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?


Thank you Frontline for airing this special. I was 10 when President Kennedy was assassinated and I vividly recall that weekend. When in college, I became convinced that a conspiracy existed after reading several books. My opinion was reinforced after watching Stone's JFK. However, I am now convinced after watching your show that Oswald was a "lone nut". I especially liked the KGB agents who thought he was useless. Thank you for telling it like it is. You have done the country a great service.

Paul Mehr
Milltown, NJ


I would like to see the conspiracy advocates address the positive evidence for Oswald being the assassin. He seems to be so clearly involved and likely the lone assassin.

Finding isolated errors in some of the evidence will not substitute for presenting a complete proven case themselves.

Tom Gaumer
Denver, Colorado


The pain of Kennedy's death was/is great, but all the more intensified by the fact that the government classified documents, and in so doing, created the toxic secrecy that keeps the wound of his murder open.

And perhaps the saddest thing for me is that the American people did not demand transparency, so that the truth, whatever it is, could be revealed. This week of programs on Kennedy's death confirms my sense that there needs to be yet another investigation, this time with all the evidence reviewed in the public eye.

Thank you for creating this forum for discussion.

Sara Cobb
Washington DC, DC


Your program on Oswald did a great job in clearing away some of the fog from conspiracy theories and dispelling the most unfounded allegations. However, I was disappointed that you did not include in your televised program the information that a 2001 accoustics analysis supports the grassy knoll/4th shot theory - although you discuss this on your website.

You also note that a single bullet could have passed through two men, hitting bone, and emerged undistorted because it had slowed down. But is this likely, or only a scientific possibility? And what of the initial impact through the dense muscle and cartilage of the neck and throat, which have practically no fat. Remember, the bullet was found in the most peculiar way, lying on a gurney as though it had fallen out of the victim's pants. Both elements strain credulity.

Finally, skeptics of the conspiracy theories often suggest that the perpetrators of such ideas are unwilling or unable to accept the fact that a random act by a nobody could so violently and drastically change our world. A good existential point, but does this explanation hold water?

America is a violent, gun-loving nation, brought up on the myth of the frontier, in which perhaps our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, was shot and killed by a deranged murderer in conspiracy with a bunch of losers, an event which resonates deep in our national lore. Huey Long was shot and killed, Garfield was shot and killed, and T. Roosevelt was shot at. So, does it really make sense that all the conspiracy theorizing is an hysterical inability to accept a murder of our president?

Many might have been affected this way. But I think a lot of people spun conspiracy theories for another reason: they smelled something foul and sinister. They smelled the hatred of Kennedy in the deep South and especially in Texas. They smelled the unsavory elements Kennedy and his brother had unwisely associated with. They smelled the burgeoning power of the mob, and its links to government, of that time. Interestingly, some of the most vigorous investigations of possible conspiracy have been done by British writers and film makers.

Larry Deblinger
Nyack, New York


Congratulations for a fine job, and especially for discovering the photograph showing Oswald and David Ferrie together at a Civil Air Patrol function. I am curious to hear what Frontline thinks about the recently aired History Channel program, wherein the former cancer researcher Judyth Baker claims to have been Oswald's mistress, and to also have been collaborating with Ferry to develop a quick-killing cancer to be used to assassinate Fidel Castro. It is to this end (she says)that Oswald went to Mexico; to transport the deadly virus to sympathetic agents in Havana. Her story ties Oswald, Ferrie, Bannister, Ochsler, the CIA, FBI, and the anti-Castro Cubans all together quite neatly, if it is to be believed. The program paints a picture of Oswald as a believer in the right-wing extremism of the time, rather than the Leftist points of view he is so easily otherwise identified with. Interesting if true, since the case could be made that the right-wingers hated Kennedy more than Castro or the Soviets. With so many factual claims being made by Baker in support of her story, it seems that her assertions could easily be disproved if untrue. Is any effort being made at Frontline to investigate her story? Thanks for an excellent program.

James Therrell
Alexandria, Virginia

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Regarding the letter writer's Judyth Baker question, read FRONTLINE Senior Producer Michael Sullivan's comments on this and other questions from viewers in the "Producer's Chat" on the homepage of this Oswald site.


I was 10 years old when JFK was assassinated. On Sunday morning, November 24, 1963, my father and I watched Lee Harvey Oswald being murdered on live television. By Monday evening, JFK and Oswald had been laid to rest, LBJ was President, and Jack Ruby sat in a Dallas jail cell, protected by the type of security that should have been in place for JFK's visit and Oswald's safety. All that remained were unanswered questions.

I've spent countless hours doing research. I've been to Dealey Plaza. I've stood on the grassy noll. I've stood at the window on the 6th floor of the school book depository. Frontline has it right folks

Michael See
San Diego, California


Oswald's alleged motive (to "make a name for himself by doing something notorious") and his only public statement concerning his involvement ("I'm being made a patsy.") stand in direct contradiction to your conclusions and the conclusions of The Warren Commission. Someone looking to make a name for themself would have claimed credit for doing it and given a "Unabomber" or "Waco"-type statement of what had led him to take such drastic action. He would NEVER have used the term "patsy", a word that refers to a very specific type of coverup with very self-demeaning connotations. He just never would have said that specific thing if he wasn't sure it was true.

Center Line, Michigan

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

As Senior Producer Michael Sullivan points out in a live chat the following day with viewers, the whole sentence is never quoted in the "I'm a patsy" line. The whole sentence is: "I'm a patsy. They just picked me up because I'm a communist." Michael Sullivan's live chat with viewers of FRONTLINE's report is on the homepage of this Oswald web site- "Producer's Chat."


Thank you very much for re-airing Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald.
It has always been the practice of the conspiracy advocates to disregard any confounding evidence and trivialize any inconvenient facts. This has led to some ridiculous and even insulting suppositions such as Oswald was actually one of our greatest heroes, and explaining the slaying of Officer Tippit by suggesting that he was a crooked cop in on the assassination.

Conspiracy advocates like to portray their movement as a result of a slowly building dissatisfaction with the conclusions of the Warren Commission, which were made public in September 1964. But the fact is that accusations of right wing involvement began immediately and grew in the weeks following the assassination.

If there is any conspiracy it is the deliberate attempt by the conspiracy lobby to shift the blame off one ideology and onto another. The bottom line of virtually all the conspiracy theories is that despite appearances and evidence the real assassins were representatives of the right wing while the poor innocent left winger was just another victim of a frame-up like so many others before him such as Sacco and Vanzetti, Alger Hiss, and the Rosenbergs
Since various media programs continue to be re-hash and elaborate on these erroneous theories I hope PBS will continue its great public service by repeating this program again at future anniversaries of that tragic day.

Ted Million
Norman , Oklahoma

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

The full program of "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" will be available to watch in video streaming by the first week of December, here on this web site.


I have entertained JFK conspiracy theories from time to time, but none of those ever fully considered the singularly strange arc of Oswald's life.

That peculiar history, as detailed in your documentary, reveals the true surprise to be that Lee Harvey Oswald lived to the age of 24 wihout killing anyone other than the President.

His travels and public activities, unusual even in our time, make it impossible to believe that any third-party would choose to set him up as a decoy or additional assassin in waiting - a "patsy". And to put it mildly, he also doesn't strike me as someone who would take orders well.

If he had succeeded in killing General Walker, then he would be in prison proclaiming his sacrifice. If he hadn't assassinated the President, he would have been in a bell tower the next week shooting university students. Or something more grandiose, still striving somehow be a somebody.

Bruce Leslie
Calgary, Canada


Your program was enlightening but disappointing as well. You managed to convince me that Oswald likely did pull the trigger on his rifle. But as far as I am concerned the evidence in favor of the fatal shot coming from the grassy knoll far outweighs any for the book depository. In addition, it as absurd--off the charts absurd--to defend the "magic bullet" theory. A bullet fired from a high-powered rifle into cotton batting shows more deformity than the bullet said to have caused all that damage. Get real, please.

You did a respectable job on the whole, except for giving a conspiracy denier like Posner too big a platform. Why do Posner's credentials outweigh those of someone like the author of "Contract on America: The Mafia Murder of JFK"? That is a rather impressive book, and it showed that the Warren Commission vs. Oliver Stone is a false choice.

Matthew Stern
Jericho, Vermont

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

The grassy knoll acoustics controversy and the magic bullet issue is addressed in t he "Conspiracy" section of this web site.


An excellent show, one of Frontline's best. This is a case which will never be "case closed" for everyone. There will always be nagging questions and enigmas to decipher. The shadow of "conspiracy" is at every corner of each persons mind. Our minds do not want to beleive that a single man, with an inexpensive gun, could have killed President Kennedy. Its that simple. Yes. It does appear possible that a lone Oswald may very well have done this alone. At best, the man was somewhat deranged---but that would not prevent him. Hinkley, an obviously deranged man did put a bullet into President Reagan. There is no question about that. No conspiracy.

Certainly much information was witheld from the public, just as surely as some is still withheld to this day. This alone tends for one to think conspiracy. With the passage of so much time we may never know for sure---but yes, Oswald could have done this all alone. Although, for many a "conspiracy" is more beleivable. Even more comfortable.

j fox
Killington, VT


Very interesting program.

What interested me was the question as to where Lee Harvey Oswald was headed when he left the rooming house after the assassination. Clearly, he left on foot and was headed somewhere locally when he was stopped by Officer Tippit. My guess is that, wherever he was going, he was going there to get paid. Otherwise, why not just stay out of sight for awhile?

Personally, I don't think the program did justice to the idea of conspiracy and I find the program's rationale for Jack Ruby killing Oswald weak. The lone two nut theory still just does not make sense to me. Not with Oswald's or Ruby's connections.

Richard Fox


While Front Line did a very good job of covering Oswald's background to posture this with a slant of him being the lone assasin, which appeared to be a subtle innuendo during the presentation, is to me largely a waste of time and money.

Spend 3 hours next time answering the question of why there was a conspiracy of shooters, who were they and what is the most plausible explanations for who they were? Stop already with the single shooter, single bullet theory. It's B.S., always was and always will be. Don't insult common sense human beings with this fantasy b.s. lie anymore.

We, the average thinking human being, know that the Warren Commission was a sham and their explanation of JFK's death is basically comical. LBJ didn't impound the car that JFK was shot in and have it sent to Chicago to be cleaned and refitted to have a nice limo to tool around in. He did it to cover up evidence. This was a cover up from the first moment. Let's begin from there and maybe some day the truth will truly surface. But then again, knowing how power brokers continue to run our world, maybe not. After all, peeking too far behind the curtain, could blow their cover forever.

Terry Ingram
Bellmawr, NJ


Your program was good in that it at least raises the issue of a conspiracy theory which is more than most network programs do. I do not believe for one minute that Oswald acted alone. We are asked to belive that a man who had no real job could afford to print off pamphlets in New Orleans as a one man operation. What about Bannister? How could he afford to travel to Mexico and stay there while trying to get into Cuba? How did he then afford to travel to Dallas? This man had access to money from someone.

As for his marksmanship if he could fire off three or four shots
in 6 seconds in Dallas and hit a moving president, why could he not hit a still target like general Walker.

How could a man who was so anti-american in his retoric, to the point of threatening to kill american soldiers, be allowed back into the US without the CIA being involved? Why was there an FBI man following him around?

There are far too many unanswered questions, far to many lies by various government officials, by the CIA, the FBI etc. In my mind if this was a lone gunman and could be proven as such why all the lies. This was an assassination by americans of their own President.

Michael McKendrick


Put the camera on the ten thousand question that remain unexamined. Put the camera on the individuals who decide what we the People see and don't see. Put a link on your web site that polls America, "Do you want your government to open up all of the documents related to JFK? Yes or No. We the people need to decide these questions. Not our supposed representitives. They, like you and us, only represent themselves. To hide behind National security is a joke, as 9-11 demonstrated. We are not more secure putting our trust in government, we are infinitely more insecure, we are on the road to desaster.

The truth shall set us free. The continued act of obscuring the truth will be our demise as a Nation. Poll us as to wether we want to reopen the investigation. Regather the evicdence, ezume our leader and take a hard look at the truth. Who actually thinks there would be a head there to forensically see?

So stop the BS about not being controlled by commercial interest/the government. Stop acting as if your speaking for we the people. It was a simple Coup. "They" won. The negative forces prevailed, we in our silence and weakness, we perpetuate it, and you in your self importance capitalize off of it by offering up such shameless and meanless "Who was Lee Harvey Oswald". He was the man in the middle. He was them and us. A patsy.

Norman Deeley
Naples, FL



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posted november 20, 2003

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