Lee Harvey Oswald (October 18, 1939 – November 24, 1963) was, according to four United States government investigations, the assassin of US President John F. Kennedy. On November 22, 1963, Oswald was arrested on suspicion of killing President Kennedy and Dallas policeman J. D. Tippit earlier that day. Oswald claimed that he was a "patsy" and emphatically denied the charges. Two days later, Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby on live television while in police custody. Public opinion is still divided regarding the official version of Oswald's culpability in the assassination. According to an ABC News poll conducted in November 2003, 70 percent of American adults believe that the assassination was part of a larger plot.
Early life and Marine Corps service Lee Harvey Oswald was born in Slidell, Louisiana. His father, Robert Edward Lee Oswald, died before he was born and his mother, Marguerite Claverie, raised him along with two older siblings, his brother Robert and his half-brother John Pic (Marguerite's child by her first marriage). His mother is said to have doted on him to excess, but despite this has been characterized as domineering and quarrelsome. They lived an itinerant lifestyle and before the age of 18 Oswald had lived in 22 different residences and attended 12 different schools, mostly around New Orleans and Dallas. Oswald's mother was of French and German descent and raised him in the Lutheran faith.
As a child Oswald was withdrawn and temperamental. After they moved in with John Pic (who had joined the US Coast Guard and was stationed in New York City), Oswald once threatened his sister-in-law with a knife and frequently punched his mother in the face. His truancy resulted in visits to psychiatrist Renatus Hartogs, who diagnosed the fourteen-year-old Oswald as having a "personality pattern disturbance with schizoid features and passive-aggressive tendencies." Oswald's behavior in school appeared to improve in his last months in New York. Some time in February, 1954, Marguerite Oswald decided to return to New Orleans with Lee. There was still an open question before a New York judge if he would be taken from the care of his mother to finish his schooling. In New Orleans, Oswald joined the school's marching band and then the Civil Air Patrol.
Oswald never received a high school diploma before he enlisted in the US Marines. Throughout his life he had trouble with spelling and writing coherently. His letters, diary and other writings have led some to suggest he was dyslexic while others have contended his poor writing and spelling skills were the result of a sporadic education. Nonetheless he read voraciously and as a result sometimes asserted he was better educated than those around him. Around the age of fifteen, he became an ardent Marxist, solely from reading about the topic. He wrote 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."
Although a Marxist, Oswald wished to join the US Marines. He idolized his older brother Robert and wore Robert's US Marine ring. This relationship seems to have transcended any ideological conflict for Oswald, and enlisting in the Marines may also have been a way to escape from his overbearing mother. He enlisted in the USMC in October 1956, a week after his 17th birthday.
Oswald was trained as a radar operator and assigned first to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Irvine, California, then to Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan. Though Atsugi was a base for the U-2 spy planes that flew over the USSR there is no evidence Oswald was involved in that operation. Oswald's experience in the Marine Corps was by all accounts unpleasant. Small and frail compared to the other Marines, he was nicknamed Ozzie Rabbit after a cartoon character. His shyness and Soviet sympathies did not endear him to his fellow Marines. Ostracism only seemed to provoke him into being a more ardent and outspoken communist and ultimately his nickname became Oswaldskovich. The Marine had subscribed to The Worker and taught himself rudimentary Russian. Oswald was tried at a court-martial twice, first as a result of accidentally shooting himself in the elbow with a small, unauthorized handgun and later for starting a fight with a sergeant he thought responsible for the punishment he received. He was demoted from private first class to private and briefly served time in the brig. He was not punished for another incident when, while on sentry duty one night while stationed in the Philippines, he inexplicably fired his rifle into the jungle. By the end of his Marine career Oswald was doing menial labor.
The Soviet Union In October 1959 Oswald went to the Soviet Union. He was nineteen and the trip was well-planned in advance. Along with having taught himself rudimentary Russian he had saved his Marine Corps salary, got an early "hardship" discharge by (falsely) claiming he needed to care for his ailing mother in New Orleans and submitted several fictional applications to foreign universities in order to obtain a student visa (and possibly help avoid Marine Corps reserve duty). After spending one day with his mother in New Orleans he departed by ship for the Soviet Union, first arriving in France, then England and eventually Finland as part of a package tour.When he arrived in the USSR and showed up unexpectedly at the US Embassy in Moscow he said he wanted to renounce his US citizenship. When the Navy Department learned of this it changed Oswald's Marine Corps discharge from "hardship/honorable" to "undesirable." Oswald's wish to remain in the USSR was initially applauded by the Soviets and described by at least one western journalist as a "defection," but although he had some technical knowledge acquired in the Marines they soon discovered he had little of real value to offer the Soviet Union and his application for Soviet residency was rejected. In response, Oswald made a bloody but minor cut to his left wrist in his hotel room bathtub. After bandaging his superficial injury, the cautious Russians kept him under psychiatric observation at the Botkin Hospital. Although this attempt may have been no more than an attention-getting ruse, the Soviet government feared an international incident if he attempted something similar again. Against the advice of the KGB, a high-level Presidium decision allowed Oswald to remain in the USSR. Although he had wanted to remain in Moscow and attend Moscow University, he was sent to Minsk, west of Moscow in Byelorussia. The city had been rebuilt after World War II and was considered a model of Soviet urban prosperity. Moreover there were no foreign diplomatic missions or press corps in Minsk, where the young American malcontent could be kept away from foreigners and the US press and meanwhile be easily watched by the security services.
Oswald seemed to thrive at first. He was given a job as a metal lathe operator at the Gorizont (Horizon) Electronics Factory in Minsk, a huge facility which produced radios and televisions along with military and space electronic components. He was given a rent-subsidized, fully furnished studio apartment in a prestigious building under Gorizont's administration and in addition to his factory pay received monetary subsidies from the Red Cross (a Soviet organization entirely separate from the international medical aid organization). This represented an idyllic existence by Soviet-era working-class standards. He was called Alek by his friends, who thought the name Lee sounded too Chinese. As a member of the Gorizont factory hunting club, Oswald was permitted to own a small .410 bore shotgun. He went bird hunting with Gorizont fellow-workers. (Oswald sold his shotgun to a Minsk pawnshop prior to his departure from the Soviet Union in 1962.) Oswald was a popular dinner guest in people's homes and a "man about town" frequently attending the opera, symphony concerts, the cinema and dating women he met at work, at trade union dances and female students from the nearby Foreign Language School.
Oswald was under constant surveillance by the KGB during his thirty-month stay in Minsk. The local KGB office had never had its own American case and they threw themselves into the task, building the lengthy KGB file no. 31451, a mostly mundane account of Oswald's daily life. The KGB assigned Oswald the codename Lehoy, ironically meaning slick but also a phonetic play on Lee Harvey. Oswald was spied upon by his close friend and fellow worker Pavel Golovachev, the son of Red Air Force General Golovachev, a senior air defense district commander in Siberia. Pavel Golovachev took many intimate photos of Oswald at home and at play in Minsk which no doubt were primarily intended for KGB consumption. He gave copies of some to Oswald and many later surfaced during the Warren investigation. In 1991 and 1992 interviews Golovachev said that at first he agreed to spy on Oswald, believing he might be a US intelligence officer. However, after getting to know him (and following KGB instructions to tempt Oswald with information from his father's air defense command, which didn't succeed) he concluded Oswald was who he said he was, an American who wanted to experience life in the Soviet Union and write a book about it (which Oswald began almost immediately when he got back to the United States).
Golovachev said Oswald never talked about the dramatic circumstances of his arrival in Moscow, his suicide attempt or any desire to have Soviet citizenship. He gave the impression his arrival in the Soviet Union had not been contentious and did not speak badly about the USA, refraining from talk about politics in general. When asked by ordinary Russians if life was better in the USA or USSR, Golovachev recalled Oswald would reply that in his opinion there were pros and cons to both places and then try to steer the conversation elsewhere. Eventually, on a visit to Oswald's apartment in the spring of 1961 Golovachev warned him he was being reported upon by those close to him, including himself, a warning which was probably recorded by KGB microphones planted in the apartment.
Meanwhile Oswald had tired of his relatively monotonous Soviet life. The Soviet Union's oppressive bureaucracy brought him to believe the country was a poorly implemented perversion of Marxist goals, while he believed himself to be a pure Marxist. Moreover Oswald had felt unappreciated when he was assigned factory work in Minsk instead of being admitted to study at the University of Moscow as he had requested. He gradually grew bored with the limited recreation available in Minsk and was stunned when co-worker Ella Germann refused his marriage proposal and then rejected him. In 1992 Germann said Oswald had talked about the two of them going to live in Czechoslovakia or even Yugoslavia, where he thought Communism was more liberal. He also told her that he was hiding in Minsk because the US had "hunted" him in Moscow and if he returned to the United States he would be "shot" (executed). In truth, while Oswald was saying these things to Ella he had made his first attempt to write the US embassy in Moscow about returning to the USA, although the KGB intercepted the letter and never forwarded it to the embassy.
At a dance in early 1961 Oswald met Marina Alexandrovna (Nikolayevna by other sources) Prusakova, a troubled 19-year-old pharmacology student from a broken family in Leningrad now living with her aunt and uncle in Minsk. While later reports described her uncle as a colonel in the KGB or MVD, he was a lumber industry expert in the MVD (Ministry of Interior) with a bureaucratic rank equivalent to colonel. The MVD at that time was analogous with the US departments of Justice and Interior combined and Marina's uncle administered lumbering projects using inmate labor, which by the time of Nikita Khruschev consisted mostly of non-political criminal prisoners. Oswald and Marina married less than a month and a half after they met. Observers have remarked that Oswald was likely still on the rebound from his failed relationship with Ella while Marina may have married Oswald either for his high standard of living (the apartment and extra privileges) or to emigrate to the United States. "Maybe I was not in love with Alik as I ought to have been," she said much later (for example, after she was in the US but before the Kennedy assassination she wrote love letters to two ex-boyfriends).
Marina soon became pregnant and gave birth to their daughter June. Oswald had never formally renounced his US citizenship (the US Embassy in Moscow had retained his US passport) and began seeking permission for the three of them to go to the United States.
Most Russian witnesses to Oswald's time in the USSR (first interviewed in 1991 and 1992 by Peter Vronsky) recalled Oswald as a boyish, silly and immature youth: He was nineteen when he arrived in the USSR, twenty-two when he left. He was described by some as shallow, with limited intelligence, a poor and lazy worker but almost all remembered him as "sympathetic" (charming and friendly). He did not drink or smoke, which the Russians found strange. His only vice seemed to be sweets and pastries, about which his girlfriends later said he was annoyingly parsimonious. Most Russians who knew him recall that once the thrill of meeting an American wore off, Oswald was rather dull company with little of interest to say. A shelf in his apartment was filled with books on Marxism but his understanding of it seemed rudimentary. Neighbors who lived directly above him, with windows looking onto his balcony below, were critical in their 1991-92 recollections, describing him as a rude lout who was frequently heard berating Marina for her apparent lack of cooking and cleaning skills, saying Marina complained to them that Oswald had struck her on occasion.
Oswald's Russian language proficiency was described by all the Russian witnesses as borderline coherent, but Russians in general are highly critical when characterizing linguistic abilities. Russians who encountered Oswald when he first arrived in Moscow unanimously recalled that his Russian was incoherent beyond basic phrases such as, "I need a fork." Russians who knew him through the duration of his stay in Minsk from January 1960 to June 1962 said that although Oswald's spoken Russian improved over time, his comprehension did not. Pavel Golovachev remembered how Marina would occasionally bluntly berate and belittle Lee to other Russians while he was in the room without him catching on. Letters written in Russian by Oswald (reproduced among Warren Commission exhibits which include CE 1, the letter he wrote to Marina the day he is believed to have attempted the assassination of General Walker) are all poorly written and ungrammatical. Declassified CIA documents relating to phone calls made by Oswald in Mexico City shortly before the assassination characterize his Russian as still barely coherent and broken, "a language he could not manage."
In December 1961, approximately six months before Oswald left the Soviet Union, the KGB reported that Oswald manufactured a pipe bomb using parts he took home from the factory's metal shop and (presumably) filled with gunpowder from ammunition for his shotgun. (This episode is confirmed by Oswald's former friend, medical student Eric Titovetz, in a 1991 interview, (prior to the release of the KGB documents) in which he claimed to have been shown the bomb by Oswald. Titovetz stated in the interview that Oswald never explained to him why he had made the bomb nor what subsequently happened to it. Titovetz attributed the making of the bomb to just another of Oswald's "boyish pranks.") The KGB at the time became concerned when an assassination attempt was made on the life of Soviet Premier Khrushchev several weeks later on a visit to a Minsk area resort. (The details of the Khrushchev 1962 assassination attempt are still classified.) Oswald discarded the pipe bomb into the trash where the KGB recovered it. There has been speculation that Oswald, knowing he was under KGB observation, made the bomb to hasten the Soviets into issuing him an exit visa and indeed on December 25, 1961, within weeks of the incident, exit visas for both Lee and Marina were approved (the pipe bomb may have been a ploy similar to his earlier suicide attempt, this time with an opposite goal). The Oswalds' departure, however, was delayed by a further six months because US authorities were now reluctant to approve Marina's entry into the US.
After nearly a year of paperwork and waiting, on June 1, 1962 the young family left the Soviet Union for the United States. Having started his teens as a lonely troubled truant in New York, Lee Oswald had been brought back by his mother to New Orleans, where he developed numerous friendships and acquaintances during his high school years. He did likewise in the Marines but led his most active social life in the Soviet Union where he had a number of girlfriends, married, fathered a child, formed social bonds, went on picnics and hunting trips, to parties, to dinners in people's homes, dances and moved among a broad range of people. However, after returning to the United States in 1962 Oswald would have few friends or acquaintances other than George de Mohrenschildt. He became disillusioned and isolated even from his own family, seeing them together for the last time in November 1962 on Thanksgiving Day. He eventually separated from his wife Marina and their infant daughter, living alone in distant rooming houses. There are periods in the final months of his life during which his movements and activities have remained undocumented. Some observers have remarked that during the last year of his life Oswald appeared to change physically, rapidly balding and appearing to age significantly beyond his twenty-four years.
After the assassination of President Kennedy, many Russians who knew Oswald, stated in 1991-1992 interviews that they were never contacted by the KGB or interviewed by any authorities. Ella Germann, for example, who was Oswald's lover prior to Marina and to whom Oswald proposed marriage in 1960, insists that authorities never came to question her about Oswald. Many of Oswald's former friends in 1991 still had artifacts from Oswald's days in Minsk: letters, photographs, books, and gifts that he had given them. The exception to this, was Pavel Golovachev, ironically a KGB informant from almost the day of Oswald's arrival in Minsk. Golovachev was an avid photographer with his own darkroom and is responsible for many of the known photographs of Oswald and Marina in the Soviet Union. According to Golovachev, after the assassination he sent a letter of condolence to Marina in the USA (he had kept up correspondence with Lee and Marina after their departure.) The letter was intercepted and the KGB confiscated all the letters, books, magazines, and photographs of and from Oswald in Golovachev's possession. Golovachev was detained at the KGB Minsk headquarters and interrogated. He was released after being warned not to contact Marina again or to discuss his relationship with Oswald with anyone. In 1991-1992 interviews Golovachev recalls that what the KGB wanted to know most during the interrogation was whether he had sexual relations with Marina.
Dallas Back in the United States, the Oswald's settled in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and Lee attempted to write his memoir and commentary on Soviet life, a small manuscript called The Collective. He soon gave up the idea but his search for literary feedback put him in touch with the area's close-knit community of anti-Communist Russian émigrés. While merely tolerating the belligerent and arrogant Lee Oswald, they sympathized with Marina, partly because she was in a foreign country with no knowledge of English (which her husband refused to teach her) and because Oswald had begun to beat her. Although they eventually abandoned Marina when she made no sign of leaving him, Oswald had found an unlikely best friend in the well-educated and worldly petroleum geologist George de Mohrenschildt, who liked playing the provocateur and enjoyed putting people off with his disagreeable and sullen Marxist friend. Marina meanwhile befriended a married couple, Quaker Ruth Paine and her husband Michael.
In Dallas Oswald got a job with the Leslie Welding Company but disliked the work and quit after three months. He then found a position at the graphic arts firm of Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall as a photoprint trainee. The company has been cited as doing classified work for the US government but this was limited to typesetting for maps and produced in a section Oswald had no access to. He did use photographic and typesetting equipment in the unsecured area to create falsified identification documents, including some in the name of an alias he created, Alek James Hidell. His co-workers and supervisors eventually grew frustrated with his inefficiency, lack of precision, inattention, and rudeness to others (to the point where fist-fights had threatened to break out). The "backyard photos," which were believed taken Sunday, March 31, show Oswald with socialist literature and a rifle and pistol, in a playful and confident pose. However, the next day, Monday, April 1, after six months of work, Oswald's supervisor terminated Oswald´s employment at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall, after seeing him reading a Russian satiric magazine (Krokodil or Crocodile, named for its bite) in the cafeteria.
Attempted assassination of General Walker. General Edwin Walker was an outspoken anti-communist, segregationist and member of the John Birch Society who had been commanding officer of the Army's 24th Infantry Division based in West Germany under NATO supreme command until he was relieved of his command in 1961 by JFK for distributing right-wing literature to his troops. Walker resigned from the service and returned to his native Texas. He ran in the six-person Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1962 but lost to John Connally, who went on to win the race. In February, 1963 the general was making front-page news with an evangelist partner in an anti-Communist tour called Operation Midnight Ride.
Oswald put Walker under surveillance at some unknown time, probably including early April, taking pictures of the general's home and nearby railroad tracks which were later found in his residence when it was searched after the Kennedy assassination (these photos were later matched to the same camera Marina used to take the backyard poses). In March, Oswald had mail-ordered the rifle using his alias A. Hidell, having already mail-ordered a revolver in January. He attempted the assassination on April 10. Though he did not leave specifics of his plans in writing, Oswald did leave a note in Russian for Marina with instructions for her to follow, should he be jailed in Dallas, or otherwise disappear. Walker was sitting at a desk in his dining room working on his federal income tax when Oswald fired at him from less than a hundred feet (30 m) away. Walker survived only because the bullet struck the wooden frame of the window, which deflected its path, but was injured in the forearm by bullet fragments.
The Dallas police had no suspects in the Walker shooting. Oswald's involvement was not suspected until a note and some of the photos of Walker's house were found following the assassination of JFK, after which Marina Oswald told authorities about Oswald's attempt on Walker's life, which she said Oswald had told her about after the fact. The bullet was too badly damaged to run conclusive ballistics studies, though neutron activation tests later proved the bullet was from the cartridge manufacturer, and probably the same lot of bullets, as the two which later struck Kennedy.
New Orleans By now Oswald was unemployed, had failed to kill General Walker, and his best friend de Mohrenschildt had moved away from Dallas. While Marina (who was pregnant for the second time) stayed with the Paines, he returned to the city of his birth, New Orleans, arriving on the morning of April 25 looking for work. Marina was driven there by family friend Ruth Paine after Oswald got a job with the Reilly Coffee Company in May, but he was fired for dereliction in July.
Although Oswald had Marina write to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. about the possibility of returning to the Soviet Union, he was still disillusioned with the USSR. His Marxist hopes had become pinned on Fidel Castro and Cuba and he soon became a vocal pro-Castro advocate. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee was a national organization and Oswald set out on his own initiative as a one-member New Orleans chapter, spending $22.73 on 1000 flyers, 500 membership applications and 300 membership cards. He asked Marina to sign the name "A.J. Hidell" as chapter president on one card.
Most of Oswald's activities consisted of passing out flyers to passersby on the street. He made a clumsy attempt to infiltrate anti-Castro exile groups and briefly met with a skeptical Carlos Bringuier, New Orleans delegate for the anti-Castro Cuban Student Directorate. Several days later Bringuier and two friends confronted a man passing out pro-Castro handbills and realized it was Oswald. During an ensuing scuffle all of them were arrested and Oswald spent the night in jail. The trial got news media attention and Oswald was interviewed afterwards. He was also privately filmed passing out fliers in front of the International Trade Mart with two "volunteers" he had hired for $2 at the unemployment office. Oswald's political work in New Orleans came to an end after a WDSU radio debate between Bringuier and Oswald arranged by journalist Bill Stuckey. Instead of discussing Cuba as he had successfully done during a previous radio program, Oswald was publicly confronted with the lies and omissions he had made concerning his life and background and became audibly upset. Within a month he left New Orleans and returned to Dallas.
Oswald's four months in New Orleans were carefully scrutinized after the JFK assassination, most notably by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison in his unsuccessful attempt to link Oswald to wealthy local businessman Clay Shaw, a former president of the International Trade Mart. Garrison's attempt to establish connections between the two included W. Guy Banister (a retired FBI agent and former New Orleans Police Assistant Superintendent turned private investigator and anti-communist) and Banister's friend David Ferrie (a pilot and anti-communist who had flown at the Bay of Pigs, and who wore an ill-fitting red wig and false eyebrows because of allopecia). Although Ferrie and Oswald had been simultaneously members of the Civil Air Patrol in New Orleans during the 1950s and both appear in a C.A.P. group photo, there is no credible evidence they had any significant contact when Oswald was a teenager, or again met eight years later in 1963. Ferrie denied knowing Oswald in an F.B.I. interview relied on by the Warren Commission. Banister (a friend of Ferrie's who also sometimes worked with him on anti-Castro causes) had an office in the building at 531 Lafayette, and Oswald stamped a few (but not all) of his flyers with the address 544 Camp Street. These addresses share the same structure, a building which was a block away from Oswald's job at the Reilly Coffee Company, but represent different entrances into it. There is no credible evidence that Oswald knew Banister or rented the address in Banister's building. This 544 Camp Street address had previously been home to the anti-Castro Cuban Revolutionary Council (who Banister knew, and influenced the landlord to rent the space to), and some researchers have suggested Oswald used this address for pro-Castro literature, to embarrass them. Either way, his work involving the Fair Play for Cuba Committee may have been little more than an effort to impress the Cuban government as a prelude to defecting there.
No hard evidence for contacts between Oswald, Banister, Ferrie, and Shaw has surfaced. Ferrie and Banister were friends, and Ferrie and Shaw were both homosexual and moved in the same circles in New Orleans. However, all evidence for 1963 contacts between Oswald and the other three come from witness testimony placing them together, which as a whole is questionable and unsubstantiated. In 1969, a jury empanneled by Garrison would acquit Clay Shaw of conspiracy, after only less than an hour of deliberation. By this time, Banister and Ferrie had died (Banister of [presumed] heart attack in bed in 1964, and Ferrie of cerebral hemorrhage [bleeding stroke] in 1967).
Mexico While Ruth Paine drove Marina back to Dallas, Oswald lingered in New Orleans for two more days waiting to collect a $33 unemployment check. He boarded a bus for Houston but instead of heading north to Dallas he took a bus southwest towards Laredo and the U.S.-Mexico border. Once in Mexico he hoped to continue on to Cuba, a plan he openly shared with other passengers on the bus. Arriving in Mexico City, he completed a transit visa application at the Cuban Embassy, claiming he wanted to visit the country on his way back to the Soviet Union. The Cubans insisted the Soviet Union would have to to approve his journey to the USSR before he could get a Cuban visa, but he was unable to get speedy co-operation from the Soviet embassy.
After shuttling back and forth between consulates for five days, getting into a heated argument with the Cuban consul, making impassioned pleas to KGB agents, and coming under at least some CIA surveillance as a result, Oswald returned to Dallas. It was during this period that he talked to Marina about hijacking an airliner to Cuba. He even told her he would one day be the premier of Cuba and she teased him about it. However, less than three weeks later, on October 18 the Cuban embassy in Mexico City finally approved the visa and 11 days before the assassination Oswald wrote a letter to the Soviet embassy in Washington DC, which said, "Had I been able to reach the Soviet Embassy in Havana as planned, the embassy there would have had time to complete our business."
The rifle and Oswald's marksmanship In March 1963, Oswald used his alias "A. Hidell" (which he would later use for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and for which he was carrying an I.D. card when arrested after the Kennedy murder) to purchase the rifle later linked to the November 22, 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. The surplus Italian military rifle was purchased from Klein's Sporting Goods in Chicago, with a coupon taken from an ad in the February issue of American Rifleman. FBI and Treasury Department experts later matched the handwriting on the coupon and the envelope, to Oswald. The rifle was purchased under "A. Hidell" but sent to a Dallas post office box rented by Oswald under his own name.
Rifle 6.5 x 52 mm Italian Mannlicher-Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle with a six-round magazine Serial number C2766 Western Cartridge Co. ammunition with a 160 grain (10.37 g) round nose bullet Side-mounted Ordnance Optics 4 x 18 telescopic sight Along with other possessions, Oswald kept the rifle wrapped in a blanket in the garage of the Paines' home (in Irving, Texas, 15 miles from Dallas), where Marina was living at the time. Oswald, who could not drive, spent weekends in Irving and weekdays in Dallas at a rooming house, commuting on Mondays and Fridays with a co-worker (Buell Wesley Frazier) who also worked at the Texas Depository. On Thursday, November 21, Oswald returned to Irving a day early, and the next morning presumably smuggled the rifle back to Dallas and into the Texas School Book Depository on the morning of the assassination in a long brown paper package, which Oswald told Frazier contained curtain rods for his rooming house window.
Frazier would later testify that although this package was odd, and Oswald got out of the car with it and insisted on walking ahead into work in an unusual fashion, the package appeared to be only about 2 feet long, and not the 3 feet which would have been required to hold the disassembled Carcano rifle. Nevertheless, a 38 inch paper bag resembling the "curtain rod bag" was found near the sniper's nest in the 6th floor of the book depository, after the assassination, although no photograph exists of the bag actually inside the depository.
The assassination of JFK Main article: John F. Kennedy assassination While Marina and their child were staying with the Paines (Oswald lived alone in a rooming house) he found a temporary job (for the busy fall season) at the Texas School Book Depository. The 1964 Warren Commission report on the John F. Kennedy assassination concluded that at 12:30 p.m. on November 22, Oswald shot Kennedy from a window on the sixth floor of the warehouse as the President's motorcade passed through Dallas' Dealey Plaza (see lone gunman theory). Texas Governor John Connally was also seriously wounded along with assassination witness James Tague who received a very minor facial injury while standing some 270 feet (82 m) in front of the presidential limousine.
Critics have asserted that photographic and film evidence - along with witness statements throughout the years - indicate that there were at least one, or two, shooters in an area of Dealey Plaza known as the grassy knoll, behind a picket fence atop a small sloping hill, which was to the right, and front, of President Kennedy. A number of witnesses reported seeing a flash of light and/or a puff of smoke come from behind the fence along with hearing shots from that direction.
On the 8mm Zapruder film, after the last and fatal shot, it appears that President Kennedy's head moves forward and downward quickly, and then his body moves, in a more prolonged manner, in a backward direction to the left. A large amount of brain matter was projected forward, with blood and brain matter from the forward-moving vehicle also striking the windshields of the motorcycle escorts moving up from behind.
Oswald's flight and the murder of Officer J. D. Tippit According to the Warren Commission report, immediately after he shot President Kennedy, Oswald hid the rifle behind some boxes and descended via the Depository's elevator and then sent it back up. On the second floor he encountered Dallas police officer Marion Baker who had driven his motorcycle to the door of the Depository and sprinted up the stairs in search of the shooter. With him was Oswald's supervisor Roy Truly, who identified Oswald as an employee, which caused Baker, who had his pistol in hand, to let Oswald pass. Oswald bought a Coke from a vending machine in the second floor lunchroom, crossed the floor to the front staircase, descended and left the building through the front entrance on Elm Street.
At about 12:40 p.m. (CST), Oswald boarded a city bus by pounding on the door in the middle of a block - when heavy traffic had slowed the bus to a halt - and he requested a bus transfer from the driver. He took a taxicab to a few blocks beyond his rooming house at 1026 N. Beckley Ave. He walked back his rooming house to retrieve his revolver and beige jacket at about 1:00 p.m.
Earlene Roberts – Oswald’s cleaner at his rooming house – saw Oswald coming back to his room, and later said that Oswald was "walking very fast - almost running". She then saw a police car parked outside on the street when Oswald was still in his room. She heard two honks of the police car´s horn before it drove away. This car, and the two police officers who were in it, have never been identified. Moments later Oswald left the house and lingered briefly at a bus stop across the street from his rooming house. He had previously paid for a bus transfer, but after a short wait at the bus stop, he began walking. He walked about 1 mile toward the next bus stop, but was stopped about four blocks from it.
Officer J. D. Tippit had heard the general description of the alleged shooter (based on the statement of witness Howard Brennan who had seen Oswald in the window of the Depository from across the street) which was broadcast over the police radio at 12:45 p.m. Thirty minutes later Tippit encountered Oswald - near the corner of Patton Avenue and 10th Street - and pulled up to talk to him through his patrol car window. Tippit then got out of his car and Oswald fired at the police officer with his .38 caliber revolver. Four of the shots hit Tippit, killing him instantly, in view of several witnesses. Oswald reloaded his revolver as he walked away, throwing the empty cartridge cases into some bushes. At least a dozen people either witnessed the shooting or identified Oswald as fleeing the scene. A cab driver hiding behind his taxi heard Oswald mutter "poor dumb cop" or "poor damn cop" as he walked by. Oswald then broke into a run - still holding the pistol in his hand. Moments later, Oswald dropped his jacket in a parking lot. Officer Tippit's service revolver was found under his body - out of its holster. A few minutes later, Oswald ducked into the entrance alcove of a shoe store on Jefferson Street to avoid passing police cars, then slipped into the nearby Texas Theater without paying (the film being shown was War Is Hell, narrated by Audie Murphy). The shoe store's manager saw all of this, followed him and alerted the theater's ticket clerk, who phoned police. Once inside, Oswald changed seats several times. The police quickly arrived and poured into the theater as the lights were turned on. Officer M.N. McDonald approached Oswald sitting near the rear and ordered him to stand. Oswald punched McDonald and drew his revolver. The officer's report states that Oswald pulled the trigger, but the hammer came down on the skin between the thumb and hand of the officer, who was attempting to grab the pistol, and the weapon did not fire. McDonald briefly struggled with Oswald before other officers subdued and arrested him at 1:50 p.m.. As he was led past an angry crowd who had gathered outside the theater, shouting for Oswald's death, Oswald yelled back that he was a victim of police brutality.
Oswald was booked on suspicion first as a suspect in the shooting of Officer Tippit and shortly afterward on suspicion of murdering President Kennedy. By the end of the evening he had been arraigned for both murders. Oswald's elder brother Robert visited Lee in jail and asked him quizzically, "Lee, what in the Sam Hill is going on?" Lee Oswald replied coldly with a straight face, "I don't know." Robert responded, "Look, the police have your pistol, they have your rifle and you've been charged with the shooting of the President and a police officer and you tell me you don't know?"
While in custody, Oswald had an impromptu, face-to-face brush with reporters and photographers in the hallway of the police station. A reporter asked him, "Did you shoot the President?" and Oswald answered, "I have not been accused of that." [The reporters answered that he had been] "In fact, I didn't even know about it until a reporter in the hall asked me that question." Later Oswald said to reporters, "I didn't shoot anyone," and "They're taking me in because of the fact that I lived in the Soviet Union. I'm just a patsy!"
Oswald's murder By the morning of Sunday, November 24 the Dallas police had already received many death threats directed toward Oswald that homicide detective Jim Leavelle tried to convince police Captain J.W. "Will" Fritz to break his promise to reporters that they could photograph the suspected assassin as he was transferred to a nearby jail. Instead, Leavelle proposed to sneak Oswald out of the crowded building at an earlier time. Fritz refused, although extensive precautions (including the decision to use an armored truck as a decoy) were taken to secure the area where Oswald would be briefly exposed to reporters and cameras. Leavelle later recalled the conversation he had with Oswald as they rode down the elevator handcuffed together:
"I said, 'Lee, if anybody shoots at you, I hope they're as good a shot as you are.' Meaning they'd hit him and not me. And he kind of laughed and he said, 'Ah, you're being melodramatic.' Or something like that. 'Nobody's going to shoot me.' I said, 'Well, if they do start, you know what to do, don't you?' He said, 'Well, Captain Fritz told me to follow you, and I'll do whatever you do." Moments later, at 11:21 am CST, Oswald was shot and fatally wounded before live TV cameras in the basement of Dallas police headquarters by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner with many friends and acquaintances in the Dallas Police and the underworld. Millions watched the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the first time a homicide was captured and shown publicly on live television; however, it was carried live only on NBC, one of the three major networks in the US at that time, via a live remote from their Dallas-Ft. Worth affiliate station WBAP-TV. The CBS affiliate, KRLD-TV, was also present with a live truck at Dallas Police headquarters; however, the network was in the midst of a commentary and did not switch to the live feed until a minute or so after the shooting. Both networks replayed the incident from videotape many times over in the following days.
Unconscious, Oswald was rushed to the hospital where JFK died. Doctors did their best to save him, but Ruby's single bullet had severed major abdominal blood vessels, and the doctors were unable to repair the massive trauma. At 48 hours and 7 minutes after the president's death, his accused slayer was pronounced dead.
The route Ruby took to get down into the basement of the Dallas jail has been disputed, although Ruby was very specific about having used the basement vehicle entrance ramp (along with his access to the jail on other days), as recorded during a polygraph test Ruby insisted on taking and documented in a Warren Report appendix. A former Dallas police officer named Napoleon Daniels also said he saw Ruby use the ramp. Skeptics speculate Ruby entered the basement from inside police headquarters. The use of a route through the jail building suggests to some that Ruby received help from authorities inside the building, but many journalists entered the building without having their credentials checked and Ruby can be seen on film inside the building on the previous Friday night, apparently posing as a reporter.
Ruby was known to carry his pistol routinely. In preparations for his trial, Ruby later stated he killed Oswald on the spur of the moment to spare Jacqueline Kennedy the stress and embarrassment a trial would cause her. Corroborating this is the fact that he stopped to send an employee some money by wire on his way to the police station, an act that would have caused him to miss the Oswald transfer, had it not been late. He also took his dog and left it in the car-- another act which does not seem likely for a man planning to shoot someone in a police station and therefore be abandoning the vehicle.
During the trial his defense team, headed by prominent San Francisco defense attorney Melvin Belli, did not use these facts. Instead they suggested that Ruby's actions were related to an epileptic event brought on by the photographers’ camera flashbulbs and movie camera lights. However, immediately after his arrest Ruby had told Dallas policemen that the American people would view him "as a hero," that he had maintained Dallas's "good reputation" and/or that the murder was proof that "Jews have guts." Belli later said, "he never thought he'd spend a night in jail." (Ruby was ultimately found guilty of capital (premeditated) murder and sentenced to death.)
After a full autopsy Oswald's body was returned to his family.
Oswald's grave is in Rose Hill Memorial Burial Park in Fort Worth. The inexpensive coffin was provided at the expense of the state. The November 25th burial and funeral were paid for by Oswald's brother Robert. There was no religious service and reporters acted as pallbearers. When his mother died in 1981 she was buried next to Oswald with no headstone. Originally his headstone read Lee Harvey Oswald, but this marker was stolen and replaced with one which only reads Oswald. His wife Marina, who was sequestered by federal agents the day after the assassination and later released, married Kenneth Porter in 1965 and her two daughters June and Rachel took Porter's last name.
Investigations The Warren Commission created by President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 29, 1963 to investigate the assassination concluded that Oswald assassinated Kennedy and that he acted alone (also known as the Lone gunman theory). The proceedings of the commission were secret and about 3% of its files have yet to be released to the public which has continued to provoke speculation among skeptics. In 1966 and 1967 New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison conducted an investigation which culminated in the trial and acquittal of Clay Shaw. This failed prosecution was the only charge ever brought for conspiracy in the murder of JFK. In 1968 The Ramsey Clark Panel met in Washington, DC to examine various photographs, X-ray films documents and other evidence pertaining to the death of President Kennedy. It concluded that President 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, an investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, concluded that Oswald assassinated President Kennedy "probably...as the result of a conspiracy." This finding was based on studies of dictabelt audio recordings which were later called into question when communications known to have been made after the shooting were discovered on the tape. In 1992, Congress enacted legislation creating the Assassination Records Review Board ("ARRB") to collect and obtain declassification of government documents relating to the murder of President Kennedy. The purpose of this board would be to eventually make the evidence available to the Public so people can make up their own minds as to what occurred involving the murder of President Kennedy. The ARRB described this in the preface to its Final Report in 1998: Previous assassination-related commissions and committees were established for the purpose of issuing final reports that would draw conclusions about the assassination. Congress did not, however, direct the Review Board to draw conclusions about the assassination, but to release assassination records so that the public could draw its own conclusions.
The 1981 exhumation In October 1981 Oswald's body was exhumed at the behest of British writer Michael Eddowes, with Marina Oswald Porter's support. They sought to prove a thesis developed in a 1975 book, Khrushchev Killed Kennedy (republished in 1976 in Britain as November 22: How They Killed Kennedy and in America a year later as The Oswald File). The theory of the trio of books was that during Oswald's stay in the Soviet Union, he was swapped with a Soviet double named Alek, who was a member of a KGB assassination squad. He claimed that this Soviet double killed Kennedy. Eddowes's support for his thesis was a claim that the corpse buried in 1963 in the Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas did not have a scar that resulted from surgery conducted on Oswald years before. When Oswald's body was exhumed it was found that the coffin had ruptured and filled with water, leaving the body in an advanced state of decomposition with partial skeletonization. The examination positively identified Oswald's corpse through dental records, and also a mastoid scar from a childhood surgery. Contrary to reports, the skull of Oswald had been autopsied and this was confirmed at the exhumation.