[3.0] Lee Harvey Oswald (2)

v1.2.2 / chapter 3 of 32 / 01 nov 13 / greg goebel / public domain

* Back in the USA, Oswald worked at menial jobs while he obtained a pistol and a Carcano rifle through the mails. According to Marina, he then attempted to shoot Right-wing General Edwin Walker, but missed. Having lost his job in the meantime, he then decided to move to New Orleans to find new work. There he would play at political activism, to no particularly constructive end.



* On 25 January 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald mailed off the last installment on his loan from the State Department. Out of debt at last, on 27 January he was able to then send $10 USD in cash to Seaport Traders of Los Angeles to buy a Smith & Wesson 0.38 caliber revolver. The order was placed in the name of "A.J. Hidell"; the form required a witness, with the name filled in as "D.F. Drittal". Later analysis showed both names to be in Oswald's handwriting. The pistol was shipped via Railway Express, with the balance of $19.95 USD plus shipping charges to be paid COD.

By this time, he was becoming persistently brutal to Marina. She stayed with him because she really didn't have anywhere else to go -- she couldn't speak much English and Lee refused to let anyone teach her, she did not want to return to the USSR, and in fact he used the threat of getting her sent home to intimidate her. The fact that she was pregnant again by this time only increased her dependence.

On 14 February, Oswald saw a story in the DALLAS MORNING NEWS about retired US Army General Edwin Walker, a prominent local Rightist who was active in the extremist John Birch Society. Oswald talked about Walker to de Mohrenschildt, who expressed no liking for Walker, suggesting to Oswald that anyone who "knocked off Walker" would be doing society a favor.

Later that month, the Oswalds ran into a couple named Michael and Ruth Paine at a dinner party. The Paines were both American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) members, liberal activists in conservative Texas. At the time, the couple was separated and Michael had moved out of the house, but they were on fair terms, with Michael often coming by to play with their two small kids and make himself useful running household errands. Ruth, a Quaker, was trying to learn Russian and took a strong, sympathetic interest in Marina Oswald. The Paines would get to know the Oswalds about as well as anyone ever did.

Conspiracists like to draw lurid pictures of the Paines, fingering them as Red agents or part of a US government conspiracy -- one or the other. One of the particularly bizarre notions circulated by conspiracists about the Paines was the fact that Michael was employed at Bell Aircraft in the Fort Worth area and was supposed to have worked for Walter Dornberger, a German expatriate who was employed by Bell.

Dornberger had led the German V-2 rocket program during World War 2, being the boss of the well-known Wernher von Braun, famous in the 1960s for his work on the space rockets for the US National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) that would put Americans on the Moon. Conspiracists describe Dornberger as a "Nazi war criminal", which is a stretch, if not a really big one -- he was indeed a faithful Nazi and his hands were hardly clean, though Dornberger had never been arraigned for and certainly not convicted of war crimes. Almost the same could be said of von Braun, and there was just as much or as little cause to link Dornberger to a sinister conspiracy as there was to link von Braun to one.

More significantly, there was no close link between Paine and Dornberger other than the fact they both worked for Bell and that Dornberger was a senior engineering manager for the company. The Bell Fort Worth plant built helicopters -- it was not surprising Michael worked there, since his stepfather was Arthur Young, inventor of the famous Bell Model 47 "MASH" helicopter, one of the key players in the development of the helicopter, and a prime mover in Bell's helicopter business. However, Dornberger's skills were in rocketry and space systems, and he worked at the Bell plant in Buffalo, New York. Dornberger had no professional background for working on helicopters, and there's no evidence he ever lived in Texas.

Incidentally, some conspiracists have linked Wernher von Braun to the conspiracy. An anonymous author writing under the name of "William Torbitt" released a document titled "Nomenclature Of An Assassination Cabal" in 1970 that claimed von Braun was the boss of the "NASA Security Division". The document was written in a schizophrenic style, consisting of little more than a list of claims and assertions involving almost everything and everybody in the assassination "cabal", without any pretense of validation. While some conspiracists have taken it at face value, others have found it so preposterous that they suspected it was actually "disinformation" created by the conspiracy to discredit the conspiracy movement.



* Lee Harvey Oswald moved his family to another apartment in Dallas in early March 1963. On 11 March, he went to General Walker's house and scoped it out, taking snapshots of the back of the house and of the local area. The next day, 12 March, he sent a money order for $21.45 USD to Klein's Sporting Goods, a Chicago-based mail-order house, for a surplus Italian military 6.5 millimeter bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, sometimes referred to just as a "Carcano" rifle. There's a petty argument over which name is correct, but it's referred to here as "Carcano", if for the sake of simplicity. Oswald purchased it with his "A. Hidell" alias.

By coincidence, both the rifle and the revolver were shipped the same day, 20 March 1963. The rifle went to Oswald's post office box -- the post office had instructions on file to accept shipments for Lee, Marina, and the mysterious "Hidell". The revolver was shipped Railway Express; it couldn't be shipped COD to a post-office box, though Oswald had given "Hidell's" post office box as the customer contact address, which was listed on the shipping paperwork. In any case, Oswald paid the charges on it to take delivery -- the handwriting on the paperwork signed at the Railway Express office was confirmed to be Oswald's, though the paperwork didn't give dates. The rifle came pre-fitted with a toylike four-magnification telescopic sight made by Ordnance Optics of Japan. Marina saw the rifle in the apartment, but Lee was evasive about it, and she knew better than to press him on the matter.

6.5 millimeter Carcano rifle

It should be noted that Oswald was not a gun collector; he had no other firearms in his possession when he bought the rifle and the revolver, and he had no history of collecting and trading weapons as a hobby for its own sake. He bought the two weapons at the same time, suggesting that he had a certain agenda in mind when he bought them, all the more so because he had so little money to spare on luxuries. There's no strong suggestion in the evidence that the need was personal security or hunting -- and the pistol would have been of little use in hunting.

Conspiracists wonder why Oswald bought the weapons via mail order instead of shopping around at pawnshops, which would have been less traceable. One can do little but speculate on the matter; since Oswald didn't have a car, shopping around town would have been relatively troublesome. It was certainly not all that clever on Oswald's part to have used the "Hidell" alias to buy the weapons, and then establish a paper trail between himself and "Hidell" through the post office box authorization, but little else in Oswald's life was well thought out, either.

Conspiracists point to the fact that nobody at the post office remembered "Hidell" picking up the package containing the rifle. Why would they? Who would remember after the passage of a half year handing out any one of the multitudes of parcels handled every day to the multitudes of strangers who came in every day? Conspiracists even make an issue over the fact that nobody knows specifically where Oswald got the ammunition for the weapons. In fact, he could have bought the pistol ammunition at any number of sporting goods stores or pawnshops, no questions asked or paperwork required.

The particular brand of ammunition obtained for the Carcano, made by the Western Cartridge Company, was only sold at two locations in the Dallas area; when the stores were queried later by the authorities as to whether they could recall selling Carcano ammunition to Oswald, nobody could remember doing so, but as with the post office staff, it would have been a bit surprising if they had. Some stranger walked up to the sales counter, paid for a few boxes of ammunition, then walked out the door with the ammunition in a bag -- it was something that might happen several times a day, what reason would any sales clerk have to remember months later a particular customer who had done nothing to draw attention to himself?

The issue of how Oswald obtained the ammunition is a red herring. It's documented that Oswald obtained the weapons, he could have obtained the ammunition easily without drawing attention to himself or leaving a trail. It would be very difficult to find a precedent of a criminal case involving firearms that was dismissed because nobody could confirm where the accused bought the ammunition for the weapon.

* There's another red herring involved with the Carcano ammunition. Frank Ellsworth, an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms working in Dallas at the time of the assassination, told conspiracist Dick Russell in 1976 that he, Ellsworth, knew of a "dead ringer", an "identical twin" to Oswald associated with Rightist groups in Dallas in the early 1960s; Ellsworth didn't give the name of the man, but Russell managed to identify him as one John Thomas Masen, who ran Masen's Gun Shop in Dallas.

What does this have to do with the Carcano ammunition? The fact that Masen's Gun Shop was one of the two places that sold the stuff. The FBI had talked to Masen after the assassination and showed him a picture of Oswald, asking if Masen had sold him ammunition; Masen couldn't recall that he had. The stinger, according to conspiracists, is that Masen should have remembered a customer who looked exactly like him.

However, Oswald might well have bought the ammunition at the other place that sold it, and it also appears Ellsworth exaggerated how much Masen looked like Oswald. The FBI agents who talked to Masen didn't report being startled by how much he looked like Oswald; Russell looked Masen up to talk to him, and only acknowledged that there was a "resemblance". Given that, as discussed later, there would be multiple reports following the assassination of "Oswald doubles" roaming Dallas, if Masen had actually been a "dead ringer" for Oswald, it would seem likely people would have singled him out to the authorities -- but nobody besides Ellsworth commented on the remarkable similarity.



* Oswald was building up a file on General Walker and his house at the time, detailing plans for an attack, with Marina eventually discovering the file. He was also trying to write down his Leftist ideas -- some of his notes have survived but they aren't particularly interesting reading, basically just semi-literate jottings that look like political shopping lists. One thing that is interesting in his notes is that they don't mention any interactions with others, giving no suggestion of collaboration in his plans.

Oswald didn't tell Marina about his schemes, but he did start talking to her about her going back to the USSR. She found the idea baffling, since he made it clear he didn't want a divorce, but he would continue to pressure her on the matter. What was going on in his mind nobody can know for sure, but he had obtained weapons, that implied an interest in putting them to use, and a motive to get his wife and child out of the line of fire.

On 31 March, he had Marina use his cheap Imperial Reflex camera to take pictures of him in the back yard wielding the Carcano rifle, with the revolver stuck into his belt. She thought it ridiculous and laughed, which made him angry; his seriousness made her apprehensive. He developed them himself and wrote "For Junie from Papa" on the back of one. Marina was bewildered as to why Junie would want such a photo, and he told her, with an eerie overtone of fatalism: "To remember Papa by sometime."

One also ended up in the hands of de Mohrenschildt, signed by Oswald and inscribed: "Hunter of Fascists, ha, ha, ha" -- though it's not clear it was in Oswald's handwriting and may have been a sarcastic comment by de Mohrenschildt or Marina. Oswald sent one to the Leftist publication THE MILITANT. After Oswald became national news, the staff claimed they'd never got any such picture -- but decades later, some who had worked there admitted they did, and had hastily disposed of it after it had become a dangerous liability.

Oswald the Fascist Hunter

* The "Fascist Hunter" photos would eventually become a major piece of conspiracy lore. Conspiracists have insisted they are bogus and that Marina was lying, with the photos fabricated by the CIA or FBI or whoever. However, all professional analysis has shown them to be legitimate. One particularly significant piece of evidence is that several photos were taken from slightly different positions, allowing the scene to be inspected in stereo -- and it is very difficult to fake stereoscopic images, or at least it certainly was in the days before digital image manipulation.

Robert Groden, who was generally regarded by the conspiracist community as a credible photo analyst, declared the photos were "beyond question fakes" -- but his career as an "expert witness" in courtroom cases finally ground to a halt in the lurid O.J. Simpson celebrity murder trial in the 1990s, where Groden testified that incriminating photos of Simpson were fakes. During the Simpson trial, Groden's expertise was challenged on the basis that he was a high-school dropout with no formal professional qualifications. Under testimony, he could not identify any association of professionals in his claimed field of expertise.

None of the other supposed "experts" in photo analysis among the conspiracy theory have ever been able to produce better credentials. One, Jack White, who claimed the "Fascist Hunter" photos were faked, was grilled by an HSCA staff counsel and came out somewhat the worse for the wear for it:


SC: Mr. White, I just have one question ... you did this study, did you compute photogrammetrically the effect of tilt on the way that the length of an object appears in a photograph? (Photogrammetry is defined as "the practice of determining the geometric properties of objects from photographic images ... [it] is as old as ... photography and can be dated from the mid-19th century.")

JW: I conducted a study by photographing a yardstick from three different --

SC: Mr. White, answer my question. Did you compute photogrammetrically --

JW: What is "photogrammetrically"? Describe to me what "photogrammetrically" is.

SC: I just have one more question Mr. White. Do you know what photogrammetry is?

JW: No.

SC: I have no further questions. Thank you.


White, incidentally, later "proved" that photos taken by US Apollo astronauts on the Moon were faked, demonstrating that the Apollo landings never really happened. Some conspiracists have admitted the "Fascist Hunter" photos are real, though they don't necessarily see them as problematic even if they are. From the conspiracist mindset, the very fact that all credible evidence shows Oswald was obviously unbalanced and too unreliable to work with a conspiracy, by a flip-flop of logic makes him the conspiracy's perfect fall guy -- and so the "Fascist Hunter" photos must have been part of the deviously clever plan to fool investigators into thinking that Oswald was just a "lone nut", drawing attention away from the conspiracy.

Not incidentally, conspiracists are very fond of this flip-flop logic, often saying that since Oswald looked so obviously like a "lone nut", he couldn't have really been one, being much too convenient for hiding the conspiracy. Since what's obvious may not be true, does that mean we then assume something isn't true because it's obvious? In the conspiracy world, the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed.



* While Oswald was arming himself, the FBI was becoming interested in him again. Agent John Fain of the Fort Worth office had retired in the interval, with his caseload being taken over by Agent James Hosty of the Dallas FBI office. Hosty was actually more interested in Marina at first, suspecting that she might be a "deep cover" or "sleeper" agent, and wanted to check up on her. The movements of the Oswalds made the couple difficult to track down, and so Hosty decided to put matters off for a while. However, the New York FBI office then passed him a tip that Oswald had recently subscribed to an American Communist periodical, THE WORKER; intrigued, on 31 March Hosty asked for permission to reopen Oswald's case file.

The next day was Monday, 1 April; Lee Harvey Oswald went into work at Jaggars, only to be told he was out of a job. He wasn't focused on his work and nobody liked working with him, finding him surly and rude. The fact that he wasn't entirely careful in concealing his Leftist ideas didn't help either. He was allowed to work to Saturday.

* Conspiracists like to poke holes in the idea that Oswald bought the Carcano rifle by pointing out that time cards showed he was working at Jaggars the day he got the money order for the weapon, but his attitude toward his job was slack enough to get him fired, and it's reasonable to think he had no problem playing hooky to run errands when he felt he had better things to do. It might not have even taken him much time to get the money order if he had bummed a ride from a co-worker, or for that matter taken a bus. There isn't enough information available on what Oswald did during his days and how he got around to determine any definite facts on the matter one way or another.

Incidentally, conspiracists are also suspicious of how quickly the money order arrived at Klein's Sporting Goods -- no mystery, it was sent airmail -- and even claim the money order was never cashed, saying the paperwork isn't right and so the money order must have been faked. The fact that Klein's wouldn't have shipped Oswald the rifle without a valid money order is explained away by invoking Klein's and the US Postal Service as parties to the conspiracy.

In any case, when Oswald went back home, he didn't tell Marina he'd lost his job. On Friday, 5 April, Marina was walking up to the apartment pushing her baby carriage when she saw Lee run in ahead of her and come back out with his rifle, concealed under his Marine raincoat. She asked him what he was doing; he replied: "Target practice." He got into a bus marked LOVE FIELD. The route of the bus was later determined to pass a secluded levee. He returned to the apartment about 9:00 PM.

On Wednesday, 10 April, Lee told Marina he had been fired. He went out after dinner and didn't return until late. In the meantime, Marina found a list of instructions written by Lee in Russian for her, telling her the bills had been paid up, he'd left her a bit of money, and concluding by telling her that "if I am alive and taken prisoner" where she could find the jail. Marina started shaking; by the time Lee came back, she was frantic.

While he was out, somebody had taken a shot at General Walker while he was working on his income taxes in his dining room. Walker just avoided getting a bullet through his brain through a freak of chance: the bullet nicked the wood framing in the middle of the window, which deflected it, causing it to zip by his head and punch a hole in the wall. The police dug out a badly-mangled bullet. The papers told of Walker's brush with death the next morning. Lee had come home in a state of excitement and told Marina that he'd tried to kill Walker, saying: "I missed."

General Walker's window

He explained the exercise in detail; Marina concluded that he was deranged, but though she threatened to turn the incriminating letter Lee had written her over to the law if he ever tried any stunt like that again, she was fearful of going to the authorities lest she be accused of collusion. She found him convulsing in anxiety in his sleep the next two nights. However, Oswald could still take encouragement from his bungled exercise in assassination: true, the general had survived, but Oswald could only read the reports in the newspapers with amusement, nobody having the slightest clue as to who the shooter had been. When another opportunity arose, he could try again.

* On Friday, Oswald applied for unemployment compensation. On Saturday, in the evening de Mohrenschildt showed up, asking as he came in the door: "Lee, how is it possible you could have missed?!" -- as Marina worded it. De Mohrenschildt said later wasn't precisely what he said, but recollected that Oswald visibly reacted, de Mohrenschildt knew he'd hit a nerve. That was last times de Mohrenschildt saw Oswald; de Mohrenschildt was on the road for a few weeks, and when he returned he and his wife moved to Haiti, where they remained for four years.

Much later, on 29 March 1977, de Mohrenschildt claimed in an interview that he had been asked by the CIA to keep tabs on Oswald; on the evening of that same day, he blew his brains out with a shotgun. Not surprisingly, conspiracists make much of de Mohrenschildt's confession. What they do not add is that de Mohrenschildt had clearly gone far off the deep end. He had tried to kill himself several times previously, had been diagnosed as a psychotic, had been institutionalized and put through shock therapy, insisted the "FBI and the Jewish Mafia" were out to get him, and claimed he was with Oswald on the day of the assassination -- when he was provably in Haiti at the time.

Indeed, it is interesting to wonder why, if de Mohrenschildt was actually Oswald's "CIA handler", he left for Haiti months before Oswald was to perform his role in the "plot". If somebody took over from de Mohrenschildt, nobody knows who it was. With de Mohrenschildt gone, Oswald had lost one of the few friends he had.



* Unemployed, Lee Harvey Oswald had decisions to make on what to do next. One item was to cover the tracks of his assault on General Walker. Marina had suggested he get rid of his incriminating file on Walker after he'd told her about his attempt to kill the general, but he had felt some attachment to it. On 14 April 1963, Easter Sunday, he realized that Marina was right and burned the materials in the folder. That same day, he retrieved his rifle, which he had buried after the assault.

Marina Oswald reported a strange incident a week later, on Monday 22 April, when Lee dressed up in his suit and stuck his pistol in his pocket. When Marina asked him what he was doing, he said he was going to see Richard Nixon, JFK's Republican rival in the 1960 presidential election, at a public gathering. Marina thought Lee was going to try to shoot Nixon, and a physical struggle followed; he finally agreed to stay home. However, as Lee told Marina the next day, Nixon hadn't come to Dallas after all -- he was nowhere near the place. Lee may have been thinking of attacking somebody else and just said "Nixon" as a slip-up or a cover; or possibly he was just playing head games with Marina.

Oswald decided to move back to New Orleans -- Marina later said she encouraged the move, thinking that if he stayed he might try to kill Walker again. Oswald left Dallas on Wednesday, 24 April 1963, with Marina and baby June staying behind with the Paines for the moment. He took the bus, staying with his aunt, Lillian Murret, while he looked for work. He found a job on 9 May with the Reily Coffee Company, maintaining the machinery. He got himself an apartment and had his family join him, with Ruth Paine driving his wife and child to New Orleans. Some time later, FBI Agent Hosty decided he wanted to talk with Oswald, but soon found out Oswald and his family were gone. Oswald hadn't left any forwarding address, so Hosty dropped the matter again for the moment. Hosty had other things on his mind for the time being -- ironically, he was investigating General Walker's Right-wing activities.

In New Orleans, Oswald became increasingly obsessed with Fidel Castro and the Communist Cuban state. Oswald got in touch with a national organization named "Fair Play For Cuba Committee (FPCC)", and decided to open up a New Orleans chapter. He was so focused on the issue that he neglected his work, which did not impress his employers. They were also not impressed with his ability to get along with his fellow employees. As usual, he was solitary, but on top of that he would do things like point a finger at somebody like it was a gun and say: "Pow!" It was not a good way to make friends. What made it all the more obnoxious was that Oswald didn't crack a smile when he did it.

Sometimes when Oswald was slacking, he would go next door to the Crescent City Garage, run by a fellow named Adrian Alba, who was a gun enthusiast. Oswald liked to read the gun magazines lying around the garage. Conspiracists have made a government connection through the garage, since it occasionally serviced vehicles from the FBI and other government agencies. The FBI later grilled Alba and he testified to the Warren Commission, saying he knew of no actual contacts between the FBI and Oswald while Oswald was at the garage.

However, in 1978, Alba then remembered that he had seen Oswald talking to an FBI agent in a car twice in the garage, telling the story to the HSCA. The committee checked out the story carefully and found that no FBI agent had a car in that garage during 1963. Alba then compromised his assertions by claiming that Bobby Kennedy -- Robert Francis Kennedy (RFK), JFK's brother and the US attorney general -- had signed up Oswald to murder Castro. Exactly what inside information Alba had to demonstrate the validity of this claim was unclear. This was a common pattern in the "revelations" in the Oswald saga: people would come up with stories well after the assassination, and the stories could never be corroborated by independent evidence or other witnesses.

* In the meantime, Oswald was going through motions for a return to the USSR. Since neither he nor the Soviet authorities had found his stay there very satisfactory it was a puzzling notion, but he did have Marina help him write up inquiries to the Soviet embassy for an entry visa, and he renewed his passport, which had lapsed a year earlier. Conspiracists play up the fact that he got the passport within 24 hours of the request; in fact, the New Orleans passport office was noted for its efficiency and that was normal. Oswald didn't have a criminal record and the State Department didn't regard residence in a Communist country as a reason to deny issue of a passport -- others who had been residents of Communist countries were issued passports.

There's no reason to think that Oswald had any real interest in going back to the USSR. To him, the Soviet Union had failed to become a truly egalitarian society; Oswald believed that Castro's Cuba was where the true spirit of the Communist revolution had taken hold, and so his actual target was Cuba. The US government placed very strong restrictions on American citizens traveling to Cuba, but obtaining a Soviet visa would provide a tool that could help Oswald get there.

Things seemed stable enough for Oswald for a while, but his supervisors at Reily finally got fed up with his slack ways and his bad attitude, and he was fired on 19 July. He had real problems finding work. To collect unemployment benefits he had to report to the Louisiana Employment Commission the job applications he had made, and he mostly just fabricated them. That was characteristic of his behavior by that time: he routinely fabricated answers on even the most casual paperwork, giving aliases and false addresses.



* One of bogus pieces of paperwork that Lee Harvey Oswald produced while he was in New Orleans caused a fuss later. He had leaflets printed up for his FPCC chapter -- he was the only member, incidentally -- and one set was addressed back to "544 Camp Street" in New Orleans. There was in fact an office building at 544 Camp Street. That was the address for the west side of the building; the tenant on the south side of the building was Guy Banister, a private detective who had once been an FBI agent, leaving the bureau in 1954 to become a deputy police chief of New Orleans. By that time, he had acquired a drinking problem if he hadn't had one before, and he was demoted, then finally fired. He opened up his own detective agency, though it wasn't very successful. Some who knew him described him as a violent alcoholic.

Banister remains a prominent figure in conspiracy theories. What is known is that he was very Right-wing, anti-Communist, a racist -- not exactly a natural friend of Lee Harvey Oswald. Banister was occasionally employed by New Orleans Mob boss Carlos Marcello, and in the minds of conspiracists, Banister was the perfect connecting point between Oswald and a conspiracy involving the FBI, or the CIA, or the Mob, or maybe some combination of them. Conspiracists assert that Banister had been in US Navy intelligence during World War II, was employed by the CIA, and was involved in gun-running as well as attempts to overthrow Castro. In reality, he was in the FBI during the war, and no evidence was ever uncovered to support any spook connection. The CIA apparently considered making use of Banister as a possible front operation in 1960, but on investigation decided he was too unreliable for the job.

In late 1963, the FBI and the Secret Service followed up the 544 Camp Street lead and found nothing. There was no record of Oswald ever having rented an office there, and neither the owner of the building nor the live-in janitor who kept the place up could recall a trace of Oswald or FPCC there. To erode the "link" between Oswald and Banister still further, as mentioned Banister's office was around the corner on the south side of the building, and his actual address was 531 Lafayette Street. Conspiracists assert that it was possible to access Banister's office from 544 Camp Street -- but in fact it was not, there was no direct access from the building face on one street to the face on the other street.

* However, the HSCA later encountered several witnesses who claimed they had seen Oswald at Banister's office. One was Delphine Roberts, Banister's secretary. She had said nothing in the original investigation but claimed to the HSCA that Oswald was often in the office, talking to Banister. Delphine Roberts' daughter -- also named Delphine -- worked there as well, and added some further information, claiming Oswald actually lived at that location for several months, and that she met Marguerite Oswald. It was clearly established that Oswald lived the rented apartment mentioned early during the timeframe in question, and there is no record of Marguerite visiting New Orleans at the time, though she had relatives there who might be expected to have remembered such a visit.

Investigators talking to the Roberts judged them as a couple of mouthy cracker rednecks inclined to talk wild trash; they had refused to tell their story to conspiracist Anthony Summers unless he paid them. Gerald Posner interviewed the elder Roberts on the phone, with Roberts telling Posner that the Japanese should have been exterminated, that she was a descendant of Mary Queen of Scots, and that she had read the sacred lost scrolls placed in the Ark of the Covenant. The HSCA spoke to six other people who worked in Banister's office at the time, and none of them reported ever seeing Oswald around. The HSCA judged the Roberts women unreliable witnesses.

Banister had no comment on the story, since he had died abruptly of a heart attack in 1964. There were stories that a stack of FPCC pamphlets was found in his office after his death. It seems there were a few such pamphlets lying around the office, but since Banister was a hardcore Red-basher and an investigator, he had a perfectly logical reason to be interested in them. There were tales that Federal agents made off with his files after his death; the fact is that his widow passed them off to various Louisiana state organizations that might have had an interest in them. They probably otherwise would have simply been trashed, which of course also would have been proclaimed as suspicious.

So why did Oswald use the 544 Camp Street address? One reason might have been that it was only about a block from the Reily company where Oswald worked and it was handy, and it also appears that he did express some interest in renting an office there for his FPCC chapter. Another reason might have been that a Cuban anti-Castro group had rented the place the year before, and Oswald might have thought it a joke to needle the Cubans.

Banister, incidentally, was clearly linked to that group, which is not all that surprising -- they were basically next door and they were anti-Communist, which would have given him a reason to be interested in them. Besides, although conspiracists play up contacts between "suspicious" characters like Banister and the Cubans in New Orleans, in fact New Orleans had one of the biggest communities of expatriate Cubans in the US outside of Miami, and so contacts between them and other citizens of New Orleans were nothing out of the ordinary.

Although the connection between Oswald and Banister via the 544 Camp Street address is weak, some conspiracists still find it too much of a coincidence that Oswald would just happen to make use of an address linked, faintly, to a "suspicious" person like Banister. The problem is that the scenario looks more like a contrivance than a coincidence. The address was the only provable thing to connect the two men, and as far as Banister being "suspicious" went -- what of it? Conspiracists are by nature suspicious, few of them will even deny it, and it's an interesting question to wonder how much of the adult male population of New Orleans could have been made out to be at least as shady as Banister. There's no way of knowing, but saying one out of a hundred would seem perfectly reasonable, and one out of ten not out of the question. In other words, if Oswald had chosen some other address instead of 544 Camp Street, some other "suspicious" character could have been just as easily dug up from the surrounding neighborhood instead.



* On Monday, 5 August, Oswald went into a local clothing store run by a Cuban exile named Carlos Bringuier and offered to help train anti-Castro Cubans in guerrilla warfare tactics. He handed the Cubans there some story about being trained in the subject in the Marines; it appears he was playing James Bond, trying to infiltrate the organization. They didn't buy a word of it, judging he was up to no good.

On Friday, 9 August, one of the Cubans working at the store saw Oswald on a corner passing out FPCC fliers. The Cuban went and got Bringuier and another Cuban, with the three tracking down Oswald on the street and angrily confronting him. The Cubans became aggressive; Oswald folded his arms, daring them to hit him. The police arrived and arrested all four of them. The Cubans got out on bail of $25 USD each, but Oswald spent the night behind bars. According to Marina Oswald, that was the first time since they had been living in New Orleans that he hadn't spent the night with her in their apartment.

The next morning, Oswald was questioned by New Orleans police Lieutenant Francis Martello about FPCC. Oswald told him a pack of lies, and then, when the interview was over, asked to speak to an FBI agent. Agency John Quigley talked to Oswald later. Quigley was the Saturday duty officer and was obliged to respond. Oswald handed him the same pack of lies he had given Martello, giving evasive replies when asked about his FPCC chapter -- on being asked about the mysterious "Hidell" mentioned on some of the fliers, Oswald said he had never actually met him, but he had talked to him on the phone. The meeting was not kept secret and Quigley wrote up a report for FBI files afterward.

Why Oswald asked to talk to the FBI remains puzzling. Conspiracists make mountains of the incident, but it's at least as puzzling for them -- if Oswald had been working undercover for the FBI, he would have had more discreet ways of getting in touch with his handlers. He would not have blown his cover by contacting them so directly and in a way that would have gone on public record. It is clear that Oswald regarded the FBI as the author of many of his difficulties, and one can speculate that he simply wanted to throw up a smokescreen to the Feds in hopes of keeping them off his back. Incidentally, some conspiracists assert -- following up on the idea that Oswald had lived in North Dakota, supposedly established in his 1959 interview with Aline Mosby in Moscow -- that Oswald also told Martello he had lived in North Dakota, but no credible evidence supports that assertion.

In any case, the FBI did nothing to help Oswald with the police or bail him out; that afternoon, after going around with his extended family in New Orleans on the phone, a family acquaintance named Emile Bruneau called up a local official and got Oswald released. Oswald and the Cubans went before the judge on Monday, 12 August; the case against the Cubans was dismissed, Oswald was fined $10 for disturbing the peace -- which in all fairness to Oswald seems a bit unjust, since the Cubans had set on him. He paid the $10 and went his own way.

* There's an odd footnote to Oswald's confrontation with the Cubans, in that he wrote a letter postmarked 4 August to Vincent T. Lee of the New York City FPCC chapter in which Oswald said one of his street demonstrations had been attacked by Cuban exiles, with the police intervening. Since the letter was mailed several days before Oswald was arrested, conspiracists have claimed the confrontation between the Cubans and Oswald was preplanned and staged.

However, in the letter Oswald also claimed he had rented an office for FPCC but had been then thrown out, which doesn't square with the facts. The Warren Commission looked into the letter and found no evidence that Oswald had ever rented an office for FPCC, or for that matter had a confrontation with local Cubans before his dust-up on 9 August. The letter appears to have been a typical Oswald exercise in making stuff up to inflate his importance.

Did the letter hint that the confrontation had been staged? It could be vaguely interpreted that way, but it could also be vaguely interpreted as hinting that Oswald was expecting a confrontation with New Orleans Cubans sooner or later in the course of his public activities, and may have been looking forward to it or even trying to encourage it -- that is, the prophecy was self-fulfilling, Oswald was looking for trouble. What it actually said was bogus by any standard, and since it doesn't make much sense, it's problematic to trace it back to anything that does. The letter stands more significantly as evidence of Oswald's weak grasp of reality.



* After Lee Harvey Oswald got out of court on 12 August, he was interviewed by a journalist named Bill Stuckey, who ran a weekly program on Latin American affairs named THE LATIN LISTENING POST on New Orleans radio station WDSU. Stuckey was familiar with the local anti-Castro Cubans and was interested in FPCC as a means of providing a counterbalancing pro-Castro viewpoint.

Oswald liked the media attention, and in fact on Friday 16 August, he was filmed by a local TV station handing out FPCC leaflets. had two assistants helping him with the leaflets, but he had paid them $2 each to work for him for a half hour. He felt like the TV spot was a big step forward. Even better, the next morning, Saturday 17 August, Stuckey showed up at Oswald's apartment and asked him if he wanted to tape a segment for THE LATIN LISTENING POST. Oswald jumped at the chance, he taped the interview, and it was sent out over the airwaves. Oswald's eagerness to broadcast his Communist ideology to the world creates difficulties for conspiracists who assert that he was a Red agent -- it being unlikely that any such agent would go so far out of his way to advertise that he was a Red. They do, however, provide support for the tale that Oswald was impersonating a Red and trying to publicly establish his cover story.

In any case, thanks to Oswald's inclination to tell lies, the broadcast backfired on him. On Monday, 19 August, Stuckey proposed to Oswald that he debate the pro-Castro Cubans on the evening of Wednesday, 21 August. Oswald accepted, but Stuckey got to checking Oswald's background with the authorities, and of course none of it matched the falsehoods he had told. Oswald showed up for the debate, only to have Stuckey tear him to shreds on the live mike, showing him to be a fraud and disloyal to his country. Oswald was so devastated that Stuckey, feeling sorry for him, actually bought him a beer after the show was over.

The public humiliation burst Oswald's short-lived bubble. He effectively dropped his political activism, such as it was, with Marina finding his behavior increasingly erratic. Lee started playing a lot more with his rifle; Marina asked him what was going on and he replied, to her shock, he was thinking of hijacking an airliner to Cuba. He started working out in the apartment to build up his strength for the hijack attempt. Marina whispered to her daughter: "Junie, our papa is out of his mind." He tried to outline how she could help with the hijacking, to which she replied: "A pregnant woman, her stomach sticking way out, a tiny girl in one hand and a pistol in the other? ... Only a crazy man would think up something like this." Marina finally managed to convince her husband that he might come up with a less drastic way of getting to Cuba.

Lee, having thought better of hijacking a plane, decided to go to Mexico and visit the Cuban embassy in hopes of being allowed entry to Cuba. He got a tourist card from the Mexican consulate in New Orleans on 17 September, allowing him to stay in Mexico for 15 days. Ruth Paine was to take Marina and June back to Dallas; Paine showed up with her kids on 20 September, and left on Monday, 23 September, with Marina and June to stay at the Paine's house in the Dallas suburb of Irving. On her departure, Marina wasn't sure she'd ever see Lee again. He had to stay in New Orleans until 25 September to pick up an unemployment check; he cashed the check that morning and left town sometime during that day, with his apartment back rent unpaid.

* In the meantime, the New Orleans police and the local FBI had been checking out the stories Oswald had told them, and of course nothing added up. The FBI asked around and found that Oswald had no visible connections to unsavory characters or groups, in fact no connections to much of anything, and no threatening behaviors. The general conclusion was that Oswald was just a harmless nut, not too different from the many other dubious characters, only too familiar to the authorities, who liked to play at being some sort of comic-book hero and told big bogus stories.

There were claims that Oswald did have sinister associations in New Orleans. One anti-Castro Cuban, Antonio Veciana Blanch, claimed later to the HSCA that during this time, he had seen Oswald talking to a CIA officer known to him, Blanch, as "Maurice Bishop". Veciana also said that in 1973 that he, Veciana, had been paid a quarter of a million dollars by Bishop to end his relationship with the agency.

There was no record of any CIA officer named "Maurice Bishop" and nobody around Veciana had ever met or heard of "Maurice Bishop"; Veciana was never able to authenticate the CIA payoff. The HSCA judged Veciana's testimony inconclusive, believing that he might have had contacts relative to anti-Castro activities, but finding nothing particularly interesting in any of the specifics he provided. A conspiracist named Gaeton Fonzi -- who had actually been a staff counsel for the HSCA -- asserted that "Maurice Bishop" was a CIA agent named David Atlee Phillips. Phillips steadfastly responded that the charge was false, and neither Fonzi nor anybody else was ever able to produce evidence to link Phillips to the assassination in any substantial way.

A Cuban bar owner named Orest Pena came forward in 1975 to claim that Oswald met with an FBI agent several times at his bar. Pena said he hadn't come forward earlier because the FBI had threatened him. When Pena was questioned by the HSCA in 1978 he waffled, responding to requests for specifics with: "I cannot answer that question." To the extent that the HSCA managed to get facts out of him, they turned out to be demonstrably wrong. The HSCA called his testimony "frequently evasive" and dismissed him as a unreliable witness.