Lee Harvey Oswald

Assassin of President John F. Kennedy

Paternal 17th cousin, 3x removed.

I've always believed that history should not be re-written just to improve the narrative on what has happened, good or bad. I believe the same thing when it comes to documenting my family tree. Whether a person was known for their good deeds, or for the evil that they committed during their lifetime, if that individual is a relative, I endeavor to do my best to publish the truth about that particular relative...along with my own thoughts, if appropriate.

Such is the case with this infamous family member, Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated US President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd, 1963. 

My relationship to Oswald is distant, with our common relative being my 19th Great Grandparents, Sir Robert Goushill (1350-1403) and his wife, Duchess of Norfolk, Elizabeth FitzAlan(1366-1425), who were Oswald's 16th Great Grandparents. 

Although Oswald's assassination of JFK took place almost 60 years ago, if you mention the even today, most people know about, and have seen the event through old news footage. JFK's assassination spawned more conspiracy theories than any other even of the 20th century, and although the Warren Commission (on which sat another cousin of mine, then future President Gerald Ford) found that Oswald acted as the lone gunman in JFK's assassination, a significant number of people still doubt this finding. Conspiracies abound from "The Mob" ordering JFK's killing, to the CIA, Russia and even Vice-President Lyndon Johnson (who JFK's wife, Jacqueline Kennedy said she believed was behind her husband's murder) are just some of the theories of who "really" killed the President.

Lee Harvey Oswald was born on October 18, 1939 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Robert Edward Lee Oswald and Marguerite Frances Claverie. My relationship to Oswald is through his paternal lineage, and it is interesting to note that Robert Edward Lee Oswald identified as a distant relative of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, to whom I am also distantly related.

Robert died from a heart attack 2 months before Lee's birth. Marguerite moved the family from New Orleans to Dallas, Texas in 1944. Lee entered his 1st year of school in 1945 in Dallas. Over the course of Lee's schooling, which ended at age 17 after being enrolled in 22 different schools. During this time, Oswald repeatedly displayed behavioral and disciplinary problems. In 1952, Oswald underwent a psychiatric evaluation and was diagnosed as "schizoid" and "passive-aggressive" tendencies. The evaluation went on further to blame much of Oswald's behavior on his mother's indifference toward Lee.

At age 17, Oswald quit school for the final time and joined the Marine Corps. He enlisted on October 24th, 1956 a week after his 17th birthday. Since Oswald was under the age of 18, his half-brother signed Lee's papers as his legal guardian. Oswald trained in Mississippi at the Kessler Air Force Base and became an Aviation Electronics Operator. Unlike during his time in public and high school where he struggled, Oswald finished 7th in a class of 30 students. Oswald's training in the use of radar required a security clearance which he received despite later reports that, by this time, Oswald had been enamored by the Communist (socialist) doctrine.

Oswald was stationed in Japan where he was assigned to the Marine Air Control Squadron 1 at the Naval Air Facility Atsugi outside of Tokyo. During his training, Oswald underwent the requisite training in shooting. During his testing, Oswald scored high enough to be designated as a sharpshooter in 1956, a rank which was later downgraded to marksman in 1959.

Oswald was court-martialed twice while in the Marines, the first time for accidentally shooting himself in the elbow with with an unauthorized .22 calibre handgun and then the second time for fighting with a sergeant that he thought was responsible for his first court-martial. Oswald was demoted from Private First-Class to Private, and was briefly imprisoned. He ran into another disciplinary situation when, while on guard duty in the Philippines he fired his rifle into the jungle without explanation. 

While in the Marines, Oswald earned the nickname Oswaldskovich due to his pro-Soviet sentiments. Considering the situation in the 1950's with the "Red Scare", Oswald was either very brave, or very stupid, to openly discuss such issues, especially while in the US Military.

Eventually Oswald transferred back to El Toro in California, where he continued his training in aircraft surveillance. One of the officers at El Toro later described Oswald as a "very competent" crew chief and "brighter than most people".

Oswald received a hardship discharge from the Marines on September 11, 1959, in order for him to care for his mother, Marguerite. Prior to leaving the Marines, Oswald had begun to teach himself to read, write and speak Russian. At a proficiency test given by the Marines in 1959, Oswald scored "poor" in speaking and understanding spoken Russian, but scored better in reading and writing in the Russian language.

In October, 1959, Oswald travelled from the US to France, then on to England before flying to Helsinki, Finland. Within a few days Oswald obtained a visa to visit Russia. He travelled by train from Helsinki and arrived in Moscow on October 16th, 2 days after his visa had been issued. Although the visa was only valid for 1 week, Oswald had plans to stay in Russia permanently. 

Upon arrival in Moscow, Oswald made his desire to become a Soviet citizen known to his tour guide and other Russian officials, but none of them understood his desire to defect to the Soviet Union, finding his reasons incomprehensible. On October 21st, the day that his visa expired, Oswald was told that his request to become a Soviet citizen had been denied. He was told that he would have to leave the Soviet Union that evening, but Oswald had other plans - he was determined to stay.

Oswald cut his left wrist causing a minor but visible wound. He had done this shortly before his tour guide was to arrive to escort him to the train station to leave Russia. When he was discovered, he told his shocked guide that he wanted to die in Russia rather than return to the United States. He was taken to a hospital and put under psychiatric observation.

During his hospital stay, Oswald met with a number of Soviet officials telling each one that he was a Communist and that he wanted to stay in Russia, showing them his Marine Corps discharge papers in the process. On October 31st, 1959, Oswald appeared at the US Consulate in Moscow to announce his intention to become a citizen of the Soviet Union and leave the US.

Once the Soviets finally accepted Oswald's request, he was sent to Minsk. He had hoped to stay in Moscow and attend Moscow State University, but he found himself assigned the position of a lathe operator at a radio and television manufacturing plant. By January, 1961, Oswald wrote in his journal that he had started to rethink staying in Russia, finding it drab and boring. Having never formally renouncing his US citizenship, Oswald wrote to the US Embassy in Moscow and requested the return of his passport so that he could return to the US, but only if all charges against him were dropped. 

In March, 1961, Oswald had met Marina Prusakova and the two were married 6 weeks later. Their daughter, June,  was born on February 15, 1962. Later that year, after applying for a visa at the US Embassy for Marina and June, the Oswald family left the Soviet Union and travelled to the United States, settling in the  Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. Oswald's mother and brother also lived in the area.

Oswald held a number of jobs - unsuccessfully - when he returned to the States. From information that I have found, he once again began to pursue Communist interests when he was back on American soil and attempted to form his own branch of an American-based group that supported the Castro regime in Cuba. Prior to the events leading up to that fateful day in Dallas in 1963, Oswald reportedly went to Mexico in an attempt to get a visa to visit Cuba, but it was denied. He also visited the Soviet embassy in Mexico during the same trip.

I also discovered that Oswald was a person of interest (after the JFK assassination) in the attempted shooting of former General Edwin Walker on April 10th, 1963. Walker was an outspoken anti-communist and segregationist who had been relieved of duty in 1961 for espousing his beliefs in the form of right-wing literature distributed to his troops. Reports state that Oswald took aim at Walker through a window from less than 100 feet away from Walker, but missed when the bullet hit the frame of the window. 

After Oswald's failed attempt at getting a visa from the Cuban embassy in Mexico, he returned to Dallas and then got a job at the Texas School Book Depository on October 16th. This is the same building that Oswald shot the President as his motorcade passed by on November 22nd. It is important to note that Oswald did not drive, so he spent his work weeks in Dallas, living in a boarding house and went home to his family in Irving, Texas (12 miles away) on weekends. On October 20th, 1963, the Oswald's 2nd daughter, Audrey was born.

After his visit to the Soviet embassy in Mexico, the Dallas branch of the FBI took notice of Oswald and tried to meet with him at his home in Irving. However, each time an agent showed up at the residence in Irving, Oswald was at work in Dallas. Oswald then attempted to speak with the FBI agent, Special Agent James P. Hosty in person at the Dallas office, but the agent was not available. Oswald left a note for Special Agent Hosty, but the contents of that note were destroyed and there is debate as to what the note actually said.

Prior to President Kennedy's arrival in Dallas, several newspapers published the route of the motorcade, which was to pass by the Texas School Book Depository. Although Oswald normally travelled from Irving to Dallas on Monday mornings, and back on Friday evenings with a colleague, Wesley Frazier, on the days leading up to the assassination, Oswald asked Frazier to take him back to Irving so that he could pick up some curtain rods, and then bring him back to Dallas the following morning.

The actual events that took place on that fateful November day in 1963 are well documented and were even captured on film. The events, while important, are too numerous and involved to detail here. There is a very detailed account that can be read at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_John_F._Kennedy

After the assassination of President Kennedy, Oswald was found and arrested in the Texas Theatre. He was taken to the Dallas Police Headquarters where he was questioned in the murder of police officer J.D. Tippit and subsequently in the assassination of President Kennedy. Oswald denied killing officer Tippit and President Kennedy during his interrogation at the Dallas Police Headquarters. It is interesting to note that Oswald did not have legal representation during his interrogation until, after requesting representation several times during his interrogation, H. Louis Nichols, President of the Dallas Bar Association met with him in his cell the following day. Oswald refused to have Nichols represent him, instead requesting John Abt (counsel for the Communist Party USA) or for a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union. However, neither could be reached either on Saturday or Sunday.

On Sunday morning, at 11:21 CST, Oswald was being escorted through the basement of the Police Headquarters to a waiting armored car that was to transport him to the county jail. This is when Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, pulled a gun out and shot Oswald in the abdomen at point-blank range. Oswald would die at 1:07 pm at Parkland Memorial Hospital, the same hospital that President Kennedy had died at 2 days earlier.  As with the assassination of President Kennedy 2 days earlier, the event was caught on film. Oswald would never stand trial for the the murder of President John F. Kennedy, or for the murder of officer Tippit. 

With the death of Oswald, any chance of a full investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy through a full trial ended. Even Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby, died while awaiting a 2nd trial after his first conviction was overturned. This left Americans - and the world - with many questions, but few answers. The Warren Commission did investigate the assassination and determined that Oswald acted on his own, and that he was the sole gunman in the murder of the President. However, many questions remain about that horrific November day in Dallas, and those questions continue to fuel conspiracy theories around the world.

Since I was a young child (many, many years ago now!), I have heard the story of President Kennedy and his assassination. Although the assassination took place before I was born, it has become a part of the fabric of history. President Kennedy's story continues to pop up in new television programs and movies, as does that of his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald. Each story seems to investigate a different theory as to whether the President was killed by Oswald as a lone gunman, or whether Oswald was simply the fall guy for a larger, even darker plot against the President.

Even prior to my discovery that Oswald was a very distant cousin, something about the Kennedy assassination has never sat well with me. How could the Secret Service have allowed unsecured buildings along the route of the motorcade? Why weren't all buildings looking down on the motorcade secured? Why were areas along the route, such as the area by Daly Plaza that contained shrubs and fences, not guarded correctly? Why wasn't security tighter in the Dallas Police Headquarters? Why were news cameras, reporters and members of the pubic allowed in the area where Oswald was being moved to the armored vehicle? How could one person, someone who had purportedly missed another assassination target standing only 100 feet away manage to shoot President Kennedy while he was in a moving vehicle at a much greater distance, and get off 3 shots so quickly? Why did people that spoke Russian as their native language laud Oswald's command of the language, but when the FBI followed up on his visit to the Soviet embassy in Mexico get reports that he spoke Russian poorly? Why did Oswald shoot the President, yet have no escape plan? He didn't drive, and he must have known that he would be reported missing from the Texas School Book Depository after the assassination - why hide in a crowd in a theatre? If he wanted to be caught and to take credit for the killing, why did he deny his involvement?

Researching this infamous relative has, unfortunately, raised more questions for me than answers. It has also piqued my curiosity as to why the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, said that she thought the Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, was behind her husbands murder.

What do you think?

© 2023 by William B. Taylor

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon