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|Lee Harvey Oswald|
Photo taken in Minsk, Commission Exhibit 2892
|Born||October 18, 1939|
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
|Died||November 24, 1963 (aged 24)|
Parkland Memorial Hospital
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
|Cause of death||Abdominal gunshot wound|
|Resting place||Rose Hill Cemetery|
Fort Worth, Texas
|Criminal charge||Murder of President John F. Kennedy and Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit|
(m. 1961–1963, his death)
|Lee Harvey Oswald|
Photo taken in Minsk, Commission Exhibit 2892
|Born||October 18, 1939|
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
|Died||November 24, 1963 (aged 24)|
Parkland Memorial Hospital
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
|Cause of death||Abdominal gunshot wound|
|Resting place||Rose Hill Cemetery|
Fort Worth, Texas
|Criminal charge||Murder of President John F. Kennedy and Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit|
(m. 1961–1963, his death)
Lee Harvey Oswald (October 18, 1939 – November 24, 1963) was, according to four government investigations,[n 1] the sniper who assassinated John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.
Oswald was a former U.S. Marine who defected to the Soviet Union in October 1959. He lived in the Soviet Union until June 1962, at which time he returned to the United States. Oswald was initially arrested for the murder of police officer J. D. Tippit, who was killed on a Dallas street approximately 45 minutes after President Kennedy was shot. Oswald would later be charged with the assassination of President Kennedy as well, but denied involvement in either of the killings. Two days later, while being transferred from police headquarters to the county jail, Oswald was shot and killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby in full view of television cameras broadcasting live.
In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald acted alone in assassinating Kennedy, firing three shots. One shot apparently missed the limousine entirely, another struck Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally, and another struck Kennedy in the head. This conclusion was supported by prior investigations carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Dallas Police Department.
Despite forensic, ballistic, and eyewitness evidence supporting the lone gunman theory, public opinion polls taken over the years have shown that a majority of Americans believe that Oswald did not act alone, but conspired with others to kill the president and the assassination has spawned numerous conspiracy theories. In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Oswald fired the shots that killed Kennedy, but differed from previous investigations in concluding that "scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy". The House Select Committee's acoustical evidence has since been discredited.
Lee Harvey Oswald was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 18, 1939 to Robert Edward Lee Oswald, Sr. and Marguerite Frances Claverie. Robert, Sr. died of a heart attack two months prior to Lee's birth. Oswald had two older siblings—brother Robert Edward Lee Oswald, Jr. and half-brother John Edward Pic.
In 1944, Oswald's mother moved the family from New Orleans to Dallas, Texas. Oswald entered the 1st grade in 1945 and over the next half-dozen years attended several different schools in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas through the 6th grade. Oswald took an IQ test in the 4th grade and scored 103; "on achievement tests in [grades 4 to 6], he twice did best in reading and twice did worst in spelling."
As a child, Oswald was described by several people who knew him as withdrawn and temperamental. In August 1952, when Oswald was 12, his mother took him to New York City where they lived for a short time with Oswald's half-brother, John Pic. Oswald and his mother were later asked to leave after an argument in which Oswald allegedly struck his mother and threatened Pic's wife with a pocket knife.
Oswald attended the 7th grade in the Bronx, New York but was often truant, which led to a psychiatric assessment at a juvenile reformatory. The reformatory psychiatrist, Dr. Renatus Hartogs, described Oswald as immersed in a "vivid fantasy life, turning around the topics of omnipotence and power, through which [Oswald] tries to compensate for his present shortcomings and frustrations." Dr. Hartogs detected a "personality pattern disturbance with schizoid features and passive-aggressive tendencies" and recommended continued treatment. In January 1954, Oswald's mother returned to New Orleans, taking Oswald with her. At the time, there was a question pending before a New York judge as to whether Oswald should be removed from the care of his mother to finish his schooling, although Oswald's behavior appeared to improve during his last months in New York.
In New Orleans, Oswald completed the 8th and 9th grades. He entered the 10th grade in 1955 but quit school after one month. After leaving school, Oswald worked for several months as an office clerk and messenger in New Orleans. In July 1956, Oswald's mother moved the family to Fort Worth, Texas and Oswald re-enrolled in the 10th grade for the September session. A few weeks later in October, Oswald quit school at age 17 to join the Marines (see below); he never received a high school diploma. By the age of 17, he had resided at 22 different locations and attended 12 different schools.[n 2]
Though the young Oswald had trouble spelling and writing coherently, he read voraciously. By age 15, he claimed to be a Marxist, writing in his diary, "I was looking for a key to my environment, and then I discovered socialist literature. I had to dig for my books in the back dusty shelves of libraries." At 16 he wrote to the Socialist Party of America for information on their Young People's Socialist League, saying he had been studying socialist principles for "well over fifteen months." However, Edward Voebel, "whom the Warren Commission had established was Oswald's closest friend during his teenage years in New Orleans...said that reports that Oswald was already 'studying Communism' were a 'lot of baloney.' " Voebel said that "Oswald commonly read 'paperback trash.'"
As a teenager, in 1955, Oswald attended Civil Air Patrol meetings in New Orleans. Oswald's fellow cadets recalled him attending C.A.P. meetings "three or four" times, or "10 or 12 times" over a one- or two-month period.
Oswald enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on October 24, 1956, just after his seventeenth birthday. He idolized his older brother Robert; and a photograph taken after Lee Harvey's arrest by Dallas police shows him wearing his brother's Marines ring. One witness testified to the Warren Commission that Oswald's enlistment may also have been an escape from his overbearing mother.
Oswald's primary training was radar operation; a position requiring a security clearance. A May 1957 document states that he was "granted final clearance to handle classified matter up to and including CONFIDENTIAL after careful check of local records had disclosed no derogatory data." In the Aircraft Control and Warning Operator Course he finished seventh in a class of thirty. The course "...included instruction in aircraft surveillance and the use of radar." He was assigned first to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in July 1957, then to Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan in September as part of Marine Air Control Squadron 1.
Like all Marines, Oswald was trained and tested in shooting and he scored 212 in December 1956, slightly above the requirements for the designation of sharpshooter. In May 1959 he scored 191 which reduced his rating to marksman.
Oswald was court-martialed after accidentally shooting himself in the elbow with an unauthorized .22 handgun, then court-martialed again for fighting with a sergeant who he thought was responsible for his punishment in the shooting matter. He was demoted from private first class to private and briefly imprisoned in the brig. He was later punished for a third incident: while on night-time sentry duty in the Philippines, he inexplicably fired his rifle into the jungle.
Slightly built, Oswald was nicknamed Ozzie Rabbit after the cartoon character; he was also called Oswaldskovich because he espoused pro-Soviet sentiments. In November 1958, Oswald transferred back to El Toro where his unit's function "...was to serveil [sic] for aircraft, but basically to train both enlisted men and officers for later assignment overseas." An officer there said that Oswald was a "very competent" crew chief.
While in the Marines, Oswald made an effort to teach himself rudimentary Russian. Although this was an unusual endeavor, in February 1959 he was invited to take a Marine proficiency exam in written and spoken Russian. His level at the time was rated "poor".
In October 1959, just before turning 20, Oswald traveled to the Soviet Union, a trip he planned well in advance. On September 11, 1959, he received a hardship discharge from active service, claiming his mother needed care, and was put on reserve. Along with his self-taught Russian, he had saved $1,500 of his Marine Corps salary,[n 3] obtained a passport, and submitted several fictional applications to foreign universities in order to obtain a student visa.[clarification needed] Oswald spent two days with his mother in Fort Worth, then embarked by ship from New Orleans on September 20 to Le Havre, France, then immediately proceeded to the United Kingdom. Arriving in Southampton on October 9, he told officials he had $700 and planned to remain in the United Kingdom for one week before proceeding to a school in Switzerland. However, on the same day, he flew to Helsinki, where he was issued a Soviet visa on October 14. Oswald left Helsinki by train on the following day, crossed the Soviet border at Vainikkala, and arrived in Moscow on October 16. His visa, valid only for a week, was due to expire on October 21.
Almost immediately after arriving, Oswald told his Intourist guide of his desire to become a Soviet citizen. When asked why by the various Soviet officials he encountered—all of whom, by Oswald's account, found his wish incomprehensible—he said that he was a communist, and gave what he described in his diary as "vauge [sic] answers about 'Great Soviet Union'". On October 21, the day his visa was due to expire, he was told that his citizenship application had been refused, and that he had to leave the Soviet Union that evening. Distraught, Oswald inflicted a minor but bloody wound to his left wrist in his hotel room bathtub soon before his Intourist guide was due to arrive to escort him from the country, according to his diary because he wished to kill himself in a way that would shock her. Delaying Oswald's departure because of his self-inflicted injury, the Soviets kept him in a Moscow hospital under psychiatric observation until October 28, 1959.
According to Oswald, he met with four more Soviet officials that same day, who asked if he wanted to return to the United States; he insisted to them that he wanted to live in the Soviet Union as a Soviet national. When pressed for identification papers, he provided his Marine Corps discharge papers.
On October 31, Oswald appeared at the United States embassy in Moscow, declaring a desire to renounce his U.S. citizenship. "I have made up my mind," he said; "I'm through." He told the U.S. embassy interviewing officer, Richard Snyder, "...that he had been a radar operator in the Marine Corps and that he had voluntarily stated to unnamed Soviet officials that as a Soviet citizen he would make known to them such information concerning the Marine Corps and his specialty as he possessed. He intimated that he might know something of special interest." (Such statements led to Oswald's hardship/honorable military discharge being changed to undesirable.) The Associated Press story of the defection of a U.S. Marine to the Soviet Union was reported on the front pages of some newspapers in 1959.
Though Oswald had wanted to attend Moscow University, he was sent to Minsk to work as a lathe operator at the Gorizont Electronics Factory, which produced radios, televisions, and military and space electronics. Stanislau Shushkevich, who later became independent Belarus's first head of state, was also engaged by Gorizont at the time, and was assigned to teach Oswald Russian. Oswald received a government subsidized, fully furnished studio apartment in a prestigious building and an additional supplement to his factory pay—all in all, an idyllic existence by working-class Soviet standards, though he was kept under constant surveillance.
But Oswald grew bored in Minsk. He wrote in his diary in January 1961: "I am starting to reconsider my desire about staying. The work is drab, the money I get has nowhere to be spent. No nightclubs or bowling alleys, no places of recreation except the trade union dances. I have had enough." Shortly afterwards, Oswald (who had never formally renounced his U.S. citizenship) wrote to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow requesting return of his American passport, and proposing to return to the U.S. if any charges against him would be dropped.
In March 1961, Oswald met Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova, a 19-year-old pharmacology student; they married less than six weeks later in April.[n 4] The Oswalds' first child, June, was born on February 15, 1962. On May 24, 1962, Oswald and Marina applied at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for documents enabling her to immigrate to the U.S. and, on June 1, the U.S. Embassy gave Oswald a repatriation loan of $435.71. Oswald, Marina, and their infant daughter left for the United States, where they received no attention from the press, much to Oswald's disappointment.
The Oswalds soon settled in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where Lee's mother and brother lived. Lee began a manuscript on Soviet life, though he eventually gave up the project. The Oswalds also became acquainted with a number of anti-Communist Russian émigrés in the area. In testimony to the Warren Commission, Alexander Kleinlerer said that the Russian émigrés sympathized with Marina, while merely tolerating Oswald, whom they regarded as rude and arrogant.[n 5]
Although the Russian émigrés eventually abandoned Marina when she made no sign of leaving Oswald, Oswald found an unlikely friend in 51-year-old Russian émigré George de Mohrenschildt, a well-educated petroleum geologist with international business connections. (A native of Russia, de Mohrenschildt told the Warren Commission that Oswald had a "...remarkable fluency in Russian.") Marina, meanwhile, befriended Ruth Paine, a Quaker who was trying to learn Russian, and her husband Michael who worked for Bell Helicopter.
In July 1962, Oswald was hired by Dallas' Leslie Welding Company; he disliked the work and quit after three months. In October, he was hired by the graphic-arts firm of Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall as a photoprint trainee. A fellow employee at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall testified that Oswald's rudeness at his new job was such that fights threatened to break out, and that he once saw Oswald reading a Russian language publication. [n 6] Oswald was fired during the first week of April 1963. Some have suggested that Oswald might have used equipment at the firm to forge identification documents.
The Warren Commission concluded that on April 10, 1963, Oswald attempted to kill retired U.S. Major General Edwin Walker, firing his rifle at Walker through a window, from less than 100 feet (30 m) away, as Walker sat at a desk in his home; the bullet struck the window-frame and Walker's only injury was bullet fragments to the forearm. (The United States House Select Committee on Assassinations stated that the "evidence strongly suggested" that Oswald carried out the shooting.)
General Walker was an outspoken anti-communist, segregationist, and member of the John Birch Society. In 1961, Walker had been relieved of his command of the 24th Division of the U.S. Army in West Germany for distributing right-wing literature to his troops. Walker's later actions in opposition to racial integration at the University of Mississippi led to his arrest on insurrection, seditious conspiracy, and other charges. He was temporarily held in a mental institution on orders from President Kennedy's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, but a grand jury refused to indict him.
Marina Oswald testified that her husband told her that he traveled by bus to General Walker's house and shot at Walker with his rifle. She said that Oswald considered Walker to be the leader of a "fascist organization."
Before the Kennedy assassination, Dallas police had no suspects in the Walker shooting, but Oswald's involvement was suspected within hours of his arrest following the assassination. (A note Oswald left for Marina on the night of the attempt, telling her what to do if he did not return, was not found until early December 1963.) The Walker bullet was too damaged to run conclusive ballistics studies on it, but neutron activation analysis later showed that it was "extremely likely" that it was made by the same manufacturer and for the same rifle make as the two bullets which later struck Kennedy.[n 7]
George de Mohrenschildt testified that he "knew that Oswald disliked General Walker." Regarding this, De Mohrenschildt and his wife Jeanne, recalled an incident that occurred the weekend following the Walker assassination attempt. The De Mohrenschildts testified that on April 14, 1963, just before Easter Sunday, they were visiting the Oswalds at their new apartment and had brought them a toy Easter bunny to give to their child. As Oswald's wife, Marina was showing Jeanne around the apartment, they discovered Oswald's rifle standing upright, leaning against the wall inside a closet. Jeanne told George that Oswald had a rifle, and George joked to Oswald, "Were you the one who took a pot-shot at General Walker?" When asked about Oswald's reaction to this question, George de Mohrenschildt told the Warren Commission that Oswald "smiled at that." When George's wife, Jeanne was asked about Oswald's reaction, she said, "I didn't notice anything"; she continued, "we started laughing our heads off, big joke, big George's joke." Jeanne de Mohrenschildt testified that this was the last time she or her husband ever saw the Oswalds.
Oswald returned to New Orleans on April 24, 1963. Marina's friend, Ruth Paine, drove her by car from Dallas to join Oswald in New Orleans the next month in May. On May 10, Oswald was hired by the Reily Coffee Company whose owner, William Reily, was a backer of the Crusade to Free Cuba Committee, an anti-Castro organization. Oswald worked as a machinery greaser at Reily, but he was fired in July "...because his work was not satisfactory and because he spent too much time loitering in Adrian Alba's garage next door, where he read rifle and hunting magazines."
On May 26, Oswald wrote to the New York City headquarters of the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee, proposing to rent "...a small office at my own expense for the purpose of forming a FPCC branch here in New Orleans." Three days later, the FPCC responded to Oswald's letter advising against opening a New Orleans office "at least not ... at the very beginning." In a follow-up letter, Oswald replied, "Against your advice, I have decided to take an office from the very beginning."
As the sole member of the New Orleans chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, Oswald ordered the following items from a local printer: 500 application forms, 300 membership cards, and 1,000 leaflets with the heading, "Hands Off Cuba." According to Lee Oswald's wife Marina, Lee told her to sign the name "A.J. Hidell" as chapter president on his membership card.
On August 5 and 6, according to anti-Castro militant Carlos Bringuier, Oswald visited him at a store he owned in New Orleans. Bringuier was the New Orleans delegate for the Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE), an anti-Castro organization. Bringuier would later tell the Warren Commission that he believed Oswald's visits were an attempt by Oswald to infiltrate his group. On August 9, Oswald turned up in downtown New Orleans handing out pro-Castro leaflets. Bringuier confronted Oswald, claiming he was tipped off about Oswald's leafleting by a friend. A scuffle ensued and Oswald, Bringuier, and two of Bringuier's friends were arrested for disturbing the peace. Before leaving the police station, Oswald asked to speak with an FBI agent. Agent John Quigley arrived and spent over an hour talking to Oswald.
A week later, on August 16, Oswald again passed out Fair Play for Cuba leaflets with two hired helpers, this time in front of the International Trade Mart. The incident was filmed by WDSU—the local TV station. The next day, Oswald was interviewed by WDSU radio commentator William Stuckey, who probed Oswald's background. A few days later, Oswald accepted Stuckey's invitation to take part in a radio debate with Carlos Bringuier and Bringuier's associate Edward Butler, head of the right-wing Information Council of the Americas (INCA).
One of Oswald's Fair Play for Cuba leaflets had the address "544 Camp Street" hand-stamped on it, apparently by Oswald himself. The address was in the "Newman Building" which, from October 1961 to February 1962, housed the militant anti-Castro group, the Cuban Revolutionary Council. Around the corner but located in the same building, with a different entrance, was the address 531 Lafayette Street—the address of "Guy Banister Associates", a private detective agency run by former FBI agent Guy Banister. Banister's office was involved in anti-Castro and private investigative activities in the New Orleans area. (A CIA file indicated that in September 1960, the CIA had considered "...using Guy Banister Associates for the collection of foreign intelligence, but ultimately decided against it.")
In the late-1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigated the possible relationship of Oswald to Banister's office. While the committee was unable to interview Guy Banister (who died in 1964), the committee did interview his brother Ross Banister. Ross "...told the committee that his brother had mentioned seeing Oswald hand out Fair Play for Cuba literature on one occasion. Ross theorized that Oswald had used the 544 Camp Street address on his literature to embarrass Guy."
Guy Banister's secretary, Delphine Roberts, told author Anthony Summers that she saw Oswald at Banister's office, and that he filled out one of Banister's "agent" application forms. She said, "Oswald came back a number of times. He seemed to be on familiar terms with Banister and with the office." The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated Roberts' claims and said that "because of contradictions in Roberts' statements to the committee and lack of independent corroboration of many of her statements, the reliability of her statements could not be determined."
Oswald's 1963 New Orleans activities were later investigated by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, as part of his prosecution of Clay Shaw in 1967–1969. Garrison was particularly interested in an associate of Guy Banister—a man named David Ferrie and his possible connection to Oswald, which Ferrie himself denied. Ferrie died before Garrison could complete his investigation. Charged with conspiracy in the JFK assassination, Shaw was found not guilty.
The Warren Commission examined Oswald's involvement with a New Orleans Civil Air Patrol troop he briefly attended in 1955 with high school friend Edward Voebel. Ferrie was a commander there around the same time. The FBI and Secret Service interviewed Ferrie shortly after the assassination and concluded there was no relationship of significance in regards to Oswald. A more extensive investigation was done by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which found several fellow former cadets and others, none of whom recalled Ferrie and Oswald interacting. Oswald was said by some to have attended some 8 to 10 meetings over a two-month period. In 1993, the PBS television program Frontline obtained a photograph taken in 1955 showing Oswald and Ferrie at a C.A.P. cookout with other cadets.
Marina's friend, Ruth Paine, transported Marina and her child by car from New Orleans to the Paine home in Irving, Texas, near Dallas, on September 23, 1963. Oswald stayed in New Orleans at least two more days to collect a $33 unemployment check. It is uncertain when he left New Orleans; he is next known to have boarded a bus in Houston on September 26—bound for the Mexican border, rather than Dallas—and to have told other bus passengers that he planned to travel to Cuba via Mexico. He arrived in Mexico City on September 27, where he applied for a transit visa at the Cuban Embassy, claiming he wanted to visit Cuba on his way to the Soviet Union. The Cuban embassy officials insisted Oswald would need Soviet approval, but he was unable to get prompt co-operation from the Soviet embassy.
After five days of shuttling between consulates—that included a heated argument with an official at the Cuban consulate, impassioned pleas to KGB agents, and at least some CIA scrutiny,—Oswald was told by a Cuban consular officer that he was disinclined to approve the visa, saying "a person like [Oswald] in place of aiding the Cuban Revolution, was doing it harm." Later, on October 18, the Cuban embassy approved the visa, but by this time Oswald was back in the United States and had given up on his plans to visit Cuba and the Soviet Union. Still later, eleven days before the assassination of President Kennedy, Oswald wrote to the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C., saying, "Had I been able to reach the Soviet Embassy in Havana, as planned, the embassy there would have had time to complete our business."
While the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald had visited Mexico City and the Cuban and Soviet consulates, questions regarding whether someone posing as Oswald had appeared at the embassies were serious enough to be investigated by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Later, the Committee agreed with the Warren Commission that Oswald had visited Mexico City and concluded that "the majority of evidence tends to indicate" that Oswald in fact visited the consulates, but the Committee could not rule out the possibility that someone else had used his name in visiting the consulates.
On October 2, 1963, Oswald left Mexico City by bus and arrived in Dallas the next day. On October 14, a neighbor told Ruth Paine that there was a job opening at the Texas School Book Depository. Mrs. Paine informed Oswald, who was interviewed at the Depository and was hired there on October 16. Oswald's supervisor Roy Truly, said that Oswald "did a good day's work" and was an above average employee. During the week, Oswald stayed in a Dallas rooming house (under the name "O.H. Lee"), but he spent his weekends with Marina at the Paine home in Irving. Oswald did not drive, but commuted to and from Dallas on Mondays and Fridays with his friend and co-worker, Wesley Frazier. On October 20, the Oswalds' second daughter was born.
FBI agents twice visited the Paine home in early November, when Oswald was not present, and spoke to Mrs. Paine. Oswald visited the Dallas FBI office about 2 to 3 weeks before the assassination, asking to see Special Agent James Hosty; told Hosty was unavailable, Oswald left a note that, according to the receptionist, read: "Let this be a warning. I will blow up the FBI and the Dallas Police Department if you don’t stop bothering my wife" [signed] "Lee Harvey Oswald." The note allegedly contained some sort of threat, but accounts vary as to whether Oswald threatened to "blow up the FBI" or merely "report this to higher authorities". According to Hosty, the note said, "If you have anything you want to learn about me, come talk to me directly. If you don't cease bothering my wife, I will take the appropriate action and report this to the proper authorities." Agent Hosty said that he destroyed Oswald's note on orders from his superior, Gordon Shanklin, after Oswald was named the suspect in the Kennedy assassination.
In the days before Kennedy's arrival, several newspapers described the route of the presidential motorcade as passing the Book Depository. On November 21 (a Thursday) Oswald asked Frazier for an unusual mid-week lift back to Irving, saying he had to pick up some curtain rods. The next morning (Friday) he returned to Dallas with Frazier; he left behind $170 and his wedding ring, but took with him a paper bag. Frazier reported that Oswald told him the bag contained curtain rods, The evidence demonstrated that the package actually contained the rifle used by Oswald in the assassination. Oswald's co-worker, Charles Givens, testified to the Commission that he last saw Oswald on the sixth floor of the Depository with a clipboard in his hand, and that Oswald asked him to close the elevator gate and to send the elevator back up to him. He believed that his encounter with Oswald took place at 11:55 a.m.—35 minutes before the assassination.[n 8] The Commission report stated that Oswald was not seen again "until after the shooting." However, in an FBI report taken the day after the assassination, Givens said that the encounter took place at 11:30 a.m. and that he later saw Oswald reading a newspaper on the first floor at 11:50 a.m. Oswald's boss, William Shelley, also testified that he saw Oswald on the first floor between 11:45 and 11:50 a.m. Janitor Eddie Piper also testified to seeing Oswald on the first floor at 12:00 p.m. Another co-worker, Bonnie Ray Williams was on the sixth floor of the Depository eating his lunch and was there until at least 12:10 p.m. He said that during that time he did not see Oswald, or anyone else, on the sixth floor and felt he was the only one up there. However, he also said that some boxes in the southeast corner may have prevented him from seeing deep into the "sniper's nest."
According to several government investigations, including the Warren Commission, as Kennedy's motorcade passed through Dallas's Dealey Plaza about 12:30 p.m. on November 22, Oswald fired three rifle shots from the sixth-floor, southeast corner window of the Book Depository, killing the President and seriously wounding Texas Governor John Connally. Bystander James Tague received a minor facial injury from a small piece of curbstone that fragmented when struck by one of the bullets. According to the investigations, after shooting the President, Oswald hid and covered the rifle with boxes and descended using the rear stairwell. About ninety seconds after the shooting, in the second-floor lunchroom, Oswald encountered police officer Marrion Baker accompanied by Oswald's supervisor Roy Truly; Baker let Oswald pass after Truly identified him as an employee. According to Baker, Oswald did not appear to be nervous or out of breath. Truly said that Oswald appeared "startled" when Baker aimed his gun at him. Mrs. Robert Reid—clerical supervisor at the Depository, returning to her office within two minutes of the assassination—said that she saw Oswald who "was very calm" on the second floor with a Coke in his hands. As they walked past each other, Mrs. Reid said to Oswald, "The President has been shot" to which he mumbled something in response, but Reid did not understand him. Oswald is believed to have left the Depository through the front entrance just before police sealed it off. Oswald's supervisor, Roy Truly, later pointed out to officers that Oswald was the only employee that he was certain was missing.
At about 12:40 p.m., Oswald boarded a city bus but (probably due to heavy traffic) he requested a transfer from the bus driver and got off two blocks later. Oswald took a taxicab to his rooming house, at 1026 North Beckley Avenue, arriving at about 1:00 p.m. He entered through the front door and, according to his housekeeper Earlene Roberts, immediately went to his room, "walking pretty fast". Roberts said that Oswald left "a very few minutes" later, zipping up a jacket he was not wearing when he had entered earlier. As Oswald left, Roberts looked out of the window of her house and last saw him standing at the northbound Beckley Avenue bus stop in front of her house.
At approximately 1:15 p.m., the Warren Commission concluded, Dallas Patrolman J. D. Tippit drove up in his patrol car alongside Oswald, presumably because he resembled the police broadcast description of the man seen firing shots at the presidential motorcade, near the corner of East 10th Street and North Patton Avenue. (This location is about nine-tenths of a mile (1.4 km) southeast of Oswald's rooming house—a distance that the Warren Commission said, "Oswald could have easily walked".) Tippit pulled alongside Oswald and "apparently exchanged words with [him] through the right front or vent window." "Shortly after 1:15 p.m.",[n 9] Tippit exited his car and was immediately struck and killed by four shots. Numerous witnesses heard the shots and saw Oswald flee the scene holding a revolver, nine positively identified him as the man who shot Tippit and fled.[n 10] Four cartridge cases found at the scene were identified by expert witnesses before the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee as having been fired from the revolver later found in Oswald's possession, to the exclusion of all other weapons. However, the bullets taken from Tippit's body could not be positively identified as having been fired from Oswald's revolver as the bullets were too extensively damaged to make conclusive assessments.
Shoe store manager Johnny Brewer testified that he saw Oswald "ducking into" the entrance alcove of his store. Suspicious of this activity, Brewer watched Oswald continue up the street and slip into the nearby Texas Theatre without paying. He alerted the theater's ticket clerk, who telephoned police at about 1:40 pm.
As police arrived, the house lights were brought up and Brewer pointed out Oswald sitting near the rear of the theater. Police Officer Nick McDonald testified that he was the first to reach Oswald and that Oswald seemed ready to surrender saying, "Well, it is all over now." However, Officer McDonald said that Oswald pulled out a pistol tucked into the front of his pants, then pointed the pistol at him, and pulled the trigger. McDonald stated that the pistol did not fire because the pistol's hammer came down on the webbing between the thumb and index finger of his hand as he grabbed for the pistol. McDonald also said that Oswald struck him, but that he struck back and Oswald was disarmed. As he was led from the theater, Oswald shouted he was a victim of police brutality.
At about 2 p.m., Oswald arrived at the Police Department building, where he was questioned by Detective Jim Leavelle about the shooting of Officer Tippit. When Captain J. W. Fritz heard Oswald's name, he recognized it as that of the Book Depository employee who was reported missing and was already a suspect in the assassination. Oswald was formally arraigned for the murder of Officer Tippit at 7:10 p.m., and by the end of the night (shortly after 1:30 a.m.) he had been arraigned for the murder of President Kennedy as well.
Soon after his capture Oswald encountered reporters in a hallway. Oswald declared, "I didn't shoot anybody" and, "They've taken me in because of the fact that I lived in the Soviet Union. I'm just a patsy!" Later, at an arranged press meeting, a reporter asked, "Did you kill the President?" and Oswald—who by that time had been advised of the charge of murdering Tippit, but had not yet been arraigned in Kennedy's death—answered, "No, I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question." As he was led from the room the question was called out, "What did you do in Russia?" and, "How did you hurt your eye?"; Oswald answered, "A policeman hit me."
Oswald was interrogated several times during his two days at Dallas Police Headquarters. He denied killing Kennedy and Tippit; denied owning a rifle; said two photographs of him holding a rifle and a pistol were fakes; denied telling his co-worker he wanted a ride to Irving to get curtain rods for his apartment (he said that the package contained his lunch); and denied carrying a long, bulky package to work the morning of the assassination. Oswald also denied knowing an "A. J. Hidell". Oswald was then shown a forged Selective Service System card bearing his photograph and the alias, "Alek James Hidell" that he had in his possession at the time of his arrest. Oswald refused to answer any questions concerning the card, saying "...you have the card yourself and you know as much about it as I do."
The first interrogation of Oswald was conducted by FBI Special Agent James Hosty and Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz on Friday, November 22. Asked to account for himself at the time of the assassination, Oswald replied that he was eating his lunch in the first floor lounge (known as the "domino room"). He said that he then went to the second-floor lunchroom to buy a Coca-Cola from the soda machine and was drinking it when he encountered a police officer. Oswald said that while he was in the domino room, he saw two "Negro employees" walking by, one he recognized as "Junior" and a shorter man whose name he could not recall. Junior Jarman and Harold Norman confirmed to the Warren Commission that they had "walked through" the domino room around noon during their lunch break. When asked if anyone else was in the domino room, Norman testified that somebody else was there, but he could not remember who it was. Jarman testified that Oswald was not in the domino room when he was there. During his last interrogation on November 24, according to postal inspector Harry Holmes, Oswald was again asked where he was at the time of the shooting. Holmes (who attended the interrogation at the invitation of Captain Will Fritz) said that Oswald replied that he was working on an upper floor when the shooting occurred, then went downstairs where he encountered a policeman.
Oswald asked for legal representation several times while being interrogated, as well as in encounters with reporters. But when representatives of the Dallas Bar Association met with him in his cell on Saturday, he declined their services, saying he wanted to be represented by John Abt, chief counsel to the Communist Party USA, or by lawyers associated with the American Civil Liberties Union. Both Oswald and Ruth Paine tried to reach Abt by telephone several times Saturday and Sunday, but Abt was away for the weekend. Oswald also declined his brother Robert's offer on Saturday to obtain a local attorney.
On Sunday, November 24, Oswald was being led through the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters in advance of his transfer to the county jail. At 11:21 a.m., Dallas nightclub operator Jack Ruby stepped from the crowd and shot Oswald in the chest, the round striking several organs, penetrated his stomach, and tore his vena cava and aorta. Oswald was rushed unconscious to Parkland Memorial Hospital—the same hospital where doctors tried to save President Kennedy's life two days earlier. Oswald died at 1:07 p.m. An autopsy was performed by the Dallas County Medical Examiner at 2:45 p.m. the same day. The stated cause of death in the autopsy report was "hemorrhage secondary to gunshot wound of the chest."
A network television camera, there to cover the transfer, was broadcasting live, and millions witnessed the shooting on television as it happened. The event was also captured in several well-known photographs.
Ruby later said he had been distraught over Kennedy's death and that his motive for killing Oswald was "...saving Mrs. Kennedy the discomfiture of coming back to trial." Others have hypothesized that Ruby was part of a conspiracy.
Oswald was buried in Fort Worth's Rose Hill Memorial Burial Park. A marker inscribed simply Oswald replaces the stolen original tombstone, which gave Oswald's full name, and birth and death dates. In 1975, the unused adjoining plot was sold to a history buff who used the pen name "Nick Beef". He placed a headstone there in 1995, and revealed the story in August, 2013.
In 2010 Oswald's original coffin was auctioned off for over $87,000.
The Warren Commission, created by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the assassination, concluded that Oswald acted alone in assassinating Kennedy (this view is known as the lone gunman theory). The Commission could not ascribe any one motive or group of motives to Oswald's actions:
It is apparent, however, that Oswald was moved by an overriding hostility to his environment. He does not appear to have been able to establish meaningful relationships with other people. He was perpetually discontented with the world around him. Long before the assassination he expressed his hatred for American society and acted in protest against it. Oswald's search for what he conceived to be the perfect society was doomed from the start. He sought for himself a place in history—a role as the "great man" who would be recognized as having been in advance of his times. His commitment to Marxism and communism appears to have been another important factor in his motivation. He also had demonstrated a capacity to act decisively and without regard to the consequences when such action would further his aims of the moment. Out of these and the many other factors which may have molded the character of Lee Harvey Oswald there emerged a man capable of assassinating President Kennedy.
The proceedings of the commission were closed, though not secret, and about 3% of its files have yet to be released to the public, which has continued to provoke speculation among researchers.[n 11]
In 1968, the Ramsey Clark Panel examined various photographs, X-ray films, documents, and other evidence, concluding that Kennedy was struck by two bullets fired from above and behind him, one of which traversed the base of the neck on the right side without striking bone, and the other of which entered the skull from behind and destroyed its right side.
In 1979, after a review of the evidence and of prior investigations, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) largely concurred with the Warren Commission and was preparing to issue a finding that Oswald had acted alone in killing Kennedy. However, late in the Committee's proceedings a dictabelt recording was introduced, purportedly recording sounds heard in Dealey Plaza before, during and after the shots were fired. After an analysis by the firm Bolt, Beranek and Newman appeared to indicate more than three gunshots, the HSCA revised its findings to assert a "high probability that two gunmen fired" at Kennedy and that Kennedy "was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy." Although the Committee was "unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy," it made a number of further findings regarding the likelihood or unlikelihood that particular groups, named in the findings, were involved. Four of the twelve members of the HSCA dissented from this conclusion.
The acoustical evidence has since been discredited. Officer H.B. McLain, from whose motorcycle radio the HSCA acoustic experts said the Dictabelt evidence came, has repeatedly stated that he was not yet in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination. McLain asked the Committee, "‘If it was my radio on my motorcycle, why did it not record the revving up at high speed plus my siren when we immediately took off for Parkland Hospital?’”
In 1982, a panel of twelve scientists appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, including Nobel laureates Norman Ramsey and Luis Alvarez, unanimously concluded that the acoustic evidence submitted to the HSCA was "seriously flawed", was recorded after the President had been shot, and did not indicate additional gunshots. Their conclusions were later published in the journal Science.
In a 2001 article in the journal Science & Justice, D.B. Thomas wrote that the NAS investigation was itself flawed. He concluded with a 96.3 percent certainty that there were at least two gunmen firing at President Kennedy and that at least one shot came from the grassy knoll. In 2005, Thomas' conclusions were rebutted in the same journal. Ralph Linsker and several members of the original NAS team reanalyzed the timings of the recordings and reaffirmed the earlier conclusion of the NAS report that the alleged shot sounds were recorded approximately one minute after the assassination. In 2010, D.B. Thomas, in his book Hear No Evil: Social Constructivism and the Forensic Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination, challenged the 2005 Science & Justice article and restated his conclusion that at least two gunmen were firing at President Kennedy.
Some critics have not accepted the conclusions of the Warren Commission and have proposed several other theories, such as that Oswald conspired with others, or was not involved at all and was framed.
In October 1981, with Marina's support, Oswald's grave was opened to test a theory propounded by writer Michael Eddowes: that during Oswald's stay in the Soviet Union he was replaced with a Soviet double; that it was this double, not Oswald, who killed Kennedy and who is buried in Oswald's grave; and that the exhumed remains would therefore not exhibit a surgical scar Oswald was known to carry. Dental records positively identified the exhumed corpse as Oswald's, and the scar was present.[n 12]
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A 2003 Gallup poll reported that 75% of Americans do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President Kennedy. That same year an ABC News poll found that 70% of respondents suspected that the assassination involved more than one person. A 2004 Fox News poll found that 66% of Americans thought there had been a conspiracy while 74% thought there had been a cover-up.
Several films have fictionalized a trial of Oswald. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (1964); The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (1977); and On Trial: Lee Harvey Oswald (1986) have fictionalized a trial of Oswald. In 1988, a 21-hour unscripted mock trial was held on television, argued by lawyers before a judge, with unscripted testimony from surviving witnesses to the events surrounding the assassination; the jury returned a verdict of guilty.
The "backyard photos", taken by Marina Oswald probably around March 31, 1963 using a camera belonging to Oswald, show Oswald holding two Marxist newspapers—The Militant and The Worker—and a rifle, and wearing a pistol in a holster. Shown the pictures after his arrest, Oswald insisted they were forgeries, but Marina testified in 1964 that she had taken the photographs at Oswald's request— testimony she reaffirmed repeatedly over the decades.[n 13] These photos were labelled CE 133-A and CE 133-B. CE 133-A shows the rifle in Oswald's left hand and newspapers in front of his chest in the other, while the rifle is held with the right hand in CE 133-B. Oswald's mother testified that on the day after the assassination she and Marina destroyed another photograph with Oswald holding the rifle with both hands over his head, with "To my daughter June" written on it.
The HSCA obtained another first generation print (from CE 133-A) on April 1, 1977 from the widow of George de Mohrenschildt. The words "Hunter of fascists—ha ha ha!" written in block Russian were on the back. Also in English were added in script: "To my friend George, Lee Oswald, 5/IV/63 [April 5, 1963]" Handwriting experts for the HSCA concluded the English inscription and signature were by Oswald. After two original photos, one negative and one first-generation copy had been found, the Senate Intelligence Committee located (in 1976) a third backyard photo (CE 133-C) showing Oswald with newspapers held away from his body in his right hand.
These photos, widely recognized as some of the most significant evidence against Oswald, have been subjected to rigorous analysis. Photographic experts consulted by the HSCA concluded they were genuine, answering twenty-one points raised by critics. Marina Oswald has always maintained she took the photos herself, and the 1963 de Mohrenschildt print bearing Oswald's signature clearly indicate they existed before the assassination. Nonetheless, some continue to contest their authenticity. In 2009, after digitally analyzing the photograph of Oswald holding the rifle and paper, computer scientist Hany Farid concluded that the photo "almost certainly was not altered."
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