JFK Pt. 1: Lee Harvey Oswald
Something wrong as something terribly wrong behind the Watergate ninety four doors apart from the hospital. Minutes center. Someone where the TV saying the president had been shot in from CBS news in Dallas, Texas. Three shots were fired up president Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The doctors were silent the mood was grim. The patient's condition was worsening by the second. They tell themselves to stick to their training that this man is just like any other patients, but it's not true the man whose life they're trying to save is John F Kennedy as they do everything they can to keep him alive. The nation is tuned in news broadcasts run a Kennedy death, watch keeping listeners updated on Kennedy's condition. As time passed they started to realize there was nothing to be done. Kennedy was going to die a Catholic priest was rushed to the operating room to administer last rites. The doctors had done. Everything they could all that remained was to wait for the inevitable. But then to everyone's shock, John. Kennedy woke up from his coma. The year was nineteen fifty four while undergoing a complex spinal surgery, Massachusetts Senator John F Kennedy had contracted a urinary tract infection and slipped into a coma. He was not expected to survive when he did wake up. It was said that John had cheated death. John Kennedy was no stranger to near death experiences. But his luck would finally run out nine years later on November twenty second nineteen sixty three the day of John Kennedy's assassination. Welcome to assassinations every week. We examined the famous assassins of history, and the men and women who were assassinated. I'm your host Bill, and I'm your host Kate. This is our first episode on the assassination of John F Kennedy. If you like the show, you can subscribe on your favorite podcast directory. A new episode comes out every Monday, you can also find us on Facebook and Instagram as at par cast on Twitter at par cast network and at park cast dot com. This episode is the first of a three part series on the most famous assassination of the twentieth century the shooting of president John F Kennedy John Kennedy was not the first United States president to be killed while in office. But his death came at a time of national turmoil and change the course of American history. The Kennedy assassination is one of the most pop. Dealer. Sources of conspiracy theories in history thousands of books have been published that examined potential conspiracies behind the murder for this series. We're focusing on the known facts of the assassination if you're interested in conspiracy theories surrounding the death of John Kennedy, be sure to checkout park has other show conspiracy theories and our episodes on the Kennedy assassination. There were two moments that defined the life of lia's walled. One happened near the end of his life. His assassination of president Kennedy. The other happened two months before he was born the death of Lee's father Robert Oswald senior who died of a heart attack in August of nineteen thirty nine two months later on October eighteenth, nineteen thirty nine Lee was born in New Orleans Lee's mother Marguerite Oswald, couldn't afford to care for Lee. His brother Robert junior and his half brother John pick. Shortly after Lee was born his mother was forced to send him and his brothers to an orphanage for the baby Leo's walled these events in his early life were tantamount to childhood abandonment neglect can cause a unique kind of trauma in young children broadly, neglected. A child can develop an emotional void as a result of being denied parental attention during a crucial developmental period. This can lead to social and emotional issues in adults. This is not to say that Leo's walled was destined to become the most infamous assassin of the twentieth century just because he was born to a broken home. But both Leah's walled and John Kennedy were men defined by their origins in nineteen forty four. When Lee was four years old Marguerite was able to pull him and his brothers out of the orphanage the family moved to Dallas, Texas the next year, Marguerite, married, Edwin exile, an electrical engineer for a time Lee had the father figure and stable home life that he had been denied since his birth. However, Marguerite, an Edmonds marriage only lasted three years they divorced in nineteen forty eight Lee was nine in. His short life had been denied his real father. And now his stepfather was leaving. The remainder of Lee's childhood did little to provide a stabilizing environment for him Robert junior and John went to work. So that they could help support the family. So most of the time it was just Marguerite and Lee by themselves and really it was just nine year old Lee, Marguerite, worked off jobs to make ends meet. She couldn't afford a babysitter. So Lee was often left alone at home or worse left by himself in Marguerite car, while she was at work in nineteen fifty two when Lee was twelve he moved with his mother to New York to stay with lease half, brother. John and John's wife, Margaret, they didn't stay with John and Margaret for long Lee and his mother fought constantly. And there was nothing. John could do to calm either of them down during one of these fights Lee fell into a tantrum. Banging his hands against the walls screaming at the top of his lungs. Margaret. To grab Lee and settle them down. When Lee saw Margaret approaching he stopped screaming, he then pulled out a pocket knife. And waved it at his sister-in-law. These mother tried to intervene and get the knife away from him. He punched her. Lee. And his mother were asked to move out. They ended up getting their own apartment Leah tended school in New York. But he didn't socialize with his schoolmates Hsun. He was skipping class to spend time by himself. He preferred to read in solitude Lee believe that school had nothing to offer him and that he was better off teaching himself. What was important in life? School officials brought truancy charges against him. But that had little effect New York law holds parents responsible for ensuring their children attend school. If a truancy officer determines that a parent is unable to control their child custody of that child might be temporarily handed to juvenile court system Lee was sent to the youth house, a psychological institution where children were evaluated before the court determined if the child needed to be placed in the custody of the state, doctor Renat heart tugs chiefs. I. Kaya tryst at the youth. House took note of lease intense. Feelings of Zion and insecurity Lee didn't have friends and he didn't want them Lee. Didn't have the ability to form open emotional relationships. He refused to socialize and preferred to daydream by himself his fantasies provided a mental escape from his frustrating. Life heart tugs noted that lease intelligence was above average for a child his age. This was noteworthy given that Lee also exhibited signs of being emotionally disturbed heart tongs, recommended that Lee kept in his mother's care but placed on probation and assigned the child psychologist. If Lee had actually seen a psychologist, then maybe he could have gotten the help he needed and things would have turned out differently for him and for the country. Unfortunately, the state board of New York never got the chance to really help Lee Oswald when Lee return to school, it was as if nothing had changed he continued to skip class and soon Marguerite discovered that the state board was preparing to take leave from her custody and place him in a school for boys. She and her son fled New York in nineteen fifty four. Margarite and Lee return to New Orleans bleak completed the eighth and ninth grade, but his behavioral problems persisted one month into the tenth grade Lee dropped out of school. He spent most days at the library. It was here that he first felt an interest in communist literature. This was the nineteen fifties right in the midst of the red scare a movement of American propaganda against Soviet communism. American media, presented communists as dangerous outsiders for Lee. An outsider in his own rights. Communism had a natural draw as he grew older Lee began to see himself as a soldier fighting for a cause. And he knew that if he wanted to fight he'd have to learn how to shoot a gun Lee became fixated on the United States marines. His brother Robert had joined the core. And when he was sixteen Lee decide. Did that he was going to follow in Robert's footsteps and become a soldier in nineteen fifty-six just days after his seventeenth birthday Lee was accepted into the Marine Corps during his entrance exams. Lease shooting scores were so high that he was granted the second highest skill classification at this point in his life Lee had been many things orphan problem child loner. But now he had a title that. He was proud of according to the US marines Lee Oswald was a marksman we'll cover lease time in the marines. Right after this. Now back to the story. Lee's experience in the marines was not what he expected one of the side effects of emotional trauma is the inability to engage with social settings lease personality prevented him from connecting with other people in Lee's head. He was a man of skill and intellect, but his unit wasn't recognizing him for his talents on more than one occasion. Lee baited an officer into debating him on some subject, like foreign affairs Lee, well, read as he was would often win these debates and would then point to his victories as proof that these men weren't fit to give him orders as you can imagine. He wasn't the most popular with his fellow enlisted men that suited Lee just fine in his head. He was the suffering hero of his own story. After basic training Lee was stationed at Marine Corps air station in not SU GI Japan one night Lee return to the barracks and found that it was empty. He preferred it that way. He liked being alone. Lee went to his bunk and reached for the footlocker stored under the mattress he strained as he lifted the heavy box up. He dropped it on the bed rattling the contents inside some of Lee's, personal items tumbled out this included a loaded. Pistol the gun hit the mattress and rolled off the bed striking the floor. The gun went off Lee stumbled clutching his arm. The bullet had struck him in the elbow. The shot rang out across the base lease fellow marines were at the barracks. In seconds, where they found Lee clutching, his bleeding arm and standing over the smoking gun. However, oswald's wound was superficial after he was tree. Needed. He was court martialed by the army office as a marine it was illegal to possess a private firearm Lee was sentenced to a twenty days suspension. It's been proposed that this accident was in fact, intentional Oswald, actually, shot himself in an attempt to get discharged the basis for this theory is the fact that the pistol was only twenty two caliber the kind of gun that wouldn't do much damage if you were to shoot yourself in the arm with it Lee didn't take his suspension well sometime after the court, martial Lee was found stumbling across the base he was drunk and angry, and it wasn't long before he found himself in the mess hall there. He spotted the sergeant who had issued his suspension Lee hobbled toward the men yelling incoherently he bumped into the sergeant spilling his drink. As voices were raised Lee enthusiastically challenged the sergeant and anyway. One else to step outside and fight him. He was court martialed again this time for assaulting an officer. He was sent to military prison. Despite his behavioral issues Oswal did show some aptitude for life as a marine he was even assigned to a radar tech crew. The position gave him clearance for classified intelligence if Oswald had stayed in the marines. The course of history might have turned out different instead in September of nineteen fifty nine just before his twentieth birthday Oswald requested a discharge from active service. He said Marguerite was ill and that he had to take care of her. Whether this is true or not Lee was granted a hardship discharge less than a month later, he was on a plane to the Soviet Union. We'll cover Lee's life in Russia later in this episode. But first we're going to switch to the other character in our story. John F Kennedy? We know that America was founded on the principle of leadership elected by the people rather than a monarchy. But if there is such a thing as American royalty. It would be the Kennedy family ever since eighteen eighty four when Patrick Joseph Kennedy was elected to the Massachusetts house of representatives. The Kennedys have been a near permanent fixture in American politics and business at least one member of the extended Kennedy family held public office for every single year between nineteen sixty one and two thousand eleven John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born may twenty ninth nineteen seventeen in Brookline Massachusetts, John's father Joseph Kennedy was a millionaire investor ambassador chairman of the SEC. See and famed political kingmaker his mother Rose Kennedy was a socialite and philanthropist, the Kennedys were less of a family than they were a dynasty. And as you can imagine much was expected of John from an early age. Kennedy's life has been thoroughly examined by biographers over the past several decades, the general account of Kennedy, always seems to note, how his death in particular was tragic. He was a young bright all American who had an influential career ahead of him. But there's a less disgust aspect of Kennedy's life. That tends to be overlooked, John. Kennedy was plagued with numerous health problems for his entire life for a man who on the surface seem to so perfectly embody American ideals. The reality is that behind that perfect facade. He was suffering. One of the earliest significant notes of John Kennedy's health is his. Nineteen thirty four hospitalization for gastro intestinal disease. That was ultimately diagnosed as spastic colitis the condition plagued him for the rest of his life. John and ruled in Harvard college in nineteen thirty six he swam for the varsity swim team and at some point during his college career, he severely injured his back. There's speculation that the steroids. Kennedy was taking for his colitis might have weakened his vertebrae which made his back injury, permanent, the chronic pain stayed with Kennedy for the rest of his life, despite his health problems John was intent on fighting in the second World War. He applied to the army's officer candidate school in nineteen forty but was rejected because of his chronic back pain that didn't discourage him over the next year. He exercised got in shape and had his father, call some of his connections. When John tried to join the armed forces a second time in September of nineteen forty one. He was not denied Kennedy had a decorated military career most notably was an episode. Road when the P T boat. Kennedy commanded was sunk by Japanese destroyers in the Solomon sea under Kennedy's leadership. The surviving crew made it to a nearby island and survived for six days before they were rescued for his heroism. Kennedy was awarded a navy and Marine Corps medal as well as a purple heart for a back injury. He sustained during the initial swim to the island this ordeal had reignited the chronic back pain. John was now a decorated war hero while his actions. Made him a hero his medals and reputation would benefit him after the war when he eventually ran for office. It's possible that John Kennedy had originally never intended to run for office. It was through a family tragedy. That John's destiny was changed. Forever. John's older brother Joseph Kennedy junior. A fellow soldier was killed in action in nineteen forty four. John suddenly found himself the oldest of the surviving. Kennedy children Joseph junior had been tapped to follow in his father's footsteps by becoming a politician and presumably seeking to become the president one day with Joseph juniors. Untimely death that pressure fell to John. Again, John did not disappoint. He ran for office in nineteen forty six as the democratic Representative of the eleventh district of Massachusetts and one his father financed. The campaign had Joe Kennedy junior lived there's a chance that John might have never gone into politics. John was an avid traveler and writer and head even expressed interest in journalism. However, once he became the era parent of the Kennedy family any other ambitions were set aside at the same time John was grappling with an array of health problems. He was diagnosed with Addison's disease. An adrenal gland disorder in nineteen forty nine when he was thirty two. But it didn't stop him from serving in the house of representatives for six years in nineteen fifty three he ran for the Senate and one Kennedy underwent a number of spinal surgeries during his first term as a Senator his Addison's disease. Made surgery a complicated matter Kennedy's body was not capable of producing enough of the required. Hormones to fight off infections, the numerous surgeries combined with his Addison's disease nearly killed Kennedy early in his first term in the Senate in nineteen fifty four Kennedy went in for a complicated, spinal surgery doctors had told Kennedy that if he didn't have the surgery he would very likely be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. But Joe Kennedy and the rest of John's family worried, rightfully so that his Addison's disease would complicate the procedure. Kennedy opted to have the operation. He went under the knife. In the fall of nineteen fifty four doctors worked on Kennedy spine for hours the procedure seemed to go off without a hitch. But after the doctors had completed their work on Kennedy spine and moved him to a recovery. Ward. Kennedy didn't wake up the human body. Is prone to all kinds of infections during a surgical procedure. Doctors realized that Kennedy had contracted a urinary tract infection. His body weakened by Addison's disease was not fighting the infection. Kennedy slipped into a coma. And the preceding doctor declared that it would be a miracle. If he recovered without having serious brain damage, if he recovered at all word got out that the Senator wasn't expected to make it through the night. National news carried on Kennedy death. Watch a priest was even some into the hospital to perform last rites the rituals intended to prepare a dying person soul for the afterlife. And then suddenly he woke up he recovered miraculously. But he was hospitalized at least nine more times over the next two years and was often missing from Senate proceedings despite the absences Kennedy wa. On his reelection bid for Senator in nineteen fifty eight and with that win. He started preparing his bid for the nineteen sixty democratic nomination for president in November of nineteen sixty John F Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon and at forty three years of age became the youngest person ever elected to the office of the president for all intents and purposes Kennedy's election was his destiny despite the health problems that had held him back most of his life. He had fulfilled. His father's mandate and became the first. Kennedy in the White House nineteen sixty found the United States in a phase of unrest. The Cold War was ever present. In the threat of nuclear weapons was growing American soldiers were dying in the fields of Vietnam. Civil rights was creating a clash between progressives. And segregationists, John Kennedy seemed like the man to guide America through these trip. Times. But fate had other tragic plans for the maverick president. Up next. We'll look at the difficulties of Kennedy's early years in the White House as well as Leah's Wald's failed attempt to leave the United States forever. Now back to the story. In nineteen fifty nine while Kennedy was gearing up for his presidential run Lee Harvey Oswald was on route to the Soviet Union. It's difficult to fully state. Just how does our it would have been at this point in history for a trained marine to openly travel to the Soviet Union in nineteen fifty nine the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was in the midst of what historians would later call the esscalation phase after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin died in nineteen fifty three some had hoped that relationships between the east and the west would improve however Stalin's successor Nikita Khrushchev proved to be even more dangerous by the late nineteen fifties. Khrushchev was openly threatening the United States and the other allied powers with complete nuclear annihilation. This was a time in which every aspect of American life was being propped up as an act of patriotism against the oppression of communism. The two nations were not just in a military war. They were locked in a battle to be superior in economics, technology and culture as well. This pro American propaganda. Also created a national attitude of hostility toward anything Russian knowing what we do about Lee Harvey Oswald, his interest in communism and the Soviet Union doesn't seem all that surprising Oswald had a psychological need to feel like he was part of a family. However, his behavior rendered him unable to form lasting relationships. He had exhibited this behavior time and time again in school and later with the marines Oswald was always looking for the greener grass on the other side of the proverbial fence. He'd always been an outsider and. It makes sense that he'd think he would fit in among civilization that was so detested. Li arrived in Finland in October of nineteen fifty nine there. He obtained a visa that would allow him to enter the Soviet Union. Lease intent here was to defect from the United States to the Soviet Union upon arriving in Moscow. Liam mmediately applied for citizenship. He was assigned a tour guide someone who had keep an eye on him while his application was considered as the days passed Lee grew more and more frustrated he didn't understand why. Russian officials wouldn't jump at the chance to have him a trained marksman joined their ranks on the day before his visa was set to expire Lee received word from the Russian government his petition to become a citizen had been denied in response to the bad news Leah tempted suicide he slashed his own wrist in a bathtub, but was discovered in time by the officials who came to his apartment to deport him. Lee was sent to a psychiatric hospital for a week. Whether the suicide attempt was real or a play by Lee to stay in Russia. He had managed to prolong his visit he'd bought himself some time. On Tober thirty first nineteen Fifty-nine Leo's walled went to the American embassy in Moscow to express his intent to formally renounce his American citizenship. Additionally, he got in touch with the Soviet immigration officials and inform them that he had been radar TEK in the US marines. And that he was partial to confidential information that he would share with them if they let him stay all's walled was likely stretching the truth while his job is a radar tech had granted him a security clearance. There's no evidence that he gave the Soviets any sensitive information. There's actually no evidence that Oswal even had useful information to give the KGB investigated Oswald. They quickly determined that he likely had nothing useful to offer Soviet agents who spied only Harvey Oswald also considered him a clumsy guy who couldn't shoot straight in the current issue of the New Yorker magazine. Author. Norman Mailer says the former deputy chief of counterintelligence at the Soviet Union told Miller that the KGB had no debt that could afford told the Kennedy assassination chief spy called Kennedy's assassination. The worst moment of my life. The article so says that Soviet agents watched Oswald and his Russian wife marina for people in the wall of their state assigned apartment. Chris Oehler, New York. Of course, the fact that he had even tried to pass information to the Soviets would play significantly into the conspiracy theories that developed after the assassination of John Kennedy Oswald meeting with the officials at the American embassy was written up in his military. File remember at the time Oswald was under a hardship discharge which he had obtained by claiming he needed to take care of his sick mother unless Marguerite Oswald just happened to be in the Soviet Union in nineteen fifty nine. This was ally. But Lee's action at the American embassy, led his discharge classification to be changed from honorable hardship to undesirable this meant that the military had deemed him unfit for service. It is important to note, though, Oswald had stated his intent to renounce his American citizenship. He never actually filled out the paperwork defection was a useful propaganda tactic. During the Cold War since the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in an ideological battle between capitalism and communism as well as a military battle both sides took every chance to show that their way was better as well. As defection was noteworthy for a time. He was written up in a number of Fort Worth newspapers. Marguerite Oswald, apparently wasn't even aware her son had gone to Russia until she read about him in the morning paper the Soviets stationed him in Minsk. Abell Reuss far away from Moscow. He was given a nice apartment monthly stipend and a well paying job in a radio and TV factory his salary combined with his stipend offered Oswald the standard of living well above the average Soviet who performed the same job. He was bored with his work and dismissive of the money. He was making because there was hardly anything to spend it on he engaged in a relationship with a co worker named Ella German. He actually proposed marriage, but Ella turned him down in January of nineteen sixty one barely a year after he defected Oswald wrote to the American embassy in Moscow to request the return of his American passport. The proud communist was ready to come home. He wouldn't be returning to the states alone in April of nineteen sixty one Lee, married. Marina Preuss acopia after dating for only six weeks Oswald later confessed that his fast engagement to. Marina was a direct response to his rejection by Ella Lee and marina had a daughter June in February of nineteen sixty two in Iran coincidence, it was in June of that year that marinas application to become an American citizen and travel with her husband to America was approved Lee had never actually completed the paperwork to announce his citizenship. So it was easy for the United States. To welcome him back. It may seem an odd choice to allow us well to return to the United States after he had openly expressed his disregard for the nation. However for United States officials lease return less than three years after his initial defection was a publicity. Blissett win. It is interesting to consider the psychological effect. This might have had on us walled. He had been spoken. Proponent of communism since he was at least fifteen years old. He had written to his brother Robert about the superiority of communism to capitalism, and how his devotion to Soviet life. Was so great that he would fight on the Soviet side should a war between the two superpowers breakout? Oswald had lived his entire life more focused on the reality in his head than the reality that faced him he thought he would find a home in the marines and had failed. He thought he would find a home in the Soviet Union and hit failed. Abysmally leeann marina moved with their infant daughter to Dallas where they lived close to Marguerite and Robert junior because of his military classification changing from honorable to undesirable leaf found that it was hard to find steady work. People weren't keen on employing communist sympathizer. This was Lee Harvey Oswald at the beginning of nineteen sixty three adrift unable to hold a job in closer proximity to his mother, then he would have liked and most importantly possessed by the desire to be seen, despite the fact that Lee had failed to make a life for himself in Russia. He was still passionate about communist politics. As he and his new wife settled into their lives Lee became involved in a number of communist causes most notably the fair play for Cuba committee as well. It's interest in Cuba's political situation would put him at odds with the man he would eventually kill. The issue of Cuba was a black Mark on Kennedy's presidency. He had overseen a failed CIA backed invasion of the country in nineteen sixty one in an incident now referred to as the bay of pigs in nineteen sixty two as retaliation for the bay of pigs the Soviet government supported the deployment of ballistic missiles to Cuba, where they would be within easy reach of the vulnerable United States as worships were deployed and troops were put on alert to be ready for war. John Kennedy engaged intense negotiations with Russian president Nikita Khrushchev the two leaders ultimately reached an accord and the missiles and Cuba were dismantled still the entire American nation. Could sense just how close they had come to nuclear war, though. The missiles were gone the presence of communist, Cuba was still growing concern. There was a rise in anticommunist. Rhetoric from American politicians following the nineteen sixty two crisis much of this language, specifically attacked communist, Cuba, and communist sympathizers, living, the United States Leah's wall took anti-communist language, very personally as nineteen sixty three dragged on and Lee became more and more frustrated with his dismal job prospects, and the constant noise of American leadership attacking his chosen ideology something in lease napped. He decided that he wasn't going to take it. He was going to become the communist foot soldier. He had always wanted to be. He was going to assassinate an American leader. But his first target was not president Kennedy in early nineteen sixty three Leo's walled with travel to the home of a retired American army general with the intent to kill him. Thanks for listening to assassinations. We hope you enjoyed part one of our series on the assassination of John F Kennedy next week. We'll discuss the events of November twenty second nineteen sixty three the last day of John Kennedy's life. If you're looking for more episodes or other stories of murder and crime, you can find us as well. As all par. Cast other podcasts on apple podcasts. Spotify Stitcher, Google play cast box tune in or your favorite podcast directory. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram as at par cast and on Twitter at par cast network. She you next Monday. Assassinations was created by max Cutler is a production of Cutler media and is a part of the park cast network. It is produced by Maxon Ron Cutler sound design by Ron Shapiro with production assistance by Paul Moller, additional production assistance by Carly Madden. And Maggie admire assassinations is written by Colin McLaughlin, and stars Kate Leonard and Bill Thomas.