The JFK 100


Oswald's "Backyard Photos" faked


Were photographs forged to poison Oswald's image?

 

One of the enduring myths of the JFK assassination is rehashed in Oliver Stone's JFK: that photos of Lee Harvey Oswald with his rifle were forged in order to convince the public that he was JFK's assassin.

Those who believe the photos are fake ignore the exhaustive scrutiny the photos underwent at the hands of the expert photographic panel retained by the House Select Committee (HSCA) that reinvestigated the assassination in the late 1970s. Using a variety of sophisticated techniques, such as stereoscopic viewing and grain analysis (see below), the panel determined that the photos contain no evidence of forgery. Read the panel's complete report here.

Oswald's widow, Marina, has confirmed to the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee, and numerous independent researchers that she herself took the photos,(1) which the House Select Committee panel determined were made with Oswald's own Imperial Reflex camera, to the exclusion of all other cameras.

As author Gus Russo has demonstrated, several people even saw one of the backyard photos before the assassination.(2) One print obtained by the HSCA from the widow of Oswald's friend George De Mohrenschildt had a handwritten inscription on the reverse: "To my friend George from Lee Oswald," and the date 5/IV/63 (5 April 1963). The HSCA's panel of experts on questioned documents unanimously judged the handwriting to be that of Lee Harvey Oswald.(3)

 


From Gerald Posner, Case Closed (New York: Random House, 1993)

 

Copyright © 2001, 2011 by David Reitzes

 

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NOTES:

1. Warren Commission Report, p. 181. In a 1991 telephone interview with conspiracist author Harrison Edward Livingstone, Marina Oswald Porter told him, "I did take those pictures of Lee. . . . I took them one Sunday. Yes. I swear on my children I'm telling the truth. I do not remember how many. Because I didn't want it; I didn't like it; but two [pictures] I definitely took," because her husband asked her to do it. (According to Livingstone, however, she then stated that she had been standing in a different location in their Neely Street backyard than evident in the photos, casting doubt upon whether the specific photos in evidence were hers. While this may be true, Livingstone does not present a direct quotation from his interview to this effect; instead he quotes from an interview Mrs. Porter is said to have given to Larry Howard of the JFK Assassination Center in Dallas. The footnote Livingstone provides does not correspond to such an interview, however, but to the HSCA's 1979 report and the report of their photographic panel. These sources do not deal with the issue of where Marina was standing, as Marina had never raised the issue with the HSCA.) (Harrison Edward Livingstone, High Treason 2 [New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992], p. 454.) In a 2000 interview with Vincent Bugliosi and researcher Jack Duffy ("who," writes Bugliosi, "has studied the assassination for many years and leans toward the conspiracy theory"), Marina Oswald Porter reaffirmed that she took the famous photos. "That settles that issue," Duffy proclaimed, perhaps a tad too optimistically. (Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History [New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007], p. 1487.)

2. Gus Russo, Live by the Sword (Baltimore: Bancroft, 1998), p. 117. In addition to holding his rifle, the photographs show him holding two leftist newspapers, The Militant and The Worker. He sent a copy of one of the photos to the offices of The Militant's publisher, the Socialist Workers' Party, where several people saw it. As Gus Russo writes, "Sylvia Weinstein, who handled the paper's subscriptions, opened the envelope and thought the man in black was 'kookie.' In her opinion, he had chosen a 'stupid' way to declare his loyalty to the publication. (Weinstein was struck by the apparent ignorance of the man who held The Militant and The Worker together in his hand. Anyone holding both, together with a gun, she said, would have to be assumed to 'really dumb and totally naive.'") "Farrell Dobbs, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers' Party, was appalled and frightened. After suffering a witch hunt and being imprisoned during the McCarthy years, Dobbs feared something much more serious than 'some weirdo' acting out his fantasies. Specifically, he feared a provocateur, and instructed Weinstein to immediately bring to his office any similar material if more arrived."

3. Hearings Before the Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. House of Representatives, 95th Congress, 2d session (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1979), Vol. 8, p. 230.

 

 

You may wish to see . . .

The JFK 100: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?

 

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