who was lee harvey oswald?
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oswald and marina leaving minskjoin the discussion...How would you answer the question, Who was Lee Harvey Oswald? Do you believe he acted alone?

Dear FRONTLINE,

The people who support conspiraciy theories have never been experts in any area or discipline related to the assassination. All have been shown to be amateurs with no significant credentials in any discipline.

All of the evidence after being reviewed by scientists and trained men and women in various disciplines points to the lone gunman theory, and probably always will.

There is an unconscious desire on the part of many to find greater meaning in the death of President John F. Kennedy than is possible based upon the historical case. And so for them, there simply must be a conspiracy. One has to exist, no matter what.

Philip Normandin

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your website is excellent as usual.

I consider myself a skeptic of both sides, but some things certainly lead me think that LHO--even if he was the lone gunman--did not act alone. Most auspiciously, the fact that Jack Ruby shot him. (The received explanation that Ruby was simply overcome with patriotic fervor does not work.) Likewise, the known anti-Castro affiliations of LHO, this all-too-blatant Marxist pamphleteering and going on the radio for Castro. Plus, the Mexico City trip, the fake "Oswald" phone call, and the CIA cover up are all well established.

One question that strikes me as important and that I've never seen discussed is this: When and by whom was the motorcade route determined? If the route was unknown, by anyone at any level, six weeks before the assassination, then must it not be coincidence that Oswald had a job there and much less likely that the CIA hooked him up?

Carl Sewall
Bemidji, MN

Dear FRONTLINE,

I first saw this production when it first aired in 1993. This came after a long period of personal research into the JFK assassination and, like many others, I was convinced that there was a conspiracy, and believed so all my life (I am currently 39, and was 29 in 1993). WAS, being the operative word here.

In the year prior to the 30th anniversery of the assassination I read over two dozen books, dozens of articles, viewed many, many hours of documentary footage, looked into ballistics, etc. Eventually, I came to the point that whatever the theory Lee Harvey Oswald was at the center of everything and so I studied his life to point that I could relate an oral account of every moment of his life that was accounted for (don't ask me to do this anymore!).

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Oswald acted alone for his own reasons. Indeed, Oswald was so unstable and an immature person that it is difficult to imagine any organization, whether the mafia, pro or anti-Castro Cubans, or even mysterious "Men in Black" (i.e. "renegade" secret US government agents) trusting such a person for a purported assassination plot. That Soviet intelligence and counter-intelligence turned him down (according to your program) is telling in and of itself. The KGB is not known for their discerning human resource guidelines.

After coming to that conclusion in 1993 I had the pleasure of watching your program and then buying Gerald Posner's book after seeing his interview on the program. Both these items summed up where my own thoughts had taken me, it was good to be validated!

I also recently had an opportunity to visit Dealy Plaza, and was curious to find a person preaching about the conspriacy, whis time with as many as 6 shooters in various places around Dealy Plaza!

Another interesting fact I've come across from pro-conspiracy theorists is that they overlook Oswald's attempted assassination of Gen. Edwin Walker. Court TV's Crime Library has a report on the JFK assassination on their website which never mentioned this fact until I pointed out this glaring discrepency to their editors (the report was pro-conspiracy). Of course, they made the correction, grudgingly.

One question that occurs to me is what is Gerald Posner's response to your finding the photograph that places David Ferrie and Oswald in the Texas Civil Air Patrol during a time when Posner claimed vehemently on the program that Ferrie wasn't in the Civil Air Patrol(as he was suspended)?

I don't think this undermines Mr. Posner's credibility or the fact that Oswald acted alone. I think it's pretty clear Oswald was playing both the anti-Castro in an attempt to build up his resume as a communist insurgent prior to his attempt to defect to Cuba via Mexico City. I believe Oswald just ran into Ferrie and recognizing each other struck up a conversation. Oswald would have remembered Ferrie's political persuasion as Ferrie was suspended from the Civil Air Patrol for anti-communist, far right rantings, which Oswald would have undoubtly have heard. If he did attempt to pretend to agree with Ferrie to gain access to his anti-castro activities I can't imagine he could have fooled Guy Bannister, the P.I. and ex-FBI. In any event, having come from the same town in Texas, it is difficult to imagine that David Ferrie did not remember that scrawny kid from the Civil Air Patrol who defected to the Soviet Union.

In any event, I wonder what Mr. Posner's response to that photograph is? It would be interesting to hear it.


Jack Urso
Albany, NY

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Mr. Posner's response to the Oswald-Ferrie photograph may be found in his interview which is posted on this web site in the "Interviews" section.

Details about the photograph can be found in the "Glimpses of a Life" section of this site.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm not drawing any conclusions about whether Oswald acted alone or not, but it almost seems to me that he must have had some source of outside financing in order to make several trips to Mexico, and do all the other things he was participating in prior to the assasination of JFK. It seems rather peculiar that an unemployed man, supporting a wife and children, could afford all these "luxuries".

Paul Karavas
Roswell, New Mexico

Dear FRONTLINE,

In looking at all if this information, I'm wondering if there is a possibility which has never been considered? There seems to be credible evidence that the CIA was interested in Oswald and his activities as soon as he defected to Russia and right up till the time of the assassination. It appears often it was the CIA's responsibility to provide the FBI with info on Oswald.

There were some compelling sightings in the weeks leading up to the assassination. The Odie sisters get a strange visit, and even a follow-up call providing detatiled info about "the American". Somebody asks a car salesmen about a parking garage located on the President's route, and seems to draw attention to himself by driving eratically. He also gives detailed info about himself. A guy behaves strangely at a firing range, draws attention to himself, and also identifies himself. Another characteristic about these sightings is that they seem to be designed to ensure memory of the events and comments more than the actual appearance of the person. The driver speeds and his driving is eratic. The guy at the firing range is beligerent. The visitor doesn't speak, and his bio is giving later on the phone. In these intense situations, it's easy to miss characteristics of the person's appearance, while remembering the events.

So what does it mean? I believe Oswald acted alone. I don't think he was working for anyone. Yet, people knew about him. He was monitered. It would be easy to predict his behavior. Private citizens may have been watching him. The Paines perhaps, and others, on behalf of the CIA. Perhaps a few agents in the field felt that Kennedy had screwed up the Bay of Pigs, and perhaps would do the same in Vietnam. These agents with hold info about Oswald. They convince the Paines that it is important to have Oswald in a controlled environment, such as the Book Despository, rather than have him running loose during the President's visit. Ruth Paine helps Lee get the job. Then the agents simply fail to do their job. The Paines have no choice but to believe them, since their own identity must remain hidden. In this scenerio, all the CIA agents really have done is let Oswald do what their own profile would expect him to do.

A few weeks earlier, they use an imposter to implicate Oswald, to ensure his arrest and conviction. Higher-ups find out after the fact, questioning what went wrong, and cover up activities of the rogue agents. Remember how uncomfortable Helms becomes in the interview when asked about the monitoring of Oswald in Mexico. He seems to be implying that the CIA dropped the ball, not gathering enough information on Oswald, yet there seems to be evidence that just the oppisite happened.

So why didn't the perfect crime work without any questions or suspicions? Because it was impossible to predict Oswald's behavior after the arrest. He starts screaming about being a patsy, probably intending to assign blame to the Cuban exiles in New Orleans, David Ferrie, and Bannister. The other thing no one could predict was that a second lone-gunman, and lone nut, would end up assassinating the assassin. It's because of Oswald and Ruby's behavior that questions still persist.

steve whitman

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

There is more on the web site about Oswald and the CIA. Read historian John Newman's piece on the intelligence cover up on Oswald's visit to Mexico City in the "Conspiracy" section of this site.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have been reading the comments after watching the program
a second time and a few questions for those who are sure
there was a 4th shooter.

1) Look closely at the Zapruder film - notice the angle of
Kennedy's head - how could anyone firing from the Grassy
Knoll fire a shot that traversed Kennedy's skull at the angle
of entry and exit - (I am granting you your theory that
Kennedy was shot from the front but the angle of entry and exit
is impossible from the vantage point of the Grassy Knoll).

2) The blood and brains flow out of the front of Kennedy's
head - entry wounds do not do that - only exit wounds.

3) Is it possible that Oswald was under the belief that
if he could somehow get out of Dallas he could somehow get
to Cuba and be a Hero ? Perhaps the only conspiracy was
Lee Harvey Oswald's own...

Thanks for a great program,

george watson
oakland, california

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a 27+ year veteran Police Officer and former Detective. I have always been interested in this subject and after conducting some homicide investigations, I took a closer look at the Kennedy case from a cops eye view. I believe that Oswald did the shooting (I am also a police sniper and Kennedy was never further than 100 yards from Oswald. At that range, I shoot more accurately with a low power scope. Four (4) power is plenty).

I would also like you to know an important and overlooked fact. Those who looked to the grassy knoll did so because they heard the shots coming from there. Why? because on the grassy knoll there stands a large concrete structure shaped like a parabola. This structure directed the reflective sharp sound of the rifle towards those standing on the grass and across the street. They said exactly what they believed.

Kevin Quinn
Ocean, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

The History Channel's "The Men Who Killed Kennedy" and my own research over several years has caused me to see Frontline's coverage of the JFK assaination as bogus. You have completely blown all credability with me. That is sad because I once looked to you as an unbiased and informed source.

Ron Jenkins

Dear FRONTLINE,

I must say, I am disappointed. I had to watch three separate programs on three unrelated networks to get a glimpse of a more complete story.

Both Frontline and the ABC Special with Peter Jennings used several taped quotes from author Gerald Posner, a man who claims that Oswald acted alone. Both Frontline and ABC mentioned, but did not air, the audio evidence from the Dallas Police Departments recording of the Patrolman's microphone that was stuck in the on position. CNN aired that audio recording.

Here is where the evidence of these three major networks contradict each other, and author Posner: Frontline claimed that the Motorcycle Patrolman was identified and that the "exact spot where the Patrolman should have been [in order for the audio tape to be accurate] was identified". Frontline showed this spot to be just in front of the Texas Book Depository building, at the turn onto the road where the shooting took place. Frontline interviewed the Patrollman, who stated he was about half a block away [5 seconds] from reaching that spot (but still within line of site of the Texas Book Depository.

Frontline also compared the two films that showed the assassination and the Patrolman's position at that time, confirming the Policeman's statement. The Patrolman was always within straight line's to the sounds of the gunshots as they occured. I worded that last sentence carefully.

Posner, when speaking on the ABC special, said that "The recording was made a minute later", claiming that made the tape inaccurate, as it was not a tape of the assassination. That means Posner is directly contradicting Frontline. Interesting that he did not make that claim when given the opportunity to speak on Frontline. More interesting is his failure to describe what the shots could be if they are not of the assassination.

CNN aired the audio. I would have thought sound of the fourth shot on the audio would sound like an echo. It did not. Now it becomes clear why I mention the Patrolman's position: If there was a fourth shot from the grassy knoll, the Patrolman's mike was in the proper position to record it (according the the video evidence revealed by Frontline).

I am dismayed that Frontline did not air the audio evidence, and that no network airs it in synchronization with the Zapruder film. I do not believe in the magic bullet, but after hearing the audio, I now believe in another shooter (note the number of people running up the knoll after someone in the parking lot behind, and when interviewed immediately after the shooting claiming they heard a shot from the knoll).

Thanks Frontline, for clearing everything up: The world is flat, OJ is innocent, and the government has never lied to us.

Al Paulhus

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Unfortunately, Mr. Paulhus is mistaken. What he says is FRONTLINE's reporting concerning the acoustics issue was in fact ABC's. You can read FRONTLINE's reporting in the transcript published on this site. Click on "Tapes & Transcripts" off the homepage of this site. Moreover, FRONTLINE continued its reporting on the acoustics controversy on this site. Click on the "Conspiracy" section.

Dear FRONTLINE,

The question of the lone gunman is always going to come down to the issues of possibility and probability. Was it possible for Oswald to make the shots from that location? Yes, he had sufficient training and equipment (and the diistance and timing of the shots were not terribly difficult) and he had free and easy access to the location, not through any conspiracy, but through pure chance of being hired by the supervisor of the warehouse.

Was it probable that this particular individual did the shooting from that location? Given his history, the forensic and physical evidence at the crimesite and on the victims, the accounts of those who knew him, and his clearly dysfunctional personality, there's every reason to believe that the answer is yes.

Knowing the assasin is key to understanding the crime. Oswald's personal history is one of hurt, distrust, and fantastical/delusional belief in his own importance such as that found in high school shooters from Columbine on back. We have no problem believing that those damaged boys turned to violence as a means of showing their "power" - why is it so much more difficult for some to accept Oswald's pathetic action as being on the same plane?


Sean O'Brien
Peoria, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,


Thank you for your thought provoking documentary on Lee Harvey Oswald as the line in Oliver Stones' movie from the charactor of David Fry says, this is an engima in an engima the more information that is peeled away the more complicated and difficult to pin down it becomes and I think this appplies to Oswald's life.

Your documentary does provoke some questions and thoughts which I feel I should share. I think he has to work for the CIA how does someone defect renounce his citizenship and state that he going to give up military secrets come back to this country two and half years later with no questions asked wouldn't someone who is not an agent be tried for treason? His trip to Russia was probably made to provide with him with cover to infliltrate communist organizations in this country. His actions in New Orleans are obviously that of a double agent trying to set up himself up as a communist sympathizer. How is he supporting himself while handing out pro-Castro leaflets on the streets.He obviously has contacts with David Fry and the mob who are looking to kill Kennedy both because of their rabid anti-Castro feelings and their hatred for Robert Kennedy who is a threat to them. And finally I think it is a little too conincidental that he gets a job at the Texas Book Depoistory six weeks before Kennedy is about to visit Dallas and the building provides a perfect vantage point for a good marksmen to shot from and the job provides him cover to be there.

I think a little more inquiriy should be made into the couple that are providing his family with support while he is pursuing all this activities and then admits to helping him find the job there has anyone investigated this very helpful couple? Finally his rub out within 36 hours of the shooting is icing on the cake for the fact that this was a conspiracy.

Thank you again for an informative documentary please do this topic again but don't wait another ten years please or the people who care about this will all be dead.

Steven Carlson

Dear FRONTLINE,

I recently watched your presentation of "Who was Lee Harvey Oswald" As usual frontline did a great job. I feel you gave adequate time to "conspiracy theorists" and yet remained on the course of reality as presented by the evidence. If this case involved anybody except JKK, not another thought would be given to conspiracy.

Charles Evans
Mayfield, Ky

Dear FRONTLINE,

Despite the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald is one of the most hated criminals in American history, one has to admit that he was a rather clever man. However, his crime is covered with small mistakes that a man of skill should have fixed.

For example, why buy the gun under an ID which can be traced rather than with cash in a store? Why not wear gloves during the shooting? Why leave the gun right at the crime scene? And to me the most puzzling question is this: if Oswald spent so much time planning the assassination, as it is clear he did, why not admit it once he was caught? The only thing that could drive one individual to kill another human being is a deep hatred and inner motive. If Oswald was so determined to kill JFK to glorify himself and the assassin acted completely alone, he would have admitted his crime. Instead, he had a series of well-rehersed lies which cover up his crime and point to no one else.

In my opinion, the Mob was behind the killing. They were going to pay Oswald a large sum of money to kill the President and make the crime appear as though it was committed by one person. The mob claimed that they would pick up Oswald for the get-away but the never came through. Thus Oswald goes into a panic, shoots the police officer, and gets arrested. In order to silence Oswald, the mob then has Ruby, who was dying from terminal cancer anyway, kill Oswald. Ruby had a connection inside the police department who intentionally slowed Oswald's transportation to the armored vehicle to make Jack Ruby's killing look unplanned.

The Mob had the motive and the means to kill JFK, and in my opinion they carried out the crime very successfully.

Eric Sweigard
Elkton, Maryland

Dear FRONTLINE,

Oh swell. A three hour special on the murder of JFK that ignores all of the evidence that has emerged in the last forty years. Has Frontline been bought out by the matrix along with the rest of American television?

lila york
new york, new york

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for the fascinating account of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. I believe that this is the first documentary that has put flesh on this shadowy figure. I was 14 years old when the President was killed. Like most people I do not believe that Oswald acted alone. However, after 40 years, I've come to the conclusion that we will never know what really happened on that dark day in Dallas.

Reginald Burnette
Brooklyn, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I must say I was disappointed overall with Frontline's "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" I remain a skeptic on the assassination. Over the years, I have gone back and forth between believing the single shooter explanation and seriously considering various aspects of the many conspiracy theories. This documentary did an excellent job, I felt, in showing that Oswald himself did fire from the sixth floor window. I also believe your examination of Oswald's Mexican journey successfully disproved the idea that this incident was part of some sort of conspiracy to create a "fake" Oswald in order to build a better case against him. And in regards to the slaying of Officer Tippit, I found the evidence compelling that Oswald did carry it out and had ample time in which to do it.

But there are still some unanswered questions which I felt were glossed over. I was disappointed in the way the last part of the show became a virtual P.R. piece for Gerald Posner. I am frankly tired of Posner and his smug, authoritarian tone and the way in which he has been appointed de facto official spokesman on the assassination by the mainstream media . Posner sometimes uses the same approach as the one he criticizes the conspiracy theorists of employing: if the evidence doesn't support his conclusion, he'll find anyway he can of bending it to make it fit.

Also, I have watched the digitally restored Zapruder film on DVD many times, stopping it frame by frame. In contrast to your explanation of the Magic Bullet, I am absolutely convinced that Governor Connally shows no signs of having been hit immediately following the wound to Kennedy's throat. Kennedy moves his hands away from his neck, down towards his chest and begins to slump over when Connally finally grimaces in pain. As shown in the diagram created by Failure Analysis Associates, Connally is still turned to the front when the bullet passes through Kennedy's throat on its way to striking the Governor's wrist. But in the Zapruder film, he has clearly turned around in response to the sounds behind him before he appears to be struck. In fact, his body is twisted so far around, that his left hand is visible above the line of the door, and when he starts to fall down, he almost falls backwards.

It seems that at some point the makers of this documentary decided to get completely on board with the lone gunman theory. That's their prerogative. But presenting a single computer diagram as the Word of God and allowing no experts from the other side to refute this conclusion seem uncharacteristically unbalanced for Frontline.

Jim Chadwick
Los Angeles, CA

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posted november 20, 2003

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