This is an ongoing series of articles by Bill Simpich on the building of the public persona of Lee H. Oswald. This is Part 9 and all of the earlier articles (1-8) are worth a read. Some really good and well sourced information.
"I cannot say much about what I believed happened, but I do suspect that Oswald was never on the sixth floor at the time of the assassination."
Victoria Adams, The Girl On The Stairs, p. 341
Now there is a crazy thought. Sounds like something a nutty conspiracy theorist would come up with, doesn't it? But what if he didn't? It would make the assassination of John F. Kennedy a much darker and more complicated affair than the lone actions of a malcontent. As is, it's still a complicated ordeal to journey through.
One issue in my research I stumbled upon is Oswald's first trip to the Sports Dome firing range in Irving to sight-in his rifle scope. (It should be of note that one of the employees there saw Oswald driving up in a late 1940's car. He's not supposed to know how to drive under the official story.) One thing that caught my attention was Oswald took three shots, all hitting the target and afterward he picked up all three spent shells. I don't know if retrieving spent brass was required at this shooting range. Nonetheless, these hulls were never found in Oswald's personal belongings. Could perhaps Oswald's real mission was not to assassinate the President but instead be a type of stage manager? Perhaps the spent shells from the firing range were simply tossed on the floor? It should be noted his fingerprints were never found on them and there was much bungling of the evidence and their placement at the crime scene.
Would anybody be dumb enough to go along with this as part of a operation? After a while you have to puzzle over who you are dealing with and who you can trust. But a patsy is just a place holder for other, bigger events.
But there's more.
The Timeline Is All Screwed Up
That is, if you want to call what the Warren Commission crafted a timeline. It's more like a version of, plug-in the events in a chart so it all looks right. Only it doesn't. If a witness’ timing is off for a particular happening just change the time. If the witness protests just be happy you didn't make an audio recording of the interview, so a future investigator will uncover the lie. Of course a good FBI agent can always lose the tape or burn his notes. Oh, and make double-dog sure do your best to convince the witness that he or she had no idea what they were seeing or hearing.
In another fumble, the timing of Oswald on the 6th floor in the "sniper's nest" is a confusing trip through space and time. Oswald said he was in the second floor lunch room at noon and was seen there by secretary Carolyn Arnold (her account will suffer FBI modification to only glancing him in a hallway). According to the official timeline, he is already supposed to be on the sixth floor at this time. Fellow employee Bonnie Ray Williams was having lunch there on the 6th floor and it was concluded he finished his meal and was out by 12:20 PM. If so, that constitutes the fastest devouring of fried chicken in the history of Texas. And for the record, Williams said he never saw Oswald on the 6h floor at the time he was there inhaling his lunch.
After the final shot was fired, Oswald is supposed to have flown down the stairs to calmly purchase and swig a Coke without breaking a sweat. Two women, Sandra Styles and Victoria Adams are walking down the stairs at the time Oswald is supposedly fleeing and they never see him race by. Much to her shock years later, Sandra Styles will have her reported time estimate changed to the plug-and-go style used by the FBI to suss all of this out and build their legend of events for the Warren Commission. The same would happen to Victoria Adams who had her testimony discredited by the ever nasty David Belin in his book, November 22, 1963: You are the Jury. Belin used the testimony of William Shelley and Billy Lovelady to imply that Adams timing was off and came down the stairs after Oswald allegedly did. Books like this are designed to mislead the uninformed and a shark like Belin excels at this. He made a career it.
(Another important point is only Victoria Adams' testimony was taken by the WC, with Sandra Styles being ignored. Apparently, they didn't want two witnesses with correlating testimony of being on the stairs the same time as a fleeing assassin who both women never saw. Adams also felt that her deposition had been modified from her original statements. For example, her testimony states that she told Shelley and Lovelady that the President had been shot when she saw them at the base of the stairs. She does not recall having said this, nor did she recall seeing them. She did recall informing a large black man that the President had been shot. See Barry Earnest's book, The Girl On The Stairs, for his long search in finding Victoria Adams and the resulting interview.)
The whole case of Oswald being on the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building is shaky to say the least. He was working on that floor on the morning of the assassination so it is not unusual for his fingerprints to be found all over the place. The timeline for his being up there and coming down again doesn't work out. Nobody saw him there at noon, nobody saw him fire the rifle and nobody saw him fleeing down the stairs. Even more telling was Oswald's account of being asked by two men moments after the shooting to use the building's phone. Oswald said they identified themselves as Secret Service agents. Later, when tracked down, both men (Pierce Allman and Terrance Ford) would not be agents but were instead news directors for WFAA (Armstrong, p. 817). Both would admit to asking to use the telephone but could not identify Oswald as the person directing them the phone. But most telling, Oswald said one of the men had a crew cut and carried a briefcase. This ID matched one of the TV directors. Oswald was on the first floor way faster than the FBI timeline stated to encounter either of these men.
Oswald during interrogation, also accurately placed fellow employees Billy Lovelady and William Shirley on the first floor watching the motorcade pass by. Oswald said he was there with them, watching the president's car pass and not on the sixth floor at the time of shooting.
The Curb Shot
The Warren Commission and the FBI had a nice, neat story starting out with three shots and three wounds and the President is dead. I think conspiracy in the case would have been a harder sell if things had stayed three shots and three wounds. But was James Tague came forward with his cheek wound from a ricocheting bullet off the curb on Commerce Street. A fourth shot? Once known, this was a major deal changer. Since a second gunman was out of the question, the famous "single bullet theory" was born by a group of staff lawyers with designated husky, Arlen Specter to pimp it. One bullet now has to pull double-duty passing through Kennedy and governor Connelly. This decision was based on political convenience, not reality. After all, no ballistics experiment proves a single bullet and it should be pointed out his theory comes from lawyers not military or civilian ballistics experts.
But there is a problem with the curb. The FBI did a metallurgical test of the curb. They found evidence of lead–but no copper. Oswald is supposed to have been shooting copper jacked bullets. No trace of copper was ever found (Bugliosi, End Notes, p. 315, n. 471). So apparently, this bullet was not Oswald's–it was from somebody else's rifle. The Warren Commission never saw any of this and it was sealed from the public for many years until Harold Wiesberg's FOIA suit unearthed it.
The Paraffin Cast
One of the most controversial pieces of evidence in the case, the paraffin cast was to detect presence of nitrites on a suspect to provide proof of firearm discharge. With Oswald, this test proved negative. The Warren Commission had a major problem on their hands so they brought in an FBI firearms expert Corlandt Cunningham to tell them what they wanted to hear, which was, that the Mannlicher-Carcano was well sealed to prevent blow-back, making the paraffin cast of no evidentiary value.
However, the FBI had their agents, seven of them, test fire Oswald's rifle and all tested positive for nitrates. This data was not shared with the Warren Commission and wasn't known till years later, till once again, Harold Weisberg uncovered it (paraffin test records, 75-226 file, Weisberg Archives). Maybe Corlandt Cunningham was a firearms expert but not in regarding mechanics of the Mannlicher-Carcano. He was expressing his professional opinion–he performed no tests of the rifle to prove anything he said. The Warren Commission got the answer they wanted.
Odds and Ends
As I stated in another posting, Lee Oswald's personal belongings featured few items associated with gun ownership. For example, no accessories except for a holster for the pistol and a leather strap for the rifle. There are no cleaning kits, gun oil and most importantly, boxes of ammo. He is seen at the Sports Dome firing range on numerous occasions firing his rifle but there is no witness record of him buying any ammunition for his guns at any gun shop in the area. Every gun owner has boxes of ammunition, more than they need and it is striking that Oswald has none. A cleaning kit is a curious omission as powder residue does accumulate inside the barrel from repeated firing which can decrease accuracy. Oswald would have, as part of his Marine training, been required to use such a kit to keep his rifle in working order. It's a basic thing of firearm maintenance.
Returning to the ammunition issue, even for the day of the assassination Oswald had with him the minimum. The Mannlicher-Carcano's clip could hold six rounds. Oswald only had four. In the slaying of police officer Tippet, whose murder Oswald is framed with, once again he has few bullets to use. He is alleged to have shot Tippet four times and emptied four spent rounds near the murder scene and reloaded. Odd that he would take four shots at Tippet and then only have exactly four more bullets in his pocket to reload. When arrested at the movie theater, no other bullets were found on his person. Perhaps he didn't shoot Tippet after all?
I think it's a real possibility that Lee Oswald was the set-up man, the foil, the patsy for the real shooters. The retrieving of the spent hulls at the firing range, which are never found in his personal belongings, combined with no record of him buying ammo, gives a hint to the plausibility of them being placed at the crime scene. He was most likely provided the bullets from another party. The lack of a positive on the paraffin test, while test shooters did test positive for nitrates, is an indicator of Oswald not firing the rifle that day. Incorporate this with stairway witnesses not observing Oswald on the stairs with them at the time of his escape, Oswald correctly identifying persons on the first floor at the time of the shooting and the curb not testing for copper all lend credibility to Oswald not being the assassination of President Kennedy.
If there is a conspiracy, they made a lot of mistakes. But when one can quash a local police investigation and control a larger Federal investigation, then the conspirators can afford to make all the mistakes they want.
Summary 1. Timeline defective and largely a piece of fiction. Basically, few or no witnesses to place Oswald where he is supposed to be in the chronology of events before, during and after the assassination. Oswald not seen or encountered by witnesses traveling down stairs at the assassination. Oswald encounters men on the first floor to early in the scenario of events. Oswald documents other persons and their locations at the time of the assassination to back up his account of events. 2. Curb shot metal analysis shows no copper from copper jacketed bullets Oswald is allegedly using. Most likely the shot was made by someone else other than the alleged assassin. 3. Paraffin test proves negative for nitrates on Oswald's cheek placing into question his firing of a weapon. FBI weapons expert will be called in to state that the rifle is well sealed to prevent blow-back. Nitrates will prove positive for FBI agents test firing Oswald's rifle but this data will not be released to the WC. 4. Lack of firearm accessories and ammunition in Oswald's personal belongings. 5. Lee Oswald declares himself a "patsy" to the press.
Sources and Notes
Murder in Dealey Plaza, James H. Fetzer, Ph.D., JFK Timeline, pps., 17-115.
Armstrong, John, Harvey and Lee. Page 817.
Paraffin test records, 75-226 file, Weisberg Archives, http://jfk.hood.edu
Bugliosi, Vincent, Reclaiming History End Notes, p. 315, n. 471
Marguerite Oswald said before the Warren Commission that her son, Lee Harvey Oswald, was in her words, “a government agent.” And there lies the crux of it all. Who was this man? Why is he so important that even at this day, over forty years later, information on him remains classified? There are still secrets to be uncovered deep in the bowels of the beast.