November 16, 2007
JFK Truthers Finally Losing GroundBy John Huettner
Before the 9/11 truthers came the JFK truthers. Fantasies about dark machinations surrounding the death of President Kennedy laid the spiritual groundwork for today's claims of bizarre plots behind the events of 9/11. In both cases, the obviously guilty culprits are ignored in favor of more desirable political targets.
It has been forty-four years since Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Oswald was silenced two mornings later; but only after a bizarre getaway, cop killing, capture and brief notoriety, culminating in his televised shooting by Dallas strip club owner Jack Ruby. Not until 9/11 did live television again witness such an American tragedy.
In 1964, the Warren Commission correctly decided that Oswald was the lone assassin. The "truthers" of the era who initially challenged the Warren Commission's findings - a few having direct links to communist organizations -- were hardly taken seriously at first. But mistrust in the government's case grew as a cabal of fellow travelers, showmen, ambitious coroners and other conspiracy mongers coalesced throughout the late Sixties, taking advantage of the relatively few mistakes or inconsistencies in the Warren Report's narrative.
Despite all of the scrutiny, absent a breakthrough piece of evidence, we will never know whether Lee Oswald was (or believed he was) part of some larger plot. His service in the Civil Air Patrol and the Marines, defection to the Soviet Union, visits to the Soviet and Cuban consulates in Mexico less than two months before the assassination, and correspondence with the American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party, will all raise the same unanswerable conspiracy questions 100 years from now as they do today.
But there is no longer much doubt that Oswald was the lone assassin, as the Warren Commission concluded in 1964. The answer to this question should narrow the conspiracy inquiry, because the most credible of those theories rest on the assertion that Oswald could not have been the lone gunman in Dealey Plaza. Otherwise, there is scant independent evidence of any plot.
The Warren Commission Report
The Warren Commission Report was discredited primarily by claims that Oswald could not have been the lone gunman; hence, there may have been two or three gunmen. This hyperbole came to fruition in the late 1960s with the bizarre Garrison investigation in New Orleans, concluding there were gunmen all over Dealey Plaza. All of this speculation was rooted in the basic notion that the same bullet could not possibly have wounded President Kennedy and Governor Connally seated in front of him, as the Commission found probably happened.
Added support came from witnesses who honestly believed they heard two, four or even six shots rather than three shots fired in Dealey Plaza. In 1978, a congressional committee concluded (based upon an audio recording analysis now itself thoroughly discredited) that four shots were fired, more "proof" of a second gunman.
Then there is the claim that the fatal shot came from President Kennedy's right, forcing his head back and to the left.
As far as another gunman is concerned, that is about the totality of the evidence. There has never been any affirmative proof of more than one gunman, only doubt about elements of the existing overwhelming evidence pointing to Oswald as the lone assassin. Thanks to the work of careful investigators over the years, however, previously overlooked information along with modern technology have fundamentally reinforced the lone gunman hypothesis; while debunking virtually all of the conspiracy theories.
The Lone Assassin
The Rosetta Stone for conspiracy buffs has always been the Warren Commission's "magic bullet" (a/k/a the "pristine" bullet) theory, holding that the same bullet struck both President Kennedy and Governor Connally.
Almost as soon as the Warren Commission Report was released making this claim, conspiracy theorists pounced; arguing that a bullet fired downward from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository couldn't physically have struck both Kennedy in the neck and Connally in the upper torso without changing directions. They also argued that the bullet fired from Oswald's location to the right of the motorcade couldn't have struck Kennedy in the throat and Connally forward of him in the right shoulder. Allegations grew that the entire Warren Report was erroneous or worse, faked.
The uncertainty was not entirely unjustified. Researchers starting with the Warren Commission simply failed to take into account what became obvious years later: Governor Connally was sitting in front of the President on a floor-mounted "jump" seat, about seven inches lower and several inches to the left of the President -- exactly in Oswald's line of sight from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository.
Moreover, as the Warren Commission noted, the Presidential limousine was moving downhill from Oswald's position, reducing the angle from his point of view, and Connally had turned slightly right in reaction to hearing the first shot. Computer reconstructions using virtual reality techniques have since shown beyond any shred of doubt that, with these facts accounted for, the "magic" bullet traveled in a straight line directly from Oswald's rifle striking President Kennedy in the neck and Governor Connally in the upper back and exiting the lapel of his suit.
Accordingly, debunking has conclusively disproved the sine qua non of the second gunman theory, the notion that the same bullet from Oswald's rifle could not have hit both men. Yet, truthers still argue about "evidence," while missing the essential point: if another gunman took a shot that day, he missed, because all of the wounds to the President and Governor Connally are accounted for by two shots from Oswald's rifle. Just as the second gunman theory rose with doubt about the single bullet theory, so it must fall, as the single bullet scenario becomes accepted fact.
Seeing is Believing
Of course, simply because Oswald could have hit both Kennedy and Connally with the same shot is not proof that it happened. However, this evidence is freely available on the Internet. There, one will find any number of enhanced, image-stabilized versions of the famous Zapruder film on display. These show in grim detail that Kennedy and Connally were indeed hit simultaneously by the "magic" bullet just as they came into view past the Stemmons Freeway sign drawing abreast of the infamous grassy knoll, a monument to World War II submariners.
There is no longer any doubt about this shot, as there was before computer enhancement and image stabilization techniques became available. Older versions of the Zapruder film were simply too difficult even for experts to analyze. In recently enhanced versions -- just as Governor Connally stated in 1964 -- one can see him glance to the right after hearing the first shot, just as he and the President are hit by the second. The simultaneous shock is obvious in both men's faces at frame 224 of the film, along with the momentary "pop" of Connally's jacket lapel -- less than 1/50th of a second -- as the round exits above his right breast.
If the Warren Commission failed in any material respect, it was by not pinpointing the exact moment this round wounded Kennedy and Connally. The Commission even theorized that the first bullet could have struck the President and the second only Governor Connally; though concluding that the single bullet theory was the most likely given the weight of the evidence.
The "magic" bullet was also allegedly "pristine" when it was later found on Connally's stretcher at Parkland Hospital. Is it possible someone planted the bullet there in the moments between Connally being lifted off the stretcher and its discovery in the adjacent hallway, to provide a ballistic link to Oswald's Mannlicher rifle? Given the facts, especially the brief interval between the assassination and the discovery of the "magic" bullet on Connally's stretcher, no conspiracy theorist has ever explained how anyone could have acted so quickly and with foreknowledge of the other ballistic evidence that would later be gathered. In fact, the jacketed round itself was hardly "pristine." Fragments of it were removed from the President and Governor Connally.
The larger question is, why incriminate Oswald? By the time the "magic" bullet was discovered, Oswald was doing a world-class job implicating himself as the assassin. Within an hour of narrowly escaping Dealey Plaza, Oswald had committed another murder in broad daylight in front of nine witnesses, the Dallas Police were zeroed in on his location, and he was cornered. Further, Oswald himself left enough damning evidence behind him to be convicted multiple times. The idea that he needed to be further implicated is as laughable now as it was in 1964.
As further "proof" of a conspiracy, truthers have convinced themselves that the fatal shot must have been fired from the President's front and right, Dealey Plaza's grassy knoll, causing his head to snap "back and to the left." The answer here lies not in conspiracy but in Newton's third law. Again, the enhanced Zapruder film shows that the President's cranium moved back and to the left because his brains and cranial matter were literally expressed forward and to the right from a massive exit wound on his right forehead.
There is no polite way to describe this. At least one witness believed the President had stood up. Others described an umbrella being opened or a pink plume. Abraham Zapruder said in an interview the same day that the President's head "opened up," pointing to his right forehead. Brain matter -- which must have weighed pounds -- hung prolapsed gruesomely over the lifeless President's right cheek as the limousine sped away toward Parkland Hospital. The enhanced Zapruder film should convince all but the purposely ignorant that the fatal shot came from President Kennedy's rear, not from his right.
There was no second gunman on the grassy knoll. The roughly one third of witnesses who claimed to have heard a shot from that direction or elsewhere were mostly to the side of the Book Depository from which Oswald was shooting, where echoes play games with perception. Those witnesses who were in front of the Book Depository on Elm Street overwhelmingly and correctly heard only three shots coming from the Book Depository.
Oswald by Exclusion
Although witness testimony differed, the overwhelming consensus was and is that only three shots were fired in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. The second shot is now known to have struck both the President and Governor Connally, and the third was fatal to the President. This accounts for all of the victims' wounds, although three shots were fired from the sixth floor window of the Book Depository. The only real uncertainty on the part of the Warren Commission was which of the three shots had missed; though it correctly guessed it was the first shot. Fragments of one bullet -- probably the one that killed the President -- were later found in the front of the limousine. This round spent itself in the car's windshield before coming to rest. The other bullet, having struck mostly soft tissue passing through the President's neck, the jumpseat and Governor Connally's back and wrist before lodging in his thigh, was found on Connally's stretcher at Parkland Hospital. No third round was ever recovered; though there was reliable evidence that this first shot probably ricocheted off the curb opposite the presidential limousine down Elm Street.
Unlike the phantom second gunman, of which no real photographs exist, film footage -- notably the Hughes film -- shows a form moving around in the southeast sixth floor window of the Book Depository just prior to the shooting, as the Presidential motorcade turns right onto Houston Street toward Elm Street and the Book Depository. Several witnesses saw a gunman before and during the shooting. Others saw a rifle protruding from the window.
Two men watching the motorcade from a fifth floor window directly below Oswald not only heard the three shots but also the sound of three cartridge hulls hitting the wooden floor above them. Minutes later, the three spent cartridges, all of which were later proved to have repeatedly been dry fired through Oswald's rifle, were recovered from the spot at the window where Oswald had been seen and captured on film, and where the men on the fifth floor heard them fall. The hastily stashed Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was recovered with a live round in the breech minutes after that behind some boxes on the sixth floor of the Book Depository.
Regardless of the nonsense spread by truthers over the years, there was a clear chain of custody begun over the murder weapon, the spent cartridges, and the sniper's nest, within minutes after the shooting, all massively implicating Oswald. The Dallas Police Department's records, and the Warren Commission's documentation establishing the chain of custody over these items are freely available online.
Oswald's palm print was on the rifle and his fresh fingerprints were all over the cartons arranged as a gunrest where the empty cartridges were found at the sixth floor window from which a man matching Oswald's description had been observed with a gun. A discarded paper container Oswald brought to work that morning -- presumably with the rifle inside -- lay there as well. Though Oswald was seen walking around the fifth floor with a clipboard at 11:55 a.m. ostensibly filling orders, the clipboard was discovered on the sixth floor on December 3, 1963 stashed near where Oswald's rifle had been found the day of the assassination, the unfilled book orders from the morning of November 22 still attached. Oswald later claimed he'd eaten lunch with the men who watched the assassination from the fifth floor window; but they denied this. In fact, after 11:55 a.m., nobody at the Book Depository recalled seeing Oswald until after the assassination at about 12:32.
Within hours the FBI was able to link both Oswald's rifle and the pistol he later used against officer Tippit to a Klein's Sporting Goods in Chicago through which Oswald had ordered them under the name "A. Hidell." Oswald had a phony draft card bearing the name "Alek J. Hidell" in his wallet when he was arrested, and used the Hidell alias in one form or another repeatedly in the months before the assassination, including as the name of the only other member of the New Orleans chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee Oswald had tried to found. Photographic negatives were later discovered among Oswald's documents proving that he had made the clumsily forged "Hidell" draft card in his spare time at a printing company from which he was fired before coming to work at the Book Depository.
Anybody can authenticate Oswald's quirky handwriting on the order blanks for the guns, and the FBI was eventually able to identify the magazines from which Oswald had torn the order blanks some months earlier while living in New Orleans.
In April of 1963, Oswald made his Russian wife Marina photograph him -- dressed in all black -- brandishing both weapons along with copies of The Worker and The Militant, and these photographs (recovered the day of the assassination), plus the negatives and the same cheap camera Oswald used to make the Hidell draft card, were eventually identified beyond any doubt and offered into evidence by the Warren Commission, along with Marina's lengthy testimony that she took the pictures.
Copies of The Worker and The Militant from early 1963 were even obtained to prove that Oswald was indeed holding those specific issues in the photographs. Despite the bogus claims of truthers about the authenticity of the photographs or the other evidence, there is no doubt that Oswald purchased and owned both weapons linked to the Kennedy and Tippit killings and that a chain of evidence and witness descriptions implicates only him as the lone assassin who fired three shots from the southeast sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository at 12:30 p.m. on November 22, 1963.
A Woman's Intuition
After the assassination, police rushed to the address in Irving, Texas listed on Oswald's job application at the Book Depository. According to her host, Ruth Paine, Oswald's wife Marina was expecting them. Though she later testified that Oswald had nothing against President Kennedy, Marina experienced a "sinking feeling" upon learning that the shots were fired from the Book Depository where her estranged husband worked. She had secretly glanced in the Paine garage, satisfying herself that Oswald's rifle was still wrapped in the blanket where she knew he kept it; however, she didn't examine the blanket to make certain the rifle was there.
When an officer later picked up the blanket, it hung limply and her heart sank once again. The rifle was gone, probably carried to work that morning in the sealed parcel fashioned by Oswald the night before using materials from the Book Depository. Oswald told his co-worker who gave him a lift to work on November 22 that the package contained curtain rods for his new room on North Beckley; but news footage made after the assassination shows the room already fitted out with shades blinds and curtains.
Marina, who had just given birth to the Oswald's second child in late October, told the Warren Commission it took her less than a week to decide her husband was guilty. After all, she knew that Oswald had taken a shot at retired Army General Edwin Walker in April 1963.
FBI examination of the bullet that nearly killed General Walker was then conducted and the ammunition was found to be identical to that used in the assassination. Though Oswald's rifle could not be matched with the Walker bullet to the exclusion of all others, a match would have been superfluous: photographs, maps and a detailed action plan were found among Oswald effects showing his careful planning of the Walker attack, including a note to Marina explaining his actions. He later showed no remorse to Marina over the nearly successful Walker shooting.
No such plans for the Kennedy assassination were ever discovered. While truthers claim this practically exonerates Oswald, absence of evidence of a plan is not evidence of absence. In fact, virtually all of the other evidence implicates Oswald; while the lack of any written plan as in the Walker case merely shows that the Kennedy assassination was probably plotted in great haste.
Oswald obtained his job at the Book Depository by chance in mid-October, 1963, before he could have known about the President's visit to Dallas. The two Secret Service agents who designed President Kennedy's motorcade route did so three weeks later, in the first week of November, 1963, about the same day the FBI learned that Oswald was working at the Book Depository. Unfortunately, those two agencies didn't share information that might have revealed Oswald's likely presence along the planned route.
Truthers have claimed that, with perfect knowledge of Kennedy's plans, Oswald could have become employed at the Book Depository in October, guessing that a motorcade would roll by there, because Franklin Roosevelt had passed that way some thirty years before. But the fact that there would even be a motorcade, let alone that it would pass the Book Depository, was not public in mid-October, 1963.
Most likely, Oswald learned about the President's motorcade in the days before the assassination, when the route through Dealey Plaza was printed in local newspapers (incorrectly, by one). It was at that point that any planning probably began.
In His Own Words
On Monday, November 18, 1963, Marina, still shaken by the Walker incident, argued violently with Oswald after discovering that he had rented his latest room on North Beckley Street using the pseudonym "O.H. Lee." She was determined that he put an end to the fancied double life he was leading.
On the evening before the assassination, Oswald came to Irving and begged Marina repeatedly to bring the children and move to Dallas with him the next day. Though he was persistent, she was adamant because of her anger over the O.H. Lee incident, and ultimately refused. Oswald was sullen for the rest of the evening, and the next morning, he killed the President.
Had Oswald really been a KGB assassin, or part of some CIA or underworld conspiracy, let alone certain about his own next move, why bother with this charade?
Marina's portrayal of her husband as a below average provider who nonetheless believed himself destined for a historic role, made the weird asymmetry of their exchange understandable to her in retrospect. Oswald had made "crazy" plans before; yet was apparently also torn by the desire to please her. When Marina refused to move to Dallas, he decided that she and the children could fend for themselves; freeing him to fulfill his "historic" destiny. In this regard, the frustrated communist Oswald was no different than frustrated actor John Wilkes Booth, or frustrated bureaucrat Charles Guiteau. All three were mediocre and self-important attention seekers who drew no boundary between their small lives and important affairs of state. All shared the seemingly overwhelming desire to make history at any price.
Oswald's grandiose self-image must have taken a pounding in the weeks before the assassination. Marina was homesick and seeking repatriation to Russia without him if necessary; while Oswald's dream of becoming another Hemmingway was dashed after he was denied both Cuban and Russian entrance visas during his late September 1963 Mexico City trip. Both consulates were clearly underwhelmed by what he portrayed as his important work for the New Orleans chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. As Oswald later wrote to the Russian embassy, he became enraged at the Cubans, who were befuddled when he showed up unannounced seeking a visa.
He had also recently been brushed off both by the American Communist Party, to whom he wrote claiming he was being driven "underground," and by the Socialist Workers Party. The Communist Party's responses were polite but terse; while the SWP declined even to offer him a membership. Oswald had believed his return to the United States would generate publicity just as his defection to the USSR had garnered him a couple of interviews; but other than the FBI, nobody seemed to care.
While Oswald's activities are also consistent with the notion that he was a trained assassin publicly cutting ties with his most likely conspirators before the act, his behavior in the months and weeks before November 22, 1963 reveals, if anything, that Oswald was a loner with no other associates with which to have conspired to kill the President.
Fleeing Dealey Plaza
Unlike Oswald's exact motives or associations, his movements following the assassination are known with near certainty. There was no reprise of his well-rehearsed clean getaway from the Walker shooting. Numerous witnesses saw Oswald in the window of the Book Depository well enough for a description to be developed almost immediately.
Thomas Dillard sitting in an open carload of reporters directly in front of the Book Depository heard fellow photographer Bob Jackson shout he'd seen a rifle being withdrawn into the sixth floor window. At least one other reporter saw the rifle poking out the window as their car rounded the corner of Houston and Elm just below Oswald. Dillard instinctively photographed the front of the Depository building and the window later found to be Oswald's perch, just after the shots were fired.
The latter image shows the two men who were directly below Oswald peering languidly from the fifth floor, the open window above them (boxes arranged as Oswald left them) already vacant. Bonnie Ray Williams, the man just below the open window in the photograph, later testified that the crack of Oswald's rifle above him shook that corner of the building so that mortar fell through the floorboards onto his head.
Marrion Baker, a motorcycle policeman following some two hundred feet behind the President heard Oswald's first shot while still approaching the Depository on Houston Street, and immediately parked his bike and charged into the building. Oswald barely beat Baker (joined by Oswald's boss, Roy Truly) to the second floor vending area where Baker confronted Oswald perhaps 90 seconds after the shooting stopped. Had Oswald lingered moments longer after killing the President, he would have run directly into Baker on the stairway.
These and many other compelling stories implicating only Oswald populate the record, along with the relatively few conflicting affidavits of those who thought they heard four shots, or believed they had seen or heard shots coming from behind the grassy knoll area or elsewhere. In contrast, those who saw Oswald -- including Dallas Mayor Cabell's wife, also riding in the motorcade -- had no doubt about the source of the shots.
Officer Baker made the fateful mistake of releasing Oswald after Truly identified him as a TSBD employee, then continued upstairs in search of the shooter. Oswald purchased a Coke, slipping through the second floor front office of the building past a receptionist down to the first floor and onto Elm Street before any cordon could be set up. Within minutes, however, a description matching Oswald's from witnesses outside the Book Depository was being broadcast over police radios from the scene. Later, Oswald was found to be the only one of the nearly 100 people in the Book Depository building unaccounted for after the assassination.
As word of what happened spread throughout downtown Dallas, Oswald hurried seven blocks up Elm street, hopped on the first bus headed back toward Dealey Plaza, and almost immediately saw his former landlady Mary Bledsoe, who disliked him. Bledsoe later identified Oswald to the Warren Commission, correctly observing that his right shirt sleeve was torn, just like the shirt Oswald was wearing when later arrested. Fibers from the shirt were later matched to the butt stock of Oswald's rifle. He rode just two blocks into the heavy traffic developing at Dealey Plaza, asked for a transfer, ran to the nearby Greyhound station, haled a cab and was home within probably another twelve minutes. This was the last thing that went smoothly for him.
The Tippit Shooting
According to Oswald's landlady at 1026 North Beckley, he dashed into the rooming house some two miles southwest of Dealey Plaza at 1:00 p.m., just long enough to run upstairs and back down. Alone in his room, he shoved a snub nosed Smith & Wesson .38 into his waistband, threw on a gray jacket, and was gone. About fifteen minutes later, nine people saw Oswald before, during or after his shooting of Dallas Policeman J.D. Tippit near the corner of E 10th Street and Patton. One of them breathlessly reported the shooting at 1:16 p.m. over Tippit's police radio.
Within a few more moments, a description of officer Tippit's shooter was broadcast from 10th and Patton matching the description of the presidential assassin to such a degree that the police dispatcher noted the similarity on the air.
Truthers have claimed that Oswald could not have covered what the Warren Commission found was nearly a mile from 1026 North Beckley to the Tippit shooting scene in fifteen minutes. But the Warren Commission presumed Oswald went south on Beckley to E 10th Street, then left on E 10th to Patton. In fact, Oswald could have cut across any side street from Beckley before it diverges with Patton and reached it directly, then turned right toward 10th Street, shortening the route to only 7/10 to 8/10 of a mile (according to Google Maps). Either way, the young former Marine could easily have covered one mile in fifteen minutes at a brisk pace.
Through the years, truthers have also maligned the reputation of patrolman J.D. Tippit, even claiming (with zero evidence) that he was Oswald's accomplice. Officer Tippit's epitaph ought to be that he acted with great presence of mind in the critical minutes after the assassination. Having been ordered into the Oak Cliff area, patrolman Tippet's known movements show that he was covering likely escape routes from Dealey Plaza northeast of Oak Cliff, across the Houston Street Viaduct.
At 12:54 p.m., Tippit's laconic drawl came over the radio for the last time from Lancaster and 8th, to the east of Oswald's rooming house. Lancaster runs parallel to Marsalis after it diverges with Houston Street beyond the viaduct into Oak Cliff. In the minutes before his death, Tippet was also spotted sitting in a Gloco gas station near the terminus of the Houston Street Viaduct only about a block north of Oswald's N Beckley rooming house. In this fashion, patrolman Tippit covered both of the most likely routes from Dealey Plaza. Though we will never know, the only logical conclusion is that Tippit spotted Oswald somewhere along the way before stopping him, perhaps even before Oswald arrived at his rooming house.
Armed with a good description; but still two miles away from the assassination scene, officer Tippit probably surprised even himself when the man he stopped turned out to be the suspect, who immediately gunned Tippet down as he exited his vehicle to question the man near E 10th and Patton. Police converged on the area and Oswald was captured a short while after the Tippit shooting, still carrying the .38 revolver later traced to Klein's and identified to the exclusion of all other weapons as the Tippit murder weapon.
There was and is little doubt as to Oswald's actual or presumed movements from two minutes after he shot the President to the moment he was wrestled to the ground at the Texas Theater. A bevy of witnesses, Baker and Truly, the secretary, the bus driver Cecil McWatters, Mary Bledsoe, the cabbie Bill Whaley who had fought at Iwo Jima, Oswald's landlady at 1026 N Beckley, nine witnesses from the shooting of Officer Tippit, and a trail of others leading from the Tippit scene to the Texas Theater, identified Oswald at each juncture of his known or suspected routes. Although his trail from the Book Depository was lost for short distances, there is no doubt that Oswald could have gotten where he did, when he did without any assistance. Indeed, the most vexing question has been where Oswald managed to secrete himself in the minutes between Tippit's shooting and the time he was spotted again just before sneaking into the Texas Theater.
Overwhelming evidence thus demonstrates that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of President Kennedy, that he obtained the murder weapons himself, and that nobody assisted him seemingly at any point before, during or after the assassination.
The Real Conspiracy?
Hard core JFK assassination buffs continue to descend upon Dallas for conventions just as any other industry holds periodic trade shows. Pilgrimages are made from the Texas School Book Depository to the adjacent grassy knoll. Some make the two mile trip to the site of Oswald's rooming house at 1026 North Beckley and from there to E 10th and Patton, where Oswald shot officer J.D. Tippit 45 minutes after killing the President. They retrace Oswald's steps from the Tippit murder scene south a block to East Jefferson Boulevard where he discarded his gray jacket behind a gas station; then to the shoe store further west on Jefferson where he hid momentarily from a passing police car -- disheveled and breathing heavily -- before sneaking past the box office cashier of the Texas Theater where he was surrounded and arrested at 231 W Jefferson near Zang, about ½ mile from the Tippit murder scene and a mile south from the Beckley rooming house
If any conspiracy has played out over the years, it has been to divert attention away from Oswald the self-styled communist as JFK's lone assassin. For obvious reasons, the American left scrambled to distance itself from Oswald in the wake of the tragedy; but part of this effort includes well documented attempts to turn the tables and accuse the government of involvement in some "conspiracy" to kill the President, for which there has never been even a scintilla of evidence.
Interestingly, in his only conversation with Marina following his arrest, Oswald told her that they would be "taken care of" by "friends" to whom he had written. This could have meant the Soviets, or the Communist Party, or the Socialist Workers Party. Oswald's first exposure to communism was during the trial of the Rosenbergs, with whom he sympathized. Undoubtedly, he believed that his fellow travelers would assist him the same way they had the Rosenbergs: by calling into question his guilt, and by portraying him -- in his own words -- as a government "patsy." In this assessment, Oswald proved entirely correct. By that evening, Soviet mouthpiece Valentyn Zorin was monitored on Moscow radio stating that the obviously leftist Oswald couldn't have gotten around US security, suggesting that it "was not accidental" that the killing took place in a "stronghold of racist and other fascist scum."
The stage was set for wild speculation to take over. With time, the debunkers have succeeded where the Warren Commission fell short in ruling out the other possibilities; but old habits die hard, and conventional wisdom persists that Oswald was not the lone assassin. Hopefully, the demise of the relatively few good arguments pointing to the existence of a second gunman in Dealey Plaza will ultimately refocus attention once and forever upon the overwhelming body of evidence of Oswald's guilt and the ideology giving rise to it.
John Huettner is an attorney practicing in Cleveland, Ohio