Why the Warren Commission got scared of Castro

The Warren Commission didn’t get scared if Fidel Castro because of Lyndon B. Johnson’s chilling warning to Chief Justice Earl Warren about rumors that “if not quenched, could conceivably lead the country into a war which could cost 40 million lives.”

The day after the JFK assassination, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called Johnson around 10:00 a.m. ( the recording was erased, but a transcript survived at LBJ Library) and said about Lee Harvey Oswald: “We, of course, charged him with the murder, [but] the case as it stands now isn’t strong enough to be able to get a conviction.”

The Strange Case Against Oswald

In the evening of that very Saturday, Castro delivered a kind of speech-commentary on Cuban radio and TV. For him, “the most unexpected thing, as unexpected as the assassination itself, was that immediately a suspect appeared who, by a coincidence, had been in Russia, and — what a coincidence — he is related to a Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”

Through content analysis of AP and UPI cables, Castro noted: “It was neither logical, nor reasonable” that an American citizen “taught to shoot and kill in the Marine Corps, [became] a Castro-Communist, [and] that this former marine should go to the Soviet Union and try to become a Soviet citizen, and that the Soviets should not accept him, that he should say at the American Embassy that he intended to disclose to the Soviet Union the secrets of everything he learned while he was in the U.S. service and that in spite of this statement, his passage is paid by the U.S. Government [and he] simply returned peacefully to the United States without being arrested, tried, [and] sent to jail.”

Just after Jack Ruby killed Oswald on Sunday, Hoover reported to LBJ aide Walter Jenkins: “There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead.”

Hoover remarked the need to have “something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”

Three days later, at the traditional memorial ceremony to honor eight Cuban medical students executed by Spanish colonial authorities on November 27, 1871, Castro addressed “a number of strange things which every day become more strange.”

The Castro Allegations

Castro found no rational explanation to close the case once the alleged assassin was eliminated,

“As if it were a matter not of the President of the United States, but of a dog killed in the street.”

The case was closed within 48 hours, when it was “more worthy of investigation from the judicial and criminal point of view.”

From this standpoint, Castro argued some motions to the court of the public opinion. They actually became sound research issues:

  • “It is implausible that a marksman equipped with a repeating carbine with a telescopic sight can hit the target three consecutive times in the lapse of five seconds, when he fires at a target that is moving at a distance of 80 meters [with a] rifle with telescopic sight, the target gets lost because of the shot, just because of the shot, and it is necessary to find it again quickly, moreover if the rifle has to be levered (…) In order to fire quickly, it’s much better with a rifle (…) with Lyman sight.”
  • “All this seems to indicate that the rifle may have appeared there as part of the plot (…) This rifle should have been placed there; it is precisely a gun neither for shooting at 80 meters nor for firing three shots (…) It is really strange that anyone willing to kill from a distance of 80 meters, from a window, would purchase a rifle with telescopic sight, since any other without telescopic sight would have been more appropriate.”
  • “It is supposed that an individual wants a rifle with telescopic sight in order to fire safety and accurately from a distance against a fixed target, not against a moving target (…) By using a telescopic sight, the individual would have been trying to get accuracy and safety. In this case of a moving target at 80 meters, the individual wasn’t seeking accuracy and the curious thing is that he wasn’t seeking safety either.”
  • “Here we have the curious case that the accused, or the alleged assassin, fires from his workplace. Nobody who intends to escape (…) is willing to kill from his very workplace, where he is going to be identified and fiercely pursued within five minutes. He would have sought a roof on another building, or rented an apartment along the route, for positioning himself with his rifle with telescopic sight rifle at a distance which would have allowed him to escape.”
  • “All these contradictory, illogical and inexplicable things lead to the alternative that either this individual is not guilty and was turned into guilty by the police, or this individual was actually the one who fired and then all his actions have no other logical explanation[:] An individual who kills and hopes to escape, but at the same time would be perfectly identified as the perpetrator.”
  • “The latter would make sense only if the individual was perfectly trained to perpetrate the crime, under promise of escape from prosecution, in order to put the blame on others (…) It’s quite clear the thread here. Why did Oswald go to the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City? What pretext did he use? Asking for an in-transit visa to go on to the Soviet Union, although it would have been quicker and easier to go via England or France. If this man is the real assassin, it’s clear the masterminds were carefully planning the alibi[:] The sitting President of the United States murdered by an individual just after he went to the Soviet Union via Cuba and returned. It was the ideal gambit for making up the mind of the American public with a suspect who was a Commie, a Cuban and Soviet agent.”
  • “Why did he have to come to Cuba, except for the only and exclusive purpose of leaving a trail, of spinning a web? Why did he get angry when he was told that it was impossible to get an in-transit Cuba visa if he didn’t have the Soviet visa? Why did he slam the door? Why did he leave? No friend of Cuba, no Communist does this while visiting our consulates. Nobody behaves in such a rude manner.”
  • “He did not confess. He denied everything. [But] the surprising, the incredible, what increases the suspicion that the entire world has, is that barely 36 or 48 hours later, in the basement of a jail surrounded by police agents, he was murdered. This shows that the ones responsible for Kennedy’s death needed — they were compelled at all costs — to eliminate the accused.”
  • “How can one believe anyone had tried to take justice into his own hand? This only happens when there is no justice, when the guilty party in a crime that arouses indignation is not punished. In this case they murdered a man for whom the electric chair was waiting. In effect they murdered a dead man. How could he make anyone believe that he did it for emotional reasons?”

The Warren Commission’s  Reluctance

The Commission got scared of Castro not because of the intimidation by LBJ, but because of the body of evidence pointing to Castro’s allegations. In 1964 Castro insisted on them both directly though Commission staffer William Coleman, who secretly interviewed him, and indirectly through FBI informant Jack Childs, who visited Cuba in May 1964 and talked with Castro about the issue.

Childs reported back to Hoover, who downplayed the key Castro’s allegation against the lone gunman who shot a magic bullet in a letter dated on June 17, 1964, to WD General Counsel J. Lee Rankin (Commission Exhibit 1359):

“The source [Childs] commented that on the basis of Castro’s remarks, it was clear that his beliefs were based on theory and result of Cuban experiments and not on any firsthand information in Castro’s possession. In this connection, it should be noted that the FBI Laboratory firearms experts made tests and determined that three shots could be fired with the kind of rifle and sight used by Oswald in the five to six seconds which were available. The Laboratory noted, however, that the timing did not begin until after the firing of the first shot.”

A Crucial Experiment

Castro’s credentials as expert are beyond any reasonable doubt. The young Castro used to hunt with firearms before going to college in 1945. He intensively practiced shooting before attacking the Moncada barracks in 1953. Just after going to exile in Mexico, he restarted the practice at the training camp of his expeditionary force against General Batista’s government. He personally prepared half a hundred rifles with telescopic sights before landing in Cuba on December 2, 1956. He perfectly knew all the characteristics of that type of rifle, because he had assorted sights with different powers. He also spent two years in guerrilla warfare using a rifle with telescopic sight in Sierra Maestra and even personally training his troops in shooting.

By definition, an experiment with firearms must be accurately reproduced. Thus, the best U.S. sniper could be used for firing an identical rifle as the one in evidence against an identical moving target at Dealey Plaza, instead of the well-known and flawed live shooting recreations from Michael Yardley et al.

In his November 27, 1963, speech, Castro had foretold: “Only at an extraordinary loss of prestige for the U.S. can those guilty of the assassination be concealed, nor can the true reasons, the true purposes, and the guilty intellectual and organizing actors of the crime remain in secret and in mystery.”

The Warren Commission did enough for fulfilling this prophecy.

23 comments

  1. DGiddens says:

    It’s good to see Castro’s 11/25 (sometimes noted as 11/27)getting the attention it deserves. In my opinion, it is far more important that the more readily known Castro remarks of 11/23.

    This speech is to honor the martyrs of 1871, and the glorious revolution. He says he’ll touch only “briefly” on the matters in Dallas. (Haven’t we all said that at one time or another…)

    16 pages later he is still has a full head of steam–not about the martyred students but about Oswald, Ruby, the absurdities–most of the elements of conspiracy still relevant to this day.

    I highly recommend reading this lively…and chillingly accurate speech in its full text. It’s on Mary Farrell in at least two places…
    Thanks for bringing this topic to light Mr. Fernandez. Great posting.

    • Robert Harper says:

      I agree completely with this. It wasn’t until I read it decades later in the book “History will not Absolve Us” that I read Castro’s prescient comments. And who should know more?

  2. I find most interesting Castro’s comment that in effect stated that perhaps Ruby was the one most responsible for JFK’s death, so he had to kill Oswald. I’ve been reading that the “assignment to kill Oswald” fell to Ruby, but perhaps Ruby had the most to lose if Oswald had a trial.

  3. Dave says:

    Looks like none other than Fidel Castro – within days – perfectly anticipated the likes of McAdams, Bugliosi, Posner, von Pein etc. in their roles as long-term obfuscators of the emergence of truth about why JFK was assassinated and by whom. Who benefits from their campaigns trumpeting the obviously-flawed investigations and conclusions of the Warren Commission?

  4. Photon says:

    Less than a week later where did he come up with the five second scenario ? Oswald didn’t have a “repeating carbine”.
    What is your source for Castro’s expertise in the use of rifles with telescopic sights?
    How would the use of a rifle in a combat situation ( telescopic sights or not) have any relationship to a sniper shooting at an automobile traveling away at 8 mph?
    What was so flawed about the many shooting recreations aside from the fact that multiple shooters were able to duplicate Oswald’s feat in less time than he had available?
    ” We are not Communists”.

    • Paulf says:

      Ah, photon, another diversion. Attack some poster about irrelevant details. Ignore the whole post, in which Castro brings up some excellent points that — back in real time — form the basis for a lot of the doubts about the lone gunman theory.

      Oswald was an intelligence asset whose story as recounted by the WC doesn’t remotely pass any smell test. The gun he allegedly used was almost impossible for the type of shooting it was supposed to have done, and the fact that he was murdered immediately after claiming to be a patsy, before he could get safely into federal custody, by a mafia associate whose motive is transparently laughable, yeah, just ignore all that and spit venom at a commenter.

    • Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

      Castro was a frantic hunter during his youth at Biran. Before attacking the Moncada, he became a marksman. After going into exile in Mexico, he trained all the members of the GRanma expedition and prepared all the rifles with telescopic sight gathered for the expedition. In the Sierra Maestra, he spent two years training others and fighting himself with such a rifle. Just see the photos from Mexico and the Sierra: Castro is always firing or carrying a rifle with telescopic sight. After the triumph of his revolution, he kept on practicing on regular basis with such a rifle and his pistol. The point is that the FBI made experiments that weren´t repeated and no simulation at Dealey Plaza has reproduced the actual conditions. Let´s start with the firearm use by Oswald: Was it the one the WC said (a 36″ carbine) of the 40.2″ rifle occupied by the Dallas Police?

      • Photon says:

        Jane Fonda was pictured with an anti-aircraft artillery piece. Does that make her an expert in its use? Exactly when did Castro ever come out of the Sierra Maestra and actually use his rifle with a telescopic sight? The columns were led by Che, Camilo, Huber Matos and Morgan. His only exposure to combat was to have his picture taken- not always with a ‘scoped rifle. Of course it was easier to direct the Revolution in relative safety-particularly after he sold out his rival Frank Pais to the Batista security service

        • Paulf says:

          Ah, photon, attacking a poster over irrelevant details and avoiding the main point …

          Oh, wait. Didn’t I just say that?

          How Castro ran the Cuban revolution has nothing to do with the logical points he makes about the assassination.

        • Arnaldo Miguel Fernandez says:

          Every body knew him as a sharpshooter, since his gangster times at the University of Havana, and above at in Mexico. He meticulously prepare 50 rifles with telescopic sights by… firing all of them until achieving both accuracy and precision. Being a dictator does not detract being something else. By the way, Castro led the resistance against Batista summer offensive in summer 1958 and the counteroffensive that allowed him to enter in Havana five months later. He personally led the fight against the Brigade 2506 in 1961 and finally won the dirty war against the CIA.

          • Photon says:

            Who is “everybody”, companero? Again, what are your sources? Did Fidel fire any shots at Playa Giron? Didn’t he enter Havana after all resistance had ceased and Cienfuegos had occupied it?
            Do you mean the “War of the Bandits”? As I recall Fidel left that to his security forces- including the execution without trial of virtually everyone captured.
            How does that equate with expertise in shooting at a vehicle traveling away at 8 mph?

    • anonymous says:

      Even in translation ,Castro’s analysis are more logical and rational than the lone nutter accounts that we have been subjected to. I think his best points are:
      “In order to fire quickly, it’s much better with a rifle (…) with Lyman sight.”
      How can one believe Ruby had tried to take justice into his own hand?

      “The WC didn’t get scared with Castro because of LBJ’s chilling warning to Warren that “if not quenched, could conceivably lead the country into a war which could cost 40 million lives.”

      Lone Nutters love to bring up Warren’s ww3 fears. As if it mattered if Warren was scared of the dark. – Warren might have been chairman but Dulles was running things. The generals knew the window of opportunity to nuke Russia was closing fast.

      Photon:”How would the use of a rifle in a combat situation ( telescopic sights or not) have any relationship to a sniper shooting at an automobile traveling away at 8 mph?”

      Snipers do shoot at retreating targets. Castro did use snipers – from wikipedia:

      “Next, Battalion 17 was ordered to attack into the hills[citation needed]. Once again, a small detachment of Castro’s skilled guerrillas stopped the move by the Cuban army into the Sierra Maestra by using road blocks, mines, and SNIPER fire.

      Meanwhile, Castro tried to convince the commander of the surrounded Battalion 18 to surrender, using propaganda broadcasts over loudspeakers and personal letters. Major Jose Fernando Quevedo, resisted the call to surrender for days. Finally, on July 21, Quevedo did surrender his command.”

      • Bill Clarke says:

        anonymous September 28, 2014 at 5:28

        For any that have never seen a “Lyman” this is a good image of one mounted on a rifle.

        http://www.lymanproducts.com/lyman/sights/66-receiver-peep.php.

        I had one on my .22 when I was a kid. The U.S. M-1, M-14 and M-16 were equipped with peep sights so it appears that our military agrees with Castro on this point. I do too.

        A scope has certain drawbacks in a combat situation, especially in a tropic jungle where the lighting isn’t good and the enemy usually close. Also even a good quality scope is rather fragile and the rough life of a combat weapon doesn’t favor them. You have a problem acquiring the moving target and a problem on full automatic. And then there is the dark of night when most crap happens.

        Of course the scope is great in a place like the Middle East and the plains of Europe. I’m not familiar with the sighting system now on the M-16 and M-4 but I know in 1971 we still used the peep sight.

  5. Bob Prudhomme says:

    Target acquisition, Photon, although I seriously doubt you know what that means without a quick trip to Google.

    The telescopic sight that was mounted on C2766 was not a scope any serious hunter would mount on a high power rifle, unless he planned to do all of his shooting close up at stationary targets. This scope was designed to be mounted on a youth’s low velocity .22 calibre rifle and to be used for target shooting at about 25 yards. The field of view seen through such a scope is so small, one is only viewing a tiny portion of the scene one is looking at.

    Tracking a moving target is impossible with such a small field of view, as the tiniest movement of the scope will take the target out of the field of view. Anyone that contends Oswald shot JFK using this toy scope does not know the first thing about rifle scopes.

    In regard to the various “recreations” of the assassination, what were these shooters using for ammo? Were they using the original Western Cartridge Co. 6.5mm Carcano cartridges? Here is a link to an FBI report from March 23, 1964 written by SA Alfred D. Neeley at Dallas, Texas. In this report, SA Neeley advises he was in communication with a Mr. R.W. Botts, District Manager for Winchester-Western Division, Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation. Western Cartridge Co. was a division of Olin Mathieson, and Mt. Botts advised SA Neeley that the 6.5mm Carcano cartridges were made for the Italian government during World War II.

    http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/FBI%20Records%20Files/105-82555/105-82555%20Section%20141/141c.pdf

    This would mean that ALL of the WCC 6.5mm Carcano ammo would be 70 years old by now. Do you expect this forum to believe recreations were done with ammo that was almost three quarters of a century old?

  6. Dave says:

    Castro’s real-time political analyses in the immediate aftermath of the assassination and his many questions about US ultra-right involvement are stunningly insightful. Of course, nothing close to it could have been disseminated by the mainstream US media, for fear of being branded a Commie sympathizer. But the man makes perfect sense. Too bad the Warren Commission didn’t have an intellectual like him in charge.

  7. Jean Davison says:

    Castro’s comments are not on target. The shooting didn’t occur in 5-6 seconds but in approximately 8 seconds and Oswald could’ve used the fixed sights instead of the scope, which was offset.
    Castro says the weapon was suited for firing “at a distance against a fixed target,” but Oswald bought it to try to kill Walker, not JFK.

    Oswald probably didn’t expect to escape (no assassin or would-be assassin of a President ever has). Firing from his workplace made it easier to move around inside the building without attracting attention, and he was not “identified and fiercely pursued within five minutes.” If something went wrong and he wasn’t able to take a shot, Oswald could’ve just wrapped up his rifle again and left the building.

    • Paulf says:

      Jean:

      I love how you frame all this. Oswald “could have” used the fixed sight. He “probably expected” to be caught. He bought a particular gun with the sole purpose of killing Walker? Really? You know this how?

      The case against Oswald is virtually all baseless speculation, yet the lone gunman crowd is always lecturing the rest of us about the evidence against Oswald is airtight.

      What’s more, whether the shots were 6 or 8 seconds apart, it would have been almost impossible to fire that gun with such accuracy. That’s the point.

      • Jean Davison says:

        Paulf,

        Castro apparently assumed that Oswald HAD to use the scope, but he could’ve used the fixed sights instead. Which one he used is unknown.

        Why would Oswald have expected to escape? No one who has tried to kill a President ever has, and he was firing from a window in front of police, Secret Service men, and a crowd of people.

        Three photos of Walker’s house taken with Oswald’s camera were found among his belongings. One was taken from behind the fence where the sniper stood and shows the window that the Walker bullet entered. Because of construction going on the background of one of the photos it was possible to date it to March 8-10. Oswald ordered the rifle that was shipped March 20). The Walker shooting was on April 10. Yes, I’d say he bought the weapon to shoot Walker.

        http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=946&relPageId=209

        Have you read the case against Oswald in the WR and HSCA Final Report, I wonder? It is certainly not “baseless speculation.”

        • David Regan says:

          Jean, the WC Report is hardly free of speculation concerning Oswald. Particularly their airy speculation for his motive and psychological profile.

          There is no conclusive proof that Oswald fired a rifle on 11/22/63. Paraffin tests were negative and a palm print supposedly found days later is hardly conclusive to be from that day. Not a single eye witness – not even the ‘star’ witness Howard Brennan – could positively ID Oswald as a shooter on the 6th floor. No one saw him rushing down 4 flights of stairs to the lunchroom.

          Not to mention, if LHO pulled off the shooting in 6-8 seconds, he certainly improved his marksmanship since April when he allegedly missed a stationary target in Edwin Walker at a closer range.

          There is also no proof that I am aware of that is was indeed LHO who picked up the rifle at the post office.

          But back to Castro, he is hardly the first high profile individual to disagree with the WC Report – including dissenting Commissioners.

    • Mayra Solloa says:

      Castro’s comments are on target because it’s nonsensical to use a rifle with fixed sight and then, before leaving the sniper nest, put a sight on it. And nobody in mental health swallow the tale that Oswald fired against Walker. And Castro was talking about a real chance of being identified and pursued just because Oswald fired from his workplace. Nobody takes such a risk.

      • Bill Clarke says:

        Mayra Solloa October 3, 2014 at 8:5

        I believe you are a bit confused about the relationship between the open sights on the Carcano and the side mounted scope. The side mount of the scope allows the open sights to be used without removing the scope. Oswald didn’t have to screw on the scope after he shot Kennedy. It was already mounted.

        http://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/lee-harvey-oswalds-carcano-rifle-shooting-it-today/

        Scroll down a bit until you see the photo of the side mounted scope as it appears from the rear of the rifle.

  8. Mayra Solloa says:

    By all the people, Mr. Photon, that knew as eyewitnesses the expertise of Fidel Castro as sniper, we have more than hundred involved in the Moncada attack who were practicing shooting in farms around Havana (Castro visited and practiced in all of them) plus around eighty who were training in Mexico with Castro, who set up there 50 rifles with telescopic sight, and the people in Sierra Maestra (read the reports of Enrique Meneses. Castro was actually the sniper who started the first significant combat of his guerrilla in Uvero, and used to train guerrillas in shooting at Minas del Frio. But we can put aside Castro´s expertise and focus on Castro´s argument: is there any crucial experiment that exactly reproduce the hypothesis on Oswald as the lone gunman who shot a magic bullet? Let´s do it now with the best U.S. sniper and a similar weapon as in exhibit (as all we know, the latter is not the one described by the Warren Commission).

  9. Bill Callahan says:

    The more I read about what the Dallas Motorcycle Patrol Officers stated they did during the assassination the more interesting the story becomes. I almost want to ask: Hey…Did any of you guys actually see or do anything that you said you did? Zapruder film/Nix Film, Still Photography…that all tell the same story…but what does seem to change is/are the actions of the MCO’s driving in the motorcade.

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