Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Mauser, is a Mauser, is a Mannlicher-Carcano

Top: Mauser. Bottom: Mannlicher-Carcano

Mauser Breech

The saga of three police officers finding a Mauser in the northwest corner of the room where Lee Oswald allegedly killed the President of the United States continues to attract attention. How could three police officers, all experienced with firearms and the identification of weapons, miss pinpointing this important piece of evidence? If indeed, they were wrong to begin with? The discovery of Oswald’s rifle and how it morphs from a German Mauser to an Italian Mannlicher-Carcano is an interesting study of either high confusion, or else men who were subjected to political pressure to recast their stories.

Discovered by Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone in the northwest corner of the sixth floor, it was identified as a Mauser by Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman, and Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig. Moments later, Capt. Fritz and Lt. Day shows up to examine and take possession of the firearm. Wetizman would give testimony to the Warren Commission that the rifle found was a Mauser. His signed affidavit of the 23rd describes the rifle as a Mauser. Capt. Fritz said it was a Mauser as well and said so to the Warren Commission. Later, officers Boone and Wetizman, along with Fritz would recant their stories of finding a Mauser. However, Deputy Roger Craig never would.

Mauser Carbine
Not commonly reported, the Mannlicher-Carcano is basically an Italian copy of a German Mauser carbine. A carbine is a short barreled rifle that originated many years ago for use with cavalry. Since a long barreled rifle proved to be ungainly for soldiers on horseback a shorter barreled rifle was developed. Years later, the carbine would again prove useful for paratroopers and their minimalist equipment and weight requirements. A carbine’s advantage is in close combat but offers poor long range accuracy due in part to lower bullet velocity. In the sample images provided here, one can see just how close the Italian version resembles the Mauser, particularly the trigger guard assembly, sights and the shape of the stock. It’s easy to see why the two could be mistaken.

If Lee Oswald did it, he must have been the first sniper to use a carbine. Because no real sniper uses that type of rifle. The only advantage gained would be the ability to sneak the weapon undetected in the building that morning.

But Was It Mistaken?
As already stated, the first man to see the weapon was Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone and he wrote two reports saying the rifle was a Mauser. He also said that Captain Fritz, who would show up to take possession of the rifle, thought it was a Mauser as well.

In a signed and sworn affidavit on the 23rd, Deputy Constable Weitzman reports the discovery of a 7.65mm, bolt-action Mauser rifle at approximately 1:22 P.M., on the day of the assassination. He would later give the same description in his Warren Commission testimony. The questioning attorney, Mr. Ball never questions Weitzman in regards to the discrepancy to the weapon type, or how the Mauser later becomes known as a Mannlicher-Carcano. But later, the Warren Commission will decide that Weitzman and the other police officers were simply mistaken.

Roger Craig stated in a filmed interview that he was standing with the other officers and examining the rifle up close, within 6-8 inches and he saw “7.65 Mauser” stamped on the barrel. He further states that Weitzman saw it too and pointed it out.

On the other hand, Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano clearly is marked "MADE ITALY" on the shoulder stock, and "CAL 6.5" stamped on the side of the barrel. How could all of these men miss this? Only if they had a Mauser to begin with.

Eventually, Fritz, Boone and Weitzman would recant their stories and all would say they had been mistaken all along. How could this be? Here are men that had given numerous reports and testimony under oath that the rifle they had discovered was a Mauser carbine. A weapon that Craig said Weitzman had examined up close. Did somebody get to these men?

Fritz, Boone and Weitzman all changed their stories and said they were mistaken and all went on to have normal careers in law enforcement. But Roger Craig, a rising star in the Dallas County Sheriff’s department, who never changed his story, went on to lose everything; his career, his health (including numerous murder attempts) and eventually taking his own life in 1975 at his father’s house.

Importantly, it should be pointed out here–that no signed or sworn affidavit by any police officer involved in the finding of the rifle listed it as a Mannlicher-Carcano–only as a Mauser. 

So when did the switcheroo take place?

The Weapon Mess
As I have often documented here is how mucked-up everything surrounding Oswald obtaining his firearms really are. Even the most simple of efforts on Lee Oswald’s part to acquire the weapons is a weird journey down the rabbit hole. From the buying of the money orders, their processing through the banking system, to the shipment and delivery, to the actual make and model of the rifle and pistol–it’s all one contradiction after the other. And as we see here even the discovery of the rifle is fraught with controversy. Nothing is left alone and the waters are troubled. Like all things in this case nothing is simple and straight-forward.

Adding a new wrinkle is the obscure testimony of Frank Ellsworth, an agent for the ATF that was in the Texas School Book Depository building and participated in later searches, claiming the Italian rifle was found on the fourth floor and not the sixth. He theorized that Oswald, after shooting, ran down the stairs and dumped the Mannlicher-Carcano behind the boxes there on the fourth floor. That would imply another shooter with Oswald on the sixth floor. Ellsworth stuck by this story years later in a 1993 interview with authors Ray and Mary LaFontaine. I note this account here only as a possible explanation in finding a different model of rifle on the sixth floor. Regardless, Frank Ellsworth remains the only witness to this event. It’s an odd side trip to say the least.

There have been discovered bullet fragments and or spent hulls found in and around the Dealey Plaza area. Of note is a bullet fragment found in 1974 by Richard Lester near the triple overpass. It made its way to the FBI lab and there, they determined that while it was 6.5mm caliber, it was not a jacketed bullet so it was dismissed as being fired with Oswald’s rifle.  (Note that the bullet that glanced off the curb near James Tague, left no copper residue as determined by the same FBI lab.) Nevertheless, the bullet that struck Kennedy’s head shattered which no jacketed bullet, in theory, is supposed to do. So what was the fragment doing there? Are we supposed to believe that good ole’ boys were rambling around at night joy-shooting at street lamps and signs?

ARRB And The Envelope
The AssassinationsRecord Review Board (ARRB) in 1995 uncovered an FBI Field Office Dallas (89-43-1A-122) envelope. It was dated 12/2/63 and detailed the contents (since missing) of a 7.65mm shell found in Dealey Plaza after the assassination. This recovered evidence was unknown until the ARRB uncovered it. Unfortunately, it did not contain the 7.65mm shell and the outside of the envelope listed it as having no value and was destroyed. Destruction of material evidence by the FBI?  Did they even bother to take fingerprints off of it? Or, was there too big of a rush?

One can see from this 7.65mm shell affair how deeply entrenched the lone gunman dogma is at this juncture. Yes, dismiss the evidence if there is only one shooter. But if there is a conspiracy, with multiple shooters, then the recovered shell has greater implications for it. But they don’t think like that. Ironically, the spent cartridge is of the same caliber as the recovered Mauser. With these people the evidence doesn't matter as much as the carefully constructed narrative. Just like it didn’t matter when Gerald Ford moved Kennedy’s back wound up to his neck and stated that lie as a fact to the American people.

The End Game
The misidentification in this is epic. There is a thread running through this episode that speaks of intimidation. We know there were witnesses coerced into changing their testimony. Kennedy aide Kenny O'Donnell being a more well known casualty, so much so, he basically perjured himself at the Warren Commission. We never heard his account till House Speaker Tip O’Neil wrote of O'Donnell’s coerced testimony in his autobiography. He admitted to O’Neil he was under a lot of pressure from the FBI.

There is no decent explanation why men so experienced with firearms, apparently of good vision and of good sense, could make such a blunder. Roger Craig read “Mauser” on the breach of a rifle and preserved that account to his dying day. As stated earlier, he said he heard Weitzman identify the rifle as Mauser as well. Roger became the last man standing to the controversy after the others had retreated and he cast a mystery over the proceedings but he surely wasn’t the only witness with troubling testimony. Though he stood his ground the opposition found ways to isolate him and cast him in the wilderness. He lost it all but never his ability to ruffle the status quo. All you need is one voice that never quivers. There are few heroes in this jam but Roger Craig stands like a rock. (And more than just the finding of the rifle--Deputy Craig testified to seeing Lee Oswald in places he should not have been. Craig is no stranger to controversy in many areas of that fateful day.)

So were the police officers browbeaten into changing their account of the discovery of the rifle? I think they were. After all, look at what happened to Roger Craig by not going along with the script. In comparison, the other police officers were left alone. It would be understandable for somebody to say to them, “You want to end up like Roger?”

But if coerced then by whom? Figure that out we’ll know what really went down on November 22. We’ll find out a lot of things. Things they don’t want us to know.

Addendum 5/29/13

Another Witness
Not widely reported in the annals of the Mauser controversy is the Warren Commission testimony of Malcolm Price.  On October 26, 1963 Price was at the SportsDrome Rifle Range in the next booth over from Lee Oswald and took note of the rifle he was using.  He reportedly talked to Oswald about the rifle and was allowed to handle it.  He identified the weapon as a German Mauser with a Tascosa brand scope.  Price said the scope was bright and sharp.  He also reported not seeing a serial number anywhere on the rifle (Armstrong, p.773).

Mars, Jim, Crossfire; The Warren Commission 26 Volumes; Dallas Police Online Archives; O’Neill, Tip, Man of the House; Armstrong, John, Harvey and Lee; Talbot, David, Brothers.