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Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK
Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK
Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK
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Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK

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Pulitzer Prize Finalist: “By far the most lucid and compelling account . . . of what probably did happen in Dallas—and what almost certainly did not.” —The New York Times Book Review
The Kennedy assassination has reverberated for five decades, with tales of secret plots, multiple killers, and government cabals often overshadowing the event itself. As Gerald Posner writes, “Fifty years after the assassination, the biggest casualty has been the truth.” In this first-ever digital edition of his classic work, updated with a special comment for the fiftieth anniversary, Posner lays to rest all of the convoluted conspiracy theories—concerning the mafia, a second shooter, and the CIA—that have obscured over the decades what really happened in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963.
Drawing from official sources and dozens of interviews, and filled with powerful historical detail, Case Closed is a vivid and straightforward account that stands as one of the most authoritative books on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. 
HerausgeberOpen Road Media
Erscheinungsdatum1. Okt. 2013
Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK
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Gerald Posner

Gerald Posner (b. 1954) is a renowned investigative journalist. Born in San Francisco, California, he attended the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to a career in law. Posner earned international acclaim with Case Closed (1993), an exhaustive account of the Kennedy assassination that debunked many conspiracy theories. Case Closed was a finalist for the Pulitzer for history. Posner has written about topics as varied as Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele, 9/11, Ross Perot, and the history of Motown Records. His most recent book is Miami Babylon (2009), a history of glitz, drugs, and organized crime in Miami Beach. He lives in Miami with his wife, author Trisha Posner. 

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Bewertung: 4.069565217391304 von 5 Sternen

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  • Bewertung: 4 von 5 Sternen
    A few years ago I went on a toot of Kennedy assassination books, convinced that there was an evil conspiracy or two or three. The books got more and more bizarre and I got more and more confused. Then I read this one, and it was a "I coulda had a V-8" moment. This one made sense.
  • Bewertung: 4 von 5 Sternen
    Interesting and thought provoking. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. It really cuts through the fog of misinformation and conjecture, presenting the basic facts from many of the original sources and recently (at the time of its publication) declassified documents.If nothing else, this book is worth a read for the wealth of research delving into Lee Harvey Oswald's childhood and teen years.As Posner sorts through it all, dissecting the relevant from the irrelevant, the likely from the unlikely and the possible from the just plain ridiculous, it's disturbing to learn how many facts have been mangled, misquoted or carefully edited to fit one agenda or another over the years.I had no idea of the lengths that New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison had gone to to try and fabricate -- there is truly no other word for it -- a conspiracy case that would keep him in the headlines. If you've ever seen the film JFK then you simply MUST read the section of this book dealing with Jim Garrison to get the counter perspective on things!I am aware of some of the criticisms that have been made against both this book and Gerald Posner himself (The copy I read was printed sometime after the original hardcover printing and the author addressed some of those criticisms in a new forward added to the book) and while he does occasionally seem to cut a few corners when it comes to explaining away contradictory information I found (from my admittedly limited knowledge on the subject) much of what he says to have the ring of truth to it.Two sections of particular interest are the two appendixes. One has illustrations and diagrams that deal with the ballistics and science behind the shooting explaining everything very simply and convincingly, and the other deals with all the so called "mystery deaths" on a brief case by case basis putting them all in a new perspective.I would definitely recommend this book to a friend.
  • Bewertung: 4 von 5 Sternen
    Convincingly makes the case for Oswald as the opportunistic lone gunman, effectively destroying every conspiracy theory that's been suggested over the years. The authors credibility has been called into question over this and other works, but it's nevertheless hard to see any other Dealey Plaza explanation having any basis in fact. Oswald was a nut, had the means and opportunity to change history, and leapt at the chance. Case closed.
  • Bewertung: 4 von 5 Sternen
    I am not well-informed enough to do a critical review of this book, but the case it presents contra the bulk of conspiratorial writing is pretty damning, and the profile he creates of Oswald is a compelling portrait of a would-be assassin.
  • Bewertung: 5 von 5 Sternen
    Well written and researched book about a very well worn subject and one which would be very difficult to come away from still able to give credence to the plethora of conspiracy theories. Posner totally debunks all the popularist garbage that has cropped up around the assasination of JFK over the years and proves almost beyond a doubt that Oswald acted alone. Great book.
  • Bewertung: 5 von 5 Sternen
    I'm still working my way through the book, but it is fascinating. Out of all the Kennedy assassination books I've read, none have covered Oswald like this book does.
  • Bewertung: 5 von 5 Sternen
    I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone, but this one just rips the Kennedy theory to shreds. I've read this book multiple times because I just love the way it answers so many "questions" about who saw/heard/did what that day in DAllas.
  • Bewertung: 5 von 5 Sternen
    In my opinion, the definitive book on the Kennedy assassination. Discusses Oswald in depth and every theory known at the time of the writing.
  • Bewertung: 5 von 5 Sternen
    I went looking for a conspiracy....I wanted to find one. However, Mr. Posner does a great job in debunking the most popular conspiracy theories. I did not take his word as the gospel truth, but also read it along side the Warren Commission's Report, The House Select Committee on Assassinations Report, and about 8 other books offering up such conspirators as: anti-Cuban Castro exile groups, the CIA/FBI, The KGB, LBJ, and the Mafia. However, there is not one that can make it's case without huge gaps and holes. I spent months piecing together controverted testimonies from the SAME PERSON. No doubt in my mind that Oswald and Ruby acted alone.
  • Bewertung: 1 von 5 Sternen
    The bible for "lone nutters". Filled with as much speculation as many conspiracy books in my opinion. Wrong about Ferrie and Oswald being in the Civil Air Patrol at the same time???
  • Bewertung: 5 von 5 Sternen
    on the Jfk assassination.
  • Bewertung: 5 von 5 Sternen
    A masterful investigation into the assassination, required reading for anyone who wants to know what really happened. The chapter on the forensics of the shooting alone would make this a masterwork. But the author also delves deeply into who Oswald was, who Ruby was, and why they acted the way that they did. He also addresses the common conspiracy theories, including showing who Jim Garrison (hero of the movie JFK) really was and why he shouldn't be trusted.
  • Bewertung: 5 von 5 Sternen
    Picked this one up at the used book store at my local library for a dollar. Came out in 1993, not long after Oliver Stone's film homage to the conspiracy nuts.Poser wades bravely into the fever swamps of JFK conspiracy theories with an extraordinarily well-documented account of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, explaining how Oswald came to kill Kennedy and Ruby came to kill Oswald. I suspect you all know the facts -- they're essentially as the Warren Commission determined them -- so I'll focus on the few exceptions, some other things that were new to me, and some observations on why the conspiracy theories have such tenacity even though they lack any credibility.The Warren Commission erred in some of its sketches of Kennedy's neck wound location, and in its estimation of when the shots were fired. Better evidence puts the wounds consistently in the same location, supporting the autopsy report, and a modern analysis of the Zapruder film gives Oswald considerably longer to fire his shots than the Warren Commission estimated.That's it. That's pretty much all they got wrong. Which is remarkable, considering that Warren pushed the Commission to complete its report in something approaching great haste, before the assassination could trigger World War III.I had not realized just how deeply Oswald was involved in Marxism. He wasn't just a loony who somehow found his way to Russia; he was a committed Trotskyite from about age 15. (Which does not, of course, contradict him being a loony. May even be considered corroborating evidence.) After returning disillusioned to the U.S., Oswald made a determined effort to then defect a third time to Cuba, which he was hoping was the Marxist paradise Russia had turned out not to be, but even Cuba didn't want him. He then returned to Houston and the opportunity to assassinate JKF.Marina, Oswald's wife, married him essentially because he had his own apartment in Russia, then stayed with him after he returned to the U.S. essentially because she found she liked life in the United States. In spite of the fact that Oswald refused to teach her any English, as a way to control her.I had not realized what a loser Ruby was. The conspiracy theories that he had mob connections founder on the reality that no mobster with any instinct for survival would have touched him. Ruby was an unbalanced individual who had to be where the action was, and his murder of Oswald was arguably so impulsive and happenstance that he could very well have copped a 5-year "murder without malice" plea if his attorney, Melvin Belli, hadn't gambled on getting him off completely ... by arguing he was delusional. The world can do without lawyers like that.Finally, I was surprised how many of the "witnesses" used by conspiracy buffs are obvious nut-cases. A surprising fraction (or maybe not) have spent time in mental institutions. It's a little incredible these folks are given any credibility by anyone at all.An interesting side story is that of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, who conjured up a case against Clay Shaw essentially out of thin air. Shaw vaguely resembled a "Clay Bernstein" made up by a flamboyant New Orleans attorney notorious for his tall tales. Garrison was afflicted by a positively Stalinesque case of paranoia, and even most of the conspiracy buffs have tried to distance themselves from him. (Though not Oliver Stone.) Garrison was actually dropped from the National Guard after being diagnosed as suffering from severe psychopathology, but somehow this didn't derail his political career.So why do conspiracy theories have such traction? It's really hard to beat the explanation first offered by William Manchester and quoted by Posner, that it just isn't possible for a lot of people to accept that a popular President could be offed by a complete nobody. Yet that's what the facts say. This is just too much cognitive dissonance for a lot of people, apparently. I find myself wondering if the same dynamics aren't behind the 9/11 Truthers: That a handful of young Muslim losers could kill thousands and bring down two great works of civil engineering is just too much cognitive dissonance to accept.Anyway, Posner's book is highly recommended for anyone who hasn't read it already and is not already burned out on the JFK assassination.

    1 Person fand dies hilfreich

  • Bewertung: 5 von 5 Sternen
    I went looking for a conspiracy....I wanted to find one. However, Mr. Posner does a great job in debunking the most popular conspiracy theories. I did not take his word as the gospel truth, but also read it along side the Warren Commission's Report, The House Select Committee on Assassinations Report, and about 8 other books offering up such conspirators as: anti-Cuban Castro exile groups, the CIA/FBI, The KGB, LBJ, and the Mafia. However, there is not one that can make it's case without huge gaps and holes. I spent months piecing together controverted testimonies from the SAME PERSON. No doubt in my mind that Oswald and Ruby acted alone.

    1 Person fand dies hilfreich


Case Closed - Gerald Posner

Case Closed

Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK

Gerald Posner







Author’s Note



Oswald’s Formative Years


Oswald in the Marines


Yuriy Nosenko and Oswald’s Defection


Marina and Lee in Russia


Dallas, 1962

6. HUNTER OF FASCISTS The Assassination

Attempt on General Walker


New Orleans, Summer 1963, Part I


New Orleans, Summer 1963, Part II

9. HIS MOOD WAS BAD Mexico City


 TO AN END?" Dallas, October–November 1963


  I LIVE" Dealey Plaza

12. HE LOOKS LIKE A MANIAC Oswald’s Escape


 Parkland and Bethesda


 The Single Bullet


 Jack Ruby


 The Murder of Oswald


 Commission and the Conspiracy Buffs


 The Jim Garrison Fiasco


 The House Select Committee and Latest Developments









Author’s Note

The response to the hardcover publication of this book surprised both me and my publisher, Random House. We were initially worried that the book might be lost in the publicity surrounding the publication of other books espousing convoluted theories. But we had underestimated the extent to which, after thirty years of virtually unchallenged conspiracy conjecture, the conclusion that Oswald acted alone in assassinating JFK had evolved, ironically, into the most controversial position. While the media’s response was overwhelmingly positive, the reaction from the conspiracy community was the opposite—not simply negative, but often vitriolic. There was little effort to study my overall evidence and conclusions with anything that approached an open mind. Indeed, there was a concerted counterattack to discredit both the book and its author.

There were panel discussions at conspiracy conventions in Boston and Dallas and special publications focused solely on contesting the book. A conspiracy-based research center in Washington, D.C., issued a media alert about Case Closed. The release consisted of five pages alleging the book was misleading and flawed, but the alert misstated my arguments and distorted the evidence in the case. Harold Weisberg, one of the deans of the conspiracy press, found his first publisher (he had previously self-published six conspiracy books) to bring out a book titled Case Open, a broadside attack attempting to diminish the impact of my work.

Other conspiracy buffs launched personal attacks. It was, as one journalist commented, as if overnight I had become the Salmon Rushdie of the assassination world. I was accused of treason by a buff who ran a Dallas research center, and my wife and I were subjected to several months of harassing telephone calls and letters. At an author’s luncheon, pickets protested that I was a dupe of the CIA. Faxes and letters to the media also charged I was a CIA agent, or that the CIA had written my book, or that I was part of a conscious effort to deceive the public and hide the truth. (Some critics even expanded the accusations to my first book about Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, contending that I whitewashed the Mengele investigation, when actually that book was the first to detail Mengele’s entire life on the run, including his time in U.S. captivity and the Israeli and German bungling of his capture.) Television and radio producers were harassed by callers attempting to have my appearances cancelled. Some reviewers who wrote favorably about the book received intimidating calls or letters. My publisher was subjected to the same treatment, and even my editor, Bob Loomis, was publicly accused of being a CIA agent.

Although I had expected that individuals who had invested their adult lives into investigating JFK conspiracies might react angrily to a book that exposed the fallacies in their arguments, the vehemence of these personal attacks surprised me. I had mistakenly expected a debate on the issues. It took little time to discover, however, the extent to which many people who believe in a JFK conspiracy do so with almost a religious fervor and are not dissuaded by the facts.

Case Closed was probably subjected to greater scrutiny by more critics than any other book published in recent years. Several emendations in this book are the result of what some charged as fraudulent omissions in my discussion of various aspects of the case. Because Case Closed attempted to deal with all the major issues in the assassination, plus countless arguments raised by conspiracy critics in the three decades following the Warren Commission, many of these, especially those addressed in footnotes, were condensed. To fit all of my research into a single, manageable volume, I did not have the luxury of presenting and explaining each nuance of every issue, but instead focused only on primary arguments. For instance, in a few pages I addressed the theory that JFK’s corpse was stolen from Air Force One and medically altered, although the author of that theory took over seven hundred pages to present it. Obviously, not every point raised in his book could be dealt with in Case Closed.

In the first edition, I acknowledged that any of a dozen issues could have been the subject of a separate book, including, among others, Oswald’s time in Russia, Jack Ruby’s story, or the actual assassination. However, there was not one aspect of the assassination in which I did not study all of the available evidence before reaching any conclusion. Conspiracy critics, often complained that I had omitted some information that they contended contradicted one or another of my conclusions. In this edition, I have reinstated material included in earlier drafts but cut for the sake of brevity, to further explain the layers of intricacies in this case.

The remainder of the updated text in this edition has nothing to do with contentions raised by conspiracy buffs, but rather is the result of new scientific evidence or documents uncovered since the hardcover publication. Some of the information is critical, including the first confirmation that two of Oswald’s fingerprints have now been identified on the trigger guard of his rifle, the one ballistically proven to have fired the bullets that killed JFK. Also, new disclosures about Oswald’s visit to Mexico City provide important insights into the extent of his instability only two months before JFK’s visit to Dallas. These, and other significant discoveries, such as a 1962 CIA debriefing of Oswald, have been added to the book.

The updated and restored information in this edition has only strengthened the book’s original conclusion that Oswald and Ruby acted alone. Government files will continue to be released for the next few years. Not only am I familiar with the content of many already released, but I have spoken to individuals who are familiar with the still-classified documents. None of the government documents to be released alters the judgment reached in Case Closed.

Time and technology have caught up to the conspiracy critics. Some of their most important contentions have collapsed; for example: Photographic tests reveal that the backyard photos of Oswald holding his weapons, contested as fakes, are authentic; ballistics and computer studies confirm the so-called magic bullet theory, long derided by conspiracy theorists as impossible; and neutron activation tests provide the final link that Oswald tried to assassinate General Edwin Walker, a crime for which many considered Oswald innocent. After thirty years of studying the case the critics have failed to produce a single, cogent, alternate scenario of how the alleged conspiracy happened or who was involved.

There is more than enough evidence available on the record to draw conclusions about what happened in the JFK assassination. But apparently most Americans, despite the strength of the evidence, do not want to accept the notion that random acts of violence can change the course of history and that Lee Harvey Oswald could affect our lives in a way over which we have no control. It is unsettling to think that a sociopathic twenty-four-year-old loser in life, armed with a $12 rifle and consumed by his own warped motivation, ended Camelot. But for readers willing to approach this subject with an open mind, it is the only rational judgment.


More than two thousand books have been written about the assassination of President John Kennedy. Most have attacked the conclusion of the government-appointed Warren Commission that a lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, killed JFK. Many not only assail the Warren Report but also propose myriad suspects—including the CIA, anti-Castro Cubans, the FBI, and the mafia—for ever-expanding conspiracy theories.

Writers have identified nearly thirty gunmen, by name, as the second or—depending on the theory—the third, fourth, or fifth shooter at Dealey Plaza, the site of the assassination. In the critical literature, Lee Harvey Oswald has evolved from being the lone killer to being part of a conspiracy to being an innocent patsy to being a hero who vainly tried to save the President by warning the FBI of the plot.

The public has been particularly receptive to conspiracy theories in this case. Oswald’s curious past, especially his defection to the Soviet Union and his apparent pro-Communist philosophy in the middle of the cold war, showed the alleged assassin was anything but ordinary. Nightclub owner Jack Ruby’s killing of Oswald within forty-eight hours of the assassination raised the suspicion he had been silenced. Within days of Oswald’s death, public opinion polls confirmed that two thirds of those queried doubted he acted alone.

Besides the skepticism over Oswald’s murky background and his murder, strong psychological reasons prompted the public’s early embrace of conspiracy theories. The notion that a misguided sociopath had wreaked such havoc made the crime seem senseless and devoid of political significance. By concluding that JFK was killed as the result of an elaborate plot, there is the belief he died for a purpose, that a powerful group eliminated him for some critical issue. Public receptivity to the theories is also fed by suspicions that politicians lie and cover up misdeeds while intelligence and military officials plot against the nation they are supposed to protect.

Books and movies promoting conspiracy theories have reinforced and expanded the early public doubts. Today, the Warren Report is almost universally derided, mostly by people who have never read it. The debate is no longer whether JFK was killed by Lee Oswald acting alone or as part of a conspiracy—it is instead, which conspiracy is correct?

The early critics used the Warren Commission’s work as the springboard for their own efforts. They dissected the twenty-six volumes of testimony and exhibits and raised questions about its conclusions by highlighting inconsistencies and errors. The next generation of critics used the doubts sown by the initial writers and went far beyond the issues addressed by the Commission. Focusing on matters such as the history of the mafia or clandestine CIA operations, many of these books championed complex theses involving dozens of conspirators.

Forgotten in most recent studies of the assassination is Oswald. He is referred to only briefly and often presented as a sterile figure. With Oswald stripped of character, the reader is seldom given any insight into understanding him. His intricate personality and temperament are obscured under a deluge of technical details about trajectory angles and bullet speeds.

During the past three decades, hundreds of questions have been raised about the assassination. Few books provide answers. No single volume can deal with all the published contentions. However, the truth in the case can be uncovered by reviewing original documents and testimony and interviewing those involved. Despite a seemingly intractable quagmire of conflicting evidence, it is possible to find reliable and accurate information about the assassination and, by so doing, answer the riddle of what really happened as well as what motivated Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby.

The breadth of the issues in the Kennedy assassination dissuades many reputable journalists from pursuing the subject. Others are discouraged because the JFK murder has, regrettably, become an entertainment business, complete with board games and shopping-mall assassination research centers stuffed with souvenir T-shirts and bumper stickers.

As in every famous case, people have come out of the woodwork for their fifteen minutes of fame. Some publicity seekers have even implicated themselves in the murder conspiracy. If someone is willing to make a statement, no matter how outrageous, it is too often printed as proof. These more sensational claims may sell books, but they bring us no closer to understanding what really happened.

The only casualty is truth, especially in a society where far too many people are content to receive all their knowledge on an important issue from a single article or a three-hour movie. In this book, Oswald’s life is investigated in some detail, and to a lesser extent, so is the life of Ruby. As the story progresses, arguments raised by the leading conspiracy critics, such as Anthony Summers, Mark Lane, Jim Marrs, and others, are resolved in the text or in footnotes. Also, beyond, the human stories, there are separate chapters about the medical and ballistics issues, the Warren Commission and its critics, and the late New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison.

Many people, understandably, believe that the truth in the Kennedy assassination will never be discovered. But the troubling issues and questions about the assassination can be settled, the issue of who killed JFK resolved, and Oswald’s motivation revealed. Presenting those answers is the goal of this book.


Which One Are You?

President John F. Kennedy had been dead less than an hour. J. D. Tippit, only the third Dallas policeman in a decade to die in the line of duty, was killed shortly after the President. Rumors swept the city. Dealey Plaza, the site of the presidential assassination, was in pandemonium. Dozens of witnesses sent the police scurrying in different directions in futile search of an assassin. While most police mobilized to hunt the President’s killer, more than a dozen sped to Dallas’s Oak Cliff, a quiet middle-class neighborhood, to search for Tippit’s murderer.

At 1:46 P.M., after an abortive raid on a public library, a police dispatcher announced: Have information a suspect just went in the Texas Theater on West Jefferson. Within minutes, more than six squad cars sealed the theater’s front and rear exits. Police armed with shotguns spread into the balcony and the main floor as the lights were turned up. Only a dozen moviegoers were scattered inside the small theater. Officer M. N. McDonald began walking up the left aisle from the rear of the building, searching patrons along the way. Soon, he was near a young man in the third row from the back of the theater. McDonald stopped and ordered him to stand. The man slowly stood up, raised both hands, and then yelled, Well, it is all over now.¹ In the next instant, he punched McDonald in the face, sending the policeman’s cap flying backward. McDonald instinctively lurched forward just as his assailant pulled a pistol from his waist. They tumbled over the seats as other police rushed to subdue the gunman. The gun’s hammer clicked as the man pulled the trigger, but it did not fire.²

After the suspect was handcuffed, he shouted, I am not resisting arrest. Don’t hit me anymore.³ The police pulled him to his feet and marched him out the theater as he yelled, I know my rights. I want a lawyer.⁴ A crowd of nearly two hundred had gathered in front of the building, the rumor circulating that the President’s assassin might have been caught. As the police exited, the crowd surged forward, screaming obscenities and crying, Let us have him. We’ll kill him! We want him! The young man smirked and hollered back, I protest this police brutality!⁵ Several police formed a wedge and cut through the mob to an unmarked car. The suspect was pushed into the rear seat between two policemen while three officers packed into the front. Its red lights flashing, the car screeched away and headed downtown.

The suspect was calm. Again he declared, I know my rights, and then asked, What is this all about?⁶ He was told he was under arrest for killing J. D. Tippit. He didn’t look surprised. Police officer been killed? he asked. He was silent for a moment, and then he said, I hear they burn for murder. Officer C. T. Walker, sitting on his right side, tried to control his temper: You may find out. Again, the suspect smirked. Well, they say it just takes a second to die, he said.⁷

One of the police asked him his name. He refused to answer. They asked where he lived. Again just silence. Detective Paul Bentley reached over and pulled a wallet from the suspect’s left hip pocket. I don’t know why you are treating me like this, he said. The only thing I have done is carry a pistol into a movie.

Bentley looked inside the wallet. He called out the name: Lee Oswald. There was no reaction. Then he found another identification with the name Alek Hidell. Again no acknowledgment. Bentley said, I guess we are going to have to wait until we get to the station to find out who he actually is.

Shortly after 2:00 P.M., the squad car pulled into the basement of the city hall. The police told the suspect he could hide his face from the press as they entered the building. He shrugged his shoulders. Why should I hide my face? I haven’t done anything to be ashamed of.¹⁰

The police ran him into an elevator and took him to a third-floor office. He was put into a small interrogation room, with several men standing guard, as they waited for the chief of homicide, Captain Will Fritz. Suddenly, another homicide detective, Gus Rose, entered the room. He had the suspect’s billfold in his hand, and he pushed two plastic cards forward. One says Lee Harvey Oswald and one says Alek Hidell. Which one are you?

A smirk again crossed his face. You figure it out, he said.

For the past thirty years historians, researchers, and government investigators have tried to deal with Oswald’s simple challenge. Although the identity of the suspect remained in doubt for only a few more minutes at that Dallas police station, the search has continued for the answer to the broader question of who Lee Harvey Oswald was. Understanding him is the key to finding out what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Oswald was born on October 18, 1939, into a lower-middle-class family in a downtrodden New Orleans neighborhood. His father, Robert Edward Lee Oswald, died two months before his birth. His mother, Marguerite, was a domineering woman, consumed with self-pity both over the death of her husband and because she had to return to work to support Lee, his brother, Robert, and a halfbrother, John Pic, from the first of her three marriages.¹¹ Marguerite played an important role in Oswald’s development, and conspiracy critics cast her in a positive light. Jim Marrs, author of Crossfire, one of two books upon which the movie JFK was based, downplays Oswald’s formative years: Despite much conjecture, there is little evidence that Lee’s childhood was any better or any worse than others.¹² Anthony Summers, in his best-selling Conspiracy, quotes a relative describing Marguerite as a woman with a lot of character and good morals, and I’m sure that what she was doing for her boys she thought was the best at the time.¹³

The truth is quite different. Robert described his mother as rather quarrelsome and not easy to get along with when she didn’t get her own way.¹⁴ According to Robert, Marguerite tried to dominate and control the entire family, and the boys found it difficult … to put up with her.¹⁵ John Pic developed a hostility toward her and felt no motherly love.¹⁶ Although she wanted to rule her sons’ lives, she was unable to cope with them following the death of her husband. High-strung, and failing to keep any job very long,* she committed Robert and John Pic to an orphanage.¹⁷ She wanted also to send Lee, but he was too young to be accepted. Instead, she shuttled him between her sister and an assortment of housekeepers and baby-sitters.¹⁸ The temporary arrangement did not work. Marguerite had let a couple move into her home to help care for Lee, but had to fire them when she discovered they had been whipping him to control his unmanageable disposition.¹⁹ She admitted it was difficult with Lee, juggling different jobs and homes (they moved five times before Lee was three). The instability had its effect on Oswald. Years later, in an introductory note to a manuscript, he wrote: Lee Harvey Oswald was born in Oct 1939 in New Orleans, La. the son of a Insuraen [sic] Salesman whose early death left a far mean streak of indepence [sic] brought on by negleck [sic].²⁰

The day after Christmas 1942, Marguerite finally placed three-year-old Lee into the orphanage, where he joined his two brothers.²¹ Nearly one hundred youngsters lived at the Bethlehem Children’s Home. The atmosphere was relaxed, and Lee’s older brothers watched out for him during his stay there, which was quite uneventful. In early 1944, Marguerite unexpectedly checked her sons out of the Bethlehem Home and moved to Dallas. She relocated there because of her personal interest in a local businessman, Edwin Ekdahl, whom she had met six months earlier in New Orleans.²² They married in May of the following year. Lee’s new stepfather worked for a utility company and extensive travel was part of his job. Robert and John Pic were placed in a military boarding school and Marguerite and Lee traveled with Ekdahl.²³ The business trips and short relocations were so extensive that Lee missed most of his first year of school, but by late October, they settled in Benbrook, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth. Just after his sixth birthday, Lee was admitted to Benbrook Common Elementary.²⁴

But young Oswald was no longer concerned about the frequent moves or his absence from school because he had found a friend in his stepfather. Lee’s halfbrother, John Pic, recalled, I think Lee found in him the father he never had. He had treated him real good and I am sure that Lee felt the same way. I know he did.²⁵ Soon after the marriage, however, Marguerite and Ekdahl began arguing. She wanted more money out of him, recalls Pic. That was the basis of all arguments.* The fights increased steadily in vituperation and intensity. Ekdahl often walked out, staying at a hotel, and in the summer of 1946, Marguerite moved with Lee to Covington, Louisiana.²⁶ But Ekdahl and Marguerite soon reunited. Lee was ecstatic when his stepfather moved back in, but he hated the fighting and separations.²⁷ I think Lee was a lot more sensitive than any of us realized at the time, recalled his brother, Robert.²⁸

The uncertainty in the marriage prevented Lee from ever settling into a single neighborhood and school. In September 1946, he enrolled in a new school, Covington Elementary, but was again in the first grade, because he had not completed the required work at Benbrook. After five months, Marguerite withdrew him from Covington and they moved back to Fort Worth, where Lee enrolled in his third school, the Clayton Public Elementary. He finally finished the first grade, but soon after he was registered for the second grade in the fall, they moved again.²⁹ A schoolmate at Clayton, Philip Vinson, recalled that while Oswald was not a bully, he was a leader of one of three or four schoolyard gangs.³⁰ Since he was a year older than his classmates, they seemed to look up to him because he was so well built and husky … he was considered sort of a tough-guy type.³¹ Vinson also noted, however, that none of the boys in Oswald’s gang ever played with him after school or went to his home. I never went to his house, and I never knew anybody who did, said Vinson.³²

In January 1948, Ekdahl moved out permanently, and he started divorce proceedings in March. Soon after, Marguerite moved to a run-down house in a poor Fort Worth neighborhood, adjoining railroad tracks.³³ Lee was enrolled in another school, the Clark Elementary, his fourth. Unable to afford the tuition at military boarding school for her other two sons, Marguerite moved them in with her and Lee. Robert Oswald and John Pic described the new home as lower-class and prisonlike, and they found Lee even less communicative than when they had previously left the household, often brooding for hours at a time.³⁴ Lee had always been a quiet child. But with the constant moving, he did not easily fit in with his schoolmates and seldom made friends.

In June 1948, the bitter divorce proceedings came to trial. Lee was brought to court to testify, but refused, saying he would not know the truth from a lie. While the divorce dragged along, he stayed home alone with a pet dog, a gift from a neighbor.³⁵ His brother noticed that he seemed to withdraw further into himself.

That summer, Marguerite and her sons moved once again to Benbrook, Texas. By the autumn they returned to Fort Worth, the thirteenth move since Lee’s birth. He was enrolled in the third grade at Arlington Heights Elementary. With her marriage over, Marguerite now gave Lee all her attention, spoiling and protecting him. She always wanted to let Lee have his way about everything, recalled her sister, Lillian Murret.³⁶ Afraid he could be hurt in physical activities like sports, she instead encouraged gentler pursuits like tap dancing, but he preferred to stay home by himself or with her.³⁷ Until he was almost eleven years of age, Lee often slept in the same bed with his mother.³⁸

According to Pic, who admittedly resented his mother more than Robert did, Marguerite’s attitudes made the home atmosphere depressing.³⁹ She was jealous of others, resented what they had, and constantly complained about how unfairly life treated her. She didn’t have many friends and usually the new friends she made she didn’t keep very long, recalled Pic. I remember every time we moved she always had fights with the neighbors or something or another.⁴⁰ Pic felt so strongly about her that after the assassination he said that if Lee was guilty, then he was aided with a little extra push from his mother in the living conditions that she presented to him. Even Lee’s wife, Marina, later said that part of the guilt was with Marguerite, because she did not provide him the correct education, leadership, or guidance.

She did not encourage him to attend school when Lee whined that he did not like it. Instead, his mother told him he was brighter and better than other children, and reinforced his feeling that he learned more at home by reading books than from listening to his teachers. She told me that she had trained Lee to stay in the house, Marguerite’s sister, Lillian, recalled, to stay close to home when she wasn’t there; and even to run home from school and remain in the house or near the house.… He just got in the habit of staying alone like that.⁴¹ Oswald’s cousin Marilyn Murret said that Marguerite thought it was better for him to stay at home alone than to get in with other boys and do things they shouldn’t do.⁴²

When Lee visited the Murrets during this period, Lillian found he wouldn’t go out and play. He would rather just stay in the house and read or something. She did not think it was healthy for him to be inside all the time, so the Murrets took him out, but immediately noticed he didn’t seem to enjoy himself. He was obviously very unhappy, his aunt concluded.

Neighbors noticed the odd relationship between the overbearing mother and the introverted youngster. Mrs. W. H. Bell, a neighbor in Benbrook, remembered Lee as a loner who did not like to be disciplined.⁴³ Myrtle Evans, a good friend of Marguerite, said she was too close to Lee all the time.⁴⁴ Evans said Lee was a bookworm even at seven years of age, and that his mother spoiled him to death.⁴⁵ The way he kept to himself just wasn’t normal, Evans recalled.⁴⁶

Another neighbor, Hiram Conway, lived two doors away from Lee in Fort Worth. He noticed something else about him: He was quick to anger. Conway noticed that on the way home from school, Oswald looked for other children to throw stones at. They got out of his way. He was vicious almost.… He was a bad kid, recalled Conway.⁴⁷ Conway’s impressions were formed from watching Lee from the age of nine to almost thirteen. He believed the young Oswald was smarter than most his age, but also very strange.⁴⁸

Otis Carlton, a neighbor in Benbrook, was in the Oswalds’ living room one evening when Lee, gripping a butcher knife, ran through chasing John Pic. Lee hurled the knife at Pic, in front of a startled Carlton, but it missed and struck the wall. According to Carlton, Marguerite calmly said, They have these little scuffles all the time and don’t worry about it.⁴⁹

In September 1949, Lee transferred to his sixth school, Ridglea West Elementary, just in time to start the fourth grade. As in his other schools, his grades were mediocre. On an IQ test he recorded an unexceptional 103.* He remained there for the next three years, his longest stay at a single school. One of his teachers, Mrs. Clyde Livingston, never saw him make friends or come out of his shell.⁵⁰

In January 1950, John Pic left the house to join the Coast Guard. Robert joined the Marines in July 1952. Lee, who had grown closer to Robert than anyone else in the family, bought a copy of the Marine Corps handbook. Although only twelve, he was going to keep up with me, to learn everything I was learning, recalled Robert.⁵¹

With both her older sons gone, in August 1952 Marguerite moved with Lee to New York City, where John Pic was stationed. They temporarily moved in with Pic, his wife of one year, Marge, and their newborn son, who were staying at Pic’s mother-in-law’s small apartment, at 325 East 92nd Street in Manhattan. Pic, who took a week’s leave from the Coast Guard to tour New York with his younger brother, recalled that Lee was real glad to see me. But he soon realized Marguerite had no intention of moving and finding her own apartment. Tension in the household grew as Pic’s wife and Marguerite often argued. Lee added to the strained atmosphere by fighting loudly with his mother and often striking her.⁵² One day, Marge asked Lee to lower the volume on the