For Oswald to carry out the assassination, he would need to have been an excellent marksman. Although the President was never more than 90 yards from his position on the sixth floor of the TSBD, he didn’t have much time to complete the mission. First of all, the limo was moving away from his position, and a tree obscured it at a certain point in the journey. Add in the fact that the shots had to be fired in a few seconds and the rifle was pretty unreliable, and you have a scenario where only a skilled shooter could be successful.
To assist the Warren Commission, the U.S. Army and FBI allowed their best marksmen to try and emulate Oswald’s shooting by taking aim from the position where he allegedly shot Kennedy using the rifle found on the sixth floor of the TSBD. The shooters even fixed some of the rifle’s issues, yet they were unable to replicate Oswald’s feat; which was to hit the target in two out of three attempts within six seconds.
Clearly, the Commission needed to prove that Oswald was a better shot than all of the sharpshooters that participated in the test but it failed completely. Oswald was a Marine marksman and served in the military for a few years before the assassination. In 1956, he just about passed the standard required to become a military sharpshooter. His score of 212 was just two points above the 210 point Sharpshooter requirement and well below the 220 needed for ‘expert’ classification. Oswald’s skill deteriorated in the intervening years, and he scored just 191 in May 1959, just one point above the minimum Marksman standard.
When an FBI firearms specialist analyzed the rifle, he said that the target kept moving away from the point of impact. A U.S. Army rifle expert said there were problems with the trigger mechanism and the bolt. Furthermore, gun experts said that Oswald would have needed to ‘sight-in’ the gun by firing it 10 times without ammo before using live ammunition. In interviews with the Secret Service and FBI in December 1963, Marina claimed that Oswald did not practice with the rifle. She had changed her mind by the time she spoke to the Warren Commission in 1964 and said he practiced with it in a field.
Even if he did practice, Oswald at his best was still below the level of the shooters who were unable to replicate his feat. Not only did he need to hit a moving target, but he was also using an unreliable weapon, and he had to make three shots, two of them hitting the target, in just six seconds. While he could have gotten lucky, the issue with the gun residue raised in #1 suggests that Oswald did not shoot President Kennedy.
If you closely analyze the evidence, witness testimony appears more and more unreliable every time you look at it in this case. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald smuggled the gun into work in a brown paper bag. However, there are only three people who saw him before and during his arrival at work on November 22.
Buell Wesley Frazier drove Oswald to work and his sister, Linnie Mae Randle, met Oswald beforehand, and both said that while Oswald was carrying a brown paper bag, it was far shorter than the bag found on the sixth floor of the Depository. One of his colleagues, Jack Dougherty, saw Oswald as he entered the building and claimed the alleged shooter did not have anything in his hands. Suggestions that he could have created the bag while in the building are wide of the mark. He would have needed to use the Depository’s wrapping table and did not have access.
The Commission heavily relied on the testimony of Howard Brennan who said he saw Oswald at the window on the sixth floor. As it transpired, Brennan was an extremely unreliable and unhelpful witness yet his testimony was accepted as fact. First of all, his description of the shooter wasn’t particularly detailed. In fact, he could not pick Oswald out in an identification parade even though he had already seen him on television.
Brennan made a number of claims that were almost certainly false. For example, he said the gunman was standing up when in reality; the window was only half-open so the shooter would need to crouch or kneel. He said he saw the gunman’s trousers, an impossibility from his location at the time. Brennan said he looked up at the building immediately after hearing the shot. The Zapruder film shows that Brennan watched the President’s car after the shooting before turning his head sharply to the right and away from the Depository. Finally, he admitted that he did not see the gunman fire the rifle.
Arnold Rowland was another important witness and testified in great detail regarding what he saw on the fateful day. He claimed to have seen a man holding a rifle standing back from the sixth floor’s southwest corner window. According to Rowland, the man was slender in proportion to his size. When he spoke to the Commission in March 1964, he claimed to have seen a frail African-American man between the ages of 50 and 60. Although two employees of the Depository fitted the description to some degree, Rowland was known to exaggerate; a fact emphasized by his wife who was with him but saw nothing as she had her back turned.
The Commission has been accused of ignoring testimony that hindered their mission to prove that Oswald did it. For instance, Carolyn Arnold, a secretary working for the Depository, told the FBI that Oswald was on the first floor at the time of the shooting. Two other employees indirectly attest to the fact that Oswald was on the first floor between 12:20 and 12:25. The Commission asserted that the gunman was on the sixth floor before 12.15. Certainly, his presence on the first floor at the time of the assassination fits in line with the sighting of him on the second floor at around 12:31.
It seems incredibly unlikely that he could have made it to the second floor in the allotted time. When the theory was tested out, it showed that Oswald could not have made it down from the sixth floor so quickly. Arnold later claimed that the FBI made several errors in her statement. The Commission discounted her evidence and that of Eddie Piper and other witnesses who made statements that effectively proved Oswald’s innocence. The Warren Commission showed time and again that it was only interested in witnesses that corroborated with its pre-conceived notion that Oswald was the lone gunman. With this in mind, how can we trust such an unreliable and biased source?
Such was the clamor to pin the assassination on Oswald that he has been linked with several deeds that he almost certainly did not commit. The murder attempt on General Edwin Walker is attributed to Oswald but only based on testimony given by his wife after the assassination of Kennedy. Marina was held by the FBI and Secret Service for two months after the death of the President. During that time, she made several claims against her husband. Given the fact her marriage with Oswald had fallen apart and that he physically abused her, she had the motive to make up stories placing her dead husband in a poor light.
She said that he left a note in Russian telling her what to do if he was caught trying to kill Walker. The offending note only came to light when Ruth Paine sent her a Russian-language book with the message inside. Not only was the note updated, but it also did not mention anything about Walker or any reason why he would be arrested. Experts believe the note is not authentic and it fit in line with Marina’s unreliable testimony.
Oswald was also accused of killing Patrolman Tippit. According to the Warren Report, Tippit was killed at approximately 1:15-1:16 p.m. on the day of Kennedy’s Assassination. Apparently, the police officer drove up alongside Oswald, presumably because he matched the description of the man seen by Howard Brennan at the Depository. When Tippit exited his car, Oswald allegedly fired four shots and killed the policeman.
However, three witnesses say the shooting occurred several minutes earlier. Although much of Helen Markham’s testimony is unreliable, her account of her daily timetable seems accurate. She was waiting for a bus that had not yet arrived; it was due at 1:12. Domingo Benevides was the second witness, and he saw the gunman walk away from the scene. For the sake of his own safety, he waited a few minutes and then unsuccessfully attempted to use the police car radio.
T.F. Bowley was the third witness. He said he drove up to the scene, noticed the officer’s body and looked at his watch which said 1.10. Rowley tried to help Tippit and took the radio from Benevides. The call was made between 1:15 and 1:16 pm. One version of the Dallas police log recorded two garbled messages from Tippit with the last at 1:08. We can draw the conclusion that Tippit died between 1:08 and 1:10. Since Oswald’s housekeeper saw him at 1:03 pm, there is no way he could have made it to the scene of the crime in time.
The brown paper bag that was found on the sixth floor of the Depository did not belong to Oswald. It was almost certainly created by the police and planted at the scene after the event. Three witnesses say that Oswald either had no bag or a much smaller brown paper bag. The rifle and paraffin tests undertaken by the alleged shooter showed no evidence that Oswald had fired a rifle that day.
The rifle and bullet shells found on the sixth floor seemed to suggest that Oswald was the killer. Perhaps the biggest indication of fake evidence is the Magic Bullet which was the Warren Commission’s Exhibit 399. It was apparently found on a stretcher outside the Parkland Hospital operating theater. The bullet was apparently of the same type as those found on the sixth floor of the Depository. It was supposedly fired from the rifle found at the scene. A hospital attendant insisted that the bullet was found on a stretcher unrelated to the shooting and the bullet produced in evidence wasn’t even the same as the one from the stretcher.
Finally, we must look at probable impersonations of Oswald in Mexico and Dallas. In the summer of 1963, Oswald lived in New Orleans and was trying to visit Mexico City to get a visa to visit Cuba. On September 25/26, 1963 a Leon Oswald visited Silvia Odio in New Orleans along with two other men. Odio later stated that the American man she met was Oswald after seeing him on television. However, he was also in Mexico City at the same time.
While Oswald did go to Mexico City a couple of days later and met with the Soviet Embassy and Cuban Consulate at least once each, it is probable that an imposter made several more visits to both. In two phone calls to the Soviets, a man claiming to be Oswald spoke terrible Russian; Oswald spoke the language reasonably well. The implication? It was easy to frame Oswald if you could paint him as an anti-American traitor with ties to the Soviet Union and Russia.
The Single Bullet Theory was used by the Warren Commission to fit in with the idea that only three bullets were fired by the assassin. The ‘theory’ evolved over time when new evidence came to light. Then the news came that James Tague, an innocent bystander, was struck by fragments from one of the bullets, so it was up to the Commission to create a theory that didn’t conflict with their available evidence.
Eventually, it determined that one bullet was responsible for all the non-fatal injuries sustained by Kennedy and Connally. It entered the President’s back, exited via his throat, entered Connally’s back, and exited via his chest after passing through his right wrist; then it lodged in his left thigh. Another bullet entered the President’s head while Tague was struck by the third bullet.
The main evidence in support of the Single Bullet Theory is that no bullets or bullet fragments were discovered in the President’s body; there were only fragments from the bullet that hit him in the head.
Practically every element of the Warren Report came under fire, but nothing drew more derision from skeptics than the notion that a single bullet caused so much damage to Kennedy and Connally. In fact, Connally told the Commission that he was hit in the back by a bullet fired later than the ones that hit the President. He maintained for the rest of his life that he was struck by a different bullet. The Governor’s wife and a police motorcyclist beside the motorcade both testified that Connally was struck by a separate bullet.
The famed Zapruder film appears to prove the Governor right. In Frame 225, the President is holding his throat; he had almost certainly been hit at this point. There are no signs of Connally sustaining a wound until Frame 238, some two-thirds of a second later. At that point, he fell. The conclusion is that the bullet that hit Connally was fired after the bullet which hit the President in the throat. Also, there is no way that Oswald could have fired two bullets so close to one another given the rifle he used.
There is a multitude of other objections to the Single Bullet Theory. For example, given the President’s position when he was struck, there is no way a single bullet could hit the parts of the back and throat where he had the wounds. Either his throat wound is too high up, or his back wound is too low down for the Single Bullet Theory to hold water.
Overall, the length of time between the shots, the weapon’s capabilities and the nature of the injuries sustained by the President and the Governor pretty much rip the Single Bullet Theory to shreds. It also casts grave doubts on the idea that Oswald was the Lone Gunman. Although almost everyone in the crowd heard only three shots, the wounds on the President, Connally, and Tague suggest there could have been more. The low quality of Oswald’s rifle means he couldn’t have executed the shots in such a short space of time.
We can wrap everything up by saying there simply isn’t enough evidence against Oswald to conclusively state he was the shooter. Indeed, most of the available facts suggest he almost certainly wasn’t JFK’s killer. If Jack Ruby hadn’t murdered Oswald a couple of days after the assassination, the prosecution would have struggled to get a guilty verdict based on the case they could build. Whether Oswald would have been convicted anyway is another matter entirely.
Evidence of his guilt is incredibly flimsy; right from the moment he supposedly brought his rifle into the Depository until right after his arrest following the alleged murder of Tippit. There is even evidence that points to Oswald being a ‘patsy’ as he claimed upon his arrest. His pro-Communist views made him an easy target; add in his life in Russia and pro-Cuban stance, and painting him as anti-American is a simple task. He was a sharpshooter in the Marines (albeit not a very good one) and had a history of violence, so he apparently had the capability to commit murder.
The Warren Commission never bothered to investigate the possibility that the killer was anyone other than Oswald, even in the face of a vast array of evidence. It had reached its verdict before the investigation had ever been launched in what was a shocking dereliction of duty. For instance, Buell Wesley Frazier, the man who drove Oswald to the Depository on the fateful day, is adamant that the package Oswald brought to work (which he claimed were curtain rods) was nowhere near big enough or large enough to hold a rifle even if the stock was disassembled from the barrel. He claimed the Dallas police detectives wanted him to confess to being part of the murder plot despite it being completely false. According to Frazier, the police kept asking him to change his testimony.
Although eyewitnesses at the scene say they heard the gunshots and saw a gunman at the easternmost south-facing window on the sixth floor of the Depository, photographic and medical evidence suggests otherwise. Then there is the Single Bullet Theory which has been more or less dismantled. Again, witnesses say they only heard three shots, but medical and forensic examination revealed that it was virtually impossible for all the injuries sustained by Kennedy, Connally, and Tague to have been caused by only three bullets. Then there is the small matter of Oswald lacking the ability even to hit the President from his supposed position.
While a couple of witnesses claim they saw Oswald on the sixth floor that day, it was over 30 minutes before the shooting. It was almost impossible for him to run down to the second floor where he was seen less than two minutes later from the sixth floor. Also, the two men who saw him at that stage remarked that he seemed calm and not out of breath. Surely, a dash down four flights of stairs would have caused even the fittest person to breathe a little heavier? In a photo, he was mistaken for Billy Lovelady, but there was a second person standing by the doorway which could have been Oswald.
He was also accused of murdering Patrolman J.D. Tippit even though the evidence suggests otherwise. Upon his arrest, Oswald was tested for gun residue, and the results revealed that he did not fire a rifle that day.
Overall, the only way Oswald could have been guilty is if an enormous number of people lied or were mistaken. The three witnesses who said he either didn’t bring a bag or didn’t have a large enough bag to match the one found at the scene of the shooting must have been mistaken. Two witnesses saw him on the second floor just 7 minutes before the shooting. The Commission claims the gunman was on the sixth floor at least 15 minutes before the assassination. Also, another witness says he saw the gunman on the sixth floor at the time Oswald was sighted on the second floor. All lies?
The people who heard shots from the grassy knoll must also have been wrong as were the doctors who said the President’s throat wound was the entry point for the bullet and not the exit. Connally, his wife and the police motorcyclist who claim the President was hit with separate bullets must have been wrong too. Add in the fact that the U.S. Army’s best shooters, along with others from the FBI, were unable to replicate Oswald’s shots despite being better marksmen, and you have more than enough evidence that the wrong man was blamed.
The Warren Commission already concluded that Oswald was the killer before it began its investigation. As a result, it latched onto incomplete or false evidence and ignored anything that contradicted its original conclusion. Therefore, can we really trust its final verdict? Most people say ‘no’ so now, let’s look at alternate theories.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading