Lee Harvey Oswald was the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy (JFK). A former Marine Corps marksman and one-time Soviet defector, Oswald was apprehended for the assassination of JFK on 22 November 1963. 2 days later, Oswald was himself assassinated while being transferred to county jail.
The extraordinary acts of violence and the motivations behind them have fuelled speculation for decades. Here are 10 facts about Lee Harvey Oswald.
1. He was born in Louisiana
Oswald was born on 18 October 1939 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He lived with his mother and experienced a peripatetic childhood. By the time he was 17, they may have moved as many as 20 times.
2. He was a marine
Lee Harvey Oswald joined the United States Marines Corps in October 1956 after dropping out of high school. He was designated a sharpshooter after obtaining a shooting score of 212, but was demoted to marksman in 1959 with a score of 191. While a marine, he was court-martialled twice.
3. Oswald defected to the Soviet Union
9 days after leaving the Marine Corps in 1959, Oswald travelled to the Soviet Union. His political opinions were not unknown while he was a marine: he studied the Russian language, which earned him the moniker ‘Oswaldskovich’.
Though he attempted to become a citizen after arriving in Moscow, his request was denied. Instead, he was assigned work in Minsk, Byelorussia (now Belarus). Oswald lived in Minsk until 1962, where he met his wife Marina Prusakova and with whom he had two daughters.
4. He was arrested for the assassination of JFK
Oswald shot Kennedy on 22 November 1963 during a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. He did so from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Oswald was apprehended at 1.45 pm, and arraigned for the murder of JFK the next morning.
5. He also killed a police officer
In addition to assassinating President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed police officer JD Tippit on a local street. Tippit was murdered at 1.15 pm, 45 minutes after JFK’s death and one mile away from Oswald’s accommodation. Governor John B. Connally was also seriously wounded.
6. He was shot and killed by Jack Ruby
Lee Harvey Oswald was killed in custody by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on 24 November 1963, two days after the assassination of JFK. Apparently on good terms with police officers as a result of legal run-ins at nightclubs he worked at, Ruby was able to access the basement area of Dallas City Hall. There he fatally shot Oswald in the stomach.
The event was captured live on television. Ruby maintained that he acted alone, and claimed to be upset by the assassination of JFK. Ruby was found guilty of murder and received the death penalty, but this was overturned in 1966. Before a new trial was held, he died from a pulmonary embolism.
7. Oswald was deemed to have acted alone by the Warren Commission
The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, concluded on 24 September 1964 that Oswald alone had fired the shots that had killed Kennedy. It also declared that no evidence connected Oswald or his assassin Jack Ruby to a conspiracy.
8. A 1979 investigation suggested a second assassin had been involved
However, a special US House of Representatives Assassinations Committee reported in January 1979 that there may have been a second assassin involved in the death of President Kennedy. They based this conclusion on acoustic evidence of a police channel dictabelt recording apparently documenting another gunshot.
This evidence was discredited by the FBI soon afterwards, unanimously discredited by the National Academy of Sciences in 1982, and the House of Representatives conclusions’ repeatedly criticised over the following decades. Despite this, the suggestion of a second shooter and a wider cover-up has proved fertile ground for conspiracy theories.
9. Oswald was retrospectively linked to another assassination attempt
Before the assassination of President Kennedy, Oswald is alleged to have attempted an assassination of Edwin Anderson Walker, a former general with outspoken right-wing political opinions. On 10 April 1963, a bullet hit a window frame of Walker’s home and fragmented, causing minor injuries to Walker’s forearm.
Marina Oswald later testified that Lee Harvey Oswald regarded Walker as a “fascist” and that he had travelled by bus to the location and shot at Walker with his rifle. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald was responsible for the assassination attempt.
10. He used the pseudonym A. Hiddell
Lee Harvey Oswald used the pseudonym ‘Alek Hiddell’ when he mail-ordered the rifle that was used in his assassination of Kennedy. According to his wife’s testimony, it was the same rifle he used in his attempt on Edwin Walker’s life that April.
Oswald had previously used the alias ‘AJ Hiddell’ when he ordered a Smith & Wesson revolver. This is the weapon he was holding when he was arrested in the Texas Theatre 80 minutes after Kennedy’s assassination, and the weapon he used to murder Dallas police officer JD Tippit.