A reporter’s take on Oswald

The accused assassin was a ‘”disappointed revolutionary,” according to Peter Savodnik author of the new book “The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union.”

Savodnik is a journalist who took on a challenge that no U.S. journalist dared accept: reporting in-depth on the two and half years that Oswald lived in the Soviet Union.

His conclusion:

(Photo illustration by Sean McCabe; Corbis)

“A closer look at Oswald’s life — his history, his personality, the relationships he forged, the fragmented political tracts he wrote — makes it abundantly clear that he was capable of killing the president all by himself. If we focus on his Soviet period, the most important chapter in his truncated, 24-year life, it is possible to piece together a more complete picture of Oswald.”

“To do this, I interviewed people who, for the most part, had never spoken publicly about him: former friends, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors. They shared not only memories but letters, recordings, frayed passports and photographs; they described what is was like to live in Minsk in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They offered a powerful window into Oswald’s world.”

“Almost all of them were convinced that the man they had known did not kill President Kennedy, but, taken together, their recollections point to an underlying fury, a logic and cadence that lead, almost ineluctably, to Dealey Plaza, Nov. 22, 1963.”

I like that Savodnik is upfront about the fact that most his sources disagree with his conclusion. That doesn’t mean he is wrong. Reporters are often better analysts than their sources.

78 thoughts on “A reporter’s take on Oswald”

  1. Read through this book over and over and thought it a necessary read to understand the “real” Lee, a unique and complicated man often open as to his intentions but he could also be very private and evasive. I think it important to understand this man because he didn’t fit into the norm of the times. People who knew Oswald have a hard time recognizing him in so many different theories.

  2. If Oswald wanted to be remembered or known for killing the President, then why didn’t he just admit to it when he was asked “did you kill the president?” I find it hard to believe that he was capable enough to plan and carry out the assassination of the president, but dumb enough to leave his own gun at the crime scene, get caught within 88 minutes and deny the whole thing!

  3. Oswald was such a poor shot that when he was in the hunting club in the USSR, he couldn’t hit a rabbit with a shotgun. His friends had to provide him with game. His shooting skills in the USMC actually declined over time (comparing his first and last scores). Among his personal effects, we find no gun cleaning equipment, no spare ammo, no empty boxes of ammo, no books or magazines on guns – instead we find a person interested in photography, reading and politics. Oswald was framed.

  4. D. Olmens, This requires a bit of lateral thinking. I was aware that my use of the term cadence might draw a reaction but I chose it anyway because it holds a certain parallel in the macro (Oswald’s instability and the cadence of his life leading to Dallas) and the micro – his life ending in a crescendo of the assassination and aftermath. If he was who you say he was, he wouldn’t have changed socks in the middle of the stream.

    So why wasn’t there cadence in the planning of the deed? Why were there so many obvious variables, each on their own a major obstacle to guaranteed success? Unless of course they had all been addressed; the parade route would not be altered at the last minute; Frazier would not open the package, no one would interrupt him on the 6th floor. (the bubble top was a necessary gamble.) And if it was not meticulously planned, then Oswald’s act from the 6th floor was spontaneous which in light of his alleged premeditation is completely illogical even for the loneliest of nuts..

    I suggest that the only cadence, the only logic to be applied is that Oswald’s instability was provoked and exploited, and that he was recruited and handled by intelligence forces throughout his adult life – representing a certain cadence, up to and including the assassination and his own murder.

    1. Firstly, I’m not claiming to be an authority on Oswald the person. My impressions of the man are just based on what I’ve read about him and his life.

      I still don’t follow why you focus so much on the amount of planning he may or may not have done. That seems to me like you’re trying to retrospectively impose external logic on Oswald’s actions.

      This may sound a bit left-field, but I think there’s a comparison that could be made between Oswald and the people who commit workplace shootings, the employee who comes to work one day with a gun and wreaks havoc. When you read studies about this phenomenon, the perpetrator is often someone with a stressful, pressurised, complicated life, unresolved issues and frustrations who as a result of some trigger goes over the edge and commits acts which are incomprehensible to the average person. There is a kind of warped instinctual logic and planning in the head of the perpetrator but it’s not easily explainable.

      It’s clear to us now that intelligence agencies were tracking Oswald. Whether he knowingly worked for them is debatable, there’s no solid evidence to support that claim. I find myself pondering whether someone gave him a gentle nudge along the way or whether his observers didn’t quite realise what he might be capable of. With his marriage failing, stuck in a menial job and his attempt to return to the USSR refused, was there somewhere in amidst all that a straw that broke the camel’s back and tipped him over the edge?

      1. The witnesses most involved in presenting Oswald as a frustrated loner all have questionable motive. Marina – highly unreliable as agreed by most investigators. The Paines – shadowy role in the Oswald’s lives, and changing stories. Robert Oswald – hardly saw Lee in the years before the assassination and had absolutely no contact with Lee’s children since. Priscilla Johnson – considered an asset by the CIA.

        John Armstrong researched Oswald’s time in Russia and paints a far different story thant the WSJ reporter. How does this frustrated malcontent end up by chance in the middle of announced intelligence operations not just once but three times? (Russia, New Orleans, Mexico City)

        1. Some fair points there. At the same time I don’t think that alters Oswald’s situation in terms of his disintegrating marriage, poverty and money problems, or distinctly chequered employment history. Looking at it from a different angle, if Oswald wasn’t a loner, where and who were his other friends or close acquaintances?

          As far as John Armstrong, I’m sorry but I just can’t get my head around his “Harvey and Lee” theory. Now that is a stretch in my view. I’ve heard him interviewed but don’t recall details of his research into Oswald’s time in Russia. Savodnik went there in person and spoke to people firsthand. Did Armstrong do the same?

          Your last point though is where it gets complicated. There’s an evidential gap here. I’ll be the first to admit though, once might be coincidence, but three times? On a scale of possibilities you have Mr Magoo at one end and a fully fledged CIA operative at the other end. Where the truth lies is a very tricky question. I’m highly intrigued by Bill Simpich’s suggestion that Oswald “was a spy in his own mind”.

      2. D. Olmens, you say: “I still don’t follow why you focus so much on the amount of planning he may or may not have done.” ….. and yet you state, “There is a kind of warped instinctual logic and planning in the head of the perpetrator but it’s not easily explainable.” I read a discrepancy here.

        You state: “his observers didn’t quite realise what he might be capable of”
        Oswald, immediately following his abrupt discharge from the US military, defected to the country of America’s (alleged) greatest enemy, and 2+ years later he re-defected to his homeland. But his “observers” weren’t quite able to realise what he might be capable of? Is this a serious statement?

        You state: “I think there’s a comparison that could be made between Oswald and the people who commit workplace shootings,”
        I could understand this logic had Oswald turned a gun or even a rifle on a co-worker. The suggestion is that he positioned himself quite skillfully in a window of the 6th Floor and shot the President of the United States in broad daylight. This was not a “workplace” shooting.

        1. First point, re: discrepancy, I’m sorry but I don’t really follow what you’re saying there.

          Second point: I think you need to quote the whole sentence for that to make sense. As far as capabilities, it’s one thing to defect, quite another to actually kill several people. So, yes, that was a serious statement, albeit in the context of some ruminations.

          Third point: I wasn’t suggesting that the assassination was akin to a workplace shooting. I was comparing some of the theorised contributing factors in two situations where people committed violent incomprehensible acts. Ok, maybe it seems an odd comparison, but sometimes trying a different interpretative framework can be useful.

          As far as his positioning, I think we’d all agree Oswald had some training (questions about his proficiency aside) regarding firing rifles at targets which he could draw upon.

          1. D. Olmens, (this discussion in and of itself is a bit fumbling) however, fwiw, you asked why I focused on Oswald’s ability or lack there of to plan an assassination. My suggestion was that it was an extremely fumbling plan if indeed it was premeditated. Then you said that: “There is a kind of warped instinctual logic and planning in the head of the perpetrator but it’s not easily explainable.”

            And I took that as a discrepancy given your initial challenge of my stating that Oswald had to have methodically planned the assassination (or alternatively it was a spontaneous act) and your assessment that his was a kind of warped instinctual logic AND PLANNING in the head of the perpetrator. I honed in, warranted or not, on the verb “to plan.”

            It’s complicated. Suffice to say, this was not a workplace shooting.

          2. I think we’re talking somewhat at cross purposes here. I mean no disrespect at all in saying that. We’re discussing some very complicated issues in exchanges of 200-300 which is always challenging and misunderstandings can arise. However, I think it’s worthwhile conversation to have and I respect the spirit and manner in which the vast majority of participants at this site engage in that conversation.

          3. D. Olmens, “Planning” as a central topic: IF Oswald planned the assassination, he failed to consider a number of obstacles. If he was opportunistic, then little planning should be implied, and he simply found himself in the perfect place at the perfect time with the perfect rifle. To heck with his own survival … deal with that later.

            But you said: “There is a kind of warped instinctual logic and planning in the head of the perpetrator but it’s not easily explainable.

            I assumed that you meant that Oswald had a certain instinctual logic and planning, however inexplicable.

            We cannot deal with contradictory possibilities and move forward: he planned or he did not plan the assassination. The inexplicable is of course open for debate.

          4. “I assumed that you meant that Oswald had a certain instinctual logic and planning, however inexplicable.”

            That’s what I was suggesting might have been the case.

            “We cannot deal with contradictory possibilities and move forward: he planned or he did not plan the assassination. The inexplicable is of course open for debate.”

            The point that’s creating some confusion here is how you might define “planning”.

            No-one is suggesting that Oswald somehow magically found himself in the TSBD with rifle in hand. He obviously needed to take his rifle to work for example. Hence, some form of “planning” is required, however basic.

            I think asking whether Oswald planned the assassination is a bit ambiguous. The question I think you’re asking is: to what degree was it planned and in what level of detail. For example: how far ahead of time, escape routes, and so on.

            A better way to word that is perhaps something like the following: what level of pre-planning and organisation was required to assassinate the President that day, and was it beyond the capabilities of a single man? In particular, Lee Harvey Oswald.

            I think that’s probably the best way to put it. What do you think?

          5. D. Olmens, thank you, and yes, you have posited the question(s) effectively. I’ll take a bit of credit in challenging you to think it through.

            The operative question is: was it beyond the capabilities of a single man? In particular, Lee Harvey Oswald.

            An isolated incident that is rarely discussed occurred on the Wednesday prior to 11.22.63 in the TSBD. According to Warren Caster’s testimony before the Warren Commission, he purchased a rifle at Sears and brought it back to his office at the depository building; he and Roy Truly were examining it in anticipation of hunting season; Oswald was present during part of their conversation about rifles.

            One could imagine an exchange: Oswald talks about his own rifle, the two men show interest and suggest he surreptitiously bring it in for them to look at. This would NOT be an exchange either Caster or Truly would wish to testify about, but it certainly would get a rifle, fitted out by Oswald, into the building.

            Does that implicate Caster and Truly unfairly? Perhaps, and if it does, I apologize to their families.

            On that Friday, Caster opted to keep an appointment at North Texas State University with Vernon Payne, an educator formerly associated with Highlands University in NM which was home of a program focused on psychological manipulation of the individual; Truly of course was responsible for leading Dallas authorities to Oswald.

          6. I feel a bit like I’ve been trying to find a way to frame this question in a manner that helps me to engage with and understand your viewpoint. Nonetheless, it’s been an interesting conversation.

            “The operative question is: was it beyond the capabilities of a single man? In particular, Lee Harvey Oswald.”

            I think that’s the best way to phrase it.

            Regarding your comments about Truly and Caster, at face value that doesn’t seem completely out of the question. Whether it happened that way or not, only Truly and Caster could say, assuming they’re still alive today and would be truthful. The only evidence we have about this incident that I’m aware of is the WC testimony you mention. Does it seem likely they would obfuscate or conceal anything?

            Looking back from the present, I wonder though to what degree at the time it might have been considered unusual, unwise or undesirable to bring a rifle to work?

          7. D. Olmens, The format of this forum presents two specific challenges: a rapid response and limited word count. Stream of consciousness writing and limited editing are the result, at least in my case. I find your approach to the Oswald debate to be measured, rational, and respectful.

            I’ve read and reread the Caster and the Truly testimonies; I have no specific reason to accuse either of lying. I am surprised that Commission members did not pursue the fact that rifles were brought into the building that week. I do read a certain guarded tenor in their statements which might be construed as obfuscation, but that is a subjective analysis. Truly worked for the depository company for decades, including during WWII when he was released to work for an aviation military contractor, as were hundreds of thousands of other Americans. Caster indicates he was not particularly interested in seeing the presidential parade; one can read between the lines to suspect his political affiliation. Certainly one of the owners of the depository business – a landlord of Caster’s publishing company – is on record as having no interest in seeing John Kennedy.

            Like you, I question Caster’s prudence in bringing a rifle (I think he actually brought two weapons into work that Wednesday, but it was the ’60’s in Texas, during hunting season.

      3. The only possible nudge that I could see may have come in Mexico City when he visited the Cuban Embassy begging to be allowed into Cuba. Perhaps a demonstration of Revolutionary Solidarity against the government actively trying to kill the beloved Fidel?
        That is nothing but unsubstantiated conjecture, but apparently was firmly believed by LBJ and others. While I consider it unlikely, it is the only ” conspiracy” that is remotely possible and doesn’t change the fact that all of the proven evidence ( not speculation) from the last 50 years has shown that Oswald was the only shooter in two murders on Nov. 22, 1963.
        There is zero evidence that anybody else shot JFK or Tippit .

        1. I do wonder about that first point. Oswald’s appeals to the embassies in Mexico City have an air of desperation about them. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that. Is this evidence of Oswald approaching breaking point? Did the denial of the visas push him over the edge? Admittedly, this is hypothetical, but I think it’s an interesting line of thought to pursue.

        2. Zero evidence? Hardly! To name a couple of points. The nitrate test of Oswald’s cheek was negative. This is some evidence he didn’t shoot JFK that day. On Tippit, the casings found at the crime scene were of a mix from two different companies, and at least one witness reported that the shooter was firing an automatic, whereas Oswald had a revolver. Again, this is some evidence. You could go on to list 50 good points on each crime that would indicate Oswald didn’t shoot either person. A good defense attorney would have had a field day on this case.

          1. Jason, I think that we have gone over the nitrate test ad nauseum. It was unreliable,period.You also seem to forget that it was POSITIVE on Oswald’s hands, for what it is worth. So you can’t have a false negative but you can have a false positive ?
            Who reported Oswald had an automatic? Document, please.
            Then give us any solid evidence implicating any specific individual who shot at JFK on Nov. 22,1963.
            Give us a name,anything.There is zero evidence implicating anybody else. After 50 years.

          2. Photon, Oswald was guilty because you don’t know who else might have been? Would you be satisfied with that level of justice?

        3. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

          Lies, Deception, Misinformation…..and intentional….sorry….not going to get a free pass on these types of posts.

        4. Photon, Your argument implies that “the cover up was a success” when you insist “show me who else could have done it.” No democratic system demands that of the accused. “Oswald did it unless you can tell me that someone else did?” That should give all of us sleepless nights.

          As a challenge from one American to another, would you be open to the possibility of a conspiracy? Equally, I am open to the possibility that Oswald shot John Kennedy, providing that the myriad of questions arising in his defense are answered.

          Among those would be: 1) How did Oswald end up in a prime position to shoot the president? 2) How could he have been assured that he would not be discovered? (If I had been an employee at TSBD, I would have copped that the perfect perspective would have been from the 6th Floor) 3) Why did he casually leave the building with no apparent plan of guaranteed escape, only to allegedly murder a police officer who happened by his boarding house which triggered the alarm to arrest him in the Texas Theatre, an arrest unrelated to the assassination 4) why did Roy Truly single him out in the role call when others were absent as well.

          These are only a few questions one should ask in defense of the accused. Did the Warren Commission serve our justice system?

          1. #1 Pure chance. It happens every day.
            #2. He couldn’t, but his lunchtime experiences seeing everybody leave the floor for lunch made it unlikely anybody would be there, particularly with a President outside. Calculated risk.As it turned out everybody else left to get a better view of the President ( “boy, you coming with us?”).
            #3 He didn’t casually leave the building, he hurried out and had to ditch his initial mode of transportation when it returned to the scene of the crime. He may never have thought that he would survive the attempt, nor really believed that he would be able to pull it off. The fact that he left all of his money and his wedding ring on his wife’s dresser tells me he was never coming back. If you can bring yourself to admit that Oswald shot Tippit you can see that he was desperate and scared-why? Why did he sneak into the Texas Theatre in the first place-unless he was running away. From what?
            4. Others weren’t absent. Only one other employee at the TSBD missed the initial roll call and he turned up shortly thereafter. Only Oswald took off and left the building, never to return-before anybody in the building even knew JFK was shot, let alone mortally wounded-except the sniper who saw it through a 4x scope. ascope purchased by Oswald.

          2. 1) taken out of context, that is a reasonable argument. In context, given Oswals’s employment record after returning from the Soviet Union, the various players involved in either interviewing him or hiring him should be considered to get a picture of his employment at TSBD.

            2) calculated risk is conceivable if he wasn’t absolutely intent on murdering the president, which seems a contradiction. If he was so reckless and willing to take risks, why didn’t he take a handgun onto the street, lunge from the crowd and shoot at close range as other “lone nuts” have been known to do? Why risk the obstruction of view from the window? moving boxes, setting up a rifle, waiting beyond the first best shot as the limo made its turn … these are not the actions of an opportunist.
            3) I have read that he did not ‘rush,’ Can you provide testimony to that effect? The wedding ring and money are persuasive; however, if his wallet was found at the Tippitt murder, why hadn’t he left it as well? caveat: I’m not fully informed on this issue.
            4) if memory serves, there were two role calls? during which one indicated that a number of employees were not yet accounted for.

          3. Oswald’s wallet was NOT found at the scene of Tippit’s murder; most likely the wallet found at the scene was Tippit’s, but as we know nothing of the contents it is difficult to say exactly. But Oswald had his wallet on him when arrested in the Texas Theatre, including the A Hidell ID.
            He used a public bus to leave the area, when it started back toward Dealy Plaza he got off by pulling the stop cord to get off at an unscheduled stop. His bus ticket is in the National Archives, with the time stamped on it confirming the above scenario.
            No one who hired him at the TSBD had any idea he had ever been to the Soviet Union.

        5. Why didn’t Oswald leave that wallet along with his ring and the money? Why did he take any form of ID with him?

          The ring and money might have been an emotional expression intended for Marina, that he knew the marriage was over, but that he would support her financially?

          Maybe the Texas Theatre was a prearranged rendezvous in the event of a crisis which he began to realize was in play when Tippitt confronted him. He would have been trained to retain ID at all times.

  5. If Oswald shot the President for notoriety why did he deny it in front of the cameras? It would have been a good opportunity for him to become famous considering that millions of people would be watching on TV.

    1. Yes, too bad Oswald never became famous, isn’t it? Lee Harvey WHO?

      By failing to confess, Oswald retained control. Everyone in the world wanted to know what happened and only he had the answers. That’s power and control.

      If he had confessed, I don’t think we’d be here still talking about him, do you?

        1. A reporter asked Oswald, “Did you kill the president?” Oswald replied, “No, they’ve taken me in because of the fact that I lived in the Soviet Union. I’m just a patsy.” That’s the context. He was denying his guilt, as many guilty people do.

          He was “taken in” (arrested) because a shoe salesman saw him ducking the cops near the Tippit murder scene, not because he lived in the SU.

          Notice what he *didn’t* say: “I’m just a patsy. I’ve been set up by ——.” (Fill in the blank with your favorite suspect.)

          1. Jean, that doesn’t explain his use of the term “patsy,” which by definition implies something far more sinister than a “false arrest.”

        2. Why don’t you quote the ENTIRE statement Oswald made- you will have your answer. Like much that comes out of the Conspiracy faction only 80% of the story is brought up , leaving out the rest that contradicts their positions.

          1. Photon, Can you walk through the trajectory of events that lead to Oswald’s statement as it related to his time in the Soviet Union?

            Specifically, was he the first to reveal to the DPD that he had defected and spent time in Russia, or did the DPD already have that information? When did they initiate interrogation on that specific issue? Did he divulge the information, or was the DPD fed the file?

            In his statement, did he make reference to his defection in order to call attention to the fact that the DPD had honed in on his defection? and if so, did he at the moment recognize that the DPD was using that as evidence that he had assassinated the president?

            And further, at that moment did he realize that he had been used as a “patsy.”

            Did all of this occur before or after his interrogation?

            I read that the “penny was dropping” when Oswald said “They’ve taken me in because of the fact that I lived in the Soviet Union. I’m just a patsy!”

      1. Why would he confess to a crime he quite likely did not commit? In fact it is quite doubtful that he even shot Officer Tippit.

        1. No one has ever explained how Oswald could have been framed for either crime, given all the physical and circumstantial evidence against him. It’s not enough to just *assume* he was framed. Show how it might have been done. No one ever has.

          1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            It is not necessary to “prove he was framed”, not how, not when, not why. That may satisfy your or anyone’s intellectual curiousity, but totally uneccessary to prove guilt or innocence.
            All that is necessary is to prove LHO did not take the fatal shot…then all other arguements fall by the way side, those arguements then become just an attempt at selling a dead horse. A dead horse that gives birth to a dozen red herrings.

          2. Ok, let me rephrase this Jean….you posted
            ” It’s not enough to just *assume* he was framed. ”

            To me, the opposite of “assuming” he was framed, would be to “prove” he was framed, or not. That said, it is not an absolute necessity to “prove” he was framed versus assuming the same concept.
            Guilt or innocence can be discovered without necessarily addressing this issue.

            Also, let me correct you on your other post, all evidence does NOT point to LHO, that is why there is a dispute about his guilt or innocence at all.

            I have posted links to the Altered Bethesda autpsy photo’s, LHO sure didnt’ alter those, he was dead. We can view the Oliver Nix film which clearly shows “smoke” from at least one gunshot, and also that frames are missing from the Nix film. Here again, LHO didn’t fire a gun from the picket fence, he was in TSBD. A shot fired from this area of “smoke” which also matchs the head shot in timing and also in direction of shot fired and point of impact (back and to the left). Which could be proven if the autopsy images hadn’t been altered, but it is proven that they have been altered. Nor can we dismiss the fact that the Zapruder film clearly shows JFK raising his arms, hand near throat, reacting to a shot and then moments later being pushed forward suddenly, by a second shot, totally in dispute of claims that the back shot caused the frontal throat wound. If that were true, the motions should have been completely opposite, the hit in the back (body lurching forward) and then the raising of the arms, (the motions are bassackwards if this theory were true). Not to mention that Doctors inspecting the wound stated the bullet did not pass through the body, (not that anyone would later fake this like the Autopsy images).
            There is so much evidence that people ignore or overlook it boggles my mind, lol.
            How many people know the significance of LHO’s (supposedly LHO’s) pistol being bored out? How many average everyday people would know the answer to that question (or what it implies)? Even today? This is something that Mafia or Intelligence agencies might do, or even some police officers,not your average person. How would a person even know that you can’t fire .38 shells in a weapon that uses .38 “specials”, or that by reversing them, using a .38 special in a .38 barrel would leave less tell tale markings?

          3. S. Dusty Rhodes, thanks for a very informative comment relating to the forensics, and your insight relating to the issue of the framing of Oswald.

          4. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            A Note: Using .38 special caliber bullets in a bored out .38 caliber barrel would make it more difficult to match the bullets to the gun.
            But an important point…this would not only benefit a criminal who fired the weapon, but would also make it far simpler to plant a weapon or shells on someone to make them appear guilty. If the weapon was in it’s original form, it would be literally impossible to fake other shells being fired from the weapon. So, if two people had the same caliber weapons, both bored out in the same fashion. One person could fire his weapon and kill someone, and it could far more easily be blamed on the other person who has an identical weapon, as the bullets would have similar markings, but the true individual identifying markings of each weapon would no longer show up on bullets, because they were both bored out.
            Two shooters were identified at the Tippit murder scene. One matching the description of Jack Ruby. Jack Ruby was known to carry a .38…well a couple of them. Jack Ruby was also reported to have been the one who identified Oswald to Police in the theatre at the time of his arrest.

          1. Dusty,

            I didn’t ask that you “prove he was framed.” Why did you put that in quotes?

            I’m saying that no one has ever explained, theoretically, how he COULD HAVE BEEN framed. Was all the physical evidence planted? How did the plotters make sure that he wouldn’t be photographed outside the building and have an airtight alibi? Was it just a coincidence that he brought a package to work and left his wedding ring at home that particular day? Etc., etc., etc. If he’s not guilty, why does all the evidence point to him?

  6. I read a discrepancy when considering Oswald’s record of lifelong instability in the context of his alleged actions on 11.22. It suggests that because of an underlying fury, Oswald either meticulously planned the assassination or acted spontaneously.

    Meticulously planned would imply a reliance on dozens of variables leading up to November 22: the parade route could have been altered at the last minute, Frazier could have opened the package, it could have rained and the bubble top would have been in place, or someone could have stumbled upon his presence in the perch and interrupted the assassination, to name but a few. Would a cunning sociopath have left those details to chance?

    A spontaneous act by a tragic lone nut (setting aside logic and cadence) suggests that Oswald’s mental instability manifested in his hatred of the President, or his desperate need for notoriety which intensified over the weeks leading to 11.22: he discovered that by happenstance he would be working in the depository building when the parade route of the President would pass in front of the perfect perch from which to shoot him; Oswald awoke that morning, and with little planning, took a mail order rifle previously perfected with excessive flourish at nearby rifle ranges, and strolled into work with intent to shoot John Kennedy with no plan of escape other than allowing fate to prevail.

    There is little logic in either scenario, and too many contradictions to consider either seriously. How do you reconcile meticulous planning and/or a spontaneous, lonely act by one individual?

    1. I don’t see that discrepancy and I don’t think that’s what Savodnik is saying.

      The key sentence in the article that relates to your comment is the following, when the author speaks about Oswald’s acquaintances in the USSR: “their recollections point to an underlying fury, a logic and cadence that lead, almost ineluctably, to Dealey Plaza…”

      The word “cadence” is suggesting that there were repeating patterns in Oswald’s life. His behavior and personality led to him experiencing the same problems, again and again. Patterns of failure, disillusionment, isolation, and frustration. The reference to “logic” is speaking about Oswald’s mindset, his internal “logic”, his view of the world and his place in it. The author isn’t saying that Oswald meticulously and logically planned the assassination.

      Neither of your scenarios really seem to take into account Oswald as a person. He’s reduced to a sequence of events. First he did this, then he did that, then this, and so on. I’ve often read commenters imposing their own logic on Oswald’s actions without attempting to understand the nature of his life. Humans are complicated creatures. Understanding another person’s life and their actions is rarely as simple as drawing a line from A to Z. Particularly a life as complicated and unusual as Oswald’s.

      1. Photon, I believe that person(s) with similar appearance to Oswald were at rifle ranges claiming to be him. I believe it is possible that he was at rifle range(s) as well, unwittingly in service to the set-up.

        1. Which is it, an Oswald double or an Oswald shooting his rifle that he got with a false name, which was too crummy to be used accurately?
          Which begs the question-why go through the motions of having a double use a weapon that conspiracy theorists claim was too inaccurate to have done the killing? Or why have Oswald take target practice publically with a rifle too inaccurate for the job he was being set up for?
          Your attempts to explain away Oswald taking target practice with the rifle used to kill JFK get too complex to be plausible.

          1. So explain for us how Oswald takes the rifle out of the Paine’s garage for rifle practice and then returns it without anyone noticing.

          2. Photon, focus on ‘the rifle,’ or ‘a rifle’ detracts (effectively?) from the possibility that Oswald was being positioned as a patsy regardless of whether or not he, or others impersonating him, were holding broom handles at rifle ranges. One who is wedded to Oswald’s guilt is most often unwilling to consider the myriad of contradictions of fact surrounding the discovery of “a rifle” on the 6th floor, not to mention “a photograph” in “a back garden.” Spending time researching the life of said Carcano reveals a number of possibilities.

  7. A cursory review of the evidence makes it obvious Oswald did not shoot Kennedy. It’s really not hard to figure out.

  8. After seeing Lee Oswald shot in the gut on TV when I was the ripe age of 11 I then & there decided that James Bond stuff was not a good career field.
    The impression I got from DPD Chief Jesse Curry the assassination weekend was that his people had nabbed a genuine communist agent in Dallas. My father, his friends & my teachers also had that same impression.

    Once the conspiracy books began to flourish in the mid 1960’s it seemed Mr. Oswald was viewed as just the opposite; a US agent. We later learned even the Warren Commission wrestled with that possibility.

    I can understand an Intel agency keeping an eye on a suspected enemy agent operating on domestic territory but I cannot understand why a US government agency of any sort would take the time & money to train a person for missions & then sacrifice their investment. That makes no sense to me at all.

    Disclosing why a US Intel operative was sacrificed just may be the underlying reason why US Intel won’t come clean about its alleged role in the execution of President Kennedy. It must have cost (and continue to cost) a fortune to cover-up the truth of John Kennedy’s violent death; money that could have been better spent on missions protecting US interests & citizens.

  9. Oswald is the forgotten man in most JFK books — he appears only as a hand puppet or stick figure. But he was an actual person whose character and motivations can be perceived through a detailed study of his life: his letters and other writings, testimony and books by people who knew him, the actions he took, even the things he read and events taking place around him.

    If you study Oswald’s life in detail you might come to agree with Peter Savodnik, as I do, that there was “an underlying fury, a logic and cadence that led, almost ineluctably, to Dealey Plaza, Nov. 22, 1963.”

    1. Hello, Ms. Davison. Great to see you here. “Oswald’s Game” is one of the most interesting and best written books in the canon. However wrong-headed. . . 🙂

      I’d like to ask a question. Whatever happened in Dealey Plaza was the act of a total monster(s). It was the public physical destruction of one of the fascinating and mysterious leaders of the 20th Century. A destruction as he was seated next to his wife. It was the destruction of many lives — Kennedy, his wife, his children, his family, his friends. It was the act of a monster, a monster on the level of child murderers, serial killers, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, and all those push-button psychopaths at Langley focusing drone missiles on far-away wedding parties.

      What evidence in the world is there that Lee Harvey Oswald was in any way that sort of monster? Where? Many things about the guy are uncertain and mysterious, but some things are not, such as his deep attachment (however chaotic) to his wife, to his two little girls, one only weeks old. So this monstrous act, coming from Oswald, would also be destroing those people as well. Where is the evidence, after 50 years, that he was that sort of creature?

      On the other hand, we have: Curtis LeMay, Lyndon Johnson, Allen Dulles, David Morales, David Phillips, Arleigh Burke, John McCloy, William Harvey, Tracy Barnes, Richard Cain, Lucien Conein, Ed Lansdale, Sergio Arcacha Smith, Richard Bissell et. al. Cold-blooded murderers, every one. In some cases, mass murderers in the 100,000s. People who have long and deep records of monstrous acts, “for the cause.” Oswald has no record of anything of the sort. (Unless you’re willing to buy into the Walker attempt. And even that pales.)

      Shouldn’t we be looking at the games of others’?

      1. Mitchum22, your comment should challenge any who claim that Oswald acted alone. Your list could be expanded in my opinion, but it is sufficiently representative of the depth of the intent to assassinate the president, and anyone who demands “why?” can refer to your answer: “for the cause,” or in the words of Dan Hardway (paraphrasing), because it was “necessary.”

        1. What evidence do you have, Leslie, that any of these people had anything to do with Kennedy’s murder? (Suspicion and “connections” aren’t evidence.)

          1. Jean, the difficulty in persuading those who advocate that Oswald acted alone to consider the possibility that there was a conspiracy is self evident. It is a very uncomfortable concept. It is far more comfortable, not to mention safer, to advocate that a lone nut was behind the assassination than to think that our democratic system was attacked from within on 11.22.63. The difficulty in your assessment that Oswald alone shot John Kennedy is that it does not answer the hundreds of questions arising from that claim. The worry is that it clouds issues that must be addressed if we are to retrieve our democracy. A wider, and scarier I might add, parameter would answer all of the unresolved questions.

          2. Leslie, I think there’s a bit of a question about worldview here. If someone believes that American politics was irrevocably changed and democracy was lost on that day in Dallas, I’d suggest that by default they’re always going to view the events in Dallas as the result of a conspiracy. It’s a question of how you see the world and the way it works.

            The problem is that by viewing the assassination through that prism, the event itself, the protagonists and everything involved acquires a particular tint. Minor details become incredibly important, every action by anyone with even the remotest connection to the event is analysed microscopically with a view to finding inconsistencies.

            On a fundamental level, I don’t agree that democracy in American disappeared on 11.22.63. You’ll struggle to find historians or writers outside the research community who agree with that view.

            It’s not that conspiracy is “uncomfortable” (has there ever been an era when people have been more interested in conspiracies and trusted the government less?), the issue is that it’s extremely difficult to formulate a credible, supported and persuasive new version of events to replace the “official” history based on the information we have available to us at this time.

            If you wish to revitalise American democracy, which I agree is highly important, in my view the primary problem is the corrosive effect of money at all levels of the political process, not the military industrial complex, the CIA or some unseen conspiracy.

          3. D. Olmens, as to “world view:” yours are rational arguments on behalf of those who believe that Oswald acted alone, and as a very broad assessment of the collective, your position is persuasive.

            However, you seem to suggest that a specific mode of investigation into the assassination in pursuit of a shadow element within our government, in collusion with business and defense interests acting to remove an elected president (much the same as was occurring in banana republics during the period) is without merit because it is based on assumptions that cannot yet be proven. That begs the questions: is that not the very problem we are faced with – lack of proof, either beyond a reasonable doubt in the Oswald case (the HSCA cast official doubt on the Warren Commission’s findings) or limited to circumstantial evidence in the case of the people v. the shadow characters behind the assassination? and does that not suggest how very successful the cover up has been to date?

            I do challenge your assessment of the health of democracy since November, ’63, and I believe that the corrosive effect of money in our political process is synonymous with “the military-industrial complex.” In my view the CIA employs agents of both, and they are involved with the very dynamics that draw threat to our nation – threats they then use to justify unconstitutional acts, preventing the retrieval of our democracy in the name of “security.”

          4. I wouldn’t say I’m advocating a lone gunman position to the exclusion of all other possibilities. I’m open to the possibility of a conspiracy, I’m just not persuaded by any of the theories I’ve read. If there’s conclusive evidence that comes to light, I’ll be reassessing my viewpoint accordingly.

            I don’t think the viewpoint I outlined is completely without merit. The point I would make is that if you see the world in the terms you describe, you need to keep that in mind when analysing the assassination.

            I’d argue that people who view the assassination as an example of democracy being subverted will gravitate towards a conspiracy view because, a) it fits their view of how government and the world works, and b) there is a tendency amongst pro-conspiracy writers to view JFK as someone who was agitating against those interests.

            Where I would differ with you is that I think democracy in America was in poor health long before JFK. In my view, his death is not a point at which the patient’s condition suddenly deteriorated further.

            On the contrary, JFK was as much a part of the establishment, or ruling elite if you prefer, as those that went before him. JFK was the product of privilege, vested interests, money and power. He was never a threat to the military industrial complex. It’s where he came from. He was just a bit better at PR than some of his fellow politicians.

          5. D. Olmens, And here we are in significant disagreement. You, along with others posing this argument, take the Kennedy heritage as it relates to wealth (including the Fitzgerald line of his family) completely out of context. Kennedy monetary wealth was at most two generations deep; more importantly, their heritage brought with it a millennium-long struggle against invasion and tyranny, and the incumbent struggles to make it in the New World.

            The Kennedy wealth in comparison with that of the establishment in America was the ephemeral cash-rich nature of Joseph’s ventures, strengthened by the voting block of Irish emigrants, and little else. This combo could not and should not be compared with the influence of the sons and daughters (and their progeny) of the Revolution let alone descendants of the Jamestown Colony, etc.

            Watch the videos of Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in the summer of 1963 to get a sense of his ties to the island; his strength was unrelated to fiscal wealth but more attributable to his alignment with the character and resolve of those working to break from oppressive bonds (of British control), whether stated openly or not.

            Then consider the “air brushing” from the records for some inexplicable reason of the Irish Honor Guard at the burial ceremony at Arlington.

          6. JFK wasn’t born in a log cabin in the woods. JFK was a child of wealth and privilege with opportunities available to him that positions him amongst the upper strata of US society. The point about whether the Kennedys were “nouveau riche” or old money doesn’t alter this fact. You can subdivide and analyse the privileged, wealthiest sub-section of the population along religious and cultural lines, but it doesn’t remove JFK from that context. Old money may have turned up their noses at garden parties, but it doesn’t place the Kennedys, their wealth, power, influence and interests somehow completely at odds with that group.

            This is significant because to support your view that democracy was irrevocably altered by his assassination there is an implicit suggestion that JFK was somehow radically different to his predecessors and had a radically different agenda. The historical record offers little support for this viewpoint. It’s a common view amongst a number of pro-conspiracy writers that JFK’s death robbed America of a transformative President. His death is theorised as being a consequence of his agenda clashing with that of powerful entrenched interests. The problem with this viewpoint is that there’s not much of evidence of JFK significantly altering the status quo.

            That’s not to say he was a bad person, or bad President. Not at all. He was a very modern politician who was a lot better at PR than his predecessors. The image of a fresh, young President who could lead the USA into a bright new future has retained it’s lustre and allure across the decades.

      2. Well, maybe you ought to look at the perceptions of the man who knew oswald better than anybody else-his brother.
        Or the opinions of his wife before her $60,000 sympathy funds ran out and she started to get close to conspiracy theorists ( but still convinced that her husband pulled the trigger).
        Or better yet, what do you call a man who stands over a wounded and helpless policeman and fires a bullet into his brain in front of multiple eyewitnesses who picked him out of police lineups the same day?

        1. Photon, you ignore the influences impacting an impressionable Marina Oswald. A young woman jettisoned from her family and culture, not fluent in English, living in a home of highly connected American ‘patriots,’ supported by capitalist-minded former Russians involved in the primary industry of America, and cosseted and coached by even more insidious characters after the assassination. (have you studied her 1964 trip to Santa F, NM with Priscilla McMillan?) Marina is one of the weakest arguments in favor of the guilt of her husband.

          Will you address the Tippit murder in light of the alleged discrepancy of the wallet?

          1. Leslie, I asked what evidence you had that any of the people you named was involved in Kennedy’s murder and you didn’t present any. Can we agree that there is none? And if there is none, why accuse them?

            I’m not afraid of “uncomfortable concepts.” Far from it. I once believed everything I read in “Rush to Judgment,” until I checked Lane’s footnotes and discovered I’d been fooled.

            I’m willing to believe any imaginable conspiracy theory that explains the evidence better. I haven’t seen one.

            There may be “unanswered questions,” as there often are, probably more in this case because it has been examined so intensely for so many years. My guess is that almost all these questions have either been answered (over and over again) or are by their nature unanswerable (what someone was thinking, e.g.).

          2. Jean “Unanswerable” appears to be the new meme in the assassination debate as we approach the 50th. It is a desperate pulbic relations effort in my opinion, having had some experience in the field. If some are comfortable with “unanswerable,” that is their prerogative; many are not.

            I’m sorry that Mark Lane’s efforts failed a litmus test; that does not absolve any of us from the responsibility of demanding answers to unresolved questions relating to the allegations that Oswald shot the President of the United States in broad daylight from an exposed perch in front of hundreds of witnesses, and that he acted alone. Have you personally considered the possibility that Oswald was also a victim of November, 1963?

            Evidence of a vast conspiracy can be challenged on detail, but not concept; consider the rewards of the last 50 years for a select few when in fact President Kennedy was challenging that imbalance in the earliest months of his presidency.

            A sufficient number of the US electorate may eventually connect 1963 with 2013 and beyond, grasp what happened in Dallas, and do something about it.

        2. God forbid that any of our brothers or sisters or spouses be expected to assess our behavior impartially. This is hardly an objective argument. Perhaps Robert anticipated an inheritance; perhaps he lost a food fight with Lee when they were kids; perhaps Marina wanted to go home? Surely any court of law would challenge the admissibility of this argument.

          1. Leslie, You say “consider the rewards of the last 50 years for a select few” as though this were “evidence of a vast conspiracy,” but that’s actually only speculation/suspicion. I’m still waiting for evidence connecting anyone but Oswald to this crime.

            Since Oswald didn’t explain what he meant by the word “patsy,” we can’t know for sure, but something else he said suggests he was accusing the Dallas police of trying to frame him. He suggested that the police had used photos of him taken after his arrest to put his face into the backyard photos.

          2. Similarly, you say that Oswald was an unstable communist and therefore he must have shot the president. I have yet to read a rational, substantive statement of motive behind his alleged murder of John Kennedy.

            We are poles apart, moving perhaps toward an evidentiary center?

      3. Mitchum22, I don’t think Oswald was a monster or that he had to be one to commit this terrible crime, and I don’t agree that the usual suspects you list are “cold-blooded murderers every one.” More important, there is no actual evidence connecting any of them to Kennedy’s death. The real mystery to me is why so many people want to blame “anybody but Oswald” when all the evidence points to him.

        1. Leslie,
          The evidence points to Oswald and only to Oswald. That’s why I say he’s guilty, not because he was an “unstable communist,” which is your term, not mine.

          As I said, if you want to understand Oswald’s motivations, study his life. Many things led him up to that point, beginning in his childhood and extending to his situation on 11/22/63.

          1. Jean, My understanding is that those who study Oswald’s life in order to understand why he ended up in the TSBD on 11.22.63 conclude that his instability from a young age, and his flirtation with communism collided. Please correct me if I have misinterpreted your assessment.

            “Evidence points to Oswald and Only to Oswald,” is a very serious position to take because it implies that unless another individual or another group of individuals are charged with the crime, Oswald is guilty. That is not a legal argument as to the guilt of Oswald; it is however one that is most concerning to anyone valuing the foundation of our legal system. “You must be guilty because we can’t find someone else who is?” Hardly a wise or viable position to argue.

          2. Leslie, I don’t think you understand what I’m saying at all. You seem to be comfortable pointing a finger at numerous people, even though you can’t cite an iota of actual evidence linking any of them to JFK’s murder. That’s your idea of valuing the foundation of our legal system?

            Oswald isn’t guilty because no one else is, he’s guilty because that’s what the evidence indicates.

  10. I find it interesting that despite all the interesting findings and alternate theories that deserve mainstream attention that books like these with little more to back them than dime store psychology get published by the Wall Street Journal. There’s nothing radically new here and in fact what is glossed over are the reasons why the people who knew Oswald were convinced he didn’t murder President Kennedy.

    1. I think the suggestion that this article is backed by “little more than dimestore psychology” is a bit harsh. The piece Savodnik wrote for the WSJ is quite a long article, is well-written and appears to be based on firsthand research. From what I can see at Savodnik’s website he’s a reasonably widely published journalist, so I think to dismiss the article so casually is a bit unfair. I haven’t read Savodnik’s book, I think it’s only just been released, but after reading the article I plan on obtaining a copy.

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