The conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy are manifold; some believe he was targeted by the KGB, some by Cuban supporters of Fidel Castro, some by the man who would replace him as President, Lyndon B. Johnson. Almost all make some mumbled references to the significance of the grassy knoll and the possibility of a second shooter; in fact, Hollywood did a great job of lining its pockets by making a movie dedicated solely to propagating such theories. But at the centre of all of these theories, the presence of one man cannot be denied: Lee Harvey Oswald. Found to be the owner of the murder weapon, placed at a vantage point at the time of the shooting and reported to have confessed the murder to his brother afterwards, the evidence against Oswald is overwhelming. But how much do you really know about the man who changed the course of American history so drastically? Here are some lesser known facts of JFK’s alleged assassin.
1) He professed to have an interest in Socialism since he was 11 years old
At the tender of 16, a young Oswald became interested in Socialism and in a letter to the Socialist Party of America, he claimed to have been reading such literature for “well over five years”. Prior to this, he had exhibited signs of threatening behavior towards his older half-brother John and his wife, brandishing a knife at both of them on separate occasions. He was also withdrawn and isolated from his schoolmates and placed on probation several times for anti-social behavior. At 16, he dropped out of school and tried to enroll in the Marines, but was not successful until the following year due to his age.
2) He was a trained sniper at the level “sharpshooter”
Some of the arguments provided to argue against the theory that Oswald was the sole shooter on that afternoon claim that he was terrible with a weapon and would not have been able to hit Kennedy so precisely from such distance. Such arguments are nonsense; once in the Marines, he took the marksmanship test that was part of the standard training and scored highly, earning the level “sharpshooter”. Subsequent studies testing the abilities of a trained sniper to hit a moving target at a similar distance have shown that it is in fact possible. Interestingly, one of the men responsible for training Oswald during his younger years as part of the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol was David Ferrie. Ferrie, a staunch anti-Communist but also believed to be disgruntled over some of Kennedy’s foreign policies, would later be accused of using his connection and influence over Oswald to convince him to assassinate the President.
3) He became the first Marine to defect to the Soviet Union
Despite being capable with a weapon, Oswald did not enjoy his time with the US Marines. He was physically smaller and weaker than many of the other cadets and ostracized as a result of this, enduring the derogatory nickname ‘Ozzie Rabbit’. Increasingly interested in Communism, Socialism and the Russian language in general and alienated from his fellow Marines as a result, Oswald got into a series of scrapes which would see him reprimanded on more than one occasion. He accidentally shot himself in the arm, was found in possession of an unauthorized firearm and assaulted a commanding officer; but for all this, he still enjoyed a Confidential Clearance. It is unusual that the military would allow someone to continue serving (and with such privileges) despite proclaiming to be a Communist in the middle of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. In October 1959, he officially defected to the USSR, becoming the first Marine to do so.
4) He attempted suicide in Russia
Shortly before his renunciation of his US citizenship, Oswald had moved to Russia on a tourist visa with the apparent intention of staying there permanently. When things did not immediately go his way and he was informed he would have to leave the country shortly, he attempted suicide by cutting his arm in a hotel bath. He was placed in a psychiatric ward but later released and it was determined that he was not a threat to others. He would later be granted citizenship in Russia and sent to Minsk in a factory, where he met his future wife Marina and married her within one month of their acquaintance.
5) He asked for help from the man he would later injure in the Presidential assassination
After a few months of marriage in Russia, Oswald decided he wanted to return to his homeland and sent letters to the US government asking for its intervention in granting him an exit visa from the USSR. He also requested a loan of $1,000 to help with travels expenses; $435.71 was granted as the State Department were keen to show they had the power to win back a defector. Another coincidence came in the form of the man he would petition to reverse his discharge from the Marines: then Secretary of the Navy John Connally. By November 22nd, 1963, Connally had risen to the position of Governor of Texas and accompanied Kennedy in the motorcade. A fragment of a bullet intended for Kennedy struck Connally, injuring him seriously.
6) He had previously tried to murder General Edwin Walker
After moving to Texas and looking for work, Oswald fell in with a petroleum geologist named George de Mohrenschildt, who was fluent in Russian and liked to shock guests at his high-class gatherings with Oswald’s brash left-wing ideals. Shortly after their acquaintance, Oswald purchased a mail order sniper rifle and revolver – the two weapons he would use on that fateful day in November – and posed for pictures taken by with his wife with them. After conducting some reconnaissance work of the house of a notoriously right-wing General named Edwin Walker, Oswald attempted to shoot Walker through his window. The bullet missed his head by inches and Walker escaped with his life. It is unclear if the assassination attempt was made at the suggestion of de Mohrenschildt – or anyone else for that matter – and the same is true for his successful attempt to dispatch President Kennedy.
7) He tried to visit Cuba just two months before the assassination
In September of 1963, Oswald visited Mexico City in order to gain a visa to enter Cuba, where he dreamed of serving under his idol Fidel Castro. He went to Mexico City armed with a self-written dossier extolling his own virtues and displaying his dedication to the Communist cause. Although the visa was initially delayed and he was told he would not be allowed one without a Russian visa, it was eventually granted. He would never use it; but Cuban officials’ protestations that they dismissed Oswald as an unhinged individual hold less weight in light of their acceptance of his petition for a visa. Again, the evidence here is circumstantial and without solid base, but it is certainly enough to lend its fire to several conspiracy theories. I guess we will never know the whole truth about the affair.