Primary Sources: Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963

Primary Sources: Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963

Investigators into the assassination of John F. Kennedy have looked very closely at the actions of Lee Harvey Oswald during 1963. This includes evidence that someone appears to have been impersonating Oswald during this period.

27th January: A. J. Hiddell orders a Smith & Weston .38 revolver.

12th March: A. J. Hiddell orders a Mannlicher-arcano rifle from Klein's sporting goods in Chicago.

6th April: Oswald loses his job at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall in Dallas.

24th April: Oswald travels by bus to New Orleans.

9th May: Oswald finds work with the Reily Coffee Company in New Orleans.

4th June: Orders 1,000 Fair Play for Cuba leaflets from Jones Printing.

19th July: Oswald is fired from the Reily Coffee Company.

5th August: Oswald is seen talking to anti-Castro activist, Carlos Bringuier.

9th August: Oswald is arrested for fighting with Carlos Bringuier.

12th August: Oswald appears in court and is fined $10.

16th August: Oswald hires three other men to give out Fair Play for Cuba leaflets outside the Trade Mart building owned by Clay Shaw.

17th August: Oswald discusses the situation in Cuba on the radio with Carlos Bringuier.

26th August: Oswald is seen in Clinton, Louisiana, with Clay Shaw and Carlos Bringuier.

27th August: A man claiming to be Oswald visits the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City.

14th October: Oswald moves back to Dallas.

16th October: Oswald starts work at the Texas School Book Depository.

1st November: FBI agent James Hosty visits the home of Ruth Paine where Marina Oswald is living and asks questions about Oswald.

6th November: Oswald delivers a letter to James Hosty at the Dallas FBI office. Gordon Shanklin later orders this letter to be destroye.

22nd November: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas.

23rd November: Oswald is charged with the murder of John F. Kennedy.

24th November. Lee Harvey Oswald is murdered by Jack Ruby.

(A1) Life Magazine, (21st February 21, 1964)

Lieutenant John E. Donovan was Lee's commanding officer at El Toro. He recalled that Lee was of "higher intelligence" than the average enlisted man and was seventh in his class of thirty radar operators. "Lee Harvey Oswald was dependable and very calm under periods of pressure," Donovan recalled. "He read most of the time, histories, magazines, books on government and a Russian newspaper he used to get. He spent a lot of time studying the Russian

language. There were no pocketbooks or comics for him."

Donovan called Lee "an officer-baiter" and a troublemaker. "He would ask officers to explain some obscure situation in foreign affairs, just to show off his superior knowledge. He seemed to be in revolt against any kind of authority." Donovan explained that Lee played end on the squadron football team until he was dismissed "because he kept talking back in the huddle." The quarterback was a captain.

Was Lee Harvey Oswald intelligent and well-informed?

(A2) Marina Oswald, interviewed by Warren Commission (1964)

In general, our family life began to deteriorate after we arrived in America. Lee was always hot-tempered, and now this trait of character more and more prevented us from living together in harmony. Lee became very irritable, and sometimes some completely trivial thing would drive him into a rage. I myself do not have a particularly quiet disposition, but I had to change my character a great deal in order to maintain a more or less peaceful family life.

Was Lee Harvey Oswald happy in America?

(A3) Robert J. Groden, The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald (1995)

On Monday, August 12, 1963, Lee and Carlos Bringuier appeared in Second Municipal Court at 1:00 p.m. The charges were dismissed against Bringuier, and Lee was fined $10.00. Marina Oswald confirmed that Lee actually wanted to be arrested. He wanted the exposure. He wanted to get the publicity as a pro-Castroite. She referred to this as "self-advertising." Marina was right, but the question still remains: Why?

Lee was back handing out his Fair Play for Cuba Committee flyers on the streets of New Orleans on August 16. He had hired three men to help with distribution: odd, since he was nearly without funds for himself and his family. They stood in front of the International Trade Mart, whose director, Clay Shaw, would be charged with conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy four years later by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. Somebody (probably Lee himself or, possibly, Carlos Bringuier) called WDSU-TV and other members of the New Orleans news media to announce that he was distributing the pro-Castro literature. More self-advertising. That evening's television news broadcast his activity, and the resulting bad publicity made it nearly impossible for him to obtain employment.

Why was Robert J. Groden surprised that Oswald paid three men to give out Fair Play for Committee flyers? Can you explain this behaviour?

(A4) House Select Committee on Assassinations (13th September 1978)

James McDonald: Can you recall Oswald expressing at this time, soon after your marriage but prior to the return, prior to your return to the United States, do you recall him expressing any views about the United States and its political system, either pro or con, for or against.

Marina Oswald: No.

James McDonald: And specifically regarding John Kennedy?

Marina Oswald: What I learned about John Kennedy it was only through Lee practically, and he always spoke very complimentary about the President. He was very happy when John Kennedy was elected.

James McDonald: And you are saying while you were still in the Soviet Union he was very complimentary about John Kennedy?

Marina Oswald: Yes, it seemed like he was talking about how young and attractive the President of the United States is.

James McDonald: Can you recall during this time when he ever expressed any contrary views about Kennedy?

Marina Oswald: Never.

According to Marina Oswald, what was Lee Harvey Oswald's opinion of John F. Kennedy?

(A5) House Select Committee on Assassinations (13th September 1978)

Richardson Preyer: Did you ever suspect that Lee might be a spy of some sort for either the Soviet KGB or for the U.S. CIA?

Marina Oswald: It did cross my mind sometime during our life in Russia; yes, because he will be sitting with those papers and writing something in English, and I don't know. Maybe he was making reports to somebody and didn't want me to know.

Richardson Preyer: When it crossed your mind, did you think he was a spy for the United States or for the Soviet Union?

Marina Oswald: For United States.

Richardson Preyer: And you based that on the fact that he often was writing notes in English which you did not understand.

Marina Oswald: Yes.

Why did Marina Oswald think her husband was an American spy?

(A6) Ray and Mary La Fontaine, Oswald Talked (1996)

The Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE) unquestionably identified Oswald, as did Bannister, as just the kind of 'nut' who could be a useful tool in the war against Castro and Fair Play for Cuba subversives.

Why would the DRE be looking for a 'nut' like Oswald?

(A7) The Warren Commission Report (September, 1964)

On August 5, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald visited a store managed by Carlos Bringuier, a Cuban refugee and avid opponent of Castro, and the New Orleans delegate of the Cuban student directorate. Oswald indicated an interest in joining the struggle against Castro. He told Bringuier that he had been a marine and was trained in guerrilla warfare, and that he was willing not only to train Cubans to fight Castro but also to join the fight himself. The next day Oswald returned to the store and left his Guidebook for Marines for Bringuier.

A few days later, a friend of Bringuier's saw Oswald passing out Fair Play for Cuba Committee leaflets on Canal Street, not far from the store Bringuier managed. He, Bringuier and another exile proceeded to the site of Oswald's mini-demonstration, and Bringuier was enraged when he recognized the pro-Castro demonstrator as the anti-Castro activist wannabe of a few days before. Though no physical violence resulted, some heated words were uttered, a crowd gathered, and Oswald was arrested along with the three Cubans for disturbing the peace.

Were Lee Harvey Oswald and Carlos Bringuier friends or enemies?

(A8) Lee Harvey Oswald, Carlos Bringuier and Ed Butler, Vice-President of the Information Council of the Americas, took part in a debate on Bill Slatter's radio show Conversation Carte Blanche in 1963.

Lee Harvey Oswald: The principals of thought of the Fair Play for Cuba consist of restoration of diplomatic trade and tourist relations with Cuba. That is one of our main points. We are for that. I disagree that this situation regarding American-Cuban relations is very unpopular. We are in the minority surely. We are not particularly interested in what Cuban exiles or rightists members of rightist organizations have to say. We are primarily interested in the attitude of the US government toward Cuba. And in that way we are striving to get the United States to adopt measures which would be more friendly toward the Cuban people and the new Cuban regime in that country. We are not all communist controlled regardless of the fact that I have the experience of living in Russia, regardless of the fact that we have been investigated, regardless of those facts, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee is an independent organization not affiliated with any other organization. Our aims and our ideals are very clear and in the best keeping with American traditions of democracy.

Carlos Bringuier: Do you agree with Fidel Castro when in his last speech of July 26th of this year he qualified President John F. Kennedy of the United States as a ruffian and a thief? Do you agree with Mr. Castro?

Lee Harvey Oswald: I would not agree with that particular wording. However, I and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee do think that the United States Government through certain agencies, mainly the State Department and the C.I.A., has made monumental mistakes in its relations with Cuba. Mistakes which are pushing Cuba into the sphere of activity of let's say a very dogmatic communist country such as China.

Bill Slatter: Mr. Oswald would you agree that when Castro first took power - would you agree that the United States was very friendly with Castro, that the people of this country had nothing but admiration for him, that they were very glad to see Batista thrown out?

Lee Harvey Oswald: I would say that the activities of the United States government in regards to Batista were a manifestation of not so much support for Fidel Castro but rather a withdrawal of support from Batista. In other words we stopped armaments to Batista. What we should have been done was to take those armaments and drop them into the Sierra Maestra where Fidel Castro could have used them. As for public sentiment at that time, I think even before the revolution, there were rumblings of official comment and so forth from government officials er, against Fidel Castro.

Ed Butler: You've never been to Cuba, of course, but why are the people of Cuba starving today?

Lee Harvey Oswald: Well any country emerging from a semi-colonial state and embarking upon reforms which require a diversification of agriculture you are going to have shortages. After all 80% of imports into the United States from Cuba were two products, tobacco and sugar. Nowadays, while Cuba is reducing its production as far as sugar cane goes it is striving to grow unlimited, and unheard of for Cuba, quantities of certain vegetables such as sweet potatoes, lima beans, cotton, and so forth, so that they can become agriculturally independent ...

Ed Butler: Gentlemen I'm going to have to interrupt you. Our time is almost up. We've had three guests tonight on Conversation Carte Blanche, Bill Stuckey and I have been talking to Lee Harvey Oswald, Secretary of the New Orleans Chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, Ed Butler, Executive Vice-president of the Information Council of the Americas (INCA) and Carlos Bringuier, Cuban refugee. Thank you very much.

What was Lee Harvey Oswald view on Fidel Castro's Cuba? What did Oswald want the American government to do concerning its relations with Cuba?

(A9) Federal Bureau of Investigation, memo to the Secret Service (23rd November, 1963)

The Central Intelligence Agency advised that on October 1, 1963, an extremely sensitive source had reported that an individual identified himself as Lee Oswald, who contacted the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City inquiring as to any messages. Special Agents of this Bureau, who have conversed with Oswald in Dallas, Texas, have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice. These Special Agents are of the opinion that the above-referred-to individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald.

Did Lee Harvey Oswald visit the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City on 1st October, 1963?

(A10) James Hosty, Assignment: Oswald (1996)

About a week after the assassination, Aynesworth, along with Bill Alexander, an assistant district attorney in Dallas, decided to find out if Lee Oswald had been an informant of the Dallas FBI, and of mine in particular. To this end, they concocted a totally false story about how Lee Oswald was a regularly paid informant of the Dallas FBI. At the time, I had no idea what information the Houston Post was relying on; it wasn't until February 1976, in Esquire magazine, that Aynesworth finally admitted he and Alexander had lied and made up the entire story in an effort to draw the FBI out on this issue. They said Oswald was paid $200 a month and even made up an imaginary informant number for Oswald, S172 - which was not in any way how the FBI classified their informants. Aynesworth then fed this story to Lonnie Hudkins of the Post, who ran it on January 1, 1964. Hudkins cited confidential but reliable sources for his story's allegations. The FBI issued a flat denial of the Post story. I was once again prohibited by Bureau procedure from commenting. It was clear that they were pointing a finger at me, since I was known to be the agent in charge of the Oswald file.

According to James Hosty, was Oswald an FBI informant?

(A11) Robert J. Groden, The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald (1995)

How to pin the president's death on Castro? Simple. Have a pro-Castroite accused as the assassin. The perfect candidate for "designated patsy" was Lee Harvey Oswald.

In all likelihood, the CIA kept Oswald on as an inactive agent, as perhaps they had been since his defection to the USSR. In September 1962, he went to work for the FBI as a $200-per-month informant (Warren Commission executive session, January 27, 1964). But on what or whom could he inform? One possibility is that he was supposed to observe the White Russian community in and around Dallas, which included the late George DeMohrenschildt.

A very probable scenario is that in mid-1963 Lee Oswald was reactivated by the CIA and sent to New Orleans to create a pro-Castro cover by starting the New Orleans chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. It appears at this point that CIA agent payroll number 110669 had been ordered by his superiors to furnish himself with a pro-Castro cover in order to enable him to enter Cuba by way of Mexico City possibly in order to infiltrate Cuban intelligence, or perhaps to try to assassinate Castro. Possibly, those members of the CIA involved in the Kennedy assassination plot were setting Oswald up as "the missing link," the connection between Fidel Castro and the assassination.

How does Robert J. Groden explain Lee Harvey Oswald's behaviour in New Orleans?

(A12) Michael Kurtz, Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination From a Historians Perspective (1982)

On 1 November, "Oswald" entered Morgan's Gunshop in Fort Worth and acted "rude and impertinent." A few days later, the night manager of the Dallas Western Union office saw "Oswald" pick up several money orders. On 9 November, "Oswald" test drove a car. The salesman, Albert Bogard, remembered "Oswald's" telling him that he would return in a couple of weeks when he would have "a lot of money" On 10 November "Oswald" applied for a job as a parking attendant at Allright Parking Systems in Dallas. As he talked with Hubert Morrow, the manager, "Oswald" inquired about the Southland Hotel, where the parking lot was located, and whether the building provided a good view of downtown Dallas.

On the afternoon of 22 November, Dr. Homer Wood saw Oswald's picture on television and recognized him as the man he saw at the Sports Drome Rifle Range in Dallas on 16 November. Dr. Wood, his account corroborated by his son, remembered "Oswald's" firing a 6.5 mm. Italian rifle with a four-power scope. Considering "Oswald's" purchase of ammunition a few days before, the repair work done on his rifle by Dial Ryder, we see a pattern clearly emerging. "Oswald" bought ammunition, had his rifle repaired, inquired about the view from a Dallas building, remarked about coming into possession of a lot of money very soon, and called attention to himself at the firing range.

All these incidents clearly cast suspicion on Oswald. Yet, the real Lee Harvey Oswald did not participate in any of them. The evidence demonstrates that he was elsewhere when each of these events took place. Yet the evidence also demonstrates that they did take place and that numerous reliable eyewitnesses saw a man who they believed was Lee Harvey Oswald participate in them. While no absolute evidence exists to explain this curiosity, it is not unreasonable to hypothesize that someone impersonating Oswald went to great lengths to focus attention on himself during the three weeks prior to the assassination.

It seems that someone was impersonating Lee Harvey Oswald in November 1963. Why would he do that?

(A13) Harold Norman, The Warren Report: Part 1, CBS Television (25th June, 1967)

That particular morning three or four of us were standing by the window, and Oswald came over, and he said, "What's

everybody looking at, and what's everybody excited about?" So I told him we was waiting on the President. So he just snudged up and walked away.

Does this evidence suggest that Lee Harvey Oswald was just about to kill John F. Kennedy?

(A14) Dan Rather, The Warren Report: Part 1, CBS Television (25th June, 1967)

The basic story pieced together by that Warren Commission Report on the assassination is this: A man named Lee Harvey Oswald crouched here in this dingy window of the Texas School Book Depository as the President passed below. Oswald, the Commission tells us, fired three shots. One missed. One struck both the President and Texas Governor John Connally, riding with him. The third killed the President. Oswald, the Report had it, hid his rifle over there, then ran down the stairs, left the building on foot, and hurried down Elm Street. He made his way to his rented room, picked up a revolver, and about twelve minutes later shot Police Officer J. D. Tippit.

Is Dan Rather convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy and J. D. Tippit?

(A15) Dorothy Kilgallen, New York Journal American (October, 1964)

At any rate the whole thing smells a bit fishy. It's a mite too simple that a chap kills the President of the United States, escapes from that bother, kills a policeman, eventually is apprehended in a movie theater under circumstances that defy every law of police procedure, and subsequently is murdered under extraordinary circumstances.

Is Dorothy Kilgallen convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy and J. D. Tippit?

(A16) Marina Oswald was interviewed by the San Jose Mercury News (28th September, 1988)

Twenty-five years after the assassination of President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald's widow says she now believes Oswald did not act alone in the killing.

''I think he was caught between two powers - the government and organized crime,'' said Marina Oswald Porter in the November issue of Ladies' Home Journal, published Tuesday.

Testimony by Oswald's widow, who married Dallas carpenter Kenneth Porter in 1965, helped the Warren Commission conclude that a deranged Oswald acted alone in the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination.

''When I was questioned by the Warren Commission, I was a blind kitten,'' she said. The commission, appointed to investigate the assassination, concluded it was the work of a single gunman, Oswald. But in 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, relying in part on acoustical evidence, concluded that a conspiracy was likely and that it may have involved organized crime.

Since then, Porter, 47, has drawn new conclusions. ''I don't know if Lee shot him,'' she said. ''I'm not saying that Lee is innocent, that he didn't know about the conspiracy or was not a part of it, but I am saying he's not necessarily guilty of murder.''

''At first, I thought that Jack Ruby (who killed Oswald two days after the assassination) was swayed by passion; all of America was grieving,'' she said. ''But later, we found that he had connections with the underworld. Now, I think Lee was killed to keep his mouth shut.''

Porter said that in retrospect, Oswald seemed professionally schooled in secretiveness, ''and I believe he worked for the American government.''

''He was taught the Russian language when he was in the military. Do you think that is usual, that an ordinary soldier is taught Russian? Also, he got in and out of Russia quite easily, and he got me out quite easily,'' said the Russian-born Porter. She had emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1961 after marrying Oswald, who had defected to the Soviets and then changed his mind and returned to the United States.

In the months preceding the assassination, a man posing as Oswald reportedly appeared in several public places in the Dallas area.

''I learned afterward that someone who said he was Lee had been going around looking to buy a car, having a drink in a bar. I'm telling you, Lee did not drink, and he didn't know how to drive.

''And afterward, the FBI took me to a store in Fort Worth where Lee was supposed to have gone to buy a gun. Someone even described me and said I was with him. This woman was wearing a maternity outfit like one I had. But I had never been there,'' she said.

Porter said she hopes the truth will emerge when the Warren Commission materials are declassified.

''Look, I'm walking through the woods, trying to find a path, just like all of us,'' she said. ''The only difference is, I have a little bit of insight. Only half the truth has been told.''

What evidence does Marina Oswald Porter provide to support her claim that Lee Harvey Oswald was working for the American government?

(A17) The Warren Commission Report (September, 1964)

The Commission has found no evidence to show that Oswald was employed, persuaded, or encouraged by any foreign government to assassinate President Kennedy or that he was an agent of any foreign government, although the Commission has reviewed the circumstances surrounding Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union, his life there from October of 1959 to June of 1962 so far as it can be reconstructed, his known contacts with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and his visits to the Cuban and Soviet Embassies in Mexico City during his trip to Mexico from September 26 to October 3, 1963, and his known contacts with the Soviet Embassy in the United States.

On the basis of the evidence before the Commission it concludes that, Oswald acted alone. Therefore, to determine the motives for the assassination of President Kennedy, one must look to the assassin himself. Clues to Oswald's motives can be found in his family history, his education or lack of it, his acts, his writings, and the recollections of those who had close contacts with him throughout his life. The Commission has presented with this report all of the background information bearing on motivation which it could discover. Thus, others may study Lee Oswald's life and arrive at their own conclusions as to his possible motives. The Commission could not make any definitive determination of Oswald's motives. It has endeavored to isolate factors which contributed to his character and which might have influenced his decision to assassinate President Kennedy. These factors were:

His deep-rooted resentment of all authority which was expressed in a hostility toward every society in which he lived;

His inability to enter into meaningful relationships with people, and a continuous pattern of rejecting his environment in favor of new surroundings;

His urge to try to find a place in history and despair at times over failures in his various undertakings;

His capacity for violence as evidenced by his attempt to kill General Walker;

His avowed commitment to Marxism and communism, as he understood the terms and developed his own interpretation of them; this was expressed by his antagonism toward the United States, by his defection to the Soviet Union, by his failure to be reconciled with life in the United States even after his disenchantment with the Soviet Union, and by his efforts, though frustrated, to go to Cuba. Each of these contributed to his capacity to risk all in cruel and irresponsible actions.

According to the Warren Commission, why did Lee Harvey Oswald kill John F. Kennedy?