In September 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he assassinated President John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States and the only Roman Catholic elected to the office.
The commission said that on Nov. 22, 1963, at about 12:30 p.m. Central Time, Oswald fired three shots from behind the presidential motorcade on the sixth floor in the Texas School Book Depository building using a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, as the presidential motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
The report concluded the following: One shot struck Kennedy in the back of the neck and exited through his throat and then hit Texas Gov. John Connally, creating five wounds in Connally’s body. A shot after the aforementioned shot struck Kennedy in the rear portion of his head, killing him. Another shot missed the motorcade, but its ricochet injured bystander James Tague in the cheek as he stood 270 feet west of the motorcade on the Stemmons Freeway Overpass; the commission did not specify whether the missed shot was the first or third shot.
Accused Assassin Arrested In 90 Minutes
Approximately 90 minutes after the assassination, Oswald was captured in the Texas Theatre in Dallas. He was arrested first for the handgun murder of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit, whom the Warren Commission concluded Oswald had also killed after the Dealey Plaza shooting, and he was later charged with murdering President Kennedy. However, the accused Oswald did not get to stand trial because Dallas strip club/nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald two days later, on Nov. 24, 1963, at 11:21 a.m. Central Time, as Oswald was being transferred by police from a Dallas police station cell to a nearby county jail.
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Further, the accepted and widely published profile of Oswald in the initial months and years after the assassination was that of a “low-achievement, socially isolated, ill-educated Communist determined to kill someone of significance in the United States.” He was portrayed in the media as “a revolutionary who sought a change in the economic order from capitalism to communism by violent means,” or as a “mentally unstable/crazy person,” or some combination of the above.
A Second Commission, A Different Conclusion
Later, in 1979, a second U.S. government commission rendered a different conclusion regarding who killed President Kennedy. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that Kennedy was very likely assassinated as a result of a plot/conspiracy, and that scientific acoustical evidence established a high probability that at least two gunman fired at the president -- with three shots fired from the TSBD (the book depository) and one shot from the grassy knoll. However, the HSCA was unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy.
Also, the HSCA agreed with the Warren Commission regarding Oswald’s role, but it specified which rifle shot from the TSBD missed the motorcade. The HSCA concluded that Oswald had fired three rifle shots at Kennedy, with the first missing the motorcade and the next two hitting it, the last of which struck Kennedy in the head, killing him.
However, rather than close the JFK assassination case, the Warren Commission’s and the HSCA’s work and conclusions did just the opposite.
In particular, questions remain about the Warren Commission’s failure to: interview some Dealey Plaza witnesses; review discrepancies between the conclusions of the Parkland Hospital physicians’ examination and the evidence provided by the Bethesda [Maryland] Naval Hospital’s autopsy photos; investigate the destruction of vital forensic presidential limousine evidence; evaluate the Dallas Police Department’s interrogation of Oswald.
These and other concerns have led many assassination researchers to reject the Warren Commission's conclusions, either in whole or in part, and argue, like the HSCA, that more than one person fired gunshots at President Kennedy that day in a plot or conspiracy to kill the president.
Conversely, lone-gunman supporters stand by the Warren Commission’s report and conclusion, on the grounds that not enough hard evidence exists to undermine the commission’s conclusion that Oswald acted alone.
Hence, one can summarize the state of the research and investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy as this:
To date, there’s no “smoking gun,” or, in other words, while there’s no incontrovertible evidence of a plot or conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy, there is a pattern of suspicious activity, along with a series of anomalies and a commonality of interests among key parties, that compel additional research and the release to the public of key documents.
Researchers' Work, Released Documents Revealing More Information
Of course, lone-gunman supporters argue that as far as who assassinated President Kennedy, there’s nothing more to research: for them, it’s a settled issue. Even so, each year, new evidence becomes available -- on a variety of aspects in the case -- that tell us more than we knew previously about what really happened on that ignominious and fateful day in Dallas.
Further, one current research trend concerns the life of Lee Harvey Oswald -- in addition to research into witness evidence, forensic evidence, Parkland medical exam/Bethesda autopsy evidence, ballistic evidence, limousine evidence and interrogation evidence.
As mentioned, in the initial months and years after the assassination, the accepted and widely circulated profile of Oswald was that of a “low-achievement, socially isolated, communist” or a “radical who sought a change in the economic order from capitalism to communism by violent means” or a “mentally unstable/crazy person,” or some combination thereof.
However, the release of documents and research by historians, assassination researchers and other investigators indicates that Oswald was a much different person than the one who was initially portrayed after the assassination of President Kennedy.
Further, some of the recent, hard evidence on Oswald -- far from confirming a low-achievement individual -- reveals that he was a multiskilled individual who had a number of accomplishments. And while other pieces of hard evidence increase historians' clarity about various periods in Oswald’s life, much of it nevertheless begs other questions.
18 Questions That May Get the Nation Closer To The Truth
It’s those questions -- 18 of which are listed below -- that, when answered, will give the American people and others around the world a better understanding of who Lee Harvey Oswald was.
1) The United States Navy Base at Atsugi, Japan, to which U. S. Marine Corps member Oswald was assigned from September 1957 to November 1958, was not just a run-of-the-mill U.S. Navy-operated defense base. It was and is a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) base. Among other intelligence operations, the Atsugi base was one of two bases from which the CIA operated the top secret U-2 spy plane, which flew reconnaissance and surveillance missions over the Soviet Union and China. Why was the low-achieving, nondescript Oswald assigned to such a top secret and important base?
2) When Oswald defected to the Soviet Union in October 1959, as a former Marine, a 201 File on him containing personnel documents should have been created by the CIA, because he had been stationed at a top secret naval base. No such file was immediately opened; instead, it was delayed. Why?
Rather, a 201 File on him was created a year later, in December 1960, and that late opening compels questions regarding how the CIA interpreted Oswald’s defection.
To underscore, the CIA’s treatment of Oswald’s defection was an anomaly -- it says something about who Oswald was, or, minimally, how his file was viewed by the CIA. If a former U.S. Marine defected from the United States to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and if he truly posed a risk of giving U.S. radar secrets and other sensitive information to the Russians, then why did the CIA did not immediately open a 201 File on him?
3) Oswald traveled through four nations in Europe en route to his defection to the Soviet Union, but he had virtually no money. As a person of modest means, how did Oswald finance his complicated defection trip?
4) During his trip through Europe to the Soviet Union, Oswald traveled from England to Helsinki, Finland, and initially checked in to the Hotel Torni -- which was roughly equivalent to staying at the Ritz Carlton. Where did the cash-strapped, low-resource, working-class Oswald get the money to stay at such a high-class hotel?
Perhaps Oswald underestimated the Torni’s hotel fees, because he soon checked out and sought another hotel -- but his second choice wasn’t much cheaper: the Klaus Kurki Hotel -- another four-star hotel -- which was similar in quality to the Four Seasons.
5) Upon arriving in the Soviet Union, Oswald said he was a U.S. Marine Corp. radar operator, and that he knew some “classified things” that he planned to give to the Soviets. However, Oswald was never punished by the U.S. government for making these disloyal statements. Why?
6) Oswald, despite his Marxist beliefs and defection to the Soviet Union, was later allowed to return to the United States after he decided he was wrong to defect and had become disillusioned with the form of communism practiced by the Russians. Despite his defection and all-but abandoned Soviet sympathies, and despite it being the height of the Cold War, Oswald was permitted by the U.S. government to return to the United States. Why?
7) Just before he re-defected to the United States, Oswald wrote to his mother, Marguerite Oswald, telling her that before he traveled to his home in New Orleans, “I plan to stop over in Washington for a while.” Why did Oswald stop in Washington, D.C.? What did he do there?
8) After he defected back to the United States from the Soviet Union, Oswald was de-briefed by the CIA, which the CIA initially lied about by claiming the interview did not occur. The CIA, when documents later surfaced that it had de-briefed Oswald, revised its story and called this meeting a “routine contact” for anyone who re-defected to the United States. Was this a routine contact? Or something more substantial? And why did the CIA initially lie about its contact with Oswald?
9) Some “Hands Off Cuba” leaflets, which Oswald distributed in August 1963 on the day of his arrest in New Orleans following a scuffle with anti-Castro protesters, were stamped with the address 544 Camp Street, which had no connection to any pro-Castro organization but did identify the building in which the offices of Guy Bannister, a private investigator involved in anti-Castro activities, were located. Why did they have a 544 Camp Street address?
10) The Warren Commission portrayed Oswald as a disgruntled, low-achievement loner. But the record shows that Oswald was a Civil Air Patrol cadet and a U.S. Marine Corps radar operator who was also trained in electronics, interrogation techniques and the Russian language. Oswald was also able to defect to the Soviet Union, live in Russia for two years and re-defect with a Russian wife … and gain re-admission to the United States in a matter of days after applying for re-defection. That’s a remarkable training, skills and accomplishment record for a low-achievement, low-resource citizen. How can one reconcile the Warren Commission’s profile with what the Oswald record shows?
11) The U.S. State Department extended Oswald a loan to pay for his travel expenses to return to the United States. As JFK Assassination Researcher Bob Harris points out, that’s pretty generous treatment during the height of the Cold War for someone with a Marxist past, who could have been a potential subversive and traitor to his country. Why did the State Department extend the loan?
12) After returning to the United States, Oswald contacted these three organizations within 90 days: the Fair Play For Cuba Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Congress of Racial Equality -- three organizations at the top of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s subversive list. Why did Oswald contact the organizations Hoover was trying to infiltrate and undermine the most?
13) Despite being, arguably, the most important crime case in modern U.S. history, crime investigators in Dallas did not have a legal, stenographic record made of the interrogation of Oswald after his arrest, aside from memoranda written by interrogators. And the two forms of records are not remotely the same: The actual interrogation time of Oswald was about 10-12 hours -- why was there no stenographic record made that reflects that amount of time for the interrogation? And given the importance of the case, why wasn’t a professional stenographer used? And why wasn’t an audio recording of the interrogation sessions made?
14) As noted, Oswald was portrayed by the Warren Commission as being a low-achievement loner and a very ordinary person. Yet, throughout his life, Oswald was surrounded by high-achievement, extraordinary people: David Ferrie, Priscilla Johnson McMillan, George de Mohrenschildt, Ruth Hyde Paine and Michael Paine, to list a few. How can one reconcile the Warren Commission’s profile of Oswald with the relationships Oswald had with these accomplished individuals during his adult life?
15) The Warren Commission also portrays Oswald as a mentally unstable/crazy person, but Oswald was nevertheless able to attract and court -- in a foreign country, no less -- Marina Prusakova, a pharmacy employee, of Minsk, Russia (then the Soviet Union), whom he married in 1959. How can one reconcile the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Oswald was mentally unstable -- which generally is not viewed as a quality likely to attract a mate -- with Marina Prusakova’s willingness to marry Oswald?
Oswald was also able to re-defect to the United States with his Russian wife, quickly, after he requested to return to his native country. Why was he able to do so with such speed and ease?
16) CIA Operations Officer George Joannides of Miami, now deceased, guided and monitored the New Orleans chapter of an anti-Castro Cuban exile group, the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE), that Oswald had a series of encounters with in the summer of 1963, three months before Kennedy was murdered.
Later, in 1978, Joannides served as CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, but he did not disclose this obvious conflict-of-interest to the HSCA regarding his role in the events of 1963. Why?
HSCA Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey said that had he known who Joannides was at that time, Joannides would have not continued as CIA liaison and instead would have become a witness who would have been interrogated under oath by the HSCA staff or by the committee.
17) Thirty-five years later, the CIA continues to oppose the release of Joannides’ files that relate to the JFK assassination. Why? (The public release of these files, among other classified JFK files, is being sought by author/researcher Jefferson Morley in the ongoing Morley v. CIA suit.) The CIA says the Joannides files must remain classified due to “national security.” Why?
18) The classified files of CIA officers David Atlee Philips, who was involved in pre-assassination surveillance of Oswald; Birch D O’Neal, who as counter-intelligence head of the CIA opened a file on defector Oswald; E. Howard Hunt; William King Harvey; Anne Goodpasture; and David Sanchez Morales -- when made public, these files will also help the nation determine what really happened in Dallas, who Oswald was, and how the CIA treated and handled his file. But as with Joannides’ files, the CIA said these files must remain classified until at least 2017, and perhaps longer, due to U.S. national security. Why? It has been 50 years. What event or act that occurred 50 years ago could possibly be in these files that could hurt U.S. national security?
Determining Factor On Oswald - The Record
Answers to these questions, and others, will not incontrovertibly prove that there was -- or was not -- a second gunman in Dealey Plaza during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
But they will give the American people a better idea about whether the initial portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald by the media and authorities was the truth. Or a lie.