In this YouTube video, historian Gerald McKnight of Hood College in Maryland recounts the final 48 hours in the life of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald as a way of challenging the theory that Oswald alone and unaided was responsible for JFK’s assassination.
McKnight, author of Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed America–And Why, spoke at the Mid-America Conference on History, held in Springfield, Missouri in September 2012.
Watch C-SPAN’s coverage of the entire JFK panel, including audience discussion.
32 thoughts on “Historian Gerald McKnight on Oswald’s final hours”
Why is this man still a ‘senior member’ of the Ralph Cinque’s Oswald Innocence Campaign? Why?
I watched all four. I’d never heard of Professor Wrone and would like to now more about his work.
Prof. Kaiser’s conclusions do not quite add up for me.
(i) ‘The mob conspired to do it.
(ii) LHO was the only shooter.
(iii) But oh by-the-way, LHO was also doing Cointelpro work.
Huh? LHO, the Mob and Cointelpro? So what evidence led Prof. Kaiser to disqualify agencies of the US government as suspects?
I don’t know who shot JFK or who conspired to do so. I don’t think anybody can argue in good faith, that LHO was genuinely trying to organize for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans. The agreed-upon facts rule that out.
Everyone agrees LHO had stamped an address on FPCC leaflets to which recipients could respond. Everyone agrees LHO had no office at that address and never did. So why would any committed organizer do that? Who exactly was going to receive the mail or greet any visitors in the event there was a response? ,
If the answer is ‘nobody’, then LHO was doing the FPCC a disservice. If the answer is ‘somebody’, then who?
Even if one accepts for the sake of argument (I don’t), that Oswald pulled the trigger by himself, what was his motivation to pass out FPCC leaflets with a bogus address in New Orleans, in early August, 1963.
What was that all about? The answer to that will tell us about who LHO was and who he was NOT.
Correct. It was a rump chapter, which Oswald set up as another of his schemes of personal aggrandizement.
You’ve chosen to presume all the convoluted FPCC fakery was simply and entirely due to Oswald’s desire for “personal aggrandizement” (based on what motivation?), notwithstanding the crumbled evidentiary foundations of the Warren Omission. Many others presume something more sensible and logical, based on post-WCR established facts surrounding Oswald’s activities in New Orleans and Dallas (even absent those files which were either destroyed in violation of the JFK Act, or have never been released in fully unredacted form by the CIA). If you think Oswald’s motivation truly was just that simple, why have you chosen to devote your adult life to defending such a “simple” truth? Oh, right – because the facts are anything but simple, aren’t they?
Ah that’s good. Even Prof. McAdams agrees with my logic on that one. We part company on the motive. Prof. McAdams offered his opinion as to LHO’s motive. It was ‘self-aggrandizement’.
I don’t see how stamping a bogus address on leaflets leads to self-aggrandizement for LHO. It’s certainly a disservice to the organization he purported to represent and to the few people in 1963 New Orleans who might have responded positively to his leaflets by writing or visiting there.
That’s the interesting thing about 544 Camp Street. There are facts everybody agrees on. Different opinions are sure to follow. Some are better-reasoned than others.
I’m not done with the facts of that little episode yet. So I’ve added Prof. McAdams’ opinion to the pile of opinions I’ve already read that try to explain it.
Or as a CIA OP? Why did Banister go ballistic over the 544 Camp St stamp? Freeing the Joannides (and Phillips) files could shed some light on this.
“I’m the patsy.”… After the FPCC leafleting incident combined with big city radio time didn’t “work” for Oswald, he went ahead and assassinated Kennedy. But instead of utilizing this hard won international platform to broadcast some vital message world wide to the waiting universe, as an individual so hell bent on self aggrandizement would surely (yes surely) have done, his was a captured fugitive’s bewildered request for council followed by the frustrated issuance of “I’m the patsy” before being shoved into an interrogation room. “Self aggrandizement” doesn’t make sense here except as a token of complacency in lieu of real interest is understanding the matter.
Portraying oneself as a victim and “patsy” is a dandy form of self aggrandizement.
Remember, Oswald was politicized by the Rosenberg affair.
Saying one is a patsy is to say that one has been unknowingly duped into being set up for taking the blame for a role in an action that one has not actually played that particular role in, but rather is being falsely assigned with that role by the others involved in the action. It is equivalent to being fooled or framed. It does not make one look or feel smart.
Nevertheless, the accusation that Oswald lays claim to being a patsy within a vacuum of co-conspirators is examined as follows.
One possibility is that he is delusional and has imagined or hallucinated the co-conspirators. Oswald’s accusers have always assessed him as emotionally and/or ideologically motivated, as demonstrated by the false Rosenberg reference above (false because it has been shown to be temporally out of joint with the history of the Rosenberg case. Refer to Dieuginio’s critique of Jean Davison’s book for the explanation, here: http://www.ctka.net/2014_reviews/Davison%20review.html and from which is quoted the following, “Further, why would anyone be distributing “Save the Rosenberg” literature at that time? The couple had been executed in June of the previous year.”) So, this scenario is not self aggrandizement since a delusional Oswald is not posited. Perhaps someone somewhere has posited it, but this idea certainly does not receive the regular air play that other scenarios, such as the one discussed next, receive.
The second implied possibility is that he is making up the patsy story and therefore there are no co-conspirators, and that of course he fully aware of the fact that there are none. This would be consistent with the official story and so is the context for the brand of self aggrandizement being described here. Oswald requested a lawyer so we know he thought he would be afforded due process in this matter, not murdered. We know he called himself a patsy and was therefore intentionally and publicly announcing a conspiracy.
If there was in fact a conspiracy, then yes, this could have been self aggrandizement because perhaps he would have relished the prospect of announcing, then playing out in court, his truth as it would unfold. However, if he was making up the patsy/conspiracy story while anticipating legal due process as we know he was, then he would also have necessarily known that his hollow puffery of today would be proven empty absurdity tomorrow. Yet all indications are that Oswald took himself very seriously and wanted to be taken very seriously by others. Such a disingenuous form of “self aggrandizement” would be inconsistent with the actually true self aggrandizing behavior LN’r buffs need in order to rationalize their LN’r theory.
Genuine self aggrandizement and Oswald as a lone assissin are mutually exclusive in the context of known events.
Oswald told reporter Aline Mosby that he first became interested in Marxism “about the age of 15” after an “old lady handed me a pamphlet about saving the Rosenbergs.” As I said in the book, Oswald wasn’t “about 15” when this happened, but 13.
The Rosenbergs were executed in June 1953. During May there was a Save the Rosenbergs campaign going on in New York City, where Oswald was living. After spending two weeks in a juvenile center where he was evaluated as a school truant, Oswald was released on May 7. On Mother’s Day (May 10) women recruited through an ad in The Worker handed out Save the Rosenbergs pamphlets on city street corners. (The Worker, May 8, 1953) Oswald customarily roamed the city by himself, riding the subways.
In other words, his story about an old lady handing him a pamphlet about saving the Rosenbergs makes sense, even though he got the age wrong (or possibly Mosby misunderstood him). It is certainly not “false” or “temporally out of joint” if you look at the context that diEugenio left out.
Mosby’s rough draft is here:
Dr. Hartogs of Youth House did not identify any degree of psychotic mental content or changes in the 13 yr old Lee Harvey Oswald, but he did describe the young adolescent as having strongly resistive and negativistic features. No one need point out that tens of millions of children living in far more stable environments than LHO pass through that stage.
If by Jean Davison’s own argument Oswald was 13 when he was ‘politicized,’ (assuming that the pamphlet episode occurred in NYC and not in New Orleans at age 15) wouldn’t researchers ask how permanent that ‘politicization’ might have been given Oswald’s young age and the confusion in his life? Apparently not Jean Davison nor John McAdams. Ms. Davison argues the Rosenberg pamphlet incident was a seminal moment in Oswald’s development yet I’ve not read that she has expertise in childhood and early adolescent development. Further. if we are to consider as she insists, the pamphlet incident in context of statements made by Oswald in an interview years later in Moscow, then I posit we should also consider the context of that interview offered by Jim DiEugenio in his recent essay:
“When Oswald went to Russia, one of the things he told one of the reporters in his room at the Metropole Hotel was that he first got interested in communism when a woman handed him a pamphlet meant to save the Rosenbergs. (Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, by Jim DiEugenio, p. 145; Davison, p. 54) Davison uses this incident throughout the book to somehow indicate that a large and latent psychic chasm was unleashed in Oswald by reading this pamphlet. For her, this is a huge milestone in Oswald’s mental evolution, one that started him down the road to murder.
Which, upon analysis, is funny. See, the Metropole was used for many state services in Moscow. As John Newman has shown, it was furnished with infrared cameras, for spying on its residents. Therefore, it’s natural to suspect it was also wired for sound. (DiEugenio, ibid) When Oswald surfaced this story about the Rosenberg pamphlet, he was trying to convince the Russian authorities to let him stay in Moscow. Clearly, by letting him hole up at the Metropole, the Russians were deciding on whether Oswald was a genuine defector, or on an espionage mission. Oswald issued many B movie platitudes trying to convince the KGB he was genuine. In one of his interviews with American journalists, he said at age 15 he became seriously interested in communism when “an old lady handed me a pamphlet about saving the Rosenbergs.” (ibid)
It was probably this statement that convinced the KGB Oswald was on a spy mission. For they then kicked him out of Moscow and sent him 450 miles away to Minsk. They set up a ring of human intel around him, and also wired his state furnished apartment for sound. (Ibid) Why? Because Oswald did not have his story straight.”
You are ignoring the fact that Oswald was expressing left wing sentiments long before he defected. As a teen he was saying that Eisenhower was oppressing the working class. About the time he joined the Marines, he was writing the Socialist Party asking about joining the Young People’s Socialist League.
And then he was expressing leftist ideas to his Marine buddies.
DiEugenio’s “context” has nothing to do with all those things.
Much of what you and Jim DiEugenio have said about my 1983 book is not accurate. For instance:
“Davison uses this incident throughout the book to somehow indicate that a large and latent psychic chasm was unleashed in Oswald by reading this pamphlet.”
My index shows that the name “Rosenberg” appears somewhere on a grand total of nine pages. That’s “throughout the book”?
“It was probably this statement [about the Rosenberg pamphlet] that convinced the KGB Oswald was on a spy mission. For they then kicked him out of Moscow and sent him 450 miles away to Minsk.”
There was nothing unusual about sending a defector to live outside Moscow. Oswald’s hotel room may well have been bugged, but there is zero evidence that anyone paid attention to his statement about the Rosenbergs or concluded that he was a spy. Besides, Oswald talked to Mosby in early November *before* he had been given permission to remain in the USSR. Why would the Soviets decide he was a spy and then allow him to stay as a resident alien?
I don’t know why you brought up the Youth House psychiatrist Hartogs. I quoted accurately from his comments on Oswald, in a single paragraph.
I see no point in continuing to respond to your criticisms of this book, which most people here probably haven’t read, especially since much of what I’ve seen here isn’t what I actually said.
I believe DiEugenio placed the Moscow interview in context, and his speculation is as worthy of consideration as is your speculative psychology applied to support your theory of Oswald as a lone assassin.
“There was nothing unusual about sending a defector to live outside Moscow.”
And you know this how?
“Oswald’s hotel room may well have been bugged, but there is zero evidence that anyone paid attention to his statement about the Rosenbergs or concluded that he was a spy. “
Again, are you privy to how the Soviets assessed defectors, and if so, how can you prove that they did not pay attention to the Rosenberg statement?
“Besides, Oswald talked to Mosby in early November *before* he had been given permission to remain in the USSR. Why would the Soviets decide he was a spy and then allow him to stay as a resident alien?”
Why indeed? And yours is speculation as well.
I referenced Hartogs’ assessment of a 13 yr old boy to emphasize just that, he was a boy (showing no signs of psychosis) and barely an adolescent so claiming a boy can be politicized is a stretch. If you would refresh my memory, did you use Oswald’s own words from the Mosby interview as foundation for the Rosenberg pamphlet argument, or did you research the pamphlet story independent of the Mosby article? If so, did you seek expert opinion that a 13 yr old boy could be politicized for the remainder of his life by the Rosenberg case?
Jim DiEugenio theorizes Oswald was motivated to reference the Rosenbergs while being interviewed at the Metropole. Do you argue that he wasn’t?
I’ve read that journalists Mosby and Johnson felt that Oswald was overplaying his “defector” role and that the Soviets wouldn’t buy it. Do you have an opinion on that assessment?
You need to post a citation on that.
And if it’s a secondary source, you need to explain what the primary sources say.
The Moscow KGB certainly didn’t think him anything but yet another of the mentally unstable defectors like the ones they had seen before.
The Minsk KGB did watch him very closely, but turned up absolutely no evidence that he was any sort of spy or false defector.
Jean, you state: “My index shows that the name “Rosenberg” appears somewhere on a grand total of nine pages. That’s “throughout the book”?” However, a non-indexed reference to the Rosenberg pamphlet opens your final Chapter, 18: “Oswald’s Game” with:
“In large part, the assassination of President Kennedy was the tragic result of a steady accumulation of chance happenings, the elimination of any one of which might have spared Kennedy’s life. ….The chain of circumstance began in Oswald’s childhood, when someone innocently handed him a political pamphlet that gave his anger and resentment a direction. ….”
Question: if someone ‘innocently’ passed on a pamphlet, why argue that the pamphlet later become the fuel for Oswald’s murderous temperament?
In your argument relating to the influence the Rosenberg case had on Lee Harvey Oswald, age 13, you say (pg. 57): “When I was doing some background reading on the Rosenberg case, I ran across another coincidence, another of history’s whims – Julius Rosenberg’s account of his own introduction to politics, at age 15 . . . . “ (age 15, not 13)
You quote [Rosenberg]: “I stopped to listen to a speaker at a street corner meeting . . . His topic was to win freedom for Tom Mooney …. That night I was reading a pamphlet I bought from the speaker giving the facts . . . . the next day I went and contributed 50 cents … ”
You then say “ “In The Implosion Conspiracy,” Louis Nizer quoted the passage above and remarked, ‘It is curious how a purely accidental incident can change the course of a person’s life. If Julius Rosenberg had not stopped to listen to the Mooney orator, he may not have been seated in a defendant’s chair in the courtroom eighteen years later.’”
However, you “fail” to inform your readers that high profile attorney Louis Nizer also wrote the forward to the Warren Commission Report. Can you explain why you would choose to eliminate that particular credential earned by Mr. Nizer? About Nizer, Mae Brussell opined:
“The most important ingredient in the entirely phony Warren Report was going to be the study of an assassin’s personality. Therefore it was little wonder that New York attorney Louis Nizer’s introduction to the Warren Report would be nothing but a continuous blast against Lee Oswald’s mental derangement. If you believed what Mr. Nizer said was factual about Oswald, then information that followed in the Warren Report would not have to be challenged or examined.”
Are you denying that what Nizer wrote about Rosenberg was true?
Are you advocating guilt by association? Anybody with any connection with the Warren Commission must be an evil liar?
How about I dismiss anything that any conspiracy author says? Same logic you are using.
John McAdams, This discussion requires linear thought. I did not indict Nizer or claim guilt by association, but asked why the conscious omission of his role in the Warren Commission Report? This is another instance when Jean Davison fails to include relevant information. Her reasons for doing so may have been benign, but I think anyone writing a book about Oswald in 1983 would be sensitive to the implications of including in her book an inflammatory statement of opinion by Nizer in reference to the effects of pamphlets on young boys and not mention he had been a peripheral participant in the Warren Commission Report.
“Why would the Soviets decide he was a spy and then allow him to stay as a resident alien?”
The information they would gather from a spy who thinks he or she is under cover while being carefully watched is a gold mine. Tradecraft, drop box locations, intercepted messages, surveillance of contacts with other spies, and the potential to turn them into a double agent. Ever read a good spy novel? My word, what a question.
“Huh, LHO, the Mob and Cointelpro?” You seem eager to dismiss the fact that the most important man in Oswald’s life aside from his brother was his uncle who lived in New Orleans and who certainly had connections with the Marcello family. How do we know that Oswald’s presence in N.O. during this time wasn’t for some purpose besides setting up a FPCC chapter?
Your reflex rejection of Kaiser’s view simply because he doesn’t implicate the CIA or other government agencies reflects an ongoing problem in the research community-the ” my view or the highway” approach to views that contradict the “CIA did everything and covered it up” theory. So many books and articles burn up paper trying to explain why the CIA would want to kill JFK while ignoring people like Hoffa and Marcello who had clear motives and stated that they wanted him dead.There are even wiretap records of Mafia figures admitting involvement. Do you think what has been going on with the Education Forum has been good for the research community?
Actually, no. I think I accurately paraphrased Kaiser’s conclusions. If I was inaccurate, I’ll correct it.
I am not a ‘CIA did it’ guy. I don’t know who killed JFK. I’m open to other possibilities. But I’m sorry – Kaiser’s conclusions did not make sense to me. Here is how I heard them in his presentation.
(i) ‘The mob conspired to do it.
(ii) LHO was the only shooter.
(iii) But oh by-the-way, LHO was also doing Cointelpro work.
I certainly do not exclude the Mob as suspects – especially Marcello. Quite the opposite, I assure you.
I’m still learning. I haven’t excluded anyone or any group of people as suspects.
Professor McKnight said that Pierre Salinger donated his notes to the Kennedy Library (located South of Boston) and next he says that he failed to find the manuscript in Harvard (which is in Cambridge, North of Boston).
Maybe he was looking for the manuscript in the wrong place/city?
As I seem to recall, the JFK Presidential Library, with a dedication ceremony that included the Kennedy’s and its designer, I.M. Pei, took place in late 1979. Prior to that, I think the JFK papers could have been at Harvard, from say 1964-1979. Could Salinger have tried to retrieve said documents in the period between 1964 and 1979? Does anyone know?
How can I view the David Kaiser video. It starts after the McKnight presentation but is not complete?
I haven’t read much about Professor Wrone’s assertion that curtain rods were found in the shed near the TSBD.
Wrone and Weisberg and Roffman have made much of the Black Star photo showing a man handling curtain rods in Oswald’s room.
Both of these items would seem to back up LHO’s claim that he had curtain rods, and not a rifle that day.
the curtain rods story is not a new one. To call what was presented as “the latest JFK scholarship” is a bit of a stretch by any standards, What we got was the same old thoroughly debunked claptrap including the Mafia did it, Oswald did it alone,it was Oswald on the steps and etcetera.
McKnight and Wrone came across as thoroughly likeable gentlemen, and what they presented was at least in the ball-park — but “new”? Hardly.
Unfortunately, that photo was from November 23. Photos from the actual day of the assassination show that the room had curtain rods.
How do you explain this photo?
(The excuse that the landlady was repairing a curtain rod bent by the newsmen doesn’t make sense. Why would she use a hammer for that?)
I don’t have to explain the photo, since the evidence that the room had curtain rods on November 22 is iron clad.
You can speculate all you want about what happened after that.
I wasn’t speculating. Just asking a question.
I took another look at DVP’s site which explains with quotes that the photo I questioned was taken Saturday morning (November 23, 1963).
The ‘room.htm’ photo above is labelled as taken on the afternoon of the assassination by a Life photographer.
(In your defense, how many curtain rods do you need for that small room? However, this issue with the Beckley Ave. apartment could be a red herring WRT curtain rods.)
The only thing that kept me awake during these presentations was the wit shown by McKnight and Wrone – coincidently the only two whose thoughts were within a bull’s roar of being on the money.
One of the problems was that there was absolutely nothing new in what any of them had to say. I guess that’s why they got to say anything at all in a forum outside of the “JFK community”. That and their status as “historians” which is a mile above the status of “buff” the rest of us are forced to wear. Overall, waste of time and effort.
Those who complain that McKnight and other “had nothing new” are missing the main issue. We already know more than enough to show there was a cover-up of a larger conspiracy. Finding something new is good, but not necessary.
Our main goal, now, is to find a way to get the media, the government, the historians, to all acknowledge that it really happened. How can we make that happen?