Evidence of conspiracy in the assassination of John F. Kennedy is always going to circumstantial. You get from point A to point B by basically doing: 2+2=4. And once you start studying various issues in depth you start to stumble over a bewildering jumble of obstacles. A case in point is the issue of Lee Oswald’s gun ownership. Like with all things Oswald, a closer look shows this to be anything but simple and straight forward. Even the most minor of details are fraught with difficulty and Oswald and his guns present another journey into more extended mysteries.
Purchasing the Rifle
It has long been held that a key piece of evidence in the guilt of Lee Oswald is documentation that he bought a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle and the .38 pistol. In his possessions was a found a receipt dated March 12, for the money order he allegedly used to purchase the rifle (no receipts were ever found for the pistol in his belongings). The purchase amount was $21.45. This was for one rifle with a four power scope, but no clip or bullets. The letter had a postmark of 10:30 AM. So, Oswald had a window of 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM to purchase the money order and mail it off.
One important fact to remember is Oswald’s post office box was authorized for his name only. He ordered everything under his alias, A. Hidell. Any piece of mail coming to his box with the alias would be marked “addressee unknown, return to sender.” Keep this in mind for as we shall see later, the box plays an important role in Oswald’s acquiring of the weapons.
Another hitch is that Oswald’s work records show he was employed that morning at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovell with no absences. The nearest post office was 11 blocks away. A long walk back and forth for a man with no car. Even more curious is the postmark date has zone 12 listed on it. Zone 12 was roughly two miles away in downtown Dallas. Since it was established that the money order was purchased in zone 3, who would buy a money order at one office and then travel two miles to another one to mail it? Plus, Oswald didn’t have the time even if he had a friend to drive him there and back.
The order arrives at Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago the next morning and was sent via Airmail. Very good for pre-FedEx days! Kline’s reportedly deposited the money order in its bank account on March 13. However, under closer inspection the money order is missing many of the bank routing stamps which would show its path through the banking system. Only the endorsement stamp of Klein’s is there; it’s missing the stamps from the First National Bank of Chicago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and finally, the Federal Postal Money Order Center in Kansas City. None of those three routing stamps are on the back of the money order. The stamps have to be there to show that each bank pays only once, if not you have a mess on your hands. Other money orders that Oswald bought, such as the ones he used to pay off his State Dept. loan, all have these routing stamps. So this is most unusual and never investigated by the Warren Commission, the FBI, or any other agency. It certainly gives weight to the idea that Oswald’s payment never made it through the banking system.
One problem with case and which is largely ignored, was in the spring of 1963 Klein’s only selling the 36” model of the Mannlicher-Carcano. This is clearly shown in ads they had running in various sporting magazines. The rifle found on the sixth floor near the sniper’s nest was a the 40” model. Kline’s was not selling that model in March of 1963.
Adding to that, the FBI went through Klein’s microfilm records and found no sale of a Mannlicher-Carcano with a serial number of C2766 for March of 1963 or any month in that year. They went back a year and never found one sold with that matching serial number in 1962 either. It seems to have disappeared from the inventory.
However, there are several accounting records with the amount of $21.45 listed. One entry is for March, 1963, but another for February 15th. One is listed under the heading, “checks.” But checks are a different type of financial instrument than a money order and should not be listed under that heading. There is also a listing for “other banks” but what banks are those? There is no serial numbers identified for the amount of $21.45. It could be C2766 or somebody else’s order. It should be noted that Klein’s went out of business in 1973 and it’s remaining financial records were destroyed. Also, many accounting records on microfilm disappeared while in FBI custody (Armstrong, p.475).
What is known is Klein’s received a shipment of rifles (carton #3766) and Mannlicher-Carcano, C2766, in that shipment. Also, it was stated by Louis Feldsott, President of Crescent Firearms (wholesaler) in a sworn affidavit to the Warren Commission that he found a record of a sale of a Mannlicher-Carcano, C2766 to Klein’s Sporting Goods, Inc., for June 18, 1962.
Affidavit of Louis Feldsott, President of Crescent Firearms.
June of 1962 is an important date. It’s the same month Oswald, his wife and child, traveled back to the USA from the Soviet Union. His DOD ID card expires that year (sidebar–his mother’s tax returns are sealed from 1956, ending in 1962.). Apparently, one must conclude that somebody created false paperwork to connect Oswald to the rifle, from Klein’s Sporting Goods accounting to bogus money order missing it routing track.
(It should be noted the original money order was found in the National Archives by one of the employees there, Robert Jackson. Jackson was never interviewed by the FBI in regards to how he found it. How it made it there is unknown. Oswald’s receipt was found in his personal possessions but that is suspect because of the all the difficulties already mentioned.)
The Controversy With Post Office DeliveryIt’s been implied by some researchers, such as John Armstrong (Harvey and Lee) that Oswald’s P. O. Box was authorized for his name only and any mail arriving with another name, in this case his Hidell alias, would result in a return to sender. This makes getting his gun shipment to him problematic to say the least. The Warren Commission knew this and simply stated in the final report that, “It is not known whether the application for post office box 2915 listed ‘A. Hidell’ as a person entitled to receive mail at this box.” They had the original application, published in evidence volume 19, page 286. While it lists Lee Oswald as the applicant there is no authorization for mail under his name only.
There are other issues at play to further complicate this besides the mail box. One of the postal regulations at the time required that anybody purchasing a firearm had to fill out and sign a 2162 form. Not only the buyer but the seller as well. This form was to be kept on file for four years. This form was never found on either end, from buyer or shipper. The FBI never requested it and Klein’s never volunteered a copy. Dallas Postal Inspector Harry Holmes told the Warren Commission that it basically didn’t matter than Oswald could have received the rifle under his alias. Interestedly, Holmes had been monitoring Oswald’s mail for up to a year since he was receiving subversive materials in the mail (i.e., FPCC and other communist literature) but couldn’t tell the Warren Commission that Oswald had received a package with a gun in it. Why didn’t he know? Oswald’s box was basically flagged. Oddly, Holmes apparently never mentioned that Oswald would have to have filled out the aforementioned 2162 form if that were the case.
All indications are that Oswald did not pick up the rifle package at the Post Office in Dallas. There is no paperwork to prove it and no witnesses to the fact.
The Smith And Wesson Pistol
If the weirdness with rifle is not enough, enter the .38 caliber pistol that Oswald allegedly used to kill Dallas police officer J. D. Tippet. Sold from Seaport Traders, Oswald took order of a snub nosed Smith &Wesson .38. Before he could order it he would be required under Texas law to get a “certificate of good character” from either the Justice of the Peace or a District Court Judge. This would be hard to do since he was ordering the pistol under his Alek Hidell alias. Imagine applying for a certificate verifying your character using a phony name! Apparently, he never did. The certificate would have to shown to the shipper before the firearm was released to the buyer.
Like the Mannlicher-Carcano, there is not a lot of solid documentary proof that Oswald bought the pistol. There is one invoice (#70638) saying the gun was shipped COD via Railway Express Agency to a A. J. Hidell. This particular invoice is a copy--the original was never obtained by the FBI. It also states that it was shipped to his post office box address which of course can’t be done and was shipped to REA office for pick-up. The FBI could have checked the bank records of both Seaport Traders and REA but never did.
When a shipment would arrive at REA it was common procedure to send a postcard alerting the buyer the gun had arrived. Once again, since Oswald had a post office box authorized in his name only, he would never have seen the postcard. It would have been marked “returned to sender” like his rifle should have been. Researcher John Armstrong looked into this in great detail and found that a phone call would determine if an order arrived at REA. No ID was required to show up and pay the COD charge and retrieve the package. Anybody could have appeared at the office and paid for the pistol.
There are no receipts of any kind that were found in Oswald’s personal belongings. No invoices, no postcard alerting the arrival of the shipment, no receipt for paying of COD charges...nothing. Oswald obtained a leather holster and bullets for it but no receipts for any of those items either.
Here are the major points covered:
- Post office box address only authorized for his name Lee Oswald. Anything sent with another name (as the rifle allegedly was) would be marked return to sender.
- Money Order not marked with proper routing stamps proving his path through the banking system.
- Work records at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovell show Oswald was employed at the time the MO was allegedly purchased and mailed.
- No finger prints found on the MO or the order coupon.
- MO eventually found in the National Archives in Washington, DC rather than the final resting place in Kansas City, MO.
- No 2162 form ever found from the buyer or the shipper.
- Oswald ordered the 36” model but apparently possessed the 40” model not for sale at Klein’s Sporting Goods at the time of sale.
- Klein's financial records did not list a sale of a rifle with C2766 in March of 1963 but instead, June of 1962–when Oswald could not possibility have ordered it and spent part of that month out of the country.
- No “certificate of good character” acquired for use in receiving the .38 handgun.
- Both the rifle and pistol are different models than the ones he ordered.
Sources: Newman, John, Oswald and the CIA; Armstrong, John, Harvey and Lee; McKnight, Gerald, Breach of Trust; Warren Commission Report; Douglass, James, JFK and the Unspeakable; www.ctka.net (Probe Magazine article archive); www.history-matters.com