Testimony Of Maj. Eugene D. Anderson

The testimony of Maj. Eugene A. Anderson was taken at 4:30 p.m., on July 24, 1964, at 200 Maryland Avenue NE., Washington, D.C., by Messrs. J. Lee Rankin, general counsel; and Arlen Specter, assistant counsel of the President's Commission.

Mr. SPECTER - May the record show that this is a deposition proceeding of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, and that our witnessnes today are Maj. Eugene D. Anderson and M. Sgt. James A. Zahm of the U.S. Marine Corps who have been asked to testify about their knowledge of the capabilities of a marksman using a rifle with a scope.
With that preliminary statement of purpose, would you stand, Major Anderson and raise your right hand please. Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you shall give before the President's Commission in this deposition proceeding will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Major ANDERSON - I do.
Mr. SPECTER - Would you state you full name for the record please.
Major ANDERSON - Eugene D. Anderson.
Mr. SPECTER - What is your occupation or profession, sir?
Major ANDERSON - I am a major in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Mr. SPECTER - How long have you been in the Marine Corps.
Major ANDERSON - Twenty-six years 3 months.
Mr. SPECTER - Of what do your current duties consist?
Major ANDERSON - I am assistant head of the Marksmanship Branch, Headquarters Marine Corps.
Mr. SPECTER - And where is your current duty station?
Major ANDERSON - In Navy Annex, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.
Mr. SPECTER - How long have you held that position?
Major ANDERSON - I have been stationed here for 2 years.
Mr. SPECTER - Would you outline briefly your qualifications, if any, in marksmanship?
Major ANDERSON - I have been working in marksmanship training for approximately 18 years. I am a distinguished rifle shot in the Marine Corps, master rifle shot, National Rifle Association of America.
Mr. SPECTER - Would you outline briefly the qualifications or tests which must be achieved in order to qualify as a distinguished shot?
Major ANDERSON - A man must have acquired a minimum of 30 points from winning medals in certain specified high-caliber matches. To win these points he must have placed among the top 10 percent of the nondistinguished shooters participating in the match. By winning a gold medal he can earn 10 points. By winning a silver medal he can earn eight points. By winning a bronze medal he can win six points.
Mr. SPECTER - And what qualifications must be displayed to obtain the classification as master of the National Rifle Association of America?
Major ANDERSON - You have to fire in a minimum number of National Rifle Association sponsored matches.
(Discussion off the record.)
Major ANDERSON - I want to correct the record.
Mr. SPECTER - Proceed to do so.
Major ANDERSON - I am a master with the pistol in the National Rifle Association. I am not classified with the rifle.
Mr. SPECTER - And does your classification as a distinguished marksman apply to the rifle?
Major ANDERSON - To the rifle, yes.
Mr. SPECTER - I now hand you a document which has heretofore been introduced into evidence as Commission Exhibit No. 239.
Mr. SPECTER - I ask you if you have heretofore had an opportunity to examine that document?
Major ANDERSON - Yes; I have.
Mr. SPECTER - And would you describe for the record what that document is, please?
Major ANDERSON - This is a U.S. rifle, caliber 30, M-1 and U.S. carbine, caliber 30, M-l-A1 record scorebook that is maintained by a shooter who is training for firing for qualification or requalification in the Marine Corps.
Mr. SPECTER - Is that a standard record scorebook which the Marine Corps makes available to every Marine who shoots under those circumstances?
Major ANDERSON - It was standard at the time of issuance of this particular book.
Mr. SPECTER - And what was that time?
Major ANDERSON - In December 1956.
Mr. SPECTER - And does the name of any specific Marine appear on the front page of that document?
Major ANDERSON - Yes; Oswald.
Mr. SPECTER - And are there any initials?
Major ANDERSON - It appears to be "L. H."
Mr. SPECTER - Would you outline the marksmanship training, if any, which a Marine recruit receives in the normal course of Marine training?
Major ANDERSON - He goes through a very intensive 3 weeks training period. During this 3 weeks for the first week he receives a basic training in the care and cleaning of the weapon. He learns sighting and aiming. He learns manipulation of the trigger.
He is exposed to various training aids. He goes through a series of exercises in what we call dry firing in which he assumes all of the positions that he is going to use in the full firing of the rifle over the qualification course. Normally in about the middle of the second week or the latter part of the second week he conducts some firing with a .22 rifle and .22 pistol to familiarize himself with live ammunition and to give the coaches an opportunity to check on his previous training. He then proceeds to the rifle range and he zeros the rifle in normally at 200 yards.
This consists of a few rounds being fired at a target, and the sights are changed so that at this particular range, either 200 or 300 yards, this rifle will strike the bull's-eye at the sight setting so indicated when there is no wind blowing and all the conditions for firing are ideal.
Then the following week he goes out to the range and he fires over the course completely, consisting of firing at 200, 300, and 500 yards. He will normally fire possibly 60 rounds the first day, which is 10 rounds over the required amount to fire the course. This firing is normally done at 200 yards. The following days, possibly the second or third day he may fire as much as 70 rounds each day, giving him an opportunity to acquire more practice with the gun, and to get a better opportunity to find out the zero of his weapon and where the strike of his bullet is going to be under any given circumstances.
Then on Thursday he will fire preliminary day, in which he will fire over the course one time under all circumstances exactly as he will do the following day for record day, except that on preliminary day he is allowed to have a coach on the range with him on the firing line to assist him in all phases.
The following day on record day, he fires over the course 50 rounds for his qualification score record. At this time the coach may give him any assistance possible as long as he is behind the firing line. Once he steps onto the firing line. assumes the firing position, then he is completely on his own. He cannot be helped by any gestures or comments or in any way given any assistance from anyone whatsoever. He completes this firing and the score that he attains then becomes his qualification score.
Mr. SPECTER - a. Was that training program in effect during 1956?
Major ANDERSON - With some possible minor deviations, yes. Generally speaking this is exactly what he would have done in 1956.
Mr. SPECTER - Would that training then necessarily have preceded the compilation of a marksmanship test as is reflected in the document which has been marked Commission Exhibit No. 239?
Major ANDERSON - I am not sure I understand exactly what you mean?
Mr. SPECTER - Perhaps I can rephrase it. Would your presumption be that L. H. Oswald, whose test score you have before you, would have received the training such as that which you have just described?
Major ANDERSON - Absolutely. He fired every day according to this. The only exception might be that if he was required to go to the sick bay for some minor treatment, and missed maybe an hour a day or some sort of thing such as that.
Mr. SPECTER - And the basis for your statement on that would be your conclusion based on the fact that L. H. Oswald had undergone a test where he completed these documents under the category of "US Marine Corps Scorebook for US Rifle Caliber .30 M-1 and US Carbine Caliber .30 M-l-A1?"
Major ANDERSON - Yes, sir; this document shows by dates and days as indicated that he fired daily and sighted in his rifle as prescribed.
Mr. SPECTER - Of course, you didn't know Mr. Oswald personally?
Major ANDERSON - I never knew him whatsoever.
Mr. SPECTER - So that your conclusion as to his training is based upon the inference which arises from the document which I have presented to you. That is to say, you know that if a man has one of those scorebooks, that he must have received that training?
Major ANDERSON - Absolutely. He received this in full.
Mr. SPECTER - Does that document have some record of practicing as well as actual scoring in it, Major Anderson?
Major ANDERSON - This record shows that on Thursday of the week preceding the record firing week, he fired approximately 10 rounds which were not .scored, appear to be zeroing in shots. There is no day here to indicate any firing on Friday. Monday is shown of the following week with a 10 shot group, and shows that he fires the entire course on Monday throughout.
Mr. SPECTER - Major Anderson, I now show you a letter which I have marked for the purpose of this deposition as Anderson Exhibit No. 1, and ask you for the record to tell us what is the date of that letter, first of all?
Major ANDERSON - 8 January 1964.
(Major Anderson Deposition Exhibit No. 1 was marked for identification.)
Mr. SPECTER - To whom is the letter addressed?
Major ANDERSON - Mr. J. Lee Rankin, General Counsel, President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy.
Mr. SPECTER - And by whom was the letter written?
Major ANDERSON - The signature shows it was from A. G. Folsom, Jr., lieutenant colonel, U.S. Marine Corps.
Mr. SPECTER - Have you had an opportunity heretofore to examine that letter?
Major ANDERSON - Yes; I have.
Mr. SPECTER - And whom does that letter concern itself with?
Major ANDERSON - The letter concerns a Mr. Oswald.
Mr. SPECTER - Lee Harvey Oswald?
Major ANDERSON - Yes; Lee Harvey Oswald.
Mr. SPECTER - Does that letter contain with it the marksmanship practice which Mr. Oswald had while in the Marine Corps?
Major ANDERSON - It so indicates; yes.
Mr. SPECTER - What is the procedure of the Marine Corps in retaining such information on men who were in the Corps and had marksmanship training?
Major ANDERSON - Any time a man goes through any type of live firing, the type of firing, the number of rounds he has fired, the course he has fired is supposed to be and supposedly is entered in his record book in the spaces provided for his training?
Mr. SPECTER - What do you mean by live firing, sir?
Major ANDERSON - By live firing I mean any time a live round of ammunition is actually placed in the gun and it is fired.
Mr. SPECTER - Is that distinguished from some other type of firing, or heavy firing?
Major ANDERSON - Yes; it is distinguished from what we call dry firing in that no ammunition is used whatsoever. A man just simulates that he is firing the gun.
Mr. SPECTER - Does that letter set forth the marksmanship practice which Mr. Oswald had in the Marine Corps?
Major ANDERSON - It does; yes. It shows that he had the course A firing and followed by "fam" firing in the B course.
Mr. SPECTER - By "fam" firing, what does that mean?
Major ANDERSON - This is sharp terminology for familiarization firing and it is used to familiarize a man with the weapon prior to his being armed with said weapon.
Mr. SPECTER - And on what date was the A course registered?
Major ANDERSON - 21 December 1956.
Mr. SPECTER - And what weapon was used?
Major ANDERSON - The M-1 rifle.
Mr. SPECTER - And what was his final qualification there?
Major ANDERSON - 212.
Mr. SPECTER - And what rating is that equivalent to, or within what range of rating is that score?
Major ANDERSON - That should have been a sharpshooter.
Mr. SPECTER - And what was the authorized ammunition allowance?
Major ANDERSON - 400 rounds for recruit firing.
Mr. SPECTER - And during what period was that?
Major ANDERSON - That was to be fired within a 2-week period.
Mr. SPECTER - Did he have exposure on another course for M-1 firing at a later date?
Major ANDERSON - The record shows that 6 May 1959 he fired the B course.
Mr. SPECTER - And what weapon was used at that time?
Major ANDERSON - The M-1 rifle.
Mr. SPECTER - And what score was obtained on that occasion?
Major ANDERSON - 191 for marksman.
Mr. SPECTER - And what was the authorized ammunition allowance?
Major ANDERSON - 200 rounds.
Mr. SPECTER - Would there be any reason why the scores might differ from 212 to 191, based on the layout of the courses or any of the conditions surrounding those tests, Major Anderson?
Major ANDERSON - Yes; the day the 212 was fired appears to be according to the record book to have been an ideal day under firing conditions.
Mr. SPECTER - When you say the record book you meant Commission Exhibit No. 239 that you referred to?
Major ANDERSON - Yes; when he fired that he had just completed a very intensive preliminary training period. He had the services of an experienced highly trained coach. He had high motivation. He had presumably a good to excellent rifle and good ammunition. We have nothing here to show under what conditions the B course was fired. It might well have been a bad day for firing the rifle windy, rainy, dark. There is little probability that he had a good, expert coach, and he probably didn't have as high a motivation because he was no longer in recruit training and under the care of the drill instructor. There is some possibility that the rifle he was firing might not have been as good a rifle as the rifle that he was firing in his A course firing, because may well have carried this rifle for quite some time, and it got banged around in normal usage.
Mr. SPECTER - What are the differences between the A and B courses, Major Anderson?
Major ANDERSON - The A course is fired at 200, 300, and 500 yards. The B course is exactly the same course as far as targets, number of rounds and positions are concerned, but it is fired entirely at 200 yards.
Mr. SPECTER - Are there compensations in the scoring to allow for the difference in distances?
Major ANDERSON - Yes; there is.
Mr. SPECTER - What other familiarity with weapons did Mr. Oswald possess according to that document identified as Anderson Exhibit No. 1?
Major ANDERSON - On 17 December 1956 he fired the Browning Automatic Rifle familiarization 75 rounds.
Mr. SPECTER - IS there any score indicated on that firing?
Major ANDERSON - There will be no scores indicated for familiarization firing. It is not scored.
Mr. SPECTER - What other familiarization?
Major ANDERSON - On 11 December 1956 he fired the pistol familiarization 100 rounds. On 2 May 1958 he fired the 12-gage riot gun familiarization 10 rounds, again on 7 May 1958 he fired the .45 caliber pistol 100 rounds for familiarization and on 9 March 1959 he fired the 12-gage riot gun 10 rounds for familiarization.
Mr. SPECTER - Based on what you see of Mr. Oswald's marksmanship capabilities from the Marine Corps records which you have before you, Major Anderson, how would you characterize him as a marksman?
Major ANDERSON - I would say that as compared to other Marines receiving the same type of training, that Oswald was a good shot, somewhat better than or equal to--better than the average let us say. As compared to a civilian who had not received this intensive training, he would be considered as a good to excellent shot.
Mr. SPECTER - Major Anderson, I now want to show you certain photographs which have been heretofore identified and introduced into the Commission's record as a preliminary to asking your opinion on the difficulty of certain shots which I will identify.
First I show you Commission Exhibit No. 347 which is an overhead photograph of an area known as Dealey Plaza, which the record will show is the situs of the assassination of President Kennedy. I now show you Commission Exhibit No. 348 which is a photograph of the Texas School Book Depository Building with the letter "A" pointing to the half-opened window, that is the bottom portion of the window which is half opened, where other witnesses have testified that the assassin stood. Let me add as a factor for you to assume to be true, this the record will show is based upon eyewitnesses at the scene, that the weapon partly protruded from the window identified as letter "A" in Exhibit No. 348 pointing at an angle which is not completely in a straight line but very much in a straight line with the angle of the street being designated as Elm Street, which street runs on a downgrade of approximately 3b0.
I now show you a document identified as Commission Exhibit No. 893, and a second document identified as Commission Exhibit No. 895, which depict frame No. 210 and frame No. 225 on photographs in the nature of moving pictures taken by Abraham Zapruder at the assassination site which the evidence indicates was the range of the first shot which struck President Kennedy in the lower portion of his neck, with that bullet striking at a distance from 176.9 feet to a distance of 190.8 feet. Stated differently, the evidence shows that somewhere between these two pictures President Kennedy was shot in the neck, and as the photograph of the rifle scope shows in the left-hand corner lower picture, that is the view through the telescopic lens which the marksman had based on onsite tests which were made in Dallas with a camera mounted looking through the scope on Commission Exhibit No. 139, which is the weapon identified as the assassination rifle. Now assuming those factors to be true for purposes of this next question, h ow would you characterize the difficulty of a shot at that range, which would strike the President in the lower portion of his neck at a spot indicated by a white mark on the back of the stand-in the photograph marked "Re-enactment"?
My question, then, is how would you characterize the difficulty or ease of that shot for a marksman with Mr. Oswald's capabilities?
Major ANDERSON - In my opinion this is not a particularly difficult shot, and that Oswald had full capabilities to make this shot.
Mr. SPECTER - I now show you a document marked as Commission Exhibit No. 902, which characterizes what was believed to have been the shot which struck President Kennedy in the head at a distance from rifle in window to the President of 265.3 feet, with the photograph through rifle scope identified on the document being the view which the marksman had of the President at the time the President was struck in the head, and I ask you again for an opinion as to the ease or difficulty of that shot, taking into consideration the capabilities of Mr. Oswald as a marksman, evidenced by the Marine Corps documents on him.
Major ANDERSON - I consider it to be not a particularly difficult shot at this short range, and that Oswald had full capabilities to make such a shot.
(Discussion off the record.)
Mr. SPECTER - May the record show that we have been off the record because Mr. Rankin stepped out, but we will proceed now to complete the deposition since he hasn't returned at this time.
Major Anderson, assume if you will that there were three shots fired by the assassin with a Mannlicher- Carcano rifle in a time span of 4.8 to 5.6 seconds. Would that speed of firing be within the capabilities of Mr. Oswald based upon the information as to his markmanship ability from the Marine Corps records?
Major ANDERSON - Yes, sir; it would.
Mr. SPECTER - Major Anderson, are you as familiar with the telescopic sights as is Master Sergeant Zahm?
Major ANDERSON - No, sir; I am not. Sergeant Zahm is far more familiar and much more of an expert on telescopic sights than I am.
Mr. SPECTER - Has the testimony which you have provided here today on the general propositions to which you have testified been within your sphere of specialization?
Major ANDERSON - Yes, sir; they have.
Mr. SPECTER - That concludes the deposition of you, Major Anderson. We very much appreciate your coming.
Major ANDERSON - You are quite welcome.