Lee Harvey Oswald
|Died||November 24, 1963 (aged 24)|
|Cause of death||Murder (Gunshot wound)|
|Resting place||Rose Hill Cemetery, Fort Worth, Texas|
|Criminal charge(s)||Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and murder of Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit|
Lee Harvey Oswald (October 18, 1939 - November 24, 1963) was a former U.S. Marine who assassinated United States President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Oswald was honorably released from active duty in the Marine Corps into the reserve and defected to the Soviet Union in October 1959. He lived in Minsk until June 1962, when he returned to the United States with his Russian wife, Marina, and eventually settled in Dallas. Five government investigations[n 1] concluded that Oswald shot and killed Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository as the President traveled by motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
About 45 minutes after assassinating Kennedy, Oswald shot and killed Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit on a local street. He then slipped into a movie theater, where he was arrested for Tippit's murder. Oswald was eventually charged with the assassination of Kennedy. He denied the accusations, stating that he was a "patsy." Two days later, Oswald was fatally shot by local nightclub owner Jack Ruby on live television in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters.
In September 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald acted alone when he assassinated Kennedy by firing three shots from the Texas School Book Depository. This conclusion, though controversial, was supported by previous investigations from the FBI, the Secret Service, and the Dallas Police Department. Despite forensic, ballistic, and eyewitness evidence supporting the official findings, public opinion polls have shown that most Americans do not believe the official version of the events. The assassination has spawned numerous conspiracy theories.
Oswald was born at the old French Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 18, 1939, to Robert Edward Lee Oswald Sr. (1896-1939) and Marguerite Frances Claverie (1907-1981). Robert Oswald was a distant cousin of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and served in the Marines during World War I. Robert died of a heart attack two months before Lee was born. Lee's elder brother Robert Jr. (1934-2017) was also a former Marine. Through Marguerite's first marriage to Edward John Pic Jr., Lee and Robert Jr. were the half-brothers of Air Force veteran John Edward Pic (1932-2000).
In 1944, Marguerite moved the family from New Orleans to Dallas, Texas. Oswald entered the first grade in 1945 and over the next half-dozen years attended several different schools in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas through the sixth grade. Oswald took an IQ test in the fourth grade and scored 103; "on achievement tests in [grades 4 to 6], he twice did best in reading and twice did worst in spelling."
As a child, Oswald was described as withdrawn and temperamental by several people who knew him. When Oswald was 12 in August 1952, his mother took him to New York City where they lived for a short time with Oswald's half-brother, John. Oswald and his mother were later asked to leave after an argument in which Oswald allegedly struck his mother and threatened John's wife with a pocket knife.
Oswald attended seventh grade in the Bronx, New York, but was often truant, which led to a psychiatric assessment at a juvenile reformatory. The reformatory psychiatrist, Dr. Renatus Hartogs, described Oswald as immersed in a "vivid fantasy life, turning around the topics of omnipotence and power, through which [Oswald] tries to compensate for his present shortcomings and frustrations". Dr. Hartogs concluded:
Lee has to be diagnosed as 'personality pattern disturbance with schizoid features and passive-aggressive tendencies.' Lee has to be seen as an emotionally, quite disturbed youngster who suffers under the impact of really existing emotional isolation and deprivation, lack of affection, absence of family life and rejection by a self involved and conflicted mother.
Hartogs recommended that Lee be placed on probation on condition that he seek help and guidance through a child guidance clinic, and that Oswald seek "psychotherapeutic guidance through contact with a family agency." Evelyn D Siegel, a social worker who interviewed both Lee and Oswald at Youth House, while describing "a rather pleasant, appealing quality about this emotionally starved, affectionless youngster which grows as one speaks to him," found that he had detached himself from the world around him because "no one in it ever met any of his needs for love." Hartogs and Sigel indicated that Oswald's mother gave Lee very little affection, with Siegel concluding that Lee "just felt that his mother never gave a damn for him. He always felt like a burden that she simply just had to tolerate." Furthermore, his mother did not apparently indicate an awareness of the relationship between her conduct and Lee's psychological problems, with Siegel describing Marguerite Oswald as a "defensive, rigid, self-involved person who had real difficulty in accepting and relating to people" and who had "little understanding" of Lee's behavior and of the "protective shell he has drawn around himself." Hartogs reported that she did not understand that Lee's withdrawal was a form of "violent but silent protest against his neglect by her and represents his reaction to a complete absence of any real family life."
When Lee returned to school for the 1953 Fall semester, his disciplinary problems continued. When Oswald failed to cooperate with school authorities, they sought a court order to remove him from his mother's care so he could be placed into a home for boys to complete his education. This was postponed, perhaps partially because his behavior abruptly improved. Before the New York family court system could address their case, the Oswalds left New York in January 1954, and returned to New Orleans,
Oswald completed the eighth and ninth grades in New Orleans. He entered the 10th grade in 1955 but quit school after one month. After leaving school, Oswald worked for several months as an office clerk and messenger in New Orleans. In July 1956, Oswald's mother moved the family to Fort Worth, Texas, and Oswald re-enrolled in the 10th grade for the September session at Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth. A few weeks later in October, Oswald quit school at age 17 to join the Marines; he never earned a high school diploma. By this point, he had resided at 22 locations and attended 12 schools.[n 2]
Though Oswald had trouble spelling in his youth and may have had a "reading-spelling disability", he read voraciously. By age 15, he considered himself a socialist according to his diary: "I was looking for a key to my environment, and then I discovered socialist literature. I had to dig for my books in the back dusty shelves of libraries." At 16, he wrote to the Socialist Party of America for information on their Young People's Socialist League, saying he had been studying socialist principles for "well over fifteen months". However, Edward Voebel, "whom the Warren Commission had established was Oswald's closest friend during his teenage years in New Orleans ... said that reports that Oswald was already 'studying Communism' were a 'lot of baloney.'" Voebel said that "Oswald commonly read 'paperback trash.'"
As a teenager in 1955, Oswald attended Civil Air Patrol meetings in New Orleans. Fellow cadets recalled him attending C.A.P. meetings "three or four" times, or "10 or 12 times" over a one- or two-month period.
Oswald enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on October 24, 1956, just a week after his seventeenth birthday; because of his age, his brother Robert Jr. was required to sign as his legal guardian. Oswald also named his mother and his half-brother John as beneficiaries. Oswald idolized his older brother Robert Jr., and wore his Marine Corps ring. John Pic (Oswald's half-brother) testified to the Warren Commission that Oswald's enlistment was motivated by wanting "to get from out and under ... the yoke of oppression from my mother".
Oswald's enlistment papers recite that he was 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 meters) tall and weighed 135 pounds (61 kg), with hazel eyes and brown hair. His primary training was in radar operation, which required a security clearance. A May 1957 document stated that he was "granted final clearance to handle classified matter up to and including confidential after careful check of local records had disclosed no derogatory data."
At Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, Oswald finished seventh in a class of thirty in the Aircraft Control and Warning Operator Course, which "included instruction in aircraft surveillance and the use of radar". He was given the military occupational specialty of Aviation Electronics Operator. On July 9, he reported to the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in California then departed for Japan the following month, where he was assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron 1 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi near Tokyo.
Like all marines, Oswald was trained and tested in shooting. In December 1956, he scored 212, which was slightly above the requirements for the designation of sharpshooter. In May 1959 he scored 191, which reduced his rating to marksman.
Oswald was court-martialed after he accidentally shot himself in the elbow with an unauthorized .22 caliber handgun. He was court-martialed a second time for fighting with a sergeant who he thought was responsible for his punishment in the shooting matter. He was demoted from private first class to private and briefly imprisoned. Oswald was later punished for a third incident: while he was on a night-time sentry duty in the Philippines, he inexplicably fired his rifle into the jungle.
Slightly built, Oswald was nicknamed Ozzie Rabbit after the cartoon character; he was also called Oswaldskovich because he espoused pro-Soviet sentiments. In November 1958, Oswald transferred back to El Toro where his unit's function "was to serveil [sic] for aircraft, but basically to train both enlisted men and officers for later assignment overseas". An officer there said that Oswald was a "very competent" crew chief and was "brighter than most people."
While Oswald was in the Marines, he taught himself rudimentary Russian. Although this was an unusual endeavor, on February 25, 1959, he was invited to take a Marine proficiency exam in written and spoken Russian. His level at the time was rated "poor" in understanding spoken Russian, though he fared rather reasonably for a Marine private at the time in reading and writing. On September 11, 1959, he received a hardship discharge from active service, claiming his mother needed care. He was placed on the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
Oswald traveled to the Soviet Union just before he turned 20 in October 1959. He had taught himself Russian and saved $1,500 of his Marine Corps salary (equivalent to $10,500 in 2019).[n 3] Oswald spent two days with his mother in Fort Worth, then embarked by ship on September 20 from New Orleans to Le Havre, France, and immediately traveled to the United Kingdom. Arriving in Southampton on October 9, he told officials he had $700 and planned to stay for one week before proceeding to a school in Switzerland. However, on the same day, he flew to Helsinki. In Helsinki, he checked-in at the Hotel Torni, room 309, then moved to another Hotel Klaus Kurki, room 429. He was issued a Soviet visa on October 14. Oswald left Helsinki by train on the following day, crossed the Soviet border at Vainikkala, and arrived in Moscow on October 16. His visa, valid only for a week, was due to expire on October 21.
Almost immediately after arriving, Oswald informed his Intourist guide of his desire to become a Soviet citizen. When asked why by the various Soviet officials he encountered -- all of whom, by Oswald's account, found his wish incomprehensible -- he said that he was a communist, and gave what he described in his diary as "vauge [sic] answers about 'Great Soviet Union'". On October 21, the day his visa was due to expire, he was told that his citizenship application had been refused, and that he had to leave the Soviet Union that evening. Distraught, Oswald inflicted a minor but bloody wound to his left wrist in his hotel room bathtub soon before his Intourist guide was due to arrive to escort him from the country, according to his diary because he wished to kill himself in a way that would shock her. Delaying Oswald's departure because of his self-inflicted injury, the Soviets kept him in a Moscow hospital under psychiatric observation until October 28, 1959.
According to Oswald, he met with four more Soviet officials that same day, who asked if he wanted to return to the United States. Oswald replied by insisting that he wanted to live in the Soviet Union as a Soviet national. When pressed for identification papers, he provided his Marine Corps discharge papers.
On October 31, Oswald appeared at the United States embassy in Moscow and declared a desire to renounce his U.S. citizenship. "I have made up my mind," he said; "I'm through." He told the U.S. embassy interviewing officer, Richard Edward Snyder, that "he had been a radar operator in the Marine Corps and that he had voluntarily stated to unnamed Soviet officials that as a Soviet citizen he would make known to them such information concerning the Marine Corps and his specialty as he possessed. He intimated that he might know something of special interest." Such statements led to Oswald's hardship/honorable military reserve discharge being changed to undesirable. The Associated Press story of the defection of a former U.S. Marine to the Soviet Union was reported on the front pages of some newspapers in 1959.
Though Oswald had wanted to attend Moscow State University, he was sent to Minsk to work as a lathe operator at the Gorizont Electronics Factory, which produced radios, televisions, and military and space electronics. Stanislau Shushkevich, who later became independent Belarus's first head of state, was also engaged by Gorizont at the time, and was assigned to teach Oswald Russian. Oswald received a government-subsidized, fully furnished studio apartment in a prestigious building and an additional supplement to his factory pay, which allowed him to have a comfortable standard of living by working-class Soviet standards, though he was kept under constant surveillance.
From approximately June 1960 to February 1961, Oswald was in a personal relationship with a Belarusian woman, Ella German (Belarusian: , a co-worker at the factory (born 1937). She has lived most of her life in Minsk, the capital of Belarus (until 1992 part of the Soviet Union); in 2013 she was living in the Israeli town of Acre.
German was born to a Jewish family in Minsk in 1937. Her mother worked in a chorus line to earn money. Following her father's death when quite young, her grandmother took care of her. In June 1941, she was with her grandparents in Mogilev, southeast of Minsk, for the summer when German military forces invaded. Fleeing the occupation, German and her grandparents eventually ended up in Mordovia, southeast of Moscow. After Minsk was liberated in 1944, the family returned.
German described her childhood in hindsight as a miserable life, but stated that she never felt unhappy. She was nineteen before she first dated. German reported that theater was important to her family and that she enjoyed dancing the waltz and foxtrot as she got older, and frequently performed in public theater and thought she might become an actress. She tried for several years to gain admission to Minsk University, but received very low marks for the language criterion in Belarusian.
During the mid-1950s, German was hired as a fitter in the Gorizont (Horizon) radio and television factory in Minsk. Sometime between April and June 1960[nb 1], she was working in the Experimental Department on the first floor of the factory when she met Oswald, a co-worker in the factory. According to Oswald's diary: "I noticed her, and perhaps fell in love with her, the first minute I saw her". German would later describe him as "a pleasant-looking guy with a good sense of humor. He was not as rough and rude as the men here were back then".
She said, "We went to the movies, the theater, symphonies. He was easy to be with. He didn't demand anything of me". The couple ate in the cafeteria together every day and dated about twice each week. She said that it was difficult to trust him completely as he seemed to compartmentalize the relationships in his life.[nb 2] The relationship became more serious to Oswald during the summer and fall of 1960.
German stated in an interview that he was probably aware from their very first meeting that she was Jewish, but that he mentioned it to her only once, when he broached the subject of marriage by remarking it did not matter to him that she was Jewish. German reported that she had rejected at least two marriage proposals prior to her relationship with Oswald, and that he was someone she did not love or like enough to marry. She wrote that she perceived Oswald as a lonely person and continued to date him out of pity, concerned that rejecting him would make him lonelier.
German was invited to Oswald's apartment for the first time on October 18, 1960, his twenty-first birthday. According to German, a quarrel ensued when a friend of Oswald brought another woman to the gathering, making it apparent to her that he had been intimate with other women. Oswald's writings indicate that he had four to five sexual encounters with the woman over the following two weeks. German said she began to stop trusting Oswald after she learned in October 1960 that he had been seeing other women. According to German, Oswald showed up with a gift of chocolates at her family's house on the evening of December 31, 1960, and spent New Year's Eve with them.[nb 3] She stated that they had earlier quarreled about New Year's Eve plans.
Oswald's diary entry for January 1, 1961 indicated that he had an enjoyable time at the gathering and decided on the way home that he would propose to German. On January 2, Oswald wrote that he had proposed to her and had been refused because she did not love him and because he was an American. He concluded that German was more interested in arousing the envy of other women by having an American escort. She has stated that she did not understand why Oswald cared so deeply for her and that she was surprised by the proposal.
Some authors, including Peter Savodnik and Priscilla Johnson McMillan, believe German's rejection of Oswald's marriage proposal had much to do with his disillusionment with life in the Soviet Union and his decision to return to the United States.[nb 4] Oswald formally dated German for the last time in January or February 1961. According to German, he ignored her at their workplace. She was reported to have been surprised when learning Oswald had returned to the United States.
Following the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy, German was worried that the KGB would come for her, but has stated that they never did. According to novelist Norman Mailer, she said that Oswald was "so gentle" and that she could not believe he was Kennedy's assassin.
German was still a resident of Minsk in 1993. She was interviewed by Mailer for his 1995 biography, Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery. Mailer reported that German was a teacher at that time, living with and caring for her daughter and granddaughter. Savodnik also interviewed her for his 2013 book, The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union. As of 2015, German lived in Acre, Israel.
Oswald wrote in his diary in January 1961: "I am starting to reconsider my desire about staying. The work is drab, the money I get has nowhere to be spent. No nightclubs or bowling alleys, no places of recreation except the trade union dances. I have had enough." Shortly afterwards, Oswald (who had never formally renounced his U.S. citizenship) wrote to the Embassy of the United States, Moscow requesting return of his American passport, and proposing to return to the U.S. if any charges against him would be dropped.
In March 1961, Oswald met Marina Prusakova (b. 1941), a 19-year-old pharmacology student; they married six weeks later.[n 4] The Oswalds' first child, June, was born on February 15, 1962. On May 24, 1962, Oswald and Marina applied at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for documents that enabled her to immigrate to the U.S. On June 1, the U.S. Embassy gave Oswald a repatriation loan of $435.71. Oswald, Marina, and their infant daughter left for the United States, where they received less attention from the press than Oswald expected.
The Oswalds soon settled in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where Lee's mother and brother lived. Lee began a manuscript on Soviet life, though he eventually gave up the project. The Oswalds also became acquainted with a number of anti-Communist Russian and East European émigrés in the area. In testimony to the Warren Commission, Alexander Kleinlerer said that the Russian émigrés sympathized with Marina, while merely tolerating Oswald, whom they regarded as rude and arrogant.[n 5]
Although the Russian émigrés eventually abandoned Marina when she made no sign of leaving her husband, Oswald found an unlikely friend in 51-year-old Russian émigré George de Mohrenschildt, a well-educated petroleum geologist with international business connections. A native of Russia, Mohrenschildt later told the Warren Commission that Oswald had a "remarkable fluency in Russian." Marina, meanwhile, befriended Ruth Paine, a Quaker trying to learn Russian, and her husband Michael Paine, who worked for Bell Helicopter.
In July 1962, Oswald was hired by the Leslie Welding Company in Dallas; he disliked the work and quit after three months. On October 12, he started working for the graphic-arts firm of Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall as a photoprint trainee. A fellow employee at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall testified that Oswald's rudeness at his new job was such that fights threatened to break out, and that he once saw Oswald reading a Russian-language publication.[n 6] Oswald was fired in the first week of April 1963.
In March 1963, Oswald used the alias "A. Hidell" to make a mail-order purchase of a secondhand 6.5 mm caliber Carcano rifle for $29.95. He also purchased a .38 Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver by the same method. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald attempted to kill retired U.S. Major General Edwin Walker on April 10, 1963, and that Oswald fired the Carcano rifle at Walker through a window from less than 100 feet (30 m) away as Walker sat at a desk in his Dallas home. The bullet struck the window-frame and Walker's only injuries were bullet fragments to the forearm. The United States House Select Committee on Assassinations stated that the "evidence strongly suggested" that Oswald carried out the shooting.
General Walker was an outspoken anti-communist, segregationist, and member of the John Birch Society. In 1961, Walker had been relieved of his command of the 24th Division of the U.S. Army in West Germany for distributing right-wing literature to his troops. Walker's later actions in opposition to racial integration at the University of Mississippi led to his arrest on insurrection, seditious conspiracy, and other charges. He was temporarily held in a mental institution on orders from President Kennedy's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, but a grand jury declined to indict him.
Marina Oswald testified that her husband told her that he traveled by bus to General Walker's house and shot at Walker with his rifle. She said that Oswald considered Walker to be the leader of a "fascist organization." A note Oswald left for Marina on the night of the attempt, telling her what to do if he did not return, was found ten days after the Kennedy assassination.
Before the Kennedy assassination, Dallas police had no suspects in the Walker shooting, but Oswald's involvement was suspected within hours of his arrest following the assassination. The Walker bullet was too damaged to run conclusive ballistics studies on it, but neutron activation analysis later showed that it was "extremely likely" that it was made by the same manufacturer and for the same rifle make as the two bullets which later struck Kennedy.[n 7]
George de Mohrenschildt testified that he "knew that Oswald disliked General Walker." Regarding this, de Mohrenschildt and his wife Jeanne recalled an incident that occurred the weekend following the Walker assassination attempt. The de Mohrenschildts testified that on April 14, 1963, just before Easter Sunday, they were visiting the Oswalds at their new apartment and had brought them a toy Easter bunny to give to their child. As Oswald's wife Marina was showing Jeanne around the apartment, they discovered Oswald's rifle standing upright, leaning against the wall inside a closet. Jeanne told George that Oswald had a rifle, and George joked to Oswald, "Were you the one who took a pot-shot at General Walker?" When asked about Oswald's reaction to this question, George de Mohrenschildt told the Warren Commission that Oswald "smiled at that." When George's wife Jeanne was asked about Oswald's reaction, she said, "I didn't notice anything"; she continued, "we started laughing our heads off, big joke, big George's joke." Jeanne de Mohrenschildt testified that this was the last time she or her husband ever saw the Oswalds.
Oswald returned to New Orleans on April 24, 1963. Marina's friend Ruth Paine drove her by car from Dallas to join Oswald in New Orleans the following month. On May 10, Oswald was hired by the Reily Coffee Company as a machinery greaser. He was fired in July "because his work was not satisfactory and because he spent too much time loitering in Adrian Alba's garage next door, where he read rifle and hunting magazines".
On May 26, Oswald wrote to the New York City headquarters of the pro-Fidel Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee, proposing to rent "a small office at my own expense for the purpose of forming a FPCC branch here in New Orleans". Three days later, the FPCC responded to Oswald's letter advising against opening a New Orleans office "at least not ... at the very beginning". In a follow-up letter, Oswald replied, "Against your advice, I have decided to take an office from the very beginning."
On May 29, Oswald ordered the following items from a local printer: 500 application forms, 300 membership cards, and 1,000 leaflets with the heading, "Hands Off Cuba". According to Marina, Lee told her to sign the name "A.J. Hidell" as chapter president on his membership card.
According to anti-Castro militant Carlos Bringuier, Oswald visited him on August 5 and 6 at a store he owned in New Orleans. Bringuier was the New Orleans delegate for the anti-Castro organization Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil (DRE). Bringuier would later tell the Warren Commission that he believed Oswald's visits were an attempt by Oswald to infiltrate his group. On August 9, Oswald turned up in downtown New Orleans handing out pro-Castro leaflets. Bringuier confronted Oswald, claiming he was tipped off about Oswald's leafleting by a friend. A scuffle ensued and Oswald, Bringuier, and two of Bringuier's friends were arrested for disturbing the peace. Prior to leaving the police station, Oswald requested to speak with an FBI agent. Oswald told the agent that he was a member of the New Orleans branch of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee which he claimed had 35 members and was led by A. J. Hidell. In fact, Oswald was the branch's only member and it had never been chartered by the national organization.
A week later, on August 16, Oswald again passed out Fair Play for Cuba leaflets with two hired helpers, this time in front of the International Trade Mart. The incident was filmed by WDSU, a local TV station. The next day, Oswald was interviewed by WDSU radio commentator William Stuckey, who probed Oswald's background. A few days later, Oswald accepted Stuckey's invitation to take part in a radio debate with Carlos Bringuier and Bringuier's associate Edward Scannell Butler, head of the right-wing Information Council of the Americas (INCA).
Marina's friend Ruth Paine transported Marina and her child by car from New Orleans to the Paine home in Irving, Texas, near Dallas, on September 23, 1963. Oswald stayed in New Orleans at least two more days to collect a $33 unemployment check. It is uncertain when he left New Orleans; he is next known to have boarded a bus in Houston on September 26 -- bound for the Mexican border, rather than Dallas -- and to have told other bus passengers that he planned to travel to Cuba via Mexico. He arrived in Mexico City on September 27, where he applied for a transit visa at the Cuban Embassy, claiming he wanted to visit Cuba on his way to the Soviet Union. The Cuban embassy officials insisted Oswald would need Soviet approval, but he was unable to get prompt co-operation from the Soviet embassy. CIA documents note Oswald spoke "terrible hardly recognizable Russian" during his meetings with Cuban and Soviet officials.
After five days of shuttling between consulates -- and including a heated argument with an official at the Cuban consulate, impassioned pleas to KGB agents, and at least some CIA scrutiny -- Oswald was told by a Cuban consular officer that he was disinclined to approve the visa, saying "a person like [Oswald] in place of aiding the Cuban Revolution, was doing it harm." Later, on October 18, the Cuban embassy approved the visa, but by this time Oswald was back in the United States and had given up on his plans to visit Cuba and the Soviet Union. Still later, eleven days before the assassination of President Kennedy, Oswald wrote to the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C., saying, "Had I been able to reach the Soviet Embassy in Havana, as planned, the embassy there would have had time to complete our business."
While the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald had visited Mexico City and the Cuban and Soviet consulates, questions regarding whether someone posing as Oswald had appeared at the embassies were serious enough to be investigated by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Later, the Committee agreed with the Warren Commission that Oswald had visited Mexico City and concluded that "the majority of evidence tends to indicate" that Oswald visited the consulates, but the Committee could not rule out the possibility that someone else had used his name in visiting the consulates.
According to a CIA document released in 2017, it is possible Oswald was trying to get the necessary documents from the embassies to make a quick escape to the Soviet Union after the assassination.
On October 2, 1963, Oswald left Mexico City by bus and arrived in Dallas the next day. Ruth Paine said that her neighbor told her on October 14 about a job opening at the Texas School Book Depository, where her neighbor's brother, Wesley Frazier, worked. Mrs. Paine informed Oswald, who was interviewed at the depository and was hired there on October 16 as a $1.25 an hour minimum wage order filler. Oswald's supervisor, Roy S. Truly (1907-1985), said that Oswald "did a good day's work" and was an above-average employee. During the week, Oswald stayed in a Dallas rooming house under the name "O. H. Lee", but he spent his weekends with Marina at the Paine home in Irving. Oswald did not drive a car, but he commuted to and from Dallas on Mondays and Fridays with his co-worker Wesley Frazier. On October 20 (a month before the assassination), the Oswalds' second daughter, Audrey, was born.
FBI agents twice visited the Paine home in early November, when Oswald was not present, and spoke to Mrs. Paine. Oswald visited the Dallas FBI office about two to three weeks before the assassination, asking to see Special Agent James P. Hosty. When he was told that Hosty was unavailable, Oswald left a note that, according to the receptionist, read: "Let this be a warning. I will blow up the FBI and the Dallas Police Department if you don't stop bothering my wife" [signed] "Lee Harvey Oswald". The note allegedly contained a threat, but accounts vary as to whether Oswald threatened to "blow up the FBI" or merely "report this to higher authorities". According to Hosty, the note said, "If you have anything you want to learn about me, come talk to me directly. If you don't cease bothering my wife, I will take the appropriate action and report this to the proper authorities." Agent Hosty said that he destroyed Oswald's note on orders from his superior, Gordon Shanklin, after Oswald was named the suspect in the Kennedy assassination.
In the days before Kennedy's arrival, several local newspapers published the route of the presidential motorcade, which passed the Texas School Book Depository. On Thursday, November 21, 1963, Oswald asked Frazier for an unusual mid-week lift back to Irving, saying he had to pick up some curtain rods. The next morning (the day of the assassination), he returned to Dallas with Frazier. He left $170 and his wedding ring, but took a large paper bag with him. Frazier reported that Oswald told him the bag contained curtain rods. The Warren Commission concluded that the package of "curtain rods" actually contained the rifle that Oswald was going to use for the assassination.
One of Oswald's co-workers, Charles Givens, testified to the Commission that he last saw Oswald on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) at approximately 11:55 a.m., which was 35 minutes before the motorcade entered Dealey Plaza.[n 8] The Commission report stated that Oswald was not seen again "until after the shooting". However, in an FBI report taken the day after the assassination, Givens said that the encounter took place at 11:30 a.m. and that he saw Oswald reading a newspaper in the first floor domino room at 11:50 a.m, 20 minutes later. William Shelley, a foreman at the depository, also testified that he saw Oswald making a phone call on the first floor between 11:45 and 11:50 a.m. Janitor Eddie Piper also testified that he spoke to Oswald on the first floor at 12:00 p.m. Another co-worker, Bonnie Ray Williams, was eating his lunch on the sixth floor of the depository and was there until at least 12:10 p.m. He said that during that time, he did not see Oswald, or anyone else, on the sixth floor and thought that he was the only person up there. However, he also said that some boxes in the southeast corner may have prevented him from seeing deep into the "sniper's nest". Carolyn Arnold, the secretary to the Vice President of the TSBD, informed the FBI that as she left the building to watch the motorcade, she caught a glimpse of a man whom she believed to be Oswald standing in the first floor hallway of the building just prior to the assassination.[n 9]
As Kennedy's motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza at about 12:30 p.m. on November 22, Oswald fired three rifle shots from the sixth-floor window of the book depository, killing the President and seriously wounding Texas Governor John Connally. One shot apparently missed the presidential limousine entirely, another struck both Kennedy and Connally, and a third bullet struck Kennedy in the head, killing him. Bystander James Tague received a minor facial injury from a small piece of curbstone that had fragmented after it was struck by one of the bullets.
Witness Howard Brennan was sitting across the street from the Texas School Book Depository and watching the motorcade go by. He notified police that he heard a shot come from above and looked up to see a man with a rifle fire another shot from the southeast corner window on the sixth floor. He said he had seen the same man minutes earlier looking through the window. Brennan gave a description of the shooter, and Dallas police subsequently broadcast descriptions at 12:45 p.m., 12:48 p.m., and 12:55 p.m. After the second shot was fired, Brennan recalled, "This man I saw previous[ly] was aiming for his last shot ... and maybe paused for another second as though to assure himself that he had hit his mark."
According to the investigations, Oswald hid and covered the rifle with boxes after the shooting and descended through the rear stairwell. About 90 seconds after the shots rang out, Oswald was encountered in the second-floor lunchroom by Dallas police officer Marrion L. Baker, who had his gun drawn. The patrolman was accompanied by Oswald's supervisor, Roy Truly. Baker made the mistake of letting Oswald pass after Truly identified him as an employee; Baker and Truly incorrectly assumed that Oswald was not a suspect because he was an employee of the building. According to Baker, Oswald did not appear to be "nervous" or "out of breath". Truly said that Oswald looked "startled" when Baker pointed his gun directly at him. Mrs. Robert Reid, a clerical supervisor at the depository who returned to her office within two minutes after the shooting, said that she saw Oswald "was very calm" on the second floor with a can of Coca-Cola in his hands. As they walked past each other, Mrs. Reid said to Oswald, "The President has been shot" to which he mumbled something in response, but Reid did not understand him. Oswald was believed to have left the depository through the front entrance just before police sealed it off. Truly later pointed out to officers that Oswald was the only employee that he was certain was missing.
At about 12:40 p.m., 10 minutes after the shooting, Oswald boarded a city bus. Probably due to heavy traffic, he requested a transfer from the driver and got off two blocks later. Oswald then took a taxicab to his rooming house at 1026 North Beckley Avenue and entered through the front door at about 1:00 p.m. According to his housekeeper Earlene Roberts, Oswald immediately went to his room, "walking pretty fast." Roberts said that Oswald left "a very few minutes" later, zipping up a jacket he was not wearing when he had entered earlier. As Oswald left, Roberts looked out of the window of her house and last saw him standing at the northbound Beckley Avenue bus stop in front of her house.
The Warren Commission concluded that at approximately 1:15 p.m., Dallas Patrolman J. D. Tippit drove up in his patrol car alongside Oswald, presumably because Oswald resembled the police broadcast description of the man seen by witness Howard Brennan who fired shots at the presidential motorcade. He encountered Oswald near the corner of East 10th Street and North Patton Avenue. This location is about nine-tenths of a mile (1.4 km) southeast of Oswald's rooming house -- a distance that the Warren Commission concluded "Oswald could have easily walked." Tippit pulled alongside Oswald and "apparently exchanged words with [him] through the right front or vent window." "Shortly after 1:15 p.m.",[n 10] Tippit exited his car. Oswald immediately fired his pistol and killed the policeman with four shots. Numerous witnesses heard the shots and saw Oswald flee the scene holding a revolver; nine positively identified him as the man who shot Tippit and fled.[n 11] Four cartridge cases found at the scene were identified by expert witnesses before the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee as having been fired from the revolver later found in Oswald's possession, excluding all other weapons. However, the bullets taken from Tippit's body could not be positively identified as having been fired from Oswald's revolver as the bullets were too extensively damaged to make conclusive assessments.
Shoe store manager Johnny Brewer testified that he saw Oswald "ducking into" the entrance alcove of his store. Suspicious of this activity, Brewer watched Oswald continue up the street and slip without paying into the nearby Texas Theatre, where the movie War is Hell was playing. He alerted the theater's ticket clerk, who telephoned police at about 1:40 p.m.
As police arrived, the house lights were brought up and Brewer pointed out Oswald sitting near the rear of the theater. Police Officer Nick McDonald testified that he was the first to reach Oswald and that Oswald seemed ready to surrender saying, "Well, it is all over now." McDonald said that Oswald pulled out a pistol tucked into the front of his pants, then pointed the pistol at him, and pulled the trigger. McDonald stated that the pistol did not fire because the pistol's hammer came down on the webbing between the thumb and index finger of his hand as he grabbed for the pistol. McDonald also said that Oswald struck him, but that he struck back and Oswald was disarmed. As he was led from the theater, Oswald shouted he was a victim of police brutality.
At about 2 p.m., Oswald was taken to the Police Department building, where homicide detective Jim Leavelle questioned him about the shooting of Officer Tippit. When Captain J. W. Fritz heard Oswald's name, he recognized it as that of the book depository employee who had been reported missing and was already a suspect in the assassination. Oswald was formally arraigned for the murder of Officer Tippit at 7:10 p.m., and by early the next morning (shortly after 1:30 a.m.) he had also been arraigned for the assassination of President Kennedy.
Soon after his arrest, Oswald encountered reporters in a hallway. Oswald declared, "I didn't shoot anybody" and, "They've taken me in because of the fact that I lived in the Soviet Union. I'm just a patsy!" Later, at an arranged press meeting, a reporter asked, "Did you kill the President?" and Oswald -- who by that time had been advised of the charge of murdering Tippit, but had not yet been arraigned in Kennedy's death -- answered, "No, I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question." As he was led from the room the question was called out, "What did you do in Russia?" and, "How did you hurt your eye?"; Oswald answered, "A policeman hit me."
Oswald was interrogated several times during his two days at Dallas Police Headquarters. He admitted that he went to his rooming house after leaving the book depository. He also admitted that he changed his clothes and armed himself with a .38 revolver before leaving his house to go to the theater. However, Oswald denied killing Kennedy and Tippit, denied owning a rifle, and said two photographs of him holding a rifle and a pistol were fakes. He denied telling his co-worker he wanted a ride to Irving to get curtain rods for his apartment (he said that the package contained his lunch). He also denied carrying a long, bulky package to work the morning of the assassination. Oswald denied knowing an "A. J. Hidell". Oswald was then shown a forged Selective Service System card bearing his photograph and the alias, "Alek James Hidell" that he had in his possession at the time of his arrest. Oswald refused to answer any questions concerning the card, saying "you have the card yourself and you know as much about it as I do."
FBI Special Agent James P. Hosty and Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz (chief of homicide) conducted the first interrogation of Oswald on Friday, November 22. When Oswald was asked to account for himself at the time of the assassination, he replied that he was eating his lunch in the first-floor lounge (known as the "domino room"). He said that he then went to the second-floor lunchroom to buy a Coca-Cola from the soda machine there and was drinking it when he encountered Dallas motorcycle policeman Marrion L. Baker, who had entered the building with his gun drawn. Oswald said that while he was in the domino room, he saw two "Negro employees" walking by, one he recognized as "Junior" and a shorter man whose name he could not recall. Junior Jarman and Harold Norman confirmed to the Warren Commission that they had "walked through" the domino room around noon during their lunch break. When asked if anyone else was in the domino room, Norman testified that somebody else was there, but he could not remember who it was. Jarman testified that Oswald was not in the domino room when he was there. During his last interrogation on November 24, according to postal inspector Harry Holmes, Oswald was again asked where he was at the time of the shooting. Holmes (who attended the interrogation at the invitation of Captain Will Fritz) said that Oswald replied that he was working on an upper floor when the shooting occurred, then went downstairs where he encountered Dallas motorcycle policeman Marrion L. Baker.
Oswald asked for legal representation several times during the interrogation, and he also asked for assistance during encounters with reporters. When H. Louis Nichols, President of the Dallas Bar Association, met with him in his cell on Saturday, he declined their services, saying he wanted to be represented by John Abt, chief counsel to the Communist Party USA, or by lawyers associated with the American Civil Liberties Union. Both Oswald and Ruth Paine tried to reach Abt by telephone several times Saturday and Sunday, but Abt was away for the weekend. Oswald also declined his brother Robert's offer on Saturday to obtain a local attorney.
On Sunday, November 24, detectives were escorting Oswald through the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters toward an armored car that was to take him from the city jail (located on the fourth floor of police headquarters) to the nearby county jail. At 11:21 a.m. CST, Dallas nightclub operator Jack Ruby approached Oswald from the side of the crowd and shot him once in the abdomen at close range. As the shot rang out, a police detective suddenly recognized Ruby and exclaimed: "Jack, you son of a bitch!" The crowd outside the headquarters burst into applause when they heard that Oswald had been shot.
An unconscious Oswald was taken by ambulance to Parkland Memorial Hospital -- the same hospital where Kennedy was pronounced dead two days earlier. Oswald died at 1:07 p.m; Dallas police chief Jesse Curry announced his death on a TV news broadcast.
At 2:45 p.m. the same day, an autopsy was performed on Oswald in the Office of the County Medical Examiner.Dallas County medical examiner Earl Rose announced the results of the gross autopsy: "The two things that we could determine were, first, that he died from a hemorrhage from a gunshot wound, and that otherwise he was a physically healthy male." Rose's examination found that the bullet entered Oswald's left side in the front part of the abdomen and caused damage to his spleen, stomach, aorta, vena cava, kidney, liver, diaphragm, and eleventh rib before coming to rest on his right side.
A network television pool camera was broadcasting live to cover the transfer; millions of people watching on NBC witnessed the shooting as it happened and on other networks within minutes afterward. In 1964, Robert H. Jackson of the Dallas Times Herald was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Photography for his image of the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.
Ruby later said he had been distraught over Kennedy's death and that his motive for killing Oswald was "saving Mrs. Kennedy the discomfiture of coming back to trial". Others have hypothesized that Ruby was part of a conspiracy. G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations from 1977 to 1979, said: "The most plausible explanation for the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby was that Ruby had stalked him on behalf of organized crime, trying to reach him on at least three occasions in the forty-eight hours before he silenced him forever."
Miller Funeral Home had great difficulty finding a cemetery willing to accept Oswald's remains; Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth eventually agreed. A Lutheran reverend reluctantly agreed to officiate but then failed to appear. Reverend Louis Saunders of the Fort Worth Council of Churches volunteered, saying that "someone had to help this family"; he performed a brief graveside service under heavy guard on November 25. Reporters covering the burial were asked to act as pallbearers.
Oswald's original tombstone, which gave his full name, birth date, and death date, was stolen; officials replaced it with a marker simply inscribed Oswald. His mother's body was buried beside his in 1981.
A claim that a look-alike Russian agent was buried in place of Oswald led to the body's exhumation on October4, 1981. Dental records confirmed it was Oswald. The remains were reburied in a new coffin because of water damage to the original.
In 2010, Miller Funeral Home employed a Los Angeles auction house to sell the original coffin to an anonymous bidder for $87,468. The sale was halted after Oswald's brother Robert (1934-2017) sued to reclaim the coffin. In 2015 a district judge in Tarrant County, Texas ruled that the funeral home intentionally concealed the existence of the coffin from Robert Oswald, who had originally purchased it and believed that it had been discarded after the exhumation, and ordered it returned to Robert Oswald along with damages equal to the sale price. Robert Oswald's attorney stated that the coffin would likely be destroyed "as soon as possible."
President Lyndon B. Johnson issued an executive order that created the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. The commission concluded that Oswald acted alone in assassinating Kennedy, and the Warren Report could not ascribe any one motive or group of motives to Oswald's actions:
It is apparent, however, that Oswald was moved by an overriding hostility to his environment. He does not appear to have been able to establish meaningful relationships with other people. He was perpetually discontented with the world around him. Long before the assassination he expressed his hatred for American society and acted in protest against it. Oswald's search for what he conceived to be the perfect society was doomed from the start. He sought for himself a place in history -- a role as the "great man" who would be recognized as having been in advance of his times. His commitment to Marxism and communism appears to have been another important factor in his motivation. He also had demonstrated a capacity to act decisively and without regard to the consequences when such action would further his aims of the moment. Out of these and the many other factors which may have molded the character of Lee Harvey Oswald there emerged a man capable of assassinating President Kennedy.
The proceedings of the commission were closed, though not secret. Approximately 3% of its files have yet to be released to the public, which has continued to provoke speculation among researchers.[n 12]
In 1968, the Ramsey Clark Panel examined various photographs, X-ray films, documents, and other evidence. It concluded that Kennedy was struck by two bullets fired from above and behind him: one of which traversed the base of the neck on the right side without striking bone, and the other of which entered the skull from behind and destroyed its right side.
In 1979, after a review of the evidence and of prior investigations, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) largely concurred with the Warren Commission and was preparing to issue a finding that Oswald had acted alone in killing Kennedy. However, late in the Committee's proceedings a dictabelt recording was introduced, purportedly recording sounds heard in Dealey Plaza before, during and after the shots. After an analysis by the firm Bolt, Beranek and Newman appeared to indicate more than three gunshots, the HSCA revised its findings to assert a "high probability that two gunmen fired" at Kennedy and that Kennedy "was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy." Although the Committee was "unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy," it made a number of further findings regarding the likelihood that particular groups, named in the findings, were involved. Four of the twelve members of the HSCA dissented from this conclusion.
The acoustical evidence has since been discredited. Officer H.B. McLain, from whose motorcycle radio the HSCA acoustic experts said the Dictabelt evidence came, has repeatedly stated that he was not yet in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination. McLain asked the Committee, "'If it was my radio on my motorcycle, why did it not record the revving up at high speed plus my siren when we immediately took off for Parkland Hospital?'"
In 1982, a panel of twelve scientists appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, including Nobel laureates Norman Ramsey and Luis Alvarez, unanimously concluded that the acoustic evidence submitted to the HSCA was "seriously flawed", was recorded after the shots, and did not indicate additional gunshots. Their conclusions were published in the journal Science.
In a 2001 article in the journal Science & Justice, D.B. Thomas wrote that the NAS investigation was itself flawed. He concluded with a 96.3 percent certainty that at least two gunmen fired at President Kennedy and that at least one shot came from the grassy knoll. In 2005, Thomas's conclusions were rebutted in the same journal. Ralph Linsker and several members of the original NAS team reanalyzed the timings of the recordings and reaffirmed the earlier conclusion of the NAS report that the alleged shot sounds were recorded approximately one minute after the assassination. In 2010, D.B. Thomas challenged the 2005 Science & Justice article and restated his conclusion that there were at least two gunmen.
Photos of Oswald holding the rifle that was later determined to be the murder weapon are an important piece of evidence linking Oswald to the crime. The photos were uncovered with other possessions belonging to Oswald in the garage of Ruth Paine in Irving, Texas, on November 24, 1963. Marina Oswald told the Warren Commission that around March 31, 1963, she had taken pictures of Oswald as he posed with a Carcano rifle, a holstered pistol, and two Marxist newspapers -- The Militant and The Worker. The pictures were shown to Oswald after his arrest, but he insisted that they were forgeries. In 1964, Marina testified before the Warren Commission that she had taken the photographs at Oswald's request using his camera --  testimony she reaffirmed repeatedly over the decades.[n 13] These photos were labelled CE 133-A and CE 133-B. CE 133-A shows the rifle in Oswald's left hand and newspapers in front of his chest in the other, while the rifle is held with the right hand in CE 133-B. The Carcano in the images had markings matching those on the rifle found in the Book Depository after the assassination. Oswald's mother testified that on the day after the assassination she and Marina destroyed another photograph with Oswald holding the rifle with both hands over his head, with "To my daughter June" written on it.
When shown one of the photos during his interrogation by Dallas police, Oswald stated that it was a fake. According to Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz:
He said that the picture was not his, that the face was his face, but that this picture had been made by someone superimposing his face, the other part of the picture was not him at all and that he had never seen the picture before. ... He told me that he understood photography real well, and that in time, he would be able to show that it was not his picture, and that it had been made by someone else.
The HSCA obtained another first-generation print (from CE 133-A) on April 1, 1977, from the widow of George de Mohrenschildt. The words "Hunter of fascists -- ha ha ha!" written in block Russian were on the back. Also in English were added in script: "To my friend George, Lee Oswald, 5/IV/63 [April 5, 1963]." Handwriting experts for the HSCA concluded the English inscription and signature were by Oswald. After two original photos, one negative and one first-generation copy had been found, the Senate Intelligence Committee located (in 1976) a third backyard photo (CE 133-C) showing Oswald with newspapers held away from his body in his right hand.
These photos, widely recognized as some of the most significant evidence against Oswald, have been subjected to rigorous analysis. Photographic experts consulted by the HSCA concluded they were genuine, answering twenty-one points raised by critics. Marina Oswald has always maintained she took the photos herself, and the 1963 de Mohrenschildt print bearing Oswald's signature clearly indicate they existed before the assassination. Nonetheless, some continue to contest their authenticity. In 2009, after digitally analyzing the photograph of Oswald holding the rifle and paper, computer scientist Hany Farid concluded that the photo "almost certainly was not altered".
Some critics have not accepted the conclusions of the Warren Commission and have proposed several other theories, such as that Oswald conspired with others, or was not involved at all and was framed. A Gallup Poll taken in mid-November 2013, showed 61% believed that Kennedy was killed as a result of conspiracy, and only 30% thought Oswald acted alone.
Oswald was never prosecuted because he was murdered two days after the assassination. In March 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison arrested and charged New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw with conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy, with the help of Oswald, David Ferrie, and others. Garrison believed that the men were part of an arms smuggling ring supplying weapons to the anti-Castro Cubans in a conspiracy with elements of the CIA to kill Kennedy. The trial of Clay Shaw began in January 1969 in Orleans Parish Criminal Court. The jury acquitted Shaw.
Several films have fictionalized a trial of Oswald, depicting what may have happened had Ruby not killed Oswald. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (1964); The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (1977); and On Trial: Lee Harvey Oswald (1986) have imagined such a trial. In 1988, a 21-hour unscripted mock trial was held on television, argued by lawyers before a judge, with unscripted testimony from surviving witnesses to the events surrounding the assassination; the jury returned a verdict of guilty. In 1992 the American Bar Association conducted two mock Oswald trials. The first trial ended in a hung jury. In the second trial the jury acquitted Oswald.