Ron Capshaw, a writer in Midlothian, Virginia, noted a year ago that 51 years ago this month, Lee Oswald fired a rifle shot at Gen. Edwin Walker, who had been cashiered from the Army for proselytizing to his troops with his right-wing, white supremacist politics.
Capshaw, a contributor to National Review, The Washington Times, and The New York Post, argues this incident on April 10, 1963, points toward Oswald’s sole guilt as the assassin of President Kennedy seven months later. I disagree with Capshaw’s interpretation but agree the Walker incident is important.
“Fifty years ago this month, Lee Harvey Oswald the sniper debuted. His target was General Edwin Walker, a right wing extremist fired by JFK for distributing John Birch-style literature (accusing Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower of being spies for the Soviets) to his troops. Walker had settled in Dallas, and embarked on a speaking tour, chillingly entitled (knowing Walker’s hatred of integration) ’Operation Midnight Ride.’
“This triggered Lee Harvey Oswald into ordering the infamous Manlicher Carcano from a post office box under the alias Alex Hiddell. He then posed bearing a rifle in one hand and communist pamphlets in the other for photos taken by his wife. On April 10, he left Marina detailed instructions of what to do if he was captured by the police, and then on a flat low trajectory from less than one hundred feet fired a shot into Walker’s window where the general was seated. Only a window frame across the middle of the double window deflected the bullet and saved Walker’s life.
“Surprisingly the conspiracy community, with a few exceptions, has not challenged the charge that Oswald tried to kill Walker. Oliver Stone, doesn’t even include this episode in the film JFK. Don Delillo, offering perhaps the most sober conspiracy theory (Oswald shot at Kennedy but the head shot was from an anti-Castro Cuban) accepted that Oswald did shoot at Walker.
“To omit this attempt is bizarre for the conspiracy group. For Oswald missing on a flat low trajectory — he shot from behind a fence with his arms braced on Walker’s station wagon — would bolster their theory that Oswald was a poor shot (Delillo accepts this, and thus Oswald is only to be trusted by the assassination team with shooting from the Book Depository). Accepting that Oswald would shoot a right-wing extremist like Walker would seem to make it unlikely he would try to assassinate the liberal JFK.
“But this group must have thought this out. For Oswald, that supposed ‘patsy,’ showed himself capable of planning an assassination. He scoped out Walker’s house, taking photographs and planning the hit on a church night when there would be no witnesses. According to Marina and George De Mohrenschildt, Oswald went after Walker because of his views on Cuba.
“But JFK was also certainly an enemy of Oswald’s beloved Castro — Kennedy and his brother Robert were the driving forces behind the CIA-Mafia attempts on Castro’s life — and in his mind killing Kennedy would save El Commandante. Cuban embassy officials asserted that during Oswald’s failed attempts to get a passport to Cuba, he informed them that he was going to shoot Kennedy (this information was left out of the Warren Commission report).
“The assassination community has always argued that Oswald could not have killed Kennedy because of reports that he personally liked him. But would-be assassins do not always dislike their targets, but view their deaths as part of a larger political scheme. George Orwell, reviewing ‘Mein Kampf’ while Luftwaffe bombs were exploding around him, stated that he would kill Hitler if given the chance but that he was never able to dislike him; indeed, he found him personally appealing. Thus Oswald could have shared similar sentiments against Kennedy; he found JFK charming while at the same time a threat to Castro.
“The Walker shooting and Oswald’s more than probable murder of Kennedy (I have come very reluctantly to the conclusion that Oswald acted alone) has relevance for our debates about gun control and government surveillance today. What may have stopped Oswald was not denying him weapons, but better surveillance. Like the administration today, the focus of the Kennedys was on the Right, not the Left, who they regarded as no longer a threat. They were considering not only auditing the Birchers, but the more reasonable group clustered around National Review. They ordered the FBI to raid and confiscate weapons from the anti-Castro Cuban camp.
“All the while Oswald was preparing for the Kennedy hit.”