Lee Oswald Mug shot

LEE HARVEY OSWALD

. . . if you put the murdered President of the United States on one side of a scale and that wretched waif Oswald on the other side, it doesn't balance. You want to add something weightier to Oswald. It would invest the President's death with meaning, endowing him with martyrdom. He would have died for something. . . . A conspiracy would, of course, do the job nicely. — William Manchester.

An historical enigma, Lee Harvey Oswald is at the center of the assassination, regardless of whether you consider him the lone gunman, a coconspirator who was also a patsy, or totally innocent.

Oswald had a vastly unstable childhood. The Oswald Timeline - I, gives the details of his frequent moves and changes of school.

What about Oswald's adult life?

DateResidenceActivity
Oct. 26, 1956San DiegoReports to Marine Corps Basic Training
March 18, 1957Jacksonville, FLNaval Air Technical Training Center
May 1957Biloxi, MSKeesler AFB
July 1957El Toro, CAMarine Corps Air Station
Aug./Sept. 1957U.S.S. BexarPacific Crossing
September 1957Atsugi, JapanMarine Air Control Squadron No. 1
November 1957Atsugi, JapanShoots self with derringer / Court-martialed
Nov. 57/March 58Various PacificManeuvers with Marine Unit
June 27, 1958AtsugiCourt-martialed for fight with Sergeant / Confined until August 13
Sept./Oct. 1958South China SeaWith Marine unit
December 1958El Toro, CAMarine Corps Air Station
Sept. 11, 1959Released from active duty
Sept. 20, 1959New OrleansSails for Europe
Oct. 10, 1959LondonTakes Plane to Helsinki
Oct. 16, 1959Arrives in Moscow
Oct. 21, 1959Hotel BerlinApparent suicide attempt
Oct. 31, 1959U. S. EmbassyAttempts to renounce U.S. citizenship
Jan. 7, 1960Arrives in Minsk
Jan. 1960 — May 1962MinskOswald very closely surveiled by KGB
Feb. 1961MinskWrites U.S. Embassy / Wants to return to U.S.
March 17, 1961MinskMeets Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova
April 30, 1961MinskLee and Marina Married
May, 1962Oswalds leave Minsk, travel to Fort Worth
June/July 1962Fort WorthLive with Robert Oswald
July/Aug. 1962Fort WorthLived with Marguerite Oswald / Gets job at Leslie Welding Co.
Aug. 1962Fort WorthMove to 2703 Mercedes Street
Oct. 1962DallasBegins at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall Co.
Nov. 1962DallasMove to 604 Elsbeth Street
Feb. 22, 1963DallasOswalds meet Paines
March 12, 1963DallasLee orders rifle from ad for Klein's Sporting Goods in American Rifleman
March 1963DallasMove to 214 West Neely Street / Lee receives pistol and rifle
March 31, 1963DallasOswald, in black "hunter of fascists" outfit, gives cheap Imperial Reflex camera to Marina, is photographed with rifle and pistol
April 10, 1963DallasAssassination attempt on General Walker. Lee leaves note for Marina, telling her how to deal with his death or arrest. This is the first page of the note, and this is the second.
April 24, 1963Lee leaves for New Orleans / Marina moves to Paine home
May 10, 1963New OrleansGets job with Reily Coffee Company
May 11, 1963New OrleansMarina joins Lee at 4905 Magazine Street
July 19, 1963New OrleansOswald fired by Reily Coffee Company
August 9, 1963New OrleansOswald arrested in altercation passing out Fair Play for Cuba leaflets
Sept. 23/25, 1963New OrleansMarina leaves for Dallas with Mrs. Paine / Oswald leaves for Mexico City
Oct. 3, 1963Oswald arrives in Dallas
Oct. 15, 1963DallasOswald Hired by Roy Truly at Texas School Book Depository
Oct. 16, 1963DallasOswald begins work at Depository
Nov. 22, 1963, 12:30 pm.Dealey Plaza, DallasKennedy Shot, fatally wounded
Nov. 22, 1963, 12:40 pm. (approx.)Elm StreetFleeing Oswald boards Cecil McWatters bus, then gets off, taking transfer.
Nov. 22, 1963, 1:15 (approx.)10th and Patton StreetsOswald shoots Officer Tippit
Nov. 22, 1963, 1:30 (approx.)Jefferson StreetJohnny Calvin Brewer, shoe store clerk, sees Oswald acting suspiciously, follows to Texas Theater
Nov. 22, 1963DallasOswald arrested in Texas Theater / Taken to police car / Booked, charged with killing Tippit
Nov. 22, 1963DallasPhony Selective Service Card found on Oswald
Nov. 22, 1963 (afternoon)Dallas Police HeadquartersMarina tells police that Oswald owned rifle, which is now missing.
Nov. 22, 1963 (late evening)DallasOswald faces press in news conference
Nov. 24, 1963DallasOswald shot, killed by Jack Ruby
Nov. 24, 1963 (afternoon)DallasLee's dead body lies in Parkland morgue
Nov. 25, 1963Fort WorthOswald funeral, Lee buried at Rose Hill cemetery, by Miller Funeral Home.

More Detail?

You may wish to consult a more detailed timeline, by W. Tracy Parnell.

Lee Oswald Photo Gallery

Here is a small collection of Lee Harvey Oswald images.

Lee Oswald as troubled truant

Lee Oswald: Troubled Youth

The whole lone assassin case hangs on the notion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sort of disturbed individual who might have shot the president. If he was, what were the roots of his psychological problems? Oswald's chronic truancy after he and his mother moved to New York in 1952 landed him in Youth House, a facility for troubled teenagers. There professionals on the staff conducted a thorough examination of him. "Lee Oswald: Troubled Youth" is the Warren Commission's summary of what they found.

Oswald's Defection to the USSR

The circumstances of Oswald's defection to the USSR, and his time in Moscow are covered in detail, and with interesting new sources, on the "Lee Harvey Oswald in Russia" web site run by Peter Wronski.

How Did the Soviets View Oswald?

If Oswald was sent to the USSR by U.S. intelligence, did authorities in the communist state find any evidence of that, or any reason to believe he was other than a mixed-up kid? In the early 1990s, many KGB files were released, and the Soviet paper Izvestia ran a story on what they revealed. Then, later in that decade, authorities turned a cache of documents over to President Clinton.

Oswald in Holland

On the way back to the U.S. from Russia, Lee and Marina passed through the Netherlands and boarded a ship in Rotterdam. Does some mystery surround this? Perry Vermeulen has a web site on the subject. He's not pushing any particular theory, but filling in holes in the historical record.

"Suspicious" Happenings in Oswald's Life

Conspiracy authors specialize in finding "spooky" or "suspicious" happenings in the life of Lee Oswald — happenings that supposedly reveal some sinister connection with a government agency or other group of possible assassination conspirators.

Why’d He Do It?

There is no way an examination of Lee Oswald's character and personality can prove he was the lone assassin. Prove that he was a malcontent loner, and you've only proved that he was the perfect patsy for some conspiracy. Prove that he was enamoured of spy games and false identities, and you simply open the possibility that real intelligence operatives suckered him into a game that cost him his life.

But people do have a right to demand that lone gunman theorists provide a plausible account of how malcontent Oswald might have chosen to kill Kennedy. Starting with the Warren Commission Report, and continuing with books like Jean Davison's Oswald's Game, they have indeed done so.

Two essays on this site address these issues.

Are the Backyard Photos Genuine?

The HSCA analysis of the famous Oswald backyard photos. If you're used to reading the likes of Jack White on this subject, you'll find this analysis a revelation.

Oswald "Sightings"

Conspiracy books list large numbers of witnesses who saw Lee Oswald in all sorts of places the Warren Commission said he wasn't: in the Carousel Club, on a shooting range, talking to "Maurice Bishop," visiting Sylvia Odio. Just how seriously should these witness accounts be taken? Are they the evidence that blows the lid off the coverup, or are they just like claims of people who saw Elvis at the Laundromat? In this section of the Warren Commission Report, the Commission investigates several of these claims.

Of all the many Oswald sightings, one has loomed particularly large in conspiracy literature, and even been accepted by some sober lone assassin theorists: the case of Sylvia Odio. Odio, one night in late September 1963, was visited by three men, one Anglo and three Hispanics, and after the assassination she came to believe that the Anglo was Lee Harvey Oswald. Odio was apparently an honest witness, but most likely the fellow she saw was not Oswald.

And here is a late 1950's picture of Ray Herbert of the Chicago White Sox. "What," you may be asking, "is the point?" Look at the photo and ask yourself: "How many guys who looked a lot like Oswald were running around in 1963, easily misidentified as our boy Lee?" Cecil Jones discovered this photo.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations found Odio a "credible" witness — although they stopped short of flatly stating that Oswald had indeed visited Odio's apartment. Here is their report on this incident, authored by Gaeton Fonzi.

Was Odio the sort of woman who might have offered a mistaken identification, and even been hysterical about it? Her psychiatrist, Burton C. Einspruch, testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978. Here is his assessment of his patient.

One whole spate of sightings occurred in a place called Alice, Texas where seventeen separate witnesses thought they saw Lee Oswald — usually with Marina and a babe in arms. In an essay from his web site, Dave Reitzes reviews these sightings and explains why they are bogus.

Special Agent James Hosty

G-Man Assigned to the Case

FBI agent James Hosty (pictured at left) was the man the bureau assigned to keep tabs on Lee Oswald after he returned from New Orleans to Dallas. Although he failed to contact Oswald until after the assassination, he twice visited Marina and Mrs. Paine. Intimately involved in the case, his views on a broad variety of issues are recorded in this interview by researcher Steve Bochan. Bochan's interview shows an interesting FBI "insiders" view.

A Propensity for Violence?

The Walker assassination attempt is an extremely important incident, judged by both the Warren Commission and by the House Select Committee to indicate Oswald's propensity for violence. How strong is the evidence against Oswald? This section of the Warren Commission Report deals with this incident. If Oswald shot at Walker, it is extremely easy to believe that he shot at Kennedy seven months later.

Conspiracy books try to attack the Warren Commission version of the Walker shooting by citing a witness, Walter Coleman, who supposedly saw two men fleeing the scene. Read the FBI report of Coleman's testimony, and see whether it in any way challenges the Commission's version.

Local Media Celebrity
The high point of Lee Oswald's campaign of pro-Castro activism occurred in New Orleans where Oswald appointed himself Secretary of a rump chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. As spokesman for the Committee, Oswald appeared on WDSU Radio twice. Michael O'Dell kindly supplied these audio clips.
Two Oswald theorists

More Than One "Oswald?"

A recurring theory has been that there were "two Oswalds" — one the birth Lee Harvey Oswald, and another a look-alike substituted for the real Lee Oswald by some sinister people for some sinister reason. And authors pushing this theory can produce considerable "evidence" to support it. But just how well does this "evidence" fare under critical scrutiny?

"Guiding Hands" Leading Lee to the Depository?

If Lee Oswald was the designated patsy in the assassination, then the "guiding hands" of The Conspiracy had to be leading him to his job in the building overlooking the parade route. Just how did Lee get his job? This essay by Joel Grant explores the issue. Of course, yet another set of "guiding hands" had to be working to bring John Kennedy down Elm Street. Grant also explores this possibility in his essay "The Three Furies." Do we see the sinister workings of a conspiracy here, or merely the working out of a perverse fate?
A Brother's Pain
The "victims" in the assassination also included Oswald's family, who had to bear the pain of being associated with the killer. Here is the first-person account of Robert Oswald, Lee's brother. At Lee's funeral his family grieves. From left to right: Marina, June, Robert, Marguerite, Rachael, and the Reverend Louis Saunders.

Playing the Victim Game

If Oswald was in fact a Marxist, conspiracy theorists often ask, why did he not proclaim himself to be JFK's killer, and proudy declare his political beliefs? The answer lies in the value of the "Victim Game," something that since the late 60s we have heard from minorities wanting the benefit of affirmative action programs, from militia types claiming Federal persecution, and indeed from all sorts of groups. But the Old Left pioneered the Victim Game, and Oswald's mother headed Lee in that direction even before he became a leftist. Russ Burr explains this recurring factor in Lee's behavior in his brief essay "I'm Just a Patsy."

Did Oswald Have a Mistress in New Orleans in the Summer of 1963?

Circa 2000, a woman named Judyth Vary Baker began contacting JFK researchers, claiming to have been in an adulterous affair with Lee Oswald in the summer before the assassination. Her story has many juicy details, including a CIA sponsored project to create a bioweapon to kill Castro. Evenually, she published two books based on her claims. Does her story have any credibility? This article dissects the arcane and labyrinthine twists and turns of her account.

Was the Evidence Against Oswald "Inadmissible"

Conspiracy books attack the evidence against Oswald by claiming that the "chain of custody" was broken for most of it, and that only marking evidence is sufficient to establish a "chain of custody" for legal purposes. This legal brief submitted by the plaintiffs in the O. J. Simpson civil trial shows this claim to be untrue. All the key pieces of evidence (the rifle, the hulls in the Depository, the hulls at 10th and Patton, materials from Oswald's rooming house and from the Paines' house in Irving) would have been legally admissible.

Oswald Writes to Commend Communist Newspaper

Lee Oswald not only subscribed to the Trotskyist newspaper The Militant, he wrote a letter to the editor commending the paper for "analysis and coverage of the labor movement" that was "unsurpassed." Paul Hoch kindly supplied this image.

Was Oswald "Denied Counsel?"

A common theme in conspiracy books is that Oswald was "denied counsel" when in the custody of the Dallas Police. The real story is more complex, and tells us a lot about just how Lee Oswald thought. Oswald, in His Own Defense, an essay by Joel Grant and John Locke, explores this issue.

Should Oswald’s Interrogation Have Been Recorded?

To anybody who watches TV crime dramas, it might seem obvious that Lee Harvey Oswald's interrogation should have been taped. Isn't that what the cops always do? Given the massive stakes in this case, isn't it suspicious that no audio recording was made? Unfortunately, what seems "obvious" today doesn't necessarily apply in 1963. As late as 2004, the Northwestern University School of Law Center on Wrongful Convictions was urging police departments to record interrogations. Indeed, their survey of police practices in that year showed that virtually no departments recorded suspect interrrogations as far back as 1963. As researcher Sandy McCroskey (who discovered this report) pointed out:
All departments in Alaska record [interrogations] and had been doing so for nineteen years in 2004. That means they weren't in 1963, as they started only in 1985. Los Angeles had been recording for 23 years in 2004. That means they started only in 1981. What about New York City? Well, all we have for that state is Broome County, and it didn't start until 2002! Chicago? No department in Illinois started before 1994. Washington, DC started in 2003. No police department in Texas was recording interrogations until 1992.
And of course, in 2004 a large number of departments still didn't record interrogations, a reality the Center on Wrongful Convictions was trying to reform.

Lee Oswald: In His Own Words

Lee Oswald's writings describe his political beliefs To understand the assassination a necessary — but alas, not sufficient — requirement is that you understand Lee Oswald. To believe the lone assassin theory you have to conclude that here was a man who in fact could have shot John Kennedy in cold blood. Of course, concluding that Oswald was this sort of man doesn't rule out a conspiracy. Intelligent conspirators would certainly frame a man who looked capable of being the lone gunman. But even if Oswald did it by himself, were his motives mainly personal, or political? We can start to examine the theory of Oswald the political assassin by looking at his own writings. Was this man capable of killing to achieve a political objective?

Sinister Meeting with "Maurice Bishop?"

The story is a favorite of Gaeton Fonzi, and of Tony Summers. Lee Oswald supposedly met with the very sinister "Maurice Bishop" (believed by many buffs to be the CIA's David Atlee Phillips) in Dallas in late August or early September 1963. Never mind that he was in New Orleans all this time, the story has other massive credibility problems, as the HSCA investigation made clear.

Lee's Political Views


On July 27, 1963, Lee was accompanied by Dutz and Lillian Murret (his aunt and uncle) and Marina to speak at the House of Studies at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. There he discussed his experiences in the Soviet Union before an audience of Jesuit seminarians. Among a variety of views he expressed was the following:
Question: Why don't the Russians see they are being indoctrinated and they are being denied the truth by these jamming stations? Answer: They are convinced that such contact would harm them and would be dangerous. They are convinced that the state is doing them a favor by denying them access to Western radio broadcasts.

Source: Commission Exhibit 2649, 25H727-728.

Bag Oswald used to bring rifle to Depository

Was it Really Curtain Rods?

The paper bag at right, photographed in the National Archives, was claimed by the Warren Commission to be the one that Lee Oswald used to bring his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to the Texas School Book Depository on the morning of the assassination. Conspiracists, of course, disagree. Just what does the evidence show? Is there a viable alternative to the Warren Commission conclusion?

Oswald a Homosexual?

That's what Jim Garrison thought, and conspiracy writers have even uncovered a CIA document that says he was. But Lee's wife Marina told the intimate details of their sex life to Priscilla McMillan, and the KGB spied on Lee and Marina's Minsk apartment round-the-clock. It's clear that Lee was heterosexual, and the CIA document and the way conspiracy authors have interpreted it tell us more about them than about Lee's sex life.

Ruth Paine standing in front of garage in which was stored Lee Oswald's rifle

Ruth Paine's Kindness: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The woman at right is Ruth Paine, who took Marina Oswald and June Oswald into her home at a time when the Oswald family was in need of support. This act of kindness enmeshed her in the horror of November 22, 1963, and the turmoil over the assassination that continues to this day. Writer Thomas Mallon offers a perceptive study of the character of Mrs. Paine and the dynamics of the Paine household in "Marina and Ruth: The Assassin's Wife and the Quaker Woman Who Took Her In."

Lying About Ruth Paine's Daughter

Conspiracists typically believe that Ruth Paine was some sort of spook or intelligence operative, assigned to help set up Oswald as the patsy in an assassination plot. One particularly noxious piece of "evidence" they provide is the idea that Mrs. Paine's daughter knows her mother was an assassination conspirator, and is estranged from her mother for that reason. Author Thomas Mallon actually interviewed Paine's daughter to determine what the truth is.

Lee's Lies

Regardless of whether Lee Oswald was a lone-nut assassin, he was clearly not the All-American Boy. He schemed, deceived, manipulated, and hoodwinked through all of his short adult life. In the essay "Lee's Lies" Brian Dautch outlines some of his many untruths.

The Straight Scoop on Lee / Some of the most damning testimony about Lee Oswald came from his wife Marina. Conspiracy authors have attacked this testimony, pointing out that Marina was a recent immigrant to the United States, was fearful of the authorities, and spoke English very poorly.

These criticisms are well taken, but they don't apply to her testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

The following is from Volume II of the Hearings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, pp. 301-302. Due to remarriage, Marina is "Mrs. Porter" here. The testimony was given on September 14, 1978. Note her endorsement of Priscilla Johnson McMillan's Marina and Lee as an accurate account.

Chairman STOKES. Now again you know Priscilla Johnson McMillan, don't you?

Mrs. PORTER. Yes, sir.

Chairman STOKES. That is the lady who wrote the book "Marina and Lee."

Mrs. PORTER. Yes.

Chairman STOKES. And you talked with her with reference to what she was writing about the book, didn't you?

Mrs. PORTER. Sure.

Chairman STOKES. You have read that book?

Mrs. PORTER. Yes; not recently but a year ago.

Chairman STOKES. I beg your pardon?

Mrs. PORTER. A year ago, yes.

Chairman STOKES. A year ago, right.

Let me read this passage to you from the book. I am reading at page 436.

"Marina was now certain that Lee was guilty. She saw his guilt in his eyes. Moreover, she knew that had he been innocent, he would have been screaming to high heaven for his rights, claiming he had been mistreated, and demanding to see officials at the very highest levels, just as he had always done before. For her, the fact that he was so compliant, that he told her he was being treated all right, was a sign that he was guilty."

Did you tell Miss Johnson that?

Mrs. PORTER. Yes.

Chairman STOKES. Now in addition to it, you told Miss Johnson, did you not, about the police coming and taking away many possessions, and one of the possessions that they left was a small demitasse cup, and when you looked and discovered the fact that they had not taken the cup, you also found in there Lee's wedding ring. Did you tell her about that?

Mrs. PORTER. Well, I do not — I remember the demitasse, but it is missed. I don't know where it is.

Are you asking me did I find Lee's ring?

Chairman STOKES. Did you find his ring?

Mrs. PORTER. Yes, sir.

Chairman STOKES. And then did you tell Miss Johnson this:

"'Oh, no,' she thought, and her heart sank again, 'Lee never took his ring off, not even on his grimiest manual jobs.' She had seen him wearing it the night before. Marina suddenly realized what it meant. Lee had not just gone out and shot the President spontaneously. He had intended to do it when he left for work that day. Again things were falling into place. Marina told no one about Lee's ring."

Did you tell Miss Johnson that?

Mrs. PORTER. Yes.

Chairman STOKES. As my time has expired, the Chair would request unanimous consent to proceed for 3 additional minutes. Without objection. Now did you tell —

Mr. FAUNTROY. Overruled, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman STOKES. That is democracy.

Mrs. Porter, it has always been important for the American people to ascribe some motive to this killing. And I notice further that, in the same book, Miss Johnson writes this, and I am reading at page 434 of the book:

"In his eyes, his political ideas stood higher even than himself. He would talk about Marxism, Communism, and injustice all over the world."

Did you tell Miss Johnson that?

Mrs. PORTER. That was Miss Johnson's conclusion about studying Lee as a person. Her findings weren't based only on what I told her. She did great research and met with lots of people who knew Lee. That was her conclusion, and I agree with her.


Return to Kennedy Assassination Home Page