New Books on the Kennedy Assassination
New Times, No. 38, 21 September 1966, pp. 30 ff.
books have appeared lately which seriously question the official Warren
Commission account of the circumstances of the assassination of President
Kennedy. Two such books ion the United States are “Whitewash” by Harold
Weisberg and “Inquest” by Edward Jay Epstein. In Switzerland a book by
Joachim Joesten is due to come off the press shortly. A number of articles in
the periodical press likewise challenge the Warren Commission findings. In a
study in the New York Review of Books
the American journalist Richard Popkin analyzes the new publications on the
subject, and his conclusion is that the Kennedy assassination was the outcome of
a carefully laid plot in which influential quarters were implicated.
In this and further issues of New Times we are printing some excerpts from Mr. Popkin’s study.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a solution emerged
within hours: one lonely alienated man had done the deed all by himself. The
investigation by the Dallas police and the FBI then proceeded to buttress this
view. The Warren Commission, after many months of supposed labour and search,
came out with a conclusion practically the same as that reached by the FBI,
except for details as to how it happened. The ready acceptance of this by the
press and the public—except for a few critics—suggests that the American
public got the kind of explanation it wanted, and perhaps deserved. Western
European critics can only see Kennedy’s assassination as part of a subtle
conspiracy, involving perhaps some of the Dallas police, the FBI, the Right-wing
lunatic fringe in Dallas.
Two books just published move the discussion to a new level. Harold Weisberg’s noisy, tendentious “Whitewash” (which, for some good and probably many bad editorial reasons, no publisher would touch) is nevertheless the first critical study based on a close analysis of the twenty-six volumes of the Warren Commission report. Edward Jay Epstein’s “Inquest,” a remarkably effective book, presents startling new data about the internal workings of the Commission. The material suggests not that the “official theory” is implausible, or improbable, or that it is not legally convincing, but that by reasonable standards accepted by thoughtful men, it is impossible, and that data collected by the FBI and the Commission show this to be the case.
Before these writing appeared, there were already strong reasons for doubting that Oswald did all the shooting alone, or at all. The majority of eye- and ear-witnesses who had clear opinions as to the origins of the shots thought the first shot was from the know or the overpass. All of the commission’s obfuscation notwithstanding, Oswald was a poor shot and his rifle was inaccurate. Experts could not duplicate the alleged feat of two hits out of three shots in 5.6 seconds, even though they were given stationary targets and ample time to aim the first shot. No reliable witness could identify Oswald as the marksman. No one saw him at the alleged scene of the crime, except Brennan, who did not identify him later in a line-up. All of this indicates that Perry Mason, Melvin Belli, or maybe even Mark Lane, could have caused jurors to have reasonable doubts that Oswald did the shooting, or did all of the shooting.
The :hard: data relied on by the Commission are that Kennedy was hit twice and Governor Connally at least once; that Oswald’s rifle was found on the sixth floor of the Book Depository,; that three shells ejected from Oswald’s rifle were found by the southeast window of the sixth floor; that Oswald’s palm print is on an unexposed portion of the rifle. All of the certainly made a suggestive case that, difficulties notwithstanding, all of the shooting—three shots—was done by Oswald with his own rifle. Now the material presented by Epstein and Weisberg undermines the Commission’s case in two ways. First, they closely examine both the sequence of the shots and the available medical evidence in order to demonstrate that all three shots could not have been fired by Oswald. Secondly, they show that the Commission’s theory is in conflict with the FBI’s on a number of crucial points; indeed, one can only conclude either that both theories, considered together, are impossible, or that they establish that more than one assassin was firing at the President.
Two of the most important pieces of evidence underlying this demonstration are the FBI’s summary reports on the case and the film taken by Abraham Zapruder, a bystander during the assassination. The film established the time when Kennedy could have been hit, and Connally could have been hit. The speed of Zapruder’s camera is 18.3 frames per second and his film shows that Kennedy was hit between frames 208 and 225. It is clear from the medical and photographic evidence that Connally was shot between frames 231 and 240. This leaves less than 2.3 seconds between shots one and two; and the Commission found that it is physically impossible to pull the bolt and reload Oswald’s rifle faster than once every 2.3 seconds (without aiming). Therefore it was impossible for Oswald to have wounded both the President and Connally in separate shots.
If the FBI data are correct, then Kennedy and Connally were hit by separate bullets, and the time interval between these shots is much too short (less than two seconds) for both to have been fired from Oswald’s rifle. Hence either another gun was employed, or two different marksmen were shooting. The Commission holds to the theory that the Governor was hit at the same time as the President. The pictures, however, definitely show him without noticeable reaction when Kennedy had already been struck. Connally’s clear testimony is that he heard the first shot (and the bullet traveled much faster than the speed of sound), looked for its source to the right and to the left, and then was struck.
The Commission makes bullet No. 399 the key to its theory. But bullet No. 399 raises all sorts of problems. First, almost all of the medical experts, including two of the Kennedy autopsy doctors, held that No. 399 could not have done all the damage to Governor Connally.
Second, other bullets shot from Oswald’s rifle through any substance became mashed, unlike pristine No. 399, which is supposed to have gone through two human bodies, and have smashed Connally’s rib, wrist, and entered his femur.
Third, no one knows near whose stretcher No. 399 was found. It was found by a Mr. Tomlinson, when he adjusted two stretchers blocking an entrance to a men’s room. At this stage of our knowledge of the case, neither Mr. Tomlinson, nor anyone else, knows which stretcher the bullet came from, nor whether either Kennedy or Connally was ever on either one of them. The Commission made no effort to track down what happened to both Kennedy’s and Connally’s stretchers. Anyone could have entered the hospital. It was full of newsmen, spectators, Secret Service men, FBI men, and according to the management, the place was a madhouse.
Fourth, when, late on November 22, the bullet was turned over to the FBI expert, Robert Frazier, it didn’t need any cleaning. Weisberg claims that somebody must have cleaned the bullet earlier and thereby destroyed valuable evidence. However, it may never have been dirty or soiled.
Another piece of evidence that seems to be something different from what the Commission supposed is the brown paper bag found on the sixth floor of the Book Depository. This is the bag, that, according to the Commission, was made by Oswald on the night of November 21–22 at Irving, and used by him to bring the rifle into the Book Depository. As Weisberg neatly shows, there are problems with all the information about the bag. First of all, both Marina Oswald and Wesley Frazier (who drove Oswald to Irving) report that he had nothing with him on the evening of the 21st. The Commission was sufficiently worried on this point to recall Frazier and ask him if at some earlier time Oswald had paper with him, to which he answered, “No.”
Next, the only two people who ever saw the bag, Frazier and his sister, described a bag around 27–28 inches, whereas the found bad is 38 inches long. Both Frazier and his sister described it by referring to its position when Oswald carried it, its appearance, and where it was located in the car; all these gave results of around 27 inches. The longest part of Oswald’s rifle, when disassembled, is 34.8 inches. Despite serious efforts to get Frazier and his sister to change their estimate of the bag’s size, they stood fast. The only explanation that seems to resolve the conflict is that there were two bags, the one Frazier and his sister saw and the bag that was found.
If I am right that the bag that was found and the one that was seen are different, this means the rifle entered the Book Depository at a different time from Oswald’s entrance on November 22, and that there was genuine premeditation in Oswald’s actions, to the extent of fabricating evidence that would mislead the investigators.
Why should Oswald have tried to implicate himself as the assassin? I shall try to suggest why in what follows.
The twenty-six volumes contain numbers of strange episodes in which people report that they saw or dealt with Oswald under odd or suggestive circumstances. These instances, and there are many of them, were dismissed by the Commission (though it continued to consider them up to the very end), principally on the grounds that they occurred when Oswald apparently was not there, or they involved activities Oswald reportedly did not engage in, such as driving a car. However, in many of the cases dismissed by the Commission, the witnesses seem reliable. For example, Bogard, a car salesman, reported that on November 9, 1963, a customer cam in to his showroom, gave his name as Lee Oswald (and, or course, looked like the late Lee Harvey Oswald), went driving with him and told him that he (Oswald) would come into a lot of money in a couple of weeks. No only did Bogard have the corroboration of his fellow employees and an employee’s wife, but he was also given a lie-detector test by the FBI. The FBI reported on February 24, 1964, that “the responses recorded were those normally expected of a person telling the truth.”
Cases such as the Bogard episode have attracted the attention of critics from the time of Leo Sauvage’s article in Commentary in the spring of 1964. If these cases could not have actually involved Oswald yet seem actually to have happened, then what? The Commission chose to dismiss them. Leo Sauvage suggested someone was trying to imitate Oswald, that there was a second Oswald. Critics have brought up the second Oswald as an insufficiently explored phenomenon that might throw light on the case.
[Continued in No. 39, pages 30 ff.]
The record compiled by the Commission indicates that as
far back as Oswald’s stay in New Orleans, some strange conspiratorial
activities were going on. On the one hand, the correspondence of Marina Oswald
and Ruth Paine indicates that Oswald was unhappy both because of his family life
and his economic life. On the other hand, from late May onward, Oswald started
his pro-Castro activities, corresponded actively with the Fair Play for Cuba
Committee in New York, the Community Party, and the Socialist Workers Party,
usually giving them false or misleading information about his activities. He
made no effort to change his FPCC organization from a fiction into a reality; it
never had any members except Oswald. Oswald made no effort to look for local
Leftists or to seek sympathizers; he lied about his organization, claiming it
had thirty-five members, that it met at people’s homes, that he, Oswald,
received telephone or postal instructions.
These deceptive activities culminated in August 1963 with Oswald’s visit to the anti-Castroites, Carlos Bringuier and friends, and his expression of interest in joining their para-military activities. In a few days he followed this with his distribution of FPCC literature near their headquarters, which caused a fight with them (they felt they had been betrayed by him). But according to the reports of the police and others, the fight was not a fight at all; Oswald simply put his arms down and told Bringuier (a former functionary under Batista) to hit him. Subsequently, Oswald pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace, when he was clearly innocent, and Bringuier pleaded innocent, when he had in fact struck the blow. In jail Oswald demanded to see the FBI, and tried to convince agent Quigley that he, Oswald, really was involved in pro-Castro activities. Oswald sent distorted reports and clippings of his achievements to the FPCC, and, in an undated memorandum to himself, outlined all of the data he now had to show that actually was a pro-Castro activist. The memorandum seems to have been designed for the Cuban Embassy in Mexico.
The he apparently went to Mexico City on September 25th, visited the Cuban Embassy and asked for a transit visa to go to Russia via Cuba. Though the Commission’s report says that Oswald came back to both the Cuban and Russian Embassies, there is no evidence that he really pressed his case. Whatever the point in the abortive Mexican trip, which seems to have involved some mysterious and yet unexplained elements, at the same time a series of unusual events was occurring in Texas. On September 25, the day Oswald left for Mexico, a second Oswald went into the office of the Selective Service Bureau in Austin, Texas, gave his name as Harvey Oswald, and wanted to discuss his dishonourable discharge. Yet Oswald at this time was riding a bus toward Mexico. The Report dismisses this because Oswald wasn’t in Austin. But it is somewhat confirmed by reports that Oswald was seen that day in a café in Austin by a printer and a waitress.
On the evening of September 25, a Mrs. Twiford of Houston received a phone call between 7 and 9 p.m. Oswald could not have been in Houston then, yet it appeared to be a local call. Oswald claimed he wanted to see Mr. Twiford, the Socialist Labour Party leader for Texas, before flying to Mexico. Could it have been the second Oswald creating mystifying data about Oswald’s whereabouts?
On September 26, the striking incident involving Mrs. Sylvia Odio is supposed to have occurred. Mrs. Odio, a Cuban refugee leader in Dallas, reported to the Commission that she and her sister were visited by two Latins and one “Leon Oswald,” who claimed they had come from New Orleans, were about to leave on a trip, and wanted backing for some violent activities. In a phone call the next day, Mrs. Odio was told more about Leon Oswald by one of the Latins called Leopoldo:
“The next day Leopoldo called me¼then he said, ‘What do you think of the American?’ And I said, ‘I didn’t think anything.’ And he said, ‘You know, our idea is to introduce him to the underground in Cuba because he is great, he is kind of nuts¼He told us we don’t have any guts, you Cubans, because President Kennedy should have been assassinated after the Bay of Pigs, and some Cubans should have done that¼And he said, ‘It is so easy to do it.’”
She was also told that Oswald had been in the Marine
Corps and was an excellent shot. When Mrs. Odio heard of the assassination, she
was sure these men were involved. When she saw Oswald’s picture, she knew.
The Commission made sporadic attempts to discount Mrs. Odio’s story, but kept finding that Mrs. Odio was quite a reliable person, sure of what she had reported. The only conflicting evidence was that of a Mrs. Connell, who said Mrs. Odio had told her she had previously known Oswald and that he had spoken to anti-Castro groups, which if true would indicate that Oswald had been more involved with anti-Castro elements in the Dallas area than Mrs. Odio admitted.
In August 1964 the Commission apparently became concerned about the Odio episode, thinking it might really indicate a conspiracy. The Commission had figured out that Oswald actually had enough time to leave New Orleans, come to Dallas and meet Mrs. Odio, then go on to Houston and Mexico, though this seemed very unlikely. It was probably with great relief that they received the FBI report of September 21, 1964. This stated that on September 16 the FBI had located one member of the group that had visited Mrs. Odio and he had denied that Oswald had been there, but had given the names of the other two, one of whom was a man “similar in appearance to Lee Harvey Oswald.” The FBI said it was continuing research into the matter and “The results of our inquires in this regard will be promptly furnished to you.” The Commission seems to have been satisfied that it had established that Oswald had not visited Mrs. Odio, and did not care that it appeared to have also established a strong possibility that there was a double for Oswald, that is, a man who looked like him and may have used his name. One would have expected that, if the Commission had really been interested in clearing up all of the questions and rumours about the case, it would have stopped everything, located this man and the other two, found out if he had been masquerading as Oswald, and, if so, why Weisberg uses this as crucial evidence that the Commission had established a conspiracy, and subsequently ignored it.
On October 4, when Oswald was back in Dallas, the manager of radio station KPOY in Alice, Texas, reported that Oswald, his wife and small child visited him for twenty-five minutes, arriving in a battered 1953 car. The Report diligently points out that (a) Oswald didn’t drive, and (b) he cold not have been in Alice at that time. The incident is the first of several in which it appears that Oswald and his family may have been duplicated. Instead of seeing it as past of a possibly significant pattern and considering it further, the Commission was satisfied once Oswald had been dissociated from the event.
A second group of incidents can be traced from early November until November 22, almost all in the Dallas-Irving area. (Irving is the Dallas suburb where Marina Oswald lived with Mrs. Paine.) On November 6th or 7th, someone looking like Oswald came into a furniture store in Irving, looking for a part of a gun. (The store had a sign indicating it was also a gun shop.) This person then went out and got his wife and two infants out of a car, returned and looked at furniture for a while. The children turned out to be exactly the ages of the Oswald children. Two people saw and talked to this Oswald and later identified him and Marina as the people in question. The “Oswalds” then drove off, after getting directions as to where to find a gun shop.
This may well have been the day an Oswald took a gun into the Irving Sport Shop (right near by), an episode that occurred in early November. A clerk in the shop found a receipt on November 23 that he had made to a man named Oswald for drilling three holes in a rifle. (Yet Oswald’s rifle had two holes and they were drilled before Oswald got the gun.) An anonymous caller told the FBI about this episode on November 24. The receipt seems genuine; the clerk is sure he ran into Oswald somewhere, and the clerk seems reliable. His boss was convinced, but the Commission dismissed the case since there was no evidence that Oswald owned a second rifle.
On November 8, two marked cases of double Oswaldism took place in Irving. Marina has unequivocally stated that Oswald did not come to Irving on November 8. Yet a grocer, Hutchison, reported that on that day Oswald came in to cash a cheque for $189, payable to Harvey Oswald. He claimed that Oswald subsequently came to the store once or twice a week in the early morning and always bought a gallon of milk and cinnamon rolls, items that Oswald probably would not have purchased, according to Mrs. Paine and Marina. Such an event as the attempt to cash a cheque is no doubt memorable (and, as Marina wondered, where would Oswald get $189?). Also, a barber, right near the grocer, reported Oswald came into his shop on the 8th with a fourteen-year-old boy, and they both made Leftist remarks. The barber said Oswald had been in his shop on previous occasions (although it seems unlikely that Oswald could have been in Irving at any of those times) and had indicated he had been in Mexico.
The second Oswald became more active on the 9th. The real Oswald spent the whole day at the Paine house, writing a letter. While Oswald was writing his long letter, two second Oswald cases occurred. One was the Bogard incident, which I have already mentioned, when an Oswald tested a car, driving over 70 miles per hour and dropped hints about receiving lots of money in a couple of weeks. This memorable performance at the Ford-Lincoln agency was coupled with one of the first appearances of a second Oswald at a rifle range. From November 9th onward someone who looked just like Oswald was noticed at the Sports Drome Range, by several witnesses, always at times when the real Oswald could not have been there. The second Oswald was an excellent shot, who did a number of things to attract attention to himself, firing odd weapons, shooting at other people’s targets, etc.
From November 12 until November 21, Oswald himself did not go to Irving. But a second Oswald is reported on November 13, at the grocery store in Irving with Marina; and on the rifle range on the 16th, 17th, 20th, and 21st. One very suggestive sign of a second Oswald is a report by a waitress that he had come into the Dobbs House restaurant on North Beckley on November 20 at 10 a.m. (when the real Oswald was at work) and had become very nasty about the way his order of eggs was prepared. At this time, Officer J.D. Tippit* was there, “as was his habit” each morning at this hour, and glowered at Oswald. (The FBI, in this report, rather than being excited at this sign that Oswald and Tippit had encountered each other before November 22, merely commented that Oswald was reported to have worked from 8 until 4:45 on November 20. The also showed no interest in why Tippit stopped on North Beckley each morning when it was not in his district or near his home.
The next major, and final, report of the second Oswald’s appearance is right after the assassination. One eyewitness to the shooting from the Book Depository, J.R. Worrell, saw a part of a gun sticking out of the building, heard four shots (and he is one of the few who heard four, rather than three) and ran behind the building. He there saw a man come rushing out of the back of the building and run around it in the opposite direction. According to a Dallas policeman, K.L. Anderton, Worrell told him that when he saw Oswald’s picture on TV, “he recognized him as the man he saw run from the building.”
A few minutes later Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig saw a man run down from the Book Depository to the freeway, get in a Rambler station wagon, and drive off. Craig tried to stop the car, but failed. When he later reported this, he was asked to come down to police headquarters and look at the suspect they had in custody. He immediately and positively identified Oswald as the man he had seen get in the car and be driven away.
Sic transit Oswaldus secondus.
 Not from the Book Depository, where Oswald is supposed to have been.—Ed.
 Supposed to have struck both victims.—Ed.
 The Dallas suburb where Oswald’s wife Marina lived.—Ed.
* The police officer who according to the official version was shot by Oswald about an hour after the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22.—Ed.
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