Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Lonesome Gunman Blues

As any SWAT Team or military sniper would say, good marksmanship requires constant practice. Oswald made many documented trips to the Sports Dome Rifle Range outside of Dallas in early November of 1963. Like all things Oswald it is bound in controversy as he is seen driving up when is supposed to have not known how to drive and should have been at Ruth Paine’s house at that time. Later, he’ll be seen arriving in the company of other men and doing annoying things such as shooting at other people’s targets. Whatever is going on here, he never practiced shooting at moving targets. Either in the Marines or in civilian life prior to the assassination. Any professional marksmen or even a deer hunter, will tell you that shooting at a moving target is the hardest thing to do. It requires fast tracking with little leeway for error.

I don’t claim to be a ballistics expert but I grew up around guns and my dad, grandfather, and uncles were gun collectors and hunters. I’ve personally shot various rifles, both bolt-action and semi-automatic with calibers ranging from 30.06, 7.62, 45.70 and .222. I have shot rifles with scopes on them and experienced a determining factor in firearms targeting–recoil. Or, how much the gun kicks once a round is fired. Recoil throws off the sighting of the target. This is extremely important as the target has to be acquired and in Oswald’s case, very quickly, within a fraction of a second. it’s hard enough with a static target let alone one that is moving. You have to sight by the naked eye first and then line up the scope in the general area. As we shall see, this is just one of many problems he faced in trying to accomplish his alleged mission.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, CIA Director McCone had the Zapruder film analyzed by the Agency’s National Photographic Intelligence Center (NPIC) in early 1964. The report was classified until legendary researcher Harold Weisberg obtained a copy of it through his 1982 FOIA suit. In the report (Labeled, 1641-450), the NPIC determines that at frame Z210 the first shot occurs. The second shot occurs at frame Z242. A time period of 1.6 seconds. Even if Ozzie was feeling lucky that day he would not have been able to shift the bolt on his junky Mannlicher-Carcano that fast. Experts take 2.4 seconds to cycle the weapon and that’s being generous. And as I just mentioned, recoil comes in to play, further adding to the time needed to reacquire the target, a target that has already moved out of position and has to be found through what amounts to be a peep-hole in a hotel room door. (Oddly, the scope is found later not to be properly sighted-in. It might have been thrown off since it had to be disassembled in order to get it into the building that morning.) At any rate, the only solution to this mystery is that there was another shooter. Something the Warren Commission would not ever consider. A second shooter is a conspiracy. And remember, we are told time and time again, there is no evidence for this! You can see why this report was buried for 18 years.

(As Gerald McKnight stated in Breach of Trust, relating this matter, it is unclear if the CIA ever mentioned anything from the NPIC report to the Warren Commission. I think it’s a good bet they never did. It would cause insurmountable problems for the Lone Gunman theory.)

A lot of factors affect a bullet’s flight. Cold produces drag on a bullet and will effect the trajectory. Wind and barometric pressure have their effects as well. Gravity produces a noticeable bullet drop even if the marksmen is lying flat on the ground and even more so if shooting from Oswald’s position 60 feet up. Combine all of these factors with a scope that is not properly sighted, and the task at hand is vexing. As Vietnam sniper Craig Roberts, who had an opportunity to look out the sixth floor window said that Oswald’s best angle was Houston street that lead directly to the shooter’s window. Roberts thinks Oswald could have shot up the car with a handgun, the limousine close and braking as it turned slowly on to Elm Street.

So could Oswald have made the shot? Sure, anything is possible. Never the less, it’s a curious thing–half of the evidence is there for a shooter being at the sixth floor window of the school book depository building and shooting. And the other half of the evidence refutes it. Yes, there was a sniper’s nest with stacked boxes, a discarded rifle, a paper bag, spent shells, and people seeing the gun barrel stuck out the window. No, the paraffin test proved negative for nitrates on Oswald’s cheek. (All who test fired the rifle tested positive I might add.) The bolt, trigger, scope, clip, and spent cartridges–none of these things had Oswald’s prints on them. Nobody sees him going down the flights of stairs to get to the first floor. When interrogated by authorities he is able to identify people that were on the first floor at the time of the shooting and even few moments afterwards. It’s like the table is set for dinner–but nobody is home.

I love how Vince Bugliosi in Reclaiming History relates that if Oswald is in a conspiracy why is he doing nothing related to a plot, such as having clandestine meetings with fellow conspirators and so on. As with all things Bugliosi, his arguments seem devastating till you take time to think about it. It’s a good point till one considers the opposite of the argument–what Oswald would have to do to be an assassin. Other than purchasing some guns (and that is problematic too. See my piece, Who Bought The Guns?) and a few trips to the firing range, what is he doing to be good at this? As any SWAT Team or military sniper would say, good marksmanship requires constant practice. Remember that he scored passing grades to qualify as a marksmen in the Marines. First time, pretty good; second time passable; third and last time, barely qualified. He did not belong to an elite sniper unit because his skills were not good enough. Before the assassination, he apparently never did any research, no development of skills, wind tests, shooting from a high elevation to test bullet drop, besides supplying himself with inferior equipment. He just showed up one day and sticks a gun out of the window and goes BANG, BANG, BANG! And the rest is history. Move along now.

So How Does A Loner Have A Wife And Two Kids?
One of the myths that came out of this was that if you are a lone gunman then you must be a loner. It is as if one has to associate with the other. Jim Garrison remarked, not only was Oswald not the lone gunman, he was never alone. Really, James Earl Ray fits the profile of a lone wolf on the outer fringes of society than Oswald ever could. The Warren Commission supporters have so pigeon-holed him as a loner that they have a hard time accepting that he associated with other people besides his wife and Ruth Paine. Just look at the many photos of the parties he attended in Russia. They all feature a content looking young man surrounded with lots of other people. He’s a regular social butterfly with pictures to prove it. When returning to the United States, he and his wife Marina were befriended by the White Russian community in Dallas. Lots of socializing went on there. He had friends in school and on most of the jobs he had, mingling with them outside of work.

I think another reason the Lone Nut crowd must have Oswald isolated from society is based on who he is known to have associated with. There are plenty of good witness accounts of Oswald in the company of everybody from CIA officer David Atlee Philips to the other lone gunman, Jack Ruby. Entertainers, from strippers to comedians, to customers of Ruby’s Carousel club recall seeing Oswald there in association with Ruby on many occasions. But it goes deeper as Oswald had associations with a lot of nefarious characters including
notorious spooks such as David Ferrie and Clay Shaw. Suspicious to say the least. Remember, Oswald is the loner–he’s not supposed to be this sociable. And hanging with this many government operatives? Oh man, so it ain’t so! This is a long and twisting road filled with mysteries and not for the faint of heart. Trying to make sense of it all can trouble the mind.

Actually, the only thing Lee Oswald is anti-social about his affiliation with other Marxist groups. He never does hook up with any of them. While being a Fair Play For Cuba pamphleteer, he was the only member of the New Orleans branch. And the pamphlets he was handing out either were addressed to the office of the staunch anti-communist Guy Banister (another Oswald contact which the LN crowd denies) or had phony addresses so that no one could contact him at all. The end result is that nobody could join him. It was all Cold War theater.

And the famous backyard photo of him with guns and Marxist newspapers show two divergent groups, one Stalinist and the other Trotskyite. Both are blood enemies of each other. You either belonged to one and not the other. He might as well be holding up a Bible and a Koran. What he was apparently doing was showing how disconnected he was from mainstream Communists in America at the time. In his things after the assassination was found a rough draft of a speech he never gave that was pro-capitalism. I sometimes wonder if the photograph was done for protection. To let everybody know what team he was playing for. That one image, FPCC literature, and the left behind speech contradict the legend of Oswald the commie.

Going It Alone
Could Lee Oswald have done it alone? Or for that matter, could anybody have assassinated John Kennedy alone? One would think the logistics for such an operation are too great for one man to handle if it was his desire to cut down a high profile figure such as a President. As has been pointed out in this piece, the CIA’s own photography analysis group determined the time between the first and second shot was too brief for Oswald to accomplish with a manually operated firearm. It begs for a second shooter. Military snipers operate in a team of one rifleman paired with a spotter. There should be in an operation such as this, besides a highly trained and experienced marksmen, intelligence gathering, operational knowledge of the intended target’s security detail, perhaps an inside man or two, and a backup plan among a myriad of other details. Can a lone individual complete all of these tasks? Not with Lee Oswald working 9 to 5 and visiting his wife and kids on the weekends. Maybe this is why we don’t see much in the way of targeted assassinations, at least in this country, since the 1960’s. Today, the Secret Service employs their own team of snipers on rooftops. An ironic turn of events.

McKnight, Gerald, Breach of Trust; Proudy, R. Fletcher, The Secret Team; Armstrong, John, Harvey and Lee; Garrison, James, On the Trail of the Assassins; The Warren Commission Report; Mars, Jim, Crossfire; Bugliosi, Vince, Reclaiming History for pictures of the President’s security detail.