The president’s body was then taken out of the casket, and the autopsy began at 8:15 p.m.
How do we know that Bird’s team carried the casket into the morgue at 8 p.m.? On December 10, 1963, Bird submitted a written after-action report to his commanding officer. In Bird’s report, he details his team’s activities on that day, including the following statement: “The casket team transferred the remains … from the ambulance to the morgue (Bethesda) 2000 hours, 22 Nov. 63.” (2000 hours is 8 p.m. in military time.) You can see Bird’s report here.
Sneaking JFK’s body into the morgue
Why is the 8 p.m. entry time important?
In the 1990s, the Assassination Records Review Board discovered the existence of a man named Roger Boyajian, who told the ARRB a remarkable story, one that he had kept secret for more than 30 years because of the “classified” nature of the autopsy. He stated that on the day of the assassination he was serving as a Marine sergeant at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. He and a team of Marine personnel were ordered to the Bethesda morgue to establish security.
Boyajian told the ARRB that the president’s body was carried into the morgue at 6:35 p.m., which was almost 1 1/2 hours before the time that Bird’s team had carried the body into the morgue at 8 p.m.
Was there any corroboration for Boyajian’s extraordinary claim? Actually, there was. In the week following the autopsy, he had done what Bird had done. He had prepared and submitted to his commanding officer an after-action report detailing his team’s activities. Although the JFK Records Act required the military to turn over that report to the ARRB, the military never did so.
However, Sgt. Boyajian had kept an onion-skin copy of his report. More than 30 years after the assassination, he sent a copy of his report to the ARRB. It confirms the entry of the president’s body into the morgue at 6:35 p.m., long before the 8 p.m. entry time of Sam Bird’s team.
Corroboration for Boyajian’s report
Was there any independent corroboration of Boyajian’s report? Yes. A team of Navy enlisted men stated that they carried the president’s body into the morgue in a lightweight aluminum shipping casket, rather than the heavy, ornate, funeral-type casket that Bird’s team carried into the morgue. Other Navy personnel stated that the president’s body was inside a rubber body bag rather than wrapped in the white sheets that had been placed around him at Parkland Hospital.
The ARRB also discovered the existence of a memorandum prepared by Gawler’s Funeral Home, which was the most prestigious funeral home in Washington, D.C. Having been selected by Jackie Kennedy to take charge of the funeral, it conducted the embalming of JFK’s body. The memorandum stated that the president’s body was brought into the morgue in a shipping casket.
Jerrol Custer, an x-ray technician who was helping take x-rays of the president’s body, went up to the main floor and saw Mrs. Kennedy entering the front of the building. He knew that the Dallas casket that was still in the Navy grey ambulance in the front of the building had to be empty because the president’s body was downstairs being x-rayed.
Army Lt. Col. Pierre Finck, one of the three pathologists who conducted the autopsy, later testified under oath that he received a telephone call from Commander James Humes, the lead pathologist, inviting him to come and participate in the autopsy. The call came at 8 p.m., the time that Bird’s team was carrying the Dallas casket into the morgue. During that call, Humes told Finck that they already had x-rays of the president’s head. (No x-rays were taken in Dallas.) Finck made the same point in a report that he submitted to his commanding officer, Gen. J. M. Blumberg. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the only way they could already have x-rays of the president’s head was if the body had already been in the morgue before 8 p.m.
I have detailed the autopsy fraud in my books The Kennedy Autopsy, The Kennedy Autopsy 2, and An Encounter with Evil: The Abraham Zapruder Story. The autopsy fraud is more fully detailed in Douglas Horne’s five-volume book Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, which is the watershed book regarding the JFK autopsy. Horne served on the staff of the ARRB as chief analyst for military records.
Therefore, I won’t repeat the details of the military’s autopsy fraud in this article. But suffice it to say that when military personnel who have no jurisdiction over a crime are secretly sneaking the body of a president of the United States into a military morgue, it is a safe assumption that they are up to no good.
Even though he was never aware of it, it is Sam Bird’s after-action report that helps to establish the dark-side skullduggery that was taking place on President Kennedy’s body on the evening of November 22 at the Bethesda military morgue.
As Douglas Horne details in his Future of Freedom Foundation book JFK’s War with the National-Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated, by the time of his assassination, President Kennedy was determined to move America in a totally different direction than the direction desired by the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. This new direction included establishing peaceful and friendly relations with Russia, Cuba, and the rest of the communist world, entering into a nuclear test-ban treaty with Russia, and withdrawing all U.S. troops from Vietnam.
The national-security establishment deemed Kennedy to be a grave threat to “national security,” just as it had in 1953 with Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, in 1954 with Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected president of Guatemala, and in 1961 with Patrice Lamumba, the leader of the Congo, and would do later, in 1970, with Gen. Rene Schneider, the commanding general of Chile’s armed forces, in 1973 with Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile, and with many others as part of Operation Condor, the top-secret assassination and torture operation in South America.
Immediately after Kennedy was assassinated, the new president, Lyndon Johnson, acceded to the demands of the national-security establishment to rescind Kennedy’s Vietnam withdrawal order. Then, as soon after LBJ won the 1964 election, during which he had labeled his opponent, Barry Goldwater, as a dangerous warmonger, LBJ and the Pentagon engineered the Tonkin Gulf Resolution based on a bogus attack by North Vietnamese forces and then flooded Vietnam with hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, including Sam Bird.
Thus, in an indirect way, Sam Bird, like tens of thousands of other U.S. soldiers, was a casualty of the JFK assassination. If Kennedy had not been assassinated and replaced by Johnson, there would have been no U.S. war in Vietnam, which means that tens of thousands of American soldiers, including Sam Bird, would not have suffered senseless and meaningless deaths and injuries.
After he returned home from the war, Sam Bird received a letter from Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who knew that Sam had been the head of the casket team for President Kennedy’s funeral. The letter stated:
April 21, 1967
Dear Captain Bird:
I want to take this opportunity to tell you how sorry I was to learn you were seriously wounded while on duty in Vietnam. I know that with your usual determination and perseverance you will come through to a full recovery. Mrs. Kennedy joins me in sending you our warm regards and best wishes for the future.
Robert F. Kennedy
[Handwritten postscript] Mrs. John Kennedy also asked to be remembered to you. I hope I shall have an opportunity of seeing you if you come back East. Robert Kennedy
One year later, in March 1968, Kennedy announced his candidacy for president against President Johnson. Perhaps, just perhaps, Sam Bird’s severe injuries in Vietnam played a role in Kennedy’s fierce opposition to the national-security establishment’s war in Vietnam, which became the centerpiece of his campaign. Perhaps, just perhaps, Sam Bird indirectly helped to bring an earlier end to the war that brought him so much meaningless suffering and an early death, thereby possibly saving countless other U.S. soldiers from the same fate.
This article was originally published in the October 2023 edition of Future of Freedom.