The murder of Lee Harvey Oswald
~ There really was NO other news story on this day.
Let’s go back. Let’s revisit Sunday, November 24, 1963.
On Friday the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated while in a motorcade weaving its way away from the canyonlands of downtown Dallas, Texas. The resulting shock and dismay was partially relieved by reports that the only, or at least the primary, assassin in this murder of a President had been identified and caught within a remarkably short one and a half hours; the result of apparently fantastic luck and diligent, if not extraordinary, police work.
The suspect, a Mr. Lee Harvey Oswald, aged 24, was in police custody. He was being held at the Dallas Police Department, one of several municipal (city) departments located in the historic Dallas Municipal Building, a Beaux Arts building built in 1914. The most memorable event of November 24th would center on the Dallas Municipal Building Annex, built immediately adjacent to the beaux arts building in (or circa) 1954.
Of course one would not have known these things at the time, or even after reading the Warren Commission Report. The focus in the news and in the report was on “the police headquarters” and “the jail” and later “the Police and Courts Building” and the names of the police men who had the suspected assassin in secure and safe custody until something suddenly happened to dispel the complacency of those that believed in law and order, good police work and justice, and that the “truth would out” (at least in the lifetimes of those that were witnesses to the history).
I was fourteen years of age at the time. I lived in Nevada. I was a sophomore in High School and made my “living” by selling newspapers every day after school. I had more than a passing interest in both politics and the news.
I had never been to Dallas. I was dependent on the descriptions, the diagrams and maps, the images that the media sent me in my effort to picture or to visualize what was happening in the world with Dallas as the lens. The lens (that day) showed this:
Lee Harvey Oswald is shot. For those watching television that morning in Nevada it was an opportunity to witness “the first live murder ever broadcast on television”. I did not see it live. Lee Harvey Oswald did not die in the basement garage of the Dallas Municipal Building Annex. He died away from the lenses of the cameras, in Parkland Memorial Hospital where his second child had been born just 35 days earlier.
If one believes the Warren Commission Report it was by the most amazing of occurrences that Lee Harvey Oswald died. Had Jack Ruby entered the basement garage just 30 seconds later he would have not been able to shoot Oswald. Had the police lined up as instructed the attempt would have failed. Had there been even two guards at the Main Street entrance to the garage Jack Ruby could never had gotten in. Had the one guard, Officer Roy Eugene Vaughn, not been distracted by the police car driven by Lieutenant Rio S. Pierce Jack Ruby could not have slipped into the garage.
The events of the day, November 24, 1963, are centered on the (Dallas) Municipal Building and about six minutes of time in the (Dallas) Municipal Building Annex. What is amazing is that neither the Warren Commission nor most of the press seemed to be versed in even the most basic of geography. While the Municipal Building is clearly identified as such on three sides of the building the Warren Commission consistently uses alternate descriptions and names. It would be like using “Press Secretary” instead of the term “White House” to refer to news regarding the Executive Branch in Washington D.C.
The problem gets worse when “left and right” are used instead of east or west or other cardinal directions. Then there is the noteworthy Page 210 description of the murder site in the Warren Commission Report:
Warren Commission Report – Page 210 – 4th paragraph:
The spacious basement of the Police and Courts Building contains, among other things, the jail office and the police garage. (See Commission Exhibit No. 2179, p. 211.) The jail office, into which the jail elevator opens, is situated on the west side of an auto ramp cutting across the length of the basement from Main Street, on the north side of the building, to Commerce Street, on the south side. From the foot of this ramp, on the east side, midway through the basement, a decline runs down a short distance to the L-shaped police garage. In addition to the auto ramp, five doors to the garage provide access to the basement from the Police and Courts Building on the west side of the garage and the attached Municipal Building on the east. Three of these five doors provide access to three elevators opening into the garage, two for passengers near the central part of the garage and
Warren Commission Report – Page 212 – 1st paragraph:
one for service at the east end of the garage. A fourth door near the passenger elevator opens into the municipal building; the fifth door, at the Commerce Street side of the garage, opens into a subbasement that is connected with both buildings.
Today it is very simple to identify the fact that the term “Police and Courts Building” exists almost exclusively as an invention of the Warren Commission and/or of press men that were unfamiliar with Dallas and who were obviously not able to even read the writing on the outside of the buildings walls.
It is difficult even now to assess weather the vagueness and the incompetent inaccuracies in the Warren Commission Report were an effort to mislead and or confuse the trail of the actual tale regarding the death of Oswald, or whether the Commission members (and staff) were just so overloaded with preported “facts” that there just wasn’t time to “fact check” the details that were presented.
The Warren Commission Report, it must be remembered, was a document created in lieu of a trial. Had Lee Harvey Oswald not been murdered he would have been tried, publicly, and with a public record of argument and evidence. There would have been no need for a Presidential Commission. Even Jack Ruby, publicly, demonstrated that he acknowledged this fact when he stated that the reason for murdering Oswald was to, “save Mrs. Kennedy the ordeal of a trial” (Warren Commission Report – Page 812 – Question 9). A better question by the Commission would have been, “Did you shoot Oswald in order to save Mrs. Kennedy and others from the ordeal of a trial?”
The facts demonstrate that from the moment of the shooting (of Kennedy) that there were different perceptions of from where the shots came, how many shots and about who had done the firing. The incredibly swift identification of Oswald created more questions about a possible (probably communist, or Castro or anti-Castro terrorist; according to various speculations) conspiracy. When Oswald was caught, his earliest statements cut quickly to the issue. He denied knowledge of the events to which he was charged, he raised the issue of why was he being interrogated without the presence of legal counsel and finally he made his most telling statement, “I am just a patsy.” (Video begins at 4:28 and ends at 5:00 minutes).
A timeline of Lee Harvey Oswald’s last day of life illustrates what is known about this Sunday in late November of 1963 in Dallas. Links are included to maps, diagrams, pictures and video archives that clarify what was not clear to nearly anyone on that day.
Saturday, November 23, 1963 (1963.11.23):
Sometime after 7:30 Saturday evening, according to Assistant Chief Batchelor, two reporters told him that they wanted to go out to dinner but that “they didn’t want to miss anything if we were going to move the prisoner.” Curry came upon them at that point and told the two newsmen that if they returned by 10 o’clock in the morning, they wouldn’t “miss anything.”
I (Curry) went out and told the newspaper people … “I believe if you are back here by 10 o’clock you will be back in time to observe anything you care to observe.”
Sunday, November 24, 1963 (1963.11.24):
02:30 – 03:00
During the night, between 2:30 and 3 a.m., the local office of the FBI and the sheriff’s office received telephone calls from an unidentified man who warned that a committee had decided “to kill the man that killed the President.”
Shortly after, an FBI agent notified the Dallas police of the anonymous threat.
The police department and ultimately Chief Curry were informed of both threats.
08:30 – 08:45
Immediately after his arrival at the building on Sunday morning between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m., Curry spoke by telephone with Sheriff J. E. Decker about the transfer. When Decker indicated that he would leave to Curry the decision on whether the sheriff’s office or the police would move Oswald, Curry decided that the police would handle (the transfer) it because “we had so much involved here, we were the ones that were investigating the case and we had the officers set up down stairs to handle it.
members of the press had already begun to gather in the basement.
After talking with Decker, Curry began to discuss plans for the transfer. With the threats against Oswald in mind, Curry suggested to Batchelor and Deputy Chief Stevenson that Oswald be transported to the county jail in an armored truck, to which they agreed. While Batchelor made arrangements to have an armored truck brought to the building, Curry and Stevenson tentatively agreed on the route the armored truck would follow from the building to the county jail.
Curry decided that Oswald would leave the building via the basement. He stated later that he reached this decision shortly after his arrival at the police building Sunday morning, … There is no evidence that anyone opposed this decision.
Capt. C. E. Talbert, who was in charge of the patrol division for the city of Dallas on the morning of November 24, retained a small number of policemen in the building when he took charge that morning and later ordered other patrolmen from several districts to report to the basement.
Two members (who?) of the Dallas police did suggest to Captain Fritz that Oswald be taken from the building by another exit, leaving the press “waiting in the basement and on Commerce Street, and we could be to the county jail before anyone knew what was taking place.” However, Fritz said that he did not think Curry would agree to such a plan because he (Curry) had promised that Oswald would be transferred at a time when newsmen could take pictures. Forrest Sorrels also suggested to Fritz that Oswald be moved at an unannounced time when no one was around, but Fritz again responded that Curry “wanted to go along with the press and not try to put anything over on them.”
At about 9 a.m. Deputy Chief Stevenson instructed all detectives within the building to remain for the transfer.