The basics of the Warren Commission’s findings are probably well understood. The key factors are that Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone, shot the President from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository Building where he had been working. He fired three shots, at least two of which hit the president in the back and in the head. The head shot being fatal.
The case against Oswald was so strong that it is quite difficult to believe he could have been so clumsy in setting a trail to himself that was so irrefutable. The weapon used was an Italian World War II carbine, the Mannlicher-Carcano, which was bought mail-order through a post office box under an assumed name, Alek Hidell. The post office box and the assumed name were traced to Oswald. The rifle was found on the sixth floor hidden behind some boxes and three cartridge cases were found behind the window in the south east corner of the sixth floor in a selection of boxes carefully piled up to form what became known as the 'Sniper’s Nest'. Later, Oswald’s palm print was found on the rifle and his finger-prints were located in the vicinity of the sniper's nest.
Later evidence came from various eye-witnesses that claimed to have seen Oswald at the window, from his wife who testified of his behaviour, from the police at the scene, from the bus driver and cab driver who transported Oswald away from the scene after the event and from those that witnessed the murder of Officer J D Tippit.
Tippit’s murder could have proved totally incidental to the president’s assassination but for the linkage to the arrest of Oswald. In fact it was for the murder of Tippit that Oswald was originally apprehended in the Texas Theatre. There he was found to be carrying a revolver which was according to the Warren Commission, later traced to be the gun used to kill Tippit.
Oswald was detained by the Dallas Police and interrogated by them and the FBI for two days. While being moved from the Dallas Police Headquarters to the County Jail on the following Sunday, Oswald was shot by local night club owner Jack Ruby. The consequence of this and the reason for his actions given by Ruby, was to ensure that no trial would need to take place at which Mrs Kennedy might have to give evidence. Instead, the new president, Lyndon Johnson, set up the commission of inquiry to investigate and publish the truth. Oswald would not be able to testify to the commission, nor would he be able to defend himself. Although, at Mrs Marguerite Oswald’s request, Mark Lane had offered to represent Oswald before the Warren Commission, the request was declined and Oswald was without any form of representation throughout the proceedings.
Whether the Warren Commission’s motives for their findings was a deliberate deception or a calculated cover up designed to protect the US people from a greater political threat is now a moot point. Some might like to see their declarations as sacrosanct and there is no doubt that a whole community, the leading contender of which was Gerald Ford, the final member of the Warren Commission to survive (he died in December 2006), who believe that the Warren Commission’s findings cannot be questioned regardless of their weaknesses. This community I think feels it is justified that we should accept what our government tells us without question, if that is what is best for us. Since the assassination so much has been learned of the activities of the US Government and its related organisations, that it now seems indefensible to expect the people of the United States and the world to accept the findings of the Warren Commission without question.
On the morning of 22 November, Oswald made his way to the Book Depository with a colleague who occasionally gave him a lift to work. Oswald had been working at the Book Depository for a few months after moving from New Orleans. However, on this day, he carried with him a long brown paper wrapped package, which he told his friend contained curtain poles he intended to install over the weekend. Later the Warren Commission claimed this was the Mannlicher-Carcano.
At lunch time, when all his colleagues moved from the sixth floor to the street to watch the President's motorcade pass, Oswald built a 'sniper's nest' of boxes at the corner window, recovered his rifle from an unspecified hiding place and waited until the car passed below the window. As the President came into view, Oswald fired off three shots in quick succession, rapidly wiped down the gun to remove fingerprints, moved to the other side of the sixth floor where he casually hid the rifle. He then proceeded to descend the stairs to the first floor lunch room where he procured himself a Coke from the vending machine.
Oswald was then spotted by the first policeman to arrive on the scene and he was identified to the policeman by the building manager. Immediately following which he left the building. He went around the corner and boarded a bus, but after being held up in traffic for some time, he left the bus and proceeded by taxi to his lodgings, where he changed his jacket and picked up a revolver.
He then walked from his lodgings, via an indirect route to the Texas Theater, shooting and killing Officer J D Tippit en route. He was arrested after the police were called to the theatre because someone had entered without paying.
Much was made by The Warren Commission of Oswald's history as a communist. He had been a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, although it was firmly suspected he was its only local member as it was a pro-Cuba organisation with little or no support in the south. Previously he had also defected to the Soviet Union where he had surrendered his passport and made an appeal for Soviet citizenship. He also met and married his wife Marina, and they had their first child while living in Minsk. Prior to defection however, Oswald had been a Marine, working at secure locations such as the US radar base at Atsugi in Japan. He also openly learned to speak Russian while in the Marines. Could it be that he was a spy recruited while in the Marines by the CIA?
Interestingly, Oswald suddenly returned to the US and quickly regained his passport and citizenship. In fact it was understood his transfer to the US was paid for by the US government. Whatever the detailed circumstances, Oswald had a shady past which had all sorts of links to the CIA, the intelligence services and the FBI.
After his arrest Oswald was provided little or no protection and no representation; he was essentially alone. He was paraded before the press and the television cameras with all sorts of loose allegations of his guilt being broadcast worldwide. He was interrogated by the police and the FBI without a lawyer present and no formal records taken and when he was pushed into press encounters he sported a black eye that suggested he was not being properly protected.
Finally, on the occasion of moving Oswald from the police headquarters to the county jail, he was given so little protection that Jack Ruby was able to break through police cordons and shoot him at point blank range. Interestingly also, Ruby is seen in numerous other situations, including being present at the press briefings, despite having no media credentials.
Unlike most assassins of political or state leaders, Oswald professed his innocence. At no time did he accept responsibility for the killing, consistently insisting he was a 'patsy', almost certainly because he recognised the extent to which he had been set up to take the fall. Perhaps he even knew how.