. . . if you put the murdered President of the United States on one side of a scale and that wretched waif Oswald on the other side, it doesn't balance. You want to add something weightier to Oswald. It would invest the President's death with meaning, endowing him with martyrdom. He would have died for something. . . . A conspiracy would, of course, do the job nicely. William Manchester.
Oswald had a vastly unstable childhood. The Oswald Timeline - I, gives the details of his frequent moves and changes of school.
What about Oswald's adult life?
|Oct. 26, 1956||San Diego||Reports to Marine Corps Basic Training|
|March 18, 1957||Jacksonville, FL||Naval Air Technical Training Center|
|May 1957||Biloxi, MS||Keesler AFB|
|July 1957||El Toro, CA||Marine Corps Air Station|
|Aug./Sept. 1957||U.S.S. Bexar||Pacific Crossing|
|September 1957||Atsugi, Japan||Marine Air Control Squadron No. 1|
|November 1957||Atsugi, Japan||Shoots self with derringer / Court-martialed|
|Nov. 57/March 58||Various Pacific||Maneuvers with Marine Unit|
|June 27, 1958||Atsugi||Court-martialed for fight with Sergeant / Confined until August 13|
|Sept./Oct. 1958||South China Sea||With Marine unit|
|December 1958||El Toro, CA||Marine Corps Air Station|
|Sept. 11, 1959||||Released from active duty|
|Sept. 20, 1959||New Orleans||Sails for Europe|
|Oct. 10, 1959||London||Takes Plane to Helsinki|
|Oct. 16, 1959||||Arrives in Moscow|
|Oct. 21, 1959||Hotel Berlin||Apparent suicide attempt|
|Oct. 31, 1959||U. S. Embassy||Attempts to renounce U.S. citizenship|
|Jan. 7, 1960||||Arrives in Minsk|
|Jan. 1960 May 1962||Minsk||Oswald very closely surveiled by KGB|
|Feb. 1961||Minsk||Writes U.S. Embassy / Wants to return to U.S.|
|March 17, 1961||Minsk||Meets Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova|
|April 30, 1961||Minsk||Lee and Marina Married|
|May, 1962||||Oswalds leave Minsk, travel to Fort Worth|
|June/July 1962||Fort Worth||Live with Robert Oswald|
|July/Aug. 1962||Fort Worth||Lived with Marguerite Oswald / Gets job at Leslie Welding Co.|
|Aug. 1962||Fort Worth||Move to 2703 Mercedes Street|
|Oct. 1962||Dallas||Begins at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall Co.|
|Nov. 1962||Dallas||Move to 604 Elsbeth Street|
|Feb. 22, 1963||Dallas||Oswalds meet Paines|
|March 12, 1963||Dallas||Lee orders rifle from ad for Klein's Sporting Goods in American Rifleman|
|March 1963||Dallas||Move to 214 West Neely Street / Lee receives pistol and rifle|
|March 31, 1963||Dallas||Oswald, in black "hunter of fascists" outfit, gives cheap Imperial Reflex camera to Marina, is photographed with rifle and pistol|
|April 10, 1963||Dallas||Assassination attempt on General Walker. Lee leaves note for Marina, telling her how to deal with his death or arrest. This is the first page of the note, and this is the second.|
|April 24, 1963||||Lee leaves for New Orleans / Marina moves to Paine home|
|May 10, 1963||New Orleans||Gets job with Reily Coffee Company|
|May 11, 1963||New Orleans||Marina joins Lee at 4905 Magazine Street|
|July 19, 1963||New Orleans||Oswald fired by Reily Coffee Company|
|August 9, 1963||New Orleans||Oswald arrested in altercation passing out Fair Play for Cuba leaflets|
|Sept. 23/25, 1963||New Orleans||Marina leaves for Dallas with Mrs. Paine / Oswald leaves for Mexico City|
|Oct. 3, 1963||||Oswald arrives in Dallas|
|Oct. 15, 1963||Dallas||Oswald Hired by Roy Truly at Texas School Book Depository|
|Oct. 16, 1963||Dallas||Oswald begins work at Depository|
|Nov. 22, 1963, 12:30 pm.||Dealey Plaza, Dallas||Kennedy Shot, fatally wounded|
|Nov. 22, 1963, 12:40 pm. (approx.)||Elm Street||Fleeing Oswald boards Cecil McWatters bus, then gets off, taking transfer.|
|Nov. 22, 1963, 1:15 (approx.)||10th and Patton Streets||Oswald shoots Officer Tippit|
|Nov. 22, 1963, 1:30 (approx.)||Jefferson Street||Johnny Calvin Brewer, shoe store clerk, sees Oswald acting suspiciously, follows to Texas Theater|
|Nov. 22, 1963||Dallas||Oswald arrested in Texas Theater / Taken to police car / Booked, charged with killing Tippit|
|Nov. 22, 1963||Dallas||Phony Selective Service Card found on Oswald|
|Nov. 22, 1963 (afternoon)||Dallas Police Headquarters||Marina tells police that Oswald owned rifle, which is now missing.|
|Nov. 22, 1963 (late evening)||Dallas||Oswald faces press in news conference|
|Nov. 24, 1963||Dallas||Oswald shot, killed by Jack Ruby|
|Nov. 24, 1963 (afternoon)||Dallas||Lee's dead body lies in Parkland morgue|
|Nov. 25, 1963||Fort Worth||Oswald funeral, Lee buried at Rose Hill cemetery, by Miller Funeral Home.|
Here is a small collection of Lee Harvey Oswald images.
The whole lone assassin case hangs on the notion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sort of disturbed individual who might have shot the president. If he was, what were the roots of his psychological problems? Oswald's chronic truancy after he and his mother moved to New York in 1952 landed him in Youth House, a facility for troubled teenagers. There professionals on the staff conducted a thorough examination of him. "Lee Oswald: Troubled Youth" is the Warren Commission's summary of what they found.
On the way back to the U.S. from Russia, Lee and Marina passed through the Netherlands and boarded a ship in Rotterdam. Does some mystery surround this? Perry Vermeulen has a web site on the subject. He's not pushing any particular theory, but filling in holes in the historical record.
But people do have a right to demand that lone gunman theorists provide a plausible account of how malcontent Oswald might have chosen to kill Kennedy. Starting with the Warren Commission Report, and continuing with books like Jean Davison's Oswald's Game, they have indeed done so.
Three essays on this site address these issues.
Conspiracists have long claimed that the photos are faked because they show Oswald leaning in a way he could not have been in real life. Modern computer modeling allows this theory to be tested, and it has been in "A 3-D Stability Analysis of Lee Oswald in the Backyard Photo."
Conspiracy books list large numbers of witnesses who saw Lee Oswald in all sorts of places the Warren Commission said he wasn't: in the Carousel Club, on a shooting range, talking to "Maurice Bishop," visiting Sylvia Odio. Just how seriously should these witness accounts be taken? Are they the evidence that blows the lid off the coverup, or are they just like claims of people who saw Elvis at the Laundromat? In this section of the Warren Commission Report, the Commission investigates several of these claims.
Of all the many Oswald sightings, one has loomed particularly large in conspiracy literature, and even been accepted by some sober lone assassin theorists: the case of Sylvia Odio. Odio, one night in late September 1963, was visited by three men, one Anglo and three Hispanics, and after the assassination she came to believe that the Anglo was Lee Harvey Oswald. Odio was apparently an honest witness, but most likely the fellow she saw was not Oswald.
And here is a late 1950's picture of Ray Herbert of the Chicago White Sox. "What," you may be asking, "is the point?" Look at the photo and ask yourself: "How many guys who looked a lot like Oswald were running around in 1963, easily misidentified as our boy Lee?" Cecil Jones discovered this photo.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations found Odio a "credible" witness although they stopped short of flatly stating that Oswald had indeed visited Odio's apartment. Here is their report on this incident, authored by Gaeton Fonzi.
Was Odio the sort of woman who might have offered a mistaken identification, and even been hysterical about it? Her psychiatrist, Burton C. Einspruch, testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978. Here is his assessment of his patient.
One whole spate of sightings occurred in a place called Alice, Texas where seventeen separate witnesses thought they saw Lee Oswald usually with Marina and a babe in arms. In an essay from his web site, Dave Reitzes reviews these sightings and explains why they are bogus.
The Walker assassination attempt is an extremely important incident, judged by both the Warren Commission and by the House Select Committee to indicate Oswald's propensity for violence. How strong is the evidence against Oswald? This section of the Warren Commission Report deals with this incident. If Oswald shot at Walker, it is extremely easy to believe that he shot at Kennedy seven months later.
Conspiracy books try to attack the Warren Commission version of the Walker shooting by citing a witness, Walter Coleman, who supposedly saw two men fleeing the scene. Read the FBI report of Coleman's testimony, and see whether it in any way challenges the Commission's version.
Local Media Celebrity
The high point of Lee Oswald's campaign of pro-Castro activism occurred in New Orleans where Oswald appointed himself Secretary of a rump chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. As spokesman for the Committee, Oswald appeared on WDSU Radio twice.
If Lee Oswald was the designated patsy in the assassination, then the "guiding hands" of The Conspiracy had to be leading him to his job in the building overlooking the parade route. Just how did Lee get his job? This essay by Joel Grant explores the issue. Of course, yet another set of "guiding hands" had to be working to bring John Kennedy down Elm Street. Grant also explores this possibility in his essay "The Three Furies." Do we see the sinister workings of a conspiracy here, or merely the working out of a perverse fate?
If Oswald was in fact a Marxist, conspiracy theorists often ask, why did he not proclaim himself to be JFK's killer, and proudy declare his political beliefs? The answer lies in the value of the "Victim Game," something that since the late 60s we have heard from minorities wanting the benefit of affirmative action programs, from militia types claiming Federal persecution, and indeed from all sorts of groups. But the Old Left pioneered the Victim Game, and Oswald's mother headed Lee in that direction even before he became a leftist. Russ Burr explains this recurring factor in Lee's behavior in his brief essay "I'm Just a Patsy."
Circa 2000, a woman named Judyth Vary Baker began contacting JFK researchers, claiming to have been in an adulterous affair with Lee Oswald in the summer before the assassination. Her story has many juicy details, including a CIA sponsored project to create a bioweapon to kill Castro. Evenually, she published two books based on her claims. Does her story have any credibility? This article dissects the arcane and labyrinthine twists and turns of her account.
Conspiracy books attack the evidence against Oswald by claiming that the "chain of custody" was broken for most of it, and that only marking evidence is sufficient to establish a "chain of custody" for legal purposes. This legal brief submitted by the plaintiffs in the O. J. Simpson civil trial shows this claim to be untrue. All the key pieces of evidence (the rifle, the hulls in the Depository, the hulls at 10th and Patton, materials from Oswald's rooming house and from the Paines' house in Irving) would have been legally admissible.
A common theme in conspiracy books is that Oswald was "denied counsel" when in the custody of the Dallas Police. The real story is more complex, and tells us a lot about just how Lee Oswald thought. Oswald, in His Own Defense, an essay by Joel Grant and John Locke, explores this issue.
All departments in Alaska record [interrogations] and had been doing so for nineteen years in 2004. That means they weren't in 1963, as they started only in 1985. Los Angeles had been recording for 23 years in 2004. That means they started only in 1981. What about New York City? Well, all we have for that state is Broome County, and it didn't start until 2002! Chicago? No department in Illinois started before 1994. Washington, DC started in 2003. No police department in Texas was recording interrogations until 1992.And of course, in 2004 a large number of departments still didn't record interrogations, a reality the Center on Wrongful Convictions was trying to reform.
The story is a favorite of Gaeton Fonzi, and of Tony Summers. Lee Oswald supposedly met with the very sinister "Maurice Bishop" (believed by many buffs to be the CIA's David Atlee Phillips) in Dallas in late August or early September 1963. Never mind that he was in New Orleans all this time, the story has other massive credibility problems, as the HSCA investigation made clear.
The witness who claimed to place Oswald with Phillips is one Antonio Veciana, who after years of evasion and failing to identify "Bishop" finally did so shortly before his death. But as researcher Tracy Parnell shows, Veciana could hardly be less reliable. In addition to the twists and turns in his story (and a questionable behavior of Gaeton Fonzi), the fact that he was convicted of drug dealing in the 70s doesn't help his credibility.
Lee's Political Views
On July 27, 1963, Lee was accompanied by Dutz and Lillian Murret (his aunt and uncle) and Marina to speak at the House of Studies at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. There he discussed his experiences in the Soviet Union before an audience of Jesuit seminarians. Among a variety of views he expressed was the following:
|Question: Why don't the Russians see they are being indoctrinated and they are being denied the truth by these jamming stations?||
Answer: They are convinced that such contact would harm them and would be dangerous. They are convinced that the state is doing them a favor by denying them access to Western radio broadcasts.
Source: Commission Exhibit 2649, 25H727-728.
That's what Jim Garrison thought, and conspiracy writers have even uncovered a CIA document that says he was. But Lee's wife Marina told the intimate details of their sex life to Priscilla McMillan, and the KGB spied on Lee and Marina's Minsk apartment round-the-clock. It's clear that Lee was heterosexual, and the CIA document and the way conspiracy authors have interpreted it tell us more about them than about Lee's sex life.
| The Straight Scoop on Lee / Some of the most damning testimony about Lee Oswald came from his wife Marina. Conspiracy authors have attacked this testimony, pointing out that Marina was a recent immigrant to the United States, was fearful of the authorities, and spoke English very poorly.|
These criticisms are well taken, but they don't apply to her testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
The following is from Volume II of the Hearings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, pp. 301-302. Due to remarriage, Marina is "Mrs. Porter" here. The testimony was given on September 14, 1978. Note her endorsement of Priscilla Johnson McMillan's Marina and Lee as an accurate account.