Who was Lee Harvey Oswald?

01:12, Nov 11 2013
JFK: 50 years on
President John F Kennedy, with First Lady Jackie Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally ride through Dallas moments before Kennedy was assassinated, on November 22 1963.
JFK: 50 years on
President John F. Kennedy delivers a speech at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas several hours before his assassination in this November 22, 1963.
JFK: 50 years on
US Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson takes the presidential oath of office from Judge Sarah T. Hughes as President John F. Kennedy's widow first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy stands at his side aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, Texas just two hours after Kennedy was shot.
JFK: 50 years on
President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy arrive at Love Field in Dallas, Texas on the day of his assassination, November 22 1963.
JFK: 50 years on
President John F. Kennedy's casket is carried into the United States Capitol followed by his widow Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, their young children John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy and the president's brother, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, in this November 24, 1963 photo.
JFK: 50 years on
President John F. Kennedy's brother, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, his sister Patricia Lawford, his daughter Caroline Kennedy, his widow Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and his son John F. Kennedy Jr. depart the U.S. Capitol after accompanying the president's casket to the Capitol rotunda in this November 24, 1963 photo.
JFK: 50 years on
Brothers John, Robert, and Edward in 1960.
JFK: 50 years on
President Kennedy in Fort Worth, Texas on November 22, 1963, the day of his assassination.
JFK: 50 years on
A handbill circulated on November 21, 1963 in Dallas, one day before the assassination of John F. Kennedy
JFK: 50 years on
The Warren Commission, who investigated the assassination, presents its report to President Johnson.
JFK: 50 years on
The 1960 Presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon. The debate was the first of its kind, and was generally considered as devestating for Nixon.
JFK: 50 years on
President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy, moments before the assassination.
JFK: 50 years on
President John F. Kennedy's official portrait.
JFK: 50 years on
Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill climbs onto the Presidential limousine, seconds after the fatal shot.
JFK: 50 years on
Jack Ruby prepares to shoot and kill Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's killer, who is being escorted by police to be sent to Dallas County jail.

Within hours of President John F Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963, most Americans were familiar with the name Lee Harvey Oswald.

Certain images of him - posing with a rifle, recoiling from Jack Ruby's gun - have been ingrained in the nation's memory. Yet to this day, he remains an enigma. Some of the questions and answers about him:

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Lee Harvey Oswald
Gary Mack, long-time curator at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, stands outside of the sniper's nest on the 6th floor of the museum. Behind the glass is where Lee Harvey Oswald waited with a rifle and fired shots that killed President John F Kennedy.
Lee Harvey Oswald
The coffin of Lee Harvey Oswald is shown in December 17, 2010. An unnamed buyer bought the simple pine casket at auction for NZ$106,164. It was unearthed in October 1981 after a legal dispute between Oswald's widow, Marina, and his brother, Robert. Marina successfully sought an exhumation to test a conspiracy theory that a look-alike Russian agent had been buried in her husband's place. A medical exam showed the badly decomposed body was indeed Oswald's and he was returned to Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park in Fort Worth, Texas, in a new casket.
Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald is arrested and taken out of the Texas Theatre in Dallas, Texas in this file photo from November 22, 1963. A double bill of War is Hell and Cry of Battle was playing at the time.
Lee Harvey Oswald
The Colt Cobra revolver used by Jack Ruby to kill Lee Harvey Oswald is seen in New York in 2008 ahead of being auctioned.
Lee Harvey Oswald
The vintage glossy Dallas Police Department mug shot photo of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald's wedding band that he left at his wife's bedside the morning of the US President John F Kennedy's assassination. It sold at auction for US$108,000 (NZ$131,000).
Lee Harvey Oswald
Three years before President John Kennedy was assassinated the FBI asked Swiss police to help track Lee Harvey Oswald, according to FBI documents. Swiss police investigated whether Oswald, shown here in an undated photo, had followed a stated plan to attend college in Switzerland.
Lee Harvey Oswald
Former Dallas police detective Jim Leavelle stands in front of a Pultizer Prize winning photo at The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas on October 15, 2002. Leavelle stood front and centre in arguably one of the most famous news photographs of all time with a shocked look on his face as Lee Harvey Oswald, withering in pain, was shot by Jack Ruby in the basement of Dallas police headquarters on November 24, 1963.

Q: Did Oswald kill Kennedy? Did he act alone?

A: The Warren Commission, established by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the assassination, concluded in 1964 that Oswald acted alone, firing three shots from a window in his Dallas workplace, the Texas School Book Depository. Many Americans have questioned this conclusion. In 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations ended its own inquiry by finding that Kennedy "was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy".

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Q: What was Oswald's childhood like?

A: Unstable. By the time he turned 17 and joined the Marines, he'd lived at more than 20 different addresses and attended a dozen schools. He was born in New Orleans on October 18, 1939, two months after his father died of a heart attack, spent time in an orphanage as a 3-year-old, and moved with his family to Dallas in 1944. He and his mother moved in 1952 to New York City, where he had run-ins with truant officers and underwent psychiatric observation. Two years later, they moved back to New Orleans.

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Q: How did he fare in the Marines?

A: Erratically. In early phases of his service at US bases, he got good performance evaluations and qualified as a sharpshooter after marksmanship training. But he was court-martialed twice while stationed in Japan, first after wounding himself with an unauthorised pistol and later after a bar fight. He tried to teach himself Russian, and - at the height of the Cold War - would occasionally speak favourably of Marxism and the Soviet Union.

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Q: Did he try to defect to Russia?

A: Yes. He obtained an early discharge from the Marines, and in 1959 he travelled to Finland and boarded a train to Moscow. Soon after arrival, he told his guide he wanted to defect. Russian authorities initially rebuffed him (he slit his wrist in response) but eventually allowed him to stay and sent him to the city of Minsk to work at an electronics factory. In March 1961, Oswald met Marina Prusakova, a 19-year-old pharmacology student. They married within six weeks and had a child in February 1962. That May, after expressing weariness with life in Russia, Oswald and his wife applied at the American Embassy in Moscow for documents enabling her to immigrate to the US They settled in Dallas that fall.

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Q: Wasn't Oswald linked to another assassination plot?

A: On April 10, 1963, a gunman fired a rifle through a window of the Dallas home of Major Gen. Edwin Walker, a fervent anti-communist and segregationist who resigned from the Army after being reprimanded for giving troops right-wing propaganda. Walker, working at a desk in his home, was slightly injured by fragments. The Warren Commission later concluded Oswald was the gunman.

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Q: What's the Cuban connection in Oswald's life?

A: In late April 1963, just days after the attack on Walker, Oswald went to New Orleans and spent the summer there. He printed and distributed leaflets in support of Cuba's Communist leader, Fidel Castro, and got into a street fight with anti-Castro demonstrators. Yet the leaflets bore an address of a local anti-Castro operation connected to a former FBI agent. That September, Oswald took a bus to Mexico City and visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies in an unsuccessful effort to get clearance to travel to Russia via Cuba.

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Q: How was Oswald arrested on November 22?

A: The Warren Commission said Oswald left the book depository moments after shots were fired from the sixth floor, returned by bus and cab to his rooming house, then ventured out again - soon encountering a Dallas police officer who stopped him based on descriptions of the assassination suspect. According to the commission, Oswald fatally shot Patrolman JD Tippit with a handgun, then fled into a nearby movie theatre, where he was soon arrested.

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Q: What was playing that day at the Texas Theatre?

A: A double bill of War is Hell and Cry of Battle.

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Q: Who was Jack Ruby?

A: Ruby was a Dallas nightclub owner well acquainted with many police officers. As Oswald was being transferred from police headquarters to the county jail on November 24, Ruby shot him in the chest from close range. Oswald was rushed unconscious to Parkland Memorial Hospital - where doctors had tried to save Kennedy's life two days earlier - and died there at 1:07 pm. Ruby was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He appealed and was granted a new trial, but died of lung cancer before a trial date was set. Ruby said he was angered by Kennedy's assassination and wanted to spare Jacqueline Kennedy the ordeal of a trial for Oswald. Sceptics, noting that Ruby had some connections with underworld figures, have suggested his shooting of Oswald was part of a broader conspiracy.

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Q: Did the Warren Commission specify a motive for Oswald killing Kennedy?

A: No. Oswald "was moved by an overriding hostility to his environment", the report said. "He does not appear to have been able to establish meaningful relationships with other people. He was perpetually discontented with the world around him. Long before the assassination he expressed his hatred for American society and acted in protest against it."

THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK

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AP