As the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of President John F. Kennedy approaches, most Americans continue to believe that the president was struck down in his prime as the result of a grand conspiracy involving an assortment of powerful actors. While many find it difficult to believe that a lone gunman of little significance like Lee Harvey Oswald could have singlehandedly curtailed the life of the president, a preponderance of the evidence leads to the conclusion that Oswald acted alone.
First, the evidence demonstrates that the weapon that murdered the president and injured Governor Connally belonged to Oswald. Shortly after the shooting, a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle and three expended shells were found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building, along with a sniper’s nest. The rifle, identified by serial number, had been shipped to Oswald’s post office box in Dallas after he submitted a purchase order and money order for the rifle, which handwriting experts confirmed to have been written by Oswald. Moreover, Oswald’s palm print was found on a portion of the rifle only accessible when the rifle is disassembled. Additionally, a tuft of fibers was found lodged in the rifle that matched those on the shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested.
Three bullets or bullet fragments were recovered from the crime scene — two from the presidential limousine and one from Governor Connally’s stretcher. Firearms experts determined that these three bullets were fired from Oswald’s rifle to the exclusion of all other weapons. Also found on the sixth floor were Oswald’s company clipboard, Oswald’s prints on a book carton located next to the floor’s southeastern most window, and a makeshift brown paper bag, also with Oswald’s prints, of an appropriate size to contain the rifle.
The evidence also suggests that Oswald did indeed bring the murder weapon to work with him at the Depository on the day of the assassination. Oswald spent each weekend with his family in Irving, Texas, catching a ride every Friday after work with coworker Wesley Frazier, who resided in Irving. Frazier would return Oswald to Dallas, where he worked and rented an apartment, on Monday mornings. On Thursday, November 21st, 1963, the day prior to the assassination, Oswald rode with Frazier to Irving, claiming that he needed to retrieve “curtain rods” for his Dallas apartment.
On Friday morning, both Frazier and Frazier’s sister, Linnie Mae Randle, observed Oswald place a long package in his car, telling Frazier that the package contained the curtain rods. When the two arrived to work, Frazier observed Oswald bring the package with him into the Depository. No curtain rods were ever recovered from the building. Further, a photograph of Oswald’s apartment from the day of the assassination reveals that his windows were already affixed with curtain rods, a fact confirmed by his landlady.
While the “curtain rods” were never found, as previously discussed, a brown paper bag and Oswald’s rifle were discovered on the sixth floor of the Depository. Oswald was identified on the sixth floor on the day of the assassination by Charles Givens, who spoke with him just before noon. Oswald also gave inconsistent statements about his whereabouts at the time of the assassination to law enforcement, claiming that he was on the first floor of the building at the time, but also claiming that he went “downstairs” when the commotion surrounding the assassination began.
The aforementioned sniper’s nest that was found on the sixth floor was discovered around the floor’s southeastern most window. Multiple witnesses had reported seeing a rifle sticking out of that window, and one witness, Howard Brennan, had been sitting only 120 feet away and observed the assassin take his final shot from that very window. He signed an affidavit at the Dallas sheriff’s office less than an hour after the assassination suggesting that he would be able to identify the shooter if he ever saw him again and on December 18th, 1963, he told the FBI that he was “sure” that Oswald was the gunman.
One claim that supporters of a conspiracy often make is that the president and Governor Connally couldn’t have each sustained their respective wounds due to a lone gunman shooting from the sixth floor of the Depository absent some sort of “magic bullet.” But computer modeling has allowed the timing and trajectory of Oswald’s shots to be precisely matched to the positions and reactions of the president and the governor based on a frame-by-frame analysis of the footage of the assassination. This analysis confirms that the wounds to the president and the governor resulted from three shots fired from the sixth floor of the Depository, and that those shots were fired over the course of about eight seconds, not unreasonable given Oswald’s marksmanship record from his military training.
Even when faced with all of the evidence, conspiracy theorists still argue that Oswald was nothing more than a hired gun, and that Oswald was sent to assassinate the president by a larger, more powerful group of interests. But the timeline of events suggests that a conspiracy simply wasn’t feasible. Oswald initially applied for his job at the Depository on October 15th, 1963. This application took place more than a month before the presidential motorcade route had even been determined. The Depository had the option of placing Oswald at one of two of its locations, the other of which would not have given Oswald access to the presidential motorcade. Oswald’s decision to apply for a job at the Depository came on the heels of several rejections from other employers in Texas in early October of 1963. Had one of those employers hired Oswald, he would not have had the opportunity to be anywhere near Dealy Plaza that day.
Additionally, when Oswald was hired by the Depository, the decision as to which location he would work in – the building located near Dealy Plaza, or another several blocks away – was made by a supervisor named Roy Truly. Another man, who started work on the same day as Lee Harvey Oswald, was only sent to the second building away from Dealy Plaza because he showed up to work after Oswald.
The motorcade’s route was selected on November 18th. That means that any “conspirators” who recruited Oswald to kill the president had only three days to identify Oswald as a potential assassin with access to the motorcade and convince him to kill the president. Moreover, just two weeks before the assassination, Oswald stormed into FBI headquarters and left a note for Special Agent James Hosty — who had been assigned to the Oswalds after they emigrated from the Soviet Union — regarding purported FBI harassment of Oswald’s wife. This sort of act seems inconsistent with the behavior of a man plotting to kill the president, as it would threaten to increase scrutiny of Oswald instead of allowing him to fly under the radar.
The reality is that when the evidence is examined thoroughly, the facts point to the Warren Commission’s original finding that Oswald did indeed act alone when he assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
In an interview with ABC News in 2003, historian Robert Dallek insightfully identifies the likely reason why so many people still believe in a conspiracy:
I know that millions and millions of people in this country believe that there was a conspiracy because, I think, it’s very difficult for them to accept the idea that someone as inconsequential as Oswald could have killed someone as consequential as Kennedy.
The fact that a half-century later, so many cling to the belief that the president’s death was the result of a conspiracy involving actors of far greater significance than Oswald speaks to the inability of the public to wrap its arms around the notion that Oswald, a man of seemingly little consequence, could have changed the course of history so dramatically.