Theories of Two Lee Harvey Oswalds
Seeing Oswald Double
In the real world, witnesses are sometimes mistaken.
Official documents sometimes contain errors. People when photographed on
occasions months or years apart look different in the photos.
So if we find witnesses who saw "Lee Oswald" where Lee Oswald could not have
been, if we find discrepancies in Oswald's height in different records,
and if he looks different in different photos, that might seem normal --
unless you are a conspiracy theorist. In that case, you might see
evidence of two Oswalds. And if there were two Oswald's, at
least one of them must have been up to something sinister. An
intelligence agent, perhaps, or an Oswald impersonator working to "set
up" the real Lee Oswald as a patsy.
These theories have been around for a long time, dating back to 1966 when philosopher
Richard Popkin published The Second Oswald. In 1975 Michael H. B. Eddowes published Khrushchev Killed Kennedy. Eddowes
gained sufficient influence over Marina Oswald to induce her to approve the exhumation of Lee Oswald in an attempt to prove that a
"second Oswald" was buried in his grave. Then in the 1980s W.R. Morris and Robert
Cutler added Alias Oswald to this literature.
Currently, the most active of the "two Oswalds" theorists is one John Armstrong,
whose theories are supported on a website run by Jim Hargrove.
According to Hargrove:
JFK researcher John Armstrong has shown that the Warren Commission combined the
biographies of two different people to arrive at the classic legend of Lee Harvey Oswald.
One was a Russian speaking youth, possibly the child of Hungarian parents. Mr. Armstrong
notes that this person preferred to be called "Harvey." The other was a taller but similar
looking boy with a Southern U.S. accent, born as "Lee Harvey Oswald," and who preferred
to be called "Lee." Both youths became entangled at an early age in an American intelligence
operation designed to give a U.S. identity to a Russian-speaking child. It was "Harvey" who
traveled to Russia and was shot dead by Jack Ruby. It was "Lee" who framed "Harvey" for
the assassination of JFK. The operation began when both "Harvey" and "Lee" were
CHILDREN, but it probably did not become entangled in the plot to assassinate President
Kennedy until the spring and summer of 1963.
Armstrong further explains differences in temperament between these two individuals:
"Harvey" was the Russian speaking, communist-promoting Oswald --- the person killed by Jack
Ruby. People's descriptions of "Lee Harvey Oswald" often vary widely with respect to eye color,
height, weight, hair color and physical characteristics. Lee often got drunk, got into fights and never
spoke or read Russian or supported communism. Harvey rarely drank, was never known to get
into a fight; he spoke, read and wrote Russian, and supported communism. The character profiles
of these two people, as described by dozens of witnesses, are quite different and distinct.
(Harvey and Lee --- Just the Facts, Please)
What sort of evidence of "two Oswalds" do these theorists present?
Differences in Photos
Hargrove presents the following two photos as evidence, with "Lee"
at the left, and "Harvey" at right. They do look different, but
then the first was shot in September 1959, when Lee Harvey Oswald was aged
19, and the second on November 22nd, 1963, over four years later.
Conspiracy researcher Jack White has assembled 77 photos of Oswald in poster form. He, like Armstrong, believes these photos show two Oswalds, although some of the photos are (he thinks) composites with elements of both men!
However, there are experts who have the skill to go beyond just eyeballing two figures in a photo, and deciding they "look different."
They are called "forensic anthropologists," and they specialize in analyzing enduring features of the human anatomy.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations employed a panel of forensic anthropologists, and they concluded that all extant photos show the same person -- Lee Harvey Oswald.
In the wake of any celebrated crime, a rash of "sightings" of the suspect is reported to authorities.
Given that the Kennedy assassination was the crime of the century, it's no surprise that literally hundreds of witnesses
claimed to have seen Oswald in some locale where the Warren Commission's Lee Harvey Oswald could not have been. One very interesting
set of such "sightings" is described by Chris W. Courtwright in his article Oswald in Aliceland? Courtwright discusses
a series of witnesses in and around Alice, Texas, who claimed to have seen Lee Oswald in early October, 1963, when the
real Lee Oswald was in Dallas. In reading these accounts, keep in mind that:
Thus it's hard to avoid the conclusion that these accounts are merely more sightings, like those
discussed in the Warren Commission Report.
- Most of these witnesses have "Oswald" driving a car, in spite of the fact that the real Lee Oswald could not drive.
One might suppose that an impersonator would be able to drive, but it would be a pretty poor impersonation to have the "Oswald double" doing something that the real Lee Oswald could not do.
- All of these accounts report that "Oswald" was dirty and slovenly. Yet the real Lee Oswald was neat, clean, and well-groomed. It seems the "Oswald" in Alice, Texas fit the
popular stereotype of the left-winger as unkempt Beatnik, but not the real Lee Oswald.
- Some of the accounts have an "Oswald family" consisting of "Lee," "Marina," and a babe in arms. This corresponds to the Oswald family as seen on television after the assassination, but not
to the real Oswald family of early October, which consisted of Lee, a very pregnant Marina, and a toddler (June).
- There simply would be no point in having an Oswald impersonator driving around Alice, Texas, and doing what these witnesses say he was doing.
Had he been brandishing a weapon, or threatening to kill the President, or loudly proclaiming left-wing political views, that might make sense. But this "Oswald" was merely looking for a job.
Supposed Forged Earnings Records
According to the Warren Commission Report, Lee Oswald entered the Marine Corps on October 24, 1956. Yet
John Armstrong discovered an FBI report showing that Palmer E. McBride, a friend of Oswald's in
New Orleans, remembered working with him at the Pfisterer Dental Lab in late 1957 and in early 1958. The simple explanation would be that McBride was
mistaken, since tax records
obtained by the Warren Commission showed that Oswald worked at Pfisterer in 1956. But Armstrong then
had the owner of Pfisterer ask the IRS about the date on which the Employer Identification Number on
Oswald's tax records was created. The IRS replied it was created in January, 1964, eight years
after Oswald supposedly worked at Pfisterer! Since the tax records were in the hands of the FBI in
January, 1964, Armstrong believed he had the "smoking gun" showing FBI forgery of the tax
records, apparently to cover up the existence of a "second Oswald." Here, in a letter to the Assassination Records Review Board, Armstrong outlines his discovery.
However, when researcher Douglas Horne of the Review Board looked into this he
found a much more mundane explanation for the "creation date" of the Employer Identification Number.
Further, Oswald's 1956 tax return shows him working at Pfisterer, J. R. Michels, and Tujague's. All of
this is consistent with the Warren Commission version of Lee Oswald's whereabouts, and inconsistent with
a "second Oswald" being in New Orleans when the first one (or was it the second?) was in the Marines.
Oswald in North Dakota?
Among the witnesses placing Lee Oswald in places the Warren Commission said he
never was is William Henry Timmer, who placed a teenage Oswald in North Dakota. As was the
case with Palmer McBride (see above), the simplest conclusion is that Timmer was mistaken. But again,
Armstrong was convinced that he had found corroboration for Oswald being in North Dakota.
On the day following the assassination, an article appeared in numerous newspapers written by Aline Mosby,
a UPI reporter who interviewed Oswald in Moscow when he first defected. The article says:
Then we moved to North Dakota
and I discovered one book in the library, Das Kapital. It was what I'd been looking for.
Again, we have "corroboration." Here is evidence that an "Oswald" was in North Dakota when the Warren Commission put Lee Oswald
in New Orleans. Unfortunately, a little research showed the "North Dakota" reference
to be a typographical error, apparently the result of a handwritten "NO" looking very much like "ND."
So Armstrong's "corroboration" for his witness account again disappears.
The Handwriting of "Lee" and "Harvey"
If Armstrong's "Lee" and his "Harvey" were in fact two different persons, they ought to have
different handwriting. But W. Tracy Parnell looked at the expert analysis of the House
Select Committee on Assassinations, and found that documents supposedly written by "Lee" and
documents supposedly written by "Harvey" were in fact written by the same man.
Who is Buried in Lee Oswald's Grave?
If there were two Oswalds, then only one of them could be buried in "Lee Oswald's grave" in the
Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth. So the man buried there would be different from one of the documented "Oswalds."
In 1981, Oswald's body was exhumed and examined. The mortician who attended the procedure claimed that the
cement burial vault was found to be "broken open" when dug up, that
Oswald's skull showed no evidence of a craniotomy (in which the skull bones are cut to allow access to the brain),
and that the head was found to be severed from the body. Did the conspirators replace the head of a "fake Oswald" with
the head of the true one (or vice versa) to conceal the fact of two different "Oswalds"? Duke Lane examined this issue in his article "Grave Doubts: A Report on the Exhumation and Autopsy of
the Remains of Lee Harvey Oswald."
So is there nothing at all to the "two Oswalds" theories? No, nothing at all. The whole rickety
structure is built on unreliable witness testimony, carefully selected and inaccurate documents, and a mountain of
implausible supposition. Which makes it a fitting metaphor for JFK assassination conspiracy theories generally.
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