Lee Harvey Oswald


Lee Harvey Oswald, perhaps one of most well known names in modern day history. Lee was only 24 years old when he was arrested for the assassination of JFK. Here we give a brief but revealing insight into those 24 years.

1939 Oct. 18

Lee Harvey Oswald is born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Marguerite and Robert Oswald, Sr.  Two months before his birth, his father dies of a heart attack.  Marguerite Oswald is left alone to care for Lee and his two older brothers -- his half-brother, John Pic, and Robert Jr.


Marguerite sends the boys into an orphanage and later to boarding school.  Lee is rejected at first because he is too young.  But his mother reapplies and sends him off to the orphanage after he turns four.


At age 12, Lee and his mother move to New York City, where they live in a small apartment in the Bronx.  While Marguerite works days in a dress shop, Lee spends his time alone at the public library and museums -- and endless hours riding the New York City subway system.

Although enrolled in the eighth grade, Lee doesn't set foot in school for almost two months.  One day, a truant officer notices Lee at one of his havens, the Bronx Zoo.

Lee is taken to court and then sent to a youth detention center for three weeks of psychiatric evaluation.  His social worker, Evelyn Siegel, recalls him vividly.  "He was a skinny, unprepossessing kid.  He was not a mentally disturbed kid.  He was just emotionally frozen.  He was a kid who had never developed a really trusting relationship with anybody.  From what I could gather, he really interacted with no one.  He made his own meals.  His mother left at around 7:00 and came home at 7:00 and he shifted for himself.  You got the feeling of a kid nobody gave a darn about."

One day in New York City Lee comes across a leaflet about the impending execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted of spying for Russia.  Journalist Edward J. Epstein traces Lee's political awakening to this moment.  "The first instance we have of Lee Harvey Oswald's politics is that he picked up a leaflet in New York City about the execution of the Rosenbergs.  And as he reads this, it begins to show him that there's a way of finding himself by opposing the established order."


The truant officer again comes after Lee. He and his mother flee New York and move back to New Orleans, to the edge of the French Quarter.  It is an area of strip joints and gambling joints where every hustler and pimp in New Orleans plies his trade.  But Lee may have been diverted from the neighborhood's vices by his interest in socialism.  He tries to join the Socialist Party's Youth League, but there is no chapter in New Orleans.


Lee joins the Civil Air Patrol, a youth auxiliary of the Air Force.  He tries to lie his way into the Marines but is rejected as too young.


Just after turning seventeen, Oswald enlists in the Marines.  It is the height of the Cold War.  Oswald receives extensive training in marksmanship.  Fellow Marines remember him as a poor shot, but the record indicates otherwise, and the sergeant in charge of his training called Oswald  "a slightly better than average shot for a Marine, excellent by civilian standards."

Oswald shoots a 212 on the rifle range, earning a "sharpshooter" qualification.


Lee is shipped out for a posting at an Air Force defense base at Atsugi, Japan.  Atsugi is also a CIA base.  The CIA program there involves the U-2 spy plane, the mission of which was to invade Russian air space and photograph Soviet strategic sites.


A year after entering the Marines, Oswald wounds himself with a pistol that he's not supposed to have and is court-martialed for possession of an illegal firearm and put on K.P. duty.


After attacking the sergeant who he believes is responsible for his K.P. punishment, Oswald is court-martialed a second time and put into the brig.  He comes out an embittered person.

During this year, Oswald starts learning Russian and begins openly espousing the virtues of Marxism to fellow Marines.


Nearing the end of his duty in California, Oswald starts making careful preparations to go to Russia, applying first to the Albert Schweitzer college in Switzerland.  After getting his passport, he travels first to France and England and on to Helsinki, one of the few cities where an American can get a visa to Russia on short notice.

Oct. 17

On his second day in Moscow, Oswald tells his Intourist guide he wants to defect because he doesn't approve of the U.S. way of life.

In his later written appeal he says he wants Soviet citizenship because  "I am a communist and a worker and I have lived in a decadent capitalist society where the workers are slaves."  The KGB considers his request, but Vladimir Semichastny, the former head of the KGB who had handled Oswald's case, says their first reaction was to refuse him permission to stay.

Oswald is shocked by the Soviets' refusal to give him asylum.  A short time later, he is found in his hotel bathtub with slit wrists.  Unconscious, he is taken to the hospital and afterwards transferred to the psychiatric ward.

Oct. 31

Oswald goes to the U.S. Embassy to renounce his U.S. citizenship and demands to see the U.S. Consul, Richard Snyder.  Says Snyder:  "He also volunteered the information that he'd been -- while in the Marines -- a radar technician and that when he became a Soviet citizen, he intended to offer to the Soviet authorities everything that he had learned."  Snyder reports Oswald's intentions to Washington.  Marines change their radar codes and begin proceedings for an "undesirable discharge" for Oswald.

Yekaterina Furtseva, the highest-ranking woman in the Politburo under Nikita Khrushchev, champions Oswald's cause and demands the KGB reverse its decision and allow him to stay.

1960 Jan. 4

Oswald is told by Soviet authorieties he is being sent to Minsk.  With the ordeal in Moscow over, Oswald now has the chance to become what he had always wanted to be, a model young Marxist.  Soviet authorities set him up in style.  Despite a chronic housing shortage, he is given a choice apartment, a luxury unheard of for a young bachelor.

In Minsk, Oswald's job is to build prototypes of new models at the radio and television factory.  The KGB keeps Oswald under constant surveillance and co-opts most of the people he meets.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, KGB officer Vacheslav Nikonov reviewed the entire Oswald file.  He says:  "Oswald looked very suspicious to the KGB and to the [Minsk] factory authorities because he was not interested in Marxism.  He didn't attend any Marxist classes.  He didn't read any Marxist literature and he didn't attend even the labor union meetings.  So the question was, what was he doing there?"

Shunned by his co-workers, Oswald befriends some college students interested in learning English.

1961 Jan. 20

John F. Kennedy is sworn in as President of the United States.

Jan. 26

Oswald's mother arrives at the White House to ask for help in locating her son.  She is not the only one asking questions:  several government agencies have begun tracking Oswald in Russia.  No one has heard from him in over a year.

Feb. 13

Disillusioned with life in the Soviet Union, Oswald notifies the U.S. Embassy that he wishes to return to America.  He writes in his diary,  "The work is drab.  The money I get has nowhere to be spent.  As my Russian improves, I become increasingly conscious of just what sort of a society I live in."

April 30

Oswald marries Marina Prusakova at the home of her uncle, just six weeks after being introduced to her at a Palace of Culture dance.  Because her uncle worked for Soviet domestic intelligence, questions later were raised about whether Marina herself was an agent.

The KGB continues bugging Oswald's apartment and monitors everything that goes on inside.  According to Vladimir Semichastny:  "We concluded that he was not working for American intelligence.  His intellectual training experience and capabilities were such that it would not show the FBI and the CIA in a good light if they used people like him."

1962 June 2

After persisting for 18 months, Oswald finally gets permission from Soviet and U.S. authorities to return to the U.S. with Marina and their daughter, June.  Oswald's two-and-a-half-year Russian journey is over.  The Oswalds move in with Lee's brother in Fort Worth, Texas.

Soon after, the FBI interviews him about his time in the Soviet Union.  According to the FBI report, he is in an aggressive, surly mood and gives evasive answers.


The Oswalds move to Dallas, Texas, where they are befriended by a group of Russian emigres who help them settle in.  One of them, George de Mohrenschildt, had originally come from Minsk and helps Oswald find a job at a photo lab downtown.

Oswald uses the photo lab's equipment to forge a new identity, including a Selective Service card, in the name of Alek J. Hidell.  It is the first alias Oswald is known to have used.  Oswald is beginning to construct a secret life.  He opens a Post Office Box to receive mail for himself and Hidell.

1963 February

Using his alias, Oswald orders a .38 pistol by mail and soon after, a cheap Italian rifle.  He apparently goes on a reconnaissance mission to General Walker's house.  "Oswald had an entire book of operations for his Walker action, including photographs of Walker's house, photographs of an area that he intended to stash the rifle, maps that he had drawn very carefully, statements of political purpose,"  says investigative writer Gerald Posner.  "In the end, he wanted this to be an important historical feat and this was to be the documentation left behind.  He viewed General Walker as an up-and-coming Adolf Hitler and that he would be the hero who stopped him on his rise to power."

Late March

Oswald's guns arrive in the mail.  A few days later, dressed all in black, with the new pistol in his waist and carrying his new rifle, Oswald surprises Marina while she is hanging laundry in the backyard.  She bursts out laughing.  He tells her to take his picture.  The backyard photographs remain among the most incriminating and controversial pieces of evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald.  The Mannlicher-Carcano rifle Oswald was holding was the same one used to kill President Kennedy.


April 6

Oswald is fired from his job at the photo lab.  No one knows where he spends his days.  Marina says he spent a few evenings shooting target practice.

April 10

A single shot is fired through the window of Ret. General Walker's study, just missing him.  Oswald does not return home that night until about 11:30, according to Priscilla Johnson McMillan  (a friend of Marina's and author of Marina and Lee).  McMillan says that according to Marina,  "Lee came in -- white, covered with sweat, and looking quite wild in the eyes.  And he said, 'I shot Walker.'"  Oswald explained to Marina that he had jumped on a bus, buried the rifle and then he'd taken another bus.  And he said when he took the bus,  "There they lose the scent."  When the radio broadcasts that a boy on the spot had seen one or two cars in the alleyway behind Walker's house, Oswald laughed, according to Marina.  He exploded in laughter and said,  "Americans are so spoiled.  They think you always have to have a car, whereas I got away on my own two feet."

The Walker case would not be resolved until after the Kennedy assassination, when Marina tells her story and the Walker bullet is linked to Oswald's ammunition.  No co-conspirators were ever identified.

April 24

Oswald arrives in New Orleans alone, leaving his family behind in Texas with a friend.  He is about to enter the most mysterious and perplexing chapter of his short life and the murky trail he left behind in New Orleans still defies a complete explanation.  If there was a plot to kill President Kennedy, then it was probably hatched in New Orleans.  It was here that Lee Oswald may have crossed paths with men that hated Kennedy and wanted him eliminated.


Hiding much about his past from his new employers at the Reily Coffee Company in New Orleans, he starts work as a maintenance man.  Marina and June move into his new apartment on Magazine Street.

Oswald soon grows bored with his menial job.  He shows an interest in guns. But Marxist politics are still his ruling passion and his hero is Fidel Castro.  He writes to the leading pro-Castro group in the U.S., the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), offering to start a New Orleans chapter.  The committee discourages him, but he ignores them and begins printing his own pro-Castro leaflets and phony membership cards.  He asks Marina to help him disguise the fact that he is the only member of his organization.

He distributes the leaflets on the streets of New Orleans and continues to exaggerate the size of his one-man chapter.  He also rents a new P.O. Box in the name of A.J. Hidell.

July - August

On July 19, Oswald is fired from the Reily Coffee Company.  During the rest of the summer, his activities are puzzling.  In August, he approaches the leader of an anti-Castro group, Carlos Bringuier, who says Oswald offered to help in the guerrilla fight against Castro.  Oswald also writes the Fair Play for Cuba Committee claiming that one of his pro-Cuba street demonstrations had been attacked by Cuban exiles.  No such incident occurred.

August - September

According to testimony given by Marina after the assassination, it appears that Oswald spends parts of his days in late August and the first part of September dry-firing his rifle.  Patricia McMillan says that Marina told her that Oswald wanted to go fight for Castro and that he began hatching a scheme to hijack a plane to Havana.

Sept. 25

On this date, Oswald disappears from New Orleans.  His whereabouts the night of the 25th is still one of the intriguing mysteries of his life.  There is testimony that some time between 7 and 10 P.M., he made a call to a leader of the Socialist Labor Party in Houston.  The Warren Commission believed Oswald took a bus from New Orleans to Houston, but there are no records to confirm that conclusion.

But Oswald may have first traveled to Dallas before arriving in Houston.  More than 200 miles away in Dallas, three men -- two Latins and an American -- show up unexpectedly at the doorstep of three young Cuban exiles whose father headed an anti-Castro organization.  Sylvia and Annie Odio maintain that Oswald was one of the three men;  he is introduced as "Leon Oswald."  "Leon" says nothing, but the other two -- Leopoldo and Angelo -- ask for help raising money for the anti-Castro cause.  Suspicious, the Odio sisters decline and the men drive off.  Sylvia Odio's confessor, Father McCann, helps confirm that the date of the men's visit might have been Sept. 25, the only night Oswald could possibly have been in Dallas.

Two days later, Sylvia Odio receives a call from one of the men:  "They were trying to sell me the American because they spoke that he was a marksman, that he had been an ex-Marine."  Odio said Oswald was referred to as "kind of loco""He's been telling us the Cubans should have murdered -- or should have assassinated President Kennedy right after the Bay of Pigs and they didn't have any guts to do it.  They should do it and it was a very easy thing to do, at the time."  Leopoldo and Angelo have never been identified and the meaning of this incident remains elusive.  If Oswald was there, was he infiltrating another anti-Castro group or was someone setting him up to take the blame for the Kennedy assassination?

Dallas Oct. 2

Oswald departs on bus 332 from Mexico City and arrives in Dallas the next day.  He takes a room at the YMCA.  He has no job and no means to support his family.  Marina and June are living with their friend, Ruth Paine, in Irving, a Dallas suburb.  Marina is expecting their second child.

Oct. 14

A neighbor of Mrs. Paine's mentions a possible job opening at the Texas School Book Depository.  The next day Oswald applies and is hired as a warehouse clerk to fill orders for textbooks.

Oct. 20

Marina gives birth to Audrey Marina Rachel Oswald.

Nov. 19

The Dallas Times Herald publishes details and maps of the president's upcoming visit to Dallas and the motorcade route.  The planned route takes the motorcade into Dealey Plaza and right by the Texas School Book Depository.

Nov. 20

One of the boarders at the rooming house recalls that on this night, Oswald intently watched a television news story about President Kennedy's scheduled visit to Dallas.

Nov. 21

After work this day, Oswald asks a co-worker to give him a lift to Irving.  He arrives at the Paine home without calling first.  He asks Marina to come join him in Dallas.  But still angry over a fight they'd recently had, and the last months of estrangement, she refuses to make up.  On three separate occasions that night, says Patricia McMillan, Marina refused Oswald's entreaties to join him in Dallas.

Some time that evening, Oswald enters the Paine's garage, where he keeps his rifle.  He retires to bed early.

Nov. 22, 1963

6:30 AM:  Oswald wakes up early.  Marina is still sleeping.  He leaves her $170 and his wedding ring.

7:15 AM:  He leaves the house, carrying an oblong package wrapped in brown paper.  He tells the neighbor giving him a ride to work that the package contains curtain rods for his room in Oak Cliff.

On the sixth floor of the School Book Depository, Oswald spends the morning filling book orders.

Noon:  Oswald's co-workers go down to lunch.  Oswald shouts for them to send the elevator back up.

On the sixth floor of the depository, someone has screened off a corner window with boxes.  Two witnesses spot a man with a rifle at the sixth-floor window.  They assume he is there to protect the president.  Oswald later claims that at this time he was eating lunch with two fellow workers and had then gone to buy a Coke, but his co-workers denied having lunch with him.

12:30 PM:  The tragedy unfolds in 21 seconds of eight-millimeter film shot by Abraham Zapruder.  As the president's motorcade rounds the corner of Dealey Plaza in front of the Book Depository, it slows.  In the background, a little girl runs beside the limousine.  Suddenly there's a gunshot.  Governor Connolly hears it and turns.  The little girl stops and looks around.  Three seconds later, a second shot.  A bullet passes through the President's throat.  It hits Connally in the back and he starts falling.  Mrs. Kennedy turns to her husband.  Something's wrong.  She looks into his face.  Then the fatal head shot.

Within three minutes of the shooting, Oswald walks out the front door of the Texas School Book Depository.  He boards a bus, but jumps out and hails a taxi when the bus gets stuck in traffic.  He asks the taxi to drop him a couple of blocks away from his rooming house in Oak Cliff.

1 PM:  Oswald hurries to his room, puts a .38 revolver in his waistband, and leaves.

1:16 PM:  Officer J.D. Tippit is gunned down, killed instantly next to his car, while patrolling in Oak Cliff.  There are seven eyewitnesses to the shooting, including Jack Tatum who had the clearest view of the killer:  "I was within 10, 15 feet of that individual and it was Lee Harvey Oswald."  The FBI crime lab found that Tippit was killed by bullets fired from a gun with a bored-out barrel, a barrel just like Oswald's .38.  Ballistics tests on bored-out guns can never be completely conclusive.  However, marks on the cartridges allegedly recovered at the scene did match the hammer on Oswald's .38 revolver.

1:40 PM:  Oswald enters the Texas Theater, slipping by without buying a ticket.  Someone sees him and calls the police.  Police enter the theatre.  Oswald draws his revolver.  After a struggle, he is apprehended.

2:00 PM:  Oswald arrives at Dallas police headquarters for questioning in the Tippit shooting;  he is also becoming a suspect in the Kennedy assassination.  Police have discovered that he was the only employee missing from the School Book Depository.

Police recover the rifle and the FBI traces its purchase to an A. Hidell.

11:26 PM:  The original complaint that the police department filed on Oswald, around midnight on the 22nd of November, states that Lee Oswald did, "in furtherance of an international communist conspiracy, assassinate President John F. Kennedy."

That night, as Air Force One brings John Kennedy's body home to Washington, President Johnson is afraid that Oswald's apparent communist connections could spark an international crisis.  Johnson orders the district attorney to drop any reference to a communist conspiracy.  This is a year after the Cuban missile crisis, when the world had come to the brink of nuclear war.

Oswald will be interrogated for two days, but he never confesses.


RIYAN Productions