An exhaustive look at an inadequate look
For reasons beyond my grasp, the first image in each chapter sometimes
fails to appear. If there's nothing up above, don't despair; you can still see the image here
The Deliberation Dilemma
As shown in the preceding chapters, the Commission’s conclusion that Oswald fired all the shots on Kennedy was not supported by the evidence. As it turns out, their conclusion that Oswald fired any of these shots is also far from convincing.
murder while in the protective custody of the notoriously
right-wing, racist, and corrupt Dallas Police Department had raised
reasonable questions on whether he had, in fact, been framed, and that
someone or some group had conspired to ensure his silence. If he had
framed, of course, it would explain the most damning piece of evidence
against him: that his rifle had fired the shots. To avoid conjecture
that their preplanned conclusion of Oswald acting alone was, well,
unWarren-ted, the Warren Commission needed solid evidence that:
1. Oswald was on the sixth floor before the shooting, putting together his rifle and building the sniper's nest.
2. Oswald was in the sniper's nest window, with his rifle.
3. Oswald fired a rifle on 11-22.
convincing evidence that these three events took place, there was room
to doubt Oswald's involvement in the actual shooting. Without this
evidence, all they really had to suggest he shot Kennedy was that his gun was found in the building, his
fingerprints were found in the
sniper's nest, he fled the scene after the shooting, he soon after shot a police officer, and that he was presumed to have lied to the police in the
unrecorded interrogations conducted before he could find an attorney.
All this damning evidence, and it is indeed damning evidence should it be accepted without reservation, could be explained, amazingly, by the not-unreasonable
proposition that he worked in the building and fled for his life once he realized he'd been set up as the president's assassin.
And so the Warren Commission and its
staff had its hands full. Did they dare reveal the holes in their case
against Oswald? Or would they prop up some of the weakest aspects of
their case, and hide important facts from the public? Would they
behave like the prosecutors they had been, or like the truth-seekers
they were tasked with becoming?
Sadly, it appears they chose the
The Strange Reliance on Charles Givens
First, we look into the question of whether or not Oswald was on the sixth floor in the moments leading up to the shooting.
Let's start with Oswald's own claims. Captain Will Fritz's handwritten notes on his 11-22
interrogation of Oswald report that Oswald claimed that in the hour before the
shooting, he'd went "to 1st floor had lunch/out with
Bill Shelley in front." While this might sound like Oswald was
claiming to have had lunch out in front of the building with Bill
Shelley, Fritz's typed up notes reflect that, at the time of the shooting, Oswald said "he was having
his lunch about that time on the
first floor." (24H265) This suggests then that Oswald told Fritz he saw
Shelley at a different point, presumably when he was leaving the
building after the shooting.
Oswald was asked about this a second time, in an interrogation performed the next day. This time, however, he was asked if anyone could confirm he'd eaten his lunch on the first floor. According to Fritz's typed-up notes, Oswald said he'd "ate lunch
with some of the colored boys who worked with him. One of them was
called 'Junior' and the other man was a little short man whose name he
did not know." (24H267) The report of Secret Service Inspector Thomas
Kelley confirms this account, moreover, stating "He said he ate his lunch with
the colored boys who worked with him. He described one of them as 'Junior,' a colored boy, and the other was a little short negro boy."
The report of FBI agent James Bookhout (WR622), however, gives a
slightly different account of Oswald's statements. Bookhout relates: "Oswald stated that on November 22, 1963, he had eaten lunch in the
lunch room of the Texas School Book Depository, alone, but recalled
possibly two negro employees walking through the room in this period. He stated possibly one of these employees was called 'Junior' and the
other was a short individual whose name he could not recall, but whom
he would be able to recognize." Bookhout's version in which Oswald did not eat lunch with these men, but merely saw them walk by, for that matter, receives solid support from an unexpected source: Fritz's original notes. In his hand-written notes, Fritz reports that Oswald "saw two negroes come in one Jr. - & short negro" and says nothing about Oswald's claiming to have had lunch with these men.
In either event--whether Oswald claimed he'd had lunch with these men, or that he'd simply seen them walk by while he was eating--the investigators were now tasked with finding out if anyone could confirm that Oswald had been in this first floor lunch room in the moments before the shooting, and, if not, whether anyone could place him on a higher floor during this time.
An 11-23-63 FBI report (CD5 p329) on Oswald co-worker Charles Douglas Givens declares “On November 22, 1963, Givens worked on the sixth floor of the building until about 11:30 A.M. when he used the elevator to travel to the first floor where he used the restroom at about 11:35 A.M. or 11:40 A.M. Givens then walked around on the first floor until 12 o'clock noon, at which time he walked onto the sidewalk and stood for several minutes...Givens recalls observing Lee working on the fifth floor during the morning filling orders. Lee was standing by the elevator in the building at 11:30 A.M when Givens went to the first floor. When he started down in the elevator, Lee yelled at him to close the gates on the elevator door so that he (Lee) could have the elevator returned to the sixth floor…Givens observed Lee reading a newspaper in the domino room where the employees eat lunch about 11:50 A.M.” This FBI report expanded on a statement signed by Givens on the day before (24H210). Givens swore "I worked on the sixth floor today until about 11:30 A.M. Then I went downstairs and into the bathroom. At twelve o'clock I took my lunch period. I went to the parking lot at Record and Elm Street." The FBI report on Givens thereby appeared to confirm Oswald's story that he'd come down and had lunch in the domino room, something that seemed unlikely if Oswald had planned on killing the president in 40 minutes and still needed to assemble his rifle.
That Oswald came down for lunch was confirmed by several others.
A 12-7-63 Secret Service Report (CD87 p780) recounting an interview with William Shelley, Oswald’s immediate boss, states "Mr. Shelley last saw Oswald at about 11:50 A.M., at which time Oswald was working at his normal duties on the first floor." On 4-7-64 Shelley testified (6H327-334) “I do remember seeing him when I came down to eat lunch about 10 to 12.” On 5-14-64, Shelley again testified (7H390-393) and clarified that he last saw Oswald before the shooting at “10 or 15 minutes before 12…On the first floor over near the telephone.”
Even more convincing, an 11-23-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Dept. signed by Eddie Piper (19H499) states “Yesterday, at 12:00 noon, this fellow Lee says to me 'I’m going up to eat' and I went on to my lunch. I went to a front window on the first floor and ate my lunch. I went to the front window on the first floor and ate my lunch and waited to see the President's parade go by. I saw the President pass and heard some shots and looked at the clock there and saw it was 12:25PM.” A 12-7 Secret Service report (CD87 p780) describing an interview with Piper confirms "At about 12:00 noon on November 22, 1963, Piper last saw Oswald on the first floor and at that time Oswald said 'I'm going up to eat lunch.'" Strangely, however, an FBI report (CD206 p13) from 12-20 conceals this event from view, declaring instead that Piper "advised he came to work at his usual time, 10 A.M., November 22, 1963, and during the course of his employment had seen Lee Harvey Oswald, a fellow employee, filling orders on the first floor. He did not recall the specific time he saw Oswald, stating it was shortly after he got to work and stated that this was the only time he saw Oswald on that particular day."
Should one refuse to think the FBI was up to something, and choose instead to believe that Piper changed his story, one should consider that on 2-17-64, when interviewed by the Dallas Police (CD950, p45), Piper repeated "At around 12:00 noon, I told Oswald that I was going to eat my sandwich. Oswald mumbled something that he was going up to eat. This was the last time I saw Oswald." He also told them "During the lunch breaks, Oswald usually made several phone calls, which were usually short in length." One should then consider that on 4-8-64, Piper testified before the Warren Commission (6H382-386), and made no bones about seeing Oswald around 12 noon, telling them once that "at 12 o’clock" and later on that "Just about 12 o'clock", “I said to him—'It’s about lunch time. I believe I’ll go have lunch.' So he says, 'Yeah'—he mumbled something—I don’t know whether he said he was going up or going out…”
Piper's statements are thereby consistent, and indicative Oswald was on the first floor around noon. While Piper's original statement indicates he thought the President was shot around 12:25, when he was actually shot around 12:30, this suggests the clock he was looking at was a bit slow, and that he actually saw Oswald around 12:05. Under no circumstances can it be taken to suggest he failed to see Oswald at all, or that he actually saw him much earlier in the day.
Only adding to the likelihood Oswald was not on the sixth floor during this period are the statements of Bonnie Ray Williams. An 11-23-63 FBI report on Bonnie Ray Williams (CD5 p330) states “At approximately 12 noon, Williams went back upstairs to the sixth floor with his lunch. He stayed on that floor only about three minutes.” A 12-7 Secret Service Report (CD87 p784) on an interview with Williams went into more detail, stating "After Williams picked up his lunch on the first floor (Note: he came down at the same time as Givens) he returned to the sixth floor...Williams said he spent just a few minutes eating his lunch and that during that time he did not see anyone else or hear anything on the sixth floor. As soon as he finished his lunch, Williams went to the fifth floor of the building and he estimated the time to be prior to 12:15 P.M." An FBI report on a 1-8-64 interview (CD329, p13) cut Williams' time on the sixth floor back down again. It states that Williams "recalled that he ate lunch about noon on November 22, 1963 on the sixth floor of the TSBD Building and about that time he heard James Earl Jarman Jr. also known as 'Junior' and Harold 'Hank' Norman on the fifth floor and he joined them there by going down on the west elevator about 12:05 P.M." This time of 12:05 is a bit curious, and is quite possibly the approximation of Special agents Carter and Griffin, the writers of the report, and not Williams. Williams made it clear, after all, that he only came down to the fifth floor after hearing Jarman and Norman on the floor below. On 1-8-64, agents Carter and Griffin spoke to both Jarman and Norman. Jarman said he thought he went up to the fifth floor around 12:25 (CD329, p12) and Norman said he went up to the fifth floor "about 12:10 to 12:20" (CD329, p14).
From this one can
gather that Williams was on the sixth floor until just a few minutes
before the shooting at 12:30. Perhaps this explains why Williams'
signed statement from the afternoon of the shooting (24H229) suggests
he was at first too scared to say he'd been on the sixth floor at all.
There, Williams declares that, after he came downstairs to get his
lunch, "I went back on the fifth floor with a fellow called Hank and
Junior, I don't know his last name. Just after we got on the fifth
floor we saw the President coming around the corner on Houston from
Main Street." Just after?
In any event,
on 3-19-64, Williams, who'd originally stated he heard but two shots,
signed a statement to the FBI (22H681) asserting he'd heard three
shots. He also asserted that "The last time I saw Lee Harvey Oswald on
November 22, 1963 was at about 11:40 A.M. At that time Oswald was on
the sixth floor on the east side of the building. I did not pay
particular attention to what he was doing." This directly contradicted
his signed statement to Dallas County from the afternoon of the
shooting, in which he claimed "I didn't see Oswald anymore, that I
remember, after I saw him at 8 A.M." If the FBI and Warren Commission
thought this signaled a new and improved Williams, one who would help
them make their case that Oswald stayed on the sixth floor when
everyone else came down for lunch, however, they had another think
coming. When Williams testified
on 3-24-64 (3H161-184) he stated that the sixth floor crew had quit
working at 5 to 12 (his statement on the afternoon of the shooting said
10 to 12)
and that he had went back up to the sixth floor looking for others
grabbing his lunch. He testified further
that he ate lunch by himself for “5, 10, 12 minutes…no longer than it took me
to finish my chicken sandwich” before heading back down to the fifth
floor. When pressed further on what time he came down to the fifth floor, he responded "I
finished the chicken sandwich maybe 10 or 15 minutes after 12. I could
say approximately what time it was." He then told them something no one
could expect: "Approximately 12:20, maybe." Later, when asked by Commissioner Dulles if he had heard anything on the sixth floor while he was eating, he responded "I felt like I was all alone. That is one of the reasons I left--because it was so quiet."
As Williams sat but a few yards from the sniper’s nest and did not see or hear anyone else at this time, it suggests that, upon leaving Piper, Oswald went up to the second floor break room (where he was discovered within 90 seconds of the shooting) or to the domino room, and did not immediately head back up to the sixth floor, if at all. An 11-26-63 FBI report on Mrs. Caroline Arnold (CD5 p41) relates “As she was standing in front of the building, she stated she thought she caught a fleeting glimpse of Lee Harvey Oswald standing in the doorway between the front door and the double doors leading to the warehouse, located on the first floor. She could not be sure that this was Oswald, but said she felt it was and believed the time to be a few minutes before 12:15 pm.” Mrs. Arnold was never called to testify.
Since the only man identifying Oswald as the shooter in the
sixth floor window, Howard Brennan, failed to do so while Oswald was still
alive, and only did so after prodding by the Secret Service, the statements placing Oswald downstairs in the forty-five minutes
before the shooting created a major problem for those seeking to blame him for the shooting. There was no hard
evidence suggesting Oswald was the man seen in the window minutes before the
shooting. If Oswald had been downstairs, moreover, there was no evidence he
went back up. The Commission needed to
explain how Oswald was able to build the sniper’s nest and re-construct his
dismantled rifle in the short time between Williams’ departure and the arrival
of the motorcade.
Incredibly, they decided to argue that Oswald had never come down for lunch.
They didn't get much help from James "Junior"
Jarman, the man Oswald purportedly claimed to have seen in the domino room. In his 11-22 Affidavit to Dallas County, Jarman remembered last seeing Oswald "between 11:30 A.M. and 12:00 noon when he was taking the elevator upstairs to go get boxes. At about 11:45 A.M. all of the employees who were working on the sixth floor came downstairs and we were all out on the street about 12:00 noon." (24H213) Hmm... The vagueness of this statement leaves open the possibility that Jarman had seen Oswald take the elevator back up after the others had come down for lunch. In his testimony, however, Jarman made it clear that, although he'd been in the domino room after quitting for lunch at 5 to 12, he didn't remember seeing Oswald at this time. This suggests he last saw Oswald before 5 to 12. As he identified Shelley as one of those coming downstairs around 11:45, moreover, and as Shelley repeatedly claimed to have seen Oswald downstairs around 11:50, and Piper had repeatedly claimed to have seen Oswald at 12:00, the combined statements and testimony of the credible witnesses to Oswald's whereabouts before the shooting suggested Oswald went upstairs between 11:30 and 11:45, and then followed the sixth floor crew downstairs.
The statements and testimony of Harold "Hank" Norman, were even less helpful to the commission. In his 3-24-64 testimony, Norman admitted "I ate my lunch in the domino room." When asked if anyone had been in there with him, moreover, he answered in a strange manner: "I think there was someone else in there because we usually played dominoes in there but that particular day we didn't play that morning." Well, what does this mean? How would his normally playing dominoes but not on that day make him think someone else was in there? Well, I suspect this is explained in a 12-7 Secret Service Report on the depository employees, in which Billy Lovelady is quoted as stating "The other employees usually play dominoes during their lunch period after they have eaten, but Oswald never showed any interest in taking part in the games." (CD87 p780) This undoubtedly suggests that the "someone else" Norman thought was in the domino room was specifically one Lee Harvey Oswald. In either case, Norman next told the commission that he got together with Jarman after finishing his lunch and that the two of them went outside around "12 or 12:10." (3H186-197). As Norman was of small stature and was almost certainly the short man Oswald claimed to have seen, either Oswald had actually seen Norman and Jarman together during this lunch period or had made an incredibly lucky guess.
(FWIW, Vincent Bugliosi, in his monster tome Reclaiming History, tries to dismiss the possibility that Oswald was in the break room with Norman by claiming "But Danny Arce told the Warren Commission that he and Jack Dougherty ate their lunch in the domino room during the period Norman described. In fact, Arce was one of those who joined Norman and Jarman when they walked outside a moment later. Obviously, Arce and Dougherty were the 'someone else' Norman had referred to." Uhhh...not so fast. Arce in fact testified that he went outside "With Billy Lovelady and Mr. Shelley and I was out there with Junior;" this indicates that he did not leave the break room with Jarman, as suggested by Bugliosi, but that he only saw Jarman outside. Even worse, Arce specified that he did not see Norman in the break room, telling the Commission, when asked if he had seen Bonnie Ray Williams downstairs "No, he stayed upstairs with Hank." Hank is Norman. If Arce thought Williams was upstairs with Hank, it follows then that he did not see Hank in the domino room. Bugliosi's dismissal is therefore so much moonshine, and the point he claims is "obvious" is obvious BS.)
So...was Oswald's description of Jarman and Norman just a lucky guess? I think not. Let's go back for a second. Agent Bookhout's report on Oswald's interrogation, let's recall, did not claim Oswald had said he'd eaten lunch with Jarman and Norman, as presented by Capt. Fritz. It said: "Oswald stated that on November 22, 1963, he had eaten
lunch in the
lunch room of the Texas School Book Depository, alone, but recalled
possibly two negro employees walking through the room in this period. He
stated possibly one of these employees was called 'Junior' and the
other was a short individual whose name he could not recall, but whom
he would be able to recognize." Perhaps, then, Oswald had seen Jarman and Norman not when most assume he claimed he'd seen them--when he first came down for lunch--but later, when they came back in the building and went back upstairs.
Indeed, it seems a bit of a coincidence that, according to Jarman's testimony, there were "too many people standing on the stairway" in front of the building when he and Norman decided to go back inside and view the motorcade from an upstairs window, and that he and Norman had thereupon re-entered the building by its north entrance. In doing so, they would have passed in front of the open door to the domino room, where Oswald claimed to have been sitting. They were the only two to admit coming in that entrance when Oswald claimed to have been sitting there, and they were the only two Oswald recalled seeing while he was sitting there. (One can view the layout of the first floor of the building here. Note in particular the relationship of the domino room to the north entrance, bathroom, and elevator.)
This brings us to the 4-8-64 testimony
of Charles Givens (6H345-356). Here,
Givens suddenly remembered “it was about a quarter
till 12, we were on our way downstairs, and we passed him, and he
(Oswald) was standing at the gate on the fifth floor. I came downstairs, and I discovered I left my
cigarettes in my jacket pocket upstairs, and I took the elevator back upstairs
to get my jacket with my cigarettes in it.
When I got back upstairs, he was on the sixth floor in that vicinity,
coming from that way…Toward the window up front where the shots were fired
from…he had his clipboard in his hand…He was coming towards the elevators…He
said…'When you get downstairs, close the gate to the elevator.'" When asked the time of his return to the first floor, Givens responded "Well,
I would say it was about 5 minutes to 12, then because it was---" But
Givens would never get to explain his reasoning. Counsel David Belin
interrupted him with a question about what he did next. Givens
testified "When I got down to the first floor Harold Norman, James
myself, we stood over by the window, and then we said we was going
outside and watch the parade, so we walked out and we stood there a
while, and then I said, "I believe I will walk up to the parking lot." Belin then
asked Givens if he had ever told anyone he saw Oswald reading a newspaper in
the domino room around 11:50 on
November 22nd and Givens replied “No, sir.”
While I, and I dare say most, researchers long assumed Givens to be lying on this last point, seeing as the FBI's initial report on Givens claimed "Givens
observed Lee reading a newspaper in the domino room where the employees
lunch about 11:50 A.M.” I now see this as a mistake. In February 2012, I stumbled across the FBI's first teletype regarding Givens. (This teletype can be found in FBI file 62-109060 sec 9 p54 on the Mary Ferrell Foundation website.) Here, only hours after he'd been interviewed, it was claimed "Charles Douglas Givens, Employee, TSBD, worked on sixth floor until about eleven thirty A.M. Left at this time going down on elevator. Saw Oswald on fifth floor as left going down. Oswald told him to close the gates when he got to first floor so Oswald could signal for elevator later. Givens stayed on first floor until twelve o'clock and then walked out of the building to watch the parade pass. Oswald was reading paper in the first floor domino room seven-fifty A.M. November twenty two last when Givens came to work."
Well, hell. What's this? Here in this summary of its interview with Givens it is claimed Givens told the FBI he saw Oswald at 7:50 A.M., not 11:50 A.M.
This led me to re-read the FBI's report on this interview. I then realized that the sentences I cut out of Givens' statement at the beginning of this chapter were far more important than I thought, and helped provide the proper context for Givens' statement about seeing Oswald in the domino room. Here is the oft-quoted statement in its proper context: "Givens said
that during the past few days Lee had commented that he rode to work
with a boy named Wesley. Givens said all employees enter the back door
of the building when Jack Dougherty, the foreman opens the door about 7
A.M. On the morning of November 22, 1963, Givens
observed Lee reading a newspaper in the domino room where the employees
lunch about 11:50 A.M.” Within this context, the "about 11:50 A.M." represents the time the employees eat lunch, not the time Givens saw Oswald. Givens had thereby claimed he saw Oswald in the domino room EARLY in the morning. Before starting work. And not during lunch, as claimed by just about everyone.
That Givens told the FBI he saw Oswald before work, it should be noted, only adds to the suspicion he lied in his subsequent testimony. After establishing that Givens got to work at 7:45 on the day of the shooting, Warren Commission counsel David Belin asked a series of questions about Givens' seeing Oswald in the domino room at that time. He is clearly aware of the FBI report. And is anxious to have Givens refute it.
Mr. BELIN. Did you see him come into the domino room at all?
Mr. GIVENS. Not that morning, no, sir; I didn't.
Mr. BELIN. When did you leave the domino room to go up to the sixth floor?
Mr. GIVENS. 8 o'clock.
Mr. BELIN.. At 8 o'clock?
Mr. GIVENS. Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. So you don't feel he came in the domino room before 8 o'clock?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir; not that morning he didn't.
So why didn't Belin read Givens the FBI report, and ask Givens for an explanation?
A few minutes later, they returned, so to speak, to the domino room.
Mr. BELIN. Did you see Lee Oswald anywhere else in the building between 11:55 and the time you left the building?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir.
Mr. BELIN. On November 22d?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir.
Mr. BELIN. Did you see him in the domino room at all around anywhere between 11:30 and 12 or 12:30?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir.
Mr. BELIN. Did you see him reading the newspaper?
Mr. GIVENS. No; not that day. I did--he generally sit in there every morning. He would come to work and sit in there and read the paper, the next day paper, like if the day was Tuesday, he would read Monday's paper in the morning when he would come to work, but he didn't that morning because he didn't go in the domino room that morning. I didn't see him in the domino room that morning.
Belin asked Givens about seeing Oswald around lunchtime, and Givens went out of his way to say he didn't see Oswald in the domino room that morning. Hmmm...
A few minutes later, Belin asked the magic question. He obviously understood that the FBI's report could be interpreted as claiming Givens saw Oswald at 11:50, and wanted to clear this up.
Mr. BELIN. Did you ever tell anyone that you saw Lee Oswald reading a
newspaper in the domino room around 11:50, 10 minutes to 12 on that
morning on November 22nd?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir.
Well, yucch. These questions raise even more questions. If Belin had avoided the subject of Givens' seeing Oswald in the domino room, one might believe he was simply asking questions and letting Givens tell his story. But he asked numerous questions about the subject. And had clearly read the FBI's report on its interview with Givens. And had allowed Givens to contradict the FBI report. And had failed to note this contradiction on the record.
Well, this, when coupled with Belin's similar failure to expose Givens' changing his story from his seeing Oswald as he went down for lunch to his seeing Oswald when he went back up for cigarettes, suggests Belin was complicit in Givens' lies. He, as the public's representative, either had reason to believe Givens was lying, and had refused to put it on the record, or had actually helped arrange the lies.
That Belin was himself a liar, moreover, is supported by his behavior when the inconsistencies of Givens' testimony came to light. In 1973, Belin published November 22, 1963: You are the Jury!, a defense of the Warren Commission. Here, he presented Givens as credible, never mentioning the inconsistencies he had previously acknowledged. Here, on at least three separate occasions, he claimed Givens was the last to see Oswald in the building before the shooting. Here, he never once mentioned Eddie Piper, the janitor who had consistently and from the beginning claimed to see Oswald on the ground floor around noon, five minutes after the time Givens had claimed to see Oswald. Piper's claim he saw Oswald at noon had been discussed, moreover, in a February 24, 1964 memo authored by Belin. This memo had in turn been discussed by Sylvia Meagher in an August 1971 article in the Texas Observer, upon which Belin had negatively commented. Piper's April 8, 1964 testimony had been taken, for that matter, by Joseph Ball, Belin's partner in the investigation. There is simply no way Belin was unaware of Piper's testimony, and his failure to acknowledge it in his book was inexcusable.
And that's but one example of Belin's slipperiness. In February 1976, in an extended article in the National Review, Belin once again defended his behavior regarding Givens. Here, he claimed Givens had first said he saw Oswald on the sixth floor with a clipboard months before his testimony, when he spoke to the Secret Service in December. Belin thereby suggested that Givens' testimony about seeing Oswald on the sixth floor was just a clarification of an earlier story, and not a brand new concoction worthy of cross-examination.
Let's take a look at the Secret Service's report on Givens: "On November 22, 1963,
Givens, along with other employees working on the sixth floor, was
laying the new plywood floor. Givens stated that he saw Oswald on the
sixth floor at about 11:45 A.M. on that date, and that Oswald was
carrying a clipboard that appeared to have some orders on it. Givens
felt that Oswald was looking for some books to fill an order, which is
his job, and did not give the matter further thought. Shortly,
thereafter, Givens and the other employees working on the floor-laying
project quit for lunch and they took both elevators. They were racing
the elevators to the first floor and Givens heard Oswald call to them
to send one of the elevators back up. It is Givens' recollection that
Oswald was wearing a brown shirt, when he last saw him." (CD 87, p780).
Yikes! Belin had failed to tell his readers that Givens had told the Secret Service he saw Oswald on the sixth floor BEFORE he--Givens--went down for lunch, and not after he returned to get his cigarettes, as he would later testify. As a number of witnesses, including Givens himself when first interviewed by the FBI, claimed they saw or heard Oswald on the fifth floor as they went down for lunch, there is a world of difference in the stories, as one places Oswald on the fifth floor about 11:45--and asking for an elevator--and one places Oswald on the sixth floor just before noon--and refusing to come down on an elevator. It's hard to believe, moreover, that Belin would fail to appreciate the significance of this change in the story, and think it of such little importance he would fail to tell it to his readers. It follows, then, that he was being willfully deceptive.
A 3-18-64 Ball/Belin memo only adds to my suspicion Belin was more than witting of Givens' sudden and suspicious change in story. There, in an outline of topics to be explored in upcoming testimony, under the subject heading "Elevator," Belin notes: "Oswald was on the fifth floor. Oswald called for them to stop. Oswald yelled at Givens to close the gates so that Oswald could have the elevator to return to the sixth floor." Well, heck. That gives away the game, IMO. But a few weeks before Givens testified, Ball and Belin were intending to spin his upcoming testimony supporting that Oswald wanted access to the elevator so he could avoid descending five floors, to testimony supporting that Oswald really wanted access to the elevator so he could avoid ascending but one floor. Pretty silly, and indicative of a desire to confuse. And that's not to mention that as of this date, 3-18-64, Ball and Belin were apparently unaware Givens was gonna claim he returned to the sixth floor to get cigarettes and saw Oswald near the sniper's nest.
But enough about Belin. He repeated his claim Givens was the last to see Oswald in his 1988 book Final Disclosure, and was either a deliberate liar or cognitively impaired. Let's get back to Givens. Subsequent to his testimony, the FBI decided to interview Givens yet again. The 6-4-64 FBI report (CD1245 p182) on this meeting reflects that Givens stood by his Warren Commission testimony and that “he now recalls he returned to the sixth floor at about 11:45 p.m.” Strangely, it fails to even address the question of whether or not Givens saw Oswald in the domino room on the morning of the shooting, and Givens' contradicting the FBI's initial report on this question.
So Givens, nearly five months after the shooting, "now recalled" seeing Oswald both before lunch, as he headed down from the sixth floor in an elevator, and a few minutes later, after going back up to get his cigarettes. Well, what is one to think of this? Maybe Givens had a bad memory. Was his new and improved recollection really all that important?
There are reasons to believe not. Givens’ assertion that he went back upstairs and encountered Oswald shortly after 11:45, when taken with Shelley’s and Piper’s statements, after all, suggests only that Oswald followed Givens back downstairs and made a phone call, and then went back up to the second floor. Certainly, one can not take Givens' delayed recollection that he returned to the first floor "about 5 to 12" as evidence that Shelley failed to see Oswald at 10 to 12 or that Piper was wrong about seeing him at 12.
at least no one reasonable--in Reclaiming History Vincent Bugliosi
argues that we should believe that Shelley and Piper--who saw Oswald on
the first floor at "10 to 12" and "12", respectively, had in fact seen
Oswald several minutes before Givens--whose sense of time he
inexplicably trusts--saw him on the fifth floor "about a quarter to
12". It seems much more likely that Givens was off by a few minutes
and had returned to the first floor before 5 to 12,
and/or that Shelley was off by a few minutes and saw Oswald after 10 to
12, than that Piper was off by more than 15 minutes in a statement
signed the day after the shooting, and had completely mis-remembered
the circumstances under which he saw Oswald. Piper, after all, knew
when he went to lunch, and felt certain he saw Oswald as he went to
lunch. This is the kind of thing that a janitor would be likely to
there is the already referenced possibility, first explored by researcher
Meagher, that Givens flat out lied when he said he'd went back up to the sixth floor after he came down for lunch. The 11-23-63 FBI teletype reporting on its interview of Givens, after all, claimed "Givens stayed on first floor until twelve o'clock and then walked out of the building to watch the parade pass." The 12-7-63 Secret Service Report (CD87 p780) summarizing an interview with
Givens, as we've seen, not only failed to mention that he'd went back upstairs and encountered Oswald, it actually had
him stating that he saw Oswald with the clipboard and heard him yell out before
he came down for lunch. There's also this. The last line of the Secret Service report claims: "It is Givens' recollection that
Oswald was wearing a brown shirt, when he last saw him." This is most intriguing.
What with Givens' changing his story from his seeing Oswald on the sixth floor with a clipboard before he came down for lunch to his seeing Oswald on the sixth floor with a clipboard after he came down for lunch, and his being the only employee to say he thought he'd seen Oswald wearing a brown shirt after the FBI had discovered threads consistent with Oswald's brown shirt on the rifle, one might reasonably suspect that someone was pressuring or paying Givens to change his story.
A 2-9-64 article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram gives us even greater reason to suspect Givens had deliberately changed his story. According to the article, written by Thayer Waldo, a Secret Service agent had boasted that a negro witness, who "had been arrested in the past by the Special Services office of the Dallas Police for gambling" had come forward, and had claimed to have seen Oswald actually fire the shots that killed Kennedy. According to Waldo, who claimed to have sat in on a conversation between this agent and another man, the agent said "Wait till that old black boy gets up in front of the Warren Commission and tells his story. That will settle everything. Yes, sir. He was right there on the same floor, looking out the next window; and, after the first shot, he looked and saw Oswald, and then he ran. I saw him in the Dallas Police station. He was still the scaredest nigger I ever seen. I heard him tell the officer, 'Man you don't know how fast fast is, because you didn't see me run that day.' He said he ran and hid behind the boxes because he was afraid that Oswald would shoot him." As Givens was the only school book depository employee with a notable police record, and was also one of the very few to have seen Oswald in the hour before the shooting, the "negro witness" described in the article is most certainly Givens.
Since Givens never signed a statement or offered testimony describing
these events, however, it suggests that either Givens had lied to the
police, the agent was lying to Waldo, or that Waldo himself had
embellished his story. Perhaps the agent, who Waldo would later reveal
to be Mike Howard, had merely indicated that Givens' story was damaging
to Oswald, and Waldo had filled in the blanks.
2-13-64 the FBI looked into this story. They contacted Jack Revill, a
Lieutenant in the Dallas PD's Special Service Bureau. Revill told them
the man described in the article was most logically Charles Givens.
Revill told them that Givens had a history of drug use and “would
change his story for money”. Revill told them,
furthermore, that although he thought the character in the story was
Givens, "that when Givens was interviewed immediately after the
assassination, he stated he was not in the building at the time of the
assassination." The FBI report then recounts Givens' earlier story that
he came down for lunch around 11:30, and that, as he came down, he
heard Oswald yell out and ask to have the elevator sent back up.
Months later, after Waldo's story was dredged up by Mark Lane as an indication the Secret Service had been planting false stories in the press, the FBI re-investigated. On May 28, 1964, the FBI wrote a report after talking with agent Mike Howard. (25H844-845). While Howard admitted that he and his brother, Deputy Sheriff Pat Howard, had had a conversation with Waldo, he claimed they did not know he was a reporter, and that they'd never discussed a negro witness to the shooting. On this same day Waldo signed a sworn statement backing his published version of the story. (25H846-848). A few days later, the Bureau contacted Pat Howard, and he admitted that he and his brother had told Waldo about a negro employee with a criminal record who had fled the building after the shots, for fear he would be implicated. (25H849-850) This is clearly a reference to Givens. If the Howards were telling the truth, and they just mentioned Givens because they thought his flight was an "amusing incident," it seems an incredible coincidence that Givens would shortly thereafter change his story and help the Warren Commission put the rifle in Oswald's hand.
Yes, you read that right...I wrote shortly thereafter. You see there is evidence that, although Givens first officially told his tale on 4-08-64, that he actually changed his story within days of Howard's talking to Waldo. The February 21, 1964 cover story of Life Magazine, which treated Oswald's sole guilt as a given fact, revealed "A few minutes after noon, as the President and his wife were pulling away from the airport in the open presidential limousine, an employee in the school book building, Charles Givens, saw Oswald on the sixth floor and said 'Let's go down and watch the President go by.' 'Not now,' Oswald responded. 'Just send the elevator back up.'" Hmmm...a story sneaks out that a black man with a criminal record is gonna implicate Oswald; a report is written indicating that this man is Charles Givens, that he will change his story for money, and that he really doesn't know anything; a thoroughly-biased article then appears in a prominent magazine citing Givens as the source of previously undisclosed information, information that is extremely damaging to Oswald; this info, furthermore, is inconsistent with Givens' sworn testimony months later. From this one might gather Life paid Givens for his story, and that he lied to them, or that someone paid or pressured Givens to lie to them. One can not reasonably assert or assume his cloudy memory suddenly became clear.
Adding to the mystery surrounding Givens' sudden change of mind is the fact that only a few hours after Givens testified Dallas Police inspector J. Herbert Sawyer testified about the events leading up to his putting out an APB for someone matching Oswald's description (4H315-325)...and that his words appeared to confirm Givens' story. When asked if he'd put out an APB for anyone besides the white male observed in the sniper's nest, he replied "There is another broadcast in there somewhere, though. I put out another description on the colored boy that worked in that department...He is one that had a previous record in the narcotics, and he was supposed to have been a witness to the man being on that floor. He was supposed to have been a witness to Oswald being there." He was then asked if this man was Charles Givens, and replied "Yes, I think that is the name, and I put out a description on him." When asked the vital question of how he found out Givens had seen Oswald, he replied: "Somebody told me that. Somebody came to me with the information. And again, that particular party, whoever it was, I don't know. I remember that a deputy sheriff came up to me who had been over taking these affidavits, that I sent them over there, and he came over from the sheriff's office with a picture and a description of this colored boy and he said that he was supposed to have worked at the Texas Book Depository, and he was the one employee who was missing, or he was missing from the building. He wasn't accounted for, and that he was suppose to have some information about the man that did the shooting."
Well, this is peculiar. Who was this "somebody" who knew that Givens had seen Oswald? Givens had not come back in the building and talked to anyone after the shooting. Therefore, it must have been someone who'd talked to him after he'd come down from the sixth floor, but before he left the building...someone who'd spoken to the Dallas police on 11-22, or who'd spoken to someone who'd spoken to the police. This person could very well be James Jarman. While Jarman did not sign an affidavit until 11-23, he undoubtedly spoke to his boss Roy Truly (who spent a considerable amount of time with the police on 11-22) about the line-up of depository employees, in which it was discovered that both Oswald and Givens were missing. Jarman had also spoken to Givens after Givens had come down for lunch. It seems reasonable then to suspect that the two spoke about Oswald sometime around noon, before Givens walked up the street, and that Jarman had told this to Truly when both Oswald and Givens went missing. (When Jarman testified on 3-24-64, he was not asked about any conversations with Givens.) Perhaps Givens had told Jarman that Oswald had asked for someone to send the elevator back up for him when the sixth floor crew came down for lunch. And that no one had done so. Perhaps Givens had mentioned going back up to the sixth floor to get his cigarettes, and his seeing Oswald still up there.
But I doubt it. It seems highly unlikely that the Warren Commission, desperate to prove that Oswald had stayed up on the sixth floor during his lunch period, would fail to provide a corroborating witness for Givens' latter-day story that he saw Oswald at 5 to 12, should there have been one. It appears, therefore, that Jarman--or whomever--remembered Givens saying that he saw Oswald just before he came down with the others, and not that he saw him after going back up for cigarettes. In such case, Sawyer's testimony suggests 3 possibilities: 1) that Sawyers' memory was accurate and that Givens had told someone he saw Oswald on the sixth floor when he went back up for cigarettes, but that the Warren Commission had failed to identify and interview this person; 2) that Sawyers lied to bolster Givens' testimony by pretending that the DPD was aware that Givens' had had important information on Oswald all along; and 3) that Sawyers incorrectly remembered why they were looking for Givens. As Givens was the only convicted felon working in the building and as he just so happened to disappear after the shooting, it only makes sense that they'd be looking for him. The Dallas Police tapes of Sawyers' conversation about Givens, in fact, reflect that he explained why he wanted Givens to be located, and had said simply "He is a porter that worked on this floor up here. He has a police record and he left.”
At this point, I'm leaning toward option number three. On his website, single-assassin theorist Dale Myers makes what is at least for me a convincing argument that Sawyers was just clutching at straws, and had no real recollection of why they were looking for Givens.
there are also reasons to suspect option two--that Sawyers deliberately
lied in order to help prop up Givens' newfound story. On 5-13-64,
Detective Jack Revill, who had warned the FBI on 2-13-64 that Givens
would "change his story for money," testified before the Warren
Commission. In his testimony, Revill discussed his actions in the hours
just after the shooting. Strangely, he testified that within hours of
the shots, "I talked to a negro by the name of Givens...I asked him if
he had been on the sixth floor, and as well as I recall, and Detective
Brian was present at this same time, he said yes, that he had observed
Mr. Lee over by this window. Well, I asked him who Mr. Lee was, he
said, a 'It is a white boy.' He didn't know his full name. So I turned
this Givens individual over to one of our negro detectives and told him
to take him to Captain Fritz for interrogation." (5H33-47).
Brian testified just after Revill. He was not asked about Givens. When
Captain Fritz testified he was also not asked about Givens. Even
stranger, there is no record that Givens--who Revill, in his testimony,
would have us believe was an important witness--was extensively
interrogated on 11-22-63, or that he said he saw Oswald by the window.
Givens' signed statement from 11-22, in fact, never even mentions
Oswald. We should recall as well that Revill, when interviewed by the
FBI on 2-13-64, failed to say anything about Givens' seeing Oswald by
the window. He had, in fact, been dismissive that Givens knew anything
about the shooting.
Ultimately, however, whether or not Givens or Sawyers or Revill lied is not as important as the fact that the Commission accepted Givens’ inconsistent and not entirely credible testimony as evidence Oswald never came down for lunch. By doing so, the commission blatantly disregarded the consistent statements of the far more credible Shelley, Piper and Arnold. Even worse, the commission's report asserted that Givens saw Oswald at 11:55 and “was the last known employee to see Oswald inside the building prior to the assassination.” Now this is a flat-out lie. Piper, of course, repeatedly claimed he saw Oswald at 12:00.
While I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, this lie was most likely deliberate. When an official report, re-written numerous times by men supposedly versed in the facts, makes an almost certainly false claim, based on the statements of someone who has repeatedly changed his story, and then supports the relevance of this claim by making a demonstrably false claim, it seems reasonable to assume that a decision has been made to deceive the public and obstruct its search for truth.
when there's other false claims supporting this same almost certainly
false claim... In its report, the Commission supports Givens' story by
claiming: "The significance of Givens' observation that Oswald was carrying his
clipboard became apparent on December 2, 1963, when an employee,
Frankie Kaiser, found a clipboard hidden by book cartons in the
northwest corner of the sixth floor at the west wall a few feet from
where the rifle had been found. This clipboard had been made by Kaiser
and had his name on it. Kaiser identified it as the clipboard which
Oswald had appropriated from him when Oswald came to work at the
Depository. Three invoices on this clipboard, each dated November 22,
were for Scott Foresman books, located on the first and sixth floors.
Oswald had not filled any of the three orders."
This passage is incredibly deceptive.
first of these deceptions is a subtle one. The significance of Givens'
story about the clipboard did not become apparent when Kaiser found the
clipboard, as contended in the report. Kaiser found the clipboard on
12-2; none of the statements by Givens or memos on Givens mentioned
Oswald's having a clipboard until 12-7, when Givens was reported to
have said he saw Oswald with the clipboard as he (Givens) first came
down for lunch. By implying Givens' story about the clipboard preceded
Kaiser's finding of the clipboard, of course, the Commission gives the
impression Givens had told the story he first told more than four
months after the shooting--about going back up to get his cigarettes
and running into Oswald on the sixth floor--from the beginning. They
knew this wasn't true.
second deception is more concrete, and is another flat out lie. The
clipboard was not hidden by book cartons, as contended. The discoverer
of the clipboard, Frankie Kaiser, testified that the clipboard was "just
laying there in the plain open...you see, we've got a pretty good space
back there and
I just noticed it laying over there...it was laying on the floor." When
asked further if there were "any boxes between the wall and the
clipboard?" he answered directly "No, not between the wall and the
clipboard--there wasn't." When asked the more concrete question if
there were any "boxes between the stairway and the clipboard?" he
answered "No, you see, here's---let me see just a second---here's
the stairs right here, and we went down this way and here's the stairs
this way going up and here's the--and it was laying right in here by
cards--there are about four or five cards, I guess, running in front of
it--just laying between the part you go down and the part you go
up....right there in the corner." (6H341-345). Neither Kaiser nor his
boss, William Shelley, nor the FBI's Nat Pinkston, who also saw the
clipboard in this location, ever described it as being "hidden". The
photo of the boxes by which the clipboard was found, moreover, marked
by Kaiser and submitted into evidence as Kaiser exhibit A, shows that
this clipboard would have been laying between two short rows of books
with an open end, whereby anyone standing at the end of these rows, or
even passing by, could see the clipboard laying right there on the
floor. It was not hidden.
third deception is also significant. The clipboard was found more than
"a few feet" from the rifle. It was more like 12-15 feet, across an
aisle and a row of boxes. By saying "a few feet" the report implies
that Oswald most probably
stashed the clipboard at the same time he was stashing the rifle. This
is simply not true. The clipboard location was in fact past the
entrance to the down
staircase from the rifle location. It makes no sense whatsoever that
Oswald would walk out of his way to hide a clipboard containing orders
that gave him a legitimate excuse to be on the sixth floor, while in
flight for his life. It makes a lot more sense that Oswald would leave
these unfilled orders when he came down for lunch. The clipboard
location was, after all, close to both the elevator and the staircase.
(The relative locations of the rifle and clipboard are best
demonstrated in the Commission's own exhibit, Commission Exhibit 2707.)
This brings us to a fourth deception... While
the report implies that there is something suspicious about the orders
on the clipboard all being unfilled, the reverse is true--it is exactly
as one should expect should Oswald have been innocent. An order-puller,
after all, would take his completed orders downstairs to the shipping
and billing department when he came down for lunch. As all three orders
found on the clipboard were for books found on the sixth floor,
moreover, there is no reason to believe Oswald wasn't intending to come
back and fill those orders after lunch. These books, moreover, could
very well have been found within a few feet of the clipboard location;
the Commission doesn't say. As no real effort was made to determine
what orders Oswald HAD filled on the 22nd, furthermore, there is no
reason to believe Oswald hadn't filled an order for a book stored
near the clipboard location,
quit for lunch, put down his clipboard, and transported the order downstairs. The Commission's implying the
clipboard's being found in this location supported Givens' story, when
it quite possibly had an innocent explanation, and may have actually
supported Oswald's innocence, was unreasonable and unfair.
There was just no reason to trust Givens. The line in the 11-23 FBI report about Givens seeing Oswald in the break room on the morning of the shooting is quite clear, once read in the proper context. And it's not as if the FBI agent taking the notes was thinking of somebody else. At the very least, the Commission counsel tasked with this line of inquiry, David Belin and Joe Ball, should have called the FBI and Secret Service agents who’d interviewed Givens in the weeks after the shooting to see if they had notes on their meetings with Givens, and would vouch that Givens had made the statements attributed to him in their early reports. That the Commission's counsel did not, and lustily accepted Givens’ sudden recollection 4 months later that “Oh yeah, I saw Oswald on the sixth floor about 5 to 12,” is to their everlasting shame.
But their shame was destined to be shared. On June 25, 1967, CBS News debuted part 1 of a 4 part investigation of the Warren Commission’s findings. As to whether or not Oswald was on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting CBS relied on the statements of one man: Charles Givens. Eddie Barker of CBS introduced Givens as the “last man known to have seen Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination.” Givens then repeated his story of seeing Oswald standing in the middle of the sixth floor with orders in his hand, and of Oswald asking him to close the door on the elevator when he got to the bottom, so that Oswald could call it when needed. When Barker asked Givens “This would be about what time?” however, Givens’ gave a new response, indicating that someone, somewhere, had alerted Givens to Piper’s testimony. Givens told Barker “Well, about one or two minutes after twelve.” Not surprisingly, CBS failed to alert their viewers that Givens had thereby changed his story, yet AGAIN, and that Bonnie Ray Williams, cited elsewhere on their program, had testified he was on the sixth floor from about noon to 12:20 and had seen neither Givens nor Oswald.
(Although Edward Shields, Givens' lunch partner on 11-22-63, was interviewed by the FBI on 3-23-64, and signed a statement saying he'd left the building where he worked "about twelve o'clock noon" in order to watch the parade with Givens, he was more specific when talking to the HSCA on 10-23-77. Instead of lending credence to Givens' story--the story that only emerged after Shields had been interviewed--Shields told his interviewer that he'd met up with Givens on the street around 10 to 12. Just as damaging, on 9-25-77 James Jarman, told the HSCA that he believed he'd sent Oswald upstairs to correct a mistake around 11:25, or 11:30, and that Oswald had returned with the proper book shortly thereafter. These statements both erode Givens' credibility, and give Oswald a legitimate reason to be on the upper floors when last observed on the upper floors. From the sum of the evidence, then, the HSCA refused to accept Givens' story about seeing Oswald on the sixth floor at 5 to 12, and concluded instead that Oswald's whereabouts at 12:00--a half an hour before the shots were fired--were irrelevant as to his guilt.)
Threads of Evidence
Now, let's look at the more pertinent question of whether Oswald had been in the sniper's nest window with the assassination rifle, or had even recently handled the assassination rifle.
At 12:45, 15 minutes after the shooting, Dallas Police Channel One broadcast a description of the shooter seen in the sniper’s nest window. The presumed source of this information was Howard Brennan. The description was: “The suspect in the shooting is approximately thirty, slender build, height five feet ten inches, weight one hundred sixty-five pounds, reported to be armed with what is thought to be .30 caliber rifle. Attention all squads. The suspect from Elm and Houston is reported to be an unknown white male about thirty, slender build, five feet ten inches tall, one hundred sixty-five pounds, armed with what is thought to be a 30-30 rifle.”
Here is how this suspect was described in that day's eyewitness statements..
Howard Brennan (11-22-63 statement to the Sheriff’s Department, 19H470): “He was a white man in his early 30’s, slender, nice looking, slender and would weigh about 165 to 175 pounds. He had on light colored clothing but definitely not a suit.”
Amos Euins (11-22-63 statement to the Sheriff’s Department, 19H474): “This was a white man, he did not have on a hat. I just saw this man for a few seconds.”
Robert Edwards (11-22-63 statement to the Sheriff’s Department, 19H473): “I noticed that he had on a sport shirt, it was light colored, it was yellow or white, something to that effect, and his hair was rather short. I thought he might be something around twenty-six, as near as I could tell.”
Ronald Fischer (11-22-63 statement to the Sheriff’s Department, 19H475): “all I could see was his head. I noticed that he was light-headed and that he had on an open-necked shirt, and that was before the motorcade rounded the corner. I noticed his complexion seemed to be clear, and that he was in his twenty’s, appeared to be in his twenty’s.”
Arnold Rowland (11-22-63 statement to the Sheriff’s
Department, 24H224): “This man appeared to be a white man and appeared to have a
light colored shirt on, open at the neck. He appeared to be of slender build and appeared to have dark
hair.” (11-22-63 interview reported in an 11-23-63 FBI report, 26H126)
"He advised this person was a white male of slender build and appeared
to have dark hair. He appeared to have on a light colored shirt, open
at the neck." On the 24th, in a second interview with the FBI, Rowland
confirmed (16H954): "He appeared to be slender in proportion to his
height, was wearing a white or light colored shirt, either collarless
or open at the neck. He appeared to have dark hair."
far they all seem to be talking about the same man. Fischer says the
man was light-headed and Rowland says he had dark hair, but they're
almost unanimous that the man was slender and wore a light-colored shirt.
A problem was brewing. Motorcycle Officer Marrion Baker, who’d encountered Oswald in a stairway within a minute and a half of the shooting, described Oswald's clothing as different than the man seen in the window (11-22-63 Affidavit, 24H199): “The man I saw was a white man approximately 30 years old, 5’9”, 165 pounds, dark hair and wearing a light brown jacket.” Had Oswald put a jacket on as he ran downstairs?
An 11-22 FBI interview with Mrs. Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper at Oswald’s rooming house, suggests he did not. It reports “While she was watching the TV, Lee came in, went to his room, got a coat, and left again...he proceeded to a bus stop which is near the house.” (CD5 p353). Hmmm... Perhaps, then, Oswald had been wearing a light brown shirt, and not a jacket.
This possibility is supported, moreover, by the 11-22 statement of Linnie Mae Randle, who'd observed Oswald as he left for work. She swore "Lee was bareheaded, wearing a light brown or tan shirt. I don't remember what kind of trousers he had on." (CD87 p277)
So, in sum, one might reasonably assume Oswald was the slender man observed on the sixth floor by Brennan, Euins, Edwards, Fischer, and Rowland, and that he'd been wearing a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt at the time.
But then there's this. Mrs. Robert A. Reid, who saw Oswald just after his encounter with Baker, signed a statement on 11-22, claiming: "When I saw him he was dressed in a white T-shirt and I don't recall what his trousers were like." (24H223) Hmmm...if the man observed on the sixth floor had been wearing a white t-shirt, and was bare-armed, wouldn't one of the witnesses have noticed and said so in the immediate aftermath of the shooting?
That afternoon, Oswald was arrested while wearing a dark brown, long-sleeved shirt. No coat or jacket. A gray jacket had been found near the Tippit killing. Dallas Chief of Detectives Captain Will Fritz interrogates Oswald at 3:15. Fritz’s notes on this meeting reflect that Oswald told him at this time that he went “home by bus changed britches.” No mention of taking a cab part of the way home nor of changing his shirt.
An itemized list with an 11-22-63 date in the Dallas Police Archives (Box 5, folder 5, document 88) reflects that among the items confiscated by officers Moore, Potts, Turner, and Senkel from Oswald’s rooming house on this date are “1 brown shirt with button-down collar” and “1 pair gray trousers and other miscellaneous men’s clothing.”
Throughout that day and evening, Oswald was
dragged repeatedly before the television cameras. The available footage
shows he was still wearing the dark brown shirt he was wearing when
arrested. Later that night,
the shirt, along with the purported assassination weapon and much of
other first day evidence, was flown
to Washington for testing by the FBI's crime lab (CD5 p159).
This evidence was tested throughout the next day. At 5:30 PM, Assistant Director Alan Belmont furnished Dallas Special-Agent-in-Charge Gordon Shanklin the results of these tests. A memo by Shanklin found in the Dallas FBI files reveals that, in regards to the shirt. Belmont told him: "Several black cotton, orange yellow cotton, and gray black cotton fibers which matched similar fibers composing Oswald's shirt removed from butt plate of submitted rifle."
The next morning, 11-24, the FBI Laboratory provided the Dallas police with the following information: “A small tuft of textile fibers was found adhering to a jagged area on the left side of the metal butt plate on the K1 gun. Included in this tuft of fibers were gray-black, dark blue and orange-yellow cotton fibers which match in microscopic characteristics the gray-black, dark blue and orange-yellow cotton fibers composing the Q11 shirt of the suspect. These fibers could have originated from this shirt. (CD5, p164)”
Well, let's notice first that the black cotton fibers discussed by Belmont were now dark blue fibers. This is indeed intriguing. Belmont would not have provided Shanklin information off the top of his head, or even from notes. He was almost certainly reading from lab reports. So how and why did "black cotton" fibers become "dark blue" fibers? Did the examiner simply change his mind, and decide what he at first thought was black was really dark blue? Or did he simply change his description of the fiber found on the rifle so that it would match the fibers found in the shirt?
In any event, as the black (or dark blue), gray-black, and orange-yellow fibers of the brown shirt could now be linked, if not conclusively, with the rifle found on the sixth floor linked to the bullets, it now behooved the FBI and Dallas police to establish that Oswald was wearing this shirt at the time of the shooting.
cracks in the facade were already starting to appear. At the end of the
lab report on the shirt and fibers sent the Dallas FBI, an Addendum
reads "You should attempt to obtain the remaining items of clothing
suspect is believed to have worn during the shooting for comparisons
with the other fibers found on the K1 gun." (FBI file 62-109060
Sec 21, p193). As we will see, although the FBI will eventually obtain
the rest of Oswald's clothing, there is no record of further tests of
Oswald's clothing against these "other" fibers. Just as telling, there
is no record of comparison tests between the clothing of Dallas crime
lab chief J.C. Day, who'd handled the rifle almost exclusively after
the shooting, and these fibers. In short, there was either no effort to
find out where these "other" fibers came from, or the efforts were
unsuccessful, and made to disappear from the record. Either of these
scenarios suggest that, once a few of the fibers found on the rifle
were found to be similar to the fibers of Oswald's rust brown shirt,
someone made the decision to use these fibers to suggest Oswald's
guilt, and to conceal the simultaneous fact that someone who'd been
wearing clothing with fibers similar to the "other" fibers found on the
rifle...could still be at large.
But, in this charade they’d get no cooperation from Oswald. The 11-23-63 notes
of Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz, who was leading the interrogation of
Oswald, reflect that Oswald “Says 11-22-63 rode bus/got trans same out of
pocket…Changed shirts + tr. Put in dirty
clothes—long sleeve red sh + gray tr.” Fritz’s typed-up report on this
interrogation states more clearly that “During this conversation he told me he
reached his home by cab and changed both his shirt and trousers before going to
the show” (24H267). This account is
confirmed by a report on this interrogation by Secret Service Inspector Thomas
Kelley (CD87 p375). Kelley writes “He said
he went home, changed his trousers and shirt, put his shirt in a drawer. This was a red shirt, and he put it in his
dirty clothes. He described the shirt as
having a button down collar and of reddish color. The
trousers were grey colored.” The FBI report on this interrogation
confirms this as well, with Agent Bookhout relating that Oswald "stated
that after arriving at his apartment he changed his shirt and trousers,
because they were dirty. He described his dirty clothes as being a
reddish colored, long sleeved shirt with a button-down collar and gray
colored trousers" (CD5 p100). It certainly seems possible from this that the “reddish”
shirt with the button down collar described by Oswald was one-in-the-same as
the “brown” shirt with a button down
collar confiscated by the Dallas police the night before, and that Oswald’s perception
of red was slightly different than the policeman inventorying his clothes. In any event, there is no record whatsoever
reflecting that they showed him this shirt or any of his other shirts to see which one he’d been wearing.
The FBI had bigger fish to fry. Having discovered fibers on
the rifle that matched fibers from the shirt Oswald had been wearing when
arrested, they sought to prove he was lying about having changed his shirt. An
11-24 FBI report (CD5 p340-341) reflects that on 11-23 they spoke to Mary
Bledsoe, Oswald’s former landlady, who’d claimed in an 11-22 affidavit to have seen Oswald on a bus after
the shooting. While she didn't describe Oswald's clothes in her signed affidavit, the FBI report reflects that she believed Oswald was
“wearing dirty clothes” when she saw him on the bus and that “as best as she recalled, Oswald was dressed
as follows: wearing ragged gray work pants, wearing a brown shirt with holes in
the elbows.” (Intriguingly, someone with a pen changed these last two words--"the elbows"-- to read "one elbow" in the available copies of the report. This was the only manual change on the typed-up report. Presumably, this was done to bring Bledsoe's description of the shirt in line with her subsequent descriptions of the shirt. Who did this, when, and why?)
Note further that these are not direct quotes from Bledsoe. Realize further that she only "advised" them of these things. Well, this leaves open the possibility the FBI provided her with the color of the shirt, e.g. "Was Oswald wearing the brown shirt he was wearing upon arrest when you saw him?" And that she then answered "as best as I recall," or some such thing. In any event, the FBI had found itself a witness.
Whaley, a cab driver, recognized Oswald from his
picture in the paper, and came in to make a statement regarding his
driving Oswald from a point near the assassination site to a point near
Oswald's rooming house, shortly after the assassination.
In his 11-23 sworn affidavit, (CD87, p275) Whaley describes Oswald as
having on a "dark shirt with white spots of something on it." An 11-23 FBI report on Whaley (CD5 p349-350), however, reflects that he “recalled
that the young man he drove in his cab that day was wearing a heavy
identification bracelet on his left wrist, he appeared to need a haircut and
was dressed in gray khaki pants which looked as if they had been slept in. He had on a dark color shirt with some light
color in it. The shirt had long sleeves
and the top two or three buttons were unbuttoned. The color of the shirt nearly matched the
pants, but was somewhat darker. The man
wore no hat. He appeared to be about 25
years of age, 5’7” to 8” tall, about 135 pounds, with brown hair thick on
top. He had a long thin face and a high
it a coincidence that Whaley's own description of the shirt precludes
the shirt being the dark brown shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested, while
the description in the FBI report on Whaley does not?
With the FBI's reports on Bledsoe and Whaley it
appeared the FBI
was gonna make its case that Oswald was wearing the dark brown shirt at work
before the assassination, and that, accordingly, the fibers on the rifle
most logically came from his shirt. But had Bledsoe
and Whaley really remembered Oswald wearing a dark unbuttoned shirt, or were
they merely describing the shirt they’d seen Oswald wearing on TV the day
before? As Oswald had scuffled with a
number of police upon arrest, it certainly seems possible, if not likely, that his
shirt buttons were torn off during this scuffle. Officer
Baker, after all, had failed to
notice any missing buttons or tears in Oswald’s clothing when he
him in the lunchroom. Furthermore, while the news footage of Oswald
from 11-22, when he was wearing his shirt, was black and white footage,
it' seems likely that at least one of the newsmen present at Oswald's
press conference had described the color of Oswald's shirt to his
viewers or readers. As a result, it's hard to give Mrs. Bledsoe's
statement that Oswald was wearing a brown shirt much weight. Not unless
stronger witnesses, such as eyewitnesses to the shooting or co-workers,
can be found to corroborate her impression.
And then along came the statement of James
(11-23-63 affidavit to Dallas County, 16H959) “I was
standing on the sidewalk against a building on the corner of Elm and
Streets watching the motorcade of the President. I heard a loud noise
a fire cracker or gun shots. I looked around to see where the noise
from. I looked up and saw the barrel of a rifle sticking out of a
window…While I was looking at the gun it was fired again. I looked
at Mr. Kennedy and he was slumping over. I got scared and ran from
location. While I was running I heard the gun fire two more times. I
ran from Elm Street to Pacific Street on Houston. When I was
about 100 yards from the building I stopped to get my breath and looked
the building. I saw a w/m, 5’8” to 5’10”, dark hair, average weight
height, dark shirt or jacket open down front, no hat, didn’t have
his hands, come out of the building and run in the opposite direction.”
Worrell’s running man is a match for the shooter described by others with the singular exception that the man he saw was wearing a dark shirt or jacket. Oswald had been wearing a dark shirt when seen on TV. Did Worrell suspect his running man was Oswald, and subconsciously dress him in accordance with Oswald’s appearance? Or had the shooter added layers as he ran down the stairs?
A Lighter Shade of Brown?
Oswald was killed the next day. The shirt he was wearing at the time of his
death had been pulled from the Dallas Police Department’s collection of clothes
removed from his rooming house. Archive photos of this shirt (CE 164) suggest that it could have been a light brown shirt.
A document in the Dallas Police Archives (found in Box 9, folder 4,
document 9) itemizing the clothes removed from Oswald's body describes
it as merely a "shirt." Another list in the Archives from 2-2-64, when
the clothes were loaned out to the FBI, however, describes it as a
"gray flannel shirt." (This list can be found in Box 9, folder 4,
document 10). As this previously unmentioned gray flannel shirt was
presumably one of the items of "miscellaneous clothing" brought over
from Oswald's rooming house on 11-22, it resurrects the question of
whether or not a red shirt had been confiscated at this time.
Intriguingly, the reports and testimony of
those watching Oswald dress before he was shot discuss in detail Oswald’s
putting on a black sweater, but say almost nothing of the shirt. Most of their statements, in fact, make it
sound like Oswald took the shirt off in order to put on the sweater, and that
he therefore was responsible for delaying his departure, a delay which gave
Jack Ruby the time to get into the basement and kill him.
Beyond the obvious purpose of these statements--blaming Oswald's death
on his own vanity--this distracts from the central question of what
other clothing had been confiscated from Oswald's rooming house.
On the odd chance you're interested here are the reports about the clothing change...
From Captain Fritz’s typed-up notes on the interrogation of Oswald (24H270): “Oswald said he would like to have a shirt from his clothing that had been brought to the office to wear over the T-shirt that he was wearing at the time. We selected the best-looking shirt from his things, but he said he would prefer wearing a black Ivy-League Type shirt, indicating that it might be a little warmer. We made this change…”
From the 3-24-64 testimony of L.C. Graves (13H5): “when we got these clothes off the rack and
started to give him a light-colored jacket or shirt, (he) said, “if it is all
the same to you”…“I’d rather wear that black sweater.”
From the 3-24-64 testimony of L.D. Montgomery (13H27): “Well, he put on a black sweater. I think he changed shirts, changed shirts, and put on a black sweater.”
From the 5-7-64 testimony of Forrest Sorrels (7H357): “he requested that he be permitted to get a shirt out of his—the clothes that had been brought in, that belonged to him…And so Captain Fritz sent and got his clothes and, as I recall it, he selected a dark colored kind of sweater type shirt, as I recall it.”
After Oswald's death the FBI attempted to solidify its case that he'd been wearing the dark brown shirt while at work on the 22nd.
An 11-25-63 FBI report (CD5 p142) reflects that Dallas
Detective R.M. Sims “stated he had personally searched Oswald at the City Hall
after his arrest and, while searching the person of Oswald just prior to the
“show-up,” Detective Sims stated he found a Dallas Transit Company transfer in
the left shirt pocket of Oswald.” Well, heck, this suggests the FBI was trying to use the transfer
to show Oswald hadn’t changed shirts.
They were wrong to do so. Captain Fritz's notes on an 11-23 interview of Oswald reflect that Oswald had actually told him he had changed shirts at his rooming house, and that, in doing so, he had swapped the transfer out of the shirt he'd been wearing at work. Hadn't Fritz told this to the FBI?
Apparently not. Fritz's typed-up notes about Oswald and the bus transfer report simply that “He admitted this
was given to him by the bus driver when he rode the bus after leaving the
Was Something Up Their Sleeve?
Over the next few days, some other strange occurrences take place. An invoice in the Dallas Police Archives (Box 9, folder 5, document 21) reflects that on 11-26-63, some clothes removed from Oswald’s rooming house, including a “red and gray short sleeve" sport shirt were released to Secret Service Agent John Joe Howlett by Captain George Doughty. Another notation by DB? on 9-22-66 says simply “gone.” What did the Secret Service do with these items? An 11-27-63 Secret Service report (CD87 p252-253) lists the clothes and states "There is forwarded herewith a quantity of clean clothes taken from the apartment of Lee Harvey Oswald after the arrest. They are being forwarded as requested by the Chief, presumably for examination by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Lab. The remaining clothes taken from Oswald are in custody of FBI." Included in this list, in place of the "red and gray short sleeve" sport shirt is a "maroon and grey cotton long sleeve sport shirt."
Well, this is mighty curious, isn't it? Oswald claims to have been wearing a reddish long sleeve shirt on 11-22, and here is a reddish long sleeve shirt. And yet no one seems interested in finding out if this is the shirt he'd been wearing. Instead, we have the Dallas PD identifying it simply as a "shirt" on the inventory, and then typing over "shirt" with "short" and adding "sleeve." Is this a coincidence? Or is the Dallas PD trying to hide that they had a shirt that matched Oswald's description of the shirt he'd been wearing? If this is more than a coincidence then is it also more than a coincidence that Fritz left out of his type-written notes--the only ones the FBI would ever see--that Oswald claimed to have taken the transfer out of the pocket of his reddish shirt and put it in the pocket of the rust brown shirt he was wearing when arrested?
And what about the Secret Service's statement that the clothes were being forwarded "presumably for examination by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Lab?" What kind of examination was this? Well, while researching another aspect of the case, I suspect I stumbled upon the answer. At the September 1966 First International Conference on Forensic Activation Analysis, three scientists from the Laboratory of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division of the Internal Revenue Service (the forerunners to today's department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) discussed their use of neutron activation analysis on clothing, in order to determine whether an individual had fired a weapon. They reported: "Test firings were made with foreign rifles, and paraffin lifts of hair and shoulders were examined for the presence of antimony and barium. The data presented in Table V show that it is possible to detect the presence of these elements on the areas examined. This work indicates there is a distinct possibility that the method can be applied to the detection of rifle firings."
That this test was performed using "foreign rifles" makes me suspect they used one foreign rifle in particular--the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle purportedly used by Oswald. And since they found this method could be used to detect whether an individual had fired a rifle, and yet never testified about this before the Warren Commission, it seems possible that similar tests revealed no presence of antimony or barium on Oswald's clothes, including his red shirt.
Of course, the results of these tests were never revealed, so this is just speculation. Another indication that tests were performed on Oswald's clothes, however, can be found in the 2-6-64 testimony of Marina Oswald. While inspecting her husband's clothes, and confirming that they belonged to him, she came to Exhibit 155, a shirt not knowingly related to the assassination or its aftermath, and asked "Why is it all torn?" Intriguingly, her questioner, J. Lee Rankin, responded "We are advised it was when he was hurt, they cut into some of these." This didn't exactly satisfy her, however. Moments later, when she came to two pairs of pants, exhibits 157 and 158, she asked "Why were both of those cut? I don't understand." She was right not to understand. The shirt worn by Oswald when he was "hurt" was CE 164. Exhibit 157 was a pair of gray slacks matching the description of the pants Oswald wore on the 22nd. Exhibit 158 was indeed the pants worn by Oswald when "hurt". In any event, Rankin answered her question by admitting: "I have not been informed, but I will try to find out for you." While Marina told Rankin that this wouldn't be necessary, it certainly sounds possible that the shirt and pants had been cut so that some undisclosed tests could be performed.
And that's not all. A 12-30-63 FBI lab report reveals that "no significant residues" were found on Oswald's watch and ring. Well, why would they look for residues on the watch and ring, but not the clothes Oswald was believed to have been wearing during the shooting? Sure, some are skeptical that the FBI even had tests which could detect gunshot residue on clothing.
But they're wrong. Articles in publications as far back at the 1938 issue of Medical Times discuss techniques through which gunpowder residue on clothing can be identified. The aforementioned article notes that diphenylamine--the very chemical used to illustrate the nitrates on the paraffin casts applied to Oswald's hands and cheek--can be used to identify nitrates on clothing as well.
And yes, the FBI performed such tests in 1963. The 12-31-63 FBI lab report on the blue jacket presumed to have been worn by Oswald on the morning of the assassination reveals that the jacket "was microscopically examined and chemically processed to determine if any gunpowder resides were present and no nitrates or nitrites such as would be present in gunpowder residues were found." Well, why would they test the jacket Oswald wore to work before the shooting for gunpowder residue, but not the clothes they'd presumed he was wearing during the shooting?
It only follows, then, that these clothes were tested, that no nitrates were found, and that the results of these tests were then concealed from the public.
The Cat's Pajamas?
Apparently so. On May 24, 2016, I noticed something I probably should have noticed before. Page 163 of Commission Document 205 is a 12-9-63 FBI lab report on Oswald's clean clothes. The description of one of these articles of clothing reads as follows: "Specimen Q184 is a well-worn, red, gray, and black shirt or pajama top." Well, heck, this supports that the Warren Commission's subsequent ID of this shirt as a pajama top was no coincidence--as it had always been a pajama top--and that the numerous descriptions of this shirt as a sport shirt were in error.
This raises a question. If the "brown" shirt worn by Oswald when arrested was not the "reddish" shirt he wore to work on the morning of the 22nd, and the "gray" shirt he was wearing when shot was not the "reddish" shirt he wore to work on the morning of the 22nd, and the only red shirt found in his clothing was not the "reddish" shirt he wore to work on the morning of the 22nd, what the heck became of the "reddish" shirt he claimed to wear to work that morning?
Color Blind?I think I know. In 2016, nearly a decade after first looking into the FBI and Warren Commission's fiber problem, I came to realize that I'd been focusing on the wrong part of Oswald's description of the shirt he wore to work. Instead of focusing on his description of the shirt as "reddish", I realized that I should have been focusing on his claim the shirt was dirty, long-sleeved, and had a button-down collar. I then decided to look for such a shirt.
Well, surprise surprise, just as I decided to look for such a shirt one appeared before my eyes--on the "Lighter Shade of Brown" slide above. You see, Warren Commission Exhibit 151, a "light-brown cotton long-sleeved sport shirt", which had been designated A 16 (a "brown cotton sport shirt with long sleeves") before that and Q 369 (with the same description) before that, was originally described as a "brown shirt with button-down collar" (in an 11-22-63 inventory) and then "tan sportshirt" (in an 11-26-63 inventory) by the Dallas Police, who had found the shirt in a drawer in Oswald's bedroom, precisely where Oswald said he'd left the shirt he'd been wearing at work on the 22nd. On 11-26 this shirt was handed over to the Dallas FBI. And guess what? This shirt was dirty, long-sleeved, and had a button-down collar! This is shown on the image below.
And yes, I know. Researcher
Sean Murphy began pushing this very point--that CE 151 was the reddish
shirt described by Oswald--back in 2013...on a forum on which I was
serving as a moderator. But I have to admit it didn't register with me
at the time. I had had similar thoughts years prior to that (and had
included CE 151 on The Lighter Shade of Brown slide for nearly a decade)
but I couldn't get over that Oswald said the shirt was "reddish" and that a "red and gray sport shirt" later disappeared from the records. This felt significant to me. It didn't bother me much that the "reddish" shirt
described by Oswald was, according to Agent Bookhout's report on the
11-23 interrogation in which Oswald first mentioned the shirt, "long-sleeved", when the "red and gray sport shirt" taken from Oswald's rooming house was, in the DPD's 11-26 inventory of Oswald's clothing, a "red and gray short-sleeve" shirt. The next day's Secret Service inventory of the clothing, after all, described this same shirt as long-sleeved.
duh. Perhaps both points are significant. Perhaps CE 151 was the de
facto "reddish" shirt, but the FBI thought the Mark Lanes of the world
would focus on the clean red shirt, and "disappeared" it to prevent them
from doing so...
yes, I know. I should get a look at a color photo of this shirt to see
if it was even the slightest-bit reddish before saying for sure this was
the shirt Oswald claimed he'd been wearing on the 22nd.
guess what, I did. In July 2016, after months of haggling, I was able
to obtain color photos of CE 151 from the National Archives, and was
able to establish that this shirt, previously described as being tan or
brown, had a red tint to it, and was undoubtedly the "reddish" shirt Oswald claimed to have worn to work on November 22, 1963.
Now let's get back to our timeline...
On 11-27 Mrs. Bledsoe receives another visit from the FBI. In the report on this visit, she is reported to have described Oswald’s appearance when he got on the bus as “ragged and dirty…he was wearing a shirt which had a hole in one elbow and she remembers something “ragged” around his belt line. As she recalls he was wearing a brown shirt and gray pants and no jacket.” (CD5 p342).
Okay. Okay. I know this is getting boring. But I'm trying to show how this case was built. Here, the FBI has found fibers on the rifle that match the fibers found in Oswald's shirt, and the only witness stating she saw Oswald wearing a shirt resembling this shirt before he went home and changed clothes has been interviewed twice. Where are all the corroborating witnesses? Why haven't they routinely asked Oswald's co-workers what shirt he wore on the 22nd? They certainly can't be planning to use the fiber evidence against Oswald on the say-so of one witness? Can they?
On 11-29, the FBI's crime lab identifies a palm print purportedly lifted from the rifle on 11-22 as belonging to Oswald. When the FBI inspected the rifle on the morning on 11-23, they found no trace of this palm print. A Dallas Police officer, Lt. J.C. Day, however, insists he lifted this print before lending the rifle to the FBI. As Day would later admit this was an old dry print, it only serves to demonstrate that Oswald had handled the rifle in the past, and not that he'd handled it or fired it on November 22nd.
12-1, there's another brief red-shirt sighting. While writing a report
on Buell Wesley Frazier and the brown paper bag he saw in Oswald's
possession, agents Odum and McNeeley re-tell Frazier's story. When
discussing his giving Oswald a ride to Irving, Texas on the 21st, so
that Oswald could visit his wife and kids, they casually mention: "As
Frazier recalls, Oswald was wearing a reddish shirt and a gray jacket,
waist length." (CD7, p294) As no "reddish" shirt, as far as we can
tell, was found at the Paine residence, where Oswald's wife Marina was
staying, this suggests the possibility that Oswald wore this shirt back
to work the next day.
No matter. Even though there's almost no evidence to support that Oswald wore the dark brown shirt to work on the 22nd, the FBI is determined to use the fibers found on the rifle, which may have come from that shirt, to hang him in the public eye. A 12-1 article in the Washington Star by Jerry O'Leary, a writer more than friendly with the FBI's Deke DeLoach, and someone upon whom the FBI regularly relies to get their stories before the public, declares: "PIECE OF OSWALD'S SHIRT FOUND SNAGGED IN RIFLE." It then goes on to claim "A fragment of Lee Harvey Oswald's shirt was snagged in the rifle that killed President John F. Kennedy, the FBI report of the assassination states. Disclosure of this evidence against the 24 year-old Oswald, himself slain two days after Mr. Kennedy's death, is regarded as one of the most solid pieces of evidence of his guilt. Officials said wisps of brown shirt material were caught in metal parts of the 6.5 mm Italian-made carbine found on the fifth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building a few minutes after the fatal shots were fired on November 22. When Oswald was arrested two hours later, he was wearing a brown shirt of the same material. Oswald claimed he had changed his shirt in his rooming house after leaving the assassination area, but this proved to be untrue. FBI Crime Lab technicians determined by microscopic and other scientific means that the fragment of shirt material came from the shirt the ex-Marine was wearing."
Wow, talk of your circular reasoning. Not only does O'Leary grossly overstate the specificity of fiber analysis, but he, apparently at the FBI's bidding, has told the public that we know Oswald handled the rifle because the fibers on the rifle matched the fibers of the shirt he was wearing two hours later, and that we know he was wearing this shirt two hours earlier because its fibers matched the fibers found on the rifle. Mind-boggling. This is like lashing two boats together in a harbor and wondering why they still drift out to sea. It completely ignores the fact that, if no one saw Oswald wearing the brown shirt while at work, the matching of the fibers found on the rifle and the fibers of his shirt is more indicative of a frame-up than of Oswald having worn the shirt to work. Let's make an analogy. If the police find incriminating bloodstains in the house of a suspect, and we have reason to doubt the suspect even visited his house after the crime had been committed, we don't just assume that, huh, he must have sneaked in the house when no one was looking, now do we? We assume the detectives are up to something. Oswald deserves that same benefit.
On 12-2, the FBI Laboratory released the results of some more of its tests. “The K42 gray jacket is a size medium light gray cotton jacket…Dark blue, gray-black and orange-yellow cotton fibers, which match in microscopic characteristics the dark-blue, gray-black and orange-yellow cotton fibers composing the Q11 shirt, were found in the debris removed from the inside areas of the sleeves of the K42 jacket. These fibers could have originated from the Q11 shirt.” (CD7, p352). As the K42 gray jacket was the jacket discarded by the presumed killer of Officer Tippit, the fibers now linked Oswald's shirt to both the murder of Kennedy and the murder of Tippit.
On 12-4 another witness comes forward. She claims to have seen a man on the fourth or fifth floors with a rifle before the shooting. The FBI report (24H522) of an interview with Mrs. Carolyn Walther reflects that "a man in the crowd across the street to the west of where she was standing apparently had an epileptic seizure, and an ambulance came by and took the man away. Shortly after the ambulance left, she looked back toward the TSBD Building and saw a man standing on either the fourth or fifth floor in the southeast corner window...In his hands this man was holding a rifle with the barrel pointed downward." The man she saw “was wearing a white shirt and had blond or light brown hair.” She also offered that “the rifle was different from any she had ever seen. This man was standing in about the middle of the window. In the same window, to the left of this man, she could see a portion of another man standing by the side of this man with a rifle. This other man was standing erect, and his head was above the opened portion of the window. As the window was very dirty, she could not see the head of this second man. She is positive this window was not as high as the sixth floor. This second man was apparently wearing a brown suit coat, and the only thing she could see was the right side of the man, from about the waist to the shoulders.”
Mrs. Walther thereby becomes the 6th
witness claiming to have seen a man either in the sixth floor sniper’s
nest, or on an upper floor of the depository with a rifle, within
minutes of the shooting. None of
them have described a man wearing a shirt like the shirt Oswald was
wearing when arrested. On the other hand, the man Mrs. Walther claims
to have seen standing to the left of
the shooter is dressed like the man James Worrell saw run from the
On 12-4, the FBI decides to show the brown shirt worn by Oswald to Mary Bledsoe, to see if she could positively identify it as
the shirt he’d been wearing on his bus ride home from work. After describing the shirt as “a dark rust
colored shirt,” the FBI’s report on this interview tells us that: “Mrs. Bledsoe at first said, 'No, no. That is not the shirt.'
She then inquired as to whether the shirt had a ragged elbow. Upon further examination of the shirt, she
observed a hole in the right elbow of the shirt, at which time she quickly
stated, 'Yes, yes. This is the shirt.' Mrs. Bledsoe qualified her answer that this was not the shirt by stating that
she seemed to recall the shirt she observed Oswald wearing on November 22, 1963
was more dirty in appearance. She said
when she observed the ragged elbow on the shirt, she was positive this was the
shirt Oswald was wearing when she saw him on the bus. She stated she is positive he was wearing a
long sleeve shirt of the same dark appearance as the shirt she observed at her residence
on December 4, 1963. She stated Oswald
was not wearing a jacket or coat when she saw him on the bus on November 22,
1963. She stated the shirt she saw him
wearing was of a brown or dark brown color…She stated her first impression was
that the left sleeve on Oswald’s shirt was the sleeve that had the ragged
elbow; however, she was not positive…Mrs. Bledsoe said she did note Oswald had
his shirttail tucked into his pants and that his pants were ragged around the
top.” (CD7, p302-303).
this is quite interesting. Bledsoe initially refused to ID the dark
brown shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested as the shirt he'd been
wearing on the bus because it wasn't dirty enough. She then IDed the
dark brown shirt based on the torn elbow.
This raises two questions: 1) did CE 151--the shirt Oswald claimed he'd been wearing on his way home from work--have a torn elbow as well, and 2) was the elbow on CE 150--the shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested--torn when photographed on the night of the shooting, or was this shirt torn afterwards, in order to "help" Mrs. Bledsoe in her identification of this shirt as the one Oswald had been wearing on his way home from work.
These questions will be answered in the near future.
In any event, with
Mrs. Bledsoe's raggedy identification of Oswald's raggedy shirt as the
shirt he wore from work, the FBI's drive to use this shirt as evidence
against Oswald had neared its destination.
On 12-4 FBI agent Vincent Drain tries to shore up the chain of evidence of Oswald’s shirt. He gets Patrolman Ray Hawkins, Captain W.R. Westbrook, Lieutenant Paul Bentley, Officer Bob Carroll, Captain Will Fritz, and Detective James Leavelle of the Dallas Police to verify that the “brown shirt” in FBI custody was in fact the shirt Oswald was wearing upon arrest. (CD7, p312-317).
The Memo from Turner
Another 12-4 report raises more questions. A report written
by Agent Warren De Brueys states “Detective Fay M. Turner, Dallas Police
Department, was shown a faded brown long-sleeve shirt which was included among material received from the Dallas Police Department, November 26, 1963, as having been seized by search warrant from the room of Lee Harvey Oswald, 1026 North Beckley Street, Dallas, on November 22 1963. Detective Turner
identified this shirt as being the shirt he personally seized by search warrant
from Lee Harvey Oswald’s room, 1026 North Beckley Street, Dallas, on November 22 1963, in the presence of Detective Walter E. Potts and District Attorney Bill Alexander." (CD7, p318). Hmmm, had the FBI actually begun to suspect this "faded brown" shirt (almost certainly CE 151) was the shirt Oswald had been wearing on 11-22?
It would seem so. I mean, why else would they fly this shirt back from Washington? In 2016, while browsing through the Weisberg Archives, I came across a 12-4-64 FBI memo which was not available in the FBI files on the Mary Ferrell website. Presumably, this was a memo obtained by Weisberg from the Dallas FBI office as a result of one of his many Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. Apparently, it had never been sent to Washington. In any event, this document, written by FBI agent Robert Gemberling, explains why on 12-4 the DPD visited Bledsoe, Turner, and the many men who'd observed Oswald on 11-22.
It begins by noting: "In connection with resolving if the shirt obtained from the Dallas PD and which has been examined by the Laboratory is the shirt which subject was wearing at the time of the assassination and when observed by witnesses immediately thereafter, the following pertinent data is set forth." It then lists the witnesses to the shooting, and Oswald after the shooting, and their recollections of the shooter's and Oswald's clothing. As demonstrated above, these witnesses, when taken as a whole, suggest that neither the shooter nor Oswald while at work on the day of the shooting was wearing the brown shirt he was wearing when arrested...the brown shirt whose fibers match the fibers found on the rifle. He then notes that "on 11/23/63 Oswald stated he changed his shirt and trousers because they were dirty when he reached his room. He described his dirty clothes as being reddish-colored long-sleeved shirt with a buttoned-down collar and gray colored trousers. He indicated he put these clothes in the lower dresser drawer."
Gemberling then writes something that is quite explosive... He writes: "SA ODUM has checked today with Detective Fay M. Turner, Homicide Bureau, who has stated that during a search of the dresser drawers at 10:26 North Beckley at 5:15 P.M. on 11/22/63 he took a rusty brown shirt with a buttoned-down collar from a dresser drawer and that Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander and Detective W.E. Potts were present."
Gemberling then notes that SA Charles Brown is gonna show the shirt sent the FBI to Mary Bledsoe to see if she can identify it as the shirt Oswald was wearing when she saw him on the bus. He then closes: "SA Drain is determining if the shirt the Laboratory has examined was actually taken from Oswald at the time of the arrest or if it is the shirt found during the search of the residence at 1026 North Beckley. He is also ascertaining if there is any other shirt available which was picked up by the Dallas Police or was contained in evidence turned over to the FBI by the Dallas Police Department." There is a notation on this memo, moreover, that says "Resolved."
Well, that says it all. Resolved. The FBI has reason to believe Oswald was telling the truth when he said he'd changed clothes. It knows as well that the shirt sent them--whose fibers matched those found on the rifle--was the shirt Oswald claimed he'd changed into, and not the shirt he claimed he'd been wearing at work. It should be a simple matter, then, of both testing this shirt for gunpowder residue, and showing THIS shirt to those observing Oswald on the 22nd, along with the shirt sent the FBI, to see which one looked the most familiar to them. If residue was found on the shirt found in the drawer, or people recognized this shirt as the shirt Oswald had been wearing on the 22nd, moreover, the FBI should have investigated how the fibers from the dark brown shirt--a shirt Oswald wasn't wearing at the time of the shooting--ended up on the rifle.
But no, this never happens. After showing the shirt to Turner and establishing that the shirt found in the drawer was not the shirt sent to the laboratory, the FBI declares that the matter has been resolved. The FBI shows but one shirt to the witnesses viewing Oswald on the 22nd--the shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested--and fails to show them the shirt he claimed he'd been wearing at the time of the shooting, which THEY HAVE IN THEIR POSSESSION AND HAVE ALREADY SHOWN DETECTIVE TURNER.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves. After their success with Bledsoe, the FBI decides to spend 12-5 finding out if anyone will confirm
that Oswald had been wearing the dark brown shirt around the time of the shooting.
Their results were less than spectacular.
Buell Wesley Frazier, who gave Oswald a ride to work on 11-22: “Frazier advised that he did not pay any attention as to what type of clothing Oswald was wearing; however, he felt certain that Oswald was wearing a jacket on this date…Frazier was shown a rust brown sport shirt…Frazier was unable to identify this shirt as having been worn by Oswald on November 22, 1963.” (CD7, p304) A signed statement by Frazier to the Secret Service in this period confirms “All I recall about Oswald’s clothing on the morning of the assassination was a gray wool jacket. I don’t remember what kind of shirt or pants he was wearing.” (CD87 p796).
Linnie Mae Randle, Frazier’s sister, who’d seen Oswald walk
up to her brother’s car on 11-22: “to
the best of her recollection Oswald was wearing a tan shirt and grey
jacket…Mrs. Randle was shown a rust brown sport shirt…Mrs. Randle stated that
the above-described shirt does not look familiar to her, that Oswald could have
been wearing this shirt, but she believes that the shirt Oswald was wearing on
the morning of November 22, 1963, was a solid color and light.” (CD7, p308) (Hmmm...that sure sounds like CE 151, the shirt recovered by Turner.)
Roy S. Truly, Oswald’s boss, who saw Oswald on the second
floor after the shooting: “to the best
of his recollection, on November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was wearing either
a white tee-shirt or a light colored shirt and light trousers. He stated that most of the employees usually
worked in their tee shirts, and there was a small room on the first floor of
the TSBD where the employees could smoke, play dominoes and hang up their
shirts and coats. Mr. Truly was shown a
rust brown sport shirt…Truly stated that the shirt looked familiar to him but
as previously stated he believes that Oswald was wearing light clothing and had
on a white tee-shirt or a light colored sport shirt.” (CD7, p305). In
confirmation, a Secret Service report from this period tells us “It is Mr.
Truly’s recollection that, at the time, he and the patrolman met Oswald at the
lunch room door, shortly after the shooting, Oswald was dressed in light
colored clothing and probably a T-shirt.” (CD87, p778). And all this merely confirms what Truly had written in a signed statement on 12-4: "To the best of my recollection, when the police officer and I encountered Oswald in the lunch room on the second floor right after the shooting, Oswald was wearing light colored clothing and probably a tee shirt." (CD87 p793). (Well, there it is again. Light. That sure sounds like CE 151.)
Charles Givens, a co-worker: “to the best of his recollection Oswald was wearing a long sleeve sport
shirt, brown in color. He stated that on
occasions, he had seen Oswald wearing a tee-shirt. Givens was shown a rust
brown sport shirt…Givens stated that the above described sport shirt appeared
to be similar to the one Oswald was wearing on November 22, 1963, but that he
could not state definitely that this was the shirt.” (CD7, p306).
The Secret Service report from this period confirms: "It is Givens'
recollection that Oswald was wearing a brown shirt, when he last saw
him." (CD87 p780). (Brown? That could be either CE 150 or CE 151.)
James Jarman, a co-worker: “Jarman advised that he could not recall what type of clothing Oswald was wearing on November 22, 1963, but that Oswald usually worked in a white tee-shirt. He stated that there was a “dressing room” on the first floor of the TSBD where the employees could change their clothing or leave their shirts when they commenced work or during work hours. He said that when Oswald worked in a tee-shirt, Oswald usually had a regular shirt in the dressing room. Jarman was shown a rust brown sport shirt…Jarman stated that the above-described shirt was vaguely familiar, but he could not recall if this shirt was worn by Oswald on November 22, 1963.” (CD7, p307)
Bonnie Ray Williams, a co-worker: “to the best of his recollection, Lee Harvey
Oswald was wearing a grey corduroy pair of pants and a grayish looking sport
shirt with long sleeves on November 22, 1963. Williams was shown a rust brown
sport shirt…Williams was unable to identify this shirt and could not recall
ever seeing Oswald either wearing this shirt or a shirt similar in
appearance.” (CD7, p310) (Hmmm...grayish looking. Perhaps Williams was thinking of the shirt Oswald was wearing when shot.)
Mrs. Robert A. Reid, who saw Oswald just before he left the building: “to the best of her recollection, Oswald was wearing a white tee-shirt and a pair of pants, color unknown. She stated that she had never seen Oswald wear a regular shirt…Mrs. Reid was shown a rust brown sport shirt…She said that she could not recall ever seeing this shirt before and was certain that Oswald did not have this shirt on at the time she saw him on November 22, 1963.” (CD7, p309). The Secret Service report from this period confirms that “to the best of (Mrs. Reid's) memory, Oswald was wearing a white T-shirt at that time and was carrying a coke bottle in his hand.” (CD87 p786). She also signed a statement for the Secret Service on 12-4-63 stating “At the time Oswald came through the office he had a coke in his hand. All I recall about Oswald’s appearance is that he had a white T-shirt on.” (CD87 p798).
This Secret Service report, based on interviews conducted between 12/2 and 12/6, also tells us that William Shelley, Oswald’s direct boss, had “last saw Oswald at about 11:50 A.M…It is Mr. Shelley’s recollection that Oswald was wearing khaki trousers and a T-shirt.” (CD87, p780)
Oswald had worn a dark brown shirt with a
torn sleeve to work on the 22nd, as suggested by the statements of Mrs.
Bledsoe, how come
no one from his work, outside Charles Givens, who would dramatically change his story and call his credibility into question, remembered it?
And why was the FBI so determined to shore up that Oswald was wearing
this shirt, when NO ONE who saw the shooter saw him wearing this
shirt? Why don't they just make the reverse claim, that Oswald had
been wearing a T-shirt when he'd fired the
shots? I think we know.
They have a report saying that fibers from the dark brown shirt were found
rifle. Well, couldn't these fibers have landed on the rifle at an
earlier point, like the night before the assassination, when Oswald was
purportedly in the garage with the rifle? Sure, but this scenario
entails that Oswald went back to the domino room to get his shirt
before leaving the building after the shooting, and that doesn't quite
jive with the picture that Oswald fled the building in fear for his
life. It also introduces the new problem that, of the four witnesses
to say the shooter was wearing a light shirt, none so far have hinted
that it could have been a T-shirt. (Eyewitness Jim Towner, who was never interviewed by the FBI or SS, similarly told the Sixth Floor Museum in 1996 that the sniper's nest shooter was wearing a "white coat.")
On 12-5, the effort to connect Oswald’s shirt to the
killings suffered another setback. Mrs. Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper at
Oswald’s rooming house who saw Oswald when he came home, signed an affidavit
stating “Oswald did not have a jacket when he came in the house and I don’t
recall what type of clothing he was wearing. Oswald went to his room and was only there a few minutes before coming
out. I noticed he had a jacket he was
putting on. I recall the jacket was a
dark color and it was the type that zips up the front. He was zipping the jacket up as he left.” (7H439) The jacket found near the Tippit killing, with Oswald's shirt fibers inside, was, of course, a light jacket.
Despite the myriad problems affiliated with the
fiber evidence, the
FBI Summary Report of 12-9 (CD1, p17), presents its fiber analysis of
the gun and shirt as
evidence of Oswald’s guilt. This is precisely as predicted by Jerry
O'Leary in his 12-1 article. The report further hides the dubious
nature of the fiber
comparison by describing the shirt as multi-colored, failing to note
shirt was primarily brown and that no brown fibers had been found on
also uses Mrs. Bledsoe to
support that Oswald had in fact been wearing this shirt at work that
day. It fails to note that none of the eyewitnesses to the man in the
saw him wearing a dark brown shirt, and that a number of Oswald's
co-workers refused to ID the shirt as a shirt Oswald had ever worn to work. The report declares:
“When apprehended, Oswald was wearing a long-sleeved,
multi-colored sport shirt. A small tuft
of textile fibers was found adhering to a jagged area on the left side of the
metal butt plate of the rifle owned by Oswald. Included in this tuft were gray-black, dark blue, and orange-yellow
fibers which the FBI laboratory determined matched in microscopic
characteristics the fibers in the shirt worn by Lee Harvey Oswald.
According Mrs. Bledsoe, Oswald’s former landlady, Oswald was wearing this sport shirt on the bus shortly after the assassination.”
The report, of course was rapidly leaked to the media. That the leaker of the report (the FBI itself) was not entirely convinced by this thread of evidence is revealed, however, through a comparison of what was leaked against what was actually shown by the evidence. Articles mentioning the threads found on the rifle--such as the 12-1 article in the Washington Star and a 12-11 AP article (found in, among many others, the San Francisco Chronicle)--invariably claimed the threads found on the rifle were brown, when, as admitted in the report, NONE of them were brown. This, then, would appear to be a lie orchestrated by either the FBI or the press to convince the public these threads came from the brown shirt Oswald wore on television. The AP article, syndicated nationwide and read by millions o readers, includes another lie as well. It held that the threads "identified as from Oswald's shirt, were found snagged in the mechanism of the Italian-made bolt-action rifle which also bore his palm print." This, of course, was nonsense. Oswald's palm print was reportedly found on the barrel of the rifle, and was believed to have been an old print. The threads--which were NOT identified as having come from Oswald's shirt, but were found to be consistent with having come from his shirt--were found wrapped around the butt plate. While both pieces of evidence suggested Oswald had handled the rifle at one time or another, neither of these pieces of evidence proved Oswald had fired the shots. By claiming the threads were snagged in a "mechanism," however, an image was created of Oswald firing the rifle. Pretty sneaky.
A Darker Shade of Brown
The Warren Commission would have even more problems with the shirt evidence.
On 12-23, they received a 12-18 FBI report on cab driver William Whaley. The FBI's Bardwell Odum had shown him the brown shirt in an attempt to find a second positive identification. No such luck. Odum relates: "William Wayne Whaley...examined a brown long-sleeved man's sport shirt and stated that he cannot definitely say whether this is or is not the shirt worn by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963...He stated that this may well be the shirt since, as he recalls, Oswald was wearing grey work pants and a grey work jacket and had on a darker shirt which had a gold streak in it. He also recalled that this shirt was opened down the front to about the fourth button, and he does not recall Oswald's wearing an undershirt. He also recalled that the shirt, as well as the rest of Oswald's attire, was unpressed and wrinkled, as though it had not been ironed after washing or as though he had slept in the clothes." (CD205, p150) Oswald, of course, had been wearing a white undershirt, and had left his jacket at work. It's also problematic that Whaley remembered his passenger having a "gold streak" in his shirt. The shirt in which Oswald was arrested had no "gold streak."
On 1-22-64 they received a number of upsetting
reports. A 1-8-64 FBI interview with Mrs. Lillian Mooneyham (CD329
p17-18) reflects that she watched the shooting from the courthouse at
Houston and Main and that "about 4 1/2 to 5 minutes following the shots
fired by the assassin, that she looked up towards the sixth floor of
the TSBD and observed the figure of a man standing in a sixth floor
window behind some cardboard boxes. This man appeared to Mrs.
Mooneyham to be looking out the window, however, the man was not close
up to the window but was standing slightly back from it, so that Mrs.
Mooneyham could not make out his features. She stated that she could
give no description of this individual except to say that she is sure
it was a man she observed, because the figure had on trousers. She
could not recall the color of the trousers." This report is
troublesome for a number of reasons. For one, Oswald had been observed
downstairs and had already left the building by 4 1/2 to 5 minutes
after the shooting; the figure seen by Mooneyham, therefore, could not
have been him. For two, by strange circumstance, Officer Baker, the
first policeman in the building, had taken an elevator from the fifth
to the seventh floor, before proceeding on up to the roof. As a
result, there was no police presence on the sixth floor 4 1/2 to 5
minutes after the shooting and someone could have indeed been in the
sixth floor window as claimed. For three, she said there were boxes in
the window, which cuts into the possibility she was looking at the
wrong floor. For four, she said this man was wearing trousers,
suggesting he was not one of the police officers rushing into the
building. So who was this man? Mrs. Mooneyham was never called before
the Warren Commission.
Yet another report gives the commission yet another reason to believe the sniper's nest shooter wore light-colored clothing. The FBI report of a 1-9-64 interview with James Crawford (CD329, p22) explains "By the time the sound of the third shot had passed, Mr. Crawford looked around and in looking up at the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, he observed a movement which he described as a movement such as something being withdrawn quickly...Mr. Crawford stated he could describe the movement he observed as light colored, possibly white, and it might have been the reflection of sunlight upon a light colored object...Mr. Crawford stated that he believes that the motion he observed in the window was a person, but he could not determine if it was the figure of a man or a woman because of the short glimpse he got. He stated he could therefore, not give a description of what he had observed except that it was a quick white movement made by a figure which he had immediately concluded to be a person."
Things got a little smoother from there. For awhile.
On 2-6-64, when asked what shirt Oswald had worn on the morning of the 22nd, Marina Oswald testified “I don’t remember” When shown a number of shirts, including Exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt, and 151, a “light brown, cotton, long sleeved sport shirt”, and asked if they were Lee’s shirts, she replied “Yes.” When asked if Lee wore Exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt, on the morning of the 22nd, she said “It was a dark shirt.” When asked again if she thought exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt, was the one, she picked up the hint and replied “Yes.” Her awareness of his clothing on that morning is perhaps better demonstrated by her response to other questions, however. At one point she volunteered “The thing is that I saw Lee in the room, and I didn’t see him getting dressed in the room. That is why it is difficult for me to say.” As if to prove this point, when asked what shirt Lee had worn to her place on Thursday night, she stated “I think he wore this shirt.” Well, “this shirt” as pointed out by chief counsel Rankin, was Exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt she had just said he’d worn to work on Friday morning. Would Lee really wear the same shirt to work two days in a row? (As he was in the habit of spending his weekends with Marina, a change of clothes was certainly available.) Marina then volunteered “It seems he had that jacket, also.” Rankin then clarifies “Exhibit 162?” and she says “Yes.” The problem with this, of course, is that Exhibit 162 was the gray zippered jacket found near the Tippit killing, and Oswald was believed to have been jacket-less on his way home from work, and have picked up this jacket at his rooming house.
After Marina's self-discrediting statement regarding CE 162, Rankin moved on to other topics. In his haste, he neglected to ask Marina the highly pertinent question of whether or not she remembered seeing a torn sleeve on Oswald's rust brown shirt prior to his going to work on the 22nd. If she knew it had not been torn, of course, it would indicate that the shirt had been torn during Oswald's scuffle with the police and that Mary Bledsoe, who'd identified the shirt by the fact it was torn, was simply thinking of the shirt she'd seen on television the night before when she identified the shirt as the shirt Oswald was wearing on the bus.(1H93-126) (We have reason to believe this is so. In 1969, Marina would testify in the trial of Clay Shaw that Oswald wore "fresh" shirts whenever he went downtown, and that she had no recollection of his ever wearing "sloppy" or "dirty" clothes. In 1977, Priscilla Johnson McMillan would publish her book on the Oswalds, Marina and Lee, based upon interviews with Marina in the aftermath of the shooting. McMillan reported that, when Lee came to visit Marina on Thursday evening after work, Marina pointed to a "clean shirt and socks and pants" and told him to wash up. Well, heck, this supports that Oswald wore clean clothes to work on Friday, and that Bledsoe was mistaken.)
On 3-4, Rankin
writes J. Edgar Hoover and asks that some items of evidence be brought
to the commission for use in upcoming testimony. Among the items listed
is "the so-called rust colored sport shirt with a hole in the right
sleeve." He then asks "In addition, we would like to have the shirt and
trousers worn by Oswald at the time of his arrest." Apparently, Rankin
was so overwhelmed that he failed to realize that the "rust colored
sport shirt" WAS the shirt worn by Oswald at the time of his arrest. If
this is so, however, we can only wonder where he thought it came from.
Did he think the FBI picked it out of Oswald's clothes, and showed it
to Mrs. Bledsoe, to see if it had been the shirt he'd been wearing on
the bus? Did he really not realize that she saw Oswald wearing this
shirt on TV before she ever described this shirt as the shirt that he'd
On 3-10, the road to nailing Oswald got a wee bit muddier. Arnold Rowland, one of the earliest witnesses to say he saw a man on the sixth floor with a rifle, dropped a big rock in an unforeseen puddle. He testified “This was 12:15…at that time I noticed on the sixth floor of the building that there was a man back from the window, not hanging out the window. He was standing and holding a rifle. This appeared to me to be a fairly high powered rifle…this was on the west corner of the building, the sixth floor…this was the only pair of windows where both windows were completely open and no one was hanging out the windows, or next to the window…He was rather slender in proportion to his size. I couldn’t tell for sure whether he was tall and maybe, you know heavy, say 200 pounds, but tall whether he would be and slender or whether he was medium and slender, but in proportion to his size his build was slender…I can’t state what height he would be. He was just slender in build in proportion to his width…he appeared to be fair complexioned, not fair, but light complexioned but dark hair…I would say either a light Latin or Caucasian...(about his hair) it was dark, probably black…It didn’t appear as if he had a receding hairline but I know he didn’t have it hanging on his shoulders. Probably a close cut from—you know it appeared to me it was either well-combed or close cut…(when asked about his clothes) He had on a light shirt, a very light colored shirt, white or a light blue, or a color such as that. This was open at the collar. I think it was unbuttoned about halfway, and then he had a regular T-shirt, a polo shirt under this, at least this is what it appeared to be. He had on dark slacks or blue jeans. I couldn’t tell from that. I couldn’t see but a small portion…I think I remember telling my wife that he appeared in his early thirties…I would say about 140 to 150 pounds”
Rowland then explained that he’d told his wife about this
man but that their attention was distracted when another parade-watcher had an
epileptic seizure. He said this
discussion took place around 12:22. He then dropped the bomb: “Something I would like to note is that the
window that I have been told the shots were actually fired from, I did not see
that, there was someone hanging out that window at that time…At the time I saw
the man in the other window, I saw this man hanging out the window first. It was a colored man, I think…this was the
one on the east end of the building, the one that they said that the shots were
fired from…(when asked where he saw the man with the rifle) The west, southwest
corner. (when asked where he saw a man hanging out the window) The east,
southeast corner…On the same floor…This was before I noticed the other man with
the rifle…My wife and I were both looking and making remarks that the people
were hanging out the windows. I think
the majority of them were colored people…then she started watching the colored
boy, and I continued to look, and then I saw the man with the rifle…(when
discussing the colored man) he was there before I noticed the man with the
rifle and approximately at 12:30 or when the motorcade was at Main and Ervay he
was gone when I looked back and I had looked up there about 30 seconds before or a minute before.” (Later, when asked to describe the man he saw
in the sniper’s nest window) “He was very thin, an elderly gentleman, bald or
practically bald, very thin hair if he wasn’t bald. Had on a plaid shirt. I think it was red and green, very bright color,
that is why I remember it.” (when asked the man’s age) “Fifty; possibly 55 or
60.” (Height?) “5’8”. 5’10”, in that
neighborhood. He was very slender, very
thin. (skin color?) “Very dark or fairly dark, not real dark compared to some
negroes, but fairly dark. Seems like his face was either—I can’t recall detail
but it was either very wrinkled or marked in some way.” (2H165-190)
After Rowland, James Worrell testified. Worrell repeated his claim of seeing a man run from the back of the school book depository after the shots. Through a series of questions he described the man as “5’7” to 5’10”…155 to 165 (pounds)…in his late twenties or middle—I mean early thirties. Because he was fast moving on.” He said the man was “White" but with “black” hair, and that he’d “just saw the back of his head and it was full in the back.” And that he was dressed in a dark sports jacket…”I don’t know whether it was blue, black, or brown, but it was dark, and he had light pants. And that is all I can say on his clothes, except his coat was open and kind of flapping back in the breeze when he was running.” This man was definitely not Oswald.
Later that day, another witness to the shooting, Amos
Euins, testified. He had little to say
about the appearance of the man in the window. “All I got to see was the man
with a spot in his head, because he had his head something like this” (indicating
his face down)…I could see the spot on his head…I wouldn’t know how to describe
him, because all I could see was the spot and his head." (When asked if he could
tell the man’s race) "I couldn’t tell because these boxes were throwing a
reflection, shaded." (When asked "But you could tell he had a bald--") "Spot on his
head. Yes, sir; I could see the bald
spot on his head.” (2H201-210). While Oswald had a receding hairline, he had no bald spot on his head. Why didn't the commission have Euins work with a sketch artist to
depict what he was trying to describe?
Buell Wesley Frazier testified on 3-11-64. When asked if he recognized Exhibit 163, the gray blue jacket which the Commission believed Oswald had worn to work on 11-22-63: “No sir, I don’t.” When asked if he’d seen Oswald wear Exhibit 162, the gray zippered jacket found near the Tippit killing: “No sir, I haven’t.” When shown exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt worn by Oswald at the time of his arrest: “No sir, I don’t believe I have because most time I noticed when Lee had it, I say he put off his shirt and just wear a T-shirt the biggest part of the time so really what shirt he wore that day I really didn’t see it or didn’t pay attention to it whether he did have a shirt on.” When asked if he remembered anything about Lee’s clothing in the morning: “It was a gray, more or less flannel, wool-looking type of jacket that I had seen him wear and that is the type of jacket he had on that morning.” After he told them he wouldn’t remember what type of pants Oswald wore, and was asked if he remembered Oswald wearing gray pants: “yes, to be frank with you, I had seen something more or less of that order, that type of material, but so far as that, being sure that, was his pants or some kind of his clothes, I couldn’t be sure.” (2H210-245)
They then asked Frazier’s sister, Linnie Mae Randle, if she could recall what Oswald was wearing on the morning of 11-22: “He had on a white T-shirt. I just saw him from the waist up. I didn’t pay any attention to his pants or anything…But he had on a white T-shirt and I remember some sort of brown or tan shirt and he had a gray jacket, I believe.” (When shown Exhibit 163, the gray blue jacket later found at Oswald’s work) “Similar to that. I didn’t pay an awful lot of attention to it.” (Later, after being shown the gray jacket found near the Tippit killing (162) and the blue-gray one found at Oswald’s work (163)) “I would choose the darker one.” (Exhibit 163) “I remember his T-shirt and the shirt more so than I do the jacket.” (When shown Exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt) “Well now, I don’t remember it being that shade of brown. It could have been but I was looking through the screen and out the window but I don’t remember it being exactly that. I thought it was a solid color.”
The next day, 3-12, William Whaley, the cab driver who gave Oswald the lift home, testified. He described Oswald’s clothing in a unique manner: "I didn’t pay much attention to it right then. But it all came back when I really found out who I had. He was dressed in just ordinary work clothes. It wasn’t khaki pants but they were khaki material, blue faded blue color, like a blue uniform made in khaki. Then he had on a brown shirt with a little silverlike stripe on it and he had on some kind of jacket, I didn’t notice very close but I think it was a work jacket that almost matched the pants. He, his shirt was open three buttons down here. He had on a T-shirt. You know, the shirt was open three buttons down.” (When shown Exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt) “That is the shirt, it has my initials on it…Yes, sir; that is the same one the FBI man had me identify." (When asked if this is the shirt that Oswald was wearing) “as near as I can recollect as I told him. I said that is the shirt he had on because it had a kind of little stripe in it, light colored stripe. I noticed that." (After being shown the pants) “I am not sure about the pants. I wouldn’t be sure of the shirt if it hadn’t had that light stripe in it.” “That jacket now it might have been clean, but the jacket he had on looked more the color, you know like a uniform set, but he had this coat here on over that other jacket, I am sure, sir.” (When asked if he meant the “blue-gray jacket”, probably Exhibit 163) “Yes, sir.” (2H253-262). Well, heck. As Whaley, when first shown the rust brown shirt back in December, had in fact not identified the shirt as the one Oswald had been wearing on 11-22, and as he had previously claimed no recollection of Oswald's wearing a t-shirt on 11-22, and as the jacket he was now "sure" he saw Oswald wearing on 11-22 had been found in the school book depository more than a week after the shooting, Whaley's credibility re Oswald's clothing is next to non-existent.
On 3-24, the commission brought in their star witness, Howard Brennan. Brennan had told the Dallas Police on 11-22 that he'd seen a sniper in the sixth floor window and could identify him; he then refused to identify Oswald as this man. Then, weeks later, after Oswald's murder, and after the media had started pushing that he'd acted alone, the Secret Service talked to Brennan and, presumably, convinced him it was now safe to say that, of the men he saw in the police line-up, Oswald most resembled the man he saw in the window. He repeated this to the FBI. In his testimony, he improved his position. He told the Commission that he could have identified Oswald all along, and had been less than straightforward with the DPD, Secret Service, and FBI when he'd indicated that Oswald only "most resembled" the man he saw in the window. When asked to clarify his position, once and for all, and explain why he'd been holding back his positive ID, Brennan testified "Well, as I previously have said, I had saw the man in the window and I had saw him on television. He looked much younger on television than he did from my picture of him in the window--not much younger, but a few years younger--say 5 years younger. And then I felt that my family could be in danger, and I, myself, might be in danger. And since they already had the man for murder, that he wasn't going to be set free to escape and get out of the country immediately, and I could very easily sooner than the FBI or the Secret Service wanted me, my testimony in, I could very easily get in touch with them, if they didn't get in touch with me, and to see that the man didn't get loose." Note that Brennan admitted, in the very testimony the Warren Commission would use to push it was Oswald in the window, that the man in the window looked five years older than Oswald. This is not a convincing ID. I mean, it's not as if Oswald had a hair cut and a facial after the shooting in preparation for his appearance on TV. If anything, the events of Oswald's day--his scuffle with the police, his being charged with murder--would have aged Oswald's appearance by five years.
But if Brennan's ID of Oswald was problematic for the commission, his description of the shirt worn by the shooter was a disaster. When asked to describe the color of the shirt
worn by the shooter. “No, other than light, and a khaki color—maybe in
khaki. I mean other than light color—not
a real white shirt, in other words. If
it was a white shirt, it was on the dingy side.” (When shown Exhibit 150) “I would have expected it to be a little
lighter—a shade or so lighter.” (When asked about the shooter's trousers) “I
remember them at that time as being similar to the same color of the shirt or a
little lighter. And that was another
thing that I called their attention to at the lineup…That he was not dressed in
the same clothes that I saw on the man in the window…he just didn’t have the
same clothes on.” (3H140-161) As Brennan is purported to have seen Oswald in a lineup
early Friday evening, before Oswald’s rust brown shirt was sent to Washington, and as
Oswald is known to have complained about being made to stand in Saturday’s
lineup in just a T-shirt, it follows that Oswald was wearing the rust brown
shirt in the lineup, and that Brennan was thereby testifying that the shirt
Oswald was wearing when arrested was not worn by the shooter in the sniper’s
draws into question the value of
the fiber evidence, and demonstrates the Commission's bias. They found
Brennan credible only when he told them what they were dying to hear. He'd ID'ed the shooter as Oswald, even though the shooter looked five years older and was wearing a different shirt. Far from being the decisive witness for the prosecution many have claimed him to be, he may very well have been a star witness for Oswald's defense...should Oswald have been allowed one.
James Jarman, Oswald's co-worker, also testified on 3-24. Counsel Ball asked him how Oswald was dressed on the 22nd: “I don’t exactly recall how he was dressed. I think he had on some dress pants. But I didn’t notice the color. (When asked what kind of shirt) “Ivy leagues, I believe. (When asked again) “he never hardly worked in a shirt. He worked in a T-shirt…Yes, he had on a T-shirt that morning.”
The next day officer Marrion Baker testified. When asked to describe Oswald’s appearance when confronted in the second floor break room, Baker replied: “At that particular time I was looking at his face, and it seemed to me like he had a light brown jacket on and maybe some kind of white-looking shirt. Anyway, as I noticed him walking away from me, it was kind of dim in there that particular day, and it was hanging out his side.” (When shown Exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt) “Yes, sir; I believe that is the shirt that he had on when he came—I wouldn’t be sure of that. It seemed to me like that other shirt was a little bit darker than that whenever I saw him in the homicide office there. (When asked by Belin “What about when you saw him in the School Book Depository?") “I couldn’t say whether that was—it seemed to me it was a light-colored brown but I couldn’t say it was that or not...all I can remember it was in my recollection of it was a light brown jacket.” (When asked to clarify if what he thought was a jacket was the same color as Oswald's shirt, Exhibit 150) “Well, it would be similar in color to it—I assume it was a jacket, it was hanging out.” (When asked how Oswald was dressed at the police station) “He did have a brown-type shirt on that was out.” (When asked if it looked similar to the jacket) “I could have mistaken it for a jacket, but to my recollection it was a little colored jacket, that is all I can say.” (When later asked specifically if he thought Oswald had changed clothes between the time he saw him in the break room and the time he saw him at the police station) "He looked like he did not have the same on." (3H241-270).
Brennan and Baker’s testimony that Oswald was not wearing the shirt linked to the rifle when they saw him is a significant problem for the Commission. After Baker testified, they brought Mrs. Robert Reid, who'd talked to Oswald just before he left the building, to the stand. (When asked how he was dressed) “he had on a white T-shirt and some kind of wash trousers. What color I couldn’t tell you.” (After repeating that she couldn’t identify the trousers, and being asked about a jacket.) “He did not. He did not have any jacket on.” (When asked by Belin “Have you ever seen anyone working at the book depository wearing any kind of a shirt or jacket similar to Commission Exhibit 150, or do you know?” (THIS IS QUITE INTERESTING--IF SHE HAD SEEN SOMEONE WEARING A SHIRT, WOULD THAT PERSON HAVE BECOME A SUSPECT BASED UPON THE FIBER EVIDENCE?) "No, I do not. I have never, so far as I know ever seen that shirt. I have been asked about that shirt before, I have seen it once before, but not since all this happened.” (I believe she means “when all this happened”) (3H270-281)
On 4-1-64, the Commission called in two more
witnesses who may have seen the shooter. First they talked to James
Crawford. Crawford told them: "If I were asked to describe it, I
would say that it was a profile, somewhat from the waist up, but it was
a very quick movement and rather indistinct and it was very light
colored. It was either light colored or it was reflection from the
sun" (6H 171-174). Later, they talked to Ronald Fischer. He
described the shooter as follows: “he had on an open-neck shirt, but it—uh—could
have been a sport shirt or a T-shirt. It
was light in color; probably white. I
couldn’t tell whether it had long sleeves or whether it was a short-sleeved
shirt, but it was open-neck and light in color. Uh—he had a slender face and neck—uh—and he had a light complexion—he
was a white man. And he looked to be 22
or 24 years old…His hair seemed to be—uh—neither light nor dark; possibly a
light—well, possibly—a, well, it was a brown was what it was, but as to whether
it was light or dark, I can’t say.” (When asked about his hair) “He couldn’t have had very long
because his hair didn’t seem to take up much space—of what I could see
head. His hair must have been short and not long…I believe I could see
of his right cheek as he looked to my left…like he was looking straight
triple underpass.” (6H191-200) (Note: Fischer would later discuss his
testimony with the Dallas Morning News. A 12-19-78 article reflects
that Fischer claimed that Warren Commission counsel David Belin and he
had "had a fight almost in the interview room over the color of the
man's hair...He wanted me to tell him that the man was dark-haired and
I wouldn't do it." The article goes on to quote Fischer's 15-years-on
description of the man he saw in the window. It was nearly identical to
his earlier statements. He said that the man he saw was wearing "some
kind of a light-colored shirt, like maybe a T-shirt.")
Now desperate to provide some corroboration that Oswald was wearing the shirt linked to the rifle, on 4-2 the Commission finally dragged in good ole Mary Bledsoe, who’d seen Oswald on the bus for all of a few seconds. Now relishing her role as the Oswald buster, she described his appearance on the bus in a dramatic fashion: “He looks like a maniac. His sleeve was out here (indicating). His shirt was undone…Was a hole in it, hole, and he was very dirty, and I didn’t look at him. I didn’t want (him) to know I even seen him, and I just looked off…” (When asked if she looked at him as he passed by) “I don’t know. I didn’t look at him. That is—I was just—he looked so bad in his face, and his face was so distorted. (When asked if he had a hat on) “No.” (When asked about his shirt) “He had a brown shirt…Hole in his sleeve right here (indicating). (When asked if this hole was on the right elbow or left elbow) “Right.” (When asked if his shirt were opened) “Yes, all the buttons torn off.” (When asked if he had anything on underneath the torn shirt) “I don’t know.” (When a surprised Ball clarifies “Do you know the color of any undershirt he had on?") “No.” (When asked about his pants) “they were gray, and they were all ragged in here (indicating)…At the seam…At the waist, uh huh…(When asked if his shirt was tucked in) “it was tucked in.” Later when asked if she thought she got enough of a glimpse of Oswald to recognize him, she responded “Oh, yes.” Ball then asked her if she’d looked very carefully at Oswald, she replied “No, I just glanced at him, and then looked the other way and I hoped he didn’t see me.” (When finally shown Exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt) “That is it.” (When asked to clarify what she means) “Because they brought it out to the house and showed it…because I can recognize it…I recognize—first thing I notice the elbow is out and then I saw—when the man brought it out and let me see it?” (When Ball asks her again what she means by “That is it.”) “That is the one he had out there that day?” (When asked who) “Some Secret Service man.” (When asked if she’d seen it before the Secret Service showed it to her) “No, he had it on, though…Oswald…Oswald had it on.” (When asked what about the shirt makes her think Oswald had it on) “See all this (indicating)? I remember that…I saw the—no: not so much of that. It was done after—that is the part I recognize more than anything.”
Well hold it right there! It sure sounds like she was about to point to
something about the shirt, perhaps the buttons she'd already said were "torn off", and say that that was
what led her to recognize the shirt.
Only she stopped herself, saying “That was done after.” Had someone “preparing” her testimony
informed her that Oswald’s shirt had received most of its damage in his struggle with the
police, after she’d seen him?
Now back to Bledsoe...(When asked if she was pointing to the hole in the elbow) “Yes.” (When asked about the color) “Well, I—What do you mean?...When he had it on?...Before he was shot? Yes, I remember it being brown…Yes, it was that color…"
Okay, now what's she mean by "Before he was shot?" Does she think he was wearing the rust brown shirt when he was shot? Does she think its dark color comes from his blood?
More Bledsoe... (When an unconvinced Ball challenges her to convince him that she really thinks the shirt was worn by Oswald on the bus) “Well, I would say it was. That hole…(When asked again about the color) “Yes, I remember the color…(When asked if the color was similar) “No; same color.” (When asked if she thinks it is the shirt) “Yes, it is the shirt.” She was then shown two pairs of Oswald’s pants, and says Exhibit 156 may have been the pants he was wearing. (6H400-427).
Fabrics, Fibers, Fibs and Fabrications
The next day the FBI’s fiber expert, Paul Stombaugh,
testified before the commission. Much of his testimony was taken up with
discussion of the blanket found in the Paines’ garage, and whether it could be
linked to Oswald or the rifle. This led to a discussion of
Oswald’s pubic hairs. This enabled Stombaugh to connect the blanket to Oswald but not the rifle. This led to a discussion of Oswald’s
shirt and the fibers found on the rifle butt.
There are several minor revelations in his testimony. On page 74 he discusses his inspection of the rust brown shirt and states “I noted in my notes the two buttons from the top were forcibly removed, the right elbow was worn through, the bottom front inside the shirt was ripped forcibly…” Stombaugh was thereby suggesting that most of the damage to the shirt had occurred during Oswald's struggle with the police, and not before. Had someone discussed his notes with Mary Bledsoe? Is that why she stopped herself when identifying the characteristics of the shirt, stating "No, that was done after".
(FWIW, Vincent Bugliosi, in his 2500 page plus defense of the Warren Commission, Reclaiming History, shares a similar distrust of Bledsoe. On page 549 of his end notes, he relates "I am not including Bledsoe’s observations as evidence of Oswald’s guilt. Apart from her probable bias against him, her observations of Oswald’s physical condition were such that if they were accurate, at least one of them would have been noticeable to Roy Truly or Dallas police officer Marrion Baker. But they apparently saw no such thing, and I can’t reasonably envision anything that Oswald would have done between the time he saw Truly and Baker and was in Bledsoe’s presence that would have caused him to get in such a bedraggled condition.")
Back to Stombaugh's discussion of the rust brown shirt. After prompting by WC counsel Melvin Eisenberg, he then added "down the face of the shirt I did find some wax adhering to it." Now this is interesting, as it suggests he took a good look at the shirt. Which makes what he doesn't say remarkable. He doesn't mention finding any grease on the shirt, or anything indicating it had been used to wipe down the rifle. (The proposition that Oswald wore his t-shirt during the shooting, and used the brown shirt to wipe down the rifle, is hereby reduced to the level of unsupported speculation, at odds with the available evidence.)
Stombaugh then discussed his inspection of the rifle: “Latent fingerprint powder was all over the gun: it was pretty well dusted off, and at the time I noted to myself that I doubted very much if there would be any fibers adhering to the outside of the gun—I possibly might find some in a crevice some place— because when the latent fingerprint man dusted this gun, apparently in Dallas, they use a little brush to dust with, they would have dusted any fibers off the gun at the same time; so this I noted before I ever started to really examine the gun.” He explained further: “ordinarily a fiber would adhere pretty well, unless you take a brush and brush it off on the floor and it is lost.” He then described his inspection of the rifle on the morning of the 23rd: "I noted it had been dusted for latent prints. So I proceeded to pick off what fibers were left from the small crevices and small grease deposits which were left on the gun. At the point of the butt plate, the end of the stock…I found a tiny tuft of fibers which had caught on that jagged edge, and then when the individual who dusted this dusted them, he just folded them down very neatly into the little crevice there, and they stayed.”
This duster would be Lt. J.C. Day, the same
Dallas Crime Lab Detective who “found” Oswald's palm print on the rifle after giving it to
the FBI and having them find no
identifiable prints on the rifle. Day explained later that he'd lifted
this palm print off the rifle on the night of the assassination before
sending it to the FBI crime lab in Washington. He said he was surprised
they'd found no trace of this print upon inspection. He admitted
further that he had not protected this print, or marked its location,
in any way. Nor had he sent a note along with with the rifle explaining
the work he had performed, and that he'd lifted a palm print from the
underside of the barrel on a part of the barrel only accessible when
the rifle is disassembled. He'd also failed to photograph the print
while it was on the rifle (which is pretty much standard procedure).
From such mistakes reasonable doubts arise.
Stombaugh, continued: “These I removed and put on a
glass microscope slide…because this little group of fibers—little tuft of
fibers, appeared to be fresh. The fibers
on the rest of the gun were either adhering to a greasy, oily deposit or jammed
into a crevice and were very dirty and apparently very old…the other fibers I
cleaned up, removed the grease and examined them but they were of no
value. They were pretty well
fragmented…They all appeared old…in excess of a month or two months.” Returning to the “tuft,” Stombaugh explained: “this
was just a small tuft. They were
adhering to the gun on a small jagged edge. In other words the gun had caught on a piece of fabric and pulled the
fibers loose. They were clean, they had
good color to them, there was no grease on them and they were not
fragmented. They looked as if they had
just been picked up. They were folded very neatly down in the crevice…they were
adhering to the edge rather tightly…it had the jagged edge sticking up and the
fibers were folded around it and resting in the crevice…I believe when the
fingerprint man dusted it he probably ran his brush along the metal portion
here…Of the butt plate, and at the time the brush folded these down into the
crevice...Because of the presence of fingerprint powder being down in and
through the crevice here. It looked as
if it had been dusted with a brush. You
make out the bristlemarks of the brush itself.” Stombaugh had thereby
testified that the fibers found in the butt plate crevice did not end
up there on their own, and were apparently folded down in there only
AFTER Day had dusted the butt plate.
When asked what it would take for someone to loosen the threads from the jagged edge, he responded “Well, I would imagine if one took a brush and started brushing pretty hard these would have worked loose and come out…They were adhering to the jagged edge...they were adhering pretty tightly to the gun. I believe through ordinary handling of the gun eventually they would have worked loose and fallen off...I had to take a pair of tweezers and work them out…And after I had the fibers lifted up which could have been the original position they were in, then I had to pull them off. They were wrapped around rather snugly to the sharp edge.” Later, when asked if the rifle should have had fibers from the blanket, he replied “No, because the gun was dusted for fingerprints and any fibers that were loosely adhering to it could have been dusted off. The only reason, I feel, that these fibers remained on the butt plate is because they were pulled from the fabric by the jagged edge and adhered to the gun and then the fingerprint examiner with his brush, I feel, when brushing and dusting this plate, stroked them down into that crevice where they couldn’t be knocked off. In time these fibers would undoubtedly have become dislodged and fallen off the gun” (4H56-88).
If Oswald had been allowed an attorney, he (or she) would have just loved Stombaugh. Stombaugh pretty much admitted it's possible the fiber evidence was planted. He also gave an indication who did it, or at least knew about it. When asked if he was "unhappy" about being handed a rifle that had already been dusted for fingerprints, and asked to inspect it for trace evidence, Stombaugh replied: "I was; however, it is not uncommon for fingerprint processing to be given priority consideration. They wanted to know whether or not the gun contained any fibers to show that it had been stored in this blanket." He then explained who this "they" was: "Well, this is our Dallas office. They sent the gun in wanting to know this fact."
let's get this straight. The Dallas office wanted to know if there were
any fibers on the rifle that could link it to the blanket found in the
Paine's garage and Surprise! Surprise! Stombaugh found fibers from
Oswald's shirt on the rifle instead. This is most interesting. Fiber
evidence is most commonly found on clothing, linking a suspect to a
victim, or a victim to a suspect, or at the crime scene, linking a
suspect to a crime scene. Sometimes it can be used to suggest a victim
had been at the suspect's house, or in the suspect's car. And yet there
is no record of either the Dallas Police or the FBI examining the
sniper's nest for fiber evidence. None. The Dallas Police searched for
fingerprint evidence only. They picked the paper bag up almost as an
afterthought. They failed to photograph it in place. They carried it an
upright position with the opening at the bottom, allowing fibers to
fall freely from the bag. They didn't even inspect the inside of the
bag before handing it over the FBI. And yet, we are to believe that,
despite all the carelessness and lack of concern for the fiber evidence
in Dallas, the Dallas FBI asked the FBI Crime Lab in Washington to
inspect the rifle for fibers and lo and behold! it strikes the mother
load and finds fibers from Oswald's shirt on a weapon that had already
been dusted for fingerprints? Simply incredible! When one reads books
and articles on firearms evidence and fiber evidence, one can find
references to fibers from the clothing of a victim who had been shot at
close range being found on the outside or even on the inside of the
barrel of a revolver connected to a suspect, but I have not found a
reference to one case, outside this one, where fibers from a suspect's
shirt were found on an abandoned weapon, let alone a weapon that had
already been dusted.
If Oswald had lived, and had found himself a smart attorney, this attorney would have hired someone to wear a shirt like Oswald's, and handle a rifle like Oswald's, and may even have had him fire a few shots. He'd then have the rifle dusted for fingerprints and inspected for fibers, in that order. If they found fingerprints, he'd ask why no legible fingerprints from Oswald were found on the assassination rifle. If they found no fibers, he'd ask how Oswald's shirt fibers came to be on the assassination rifle. If they claimed that Oswald had used the shirt to wipe down the rifle, he'd ask why no grease from the rifle was found on the shirt. The lawyer would then ask if it was possible the fibers came from the shirt of J.C. Day, who'd dusted the rifle for fingerprints, or Vincent Drain, who'd delivered the shirt to Washington. He'd also ask if Day and Drain had kept Oswald's shirt separate from the rifle at all times. He'd then show the jury an FBI photograph discovered in the archives by John Hunt and published by Ian Griggs in No Case to Answer (2005). This photograph is shown below.
Well, this photo shows the brown paper bag purportedly used by Oswald to carry the rifle into the building astride the blanket purported to have held the rifle when it was in the Paine family's garage. Our wanna-be Perry Mason would then ask if it's at least a wee bit possible the single fiber found within the bag and matching the fibers from the blanket had been transferred to the bag during the posing of this evidence photo.
And then, after softening up the jury to consider that the fiber evidence against Oswald was not evidence for his guilt, but for someone else's, Oswald's s attorney would hit them with a zinger...He'd show them the press photos of Oswald's midnight press conference, and of his subsequent fingerprinting...
What's Up With That?
He'd then wonder aloud how it came to be that Oswald was still wearing his "brown" shirt at the time of his late night fingerprinting--about 12:45 in the morning of 11-23--when, according to the reports and testimony of both the Dallas PD's Crime Lab Chief, Lt. Day, and the FBI agent tasked with shipping "all" the first day evidence to FBI headquarters, Vincent Drain, it had been boxed up along with all the other key evidence for an hour.
This, one can only guess, would have blasted a hole in the official story, and have fed speculation that the evidence, far from being boxed up at 11:45 P.M. was actually fiddled with and added to well past midnight.
I mean, something is just strange here.
Here is Drain's account of his late night flight out of Dallas. (This comes from an 11-29-63 Drain to Shanklin memo found in the Weisberg Archives.) "On the night of 11/22/63 I took possession of the evidence found at the scene of the shooting, as well as a shirt which had been removed from Lee Harvey Oswald at the time of his apprehension." (Well, this is curious already. Why was Drain making out that the shirt had been removed long before his arrival?) Drain continued: "On instructions of Mr. Shanklin, I made arrangements with the U.S. Air Force for transportation to Washington, D.C., with the evidence. Prior to departing for Washington, Mr. Shanklin advised me that the U.S. Secret Service would like to send a representative along with the evidence to Washington. Shortly before midnight, 11/22/63, Mr. Winston Lawson contacted me at the FBI office, Dallas, and stated he was the U.S. Secret Service representative who would accompany me to Washington, D. C. Shortly after midnight on 11/23/63, SA Lawson accompanied me to Fort Worth, Texas, where we boarded a U.S. Air force plane for Washington, D.C."
Now here's Secret Service Agent Lawson's account of this trip, as found in his 12-1-63 report on the assassination (17H633): "At approximately 11:00 P.M., Inspector Kelley, Chief's Office, arrived, and approximately 1:00 A.M., November 23, 1963, he requested me to return to Washington, D,C, on a special plane which was returning evidence from the Dallas Police in the killing of Police Office Tippit and President Kennedy. I went to the FBI Dallas office, met FBI
Agent Drain again, and proceeded with him and the packaged evidence to
Carswell AFB. I departed Carswell AFB aboard USAF Plane #276 at 3:10
A.M. CST, November 23, 1963, and arrived at Andrews AFB 6:30 A.M.,
Well, heck. In Drain's account, he hears from Lawson before midnight and leaves for the airport shortly after midnight, while in Lawson's account he doesn't even know about the flight till around 1 in the morning, and then and only then heads over to meet Drain at the FBI's office. Assuming Lawson was correct, then, there's an hour or more missing from Drain's timeline. Well, this brings us back to the shirt, and Drain and Day's insistence they'd packed up the shirt by 11:30 or so when Oswald was still wearing the shirt more than an hour later.
From this, it's clear that not only was there ample opportunity for the
Dallas Police to switch or tamper with the evidence before it was handed
off to the FBI, but ample opportunity for Drain and the Dallas FBI to
switch or tamper with the evidence afterward, before the arrival of
Lawson. As Drain's report makes no note of his stopping by the office
for an hour or more while waiting to head to the airport, and as he was
never questioned by the Warren Commission and asked to account for this
time, for that matter, the loss of this hour remains a bit of a mystery.
I mean, why, when for all the DPD or FBI knew the killers of Kennedy were still
on the loose, would they pack up the evidence found in the sniper's
nest--most of it not yet photographed or studied by the primary
investigating agency, the DPD--and then have it sit around for hours
before shipping it to Washington?
When speaking to Larry Sneed, many years later, Drain offered an explanation, of sorts, for the delay of the flight back to Washington. According to Sneed, Drain claimed he was ordered to pick up the evidence around 8:00, but didn't get around to doing so until after 11:30. He claimed it was then and only then that he realized there were no commercial flights to Washington. He claimed that he, on his own, arranged for the flight out of Carswell. If so, well, then Drain may have taken the evidence to his office while he figured this all out.
But this still doesn't explain why both Day and Drain insisted the evidence was boxed up well before midnight, and how Oswald was still wearing his supposedly boxed-up shirt an hour later...
Of course, Oswald never had the chance to hire such an attorney, and the President of the United States and the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court made sure no such attorney was allowed to work on Oswald's behalf, and get to the bottom of this mess.
Which brings us back to the 4-3-64 testimony of the FBI's fiber expert, Stombaugh...
He eventually discussed the fibers: “I tried to match these fibers with the fibers to the blanket, and found that they had not originated from the blanket, because the cotton fibers were of entirely different colors. So I happened to think of the shirt and I made a known sample of the shirt fibers…I removed fibers from the shirt to determine the composition of it and also the colors. I found that the shirt was composed of dark-blue, grayish black, and orangish-yellow cotton fibers, and that these were the same shades of fibers I had found on the butt of the gun… "
He then presented some photographs to prove his point: “Color photographs are very difficult to make microscopically because the color isn’t always identical to what you see in the microscope. So these colors are slightly off.” “These are the orangish fibers. The color is not exactly the same as what one would see under the microscope. However, you can see that the fibers on both sides, namely the fiber from the rifle, here…And the fibers from the shirt, which are on the left hand side of Exhibit 674, do match. The colors are the same and also, we find the same twist in the fiber.” He then moved on to the grayish-black fibers: “These are the gray-black cotton fibers and the color didn’t come out well on these in this instance because of time and color process limitations…The same would apply to Exhibit 675 as to 674, with the exception of the color. The color on these is much darker and we tried up to last night to duplicate the exact color and this is the best I could come up with under the time and color process limitations. It took us about four hours to make a photograph such as this.”
Well, this is a bit of a surprise. Stombaugh was unable to get his photographs to match and expected the commission to take his word for it that the fibers really did match, when seen under his super spiffy microscope. Of course, they did just that. Not surprisingly, a detailed report by Stombaugh, explaining how and why he came to his conclusions, when his photographs didn't even match, never surfaced. A defense attorney could get fat on this stuff.
Stombaugh then moved on to the dark blue cotton fibers: “the color match of the dark blue cotton fibers shows rather well in this photograph, Exhibit 676…" (When asked about a violet fiber in the picture) “I asked the photographer about this when he developed this and I said “Why did we get this; this is not in the slide at all,” and he said that is one of the orange fibers. They use different techniques in bringing out the blue and yellow-orange in a photomicrograph…this shade in the photograph is different from what that fiber actually is. It is in the development process. I am not too familiar with color photography. There is an art to it. However, I do know that there are times and technical limitations on the accuracy of color reproductions…I believe (I recovered) a total of six or seven fibers from the butt plate, and three of them are blue fibers and all matched…Two shades.”
When asked his conclusions, Stombaugh declared: “it was my opinion that these fibers could easily have come from the shirt…Mainly because the fibers or the shirt is composed of point one, cotton, and point two, three basic colors. I found all three colors on the gun. Now if the shirt had been composed of 10 or 15 different colors and types of fibers and I only had found 3 of them, then I would feel that I had not found enough, but I found fibers on the gun which I could match with the fibers composing the shirt, so I feel the fibers could easily have come from the shirt.”
Could Stombaugh really have stated that a rust brown shirt was made up entirely of dark blue, grayish-black, and orange-ish yellow fibers? I must admit I'm skeptical. Since when is there no brown in brown? His assurance that the fibers found on the rifle "could easily" have come from Oswald's shirt is also questionable, and notable for its lack of precision.
later, Stombaugh's integrity would come under direct fire. As detailed
in the 1998 book Tainting Evidence, Stombaugh was the prosecution's
chief forensic expert in the 1979 trial of Jeffrey MacDonald. Here,
once again, he found fibers that had eluded others. After CID lab
technician Dillard Browning had inventoried a vial of fibers, Stombaugh
inspected the vial, and found that two of the fibers were in fact a
hair from one of the victims, Colette MacDonald, magically wrapped
around a fiber from Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top, thereby suggesting
that a struggle had occurred. The authors of Tainting Evidence, not to
mention MacDonald's defense team, found this highly suspicious. Perhaps even more suspicious, and damaging to MacDonald, was that
Stombaugh testified that his examination of MacDonald's blood-stained
pajama top revealed that some of the blood stains were made before the
top was cut and torn in his supposed struggle with his wife's killers.
This suggested that MacDonald had murdered his wife, and then staged
the attack on himself. According to the CourtTV Crime Library, "When Segal (MacDonald's defense attorney) asked for the photographic evidence to support this
dangerous new theory, Stombaugh was not able to prove it in court, but
maintained that it was so. Thus, the jury heard very damaging new
testimony, even though there was no way to refute it or disprove it
during the trial. Years later, when the defense team finally got its
hands on the Army's lab notes through the Freedom of Information Act, they
found that the Army's "CID lab tech Janice Glisson years earlier had
explored the same bloodstain theory and had come to a different
conclusion. She had determined that the stain edges on either side of
the rips did not intersect, that the pajama tops was therefore, stained
[after] it was ripped, not before."
After reading Stombaugh's testimony in the MacDonald trial, and noting his comments on his Warren Commission experience, it is hard not to share the suspicions of the authors of Tainting Evidence and the CourtTV Crime Library. When asked "In what subject did you testify or about what matter did you testify for the Warren Commission?" he replied "In that case I testified to hairs, fibers, and if I recall correctly, there was a blanket involved in that one which was used to cover the gun." As we've just seen, Stombaugh's testimony did not positively link the blanket to the gun, but was much more conclusive in linking the gun to the shirt purportedly worn by Oswald. Can Stombaugh's "failure" to mention the true significance of his testimony, and that he had previously found fibers overlooked by others in a prominent murder investigation, have been entirely innocent? Sure. But there's certainly cause for suspicion.
Buying Into Bledsoe
On 4-7-64, in an effort to undo the damage done by Arnold Rowland the month before, the commission called his wife, Barbara Rowland, to testify. To their almost certain dismay, Mrs. Rowland partially verified her husband's story and confirmed that he had told her about seeing a man with a rifle in the far west window of the building, 15 minutes before the shooting. (A 12-23-63 FBI report confirms that this part of Rowland's story had not changed, noting "Arnold Louis Rowland states he saw man with a rifle in the southwest corner (shots fired from southeast corner) of TSBD at about 12:15 PM 11/22/63." CD205 p.i) Mrs. Rowland contradicted her husband, however, on another central point and said that the colored men she saw hanging out windows were not by the sixth floor sniper’s nest window, but “On a lower floor, about the fourth floor, I think, and nearer the center window. The windows nearer the center.” When taken as a whole then it seems likely the dark-skinned men noticed by the Rowlands were James Jarman, Bonnie Ray Williams, and Harold Norman, who'd actually been on the fifth floor. (6H177-191).
On 4-8-64, Frankie Kaiser testified that he found Oswald’s blue-gray jacket, Exhibit 163, in the domino room of the school book depository sometime after the shooting. (6H344-345)
Charles Givens testified after Kaiser. As discussed previously, Givens now claimed he'd seen Oswald on the sixth floor shortly before the shooting. He also claimed Oswald was wearing “a greenish looking shirt and pants was about the same color as his shirt, practically the same thing he wore all the time he worked there. He never changed clothes the whole time he worked there, and he would wear a grey looking jacket.” As he'd previously stated Oswald had been wearing a brown shirt on the day of the shooting, Givens' testimony is remarkable in that, since he'd first talked with the FBI in the days after the shooting, ALMOST EVERY SINGLE DETAIL IN HIS STORY HAD CHANGED!!! (6H345-356)
Mrs. Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper at Oswald's rooming house, was next in line. When asked what Oswald did when he got home on the 22nd, she testified “He went to his room and he was in his shirt sleeves but I couldn’t tell you whether it was a long-sleeved shirt or what color it was or nothing, and he got a jacket and he put it on—it was kind of a zipper jacket.” (When asked if she’d seen the jacket before) “I can’t say I did—if I did, I don’t remember it.” (When asked about the shirt he’d been wearing) “He was in his shirt sleeves.” (When asked the color of the shirt) “I don’t remember.” (When shown Exhibit 162, the jacket found near the Tippit killing, and asked if she’s seen it before) “Well, maybe I have, but I don’t remember it. It seems like the one he put on was darker than that. Now I won’t be sure, because I really don’t know, but is that a zipper jacket?” (When told it was, and asked if he was wearing a zipper jacket) “Yes, it was a zipper jacket. How come me to remember it, he was zipping it up as he went out the door.” (When shown Exhibit 150, the rust brown shirt, and asked if she’d seen it) “Well, maybe I have. Now that looks kind of like the dark shirt that he had on.” (When asked if it looks like the shirt Oswald was wearing when he came in) “It was a dark shirt he had on—I think it was a dark one, but whether it was long sleeve or short sleeve or what—I don’t know.” (When asked again if the color of Exhibit 150 looks anything like the shirt Oswald wore when he came in) “I’m sorry, I just don’t know.” (6H434-444)
On 4-9, Robert Edwards, one of the first witnesses to say he saw the shooter, was finally called to testify. When asked to describe the culprit, he replied: “White man” (When asked if he was tall or short) “I couldn’t say.” (When asked what the shooter was wearing) “Light colored shirt, short sleeve and open neck.” (When asked how much of him he could see) “From the waist on.” (When asked the man’s build) “Oh, about average. Possibly thin.” (When asked if he could tell if he was light skinned or medium) “No.” (When asked the man’s hair color) “Light brown.” (When asked about his earlier affidavit saying the shooter was on the fifth floor) “That is incorrect. That has been straightened out since.”
On 4-22, the Commission finally called Lt. J.C. Day of the Dallas crime lab as a witness. Despite the fact that Agent Stombaugh of the FBI had testified less than 3 weeks earlier that a fingerprint man, presumably Day, had brushed the fibers purportedly matching Oswald's shirt into the small crevice by the butt plate, Day was never asked about dusting the butt plate. In fact, Day never mentioned dusting any area of the rifle butt. Instead, he described his handling of the rifle as follows: "Captain Fritz was present. After we got the photographs I asked him if he was ready for me to pick it up, and he said, yes. I picked the gun up by the wooden stock. I noted that the stock was too rough apparently to take fingerprints, so I picked it up, and Captain Fritz opened the bolt as I held the gun. A live round fell to the floor." He then described taking the rifle to the station and locking it up, and then returning later to dust it for prints. He claimed he found an old palm print on the bottom of the barrel, and lifted it without photographing it or creating a memo telling the FBI of its existence. By midnight, he'd handed the rifle over to Agent Vincent Drain of the FBI.
In Larry Sneed's book, No More Silence, Day goes into far more detail on his handling of the rifle. He explains that, when he began his inspection, he "applied powder to it; there was nothing on the stock. Around the trigger guard there was a trace of a print which showed. It wasn't very legible, just traces there...Then, when I was adjusting the thing, down under the bottom of the barrel, there was a print." After dismantling the rifle and lifting this print, Day continues that he "got word from one of my captains, which came directly from the chief's office, not to do anything else...So I slipped the barrel back on the stock and put it back in the lock box...Somewhere in the course of time, Captain Fritz came in...He said that he had Marina down in his office and wanted her to look at the gun and see if she could identify it...So I just picked up the gun by the strap again and went on the elevator with him down to the third floor. When we opened the door there was a mob out there!..If I had known how many people were there, I would have done something besides show that gun. It was definitely a poor way to handle evidence!" Day says that after showing the gun to Marina, he once again went to work trying to photograph the print on the bottom of the barrel--which he claimed was still there even after he'd performed his lift--but that he was once again ordered to stop and turn the rifle over to the FBI. He never mentions dusting the butt plate.
At left is a photo taken by one of the members of the mob encountered by Day on the evening of 11-22-63, apparently around 6:15. It shows that Day handled the rifle by its butt when he held it for the press. This raises a few questions...1) If Day had just dusted the butt plate looking for prints, as described by Stombaugh, would he hold the rifle in such a cavalier manner? He had to have known the FBI was gonna double-check his work. Which leads to 2) When they inspected the rifle the next morning in Washington, why didn't the FBI find Day's palm print on the butt plate? When one considers that books on fingerprinting (including, but not limited to, 1964's Crime Lab, 1968's Invisible Witness, and 1995's Crime Scene) stress that the carbon powder used by Day needs to be brushed "lightly" for fear of damaging whatever fingerprints may be revealed, and that Stombaugh had testified that the fibers on the rifle had been "wrapped around rather snugly to the sharp edge" it seems doubtful that Day actually dusted the butt plate in the aggressive manner described by Stombaugh, and that his brushing led to the fibers appearing on the butt plate. It seems more likely, sadly, that someone planted the fibers from Oswald's shirt on the rifle and made it appear they'd been folded into the crevice by Day during his dusting. Perhaps Day did this himself. Perhaps the FBI, on the other hand, planted the fibers, and tried to make it look like the fibers pre-dated their inspection. Something sure smells bad but we can't be sure who dealt it.
I know how we might find out. Lt. Day testified he used black
fingerprint powder on the rifle. Sebastian Latona, who dusted the rifle
for fingerprints at FBI headquarters the next day, testified on April
3rd, 1964, that he "completely covered the rifle" with gray fingerprint
powder, and that the palm print received from Lt. Day had indeed been brought out with black powder. One can presume the fibers have been
well-preserved. If they are tested and show traces of black powder the
official story that Stombaugh inspected the rifle for fibers before the
FBI dusted it for prints is supported, and it remains unclear who
planted the fibers, and even if they were planted. If they show traces
of gray powder, on the other hand, it suggests that Latona inspected
the rifle BEFORE Stombaugh, and, that, after he failed to find any
fingerprints on the rifle, someone decided to plant some fibers from
Oswald's shirt on the rifle, and have Stombaugh "find" them. While
this might sound outrageous, a desperate act of this nature only makes
sense when one considers that, at this point of its investigation, the
FBI was not yet aware of the palm print recovered by Day in Dallas, and
had no way of linking Oswald physically to the rifle that killed the
President. They were also unaware that Oswald hadn't worn his shirt to
The Warren Report was published on 9-24-64. The sections on the shirt and fiber evidence are copied below. The most outrageous section has been highlighted. It's truly hard to believe they believed this stuff.
The Assassin (WR136-137)
In a crevice between the butt
plate of the rifle and the wooden stock was a tuft of several cotton fibers of
dark blue, gray-black, and orange-yellow shades. On November 23, 1963, these
fibers were examined by Paul M. Stombaugh, a special agent assigned to the Hair
and Fiber Unit of the FBI Laboratory. He compared them with the fibers found in
the shirt which Oswald was wearing when arrested in the Texas Theatre. This
shirt was also composed of dark blue, gray- black and orange-yellow cotton
fibers. Stombaugh testified that the colors, shades, and twist of the fibers
found in the tuft on the rifle matched those in Oswald's shirt. (See app. X, p.
592.) Stombaugh explained in his testimony that in fiber analysis, as distinct
from fingerprint or firearms identification, it is not. possible to state with
scientific certainty that a particular small group of fibers come from a
certain piece of clothing to the exclusion of all others because there are not
enough microscopic characteristics present in fibers. Judgments as to
probability will depend on the number and types of matches. He concluded,
"There is no doubt in my mind that these fibers could have come from this
shirt. There is no way, however, to eliminate the possibility of the fibers
having come from another identical shirt." Having considered the
probabilities as explained in Stombaugh's testimony, the Commission has
concluded that the fibers in the tuft on the rifle most probably came from the
shirt worn by Oswald when he was arrested, and that this was the same shirt
which Oswald wore on the morning of the assassination. Marina Oswald testified
that she thought her husband wore this shirt to work on that day. The testimony
of those who saw him after the assassination was inconclusive about the color
of Oswald's shirt, but Mary Bledsoe, a former landlady of Oswald, saw him on a
bus approximately 10 minutes after the assassination and identified the shirt
as being the one worn by Oswald primarily because of a distinctive hole in the
shirt's right elbow. Moreover, the bus transfer which he obtained as he left
the bus was still in the pocket when he was arrested. Although Oswald returned
to his rooming house after the assassination and when questioned by the police,
claimed to have changed his shirt, the evidence indicates that he continued
wearing the same shirt which he was wearing all morning and which he was still
wearing when arrested. In light of these findings the Commission evaluated the
additional testimony of Stombaugh that the fibers were caught in the crevice of
the rifle's butt plate "in the recent past." Although Stombaugh was
unable to estimate the period of time the fibers were on the rifle he said that
the fibers "were clean, they had good color to them, there was no grease
on them and they were not fragmented. They looked as if they had just been
picked up." The relative freshness of the fibers is strong evidence that
they were caught on the rifle on the morning of the assassination or during the
preceding evening. For 10 days prior to the eve of the assassination Oswald had
not been present at Ruth Paine's house in Irving,
Tex., where the rifle was kept.
Moreover, the Commission found no reliable evidence that Oswald used the rifle
at any time between September 23, when it was transported from New Orleans, and November 22, the day of the
assassination. The fact that on the morning of the assassination Oswald was
wearing the shirt from which these relatively fresh fibers most probably
originated, provides some evidence that they were placed on the rifle that day
since there was limited, if any, opportunity for Oswald to handle the weapon
during the 2 months prior to November 22. On the other hand Stombaugh pointed
out that fibers might retain their freshness if the rifle had been "put
aside" after catching the fibers. The rifle used in the assassination
probably had been wrapped in a blanket for about 8 weeks prior to November 22.
Because the relative freshness of these fibers might be explained by the
continuous storage of the rifle in the blanket, the Commission was unable to
reach any firm conclusion as to when the fibers were caught in the rifle. The
Commission was able to conclude, however, that the fibers most probably came
from Oswald's shirt. This adds to the conviction of the Commission that Oswald
owned and handled the weapon used in the assassination.
Appendix X: Expert testimony (WR591-592)
The shirt. Stombaugh received the shirt, Commission Exhibit No. 150, at 7:30 a. m. on November 23, 1963. Examination showed that it was composed of gray-black, dark blue, and orange-yellow cotton fibers. The orange- yellow and gray-black cotton fibers were of a uniform shade, and the dark-blue fibers were of three different shades. All the fibers were mercerized and of substantially uniform degree of twist.
The C2766 rifle. The rifle, Commission Exhibit No. 139, was received in the FBI Laboratory on the morning of November 1963, and examined for foreign material at that time. Stombaugh noticed immediately that the rifle had been dusted for fingerprints, "and at the time I noted to myself that I doubted very much if there would be any fibers adhering to the outside of this gun, I possibly might find some in a crevice some place because when the latent fingerprint man dusted this gun, apparently in Dallas, they use a little brush to dust with they would have dusted any fibers off the gun at the same time..." In fact, most of the fibers Stombaugh found were either adhering to greasy, oily deposits or were jammed down into crevices, and were so dirty, old, and fragmented that he could not even determine what type of fibers they were. However, Stombaugh found that a tiny tuft of fibers had caught on a jagged edge on the rifle's metal butt plate where it met the end of the wooden stock, and had adhered to this edge, so that when the rifle had been dusted for fingerprints the brush had folded the tuft into a crevice between the butt plate and the stock, where it remained.
Stombaugh described these fibers as "fresh," by which he meant that "they were clean, they had good color to them, there was no grease on them and they were not fragmented." However, it was not possible to determine how long the fibers had been on the rifle, in the absence of information as to how frequently the rifle had been used. Examination showed that the tuft was composed of six or seven orange-yellow, gray-black, and dark-blue cotton fibers. These fibers were compared with fibers from the shirt, Commission Exhibit No. 150, which was also composed of orange-yellow, gray- black, and dark-blue cotton fibers. The orange-yellow and gray-black tuft fibers matched the comparable shirt fibers in all observable characteristics, i. e., shade and twist. The three dark-blue fibers matched two of the three shades of the dark-blue shirt fibers, and also matched the dark-blue shirt fibers in degree of twist. Based on these facts, Stombaugh concluded that the tuft of fibers found on the rifle "could easily" have come from the shirt, and that "there is no doubt in my mind that these fibers could have come from this shirt. There is no way, however, to eliminate the possibility of the fibers having come from another identical shirt."
The commission's proposal that Oswald was wearing the brown shirt at work that day is remarkably ill-founded. Their use of the bus transfer to support this claim is particularly disingenuous. They willfully ignored that Earlene Roberts said Oswald originally went to the bus stop after leaving the rooming house, and that it would only make sense for Oswald to have moved the transfer from one shirt to another in anticipation of such a ride. They also gave Mary Bledsoe's testimony far more credence than it deserved. After all, in her original statement she failed to describe Oswald's shirt. Then, the next day, after Oswald had been seen on TV by half the world wearing the brown shirt, she said the shirt she'd seen had had holes in both elbows. Then, four days later, she was once again interviewed, and only then did she say it had a hole in ONE elbow. Then, a week later, she was shown the actual shirt, and claimed it was NOT the shirt, only to change her mind after being shown the hole in the right elbow. Then, in her testimony, she identified the shirt as the shirt she'd been shown by the FBI, and only under repeat questioning did she relate that it was the shirt she saw Oswald wearing on the bus. She is simply not credible, and there is no reason to believe she had an independent recollection of the shirt's appearance prior to seeing Oswald on TV and every reason to believe her testimony was deliberately or accidentally coached by the FBI, from asking her the same questions over and over, asking her if she didn't recognize the hole in the elbow, etc, until she got it "right."
By relying on the easily-discredited Givens to make the case Oswald never came down for lunch, and the ridiculous Bledsoe to support their case that Oswald never changed his shirt, the commission revealed their single-mindedness, and lack of objectivity. There is simply NO WAY they'd have found these witnesses remotely credible if they'd have said anything suggesting Oswald's innocence.
Still, even though the commission accepted the words of an almost certain liar to conclude Oswald was on the sixth floor before the shots, and the words of an easily-manipulated fool to conclude his shirt fibers were found on the rifle, their conclusion of Oswald's guilt was well-founded, as the Dallas Police and FBI had compelling evidence he'd been in the sniper's nest and had recently fired a rifle. Right?