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Hearings Before the President's Commission on the

Assassination of President Kennedy (the Warren Commission)

Volume VII, pages 569-576.

Page 569


The testimony of Abraham Zapruder was taken at 1 p.m., on July 22, 1964, in the office of the U.S. attorney, 301 Post Office Building, Bryan and Ervay Streets, Dallas, Tex., by Mr. Wesley J. Liebeler, assistant counsel of the President's Commission.

Mr. LIEBELER. Mr. Zapruder, would you stand and take the oath, please?

Do you solemnly swear this testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?


Mr. LIEBELER. My name is Wesley J. Liebeler.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. What is your name?

Mr. LIEBELER. Wesley J. Liebeler [spelling] L-i-e-b-e-l-e-r. I am an attorney on the staff of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. I have been authorized to take your testimony by the Commission pursuant to authority granted to the Commission by Executive Order 11130 dated November 29, 1963, and the joint resolution of Congress, No. 137.

Under the rules of the Commission you are entitled to have your attorney present, should you desire to have him here. You are entitled to 3 days' notice of the hearing .and you need not answer any questions you think would violate any rights or privileges that you may have. Did you receive the 3 days' notice of the hearing?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I was out of town--I was in New York and my secretary called--she called me and told me that she made an appointment for me and that's about all that I know, Mr. Liebeler. The other proceedings--I don't know.

Mr. LIEBELER. I assume that you are willing to go ahead with your testimony today since you are here.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes, I am.


Page 570

Mr. LIEBELER. Would you state your full name for the record, please?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Abraham Zapruder.

Mr. LIEBELER. That's spelled [spelling] Z-a-p-r-u-d-e-r? Is that correct?


Mr. LIEBELER. What is your address?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Home address?


Mr. ZAPRUDER. 3909 Marquette.

Mr. LIEBELER. Here in Dallas?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. In Dallas---yes.

Mr. LIEBELER. Are you in business here in Dallas, Mr. Zapruder?


Mr. LIEBELER. What business are you in?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Manufacturing ladies dresses.

Mr. LIEBELER. The manufacture of ladies dresses?


Mr. LIEBELER. I understand that you took some motion pictures at the time assassination?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's correct.

Mr. LIEBELER. Could you tell us about the circumstances under which you did that, where you were at the time and what happened?


Mr. LIEBELER. And what you saw.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, of course, what I saw you have on film, but that was the day, November 22, it was around 11:30. In fact, I didn't have my camera but my secretary asked me why I don't have it and I told her I wouldn't have a chance even to see the President and somehow she urged me and I went home and got my camera and came back and first I thought I might take pictures from the window because my building is right next to the building where the alleged assassin was, and it's just across--501 Elm Street, but I figured--I may go down and get better pictures, and I walked down. I believe it was Elm Street and on down to the lower part, closer to the underpass and I was trying to pick a space from where to take those pictures and I tried one place and it was on a narrow ledge and I couldn't balance myself very much. I tried another place and that had some obstruction of signs or whatever it was there and finally I found a place farther down near the underpass that was a square of concrete I don't know what you call it maybe about 4 feet high.

Mr. LIEBELER. I show you a picture that has been marked Hudson Exhibit No. 1 and ask you if you can in fact see yourself in that picture?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Let me see--there it is here. That's me standing there--there's a girl--that's where I was standing.

Mr. LIEBELER. You are pointing out a concrete abutment that comes up immediately to the right of the sign that reads "Stemmons Freeway, Keep Right"?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's right. That's the girl behind me--that's my girl that works in my office. She was up there, too.

Mr. LIEBELER. So, you and this girl are shown standing on top of this concrete abutment there?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's right---she was fight behind me and that's from where I took the pictures.

Mr. LIEBELER. Then, you can actually see yourself in this picture, can't you?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, I can't distinguish myself being--I know I was there.

Mr. LIEBELER. Do you recognize that this picture was taken at the time you were there?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; I was there and I would say this couldn't be anybody else, unless---if this is an authentic photograph and it isn't composed now or changed---I would say that's me. That's the first time I have seen that. Were these pictures ever published in a magazine---there were pictures like that I suppose--- actually?

Mr. LIEBELER. This picture here is in fact one of a series of pictures that is being sold down here in Dallas by a fellow named Willis, I believe his name is Phil Willis. He has a series of slides that are available and it's picture No. 5 of those slides in which you can see yourself back there.


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Mr. ZAPRUDER. That must be it because there's another couple back there---I took some from there and I was shooting some of the pictures to start my roll from the beginning. I didn't want to have a blank and I shot some, in fact, they have it--the Federal Bureau of Investigation have those pictures.

Mr. LIEBELER. As you stood there on this abutment with your camera, the motorcade came down Houston Street and turned left on Elm Street, did it not?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's right.

Mr. LIEBELER. And it proceeded then down Elm Street toward the triple underpass; is that correct?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's correct. I started shooting--when the motorcade started coming in, I believe I started and wanted to get it coming in from Houston Street.

Mr. LIEBELER. Tell us what happened as you took these pictures.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, as the car came in line almost--I believe it was almost in line. I was standing up here and I was shooting through a telephoto lens, which is a zoom lens and as it reached about--I imagine it was around here--I heard the first shot and I saw the President lean over and grab himself like this (holding his left chest area).

Mr. LIEBELER. Grab himself on the front of his chest?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Right---something like that. In other words, he was sitting like this and waving and then after the shot he just went like that.

Mr. LIEBELER. He was sitting upright in the car and you heard the shot and you saw the President slump over?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Leaning--leaning toward the side of Jacqueline. For a moment I thought it was, you know, like you say, "Oh, he got me," when you hear a shot--you've heard these expressions and then I saw---I don't believe the President is going to make jokes like this, but before I had a chance to organize my mind, I heard a second shot and then I saw his head opened up and the blood and everything came out and I started--I can hardly talk about it [ the witness crying].

Mr. LIEBELER. That's all right, Mr. Zapruder, would you like a drink of water? Why don't you step out and have a drink of water?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I'm sorry--I'm ashamed of myself really, but I couldn't help it.

Mr. LIEBELER. Nobody should ever be ashamed of feeling that way, Mr. Zapruder. I feel the same way myself. It was a terrible thing.

Let me go back now for just a moment and ask you how many shots you heard altogether.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I thought I heard two, it could be three, because to my estimation I thought he was hit on the second--I really don't know. The whole thing that has been transpiring--it was very upsetting and as you see I got a little better all the time and this came up again and it to me looked like the second shot, but I don't know. I never even heard a third shot.

Mr. LIEBELER. You didn't hear any shot after you saw him hit?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I heard the second--after the first shot--I saw him leaning over and after the second shot--it's possible after what I saw, you know, then I started yelling, "They killed him, they killed him," and I just felt that somebody had ganged up on him and I was still shooting the pictures until he got under the underpass--I don't even know how I did it. And then, I didn't even remember how I got down from that abutment there, but there I was, I guess, and I was walking toward--back toward my office and screaming, "They killed him, they killed him," and the people that I met on the way didn't even know what happened and they kept yelling, "What happened, what happened, what happened?" It seemed that they had heard a shot but they didn't know exactly what had happened as the car sped away, and I kept on just yelling, "They killed him, they killed him, they killed him," and finally got to my office and my secretary--I told her to call the police or the Secret Service--I don't know what she was doing, and that's about all. I was very much upset. Naturally, I couldn't imagine such a thing being done. I just went to my desk and stopped there until the police came and then we were required to get a place to develop the films. I knew I had something, I figured it might be of some help--I didn't know what.

As to what happened--I remember the police were running behind me. There


Page 572

were police running right behind me. Of course, they didn't realize yet, I guess, where the shot came from--that it came from that height.

Mr. LIEBELER. As you were standing on this abutment facing Elm street, you say the police ran over behind the concrete structure behind you and down the railroad track behind that, is that right?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. After the shots?


Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes--after the shots--yes, some of them were motorcycle cops--I guess they left their motorcycles running and they were running right behind me, of course, in the line of the shooting. I guess they thought it came from right behind me.

Mr. LIEBELER. Did you have any impression as to the direction from which these shots came?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. No, I also thought it came from back of me. Of course, you can't tell when something is in line it could come from anywhere, but being I was here and he was hit on this line and he was hit right in the head--I saw it right around here, so it looked like it came from here and it could come from there.

Mr. LIEBELER. All right, as you stood here on the abutment and looked down into Elm Street, you saw the President hit on the right side of the head and you thought perhaps the shots had come from behind you?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, yes.

Mr. LIEBELER. From the direction behind you?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes, actually--I couldn't say what I thought at the moment, where they came from--after the impact of the tragedy was really what I saw and I started and I said--yelling, "They've killed him"--I assumed that they came from there, because as the police started running back of me, it looked like it came from the back of me.

Mr. LIEBELER. But you didn't form any opinion at that time as to what direction the shots did come from actually?


Mr. LIEBELER. And you indicated that they could have come also from behind or from any other direction except perhaps from the left, because they could have been from behind or even from the front.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, it could have been--in other words if you have a point--you could hit a point from any place, as far as that's concerned. I have no way of determining what direction the bullet was going.

Mr. LIEBELER. Did you form any opinion about the direction from which the shots came by the sound, or were you just upset by the thing you had seen?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. No, there was too much reverberation. There was an echo which gave me a sound all over. In other words that square is kind of--it had a sound all over.

Mr. LIEBELER. And with the buildings around there, too?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes, the reverberation was such that a sound--as it would vibrate--it didn't vibrate so much but as to whether it was a backfire--in other words, I didn't from the first sound, from him leaning over--I couldn't think it was a shot, but of course, the second--I think it was the second shot. I don't know whether they proved anything--they claim he was hit--that the first bullet went through him and hit Connally or something like that--I don't know how that is.

Mr. LIEBELER. Well, there are many different theories about that. One thing I would like you to do now--we have a series-- a little book here that is Commission Exhibit No. 885 and it consists of a number of frames from motion pictures and I want to show you certain numbers of them which are important to our work and ask you if those look like they were taken from your film and if in fact you could recognize it as you look through this book that these are individual frame-by-frame pictures of the pictures that you took.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes, they are frame by frame and they weren't very clear, for the simple reason that on the telephoto lens it's good to take stills--when you move did you ever have binoculars and every time you move everything is exaggerated in the move that's one reason why they are kind of blurred--the movement. Now, you want me to identify whether these are my pictures?


Page 573

Mr. LIEBELER. Yes, specifically, I first call your attention to No. 185. This is No. 185 on the back of it and will you look at the whole book and identify it if you can and tell us that those are the pictures that--that those appear to be the pictures or copies of the pictures that you took from your motion picture camera?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, I would say this, they look like--if they were taken from the film I had--these are the ones. I mean, I don't know how to express myself.

Mr. LIEBELER. Well, they were.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, it looks like them--that's when they turned in from Elm Street. Is that it? I'm trying to visualize it. This is taking it from the opposite side of me, is it, where I would have been taking it, because I see this structure--I have been around there and--or these this couldn't be here--where did they get this in there--how did they get this in there, if I was taking the pictures where did they get this in there? That shouldn't be there.

Mr. LIEBELER. This is the thing back up behind on Dealy Plaza, I think, isn't it?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. They have one there, too?

Mr. LIEBELER. Yes, I think there is. Now, if you will look at Hudson Exhibit No. 1, you will see that there is some kind of concrete structure there and is a different kind from that figure. It has bigger holes in it.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's right--in the back of this here, that's where it is--that's what I thought it was--that's where I got mixed up.

Mr. LIEBELER. You thought that the concrete latticework on the individual pictures in Commission Exhibit No. 885----

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Now I see it--that's where they have moved now the flowers and all that.

Mr. LIEBELER. Yes--I have to state this for the record--so they can understand what we are talking about--you confused it with the concrete latticework shown in the background in the individual photographs in Commission Exhibit No. 885, with the larger and obviously different concrete structure in the background of Hudson Exhibit No. 1?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes, that--there is Elm Street there--this is a corner.

Mr. LIEBELER. Now, specifically here let me show you the ones that have been numbered 185 and 186 and see if you can recognize those. This is 185 here that we are looking at now--of Commission Exhibit No. 885.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes. This is where he came in from Houston Street and turned there.

Mr. LIEBELER. Yes; and they are going down Elm Street now?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; this is before--this shouldn't be there the--shot wasn't fired, was it? You can't tell from here?

Mr. LIEBELER (no response).

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I believe it was closer down here where it happened. Of course, on the film they could see better but you take an 8 millimeter and you enlarge it in color or in black and white, you lose a lot of detail. I wish I had an enlarger here for you.

Mr. LIEBELER. In any event, frame No. 185 does look like it's one of the frames, sir?


Mr. LIEBELER. And 186 is similar also?


Mr. LIEBELER. Now, I've got a list of them here that I want to ask you about--picture 207 and turn on over to this picture. It appears that a sign starts to come in the picture--there was a sign in the picture.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; there were signs there also and trees and-somehow--I told them I was going to get the whole view and I must have.

Mr. LIEBELER. But the sign was in the way?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; but I must have neglected one part--I know what has happened--I think this was after that happened- -something had happened.

Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember when you looked at your pictures yourself, do you remember that there was a sign that does appear between the camera and the motorcade itself and you can see the motorcade for a while and the sign comes in the view?


Page 574

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's right.

Mr. LIEBELER. And the motorcade comes behind it. Now, what about picture No. 210---however--there is no No. 210 in here.


Mr. LIEBELER. How about No. 222? Now, in No. 222 you can see the President's car coming out from behind the sign.


Mr. LIEBELER And you can see Governor Connally right there in that center seat, I believe?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; Governor Connally--yes--these are all the same pictures--I remember the car was kind of buried and I was kind of low and I don't know how I got that view--I didn't get just the full view of the shot.

Mr. LIEBELER. Let's turn to 225 and there the car is coming further out from behind the sign.


Mr. LIEBELER. Is that still the same part of the sequence?


Mr. LIEBELER. You can now see the President for the first time.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; that's the President.

Mr. LIEBELER. The President appears to have his hand up by his throat as he is just coming from behind the sign.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; it looks like he was hit--it seems--there--somewhere behind the sign. You see, he is still sitting upright.

Mr. LIEBELER Yes; he's sitting up and holding his hand up.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Do we have the sequence--the next frames?

Mr. LIEBELER. Yes; it will be No. 227 and his hand comes up even more and he starts to move a little to his left.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Apparently. And they started speeding the car then to---but he is still sitting up here. Is that still the President here?

Mr. LIEBELER. Yes; in picture No. 228--he still appears to have his hand up and in No. 229 it's even more pronounced.


Mr. LIEBELER. As the car keeps coming up from behind and in picture 230 he has raised both hands up.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. It looks to me like he went like this--did he go to his throat--I don't remember--I thought he went like this [holding both hands on the left side of his chest]. Did it show?

Mr. LIEBELER. Let's turn over to picture 231 here--these still appear to be the same sequence of pictures, do they not?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; you get about 16 per second and I think my camera was moving a little fast, maybe 18 frames per second. You see, we have a lot of pictures on there.

Mr. LIEBELER. And 235 is there.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; we've got that.

Mr. LIEBELER. In 235 both hands are up by his throat there or up to the top of his chest and Mrs. Kennedy is looking at him.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. To me it looks like it.

Mr. LIEBELER. You mean it looks to you as though he moved a little more sharply perhaps?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Toward her--there are so many frames, of course, this is probably his first reaction, but he leaned over--it would be after the shot was fired, after I heard a sound, he went like this [leaning to the left and holding both hands to the left side of his chest].

Mr. LIEBELER. He moved over to his left and pulled his hands there?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; he moved to the left and pulled his hands somewhat in this direction.

Mr. LIEBELER. Does picture 235 appear to be one of the pictures that was taken from your sequence?


Mr. LIEBELER. How about 240--let's turn over to 240 and there he has turned his head toward the left a little bit more.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. There's only about 100 frames--they are so close.


Page 575

Mr. LIEBELER. Five frames?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Five frames is nothing--I believe.

Mr. LIEBELER. How about 249?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. No. 249--I just wonder if it was the motion that he went back with that I don't remember--it looks like he has got his hand on his head--I don't remember seeing that. Of course, the pictures would show.

Mr. LIEBELER, Yes; when you pick one of them out it's hard to break it down and pick them out.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; it's hard. We run them in single frames--and to get the main shot--it's hard.

Mr. LIEBELER. Now, let's turn over to picture 255--these all do look like they are from your film?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; they are I know this--I have seen it so many times. In fact, I used to have nightmares. The thing would come every night--I wake up and see this.

Mr. LIEBELER. What about 255---what about that one?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's still the same series.

Mr. LIEBELER. That's still the same series--they keep moving along.


Mr. LIEBELER. And let's look at No. 213---as we go along here--then he does start moving sharply to the left.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; when you take it frame by frame, it could have been just 2 or 3 seconds, but the impression was that he was leaning over and not just sitting there and looking over that and grabbing himself at the left side.

Mr. LIEBELER. Yes; moving toward Mrs. Kennedy.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's what impressed me. Now, what number are you on?

Mr. LIEBELER. 313--you remember that one?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That was--that was the horrible one.

Mr. LIEBELER. It appears to you then, that this book of pictures here as you look through it, are your pictures?


Mr. LIEBELER. Now, Mr. Zapruder, after you had the film developed I understand Mr. Sorrels from the Secret Service came over and helped you get the films developed and you gave two copies of your films to Mr. Sorrels, is that correct?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes. One we have sent to Washington the same night and one went over for the viewers of the FBI on Ervay Street.

Mr. LIEBELER. That's the Secret Service?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. The Secret Service--I brought one roll there and they told me to dispatch it by Army plane or I don't know what they had done with it but it was supposed to have gone to Washington and one of them, I believe, remained here with Mr. Sorrels. He came to my office quite a few times to show them to different people.

Mr. LIEBELER. Now, I understand that you, yourself, retained the original film?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. No; I don't have that at all--I don't have any at all. They were sold to Time and Life magazines.

Mr. LIEBELER. You sold that to Life magazine?


Mr. LIEBELER. The Commission is interested in one aspect of this and I would like to ask you if you would mind telling us how much they paid you for that film.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. For the film?


Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, I just wonder whether I should answer it or not because it involves a lot of things and it's not one price--it's a question of how they are going to use it, are they going to use it or are they not going to use it, so I will say I really don't know how to answer that.

Mr. LIEBELER. Well, I am not going to even urge you to answer the question. We will ask it and if you would rather not answer it--the Commission feels it would be helpful.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I received $25,000, as you know, and I have given that to the


Page 576

Firemen's and Policemen's Benevolence with a suggestion for Mrs. Tippit. You know that?

Mr. LIEBELER. I don't know that--you received $25,000?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. $25,000 was paid and I have given it to the Firemen's and Policemen's Fund.

Mr. LIEBELER. You gave the whole $25,000?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes. This was all over the world. I got letters from all over the world and newspapers---I mean letters from all over the world. It was all over the world--I am surprised--that you don't know it--I don't like to talk about it too much.

Mr. LIEBELER. We appreciate your answer very much.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I haven't done anything, the way I have given it, at a time like this.

Mr. LIEBELER. I want to tell you, you may not be aware of it yourself, but I want to tell you that your film has been one of the most helpful things to the work of the Commission that we could possibly have had because it has enabled us to study the various positions of the people in the car and to determine by comparing it with the reenactment--by comparing it to the view from the window of the building, to develop with a fair degree of accuracy the facts here.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I understand--and I am willing to be helpful but I am sorry it had to be on an occasion like this. I am willing to be helpful but I wish this would never have happened.

Mr. LIEBELER. Yes; that's right.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I know they have taken my camera to Washington.

Mr. LIEBELER. It was a Bell & Howell camera, isn't that right?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. That's right

Mr. LIEBELER. And you turned it over to the FBI and they have made tests on it?

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Yes; and then Bell & Howell wanted it for their archives and I thought they were through with it and let them have it. In return, they gave me, not for my personal use, but a sound projector which was given to the Golden Age Group. It's a place where old folks have a home. I asked them to donate something. I didn't want the camera. I didn't want anything for myself. Then the FBI wanted the camera again and I referred them to the Bell & Howell people.

Mr. LIEBELER. Yes; the FBI asked for the camera back because the Commission wanted to determine whether there was any difference in the frame speed as the camera unwound itself, as it went along.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, they claimed they told me it was about 2 frames fast--instead of 16 it was 18 frames and they told me it was about 2 frames fast in the speed and they told me that the time between the 2 rapid shots, as I understand, that was determined--the length of time it took to the second one and that they were very fast and they claim it has proven it could be done by 1 man. You know there was indication there were two?

Mr. LIEBELER. Your films were extremely helpful to the work of the Commission, Mr. Zapruder.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. I am only sorry I broke down--I didn't know I was going to do it.

Mr. LIEBELER. Mr. Zapruder, I want to thank you very much, for the Commission, for coming down. It has been very helpful.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Well, I am ashamed of myself. I didn't know I was going to break down and for a man to--but it was a tragic thing, and when you started asking me that, and I saw the thing all over again, and it was an awful thing--I know very few people who had seen it like that--it was an awful thing and I loved the President, and to see that happen before my eyes---his head just opened up and shot down like a dog--it leaves a very, very deep sentimental impression with you; it's terrible.

Mr. LIEBELER. Well, you don't have to feel ashamed about that at all, and thank you very much. I enjoyed meeting you very much.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. All right, any time you want some more help you can call on me and I will be glad to come in.

Mr. LIEBELER. All right, thank you a lot.

Mr. ZAPRUDER. Goodbye.


-end of testimony-

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