JFK and the Warren Commission

Hafsah Masood

Why did the Warren Commission decide that John F Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting on his own?

On 22 November 1963, President John F Kennedy was shot dead as he took part in a motorcade through the streets of Dallas, Texas. Soon afterwards a man named Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and accused of having shot Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas school Depository building . Even though Oswald refused to co-operate and denied all knowledge of the assassination, he was formerly charged the next day, on the 23 November. However, he never stood trial as just two days later Oswald himself was shot dead by Jack Ruby, a Dallas night club owner, as he was being taken from police headquarters to court. As Jack Ruby went to prison and the police had no longer a suspect to question, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, set up a committee led by chief justice Earl Warren, to conduct an official investigation into Kennedy's murder. They were under immense pressure by the public to come up with a conclusion. On 24 September 1964, the Warren Commission finally issued a report of their findings. They concluded that President Kennedy was murdered by a single gunmen, Lee Harvey Oswald.
There were numerous reasons why the Warren Commission came to this conclusion, varying from Oswalds background and most predominantly the hard evidence there was against him. In fact, there was a substantial amount of evidence that linked Oswald to the murder weapon and the crime scene which, undoubtedly helped a great deal in his conviction. The main evidence against Oswald was a unique Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, which was recovered on the sixth floor of the school depository building and had allegedly been used for the shooting. Witnesses claimed that three shots had been fired. Three spent cartridges were found alongside the rifle. Ballistics proved that the fragments from two bullets that were recovered from the Presidents limousine and from the wounds of Kennedy and Governor Connally, came from the same unusual type of rifle, made in Italy during the Second World War. Forsenic evidence also linked Oswald to the weapon. Fibres found on the rifles stock matched those on a shirt Oswald was wearing when he was arrested. Oswalds palm prints were also found on the underside of the gun barrel. His prints were found on a part of the rifle that was exposed only when it was taken to pieces. In an attempt to conceal the weapon, Oswald may have brought it to the building in pieces and then assembled it there. Police also recovered a brown paper bag on the sixth floor of the depository building. Oswald prints were also found on this paper bag, inside of which were traces of oil from the rifle. Two eyewitnesses recalled seeing Oswald with this brown paper bag on the morning of 22 November. Lillie Mae Randall, a neighbour, stated that Oswald had carried a long package in a paper bag from his house that morning. As well as this, one of Oswalds own work colleagues, Buell Wesley Frazier, who had given him a lift to work that day, claimed that he too had seen Oswald carry a large paper bag to the depository on the morning of the assassination. Both witnesses stated that the package Oswald had been carrying was 22-23 inches long, roughly the size of the rifle. The evidence slowly mounted up. Next, the ownership of the rifle was traced to Oswald. His wife, Marina, confirmed that Oswald had owned a rifle similar to the murder weapon that he kept in the garage of their house. However when the garage was searched, the rifle was missing! I believe that this made a substantial difference in the investigation, as Oswalds own wife had provided conclusive evidence against him. When captured, Oswald was carrying a forged identity card in the name of A J Hidell. Enquiries were at one began at local gun stores of whether a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle had been purchased within the past year by anyone named Oswald or Hidell. Soon a mail order supplier came forward with records to prove that a similar rifle had been purchased by a certain A Hidell. The address given on the receipt was Oswalds and the gun had been sent to his PO Box, which he had recently rented. Experts later also