Strange Life of Lee Harvey Oswald: Assassination
by Ron Kurtus (revised 8 January 2008)
As a child, Lee Harvey Oswald showed signs of violence and rebellion. He later was a U.S. Marine, lived in Russia and was involved in pro-Castro activities. Oswald then assassinated President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. A few hours later, he was arrested. Two days later, Oswald was assassinated on national television. Afterwards, many conspiracy theories concerning the assassination were created.
Questions you may have include:
- What where Oswald's childhood days like?
- What sort of adventures did he have as an adult?
- What happened during and after the assassination?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Stevenson assaulted in Dallas
On October 24, 1963, about a month before President John F. Kennedy was to be in Dallas, United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was assaulted in Dallas by an anti-U.N. fanatic.
Advisors warned Kennedy not to go to Dallas, because of the apparent hostile atmosphere in the city. Kennedy said he did not believe there would be any problems. On November 18, the Dallas Times Herald detailed the exact route of the presidential motorcade. It would run right past the Texas School Book Depository where Oswald worked.
Oswald saw opportunity
Apparently, Oswald saw this as an opportunity to make his mark and get back at society. He had never been known to be anti-Kennedy, although undoubtedly many of the pro-Castro Marxists had a grudge against Kennedy for the Bay of Pigs attack and the blockade of Cuba. There may have been conversations denouncing Kennedy and wishing the worse for him.
Although the FBI was aware of Oswald's far-left politics and bizarre activities, apparently they did not feel he was a threat to the President.
On Friday, November 22, 1963, Lee rose early at 6:30 AM to go to work. A neighbor said she saw him carrying a long package, and people in the Texas School Book Depository also saw him carry the package into the building. Oswald was later seen on the sixth floor of the building, looking out toward the motorcade route, taking stock of the situation.
At 12:30 PM, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Texas Governor John Connally was also seriously wounded.
Lee left the rifle by the sixth floor window. A few minutes later, he was seen rushing from the building and boarding a bus. After the bus was stopped in traffic, Oswald got off and hailed a cab. He went to his rooming house and retrieved his pistol.
At 1:15 PM, Officer J.D. Tippit confronted him. Oswald shot and killed the officer. This alerted the Dallas police as to the whereabouts of the possible assassin.
Lee entered the Texas Theater to hide. The police then captured and arrested him. Lee was brought to Dallas Police headquarters and questioned. He was then formally arraigned for the murder of Tippit.
After he appeared in several lineups, Oswald was charged with the murder of President Kennedy.
On the morning of Saturday, November 23rd, Oswald was formally arraigned for the murder of Kennedy. After more questioning, Marina and Marguerite were permitted to visit Lee. He said he wanted Attorney John Abt to represent him. Abt was a former communist and known for representing people who had tried to overthrow the government.
That afternoon, Lee's brother Robert visited him. Robert later said that Lee told him that he had murdered Kennedy. Robert noted that his brother's eyes were cold and showed no emotion in his confession.
On the morning of Sunday, November 24th, Oswald was signed out of jail to be in transferred to the county facility. After a final round of questions, the transfer party started to leave the building. Members of the news media were waiting outside for a glimpse of Oswald. At 11:21 AM, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby as police were escorting Oswald out of the Dallas city jail.
Jack Ruby shoots Oswald
NBC had been broadcasting the event live, and millions watched in horror the shooting of Oswald.
Ruby had been seen in the halls of the Dallas police headquarters on several occasions after the arrest of Oswald. He had impersonated a newspaper reporter to get into the area. As Ruby shot Oswald, he yelled, "You killed my President, you rat!" He was immediately arrested.
After the death of Oswald, there were investigations of President Kennedy's assassination. Although many conspiracy theories were brought forth, in the end, it was concluded that Oswald was the lone gunman.
Because of the apparent sound of shots from several directions, some thought there were gunmen shooting from a nearby grassy knoll. Acoustic analysis concluded those sounds were echoes.
One theory was that Oswald was really a Soviet KGB spy by the name of Alek. The real Oswald was still in Russia. The theory claimed that the KGB was responsible for killing Kennedy. Oswald's—or Alek's—body was exhumed years after his death and dental records showed that the body truly was Lee Harvey Oswald.
Impossible to hit moving target
Tests on whether a sharpshooter could fire two rapid shots from the 6th floor of a building and hit a moving target so accurately have been made and shown to be possible.
Producer Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK claimed to expose multiple conspiracies concerning the Kennedy assassination and stated that Oswald was innocent. Unfortunately, this was a gross distortion of historical facts in an effort to make money. (See Resources below.)
David Ferrie connection
David Ferrie knew Lee Harvey Oswald years before in the Civil Air Patrol. A strident anti-Communist, Ferrie became associated with the New Orleans office of the Frente Revolucionario Democratico, a CIA-backed organization. He was an associate of private investigator Guy Banister, a former FBI agent and political activist. Banister's office was right around the corner from the Cuban Revolutionary Council, an anti-Castro group. Oswald had included that address on some of the fliers he had been handing out.
On the afternoon of the day that Kennedy was assassinated, Banister and Jack Martin went drinking together. The two men got involved in a dispute, and Banister hit Martin several times. Martin was so badly injured that he had to be detained in the local Charity Hospital.
Over the next few days, Martin told reporters and authorities that Ferrie had been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. According to Martin, Ferrie had known Lee Harvey Oswald from their days in the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol, had given him lessons on how to use a rifle with a telescopic sight, had flown Oswald to Texas and had hypnotized Oswald into assassinating Kennedy.
The FBI interviewed Martin. They then considered his evidence unreliable. But they also interviewed Ferrie twice, as well as about 20 other people in connection with the allegations. They were unable to develop a substantial case against Ferrie.
Lee Harvey Oswald saw an opportunity and assassinated President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. He may have been convinced to do this by other agitators or made up the plan himself. A few hours after Kennedy was shot, Oswald was arrested. Two days later, he was shot and killed as he was being led from the Dallas jail. Afterwards, many conspiracy theories concerning the assassination were created.
Lessons learned from this biography are:
- Bad people often have a track record of problems
- Radical or extreme politics often leads to violence
- Sometimes there is more to a historical event than meets the eye
Those were violent times
Resources and references
Chronology of Oswald's life - Marquette University
Lee Harvey Oswald - Famous Texans
Lee Harvey Oswald - Spartacus Schoolnet, United Kingdom
Lee Harvey Oswald in Russia - Conspiracy theory
The Assassination Goes Hollywood - Refuting "facts" of Oliver Stone movie JFK
Questions and comments
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Strange Life of Lee Harvey Oswald: The Assassination