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JFK - How good of a shot was Oswald

Oswald when he served in the US Marine CorpsOswald when he served in the US Marine Corps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Bob Barney

Today, in an attempt to find the Warren report as being accurate, we have many "experts" now claiming the Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter, and that the claim that he couldn't make the shot is wrong. These experts, like Bill O'Reilly try to tell us that Oswald was a Marksman shooter in the Marine Corps. Sounds pretty convincing, until you understand that being a marksman in the Marine Corp is akin to being able to hit the broad side of a barn at 50 feet! 

In the late 1950s, US Marines were categorised at three levels of shooting ability, according to the scores they achieved at a standardised test of their accuracy:

  1. Expert: a score of 220 to 250.
  2. Sharpshooter: 210 to 219.
  3. Marksman: 190 to 209.

According to his Marine score card (Commission Exhibit 239), Oswald was tested twice:

  1. In December 1956, after “a very intensive 3 weeks’ training period” (Warren Commission Hearings, vol.11, p.302), Oswald scored 212: two marks above the minimum for a ‘sharpshooter’.
  2. In May 1959, he scored 191: one mark above the minimum for a ‘marksman’.

Colonel Allison Folsom interpreted the results for the Warren Commission:

The Marine Corps consider that any reasonable application of the instructions given to Marines should permit them to become qualified at least as a marksman. To become qualified as a sharpshooter, the Marine Corps is of the opinion that most Marines with a reasonable amount of adaptability to weapons firing can become so qualified. Consequently, a low marksman qualification indicates a rather poor “shot” and a sharpshooter qualification indicates a fairly good “shot”.

(Warren Commission Hearings, vol.19, pp.17f)

To this date, as far as I know, no one has ever duplicated the marksmanship attributed to Oswald.

Former Marines recall that Oswald was a poor shot. Nelson Delgado said Oswald on the firing line was “a pretty big joke” because he got a lot of complete misses. Delgado told researcher Mark Lane that Oswald just was not that interested in guns. He was always being penalized for not taking proper care of his rifle or cleaning it regularly.

Sherman Cooley, another Marine, said “If I had to pick one man in the entire United States to shoot me, I’d pick Oswald. I saw the man shoot. There’s no way he could have ever learned to shoot well enough to do what they accused him of doing in Dallas.”

Henry Hurt, author of “Reasonable Doubt” interviewed many of Oswald’s fellow Marines. Hurt said “On the subject of Oswald’s shooting ability, there was virtually no exception to Delgado’s opinion that it was laughable.

Many of the Marines said that Oswald had a certain lack of coordination that they felt was responsible for the fact that he had difficulty learning to shoot.”

When he was a member of a hunting club in Minsk, Russia Oswald’s fellow members considered him a bad marksman.

Craig Roberts was a former Marine sniper who later wrote a book on the JFK assassination called “Kill Zone.” Roberts visited the 6th floor window of the Texas School Book Depository and instantly realized that Oswald could not have performed the shooting feat because he knew that he himself could not. And he was a professional.

Roberts interviewed Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, the former senior instructor at the Marines Corps Sniper Instruction School at Quantico, Virginia. Roberts asked Hathcock if he thought Oswald could have done what the Warren Commission said he did. Hathcock said no.

Hathcock reconstructed the assassination at Quantico: the angle, moving target, time limit etc. he told Roberts, “I don’t know how many times we tried it, but we couldn’t duplicate what the Warren Commission said Oswald did.

Again, we are talking about professionals. Men who completely outclass Oswald in raw shooting ability. But further, these are professional assassins who practice their skills almost daily.”

Dean Andrews, an attorney in New Orleans who met Oswald testified before the Warren Commission.

Andrews said “I know good and well Oswald did not kill the President. With that weapon, he couldn’t have been capable of making 3 controlled shots in that short time. I am basing my opinion on 5 years as an ordnance man in the Navy. You just don’t pick up a rifle or a pistol or whatever weapon you are using and stay proficient with it. You have to know what you are doing. This boy could have connived the deal, but I think he is a patsy.”

The CBS Reenactment Test

CBS news did a reenactment in 1967 involving several expert riflemen firing from a 60 foot tower at a moving sled using a similar Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. None of these expert riflemen hit the target twice on their first try and 7 of them failed to do so on any try. They also were able to fire several practice rounds before the test. 

The Warren Commission’s tests were equally bad. The WC paid 3 expert riflemen to duplicate Oswald’s alleged feat. These shooters fired 18 rounds using Oswald’s gun and scope.They fired 3 rounds with just the iron sites. These shooters missed the head and neck area of the target 18 out of 18 times using the telescopic sight and 2 out of 3 times when they used the iron sites.Some of the shots missed the target completely. They were able to take as long as they wanted for the first shot. They were firing from a height of only 30 feet. Oswald fired from a height of 60 feet. They were also shooting at stationary targets instead of a moving limousine.

What many do not know is that the only man that CBS hired that was finally able to make the shot, came to the conclusion that Oswald DID NOT! Howard Charles Hinman Donahue first came to national attention in 1967 when CBS television investigated the Warren Commission report and had several gunning experts test-fire the same make and model of the Mannlicher-Carcano Italian rifle that was used by Lee Harvey Oswald to shoot at Mr. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. He was the only one of these experts that "made the shot" --- After Several Tries! - In fact he discovered Oswald's gun wasn't even sighted correctly!

Donahue, a retired gunsmith and nationally known ballistics expert, concluded that a Secret Service agent fired the bullet that killed President John F. Kennedy.  However, others have otjer ideas like The Plain Truth Reported on E Howard Hunt's confession to his son naming the assasin. 

One thing remains 50 years after the killing of a president. If Oswald did it, he was the luckiest lousy shooter ever to have lived.  Given the track record of the honesty of our government, I doubt that conclusion....





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