Lee Harvey Oswald was born in New Orleans on 18th October, 1939. His father, Robert Oswald, died two months before his son was born. At the age of three his mother, Marguerite Oswald, sent him to live in the Bethleham Children's Home.
Oswald went to live with his mother in Benbrook, Texas when she married Edwin Ekdahl. The marriage did not last and Marguerite Oswald took her three sons to a new home in Fort Worth. The two elder brothers, John and Robert, found work and in 1952 Marguerite and Lee moved to New York. Although considered an intelligent boy, Lee Harvey Oswald's behaviour at school deteriorated. He was sent to a detention centre and underwent psychiatric treatment.
In 1955 Oswald joined the Civil Air patrol where he served under David Ferrie. The following year Oswald became interested in politics. He read books written by Karl Marx and told friends that he was a Marxist. He also joined the Young People's Socialist League. He later told a friend that his involvement in politics dated back to reading a pamphlet about the execution of Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg.
Oswald left school at sixteen and the following year joined the U.S. Marines. After basic training Oswald qualified as an Aviation Electronics Operator and in 1957 was posted to the Atsugi Air Base in Japan. He soon got into trouble for being in possession of an unregistered weapon. In March 1958 he was found guilty of using "provoking words" in a quarrel with a sergeant.
Oswald also served in Taiwan and the Philippines before returning to his base in California. He remained interested in politics and became an outspoken supporter of Fidel Castro and his revolution in Cuba. In 1959 Oswald left the Marines. Soon afterwards he travelled to Finland. After a short stay in Helsinki he acquired a six day tourist visa to enter the Soviet Union. Oswald went to Moscow and applied to become a Soviet citizen.
On 13th November, 1959, Arline Mosby, who worked for United Press International (UPI) interviewed Oswald. Mosby later told a fellow journalist: "He (Oswald) struck me as being a rather mixed-up young man of not great intellectual capacity or training, and somebody that the Soviet Union wouldn't certainly be much interested in."
Three days later, Priscilla Johnson checked into the same hotel as Osward. The following day she visited the American Embassy to pick up her mail (16th November, 1959). According to Johnson, John McVickar approached her and told her that "there's a guy in your hotel who wants to defect, and he won't talk to any of us here". She later told the Warren Commission: "John McVickar said she was refusing to talk to journalists. So I thought that it might be an exclusive, for one thing, and he was right in my hotel, for another." As Johnson was leaving the American Embassy McVickar told her "to remember she was an American."
Oswald agreed to be interviewed by Johnson. She later testified that they talked from between nine until one or two in the morning. Oswald told her: "Once having been assured by the Russians that I would not have to return to the United States, come what may, I assumed it would be safe for me to give my side of the story."
Johnson's article appeared in the Washington Evening Star. Surprisingly, the article did not include Oswald's threat to reveal radar secrets. Nor was it mentioned in any other article or book published by Johnson on Oswald. However, under oath before the Warren Commission she admitted that Oswald had told her that "he hoped his experience as a radar operator would make him more desirable to them (the Soviets)".
When Oswald's application to stay in the Soviet Union he was rejected Oswald attempted suicide by cutting his wrist. Oswald was kept in hospital for a week and after his release was allowed to remain in the country.
In January, 1960, Oswald was sent to Minsk where he was given work as an assembler at a radio and television factory. While there he met Marina Prusakova, a nineteen year old pharmacy worker, and in April 1960 the couple got married. Oswald soon got disillusioned with life in the Soviet Union and in June, 1962, he was given permission to take his wife and baby daughter to the United States.
The Oswald family settled in Fort Worth. Later the family lived in Dallas and New Orleans. He lived for a while with Charles Murret and his wife Lillian. Murret worked as a steamship clerk. He was also an illegal bookmaker and an associate of Sam Saia, one of the leaders of organized crime in New Orleans. Saia was also a close friend of Carlos Marcello.
Marina Oswald later claimed that on 10th April, 1963, Oswald attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker, a right-wing political leader. She reported that she "asked him what happened, and he said that he just tried to shoot General Walker. I asked him who General Walker was. I mean how dare you to go and claim somebody's life, and he said "Well, what would you say if somebody got rid of Hitler at the right time? So if you don't know about General Walker, how can you speak up on his behalf?." Because he told me... he was something equal to what he called him a fascist."
In April, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald moved to New Orleans. On 26th May, 1963, Oswald wrote to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and proposed "renting a small office at my own expense for the purpose of forming a FPCC branch here in New Orleans". Three days later, without waiting for a reply, Oswald ordered 1,000 copies of a handbill from a local printers. It read: "Hands Off Cuba! Join the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, New Orleans Charter Member Branch, Free Literature, Lectures, Everyone Welcome!"
According to Bill Simpich: "4/18/63 is the postmark date of the letter sent from Dallas by Oswald to the national FPCC office in New York. An FBI memo about this letter refers to “photographs of the below listed material made available by NY 3245-S* on 4/21/63...in the event any of this material is disseminated outside the bureau, caution should be exercised to protect the source, NY 3245-S*, and the communication should be classified “Confidential”". This refers to Victor Thomas Vicente, who was the FBI spy at the FPCC.
Oswald rented an office for the FPCC at 544 Camp Street. No one joined the FPCC in New Orleans but Oswald did send out two honourary membership cards to Gus Hall and Benjamin Davis, two senior members of the American Communist Party.
On 9th August, 1963, he was giving out his Fair Play for Cuba Committee leaflets when he became involved in a fight with Carlos Bringuier. Oswald was arrested and on 12th August, he was found guilty and fined $10. While in prison he was visited by FBI agent, John L. Quigley. Five days later Oswald debated the issue of Fidel Castro and Cuba with Bringuier and Ed Butler on the Bill Stuckey Radio Show. Later that month Oswald was seen in the company of David Ferrie and Clay Shaw.
In September, 1963, Marina Oswald moved to Dallas to have her second child. Lee Harvey Oswald visited Mexico City where he visited the Cuban Embassy where he attempted to get permission to travel to Cuba. His application was turned down and after trying to get a visa for the Soviet Union he arrived in Dallas in October, 1963. Marina and June were living with a woman called Ruth Paine. Oswald rented a room in Dallas and with the help of Ruth Paine, he found a job at the Texas School Book Depository.
On 22nd November, 1963, President John F. Kennedy arrived in Dallas. It was decided that Kennedy and his party, including his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Governor John Connally and Senator Ralph Yarborough, would travel in a procession of cars through the business district of Dallas. A pilot car and several motorcycles rode ahead of the presidential limousine. As well as Kennedy the limousine included his wife, John Connally, his wife Nellie, Roy Kellerman, head of the Secret Service at the White House and the driver, William Greer. The next car carried eight Secret Service Agents. This was followed by a car containing Lyndon Johnson and Ralph Yarborough.
At about 12.30 p.m. the presidential limousine entered Elm Street. Soon afterwards shots rang out. John F. Kennedy was hit by bullets that hit him in the head and the left shoulder. Another bullet hit John Connally in the back. Ten seconds after the first shots had been fired the president's car accelerated off at high speed towards Parkland Memorial Hospital. Both men were carried into separate emergency rooms. Connally had wounds to his back, chest, wrist and thigh. Kennedy's injuries were far more serious. He had a massive wound to the head and at 1 p.m. he was declared dead.
Witnesses at the scene of the assassination claimed they had seen shots being fired from behind a wooden fence on the Grassy Knoll and from the Texas School Book Depository. The police investigated these claims and during a search of the TSBD they discovered on the floor by one of the sixth floor windows, three empty cartridge cases. They also found a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle hidden beneath some boxes.
Oswald was seen in the Texas School Book Depository before (11.55 a.m.) and just after (12.31 p.m.) the shooting of John F. Kennedy. At 12.33 Oswald was seen leaving the building and by 1.00 p.m arrived at his lodgings. His landlady, Earlene Roberts, testified before the Warren Commission that Oswald stayed only a few minutes but while he was in the house a Dallas Police Department car parked in front of the house. In the car were two uniformed policemen. Roberts described how the driver sounded the horn twice before driving off. Soon afterwards Oswald left the house.
At 1.16 p.m. J. D. Tippet, a Dallas policeman, approached a man, later identified as Oswald, walking along East 10th Street. A witness later testified that after a short conversation Oswald pulled out a hand gun and fired a number of shots at Tippet. Oswald ran off leaving the dying Tippet on the ground.
John Brewer was manager of Hardy's Shoe Store in Oak Cliff. After hearing a news flash that J. D. Tippit had been shot nearby, he saw a man acting strangely outside the shop: "The police cars were racing up and down Jefferson with their sirens blasting and it appeared to me that this guy was hiding from them. He waited until there was a break in the activity and then he headed west until he got to the Texas Theatre."
Brewer went into the theatre and spoke to Warren Burroughs, the assistant manager. Burroughs had seen him enter the balcony of the theatre. When the police arrived Brewer accompanied the officers into the cinema where he pointed out the man he had seen acting in a suspicious manner. After a brief struggle Oswald was arrested.
During his interrogation by the Dallas Police Oswald requested the services of John Abt. He is recorded as saying: "I want that attorney in New York, Mr. Abt. I don't know him personally but I know about a case that he handled some years ago, where he represented the people who had violated the Smith Act... I don't know him personally, but that is the attorney I want... If I can't get him, then I may get the American Civil Liberties Union to send me an attorney." However, Abt was on holiday in Connecticut and later told reporters that he had received no request either from Oswald or from anyone on his behalf to represent him.
The police soon found out that Oswald worked at the Texas School Book Depository. They also discovered his palm print on the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle that was found earlier that day. Other evidence emerged that suggested that Oswald had been involved in the killing of John F. Kennedy. Oswald's hand prints were found on the book cartons and the brown paper bag. Charles Givens, a fellow worker, testified that he saw Oswald on the sixth floor at 11.55 a.m. Another witness, Howard Brennan, claimed he saw Oswald holding a rifle at the sixth floor window.
The police also discovered that the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was purchased under the name A. Hiddell. When he was arrested, the police found that Oswald was carrying a forged identity card bearing the name Alek Hiddell. The rifle had been sent by the mail order company from Chicago to P.O. Box 2915, Dallas, Texas. The Post Office box belonged to Oswald.
Lee Harvey Oswald was interrogated by the Dallas Police for over 13 hours. However, the police made no tapes nor took any transcripts of the interrogations. Oswald denied he had been involved in the killing of Kennedy. He also told newsmen on the night of the assassination he was a "patsy" (a term used by the Mafia to describe someone set up to take the punishment for a crime they did not commit).
On 24th November, 1963, Jesse Curry decided to transfer Oswald to the county jail. Will Fritz placed George Butler in immediate charge of the transfer. Ike Pappas, a journalist working for WNEW Radio in Maryland was one of the hundred people watching Oswald being led through the basement of police headquarters. “I noted out of the corner of my eye, this black streak went right across my front and leaned in and, pop, there was an explosion. And I felt the impact of the air from the explosion of the gun on my body.... And then I said to myself, if you never say anything ever again into a microphone, you must say it now. This is history.” The gunman was quickly arrested by police officers. Oswald died soon afterwards. The man who killed him was later identified as being Jack Ruby.