Since the alleged ownership of CE 139 by Lee Harvey Oswald continues to generate "debate" 37 years -- and counting -- after that issue was settled, I think all would benefit from asking "Why?" and from reading the following passages from And We Are All Mortal: New Evidence and Analysis in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, by George Michael Evica (1978; University of Hartford Press).
Did Oswald Ever Possess Any Rifle?
Marina Oswald was the [Warren] Commission’s sole witness cited for the Report’s conclusions that Oswald possessed a rifle before the alleged attack on General Edwin Walker and that the alleged rifle was moved from Dallas to New Orleans and from New Orleans to Irving, Texas. The Commission’s own records help to establish that no piece of the Oswalds’ luggage or any other container used in moving the Oswalds was large enough to hold the Commission’s disassembled rifle.
The Commission attempted to prove that a rifle was stored in the Paine’s garage prior to the assassination: it failed. Marina Oswald testified to the Commission that she had entered the Paine’s cluttered garage to look for parts to a baby crib; lifting a corner of a folded blanket on the floor, she said she saw part of a rifle stock (in another version of this incident Marina decided it was the barrel she had seen). But Marina’s testimony was not corroborated; she could not distinguish either between kinds of rifles or between kinds of pieces (rifles and shot-guns, for example) … When shown a rifle on November 22nd, at about 9:00 p.m., she was unable to identify it:
“Marina Oswald advised an Agent of this Bureau on November 22, 1963, that she had been shown a rifle at the Dallas Police Department … She advised that she was unable to identify it positively as the same rifle kept in the garage at [the] Paine residence … ”
Three months after the assassination, Marina’s memory improved so that on February 6th, 1964, when shown what the Commission alleged to be the same rifle, she said, “This is the fateful rifle of Lee Oswald.” But Sunday, September 6th, 1964 … the following odd exchange occurred:
Senator Russell: Did you testify that you thought this [CE 139] was Lee’s rifle that was shown to you?
Marina (translation): No – I’m sorry. As far as she knows about the arms, the rifle which was shown to her looked like the one he had.
Translator (Peter Gregory, an important member of the Dallas/Ft. Worth White Russian community) in English: Yes; That’s right.
Senator Russell: That’s all I asked her. That’s just exactly what I asked her.
Translator (in English): Yes, that’s right.
Most crucially, Marina’s testimony on the alleged assassination weapon was coached, altered, or corroborated by individuals associated with Jack Ruby, the Great Southwest Corporation, George de Mohrenschildt (who admitted consulting with a Dallas C.I.A. agent concerning Oswald), and two of de Mohrenschildt’s associates (the co-founders of a C.I.A.-subsidized Russian Orthodox church in Dallas). The F.B.I. reported that a Marina Oswald interview had taken place on February 18th, 1964, in the office of attorney William A. McKenzie, who had been recently associated with the law firm representing both the Great Southwest Corporation (owned by the Murchisons’ lawyers, the Bedford Wynne family, and the Rockefellers) and George de Mohrenschildt. The F.B.I. reported that:
“Marina said to her knowledge Oswald had only one rifle and that rifle is the one he maintained in the Paine Garage.”
But Mrs. Declan Ford (another member of the White Russian émigré group) admitted:
“… Mr. McKenzie didn’t know what they would talk about but he advised her [Marina], ‘They will ask you if there were two guns, you tell them there was one gun that was used … ’”
Peter Dale Scott found this involvement of the intelligence-oriented Russian émigré group in the transmission of Marina’s testimony ominous enough to suggest a House Select Committee investigation, pointing out that Peter Gregory altered Marina’s testimony on the rifle and supplied other details which were corroborated by Marina’s second interpreter – who, with Gregory, helped found an Agency-supported Orthodox parish. Details of Marina’s coached and altered testimony were echoed in statements given the F.B.I. by Charles Camplen and James F. Daley, employees of the Great Southwest Corporation.
William A. McKenzie, in whose office the February 18, 1964 Marina Oswald interview as recorded, and who Mrs. Declan Ford asserted had supplied Marina with the Line “ … there was one gun that was used,” had resigned from the Wynne family law firm to represent Marina Oswald. McKenzie had been a law partner of attorney Bernard Wynne whose law firm represented the Wynne/Murchison/Rockefeller Great Southwest Corporation – at whose motel Marina Oswald was hidden by the Secret Service.
While acting as Marina’s lawyer, McKenzie was associated with attorney Peter White, who in 1954 arranged for the dismissal of charges against Jack Ruby. The Warren Commission ignored the fact that Peter White’s name, address, and phone number all appeared in Jack Ruby’s notebook – Peter White, the office mate of Marina Oswald’s attorney and representative – though the Commission questioned Ruby’s roommate George Senator about other entries in that same notebook.
With evidence available of coached and altered Marina Oswald testimony on the very existence of a weapon and on that weapon’s characteristics, directly traceable to individuals associated with an organized crime figure (Jack Ruby) and with the C.I.A. (George de Mohrenschildt), Marina’s uncorroborated testimony on a “rifle” must remain dubious and suspect.
Did Oswald Take Any Rifle to the Depository?
The Warren Commission did establish (or seemed to have established) that a folded blanket had once rested on the floor of Ruth and Michael Paine’s garage (at least Marina and the Paines thought so, and the police allegedly found such a blanket). The Commission was unable to place a rifle in that blanket except for Marina’s testimony about seeing the stock (or the barrel) of a rifle when she peeked – but then Marina was an incredible witness and admittedly could not recognize a rifle. Mrs. Paine testified she did not “see” the blanket in her crowded garage any earlier than October 7th, 1963. Ruth Paine also testified that the rifle she allegedly saw in Oswald’s possession had a sling unlike the one on the CE 139 rifle. Michael Paine tried to help; he testified that on some unspecified date before November 22nd, 1963, he remembered “moving about this package [in his garage] which, let’s say, was a rifle, anyway it was a package wrapped in a blanket.” But Paine didn’t help Marina’s credibility much:
“I have read … that Marina looked in the end of this [garage] package and saw the butt end of a rifle. Now I didn’t remember that it was something easy to look into like that. I thought it was well wrapped up.” (italics added)
The Warren Commission seemed to have discovered an ill-identified “rifle” (which could not be placed in the Oswald’s possession during their various moves) in an alleged package/blanket allegedly in the Paine garage – but not before October 7th, 1963.
The Commission did establish that Lee Harvey Oswald was present at the Paine’s residence, Thursday evening, November 21st, but could not place him in the Paine garage. It also could not establish whether he left the Paine residence on Friday morning, November 22nd, with a paper bag, a rifle, or anything in his hands. To suggest that Oswald might have taken a rifle in a paper bag, the Commission took testimony from four witnesses. The Commission’s intention was to suggest that Oswald might have (1) stolen the paper-bag materials from the Depository; (2)constructed the paper gun-case at the Paine house on Thursday night; (3) dismantled the rifle (thereby saving himself only a few inches in length but increasing the time necessary to prepare for the assassination when he would be forced to re-assemble the rifle; (4) placed the rifle in his home-made bag; (5)transported it to the Depository, and (6) carried it to the sixth floor of that building. The Commission was unable to establish as fact any one of these six sequential speculations. (emphasis added by Drago)
Had the Commission been able to establish Oswald’s possession of the CE 139 Mannlicher-Carcano through the evening of November 21st, or the fact of that possession any time on the 22nd, its “reconstruction” of possibilities could have been accepted as circumstantial evidence for the transportation of the Mannlicher-Carcano to and into the Depository on November 22nd. In fact, the Commission neither established Oswald’s possession of any rifle through November 22nd nor his transportation of any rifle on November 22nd. Its four paper bag/rifle transportation witnesses offered abundant material for the counter argument that Lee Harvey Oswald did not transport the rifle to or into the building, could not have borrowed the paper bag materials, and did not take those materials to the Paine house. Two of those witnesses testified on March 11th, 1964 – the only two alleged to have seen Oswald with his “bulky” package – that it was too short for even a disassembled Carcano. The difference in lengths given was significant: the CE 139 rifle (dismantled, according to F.B.I. agent Frazier), 35 inches; Oswald’s alleged package, about 28 inches.
The Warren Commission was unable to place any rifle in Oswald’s possession and was even unable to argue persuasively that Oswald might have transported a package containing a rifle to (or into) the Depository.
Did Oswald Possess a Rifle Inside the Depository?
Was Lee Harvey Oswald in possession of a rifle or a short or long package inside the Depository on November 22nd, 1963? No testimony was elicited, either by the Commission or by its investigators and staff members, in answer to that question; it was not, it seems, asked. The Commission tried neither to establish how Oswald got any rifle from the Depository’s first floor to the sixth floor nor to determine whether it was possible to transport a weapon. The Commission could have asked the Depository’s first-floor workers, but it seems to have avoided asking them any questions about Oswald’s possible rifle-carrying trip. Why?
The Warren Commission was unable to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald (1) took delivery of a rifle; (2) possessed a rifle; (3) practiced with a rifle; (4) transported a rifle to the Depository; and (5) carried a rifle to the Depository’s sixth floor.
And, of course, it was unable to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald ever fired a rifle on November 22nd, 1963.