Killing Oswald (2013)

November 19th, 2013
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Shane O’Sullivan


USA 2013, 102 min.

It is not so much the premise of this film – namely that Harvey Lee Oswald assassinated President John  F. Kennedy, but was merely the executioner in a conspiracy – but the material surrounding the life of Oswald, that makes this documentary well worth watching, although a tightening up of the edit would have been welcome.

Told collage-style with archive interviews, intercut original photos, helmer O’Sullivan names George De Mohrenschildt and David Atlee-Phillips as two of Oswald’s CIA handlers. But the most damming statement is Oswald’s own admission in a  radio interview, when he talks about his time in the USSR, stating “that he was under the protection of the US government”  before correcting himself. Equally revealing is a remark by Bannister, a CIA operator in Dallas, who when asked, on which side Oswald was fighting in the battle of the Castro/Anti-Castro movements, answered that “Oswald is one of us”.

Actors play the Oswald part and some other participants, which makes it slightly more difficult to follow the already enough protracted narrative, but with the help of excellent documentary footage one just gains enough insight into the life of a man, who ironically was diagnosed as a juvenile of having “a vivid fantasy life”.

Born in 1939 in New Orleans, he never knew his father, though it is of interest to know, that he had strong connections with the mob. When he entered the Marine Corps in 1956, he had visited 12 different schools with out gaining a high school diploma. In the Marines he worked as a radar operator; at the height of the U2 Spy missions, when the US planes flew over the USSR. Here Oswald’s story becomes curiously interesting because in 1959 he was discharged from active service, but was travelling to Russia a month later, a trip planned well ahead. We really have to ask the question why the US security agencies would have allowed a member of the army, who was connected with security operations like U2, to leave for the USSR at the height of Cold War paranoia.

Oswald denounced his US citizenship and was sent to Minsk to work at an Electronic factory. In March 1961, Oswald married Marina Prusakova, a 19 year old student. But in letters home Oswald wrote that he was bored in Russia and wanted to return to the USA, which he did in June 1962, settling in Dallas/Fort Worth. Again one must ask the question, why he was allowed home without any questions – surely the FBI/CIA would have had a say in this?. In March 1963 Oswald was photographed holding a rifle and some Trotskyist newspapers. A month later he ‘attempted to kill’ the retired US Major General Walker, a well known right wing agitator, who was in a feud with the Kennedy brothers, in his home. Oswald missed from 30 m out, shooting through the window. The police found no suspects. Oswald returned to New Orleans in the same month, posing alternatively as a Castro supporter for ‘Fair Play for Cuba’ and a member of the anti-Castro organisation ‘Crusade to Free Cuba Committee’. He continued this charade until September, when he arrived in Mexico City, to ask for a visa to Cuba and the USSR – claiming that he again had changed his mind and wanted to live in the USSR. Unfortunately for Oswald CIA handlers, Oswald never made it to the embassy, and the CIA had to sent another agent, who did not resemble Oswald to the embassy – a fact which FBI director Hoover had to admit to President Johnson after the Kennedy assassination. In October Oswald returned to Dallas, working for the Texas School Book Depository, from its sixth floor the shots killing Kennedy were supposedly fired.

Oswald’s CIA file was flushed down the toilet in Dallas by the agency.


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