Monday, 05 December 2022 19:44

Book Review: The Oswalds: An Untold Account of Marina and Lee

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In this review of a new book called The Oswalds, James Norwood makes it clear that in spite of a direct and personal connection to his subject, author Paul Gregory relies heavily on discredited evidence to make the case that Oswald really was the lone assassin of JFK.

The Oswalds: An Untold Account of Marina and Lee (New York: Diversion Books, 2022), 286 pp.

The lives of Paul Gregory, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and his late father Pete, a Russian émigré from Siberia, intersected with those of Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife Marina in 1962-63. In the summer of 1962, Marina gave lessons in the Russian language to the son Paul. Pete, the father, wrote a letter of recommendation for Lee. And, in the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Pete translated the words of Marina for the Secret Service in a hideaway motel. As both the son and the father conversed extensively in Russian with the Oswalds, and the father was a distinguished linguist, Paul Gregory’s new book may shed light on one of the most important questions about Lee Harvey Oswald: How did a high school dropout become so proficient in the Russian language?

Gregory’s book is written in the form of memoir. However, his experiences with the Oswalds in the summer of 1962 were not sufficient for a book-length manuscript. Consequently, the author rounded out his coverage of Oswald with a more expansive biography. For his sources, Gregory relied primarily on the Warren Report. This is revealing; it is clear that he has not probed deeply into the work of independent researchers of Oswald and the JFK assassination. The author refers to the latter body of literature as “forensics,” stating that “I cannot consider the hundreds of theories that reject Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole gunman.”[i]; “I am not going to engage in forensic analysis of an extra bullet and shots fired, directives to kill from Castro or Khrushchev, right-wing-fanatics, or deep-state cabals.”[ii] Gregory is convinced that his first-hand experience of Oswald validates the findings of the Warren Commission and is sufficient to demonstrate the lone gunman theory.

And yet when it comes to the matter of Oswald’s Russian language skills, Gregory cites my article “Oswald’s Proficiency in the Russian Language,”[iii] wherein I explore the evidence indicating that Oswald was already fluent in Russian prior to his departure for the Soviet Union in 1959. My contention was that Oswald was an asset of the United States government sent to the Soviet Union due to his ability to understand Russian, which he carefully concealed during his nearly three-year sojourn in Minsk. Gregory acknowledges that Russian is a difficult language to learn, yet he appears to dismiss my findings as conspiratorial thinking: “Some conspiracy theorists contend that Oswald’s Russian fluency constitutes proof of a conspiracy. They claim that he could not have picked up the language so quickly.”[iv] But Gregory does not explore how, when, and where Oswald did pick up the language so quickly. He only indicates that Oswald’s Russian language skills were “self-taught.”[v] But where did the self-instruction occur? It certainly was not at Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth in which Oswald dropped out after completing the ninth grade. It was not at the Monterey Institute of Languages, as Oswald never resided in Northern California. There is a suggestion he was there, but no real proof. It did not occur during his stint in the Marines, where Oswald was observed by multiple eyewitnesses as already fully capable of reading Russian-language materials in print.

As for his spoken Russian, prior to his departure to the Soviet Union, Oswald was commended by Rosaleen Quinn, the aunt of one of Oswald’s Marine buddies, who experienced first-hand Oswald’s Russian language abilities. Quinn had been learning the language for over a year from Berlitz for a future position in the State Department. She later said to author Edward Epstein that Oswald spoke better Russian then she did. Gregory chooses to ignore the evidence that Oswald was already fluent in Russian when he left the Marines. The author simply assumes that Oswald achieved a mastery of Russian while he was in Minsk.[vi] But, during his nearly three-year stay, Oswald was not working diligently with his tutors or practicing on his own; instead, he was remembered by his friends in Minsk as constantly struggling with Russian and primarily speaking to them in English! In an interview that Gregory did with Patrick Bet David on November 22nd of this year, Gregory said that Oswald spoke Russian, but his grammar was very bad. This is not what Quinn said. She told Epstein that Oswald could string entire sentences together without much hesitation.

When Oswald returned from the Soviet Union, he and Marina received correspondence from their acquaintances in Minsk. Ernst Titovets wrote a letter in Russian addressed to both Lee and Marina, but he included a separate portion to Lee written in English.[vii] The same was true with Aleksandr (Alejandro) Zieger in a joint letter written to Marina and Lee. The undated letter was composed sometime after the Oswalds left Minsk in 1962. Mr. Zieger writes most of the letter in Russian, offering general news of the Zieger family. But at the end, he includes a personal message to “Alek” (Oswald’s nickname in Minsk) that is written in English: “Alek—my best wishes and a ton of good luck.”[viii] These letters demonstrate that his friends in the Soviet Union were under the impression that Oswald could not read Russian. Yet the correspondence was received by the Oswalds at a time when Lee visited the office of Pete Gregory in order to obtain a letter of recommendation that verified his Russian language competency. Pete gave him a test after pulling out Russian volumes from his bookshelves and asking Oswald to translate. Surprised by Oswald’s proficiency, Pete then wrote the brief letter that vouched for Oswald, whose aptitude in Russian was so good that Pete believed him “capable of being an interpreter and perhaps a translator.”[ix]

In what is revealing information contained in Gregory’s book, the linguist father Pete concluded that, based on his spoken Russian, Oswald was “from a Baltic republic or even Poland with Russian as a second language.”[x] He also speculated that “Oswald’s Russian fluency was explained by immersion in daily life rather than attendance at some sinister Russian language school for spies.”[xi] Pete’s son Paul attested that “having spent hours with Lee speaking Russian, I can confirm that his command of the everyday language was excellent. He could express anything he wanted to say.”[xii] The lapses in grammar and mistakes in gender may be partially explained by the father’s contention that Oswald originally learned Russian as a second language, “possibly from a Baltic republic or even Poland.” This description would explain how Oswald had already become proficient in Russian at the time he departed for the Soviet Union in 1959. It also must give us pause as to what was the true background of this young, bilingual man. The real Lee Harvey Oswald was born in New Orleans and raised exclusively in the United States. But Pete Gregory was referring to a young man who was likely born in Eastern Europe and was speaking both Russian and English as second languages.

Working under tremendous pressure, Pete Gregory translated the words of Marina in response to questions from the Secret Service shortly after the assassination. His translations were subsequently checked by other experts and judged “faultless without deviation.”[xiii] Previously, he had been selected to accompany President Eisenhower to Moscow to serve as translator during the summit that was eventually cancelled due to the Gary Powers U-2 spy plane incident. In describing his father as “one of the nation’s best Russian interpreters,”[xiv] Paul may not have been engaging in hyperbole. As a world-class linguist, Pete Gregory is an authority worth listening to as an eyewitness to Oswald’s Russian language skills. As it turns out, Pete’s characterization of Oswald having learned Russian as a second language somewhere in Eastern Europe, possibly “from a Baltic republic or even Poland,” merits some consideration.

How may this lend a clue to our understanding of Oswald? The answer lies in the massive work Harvey and Lee by John Armstrong, along with his articles on the website, and his digital archive documenting his research, which is accessible online from Baylor University. Because of the evidence of two Oswald boys using the same name, growing up in different households, attending different schools, and training separately in the Marines, Pete Gregory’s revelation about Oswald’s Russian language abilities could be corroborative evidence of Armstrong’s “The Oswald Project”, which sought to place a Russian speaking American in the Soviet Union as an asset.

The long-term project of planting a Russian-speaking spy in the Soviet Union must be examined in the context of the aftermath of World War II and the start of the Cold War. Immediately after the war, there was the forced relocation of enormous populations as the map was being redrawn in Eastern Europe. Thousands of “displaced persons” were interred in camps. The so-called Displaced Persons Commission made available to the CIA the names of potential assets. As a result, Eastern European refugees were brought to the United States under a program headed by Frank Wisner, the CIA’s director of clandestine operations. Wisner had become the State Department’s and the CIA’s expert on Eastern European war refugees during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Under Wisner’s program, the refugees were granted asylum in return for their cooperation in secret operations against the Soviets.

Wisner gained approval from the National Security Council for the “systematic” use of the refugees as set forth in a top-secret intelligence directive, NSCID No. 14 (March 3, 1950). Both the FBI and the CIA were authorized to jointly exploit the knowledge, experience, and talents of over 200,000 Eastern European refugees who had resettled in the United States.[xv] Under Wisner, the CIA was running hundreds of covert projects for the purpose of what the NSCID directive called the “exploitation of aliens as sources of foreign intelligence information.”[xvi] The surviving evidence suggests one of those projects merged the identities of a Russian-speaking immigrant boy, who likely came from Eastern Europe, with an American-born boy named Lee Harvey Oswald.[xvii] 

Many of the Eastern European children grew up bilingual with Russian as a second language. As observed by journalist Anne Applebaum in her book Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, Eastern European children would, as a matter of course, be sent to live with another family at an early age in order to learn a second language. The idea behind this CIA project was to groom the Russian-speaking boy as a spy who, when he reached adulthood, would “defect” to the Soviet Union. Because he had assumed the name and identity of an American, the Soviets would not suspect that he spoke fluent Russian. The result was that nearly a decade later, as an undercover agent who secretly understood Russian, the Eastern European immigrant posing as a disgruntled United States Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald defected and spent nearly three years in the Soviet Union. While there, he married a Soviet woman and returned to the United States with his wife and child.

Upon his return to the United States, Oswald wrote a lengthy account of his experience working at the Minsk Radio and TV Factory, where he drew upon “his fairly wide circle of friends and acquaintances to gather the figures and descriptions of the inner workings of the Soviet system.”[xviii] In wondering how Oswald “was able to put together such an insightful picture of the Soviet enterprise,”[xix] Gregory notes that Oswald was “a surprisingly keen observer of Soviet reality.”[xx] But there should be no surprise if it had been Oswald’s principal purpose as a false defector to observe and to report on the realities of Soviet life during his stay. Dennis Offstein was a co-worker of Oswald at the graphic arts company of Jaggars, Chiles, Stovall in Dallas shortly after Oswald’s return in 1962. In his testimony to the Warren Commission, Offstein recalled that Oswald gave him a detailed account of Soviet military maneuvers during his residency. Specifically, Offstein remembered Oswald’s description of:

…the disbursement of the [Soviet] military units, saying that they didn't intermingle their armored divisions and infantry divisions and various units the way we do in the United States, that they would have all of their aircraft in one geographical location and their tanks in another geographical location, and their infantry in another, and he mentioned that in Minsk he never saw a vapor trail, indicating the lack of aircraft in the area.[xxi]

This perceptive account of the Soviet military activities that includes being on the lookout for “vapor trails” squares with other detailed observations that Oswald brought back and recorded in detail. In the testimony of Offstein alone, there was enough cause to warrant an investigation of Oswald's ties to intelligence and the possibility that he was sent to the Soviet Union in 1959 in the capacity of what Offstein called “an agent of the United States.”[xxii] But with the presence of Allen Dulles on the Warren Commission, Oswald’s records in the CIA were effectively pre-screened from the committee. 

It was Allen Dulles who insisted that the Warren Commission publish a detailed biography of Oswald. As a result, Chapter VII (“Lee Harvey Oswald: Background and Possible Motives”) is a fifty-page narrative replete with inaccurate details and chronological errors. That “biography” may be a mélange of the lives of two young men, and it has misled researchers for nearly sixty years, the latest of which is Paul Gregory. The major premise that undergirds Gregory’s book is that Oswald was a genuine defector. Working closely to the Warren Report, Gregory believes that Oswald was a committed Marxist, that his distribution of pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans was genuine, that his opening of a branch of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans was genuine (despite him being the only member), and his visits to the Russian and Cuban embassies in Mexico City were genuine (despite the absence of concrete evidence that Oswald himself paid those visits). In paraphrasing the Warren Report, Gregory identifies Oswald’s principal motivation for the assassination not out of animosity for John F. Kennedy, but his belief, shaped by his study of Marxism, that “he was destined for a place in history.”[xxiii]

But if Oswald was not a genuine defector and was working for the United States government, the entire edifice of the Warren Report collapses like a house of cards. If Oswald really had delusions of grandeur, he had the perfect opportunity to proclaim his great deed to history as he was paraded through the halls of the Dallas police headquarters and was allowed to address the press. But instead, he protested his arrest and insisted on his innocence with the words, “I’m just a patsy!” In this crystalline moment, he may have realized that he was a mere pawn in the greater design of the Cold War.

A fatal shortcoming of Gregory’s methodology is that he has not kept up with new evidentiary discoveries in the JFK assassination, particularly the findings of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). The military historian John Newman has observed that “in the history of the KGB and the CIA, their wars are not actually shooting each other so much as trying to penetrate each other.”[xxiv] Oswald may be best understood in the context of a myriad number of CIA projects with the goal of “penetrating” the enemy, including the critical area of identifying moles from within. Newman recounts the time when one of the legendary CIA mole hunters and “probably our most celebrated and capable counterintelligence officer in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency,”[xxv] Tennent “Pete” Bagley, sat down with researcher Malcolm Blunt. Bagley and Blunt reviewed the collection of documents on Oswald from the CIA, the State Department, and Naval intelligence. As they assessed the evidence, the stunning revelation came to Bagley that Oswald “had to be witting” in his defection.[xxvi] In other words, this senior CIA officer recognized that the evidence demonstrated that “Lee Harvey Oswald was a witting false defector when he went to Moscow.”[xxvii] This revelation was made possible through the efforts of the tenacious researcher Elizabeth “Betsy” Wolf, who had prepared detailed notes during her time spent on the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in the late 1970s. The implications of her notes were so explosive that they were hidden until their declassification on a time-delayed release following the termination of the ARRB in 1998. Salvaging the notes was made possible by Oliver Stone’s film JFK, which led to the JFK Records Act and the establishment of the ARRB. In turn, the indefatigable researcher Malcolm Blunt carefully assembled Wolf’s notes and assessed their implications with Bagley.

Betsy Wolf had been troubled by the fact that a “201 file” had not been prepared on Oswald by the CIA at the time of his defection in 1959. This point was not addressed by the Warren Commission which paid little, if any, real attention to Oswald’s connections to the intelligence network. According to CIA protocol, 201 files were routinely opened for persons “of active operational interest.”[xxviii] But, inexplicably, after Oswald’s so-called defection, a 201 file was not opened until over a year later on December 8, 1960.[xxix] Wolf’s breakthrough discovery was that early CIA reports on Oswald were pigeonholed in the CIA’s Office of Security (OS), rather than to the SR (Soviet Russia) division. The OS would not refer a 201 file, while SR would. As recounted by researcher Vasilios Vazakas, “in the case of Oswald, his files bypassed the General Filing System and went straight into the Office of Security and its SRS [Security Research Service] component.”[xxx] One possible explanation entertained by Vazakas was that “Oswald was a special project for [James Jesus] Angleton, one he wanted no one else to know about.”[xxxi] In a crucial interview described in Wolf’s handwritten notes and discovered by Blunt, on July, 26, 1978, Wolf spoke with Robert Gambino, at that time, the current chief of the OS. Gambino informed her that a request for the special handling of Oswald’s documents had occurred prior to Oswald’s defection. In other words, CIA documentation on Lee Harvey Oswald predated his defection. With an understanding of that chronology—and the testimony of both Bagley and Gambino-- it is clear that the CIA was fully aware of the phony defection in advance of the time it occurred in late October, 1959.[xxxii]

Even Oswald’s Marine roommate in Santa Ana, California, James Botelho, recognized that Oswald was not a genuine defector when he told attorney Mark Lane that “Oswald was not a Communist or a Marxist. If he was I would have taken violent action against him and so would many of the other Marines in the unit.”[xxxiii] After Oswald’s defection was made public, Botelho told how an investigation at the Santa Ana Marine base was conducted purely for show:

It was the most casual of investigations. It was a cover-investigation so that it could be said there had been an investigation….Oswald, it was said, was the only Marine ever to defect from his country to another country, a Communist country, during peacetime. That was a major event. When the Marine Corps and American intelligence decided not to probe the reasons for the “defection,” I knew then what I know now: Oswald was on an assignment in Russia for American intelligence.[xxxiv]

Through a nearly miraculous chain of events starting with Oliver Stone’s film and leading to the ARRB’s preservation of the notes of Betsy Wolf, we have today documentary evidence supporting Botelho’s claims that Oswald was a false defector.

Instead of following through on the implications of Oswald’s language proficiency in Russian and exploring whether or not he was a genuine defector, Gregory pivots to spend a large portion of his book recounting the stormy relationship of Lee and Marina. Gregory returns to his default mode of the Warren Report to cite the Commission’s alleged motivation for the killing of the President: “The relations between Lee and Marina Oswald are of great importance in any attempt to understand Oswald’s possible motivation.”[xxxv] The fact that the Warren Commission had to look to the marital relationship of the suspected assassin for motivation for the murder of the President demonstrates how flimsy the case was against Oswald. Gregory spends countless pages describing the abuse Lee heaped upon Marina, mainly relying on secondhand information from members of the small Russian émigré community in Dallas. Gregory’s narrative resembles the plot outline of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, wherein Lee is the tyrannical overlord of Marina just as Petruchio seeks to keep Katharina on a short leash.

In what he calls his own “amateur psychoanalysis,”[xxxvi] Gregory repeats on multiple occasions the tiresome refrain of Warren Commission apologists that Oswald was seeking to impress his wife by carving out his place in history. During his time spent with Oswald in the summer of 1962, Gregory “detected none of the trademarks of a future assassin.”[xxxvii] Yet in the back-reading of his own experience through the lens of the Warren Report, Gregory concludes that he had “witnessed firsthand this small man’s attempt to prove to the world and to his young wife that he was indeed exceptional.”[xxxviii] Through a tortured logic, Gregory posits the following in response to Marina’s belittling of her husband’s politics and his substandard performance in the bedroom: “What better way for Oswald to kill two birds with one stone than by the ‘manly’ act of killing the most powerful man on earth?”[xxxix] This psychoanalytical approach completely misses the point that the killing of President Kennedy was a politically driven act at the height of the Cold War, the effect of which was a compete reversal of America’s foreign policy in the 1960s. Many of which were detailed in Oliver Stone’s four-hour film JFK: Destiny Betrayed.

In an interview given by Gregory shortly before the release of his book, the author indicated that he was motivated to write the memoir because his family was embarrassed at having an association with the alleged assassin of an American president. In Gregory’s words, it was “a black spot on the family.”[xl] The resulting book is not the impartial work of a scholar at the Hoover Institution. Rather, it is the biased opinion of an eyewitness with a personal agenda. Gregory considered Marina Oswald as a friend, as she helped him to prepare a paper on an obscure Russian play during the summer of 1962. But one looks in vain in the book for Marina’s corroboration of what Gregory has written about her and her first husband. The author sent Marina a draft of the manuscript, as well as a cordial letter. But she never replied. The last time Gregory saw Marina was on Thanksgiving Day in 1962. In a 1993 NBC interview, the feisty Marina went toe-to-toe with newscaster Tom Brokaw, as she took issue with the claims of Gerald Posner in his book Case Closed and said of her husband that “he definitely did not fire the shots.”[xli] In 1996, Marina told Oprah Winfrey that she came to the conclusion that her husband was innocent by studying the Warren Report’s supplementary volumes, which puts a damper on the entire hypothesis of Paul Gregory’s book: “And then comes the 26 volumes of the testimony, of the evidence, which does not support their conclusion.”[xlii] Drawing so heavily as he does on the Warren Report, Gregory has written a book that should take its place alongside Priscilla Johnson McMillan’s Marina and Lee, Robert Oswald’s Lee, and Jean Davison’s Oswald’s Game, all of which serve as posthumous daggers in the heart of Lee Harvey Oswald.




The Media’s Response to The Oswalds and Reflections on the Cold War

Following the release of Paul Gregory’s book, the media’s response has fixated on the lurid elements of alleged domestic abuse and the troubled marriage of the Oswalds. Writing in the Daily Mail on November 25, 2022, Daniel Bates offers the eye-popping title of “‘He feared he would be exposed as a loser.’ Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated JFK because he was ‘humiliated’ by wife Marina who mocked him as sexually inadequate and cheated with a businessman.”[1]

Bates’s formal review then begins with the observation that “Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy because he feared being branded a ‘loser’ by his wife who ridiculed his pretensions of being a Marxist intellectual.”[2]

Here the journalist is invoking guilt by association in an argument that goes as follows: If Oswald was belittled and shamed by his wife, it follows that he killed the President in retaliation. A Kirkus review succinctly summarized the book as “an informative view of a killer’s marriage and lethal motivations.”[3] Writing in the New York Post, Heather Robinson concludes her review by speculating that “it’s even possible that Oswald killed JFK because the young president was seen as the ultimate symbol of American masculinity and power — and because Marina liked him.”[4]  Some of this “writing” resembles postmodern literary criticism.

In the alternative media, Gus Russo on Spy Talk introduces a litany of titillating incidents not even mentioned in Gregory’s book. At the same time, he completely ignores how Oswald attained a superior level of Russian language proficiency, as well as Peter Gregory’s analysis that Oswald spoke like an Eastern European who had learned Russian from daily exposure, as opposed to formal training in the classroom. As Paul’s father, Pete, testified to the Warren Commission, “I would say it would be rather unusual, rather unusual for a person who lived in the Soviet Union for 17 months that he would speak so well that a native Russian would not be sure whether he was born in that country or not.”[5] This linguist was attempting to reconcile what he had heard as the inflections of an Eastern European speaking Russian that conflicted with what he was told by Oswald about how he had learned to speak the language. Russo also makes no mention of Oswald’s “defection” in 1959 and Gregory’s blind acceptance of the Warren Commission’s profile of Oswald as a genuine Marxist.

In their rush to paint Oswald as a domestic abuser of the most despicable variety, the reviewers fail to mention a very important evidentiary point: Paul Gregory relies extensively on secondhand reporting that he heard from members of the Dallas Russian émigré community. The reviewers give readers the impression that Gregory is offering startling, new revelations. But these individuals were called before the Warren Commission and were questioned about the alleged abuse. Robert Charles-Dunne has provided a valuable collation of their testimony in “Was Oswald a Serial Wife Batterer?” that would serve as an indispensable resource alongside Gregory’s book.

In following the words of the witnesses, it is apparent that they were not really witnesses. That they too were invariably relying on second- and third- hand reporting of Oswald’s treatment of his wife. The testimony of nineteen witnesses reveals that no police report was ever filed and rarely was there an actual witness to verify Oswald’s displays of temper. Gregory himself never observed Oswald physically striking Marina during any of his forty-eight tutorial sessions. And yet, his allegations are the bedrock foundation for the motivation that Oswald killed President Kennedy.

Any instance of spousal abuse is reprehensible, and Marina Oswald has acknowledged that she was an abused wife. Yet over time, she was able to separate the abuse from the question of whether or not her husband shot the President. By the 1990s, while continuing to acknowledge Oswald’s shabby treatment of her, she still concluded that Lee had been framed…primarily from her study of the supplementary volumes of the Warren Report!  Scholars who tackle this topic should have the same degree of objectivity as a victim like Marina.

In investing so much time in writing about the connection between Oswald’s treatment of his wife and the murder of President Kennedy, Gregory has given short shrift to the climate of the Cold War that impacted the lives of everyone described in his book, including his own and especially his father’s. Pete Gregory entered the pressure cooker to translate for Marina in response to questions from the Secret Service over the stressful assassination weekend. His dedication movingly comes across in the memoir. This was an instance of a law-abiding citizen being sucked into the maelstrom of a national crisis. But what was not known until recently was that Pete Gregory was later a likely employee of the CIA. As uncovered by researcher Malcolm Blunt, a set of documents indicates that, in 1965, Pete applied for work in the CIA in the JPRS (Joint Publications Research Service).[6]  

The recipient of his application was the Chief Officer of the Foreign Documents Division of the CIA. It is possible that Pete may have been applying for a position of translator of sensitive multi-lingual texts at the height of the Cold War. In addition to Pete’s completed application, another document verifies his CIA security clearance through a strict process of vetting that included the administration of a polygraph. By profession, Pete was an engineer working in the petroleum industry of Texas. More work lies ahead in understanding precisely what role Pete was playing in the CIA in a Cold War connection that is never mentioned in his son’s memoir.

Indeed, discourse on the Cold War in general is conspicuously absent from Gregory’s book. Mark Kramer, who is Director of Cold War Studies at Harvard University, wrote a commendatory blurb that appears at the start of The Oswalds: “Gregory’s book offers a definitive personality sketch of Oswald and a great deal of evidence that should put an end, once and for all, to the notion that shadowy forces intent on murdering the president would have enlisted such an unreliable and tempestuous loser.” This astonishing perspective written by a scholar of the Cold War speaks volumes about what little time the so-called experts have invested in studying the JFK assassination. Historians, journalists, and bloggers should be following trails of reliable evidence and placing a historical event carefully in context. They should not be relying on hearsay, gossip, and psychoanalytical speculation. A seminal moment of the Cold War was the assassination of President Kennedy that shifted the nation’s foreign policy over the course of a weekend. The preponderance of evidence suggests that the scapegoat Lee Harvey Oswald was a creature of the Cold War and that President Kennedy’s death was the result of forces at work against his vision of peace in the period following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both men were pawns on a chessboard that we can finally understand today if we only take the time to examine the evidence. Until that happens, our knowledge of the Cold War will remain incomplete.

[i] Paul R. Gregory, The Oswalds: An Untold Account of Marina and Lee (New York: Diversion Books, 2022), 36.

[ii] Gregory, 230.

[iii] James Norwood, “Oswald’s Proficiency in the Russian Language,”

[iv] Gregory, 100.

[v] Gregory, 245.

[vi] Gregory, 88.

[vii] Gregory, 124. Gregory describes Titovets’s letter as “jocular.” But if Oswald had achieved “mastery” of Russian while in Minsk, as Gregory suggests, then why would Titovets feel compelled to write a special portion of the letter addressed expressly to Oswald in English?

[viii] Mr. Zieger’s letter was published in the Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. XVI, 156 (Exhibit 33).

[ix] John Armstrong, Harvey and Lee (Quasar, Ltd., 2003), 399.

[x] Gregory, 100.

[xi] Gregory, 100.

[xii] Gregory, 100.

[xiii] Gregory, 202.

[xiv] Gregory, 207.

[xv] The first article of the directive reads as follows: “Exploitation of aliens within the U.S. for internal security purposes shall be the responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Exploitation of aliens as sources of foreign intelligence information or for other foreign intelligence purposes shall be the responsibility of the Central Intelligence Agency. This allocation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to the Central Intelligence Agency of separate areas of alien exploitation responsibility does not preclude joint exploitation, which must be encouraged whenever feasible.”
NSCID No. 14:

[xvi] NSCID No. 14, article 1:

[xvii] See my article “Lee Harvey Oswald: The Legend and the Truth,” which begins with discussion of the HSCA testimony of Jim Wilcott:

[xviii] Gregory, 59.

[xix] Gregory, 59.

[xx] Gregory, 49.

[xxi] Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. 10, 202.

[xxii] Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. 10, 200.

[xxiii] Gregory, 36.

[xxiv] James DiEugenio and Oliver Stone, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass (New York: Skyhorse Publishing 2022), 193.

[xxv] DiEugenio and Stone, 193.

[xxvi] DiEugenio and Stone, 194.

[xxvii] DiEugenio and Stone, 194.

[xxviii] John Newman, Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2008), 47.

[xxix] For researcher Vasilios Vazakas, Betsy Wolf was puzzled because “there were two reasons to open the 201 file on Oswald over a year prior to when it happened. Neither one triggered the opening. Further, when Wolf looked at the 201 file, it only contained copies and the two Naval dispatches were gone…. What could be a more compelling reason for the counter-intelligence office opening a file on Oswald than his threatening to give secrets of the U-2 to the Soviets?” Vasilios Vazakas, “Creating the Oswald Legend—Part 4.” August 15, 2020.

[xxx] Vazakas.

[xxxi] Vazakas.

[xxxii] Historian James DiEugenio summarizes the remarkable discovery of Betsy Wolfe as follows: “Only toward the end of her search did Betsy find out what had happened. Betsy’s notes include an interview with the former OS chief Robert Gambino. According to Malcolm, her handwritten notes are the only place anyone can find anything about this particular interview. (Wolf notes of 7/26/78) Gambino told her that CIA Mail Logistics was in charge of disseminating incoming documents. In other words, someone made this request about the weird routing of Oswald’s files from OS’s Security Research Service. (p. 324) And this was done prior to Oswald’s defection. Malcolm concludes that with what Betsy unearthed, there should now be no question that the CIA knew Oswald was going to defect before it happened.” Book review by James DiEugenio, “The Devil Is in the Details: By Malcolm Blunt with Alan Dale. March 20, 2021:

[xxxiii] James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable—Why He Died and Why It Matters (Ossining, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2008), 40.

[xxxiv] Douglass, 40.

[xxxv] Gregory, 230.

[xxxvi] Gregory, 229.

[xxxvii] Gregory, 16.

[xxxviii] Gregory, 240.

[xxxix] Gregory, 243.

[xl] The LBJ Library, “With the Bark Off: A Conversation with Paul Gregory About Lee Harvey Oswald” (October 27, 2022):

[xli] Marina Porter interview, August 1993 (NBC):

[xlii] A complete transcript of Marina’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, which includes an appearance by Oliver Stone, may be read in the following transcription made by R.J. DellaRosa:

[1] Daniel Bates, The Daily Mail (November 25, 2022):

[2] Bates.


[4] Heather Robinson, “Pal Reveals Lee Harvey Oswald’s Weird, Paranoid Life One Year Before Killing JFK” New York Post (November 29, 2022):

[5] Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. II, 347.

[6] According to the Harvard University Library, “The United States Joint Publications Research Service is a government agency which translates foreign language books, newspapers, journals, unclassified foreign documents and research reports.  Approximately 80% of the documents translated are serial publications.  JPRS is the largest single producer of English language translations in the world.  More than 80,000 reports have been issued since 1957, and currently JPRS produces over 300,000 pages of translations per year.”


James Norwood taught for twenty-six years in the humanities and the performing arts at the University of Minnesota. The curriculum that he offered included a semester course on the JFK assassination. He is the author of “Lee Harvey Oswald: The Legend and the Truth” and “Oswald’s Proficiency in the Russian Language” published at His article “Edmund Gullion, JFK, and the Shaping of a Foreign Policy in Vietnam” was published at

Last modified on Thursday, 08 December 2022 20:08
James Norwood

James Norwood, Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley) taught in the humanities at the University of Minnesota for twenty-six years and offered a semester course on the JFK assassination. He is the author of “Lee Harvey Oswald: The Legend and the Truth” and “Oswald’s Proficiency in the Russian Language” that appear on At the time of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, he offered a lecture series at the University of Minnesota entitled “The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: An Event That Changed History.”

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