JFK Main Page
by Peter R. Whitmey
Although the following article was written in 1991, there continues to be
much uncertainty surrounding the true identity of Lee Harvey Oswald,
and the picture has become even more cloudy despite the efforts of
"Frontline" in 1993. The contributions made by researcher John
Armstrong in Probe and The Fourth Decade since 1996
support the theory that the young Marine named Lee H. Oswald who
"defected" to Russia and the accused assassin of President Kennedy were
not the same person.
On September 3, 1959 a 19-year-old U.S. Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald reported to the El Toro, California medical examining facility at the U.S. Marine Corp Air Station. There he received his standard physical examination, upon leaving active duty after almost three years of military service in Japan, the Philippines and California. The medical report, published in the Warren Commission's supporting documents,(1) indicated that Oswald was in good physical health at that time, with a significantly reduced pulse rate. and blood pressure level compared to the results of an initial medical exam conducted on Oct. 24, 1956. He had also grown considerably during that period, from 68 to 71 inches, with a corresponding increase in weight from 131 to 150 pounds. In more ways than one, the Marines had made a man out of Lee Harvey Oswald.
After being placed on inactive duty on Sept. 11, 1959,(2) Lee returned to his mother's home in Ft. Worth, Texas, having been granted a disability discharge due to her poor health.(3) It was quite apparent, however, that a minor injury incurred by his mother earlier that year while working at a candy store in no way required her son's assistance. In fact, he informed her on Sept. 14 that he planned to leave for New Orleans to resume employment with an import-export company, having worked in that field as a teenager prior to enlisting.(4)
While in Ft. Worth, Oswald made a point of registering with the local draft board on the 14th, as required, providing both his mother's address and that of his brother, Robert, whom he visited that day.(5) He indicated he was born in New Orleans, La. on Oct. 18, 1939. His military service number was listed on his Selective Service registration card, along with his date of entry and separation from active duty, his date of entry into the reserves, his rank of private, and a physical description: 5' 11", 150 lbs., blue eyes, and brown hair.(6)
As he prepared to head for New Orleans by bus on Sept. 16, 1959, Lee showed his mother a passport which had been issued on Sept. 10, just prior to his release from active duty, listing "Import-Export" as his profession, along with his birthplace and date, a physical description, and the purpose of his intended trip.(7) He indicated that the primary purpose was to attend post-secondary institutions in both Switzerland and Finland, of all places, with possible travel to a number of other countries, including England, France, Germany (West), the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Russia.
His mother recalled when interviewed by the FBI in 1960(8) that Lee had mentioned to her that he planned to do some travelling and had suggested that he might go to Cuba,(9) which, of course, was not far from New Orleans and a constant topic of conversation as a result of Castro's revolution in 1959. She also got the impression that he might end up somewhere in Latin America other than Cuba.(10) But she appeared to be genuinely shocked and surprised at the news that Lee had travelled all the way to the Soviet Union, the furthest thought from her mind.
Prior to disembarking from New Orleans, Lee wrote a short letter to his mother anticipating her reaction, informing her that he had "booked passage on a ship to Europe ... Just remember, above all else, that my values are far different from Robert's or yours ... I did not tell you about my plans because you could hardly be expected to understand.(11)
Many critics(12) have suggested that Oswald was, in fact, working as an agent for military intelligence, having been trained at the El Toro base prior to being sent abroad, which Marguerite came to believe herself. The question is, however, whether the Soviet Union was his assigned destination, since he could have been instructed to visit Cuba. Very possibly, the news that Lee Harvey Oswald had ended up in Moscow was just as big a shock to military intelligence as it was to Mrs. Oswald.
In any event, on September 20, 1959 Oswald boarded a freighter named the SS Marion Lykes along with three other passengers,(13) although there was actually room for twelve, and began his odyssey, travelling first to La Havre on the coast of France, from there to London, followed by an apparent flight to Helsinki.(14) From there he went to Sweden, visiting the American Embassy, but returned to Helsinki, where he managed to obtain a visa, "valid for a six-day trip to the Soviet Union."(15) On October 15, 1959, Oswald travelled by train, arriving in Moscow the next day, with $300. worth of tourist vouchers on him.(16)
Oswald's first two weeks in the USSR are still a matter of conjecture today. According to his so-called "Historic Diary"(17) found amongst his belongings after the assassination, he spent the first week mainly sightseeing with his Intourist guide, Rima Sherikova, although he did manage to arrange or agree to an interview in his hotel room with Moscow Radio.(18) On October 21, he learned to his chagrin that his application for citizenship had been rejected, and, with his temporary visa running out, appeared to attempt suicide that evening. According to his handwritten account,(19) he was found unconscious in his hotel room and was rushed to the hospital by Rima, where he remained until the shallow wound on his left wrist had sufficiently healed.
However, the Warren Commission had been advised by the CIA that Oswald's diary could very well be part of a "legend" or cover story, produced by Soviet intelligence, and therefore was not a reliable source.(20) According to a prominent graphologist who analyzed Oswald's diary at the National Archives for author Edward Epstein,(21) it had apparently been written "under great pressure and strain in a relatively short period of time."(22) There were also indications that the entries were written well after the events described "under the supervision of other parties."(23) Also, many of the entries covered extended periods of time rather than being daily entries as you'd expect, and the writer quite often shifted from writing in the present to the past tense.
A second source of information of Oswald's alleged trip to the Botkin Hospital in Moscow comes from their own report published amongst the Warren Commission's documents.(24) According to their records, Oswald's wound was quite superficial, and inflicted by himself "in order to delay his departure from the Soviet Union."(25) He was apparently transferred to the psychiatric ward for observation, staying there several days, and then released from the somatic department on October 28.
Some doubt as to the accuracy of the hospital records, however, came from an FBI report(26) with an elderly American businessman of Russian extraction, who was on the ward where Oswald had supposedly been, recovering from a prostrate condition. Although Oswald had referred to such a man without giving his name in his diary, Mr. Kara-Patnitsky "insisted he had never seen or met Oswald or any other American when he was in the hospital."(27)
The CIA, in fact, "considered the possibility that Oswald's suicide attempt was an entire fabrication"(28) and suggested that during the period of Oct. 16 to the 31st, he might have been isolated by the KGB to determine his value to them, ""subjected to whatever analysis or training the Soviets felt was appropriate."(29) The FBI also learned in 1964 that another American defector had been "hospitalized" upon his arrival in Moscow, and was confined there for twenty-one days.(30)
On the day of Oswald's release, Richard Snyder, senior consular officer at the American Embassy in Moscow, drafted a letter for the Department of State - USSR Affairs in Washington in regard to a recent "defection" of Robert Webster of Cleveland, Ohio.(31) Webster had been working for the Rand Development Corp. as a plastics technician at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, when he disappeared in September, emerging a month later on Oct. 17 at the U.S. Embassy, where he attempted to renounce his citizenship.(32) Earlier that fall, on Sept. 5, Nicholas Petrulli of Long Island also renounced his American citizenship in Moscow,(33) but after being turned down for Soviet citizenship decided to return to the U.S. on Sept. 21 upon receiving an exit visa.(34) Webster, however, remained in the Soviet Union until May, 1962.(35)
Snyder was clearly concerned about the "rash" of defections which he mentioned also included that of Libero Ricciardelli on August 12, 1959, but pointed out to the State Department "the often dubious circumstances surrounding such actions under the conditions prevailing in the Iron Curtain."(36) He went on to suggest that the State Department take a "passive approach"(37) towards diverting American "defectors" of their citizenship, "in order to leave such avenues to repatriation as possible open...",(38) citing the Webster case in which he had lost his citizenship. Ironically, when he did return to the U.S., it was as a Russian citizen carrying a Soviet passport; in the meanwhile he had been divorced by his American wife and left "a Russian girl and the child she bore him behind."(39)
Three days after writing to Washington, Snyder was presented with yet another "defector," when Lee Harvey Oswald walked into his office to also renounce his American citizenship. After discussing Oswald's decision with him, and indicating that he would have to return on Monday to have his application processed, a telegram was immediately sent to the Secretary of State on Oct. 31. Snyder, who had worked for the CIA in 1949-50 prior to his first embassy posting in Japan,(40) described Oswald in the following manner:
"unmarried age 20 pp 1733242 issued Sept. 10 1959. Appeared at Emb today to renounce American citizenship, stated applied in Moscow for Soviet citizenship following entry USSR from Helsinki Oct. 15. Mother's address and his last address U.S. 4936 Collinwood St. Ft. Worth, Texas. Says action contemplated last two years. Main reason 'I am a Marxist.' Attitude arrogant, aggressive. Recently discharged Marine Corps. Says has offered Soviets any information he has acquired as enlisted radar operator. In view Petrulli case we propose delaying executing renunciation until Soviet action known or dept advises. Despatch follows. Press informed."(41)
(One detail in the telegram was not correct involving Oswald's last American address, in that he had listed on his medical form, "3154 West 5th St., Fort Worth, Texas" as his mother's address; the address on Collinwood was his mother's address in 1956 listed on his original medical form.)
The following day, Nov. 1, 1959, the New York Times reported that a young ex-Marine (which actually was not correct since he was still in the Reserves) had applied for Soviet citizenship and had left his passport at the American Embassy, stating emphatically: "I have made up my mind, I'm through."(42) The article briefly mentioned the Petrulli and Webster cases and the fact that Oswald visited his mother and brother in Ft. Worth prior to leaving the States. Intriguingly, the news report also stated that "the rest of this dispatch was held in censorship,"(43) possibly alluding to Oswald's training in radar and his threat to turn over information to the Soviets. (In the earlier report on Webster, the NY Times stated that the dispatch had also been scrutinized by the Soviet censor after being filed, causing a delay of several days.)
In addition to the Nov. 1 report on Oswald, there had also been a Washington Capital News Service release outlining Oswald's defection the night before, which made reference to a "press conference"(44) in Oswald's hotel room. However, both an affidavit signed by UPI reporter Robert Korengold(45) and an FBI statement provided by AP correspondent Alfred Goldberg(46) seem to suggest that no actual press conference took place. Instead, it would appear that both reporters, independent of each other, managed to speak with Oswald at the door of his hotel room, filing separate reports.
Following the initial telegram to the State Department, a confidential "wirom" was sent to the American Embassy from Washington,(47) which appeared to be partially censored when published by the Warren Commission, with half a line blanked out immediately preceding Oswald's name. It inquired as to whether the dispatch was followed by a reply to Snyder's Oct. 28 letter "For Embassy's Information Only:"
If Oswald insists on renouncing US citizenship Section 1999 Revised Statutes precludes Embassy withholding right to do so regardless status his application pending Soviet Government and final action taken Petrulli.(48)
On November 2, a Foreign Service Dispatch classified as "confidential"(49) was drawn up by Richard Freers and sent to the Department of State. In it, Freers summarized Oswald's discussion with Snyder and included his written statement, which referred to his application for Soviet citizenship, his desire to renounce his American citizenship and his reason for defecting ("political"), which Oswald stated was made "only after the longest and most serious considerations."(50)
Again, an incorrect address was given as his last American place of residence, and it was noted that Oswald had "obliterated the address on the inside of his passport."(51) The report provided details as to Oswald's background in the Marines, his disillusionment with the American way of life, and his determination to become a member of Soviet society. Freers indicated that Oswald 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 initiated that he might know something of special interest."(52)
The report went on to point out that since Oswald's visa had expired
"he is patently in a technically illegal residence status with the tacit consent of the Soviet authorities ... For what significance it may have, the foregoing was also the pattern in the Nicholas Petrulli case ... Having evidently concluded, after allowing Petrulli to languish 'illegally' in a local hotel for a month, that he was no asset as a Soviet citizen the Soviets suddenly invited him to depart, pointing out that he had 'overstayed' his visa. In view of the Petrulli case, and other considerations, the Embassy proposes to delay action on Oswald's request to execute an oath of renunciation to the extent dictated by developments and subject to the Department's advice."(53)
Based on Oswald's statement concerning his offer to provide important military information to the Soviets, related to his radar specialty, seemingly used as a bargaining chip in his attempts to receive Soviet citizenship (or as an excuse to hold back on his offer and retain his American citizenship), a Naval message was sent by the Naval attache at the Embassy to the home office:
"Attention invited to Amemb Moscow dispatches 234 dtd November 2 and 224 dtd October 26 concerning the renunciation of US citizenship and request for Soviet citizenship by Lee Harvey Oswald former Marine ........................................ Oswald stated he was radar operator in Marcorps and has offered to furnish Soviets info he possesses on US radar."(54)
No mention was made of Oswald's qualifying remark related to first obtaining Soviet citizenship before he would provide military information - citizenship which, in fact, he never did obtain.
Although Richard Snyder was briefly asked about this naval message by Coleman during the Warren Commission's inquiry, no reference was made to the fact that both Webster and Oswald were identified in the same message by dispatch number, almost as though they had defected together. Likewise, the Navy's reply, referred to as an "intelligence matter" at the bottom of the message,(55) was only mentioned in passing, basically for identification purposes only.
On November 3, the New York Times once again briefly referred to Oswald's defection, publishing a UPI report presumably based on Korengold's brief discussion with him, although reference is made to a telephone interview. Oswald was quoted as saying he was still waiting for "a reply from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on my application for citizenship and I have nothing to say meanwhile."(56)
No mention was made of Oswald's threat to turn over secrets to the Soviet Union, which undoubtedly would have been headline news. As it was, the article appeared inconspicuously on page six above an advertisement for platform shoes.
On the same day, the Embassy received a letter from Oswald(56) complaining that they had not yet permitted him to renounce his citizenship, to which a reply was drawn up indicating that he would be required to come to the Embassy again during working hours in order to carry out his intentions.(57)
The following day, a reply to the Naval message sent to headquarters was drafted, and received at the Embassy on Nov. 5. Again, it was partially censored when published in the Warren Commission documents, involving the first line plus one word:
".............................................. ..... Oswald is PFC inactive Marine Corps Reserve with obligated service until 8 December 1962. Oswald attended Aircraft Control and Warning Operator Course in 1957. Served with Marine Air Control Squadrons in Japan and Taiwan with duties involving ground control intercept. Job descrip- tion code indicates he is aviation electronics operator. No record of clearance at HQ, Marine Corps, but possibility exists he may have had access to CONFIDENTIAL info. OSWALDS service number 1653230, DOB 18 October 1939 at New Orleans, released to inactive duty 11 September 1959, home of record 4936 Collinwood Street, Fort Worth, Texas. His brother John Edward PIC, 11313239 on active duty in USAF. Request significant develop- ments in view of continuing interest of HQ, Marine Corps and U.S. Intelligence agencies. 'Intelligence Matter.'"(58)
No explanation was given as to why this was an "intelligence matter."
A week after receiving Snyder's letter addressed to "Room 233, Metropole Hotel, Moscow" referred to above, Oswald finally agreed to an interview with Aline Mosby of UPI. He had just learned that he could remain in the Soviet Union, not as a citizen but as an alien resident, so he probably felt in a more secure position to express his feelings at length with an American reporter. It would appear Oswald learned of Miss Mosby from his earlier conversation with Korengold; the 35-year-old veteran reporter(59) phoned Oswald and arranged to visit his hotel room, where she spent two hours listening to the embittered defector "still sporting the chop-top haircut he wore in the U.S. Marines."(60) Her report, dated Nov. 15, 1959, was published in the local Ft. Worth paper under the headline, "Fort Worth Defector Confirms Red Beliefs," but oddly enough, did not appear in the New York Times, as earlier reports that month had.
Several days later, Oswald agreed to yet another lengthy interview with Priscilla Johnson, a Soviet law expert who spoke fluent Russian and who had already written about developments in the Soviet Union.(61) Unlike Miss Mosby, Priscilla Johnson appeared to have a close relationship with John McVickar at the American Embassy(62), who worked as an assistant to Richard Snyder, and, in fact, was made aware of Oswald by McVickar.(63) She had also expressed interest early in her career in becoming an intelligence analyst,(64) and appeared to others to have important connections back in Washington, D.C.(65)
It is impossible to know why Oswald felt it necessary to speak to yet another journalist, but it is quite possible that he was simply attracted to older women, especially ones that were both good looking and intelligent. Neither Miss Johnson nor McVickar seemed to be aware of Miss Mosby's earlier contact with Oswald and the publication of her report through UPI, despite the fact that McVickar made reference to discussions with Korengold.(66)
After her interview, Miss Johnson typed a 1200-word article for her employer, the North American Newspaper Alliance in New York, which she submitted on Nov. 18, 1959. She also made a point of talking to McVickar about the impressions she derived from speaking to Oswald, and even let him know what the Soviets planned to do with the latest defector.(67) Her article was published in the Washington Evening Star on Nov. 26 as well as the New Haven Evening Register a week later; a revised version was published on Nov. 24, 1963.(68)
Although Oswald apparently promised to keep in touch when he last spoke to Priscilla Johnson prior to leaving the Metropole Hotel for training in electronics,(69) it would appear that no further contact was made. If Oswald's "Historic Diary" can be trusted, he remained in his hotel room(70) studying Russian from mid-November until the end of the year, rarely going out although maintaining regular contact with Rima and several passport officials. In early January, 1960, Oswald learned that he was being sent to Minsk and left Moscow by train on January 7.
Two months later, on March 7, Oswald's mother wrote to her congressman, Jim Wright, in regard to her son's well being, after money that she sent him was returned.(71) Congressman Wright in turn wrote to the State Department on March 9, enclosing her letter.(72) On March 21, the State Department sent both letters to the American Embassy in Moscow requesting that an attempt be made to contact Oswald, and on March 23, Mrs. Oswald was so informed.(73)
A month later, on April 20, Mrs. Oswald was interviewed by an agent of the FBI,(74) and she again expressed her concern for the welfare of her son, and her shock at learning that he had gone to the Soviet Union. She mentioned that he had saved up $1600. while in the Marines (although she only had her son's word for it), and recalled that Lee suggested that he might do some travelling, possibly to Cuba. Mrs. Oswald also indicated that, although her son did a lot of reading, she never got the impression that he was sympathetic towards the Communist system.
On June 30, following both the FBI report and contact with the State Department, who had not yet been able to locate Lee, none other than J. Edgar Hoover himself sent a memo to the State Department's Office of Security) advising them that "since there is a possibility that an impostor is using Oswald's birth certificate, any current information the Department of State might have concerning the subject will be appreciated."(75) (The FBI had learned from their interview with Mrs. Oswald that Lee had taken his birth certificate with him when he left Ft. Worth.)
On Sept. 13, 1960, the U.S. Marine Corps finally attempted to contact Oswald themselves, a year-and-two-days after being placed on inactive duty.(76) Three certified letters were sent to Oswald at his last known address to notify him that his honourable discharge had been reduced to an "undesirable discharge," and that he had been removed from the Marine Corps' Air Reserve because of his offer to turn over classified information to the Soviet Union in exchange for Soviet citizenship. However, there was no response at that time from Oswald.
Still frustrated at not being able to locate her son, Mrs. Oswald travelled to Washington, D.C. by train shortly after John Kennedy's inauguration in January, 1961, and, in fact, contacted the White House, who put her through to the State Department.(77) She was subsequently interviewed and a memo was sent to the American Embassy on Feb. 1, 1961 in regard to Oswald's whereabouts, but no action was taken by Richard Snyder in terms of contacting the Soviet government, however.(78)
By sheer coincidence, a letter dated Feb. 5, 1961 was received by Snyder from Lee Harvey Oswald himself, indicating a desire to return to the United States, as he was still an American citizen. He also asked the Embassy to send him his passport, which he felt would make it easier to obtain a Soviet exit visa. In the opinion of Edward Epstein, based on Snyder's own observations, "it seemed probable ... that the KGB, alerted to Washington's renewed interest in Oswald, took advantage of the opportunity by having Oswald recontact the Embassy and request repatriation."(79)
Several days later, Oswald was advised by Snyder to contact the Embassy for a personal interview, while, at the same time, he inquired as to whether Oswald's passport should be mailed to him in Minsk. In early March, Oswald again wrote to Snyder, indicating that he was not allowed to leave Minsk without permission, suggesting that a questionnaire be mailed to him.
On March 31, 1961, a memo was sent from the passport office to John White, an official at the consular section of the State Department, reiterating concern originally expressed by Hoover nine months earlier, in regard to the possibility of an impostor obtaining Oswald's passport (in addition to the likelihood that his birth certificate was in the hands of the Soviets). The memo stated that not only were Mrs. Oswald's letters not being delivered, but that Oswald's file indicated "that it has been stated that there is an impostor using Oswald's identification data and that no doubt the Soviets would love to get hold of his valid passport..."(80) It was therefore suggested that Oswald's passport be delivered personally, and only if the Embassy was sure he planned to return to the United States.
On April 13, 1961, instructions were sent to the American Embassy in Moscow from the Department of State signed by Dean Rusk. Two dispatches, dated Feb. 28 and March 24, were referred to in the opening paragraph with the comment that the dispatch of Feb. 28 "concerning Oswald had been studied with particular reference to the last two paragraphs..."(81) Rusk advised the Embassy that they thoroughly question Oswald "if and when" he appeared in regard to his "circumstances" in the Soviet Union as well as "his possible commitment of an act or acts of expatriation..."(82) Given the assurance that he had not "expatriated himself" and had "arranged to depart from the Soviet Union to travel to the United States," the Embassy was advised that Oswald's passport could then be delivered to him "on a personal basis only."(83) Rusk emphasized that for "security reasons," not spelled out, it would not be "prudent" for the Embassy to mail his passport to him.
On May 16, 1961, Oswald again wrote to the Embassy, informing them that he wanted written assurance that he wouldn't be charged as a result of either his defection or his threat made to turn over classified information. At the same time, he also revealed that he was now married to a Soviet citizen, who desired to leave with him.(84) A dispatch dated May 26 was sent to the State Department in this regard.(85) Finally, on July 8, 1961, Oswald came to the American Embassy for an interview in which he discussed his activities while living in Minsk, and, at the same time, filled out a questionnaire sent to Washington on July 11.(86) Oswald emphasized in his defense that he had never applied for Soviet citizenship, and that while employed at a radio and television factory was never asked to join their trade union organization, nor did he make any public statements in regard to his defection. (Intriguingly, while at the Embassy, Lee reportedly inquired about another American defector, Robert Edward Webster.(87))
Upon returning to Minsk with Marina after the interview, Oswald began filling out a number of forms required in order for him and his wife to be able to leave the Soviet Union and enter the U.S. The most important was the Soviet exit visa, which, in Oswald's case, required filling out Form No. 22 (for aliens) from the Visa and Registration Office, Military Department, Minsk City Executive Committee.(88) According to Marina - in conversation with Priscilla Johnson McMillan for her book, Marina and Lee - Oswald was so concerned about making mistakes that "he had to bring five or six blanks home for every form he managed to complete successfully."(89) In the case of the exit visa application, there is a strong possibility that someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald filled out the form, because of one quite amazing error.
Under "birthplace," written in Russian and translated by the Division of Language Services of the Department of State,(90) "Oswald" wrote "New Orleans, Texas, USA" with the term "sic" above the translated copy - indicating that the error was in the original Russian document. Oswald was born in New Orleans all right, but it happens to be in Louisiana, not Texas, as any American knows.
Oddly enough, Priscilla McMillan was not aware of this mistake when I spoke to her about it in November, 1987, although Marina Oswald Porter was, although she had no idea why her late husband would have made such an error. She undoubtedly became aware of the entry as a result of her ongoing contact in the late seventies with the British author Michael Eddowes, who referred to it in his book, The Oswald File.(91) Neither Robert Sam Anson nor Bud Fensterwald at AARC were familiar with the birthplace entry, which had also been overlooked by researcher Paul Hoch, who had stated to me in reply to my letter: "'New Orleans, Texas' is indeed odd -and news to me...It might just mean that someone else filled out the form and got confused, and Oswald didn't think it was a good idea to correct him at that moment.(92) Mary Ferrell in Dallas also commented on the subject, stating that it was "unbelievable that a young man of even average intelligence would write 'New Orleans, Texas, USA' for his birthplace. Just as it was unbelievable that the same young man would write that he and Marina were married on April 31, 1961."(93)
If, in fact, someone else did fill out the exit visa application, then this does not correspond with Marina's recollections as reflected in Priscilla McMillan's book. It is hard to believe that Oswald himself, who usually listed his birthplace as "New Orleans, La." - almost like one word - would make such an error, especially if he was trying to be extra careful. If someone else posing as Oswald actually filled it out, however, as part of a plan to send an impostor back to the U.S. in Oswald's place (as Hoover feared might happen) it is quite conceivable that he might think that New Orleans was in Texas, since Oswald had lived in both places as a child. On all other documents turned over to the Warren Commission by the Soviet government, Oswald's birthplace was listed as either "New Orleans" or "New Orleans, USA" with no reference to the state, except for a one-paragraph "autobiography" written by Oswald when he arrived in Minsk. In it he stated correctly that he was born in "the city of New Orleans, State of Louisiana, United States of America."(94) He went on to assert, un-truthfully, that both his parents were dead and that he had no brothers or sisters, consistent with his apparent decision at that time to sever all family ties. He also mentioned his birthplace correctly in the forward to an essay he wrote entitled, "The Collective," which is referred to in the Warren Report,(95) and which was written while in Minsk.
The birthplace error could very well have been a mistake made by Oswald himself, but it might also have been made intentionally as a signal of some sort to the American Embassy, who, presumably, would have been provided a copy in the course of Oswald's application to return to the United States. If his "defection" had not been genuine in the first place, it could be that Oswald made this obvious error in order to let American intelligence know that someone else was taking his place - an error that no one spotted (including the Warren Commission.) Certainly the possibility that an "Oswald double" returned to the U.S. was not that farfetched, given Hoover's earlier warning. The KGB was famous for sending impostors to the U.S. and elsewhere as described in the 1967 book on the subject entitled, The Espionage Establishment,(96) not for the purpose of assassinating political leaders but for conventional spying activities.
There is also the still unresolved matter of Oswald's height, first raised by Anson in 1975, and later by Eddowes. On all forms filled out by Oswald prior to leaving the United States, his height was recorded as either "71 inches" of "5' 11"." Even Priscilla Johnson listed that height in the margin of her interview notes in Nov. 1959,(97) possibly obtained from Oswald's passport and not from him personally. However, she also referred to him as "a six-footer" in her article sent to NANA, although this was altered to "a nice young man" when published four years later.(98) None of the documents turned over to the Warren Commission by the Soviet government list his height, but when he returned to the U.S., he always indicated that he was 5' 9" tall, two inches shorter, except on two occasions, perceptively noted by Michael Eddowes:(99)
(1) when first interviewed by the FBI in Dallas, he indicated to the agents that he was 5' 11" and also stated that his wife, who wasn't with him, measured 5' 5", when, in fact, she was only 5' 3" at the most;
(2) when he renewed his passport in June, 1963 in New Orleans, he also listed his height as 5' 11", consistent with his expired passport.
However, on all forms filled out otherwise in both Texas and Louisiana, Oswald or an impostor listed 5' 9" as his height, and on the coroner's report after his death, he was measured as being 5' 9.5" tall.(100) Amazingly, although the Warren Report ignored this puzzle, several documents were included displaying both heights. Even Aline Mosby appeared to be asked about Oswald's height, stating that "the young man I saw was 5 feet 9 inches tall" - as though she had actually measured him.(101) It should be noted that her original report, as published in the Ft. Worth paper, made no reference to his height.
Even today the question of Oswald's actual height produces different answers. In his 1988 book, On the Trail of the Assassins, Judge Garrison stated that "...Lee Oswald happened to have been five feet eleven inches tall,"(102) suspecting the existence of an impostor, while former Warren Commission lawyer David Belin insisted that Oswald was "...an inch or two shorter than Brennan had described,"(103) mentioning that witness Harold Brennan had described him as "...possibly five feet ten" (an impossible observation from where Brennan was standing).
During the House Assassination Committee's investigation, they had numerous photographs of Oswald analyzed to determine if they were all photos of the same man, which they concluded was the case, despite Jack White's dissenting opinion. Six of the photos were published in their Report,(104) one of which could easily be construed as an attempt to mislead readers, in that it shows a short-haired Oswald standing in front of a scale to measure his height, which showed it to be 5' 9". However, the report fails to mention that this particular photo of Oswald was taken in December, 1956, at the completion of his basic Marine training, almost three years prior to the medical exam that listed his height as 71".
The House Assassination Committee also had interviewed Marina Oswald Porter at length, broadcast on public television, and, in one exchange, she indicated that Lee "wasn't very tall man. He was a little bit taller than me."(105) 0ne possible conclusion from this statement and photos of the couple supporting her contention is that the person who Marina met and married was not Lee Harvey Oswald. She even mentioned to Priscilla McMillan that when she first spoke to Lee, she thought he was from eastern Europe - given the accent she noticed as he spoke to her in Russian - and was surprised to learn he was actually American.(106)
Added to the impression given by the HSCA that Oswald was not particularly tall was a subtle statement made by Priscilla Johnson back in 1964 when she was interviewed by Slawson and Mosk. She stated that she had thought of Oswald a few weeks before the assassination, and wondered "whatever happened to that little Lee Oswald,"(107) a description totally at odds with her 1959 account.
In the widely read book on the JFK assassination, Crossfire (Carroll and Graf: NY) by Jim Marrs, he includes a chapter entitled, "Was Oswald Really Oswald?" dealing with the numerous "Oswalds" that seemed to be in several places at once, along with a summary of the events surrounding the exhumation of Oswald's remains in 1981 initiated by Eddowes with the eventual support of Marina Oswald Porter. It is interesting to note that, according to researcher Gary Mack, "three language experts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas studied tape recordings made of Oswald. They were not told the identity of the man whose voice they heard. All agreed that the English words spoken seemed acquired later in life - that English was not the native tongue of the man on the tape."(108) Marrs also quotes Mrs. Jeanne DeMohrenschildt, widow of George DeMohrenschildt, as recalling that Oswald "spoke in deliberate and precise terms, rarely ever using slang or curse words"(108) and certainly didn't sound like a boy brought up in the South.
There is also some suspicious aspects to Oswald's letter dated November 9, 1963, sent to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, included in the Warren Report but far too small to read, even with a magnifying glass. As Marrs points out, he states that he "could not take a chance on requesting a new visa unless I used my real name, so I returned to the United States."(109) Does that mean that his real name was or wasn't Lee Harvey Oswald, as he signed it? He also made a reference to "comrade Kostin" at the outset, spelled out FBI which an American wouldn't normally do, and referred to "New Orleans (state Louisiana)" rather than the conventional, "New Orleans, La." He also let the Soviet Embassy know of the birth of a daughter in Dallas, almost as though that was the final objective of his assignment before returning once again to the Soviet Union.
He now had an American identity: a Russian wife with immigrant status in the U.S., a Russian-born daughter as well as an American-born daughter, suggesting the possibility of moving back and forth between the two countries with ease...had Oswald or an impostor lived.
1. Donabedian Exhibit No. 1, Warren Commission Exhibits,
Volume XIX, p. 584 (hereafter XIXH584 format)
2. Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Reader's Digest Press: NY, 1978, Edward Epstein. P. 91.
3. Ibid, p. 90.
4. Ibid, p. 91.
6. XXIIIH743; CE 1944.
7. XVIH161; Legend, p. 91.
8. CE 2767, also referred to as CD 8, an FBI report; only page 6 appears in the Warren Commission documents.
11. Legend, pp. 91-92.
12. See Conspiracy by Summers, They've Killed the President!
by Anson, Reasonable Doubt by Hurt, and Crossfire by Marrs.
13. Legend, p. 92.
14. Ibid, pp. 93-94.
15. Legend, p. 94.
17. "Oswald's Full Russian Diary", Life Magazine, July 10, 1964, pp. 28-31.
20. Legend, pp. 105-122.
21. Ibid; p. 109; Psychology Today, April, 1978.
22. Psychology Today, April, 1978.
24. Warren Commission Report, paperback edition, p. 617.
26. Cited in Legend, p. 295.
27. Legend, p. 295.
30. Ibid; this would most likely have been Nicholas Petrulli.
31. CE 914.
32. Reported in detail by the New York Times.
33. New York Times, September 6 and 9.
35. New York Times, May 21, 1962.
36. CE 914.
39. New York Times, May 21, 1962. "Webster and MKULTRA: The Smoking Gun?" published in The Fourth Decade, September, 1998 (Vol. 5, No. 6), pp. 13-14).
40. The Final Assassinations Report. Bantam Books: NY, 1979. P. 272.
41. CE 910.
42. New York Times, Nov. 1, 1959.
44. CE 2716.
45. CE 3098.
46. CE 2719.
47. CE 916.
49. CE 908.
54. CE 917.
56. New York Times, Nov. 3. 1959. Legend, p. 97.
57. CE 919.
58. CE 918.
59. Who was well-known for her many personality
profiles and who became a free-lance reporter living in Paris, France,
having retired from UPI in 1984.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: See also My Brief Correspondence.... Ms. Mosby passed away in 1998. -CB]
60. CE 1385.
61. "Jefferson and the Soviets", The Progressive, Oct. 1958; "The New Soviet Education", The Progressive, Feb. 1959.
62. See McVickar interview, VH299-306, 318-326; on the other hand, Aline Mosby didn't even know who he was, according to a letter she wrote to me on June 22, 1990.
63. See Johnson interview, XIH442-460.
64. The Final Assassinations Report, pp. 270-2.
65. According to Aline Mosby in her June 22, 1990 letter; see my article, "My Brief Correspondence with the Late Aline Mosby".
66. CE 911.
67. Johnson (Priscilla) Exhibit, No. 2.
68. "U.S. Defector to Reds Turned to Marx at 15," Washington Evening Star, Nov. 26, 1959; "Unhappy With Worker 'Exploitation' Here, Young American Awaits Soviet Citizenship," New Haven Evening Register, Dec. 3, 1959. Oddly enough, Sid Goldberg, former managing editor of NANA, didn't think the article had been published, but PJM confirmed that it had been by sending me the New Haven article in 1992. I received the Evening Star report from Archives II in 1998.
69. CE 911 (postscript to memo dated 11/19/59).
70. Which LHO stated in his diary; oddly enough, reference is made to the interview with Aline but not with Priscilla, whom LHO possibly realized was working on behalf of U.S. intelligence despite her "free lance" credentials.
71. Legend, p. 126.
72. CE 922.
73. CE 923.
74. CE 2757.
75. First reported by the New York Times, Feb. 23, 1975.
76. Legend, p. 127.
80. New York Times, Feb. 23, 1975.
81. CE 934.
84. CE 948.
85. CE 935.
86. Ibid. Note - On the same day, the State Department
sent the following message, cited by Jim Marrs in Crossfire:
"...It is assumed that there is no doubt that the person who has been in communications with the Embassy is the person who was issued a passport in the name of Lee Harvey Oswald."(XVIIIH374)
87. Legend, p. 141. Marina and Lee, p. 132.
88. CE 985.
89. Marina and Lee, p. 138.
90. CE 985.
91. The Oswald File (Ace paperback edition), Michael Eddowes, 1977, p. 81.
92. Letter from Paul Hoch, dated Oct. 8, 1987.
93. Letter from Mary Ferrell, dated Feb. 29, 1988.
94. The Oswald File, p. 80; CE 15.
95. The Warren Commission Report (Bantam paperback), p. 372.
96. The Espionage Establishment (Random House: NY), Wise and Ross, 1967.
97. Johnson (Priscilla) Exhibit No. 1 (page 2 of notes).
98. Johnson (Priscilla) Exhibit No. 2 and 3.
99. The Oswald File, p. 212; XVIIH730.
100. Ibid; 214; XXVIH521.
101. CE 1385 (page 2).
102. On the Trail of the Assassins (Sheridan Square Press: NY), Jim Garrison, 1988, p. 57.
103. Final Disclosure, David Belin, 1988, p. 7.
104. The Final Assassinations Report, photo section ("The Two Oswalds").
105. HSCA Volume II, testimony of Marina Oswald on Sept. 13 & 14, 1978.
106. Marina and Lee, p. 73; actually Marina thought from his accent that he was from Latvia or Estonia, both close to Poland.
108. Crossfire (Carroll and Graf: NY), Jim Marrs, 1988, p. 547.
In addition, the following The Fourth Decade articles written by William Weston deal with sightings of Oswald and family which are inconsistent with the official record:
"The Furniture Mart," January, 1994.
"The Nicolet Hotel," March, 1996
"Pfisterer Dental Laboratory," March, 1988
"Budreau's Music & Appliance Store," July, 1996.
UPDATE - December, 2013.
On Feb. 5, 1961 Lee Harvey Oswald wrote to Richard Snyder at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, indicating that he desired to return to the United States, having "defected" in Oct. 1959. He requested that his passport be mailed to him in Minsk, which he indicated would make it easier for him to obtain a Soviet exit visa. As I discussed in my article, both Hoover at the FBI and the State Department were concerned about the possibility of an impostor claiming to be Oswald, and the likelihood that the KGB had possession of Oswald's birth certificate. A State Department official suggested in a message to Snyder that "no doubt the Soviets would love to get hold of his valid passport."
It was, therefore, decided that Oswald's passport should not be mailed to him as he requested, and that he would have to come to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in order to obtain it. Oswald and his new wife travelled by plane to Moscow on July 8, 1961, where he was interviewed and filled out a questionnaire prior to receiving his passport, limited to travel to the U.S. only. Three days later The State Department sent the following message to the U.S. Embassy: "...It is assumed that there is no doubt that the person who has been in communications with the Embassy is the person who was issued a passport in the name of Lee Harvey Oswald." Clearly, there was concern about who had contacted the U.S. Embassy, claiming to be Lee Harvey Oswald.
Almost a year later, on Jan. 30, 1962 Oswald wrote to John Connally, whom he believed was still the Secretary of the Navy, although Connally had resigned earlier to run for governor of Texas, as reported in TIME magazine, which Oswald was receiving from his mother. (Oswald mistakenly dated the letter "Jan. 30, 1961). He was concerned about the fact that his discharge from the Marines had been reduced to "dishonourable" (spelled the British/Cdn. way) for no good reason, as Oswald claimed to "...have and allways (sic) had the full sanction of the U.S. Embassy, Moscow, U.S.S.R., and hence the U.S. goverment (sic). Actually, Oswald's discharge had been reduced to "undesirable", which is less severe than "dishonorable", which he should have known from the documents forwarded to him by his mother.
The notice, indicating a reduction in his discharge from active duty, had been sent to his mother in Fort Worth in April, 1960, after Oswald failed to appear in Illinois for USMC Reserve training. He still was required to serve two more years in the Marines as a reserve, and had to receive permission to leave the U.S. He was also sent a copy of information related to reenlistment, suggesting he could still redeem himself. Oswald received a brief reply from Connally, indicating that his letter protesting the reduction of his discharge had been forwarded to the new Secretary of the Navy, Fred Korth. Korth was a former Fort Worth banker and lawyer, and a close friend of both Connally and Lyndon Johnson, who also happened to have represented Edwin Ekdahl in divorce proceedings vs. Marguerite Oswald, back in 1948. Oswald, according to his brothers, had developed a close relationship with his stepfather during the two years Ekdahl was married to his mother. For more about Oswald's futile attempt to have his discharge returned to "honorable" see my article "Creating A Patsy" at: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/creatingapatsy.htm.
After Oswald decided to return to the U.S., his attitude towards his family completely changed, from extreme hostility after he first "defected", to outright affectionate, as reflected in numerous letters he wrote to both his mother and brother, Robert, in 1961 and 1962. Some of them, however, suggest that they might not have been written by the person who turned his back on the United States in the fall of 1959.
For instance, Oswald received a birthday card from Robert in early Nov. 1961, and in response, wrote: "When is your birthday, anyway. Sometime in July isn't it? He had also asked his mother about Robert's birthday: "Not sure when Robert's birthday is. Sometime in July?" In fact, Robert's birthday was on April 7, which you would think a brother would know.
Oswald mentioned the weather in Minsk in several letters during the winter of 1961-62, and wondered what it was like in Texas. In a Oct. 2, 1961 letter to Robert, he wrote: "How is the weather in Fort Worth and Vernon now. I suppose it must be pretty hot there." In a Dec. 20, 1961 letter, also to Robert, he wrote: "It's very cold here. How is it in Forth Worth?" In a Jan. 20, 1962 letter Oswald wrote: "The weather is very cold and wet here. How is it in Texas?" In a letter to his mother dated Feb. 9, Oswald wrote: "I suppose it is allmost (sic) spring in Vernon, by now, huh?" Again, in a letter dated Feb. 24, 1962, he wrote: "The weather is rather cold here yet. I guess in Texas it must be pretty hot by now." In an undated letter likely written in late Feb. or early March, 1962, Oswald wrote: "In another month or so, it will start to thaw out here. I suppose it's already hot in Texas."
According to a detailed description of Dallas weather at http://www.wikipedia.com, the average high temperature in Oct. is 78.5 F, and is 60.8F in Feb. Neither average would be considered "hot", as is the case for June, July and August, with average high temperatures of 91.6F, 96F, and 96.4. Those temperatures certainly would be considered "hot". Oswald gives the impression that he never lived in Texas, or had a very bad memory.
He also made reference to his half-brother, John Pic (from Marguerite's second marriage) in numerous letters, who had sent him a telegram after his "defection", begging him to reconsider. Pic was in the Air Force, and coincidentally, was also stationed in Japan, in the fall of 1959. Even though Oswald grew up considering John as much a brother as Robert, in numerous letters he referred to him as "Pic", which seems odd to me, as that was his last name, not a nickname. For instance, in a letter to Robert dated Jan. 10, 1962, Oswald wrote: "Please send Pic my regards. I seem to have mislaid his address." In a Mar. 15, 1962 letter to Robert he asked: "How's Pic?" and in another letter he wrote: "Have you heard from Pic?" In an April 22 letter to his mother he wrote: "Do you get any word from Pic?" Later, when Oswald and his wife went to Robert's home for Thanksgiving on Nov. 22, 1962 (a year to the day before the assassination), he introduced John to his wife as his "half-brother", a term John told the Warren Commission Lee had never used before.
Although Oswald gave the impression in his letters that he was looking forward to seeing his family again, after returning to Texas, he had little contact with them, excerpt for the first few weeks. After moving from Fort Worth to Dallas, he only provided a box number, not an address, to Robert and his mother. Robert didn't even know that Marina was pregnant and gave birth to another girl in Oct. 1963, until his younger brother was arrested.
In June, 1963, Oswald renewed his passport (in only one day), as the one he was given in Moscow was only good for travel to the U.S.A. Comparison between the information given on his 1963 passport and his 1959 one provide some startling differences. For instance, on the 1959 passport application he listed his mother as "Marguerite C. Oswald", but in 1963 he listed her as "Margret Clavier" (her maiden name was, in fact, "Claverie"). He listed her birthday on the 1959 passport as "July 3, 1909", but in 1963, simply "1907". On the 1959 passport application, he listed his father as "Robert E. Lee Oswald", but in 1963 wrote "Robert Lee Oswald". For his birthdate, in 1959 it was listed as "Dec. 8, 1908", but in 1963, it became "1895"!!
On both passports Oswald listed his height as 5' 11, even though he had listed his height as 5" 9' on numerous application forms since returning from Russia (although he told the FBI he was 5' 11", consistent with his military records from 1959). He indicated in both years that he had no scars, when, in fact, he had a mastoid scar behind one ear, a scar on his elbow, and another on his wrist (from the alleged suicide attempt while living in Moscow).
In 1963 he listed his residence as 757 French St., New Orleans, which, in fact, was the address of his aunt, Lillian Murret (he misspelled her name as "Lilian Murrett".). He also incorrectly listed Marina's full name as "Marina Prossakava" (leaving out "Oswald"). Her maiden name was actually "Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova"). For their date of marriage, he listed it as "April 31, 1961". Of course, there is no such day.
Of all the mistakes made by Oswald, or someone posing as Oswald, the most amazing one, as discussed in my article, was the birthplace listed on the Soviet exit visa written by Oswald. He had indicated, in Russian, that he was born in "New Orleans, Texas, USA", a place that doesn't exist. As I stated in my original article: "Oswald was born in New Orleans, all right, but it happens to be in Louisiana, not Texas, as any American knows." Although the exit visa, along with a State Department translation of the place with "sic" beside it, were included in the Warren volumes, Priscilla Johnson McMillan does not mention it in her book MARINA AND LEE. She did mention that Marina had recalled that Lee "..had to bring five or six blanks home for every form he managed to complete successfully", but wasn't aware of the birthplace error when I spoke to her in 1987. I also spoke to Marina at that time, who was aware of the error, likely brought to her attention by Michael Eddowes, who referred to it in his book THE OSWALD FILE.
Finally, author Stephen King wrote a novel about the assassination and time-travelling entitled 11/22/63, published in 2012. On page 68, the main character, Al, refers to Oswald's body having been exhumed, and "DNA tested" in 1981, and remarks "It was him all right. The poisonous little fuck." Even though King's novel is fictitious, many readers undoubtedly assumed that, in fact, DNA testing had actually taken place. However, according to a lengthy article on DNA at http://www.wikipedia.com, "DNA profiling was first developed in 1984 by British geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys and was first used in forensic science to convict Colin Pitchfolk in the 1988 Enerby murders cases."
It certainly would be of great value to have such DNA testing done, possibly between Lee Harvey Oswald and his brother, or even between Oswald's daughters and their uncle, given the questionable results of the 1981 exhumation, which Michael Eddowes, with the support of Marina Oswald Porter, and against the objections of Robert Oswald, had successfully requested through the courts (see CROSSFIRE by Jim Marrs, "Was Oswald Really Oswald?", pp. 547-553, 1990, paperback edition).
Also by Peter Whitmey...
The Lady in Red
Partial Bibliography of Peter Whitmey
My Brief Correspondence with Aline Mosby
JFK Main Page