Chapter 4b: Threads of Evidence
The unraveling of a frame-up
Threads of Evidence
Let's look at how the commission answered the 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 12:44, 14 minutes after the shooting, Dallas Police Inspector J. Herbert Sawyer called in a description of the presumed assassin. He announced: "The wanted person in this is a slender white male about 30, 5 feet 10, 165, carrying what looks to be a 30-30 or some type of Winchester." He was then asked to confirm that this was a rifle. He responded: "A rifle, yes." He was then asked "Any clothing description?" He responded "Current witness can't remember that."
This description fueled a manhunt. A minute later, the Dallas Police Channel One dispatcher broadcast a description of the shooter based upon the information provided by Sawyer. He declared:"Attention all squads. Attention all squads. The suspect in the shooting at Elm and Houston is reported to be an unknown white male, 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 a 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. No further description at this time, or information."
Now, here is how this suspect was described in that day's eyewitness statements and interviews...
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...There was nothing unusual about him at all in appearance. I believe that I could identify this man if I ever saw him again.”
Howard Brennan (11-22-63 FBI interview, as reflected in an 11-23-63 FBI report, CD5 p12-14) "Brennan described the man with the rifle as a white male, who appeared to be in his early 30's. about 5'10" tall, and about 165 pounds in weight. He said this individual was not wearing a hat and was dressed in 'light color clothes in the khaki line.' He added this individual may have been wearing a light-weight jacket or sweater; however, he could not be positive about the jacket or sweater."
Howard Brennan (1964 interview with CBS--found online as part of the 2-5-92 episode of 48 Hours) "The Secret Service man asked me for a description. I gave him a description of a man in his early 30's wearing light khaki-colored clothing, height five-feet nine or ten, weighing 170 pounds."
Well, let's stop right here. Brennan is the supposed source for Sawyer's description. And yet he never said anything about a 30-30 or Winchester. And he could describe the clothes.
That's not all that's odd. Here is how (in his 1987 book Eyewitness to History) Brennan subsequently described his discussion with Sawyer: "Shortly after we got to the front steps of the building a plain clothes policeman came out of the door. He asked me what I had seen and I told him. I gave him a description of the man I had seen on the sixth floor with the rifle. 'He was a young man about 25 to 35 years old. He seemed to be of average height, not over six feet and he had dark hair that was beginning to recede.' He went to a police car that was parked nearby and broadcast the description I had given him. I learned later that this was the first description broadcast to all units of the Dallas Police Department and may have led Officer J. D. Tippit to stop Lee Harvey Oswald."
Hmmm... Brennan claims he described the suspect's hair (Oops! This was something he'd told the Warren Commission he hadn't noticed!) but fails to mention that he provided an approximate weight for the suspect. And, oh yeah, he never mentions the rifle's being a 30-30 or Winchester.
So where did Sawyer get his information about the 30-30 and Winchester?
While some have mused that the witness providing the info to Sawyer was not Howard Brennan, but some unnamed conspirator trying to frame Oswald, others have mused that Sawyer combined the description provided by Brennan with the statements of one or more other witnesses.
So let's take a look at the rest of the statements in which the sniper's nest shooter was described.
Amos Euins (11-22-63 statement to the Sheriff’s Department, 19H474): “I saw a man in a window with a gun and I saw him shoot twice. He then stepped back behind some boxes. I could tell the gun was a rifle and it sounded like an automatic rifle, the way he was shooting...This was a white man, he did not have on a hat. I just saw this man for a few seconds.”
Well, perhaps that's it. Euins was briefly interviewed by Sgt. D.V. Harkness and placed in Inspector Sawyer's car around the same time Brennan was telling his story to Dallas Police Officer Welcome Barnett, and then Sawyer. Sawyer may have taken Euins' claim the rifle sounded like an "automatic rifle" and extrapolated from this that the rifle was a 30-30 or some other type of Winchester. The vast majority of 30-30 rifles and Winchester rifles are lever action rifles...which is to say, repeater rifles. Although not technically automatic rifles (where each pull of the trigger fires a bullet without the shooter having to perform any additional action), lever action rifles can be fired much faster than standard bolt action rifles, such as the one subsequently found in the depository. (Recall, if you can, Chuck Connors at the beginning of the 50's TV show, The Rifleman.) And no, I'm not just guessing at this. Articles on lever action rifles claim they can be fired twice a second, which is roughly five times as fast as one can fire a bolt-action rifle.
So, what about the statements of the other witnesses claiming to have seen a man on the sixth floor?
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 with the FBI, 26H166) "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." (11-23-63 phone call with the FBI, 26H167) "he was looking around at the buildings and observed an unknown male wearing a light colored shirt...Rowland stated that he was not close enough to identify the person he saw and can not say if it was or was not Lee Harvey Oswald." (11-24-63 statement to the FBI, 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.....I would not be able to identify the person I saw due to the distance involved."
So 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 on the second floor 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 on a jacket 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 claiming to have observed this man have noticed this and said so in the immediate aftermath of the shooting?
(Let's return to Baker. Here, within 15 minutes of the shooting, a description provided by an unidentified witness is sent out for an unidentified shooter. This description holds that the shooter appeared to be about 5' 10" and 165 lb.s. Then, an hour or so later, Brennan gives a statement in which he describes the shooter as being about 165-175 lb.s. And then Baker gives a statement saying the man he ran across in the building--who Oswald's boss claimed was Oswald--appeared to weigh about 165 lb.s. Oswald was thin. He weighed somewhere between 132 and 150 lb.s. So what's the mystery? Brennan and Baker both over-estimated Oswald's weight, right? Well, that would be one possibility. Those more inclined to smell a rat, however, will note that the CIA's records on Oswald's trip to Mexico, created less than two months prior to the shooting, inaccurately report that Oswald was 5' 10", 165 lb.s...the exact description sent out by the Dallas Police before Oswald was known to be a suspect! They then note that these CIA reports refer to Oswald as Lee Henry Oswald, and that it seems possible Oswald's middle name and weight were misreported in these records on purpose, so the CIA would know--should this misinformation be repeated--that it came from someone within the agency, who'd had access to their top secret files on Mexico. Well, do the math. IF the original description for the shooter's matching a deliberately incorrect description for Oswald wasn't a coincidence, then it follows from this that someone with access to the CIA's files wanted the police to be on the lookout for Oswald---before his boss even realized he'd left the building!)
In any event (that is, putting all spy vs. spy stuff aside), Oswald was arrested that afternoon while wearing a dark brown, long-sleeved shirt. No coat or jacket.
A light gray jacket was found near the Tippit killing, however.
At 3:15, moreover, Oswald was interrogated by Captain Will Fritz, the Dallas Police Department's Chief of Detectives. Fritz’s notes on this interview reflect that Oswald told him he went “home by bus changed britches.” There is, tellingly, no mention of Oswald's taking a cab part of the way home nor of Oswald's changing his shirt in these notes.
But that's not to say Oswald didn't mention changing his shirt in this interview. FBI agent James Bookhout was present during this interview. His report on this interview reveals: "Oswald stated he then went home by bus and changed his clothes and went to a movie." (CD5 p91) Well, think about it. Clothes... While one might say one changed one's clothes when one had simply changed one's shirt, this would be most unexpected, as most men, myself included, change their shirts more often than they change their "britches," and almost never change their "britches" without also changing their shirt.
Within a short time of Oswald's being asked about his clothes, moreover, his clothes were collected by the police. 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.”
Several times that day, Oswald was dragged before the cameras. The available footage shows he was still wearing the dark brown shirt he was wearing when arrested.
Sometime after 8:00 PM, however, Oswald was shown to Howard Brennan in a line-up. This was done, apparently, at the request of the Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels.
Here, according to the FBI's 11-23 report on Brennan, are the results of that line-up: "He advised he attended a lineup at the Dallas Police Department on November 22, 1963, on which occasion he picked Lee Harvey Oswald as the person most closely resembling the man he had observed with a rifle in the window of the Texas School Book Depository Building. He sated, however, he could not positively identify Oswald as the person he saw fire the rifle." (CD5, p12-14)
And here is how Brennan described this line-up in his 3-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission:
Mr. BELIN. Now, taking you down to the Dallas Police Station, I believe you said you talked to Captain Fritz. And then what happened?
Mr. BRENNAN. Well, I was just more or less introduced to him in Mr. Sorrels' room, and they told me they were going to conduct a lineup and wanted me to view it, which I did.
Mr. BELIN. Do you remember how many people were in the lineup?
Mr. BRENNAN. No; I don't. A possibility seven more or less one.
Mr. BELIN. All right. Did you see anyone in the lineup you recognized?
Mr. BRENNAN. Yes.
Mr. BELIN. And what did you say?
Mr. BRENNAN. I told Mr. Sorrels and Captain Fritz at that time that Oswald--or the man in the lineup that I identified looking more like a closest resemblance to the man in the window than anyone in the lineup.
Mr. BELIN. Were the other people in the lineup, do you remember--were they all white, or were there some Negroes in there, or what?
Mr. BRENNAN. I do not remember.
Mr. BELIN. As I understand your testimony, then, you said that you told him that this particular person looked the most like the man you saw on the sixth floor of the building there.
Mr. BRENNAN. Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. In the meantime, had you seen any pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald on television or in the newspapers?
Mr. BRENNAN. Yes, on television.
Mr. BELIN. About when was that, do you believe?
Mr. BRENNAN. I believe I reached home quarter to three or something of that, 15 minutes either way, and I saw his picture twice on television before I went down to the police station for the lineup.
Mr. BELIN. Now, is there anything else you told the officers at the time of the lineup?
Mr. BRENNAN. Well, I told them I could not make a positive identification. (3H140-161)
And here is how Sorrels described this line-up in his 5-7-64 testimony before the Warren Commission: "I also got information to Captain Fritz that I had this witness, Brennan, that I had talked to, and that I would like very much for him to get a chance to see Oswald in a lineup. And Captain Fritz said that would be fine...So I instructed Special Agent Patterson (to find Brennan)...when they came down there with him, I got ahold of Captain Fritz and told him that the witness was there, Mr. Brennan. He said, "I wish he would have been here a little sooner, we just got through with a lineup. But we will get another fixed up." So I took Mr. Brennan, and we went to the assembly room, which is also where they have the lineup, and Mr. Brennan, upon arrival at the police station, said, "I don't know if I can do you any good or not, because I have seen the man that they have under arrest on television," and he said. "I just don't know whether I can identify him positively or not" because he said that the man on television was a bit disheveled and his shirt was open or something like that, and he said "The man I saw was not in that condition." So when we got to the assembly room, Mr. Brennan said he would like to get quite a ways back, because he would like to get as close to the distance away from where he saw this man at the time that the shooting took place as he could. And I said, "Well, we will get you clear on to the back and then we can move up forward." They did bring Oswald in in a lineup. He looked very carefully, and then we rooted him up closer and so forth, and he said, "I cannot positively say." I said, "Well, is there anyone there that looks like him?" He said, "Well, that second man from the left," who was Oswald--"he looks like him." Then he repeated that the man he saw was not disheveled. Now, mind you, Oswald had a slight wound over here, and he had a black eye, a bruised eye." (7H332-360)
Now, let's check back in with Brennan's memoirs (Eyewitness to History, 1987), to see how he subsequently described this line-up.
"I was led into a darkened room with lights at one end. When we arrived, a group of several men, perhaps as many as seven, were led in and made to stand in line with numbers over them. As soon as I saw him, I think he was number two, I knew without any doubt whatsoever that they had captured the man whom I saw fire the shot that killed President Kennedy. I felt a surge of emotion, a sense of outrage at this young man who had literally thrown the whole world into chaos. As I was looking at each of the men in the lineup I saw a face that I recognized. It was a Dallas Detective that I knew. He was perhaps the most well-known of all the Dallas Police and his picture had been in the papers many times. If he was there, that meant only one thing. My privacy had been broached. I felt sick and a little betrayed. I’d come to City Hall with the understanding that I would be dealing only with the F.B.I. and/or the Secret Service, not the Dallas Police.
The officer walked over to me sticking out his hand to shake. He greeted me by name and I knew if he knew who I was and what my connection with the case was, then others must know. He asked me, “Does the second man from the left look most like the man you saw?” He was talking about Oswald and I knew what he wanted me to say.
I felt even more angry and betrayed. I hadn’t agreed to make an identification to the local authorities. I knew that there were ways my identity could become known though the leaks in the police department and I didn’t want any part of it. I knew that they had Oswald on enough charges that he wasn’t going anyplace. He had been charged with resisting arrest and carrying a firearm without a permit. There was overwhelming evidence that he had killed Officer Tippit and so my identification in that moment wasn’t absolutely necessary. If they needed me later, I knew I could identify him.
I said brusquely, “He looks like the man, but I can’t say for sure!” I needed some time to think. I turned to Mr. Lish, who had detected my resentment and said, “Let’s go back to the office. We have some talking to do.” As we went, I commented that the man in the lineup wasn’t dressed the same way the man in the window had been.
“We forgot to tell you that he changed his clothes immediately after leaving the Depository, Lish said."
Hmmm... Parts of Brennan's latter-day story fail to hold up. There was no detective in the 7:55 line-up observed by Brennan. Don Ables, a jail clerk, was one of the three men in the line-up with Oswald. But nope, there were no detectives.
Still, that doesn't mean Brennan was completely out to lunch. Capt. Will Fritz was the most famous detective in Dallas in 1963. In his 3-24-64 Warren Commission testimony, Brennan recalled Fritz being at the line-up; he even said he'd talked to him. Although Fritz, when asked about the line-up during his 4-22-64 testimony, testified "I don't believe I was there, I doubt it", this is truly hard to believe, seeing as: 1) Fritz was at the time of the line-up and for the next few days the chief detective in charge of the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy; 2) Brennan was the only witness to the assassination to come forward and say he could identify the assassin, and 3) Fritz had helped put the line-up together. It seems probable then that Fritz talked to Brennan at the line-up, and Brennan confused this with Fritz's being one of the men in the line-up. Fritz was, of course, many years older than Oswald, or Brennan, for that matter, and could not have been mistaken for a man in his 30's. So his actually being in the line-up observed by Brennan is not something we should consider.
But here's what needs to be considered... Regardless of what one thinks of Howard Brennan, that is, whether or not one believes he was correct in his subsequent identification of Oswald as the man he saw in the window, it should not be overlooked that he also claimed a prominent Dallas detective tried to coerce his identification of Oswald as the shooter by singling out Oswald at the line-up and asking him if Oswald looked most like the man he saw, and that FBI agent Robert Lish (I believe he meant Secret Service agent Sorrels) pulled a similar stunt in responding to Brennan's claim the man he saw looked like Oswald, but was dressed differently, by telling Brennan they'd ascertained that Oswald had changed his clothes after the shooting.
There's also this... Sorrels said Brennan was the first to mention the second man at the line-up, when Brennan said it was a famous Dallas detective (who we can assume to be Fritz). Okay, two different men, two different recollections. But Sorrels also said Brennan's stated problem with IDing Oswald was that Oswald had changed appearance from earlier in the day, and now looked disheveled, when Brennan claimed, as early as his 1964 testimony, that it was that Oswald wasn't wearing the same shirt as the man he saw in the window.
Was Fritz lying when he said he didn't recall being at the line-up?
Did Sorrels then cover-up for Fritz?
If so, why did they lie?
Was it that Fritz's behavior at the line-up had been improper? Or was there more to it?
Could it have something to do with Brennan's insisting that the shirt worn by Oswald to the 8 PM line-up...was not the shirt worn by the man who shot Kennedy?
Above: Dallas Police Inspector J. Herbert Sawyer interviews assassination witness Howard Brennan in a patrol car, while a crowd looks on. This was perhaps 10 minutes after the shooting.
Later that night, the dark brown shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested, along with the purported assassination weapon and much of the 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.
But 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.”
Let's pause here for a second to note that someone with a pen changed these last two words--"the elbows"-- to read "one elbow" in the available copies of the report. Here. see for yourself...
Note as well that 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?
Now note that the description of the shirt contained in this report is not presented in direct quotes from Bledsoe. And then realize further that she only "advised as best she recalled" the FBI of this description. 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.
William 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 forehead.” Now, is 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 Whaley's description of the shirt as reported by the FBI does not? One can only wonder...
In any event, 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 encountered 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 comes the statement of James Worrell. (11-23-63 affidavit to Dallas County, 16H959) “I was standing on the sidewalk against a building on the corner of Elm and Houston Streets watching the motorcade of the President. I heard a loud noise like a fire cracker or gun shots. I looked around to see where the noise came 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 back at Mr. Kennedy and he was slumping over. I got scared and ran from that 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 back at the building. I saw a w/m, 5’8” to 5’10”, dark hair, average weight for height, dark shirt or jacket open down front, no hat, didn’t have anything in 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 building." (WR604).
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."
This was almost certainly a reference to a Griess Test, a chemical test long known to demonstrate the presence of nitrates or nitrites. The Griess test, moreover, is still being performed today, albeit in a modified form, to demonstrate the distribution of gunshot residue on the clothing of gunshot victims, which can in turn be used to determine the relative distance of the gun to the victim.
And yes, this test can also be used to determine if a suspect had fired a weapon or been in the vicinity of a weapon when fired. The FBI Laboratory held a symposium on gunshot residue in 2005, and a summary of this symposium can be found on the FBI's website.
Included in that summary is this:
"Carol Crowe provided a study performed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in which clothing was tested for GSR residues subsequent to discharging a weapon and laundering the worn garments in a conventional washing machine with warm water and detergent (Chavez et al. 2001). A variety of garments and fabrics were tested both postfiring and postlaundering. Results demonstrated the persistence of three-component GSR particles and/or two-component (supporting) particles on some of the garments even after washing."
"Several participants offered evidence that persistence on fibrous materials is longer than on skin. In particular, a study by A. J. Schwoeble found that the number of PbBaSb particles discovered after clothing was laundered was reduced between 88 and 99 percent. Thus, whereas most PbBaSb particles were found to be in the 1–10-µm size range before washing, only particles less than 2 µm were found afterward."
"In conclusion, the participants unanimously agreed that there are circumstances when items of clothing associated with a subject and event should be examined for the presence of GSR (e.g., when hand samples are negative or not available)."
Well, okay. This raises a question. Why would the FBI test Oswald's clothing for gsr when his hands had already tested positive?
Here's one answer. They wanted to be thorough...
So the question then becomes... Is there any evidence that someone did yes indeed test Oswald's shirt for gunshot residue?
Yes indeed. The 4-3-64 Warren Commission testimony of Paul Stombaugh, the FBI's expert on trace evidence, reveals that he attempted to link CE 150, the dark brown shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested, to the brown paper bag supposedly found in the book depository, via wax found on the shirt and in the bag. He testified further that this test proved negative, as the wax particle found in the bag was candle wax, and the wax found on the shirt was paraffin. (4H56-89)
So what's up with this wax?
While the Dallas Police famously brushed paraffin on Oswald's hands and cheek, in a desperate search for gunshot residue, it's hard to see how "a large quantity of wax" could have gotten on Oswald's right pocket and right shirt cuff. And yes, I wrote "a large quantity of wax" on his pocket and shirt cuff. An internal FBI memo on Stombaugh's testimony (FBI JFK Assassination File, Section 58, p57) reveals that "a large quantity of wax" was found "adhering to the front of Oswald's shirt." And a drawing of Oswald's shirt shows just where this wax was found. (FBI JFK Assassination File, Section 21, p197)
Now, let's think about this. While a May 2011 article in the FBI's Law Enforcement Bulletin on the current status of gunshot residue collection notes that residue today is most commonly collected via adhesive lifters, there were no such lifters in use in 1963, and the collection of residue off hands, face, and clothing was primarily collected via paraffin...wax.
So, why, then, would someone have coated the pocket and shirt cuff of Oswald's shirt with paraffin?
Well, the bottom of Oswald's right sleeve, his shirt cuff, would have been the area closest to his trigger finger should he have fired a weapon. It only makes sense then that paraffin would be applied to this area (presumably to be tested via the so-called paraffin test for nitrates). Well, then what about the pocket? Well...a bus transfer was found in Oswald's shirt pocket...that was believed to have been placed there after Kennedy was shot but before Tippit was shot. So...the discovery of gunshot residue within that pocket would have been most damaging to Oswald's claim he didn't shoot Kennedy...
It seems quite likely, then, that Oswald's clothes were tested for gunshot residue, that no nitrates were found, and that the performance of these tests, not to mention their results--were then concealed from the FBI's trace evidence expert Stombaugh, and the public.
I mean, really, if the FBI Crime Lab performed tests on wax found in the shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested as part of an effort to tie him to the brown paper bag supposedly found near the sniper's nest, they would most certainly inspect and test his shirt for gunshot residue--which is retained on clothing far longer than it is retained on hands or face.
I mean, that only makes sense. Right?
And, let's not forget--they tested Oswald's blue jacket for residue...
Well, why would the FBI test the jacket Oswald wore to work before the shooting for gunpowder residue, but not the clothes they'd presumed he was wearing at the time of the shooting?
They wouldn't. And you can bet the farm they didn't.
The Cat's Pajamas?
The eventual whereabouts of Oswald's red shirt are also curious. In January, the FBI provides the Warren Commission with a complete list of the physical evidence. At this point, a "red and gray sport shirt" re-emerges as C-144 (CD345, p3). On March 10, it provides another list. Here, the "red and gray sport shirt" again disappears. The report lists it as part of an assortment of Oswald's clean clothes. And leaves it off the list. It details: "C139-147: OSWALD'S clean clothes--belt, tie, tan sweater, olive sweater, blue-gray shirt, blue sport shirt, white shirt (Q179-187 respectively)." It thereby lists seven items for nine numbers (CD735, p74). Curious. Even more curious, the "red and gray sport shirt" was one of the two items missing, along with C-145, a blue shirt. On October 14, the FBI sends an updated list of exhibits over to the Warren Commission to be used in the twenty-six volumes of supporting evidence. By this point a re-emerged "red and gray sport shirt" has been re-dubbed CE 152 (CD1554, p10). The next month, when the Warren Commission's twenty-six volumes are published, a photo of this "red and gray sport shirt" is published on page 516 of Volume 16. Its caption reads simply "Commission Exhibit 152." At the beginning of the volume, on page viii, however, is a description of this exhibit. It reads simply "Top Portion of Man's Pajamas." This is almost in keeping with Marina Oswald's testimony of February 6, when she verified Counsel Rankin's suggestion that CE 152 was "a pair of pajamas" by stating "Yes. Lee's pajamas." The black and white photo may very well show a striped pajama top, quite possibly even a red and gray striped pajama top, but there is no bottom half to this pajama top. So why did Rankin describe it as "a pair of pajamas?" And why, if it was only a pajama top, did Marina say it was "Lee's pajamas" and not "Lee's pajama top"? I've heard of men keeping the bottoms of their pajamas when they've lost the tops, but never the reverse. This feeds the possibility that Rankin and Marina were indeed describing a pair of pajamas. As a result, one can't help but wonder how this pair of pajamas could have been mistakenly and repeatedly identified as a red sport shirt. Is it really just a coincidence that the pajama top was originally described as a pair of pajamas, and that substituting a red shirt for a pair of pajamas would have raised a, gulp, red flag that Oswald had indeed had a red shirt that he could have worn to work on 11-22, precisely as he'd told his inquisitors? And is it a coincidence that this shirt/pajama top was the only article of clothing whose Warren Commission description was less specific than its FBI description, whereby its color was removed from its description?
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.
It wasn't but a few months after this, moreover, that I was able to acquire the first-ever color photos of CE 152--the sport shirt/pajama top. One of these is shown below. It is undoubtedly a pajama top.
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?
I've solved this mystery. 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.
Well, 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...
And, 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.
Well, 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 11-28, another witness comes forward, Mrs. Ruby Henderson. She calls the Dallas FBI and tells them she believes she saw two men standing in the sniper’s nest about fifteen minutes before the shooting, one wearing a white shirt and one wearing a dark shirt. She thinks, moreover, that the man in the dark shirt was dark-skinned, a negro or a Mexican, In any event neither of these men matches a description one might give for Oswald, should he have been wearing his dark brown shirt. (The FBI would call on Mrs. Henderson the next week, and a report on this interview can be found in 24H524.)
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.
On 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 7th 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 dressed like Oswald was 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 building.
(BTW, this is it for Mrs. Walther. The FBI failed to perform any follow-up interviews with her and she was never called to testify before the commission.)
Threads of Conspiracy?
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).
Now, 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.
Here, judge for yourself. Here are two photos of the left and right elbows of CE 151, respectively.
I see a number of folds and creases, but nothing I feel certain is a hole.
And here is a photo of Oswald taken at the police station on the 22nd. (The full picture is in the upper left corner with a blue rectangle revealing what is shown in the main image.) This photo is credited to Daryl Heikes of the Dallas Times-Herald.
And here is a nearly identical photograph of Oswald in the police station. This one is credited to Bill Winfrey of the Dallas Morning News.
Here's the full photo:
And here is a close-up of his sleeve in this photo.
No hole is apparent on the right elbow of this shirt, either.
As a result, the answers appear to be "no" (the elbows for CE 151 are not torn), and "no" (the elbows for CE 150--the shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested--are not torn in the photographs taken of Oswald on the night of the shooting), and "yes", the right elbow was torn by the FBI afterwards to make the shirt match the description provided by Bledsoe on 11-27.
But let's double-check this last point, just to be sure.
The slide above presents a comparison of Oswald's right arm in the Winfrey and Heikes photos with the National Archives' photo of the shirt, in which the hole in the elbow is now readily apparent. The relative size of the sleeves was matched up by the pattern of the fabric. And yet the hole in the elbow in the archives photo is nowhere to be seen in the two photos taken on 11-22-63.
Hmmm... It seems clear the hole would have been apparent in the 11-22-63 photos, should the hole have existed at the time of the photos. But it is nowhere to be seen.
But let's triple-check this, just to be sure.
Well, I'm sold. The Warren Commission and FBI, in order to silence skeptics claiming the shirt Oswald was wearing on the evening of 11-22-63 was not the shirt whose fibers matched the fibers found on the rifle, decided to re-create some of the press photos of Oswald on that evening, to demonstrate the shirts were one and the same. They then had FBI photo analyst Lyndal Shaneyfelt testify that the shirts matched. He did so on 9-1-64.
The problem, as one can tell by comparing the Dallas-Times Herald photo at right above with Shaneyfelt's recreation of this photo (at middle above), is that the recreated photo shows a hole in the elbow where no hole was apparent on the 22nd.
That Shaneyfelt was aware of this problem is suggested, moreover, by the extremely dark nature of the original photo as presented in Shaneyfelt's exhibit (at left above). It's as if he was trying to hide something... Hmmm...
In any event, I've concluded that someone (almost certainly the FBI itself) put a hole in the elbow of the shirt, in order to effect an ID of the shirt by Bledsoe.
Now back to our timeline. With Mrs. Bledsoe's raggedy identification of Oswald's 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 on 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. Gemberling 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 fairly strange, in that it fails to acknowledge what DeBrueys has acknowledged in his own report--that the Dallas FBI has CE 151 in its possession, and has shown it to Turner. But it's worse than that... This Gemberling memo, much as the DeBrueys memo, fails to acknowledge that the shirt shown Turner is reddish, exactly like the shirt Oswald claimed he'd been wearing on 11-22-63. Instead it claims: "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."
Well, that's just special. I mean, really, there's nothing about showing the shirt to the witnesses, or anything like that.
Instead, Gemberling 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. My ass, it's resolved. The Dallas FBI has reason to believe Oswald was telling the truth when he said he'd changed his shirt at his rooming house. He said he'd been wearing a reddish shirt, and goodness gracious, here in their possession is a shirt found in his dirty clothes, that is simply reddish, no matter how others have chosen to describe it. And the FBI knows as well that CE 150, the shirt first 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.
So, yeah, the Dallas FBI should have been all over this, first showing the shirt to witnesses, and then, assuming they got some "yeah, maybe"s, making sure it was tested for gunpowder residue, if just, y'know, to see...
But it's unclear if they ever did such a thing. The shirt in question is signed by four sets of initials, presumably experts from the FBI's crime lab. These initials are RF (Robert Frazier), CK (Charles Killion), J-1 (who I've been told was Cortlandt Cunningham), and what appears to be PMS, (who I assume to have been Paul Stombaugh). Stombaugh was the fiber expert. The other three were ballistics experts. It seems probable then that the fibers from this shirt were tested against the fibers found on the rifle--and found not to match. But it's not at all clear what tests, if any, were performed on the shirt by the others.
This brings us, then, to the million dollar question. Why didn't the FBI show THIS shirt to those observing Oswald on the 22nd, along with the shirt he was wearing when arrested, to see which one looked the most familiar to them? Were they afraid of what they'd say?
If people recognized this shirt as the shirt Oswald had been wearing on the 22nd, after all, it would have fallen upon the FBI to investigate 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.
In any event, this was an avenue the FBI managed to avoid.
After showing the shirt to Turner and establishing that the shirt found in the drawer was not the shirt sent to the laboratory on the 22nd, the FBI declares that the matter has been resolved.
But that's only half the story. 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.
And no, I'm not joking. 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.
Their results were less than spectacular.
Let's start with those who'd viewed Oswald before the shooting.
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.)
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).
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.)
Now, the aforementioned 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)
And now on to those viewing Oswald after the shooting...
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 with a hole in the right sleeve at the elbow, which, according to the arresting officers, was being worn by Oswald when he was arrested on November 22, 1963. 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).
Now, Truly's recollection Oswald was wearing something other than the dark brown shirt the DPD and FBI now need him to have been wearing wasn't exactly a new development. But it was close. To wit, a 12-4 sworn statement signed by Truly for the Secret Service relates: "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." (CD 87 p793). And the 12-7 summary report on this and other interviews conducted by the Secret Service repeats: “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).
Well, there it is again. Light.
And this leads up to Mrs. Robert Reid...
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).
Well, yikes. Oswald was seen by but two of his co-workers after the shooting. Mrs. Robert Reid and Roy Truly. And both of them said he was wearing light-colored clothing or a tee-shirt, and NOT the dark brown shirt the Dallas Police and FBI need him to have been wearing...
This was a big big problem. If Oswald had worn a dark brown shirt with a hole in its elbow to work on the 22nd, as suggested by the statements of Mrs. Bledsoe, how come no one from his work remembered it? And why was the FBI so determined to shore up that Oswald was wearing this shirt, when NO ONE claiming to have seen the shooter recalled him wearing such a 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 on the 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 walked back up the hall to the domino room to get his shirt before leaving the building after the shooting, and that doesn't quite jibe with the picture of Oswald fleeing the building in fear for his life. There's also this. If Oswald returned to the domino room to get his shirt, why did he leave behind his jacket? And why, for that matter, have all four witnesses claiming the shooter was wearing a light shirt failed to provide the slightest hint it could have been a T-shirt? (This list was destined to grow, moreover. Jim Towner, an assassination witness never interviewed by the FBI or Secret Service, told the Sixth Floor Museum in 1996 that the man he saw in the sniper's nest had been 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.
Still, you can't stop the march of time. And Newsweek. And all the other institutions anxious to wrap up the case in a big red bow.
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 that the shirt was primarily brown and that no brown fibers had been found on the rifle. It 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 sniper’s nest 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 dark 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 gave 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 General 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 to 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 said the shirt Oswald was wearing on the bus had had a hole in its elbow, or elbows, was simply thinking of the shirt with missing buttons she'd previously seen on television. (1H93-126)
As fate would have it, moreover, Marina would get a second chance to weigh-in on the quality of her husband's clothing. In 1969, she 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. And that wasn't the last time she undermined Bledsoe's testimony. In 1977, Priscilla Johnson McMillan would publish her book on the Oswalds, Marina and Lee, based upon numerous interviews with Marina. 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 a shirt without a hole in its elbow to work on Friday, November 22.
But I digress... Back to the timeline...
On 3-4, Rankin wrote J. Edgar Hoover and asked 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 asked "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 agreed with the FBI this was the shirt Oswald had been wearing on the bus?
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 Sheriff's Dept. on 11-22 that he'd seen a sniper in the sixth floor window and believed he could identify him if he ever saw him again. He was then shown Oswald in a line-up. Although he was improperly pressured to ID Oswald, Brennan stood his ground and refused to ID Oswald at this time, saying only that Oswald looked the most like the shooter of the men he was shown in the line-up. Then, weeks later, after Oswald's murder, and after the media had started pushing that Oswald had acted alone, the FBI had another talk with Brennan and convinced him to say Oswald was in fact the man he saw in the window. Brennan repeated this in his testimony. 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 of Oswald, 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."
Wow. 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 line-up 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 line-up 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 nest. This 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.
(Not that one would know this from reading Vincent Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, mind you... In Reclaiming History, Bugliosi cites Brennan's testimony and subsequent memoirs extensively, a dozen times at least. But he fails to note Brennan's claim the man he saw in the sniper's nest was wearing a different shirt than Oswald wore in the line-up. And that's not the worst of it. Bugliosi actually goes to great extremes to cover this up. Here is what Bugliosi claims Brennan said at the line-up, after watching two witnesses to the Tippit killing positively ID Oswald as the man they saw run from the scene, and being asked by Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels if he could similarly ID any of the men in the line-up as the man he saw in the sniper's nest: "'I cannot positively say," Brennan finally says. "Is there anyone there that looks like him?" Sorrels asks .The second man from the left," Brennan answers cautiously, referring to Oswald. "He looks like him. But the man I saw wasn't disheveled like this fella ."815 (Of course, Oswald hadn't yet been roughed up by the police during his arrest at that point.)" Well, hell's bells. Bugliosi was thereby making out that Brennan's problem with IDing Oswald in the line-up was that Oswald looked "disheveled" and not that Brennan felt certain Oswald was wearing different clothes than the man he saw in the window. So where does he get this from? Not from Brennan, who specified both in his testimony and his memoirs that his problem was with the clothing. No, Bugliosi gets his footnote 815 from two sources...the Warren Commission testimony of Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels and the Warren Commission testimony of Secret Service agent Winston Lawson. And guess what? This was also a ruse. While Sorrells did indeed recall Brennan expressing that Oswald was now disheveled, and that this was a factor in his difficulty in providing a positive ID, Lawson did no such thing, and said instead that Brennan had admitted to seeing Oswald on TV between the time of the shooting and the line-up, and that, as a result, "he didn't know of how much value he would be." So, b-bye, Bugliosi. You tried to hide that Brennan felt sure the shooter wasn't wearing the dark brown shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested. And got caught. Rest in peace.)
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.”
Later that day, the commission took the testimony of yet another important witness, Oswald's boss, Roy Truly. Although Truly said he saw Oswald in the building moments after the shooting, Commission Counsel David Belin never asked Truly how Oswald was dressed. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact Truly had previously told the Secret Service and FBI he believed Oswald had been wearing a light-colored shirt or a t-shirt. Just sayin'.
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 hair, because his hair didn’t seem to take up much space—of what I could see of his head. His hair must have been short and not long…I believe I could see the tip of his right cheek as he looked to my left…like he was looking straight at the 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.")
Above: Mary Bledsoe, enjoying her newfound celebrity as Oswald's former landlady, in the room she'd briefly rented to Oswald. (Image courtesy Ripley's Believe it or Not...Believe it or not!)
And Then Along Comes Mary...
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).
Above: the FBI Crime Lab in the 1940's.
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 these 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 could 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."
So 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, if found at a 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., E.S.T."
The departure and arrival times provided by Lawson were confirmed, moreover, by an 11-26-63 report written by Drain. (CD5 p159-160)
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.
And no, I'm not alone in my conclusion Drain took control of the evidence around 1:00 A.M., and not an hour earlier. There was a witness, reporter John G. McCullough. In the 11-23-63 Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, from Dallas, McCullough reported: "Shortly before 1 A.M, two FBI agents took the rifle and the pistol from police headquarters and drove to the Love Airfield here. An Air Force jet was waiting to take the agents and the evidence to the FBI laboratories in Washington for further tests there." (While McCullough was wrong about the airfield it stands to reason that this is what he'd been told by Drain.)
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.
This is a bit of a problem... While one might hope this was the kind of problem Vincent Bugliosi would tackle, and explain, in his massive book on the assassination, Reclaiming History, it is instead the kind of problem he either failed to recognize, or chose to ignore. On pages 183-184 of his ginormous book, at 11:45 on his timeline, Bugliosi describes the transfer of evidence from Lt. Day to Agent Drain. He then notes: "The agent says nothing as he takes possession of the rifle. The rest of the items are loaded into a box and FBI agents Drain and Brown hustle them down the elevator to the basement and out to their waiting car for the short trip to Carswell."
Well, wait a second. A short trip to Carswell? On this point, if you can believe it, Bugliosi was not wrong. Carswell AFB was a roughly 45 minute drive from DPD headquarters. But did Bugliosi really believe--or at the very least--expect us to believe--that Drain took the largely-unstudied primary evidence in the murder of President Kennedy over to an airport...and just sat around for 2 1/2 hours?
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?
Was it simply human error?
Perhaps. 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 it was then and only then that he arranged for the flight out of Carswell. Assuming this is true, then, we have an explanation for why Drain had Lawson meet him at the Dallas FBI office, and why the flight out of Carswell was delayed. (I mean, the Air Force would have to find Drain a plane and a pilot, etc...)
But this still doesn't explain why both Day and Drain insisted the evidence was boxed-up by 11:45, and why Oswald was still wearing his supposedly boxed-up shirt an hour after it was supposedly boxed-up, and why there's no report admitting that after being boxed-up the evidence was transported to the Dallas FBI office, etc.
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.
But this is not the most problematic element of Stombaugh's testimony. Stombaugh testified that the elbow in CE 150 was "worn through." This supported that the hole in the elbow preceded 11-22-63, and this in turn supported Mrs. Bledsoe's identification of CE 150 as the shirt Oswald had been wearing on the bus.
But Stombaugh's testimony along this line is suspect. Here is the hole in the elbow of CE 152, Oswald's pajama top. This is the expected appearance of a hole created by wear.
And here is the hole in the elbow of CE 150, the shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested.
The two holes bear little resemblance. The elbow in CE 152 was obviously worn through. There is not enough material along the edges to account for the defect, and conceal the defect if folded back into place. This is not true of the hole in CE 150. There is a lot of material along its edges, either enough or nearly enough to cover up the hole. This hole, therefore, is not a hole created over time. While it may not be possible to ascertain if it was created before 11-22-63, in Oswald's 11-22-63 scuffle with the police, or afterwards, it seems clear the elbow was not "worn through" a la Stombaugh's testimony, and that Stombaugh's support for Bledsoe's ID of the shirt was thereby both unwarranted, and suspect.
Subsequent to his Warren Commission testimony, Stombaugh's credibility as an expert witness would be widely questioned. And not just by the "research" community... 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, Stombaugh found fibers that had eluded others. Subsequent to CID lab technician Dillard Browning's inventorying a vial of fibers, Stombaugh inspected the vial, and found that two of the fibers were, astonishingly, a hair from one of the victims, Colette MacDonald, magically wrapped around a fiber from her father (and suspected killer) Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top. Now this suggested a struggle, and MacDonald's guilt. And was quite convenient, wouldn't you say? The authors of Tainting Evidence, not to mention MacDonald's defense team, found this highly suspicious, anyhow. Perhaps even more suspicious, and damaging to MacDonald, for that matter, was Stombaugh's testimony that MacDonald's blood-stained pajama top indicated some of the blood stains were made before the top was cut and torn in MacDonald's supposed struggle with his wife's killers. This more than 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 top 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.
Bowling for Rowland
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. This shouldn't have come as a surprise, moreover, seeing as she had signed a statement on the day of the shooting declaring that "Arnold told me to look up at the building which was the Texas Book Depository, at two adjoining open windows, that there was a man up there holding a rifle and he must be a secret service man. I looked up and Arnold told me he had moved back, but I didn't see anything because I am very nearsighted and I didn't have my glasses on." (24H224)
Mrs. Rowland contradicted her husband on another point, however. She said that she didn't recall her husband mentioning that he saw a colored man in the sniper's nest window, and that the colored men she saw hanging out windows were not at 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 possible 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).
But this is far from conclusive. When Rowland testified he was asked to mark a copy of a Dallas Police photo of the front of the Texas School Book Depository taken but a few hours after the shooting. This was admitted into evidence as CE 356. It is shown below.
First, note that this photo was taken from the east side of Houston street, just yards from where Rowland was standing at the time of the shooting.
Now note Rowland's testimony...
Mr. SPECTER - You testified before that there were other windows where you had seen people hanging out, is that correct?
Mr. ROWLAND - Yes.
Mr. SPECTER - Would you tell us and indicate on the picture, Exhibit 356, to the best of your ability to recollect just which those windows were?
Mr. ROWLAND - There was either two or three people in this window.
Mr. SPECTER - Mark that with a "B" if you would, please.
Mr. SPECTER - Is there anything else you can tell us about the people you saw in window "B"?
Mr. ROWLAND - I think to the best of my recollection there was either two or three people in window "B," and as I stated before, either "B" or "G" had a white man in the window. I do not remember which. I do remember it was one of the windows on the corner.
Mr. SPECTER - Do you recollect if the other people in window "B" were white or Negro?
Mr. ROWLAND - They were Negro.
So Rowland remembered seeing one or more "Negroes" on the fifth floor, in the window directly beneath the sniper's nest. This is where Bonnie Ray Williams and Harold Norman were photographed seconds after the shooting. Well, it still seems possible he incorrectly recalled their companion James Jarman, who was sitting in the next window over, as having been up on the sixth floor. But wait. Rowland said he saw a dark-skinned man in the sniper's nest window around the same time he saw a man with a rifle in the southwest window, which he believed to have been around 12:15. Well, this was before Bonnie Ray Williams came down from the sixth floor. So, yikes, it seems possible he saw Williams (who never admitted looking out the sniper's nest window, BTW) looking out the sniper's nest window around 12:15.
Now, this might even make sense. Williams, we should recall, claimed he was finishing his lunch up on the sixth floor when he heard Jarman and Norman on the floor below him, and that he then took the east elevator down to the fifth floor to watch the motorcade with them. Well, think about it. Jarman and Norman were in the easternmost windows of the fifth floor. Did Williams take a quick gander out the sniper's nest window to verify that the noises he heard on the fifth floor were coming from Jarman and Norman? He certainly never said as much.
In any event, Arnold Rowland's testimony wasn't all bad for the Commission. Rowland claimed he saw someone who could be Oswald with a rifle in the southwest corner window of the sixth floor ten to fifteen minutes before the shooting. Perhaps this was Oswald, hiding from Williams. Perhaps Oswald, upon hearing Williams take the elevator downstairs, returned to the southeast corner, which had better angles for a sniper.
Or perhaps not. In either case--mistaken about seeing a dark-skinned person on the sixth floor or not--Rowland's claim he saw someone in the southwest corner can not be readily dismissed, correct?
To refresh, Rowland gave a statement to the Dallas County Sheriff's Dept. on 11-22-63, the day of the shooting. It claimed: "At approximately 12:10 PM today, my wife Barbra and I arrived in downtown Dallas and took position to see the President's motorcade...It must have been 5 or 10 minutes later when we were just looking at the surrounding buildings, when I looked up at the Texas Book Depository Building and noticed that the second floor from the top had two adjoining windows which were wide open, and upon looking I saw what I thought was a man standing back about 15 feet from the windows and was holding in his arms what appeared to be a hi powered rifle because it looked as though it had a scope on it." (24H224)
While at the Sheriff's Office, moreover, Rowland was interviewed by the FBI. The report on this interview repeats: "At Approximately 12:10 PM, November 22, 1963, he and his wife Barbra took a position on Houston Street at the west entrance to the Sheriff's Office to observe the Kennedy motorcade...About 5 or 10 minutes after they had arrived at this position on Houston Street, he looked up at the Texas School Book Depository Building and noticed two adjoining windows on the second floor from the top were open and in the windows he observed a man standing back about 10 or 15 feet and he was holding in his hands what appeared to be a rifle with a scope." (26H166)
And the FBI wasn't through with him. The next day, 11-23-63, they gave Rowland a phone call. A report on this call reveals: "at approximately 12:15 PM he and his wife were standing on the East side of Houston Street, adjacent to the Dallas County Courthouse...he was looking around at the buildings and observed an unknown male wearing a light colored shirt and holding what appeared to be a .306 rifle with telescopic sight on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. He stated this man was standing inside the window on the southwest corner of the sixth floor of the building, which window is nearest the overpass." (26H167)
And then the next day, 11-24-63, the FBI asked Rowland to give them a statement. This statement claimed: "My wife Barbra and I arrived at a point on Houston Street in Dallas between Main and Elm Streets at about 12:10 PM, November 22, 1963... Between 12:10 and 12:15 PM, I looked toward the Texas School Book Depository which faces the South and is located on the corner of Elm and Houston. I observed the two rectangular windows at the extreme west end of the Texas School Book Depository next to the top floor were open. I saw what I believed to be a man standing about 12 to 15 feet back from the window on the right. 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. He also appeared to holding a rifle with scope attached...I would not be able to identify the person I saw due to the distance involved." (16H954)
And then, to be thorough, the FBI re-interviewed Rowland at his work on 12-10-63. A report on this interview confirms: "At 12:15 P.M., he saw a man with a rifle on the sixth floor of the Texas State Book Depository Building at the southwest corner of the building. He is certain this was the southwest corner and was the corner nearest the triple underpass...A photograph of the Texas State Book Depository Building was exhibited to Rowland and he pointed out a window on the sixth floor at the southwest corner of this building as being the place where he had seen this person." (CD205, p14)
So it really shouldn't have come as a shock to the Commission when, on 3-10-64, Rowland told the commission that he saw a man with a rifle around 12:15, and that the window behind which he saw a man with a rifle "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."
I mean, look back at CE 356. The only "two adjoining windows which were wide open" on the front side of the depository building were the windows on the southwest corner of the sixth floor, which Rowland marked with an arrow, and the windows on the southeast corner of the fifth floor, which he marked with a barely discernible B, and where he saw two or three people hanging out the windows. These latter windows, moreover, were arched at the top, and not rectangular. Well, it's clear then that the only windows in the entire building matching Rowland's description of the windows where he saw a man with a rifle are the windows he designated with an arrow.
And that, almost certainly, he was telling the truth about seeing someone with a rifle behind these windows...
This conclusion, moreover, was ultimately shared by the Commission. Rowland's problematic testimony is discussed on pages 250-252 of the Commission's report. This section declares: "Because of inconsistencies in Rowland’s testimony and the importance of his testimony to the question of a possible accomplice, the Commission requested the FBI to conduct an inquiry into the truth of a broad range of statements made by Rowland to the Commission. The investigation showed that numerous statements by Rowland concerning matters about which he would not normally be expected to be mistaken—such as subjects he studied in school, grades he received, whether or not he had graduated from high school, and whether or not he had been admitted to college—were false." The Commission then concludes: "Rowland’s failure to report his story despite several interviews until his appearance before the Commission, the lack of probative corroboration, and the serious doubts about his credibility, have led the Commission to reject the testimony that Rowland saw an elderly balding Negro man in the southeast corner window on the sixth floor of the Depository Building several minutes before the assassination."
Note that they offered no reason for doubting Rowland's original claim he saw a man with a rifle in the southwest window...
And no, I'm not trying to pull a fast one. Here's Commission Counsel David Belin, who took the 4-7-64 testimony of Mrs. Rowland designed to discredit her husband, in his 1973 book November 22, 1963: You are the Jury... "On the basis of the overall record, our conclusion was that he (Rowland) probably saw a man with a rifle appear briefly at the southwest corner of the sixth floor of the TSBD Building around 15 minutes before the assassination but that he did not see an elderly balding Negro man in the southeast corner of the sixth floor of the TSBD Building..." Belin then explained: "I am sure that you would agree that when Arnold Rowland does not tell his wife that he saw an elderly balding Negro hanging out of the southeast corner window of the sixth floor approximately five minutes before the assassination and then makes this statement nearly four months later while testifying before us in Washington, we cannot give much weight to this late report-because there is no corroboration, because Rowland had signed an affidavit that mentions nothing about this, and because Rowland had deliberately misstated certain other matters in his testimony. On the other hand, we have to give some reliance to Rowland's statement that approximately 15 minutes before the assassination he saw a man on the sixth floor with a rifle, because he told it to his wife and to investigative officers immediately after the event, and also because this is included in his signed affidavit."
Now note the incredible irony/hypocrisy. Belin is the Commission lawyer, let's recall, who either suborned perjury or improperly propped up the latter-day testimony of Charles Givens in which Givens suddenly claimed he saw Oswald on the sixth floor near the sniper's nest after everyone else had gone down for lunch. Well, how in heck was Givens, whose testimony was wildly at odds with his previous statements and interviews, even marginally as credible as Rowland, who was consistent on most points but who may have added a piece to his story?
And no, it can't be because the FBI caught Rowland in some white lies or because Rowland's wife and a few of his teachers said he sometimes exaggerated his own accomplishments. The Dallas Police, let's remember, warned the Commission that Charles Givens would lie for money.
A Bugliosi-Styled Rant Against Bugliosi
Now note how Rowland's 3-10-64 testimony is buried by Vincent Bugliosi in his Warren Commission defense phone book Reclaiming History. On page 834, he writes: "Rowland now added, for the first time that has been recorded in any statement of his, that on the same floor the man with a rifle was on, he saw, around five minutes before the shooting, an elderly "colored man . . . hanging out the window . . . that they said the shots were fired from," the "southeast corner" of the building, and that on the floor directly below the colored man, he saw "two Negro women" (obviously, the two black men, Harold Norman and Bonnie Ray Williams) looking out adjacent windows."
But this was a flat-out lie--y'know, the kind the Commission and Bugliosi would like us to have believed Rowland had been telling. Rowland testified to seeing two negro women in the second floor window marked O, and not the floor below the sixth floor window in which he saw the "colored" man.
Here. see for yourself. This is Rowland's testimony after he he has finished circling the 6th, 5th, and 3rd floor windows of the southeast corner of the building. He is now pointing out two more windows where he thinks he saw people to Commission Counsel Arlen Specter.
Mr. ROWLAND - Those pair of windows. I think this was all on that floor. Here on this floor.
Mr. SPECTER - Indicating the second floor?
Mr. ROWLAND - Yes.
Mr. SPECTER - Circle the windows and mark it with a "0" if you will.
Mr. ROWLAND - I think it was this pair immediately over the door, and this pair.
Mr. SPECTER - Mark one "0" and one "D," if you will.
Mr. ROWLAND - Here I know there were two Negro women, I think.
Mr. SPECTER - Indicating window "0." You say two Negro women?
Mr. ROWLAND - Yes.
Mr. SPECTER - And were those women each in one window, both in one window or what?
Mr. ROWLAND - They were one in each window.
So yeah, the bully Bugliosi bully-shitted his readers when seeking to undermine Rowland's credibility about seeing a dark-skinned man in the sniper's nest. Well, this isn't much of a surprise, seeing as the Warren Commission itself set the FBI on the poor kid (although married, Rowland was but 18 years of age) and asked them to catch him in a fib or two, so they could dismiss his claim he saw a dark-skinned man in the sniper's nest.
But what Bugliosi did next was quite the surprise. After acknowledging Rowland may have in fact seen Oswald in the southwest window 15 minutes or so before the shooting, he writes "Another possibility is that Rowland was simply mistaken as to what he thought he saw... But if I were to guess, I'd say that Rowland made the story up for his wife, and then later ran with it, exaggerating and embroidering his yarn along the way..."
Uhh, Bugliosi must have been joking, right? Rowland tells his wife he has just seen a man with a rifle in the southwest corner of the sixth floor of a building, and 15 minutes later shots ring out from the sixth floor of that building. He--Rowland--then does his civic duty, and reports this to the police. And yet, Bugliosi's best guess is that Rowland hadn't actually seen anyone in the southwest window, and was just making it up? That it was just dumb luck that someone fired a rifle from the floor where Rowland had just told his wife he'd observed a man with a rifle?
Criminy. When it comes to Rowland, Bugliosi is just rabid. I mean, even the Warren Commission could see that the 18 year-old Rowland was probably telling the truth about the southwest window. As detailed by Belin in You are the Jury, Rowland grew so upset when he was asked why he hadn't immediately alerted the police after seeing a man with a rifle in that window that he burst into tears and had to be consoled by Chief Justice Warren. But no, to Bugliosi, Rowland is just a liar, through and through.
Well, if anyone ever asks you why this case has never been solved to a satisfactory conclusion, this could be your Exhibit 1A. Many of those choosing to believe Oswald did it all by his lonesome, such as Bugliosi, are so determined to believe that he did so that they will willy-nilly dismiss the sworn testimony of the only man to say he saw a man with a rifle on the sixth floor...BEFORE the shots were fired...just because his story placed the shooter at a window from which they believe no shots were fired. And this, even though this man's wife confirmed that, yes indeed, fifteen minutes or so before the shooting, her husband had in fact tried to point out a man with a gun in that window.
Well, my God, these single-assassin "theorists" could simply adjust their theory an inch to the left and accept that Oswald was thinking of shooting from the southwest window, but then changed his mind. That they can't budge that inch, then, says something, no, scratch that, EVERYTHING, you need to know about Bugliosi and his ilk. They are irrational zealots. They simply can't be trusted.
Buying Into Bledsoe
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. Kaiser is not asked and does not say when he discovered this jacket, beyond that it was after he'd discovered the clipboard Oswald had been using on 11-22-63 (which he'd discovered on 12-2-63). (6H344-345) There are, however, FBI reports which reveal that this jacket was "recovered from the Texas School Book Depository" on 12-16-63. (as but one example, FBI JFK Assassination file, sec 237, p65). This makes it all the more astonishing that the Warren Report would later claim the jacket was discovered "late in November" and cite Kaiser's testimony as support. (WR163)
Charles Givens testified after Kaiser. Strangely, 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. Now, that's a problem right there, as Day testified to returning to the station "about 6", and then working on the rifle until about 8:30, when he was asked to walk a gauntlet of press photographers before showing the rifle to Marina Oswald.
Well, so what, you might ask? It goes to credibility. In his testimony, Day made out that he worked on the rifle till 8:30 or so, then worked on it a bit more after showing it to Mrs. Oswald, that he was then asked to stop working on it, and that he handed off all the key evidence to the FBI around 11:30. Well, we've already shown that this isn't true, as Oswald was wearing the shirt supposedly boxed up by 11:30 an hour and fifteen minutes later. And now this...
It follows then that Day under-reported the amount of time he'd spent with the rifle (after its being sort of ID'ed by Oswald's wife) by more than half. What he presented as a three-hour span (8:30-11:30) stretching from when this photo was taken until he handed off the evidence to the FBI (a three-hour period in which he had the evidence largely to himself, by the way), had actually been a 6 1/2 hour span (6:15-12:45). This is undoubtedly suspicious.
That Day would later tell two HSCA investigators he left the Depository around "5 or 6", as opposed to the "about 6:00" to which he testified in 1964, only adds to this suspicion. (Notes on a 10-18-77 interview with Lt. J.C. Day, HSCA record 180-10107-10176). I mean, just think of it. Assuming it took Day 15 minutes to get from the depository to the crime lab, it follows that Day had the evidence to himself from 5:15 to 12:45, 7 1/2 hours, as opposed to having it from 6:15 to 11:30, 5 1/4 hours.
But there's a more basic problem with this photo of Day holding the rifle. It shows that Day handled the rifle by its butt when he held it for the press. Well, this raises a question... When they inspected the rifle the next morning in Washington, why didn't the FBI find Day's palm print (or any kind of print, even a smudged print) on the butt plate? I mean, if the metal was too coarse to pick up a print, well, then why would Day (or whomever) have frantically brushed the butt plate in search of prints?
The bottom line is this: something smells about the butt plate story.
When one considers that books on fingerprinting and/or homicide investigation (including, but not limited to, 1964's Crime Lab, 1968's Invisible Witness, 1995's Crime Scene, and 1996's Practical Homicide Investigation) 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 but we can't be certain who's to blame.
But 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 work.
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 hard to believe they believed this stuff.
The Assassin (WR136-137)
Fibers on Rifle
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 conclusion Oswald wore his brown shirt to work 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. In her original statement, after all, she failed to describe Oswald's shirt. Then, the next day, after seeing Oswald on TV wearing a torn 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. 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 Warren Commission counsel Joseph Ball, 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 conclusion Oswald never came down for lunch, and the ridiculous Bledsoe to support their conclusion 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.
I mean, seriously, think about this. Howard Brennan ONLY ID'ed Oswald as the shooter because he was told Oswald had changed his "clothes" after the shooting (note: Brennan only saw the top half of the shooter so "clothes" means "shirt"). In any event, the Warren Commission accepted Brennan's testimony, and used his testimony to support Oswald's guilt. They then went ahead and concluded Oswald did not change his shirt, and used this conclusion to shore up that fibers from Oswald's shirt had somehow become wrapped around the butt plate of the rifle found on the sixth floor.
That ain't kosher. Not in my book anyhow.
And not just in my book. The HSCA tried to call Brennan as a witness, but he refused, citing health reasons. They then failed to cite him as evidence against Oswald.
And this wasn't a coincidence. On 10-29-18, Warren Commission Counsel Howard Willens and HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey debated the pros and cons of their investigations before an audience at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. The first half was amiable. When discussing the evidence regarding the mafia which helped lead the HSCA to conclude Oswald acted as part of a conspiracy (and thereby undermine the conclusions of the Warren Commission), however, things got a little heated. Willens went on the attack. He pointed at Blakey and said "Unlike the staff he organized, we had people of credentials, experience, integrity, and independent judgment, who could disagree with the (men heading the investigation) when they wanted to." He then went on to criticize the HSCA's reliance upon a dictabelt recording (which helped lead it to conclude more than three shots were fired), and Blakey personally. He listed the commission's evidence for three shots. He then looked at the audience, and asked, incredulously, "They are gonna be outweighed by acoustic evidence that was a fraud from the very beginning because of his mistake in estimating that that recording was on a vehicle in the motorcade, when it clearly wasn't?" Well, this put Blakey on the defensive. He defended his use of dictabelt evidence, claiming, of Willens "He's not professionally qualified to make these statements." And he eventually hit back. While summing up his thoughts about the assassination mystery, he said "Don't get in the weeds...The problem with the Kennedy case is that there's too much evidence." He explained then that you can't rely on this person or that person, but must rely instead on the forensics. He then drew blood, by pointing out a problem with the Warren Commission investigation that, to his mind, far out-weighed the problems with the HSCA's investigation pointed out by Willens. He said "If there's any unbelievable witness in the Warren Commission spectrum, it was Howard Brennan. He said he looked up at the sixth floor, and could identify Oswald. I've looked up at the sixth floor, and I couldn't identify Oswald up there. But because it was convenient to the Warren Commission to find Oswald up there, they decided to believe Howard Brennan." And, to this, Willens had no response.
Perhaps he knew that it was worse than Blakey thought, and that the commission not only chose to believe Brennan identified Oswald as the shooter, but that they did so while disregarding Brennan's assertion that he only did so under the condition Oswald had changed his shirt.
Still, even though the commission pretended to believe Howard Brennan's identification of Oswald as the shooter, and 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?