so-called "backyard photographs" (1) give us the most celebrated pictures
of Lee Harvey Oswald bearing arms. Like many other researchers,
we have serious doubts about the authenticity and history of
those photographs, but for the purposes of this article we intend
to regard them as "Oswald" photographs. However it
happened, whether by normal photographic means or as a
result of something more sinister, there can be no denying that
those photographs do indeed show a rifle, a revolver and the
face of Lee Harvey Oswald.
What is less widely known, however, is the existence of several
other photographs in which Oswald is shown with firearms of various
types. Four of these are perfectly straightforward, but another,
which is described at length in the Warren Commission testimony
of Mrs. Marguerite Oswald, but which we have never seen, presents
almost as many problems as those allegedly taken in the backyard
of 214 Neely Street, Dallas, possibly on Sunday 31st March 1963
It is almost certainly the fifth "backyard photograph"
in the series.
obviously have to deal with the "backyard photographs"
in an article on this subject, but we do not intend to dwell
overlong on them. That has been done by many researchers
with far greater knowledge and expertise on the subject than
we will ever possess. Suffice to say that there were either one (3) or
negatives and two developed prints found by Detectives Rose and
McCabe during their search, with other police officers, of the
garage of Michael and Ruth Paine's house at 2515 West Fifth Street,
Irving, on Saturday 23rd November 1963. (See Note 1.)
In the words of Detective Guy Rose: "Yes; I found two negatives
first that showed Lee Oswald holding a rifle in his hand, wearing
a pistol at his hip, and right with those negatives I found a
developed picture - I don't know what you call it, but anyway
a picture that had been developed from the negative of him holding
this rifle, and Detective McCabe was standing there and he found
the other picture - of Oswald holding the rifle." (5)
Unfortunately, the testimony of Detective John A. McCabe, who
has been named as finding one of the most vital pieces of evidence
in the investigation, was not considered of sufficient
importance to be included in either the Commission Report or
its Hearings. Oddly, his name does not appear on any of the property
receipts for items seized during that search (6). The Paine house was in Irving,
where the Dallas Police Department had no jurisdiction, so it
was obligatory that somebody from either the County or Irving
Police Department was present. Detective McCabe was a member of the Irving P.D. McCabe
does get a few lines in an FBI Report dated 26th March 1964,
when he describes his part in that search but for some inexplicable
reason, he fails to mention finding the photograph (7).
That same FBI Report also
describes how, on 23rd March 1964, McCabe had provided a full
account of his finding of the Imperial Reflex camera (CE 750)
which was later claimed to have been used to take the "backyard
photographs." However, he had neither seized nor mentioned
it as he did not consider it to be of "evidentiary value."
As we now know, that camera was to remain in a box in the Paine
garage until 8th December 1963 when Robert Oswald took possession
of the residue of his late brother's property and found it. He
later realized that it could be relevant and handed it to the
Dallas Office of the FBI on 24th February 1964 (8).
| CE 133-A and CE 133-B were found
in the Paine
garage along with their negatives.
More "backyard photographs"
further "backyard photographs" gained some notoriety
when they were discovered separately in later years. The first
came to light when Oswald's friend George de Mohrenschildt returned
from Haiti in April 1967 and found the third "backyard photograph"
in a piece of luggage which he had left in storage during his
On the back were two handwritten inscriptions: "To my friend
George from Lee Oswald - 5/IV/63" and, in Russian Cyrillic
script: "Hunter of fascists ha-ha-ha!!!"
deMohrenschildt (HSCA Exhibit)
Some researchers believe the first of these inscriptions is in
Oswald's handwriting, but the style in which the date is written
has long caused general concern. British researcher Anthony Summers
states: "A researcher's check of the dozens of letters and
documents written by Oswald has produced not one example of a
date written like the one of the back of the photograph."
However, in the course of researching this article, Melanie Swift
has discovered a postcard written by Lee Harvey Oswald (in Minsk)
to brother Robert (in Fort Worth) on which the date is written
as 10/V/62 (11).
In it, the message refers to Lee's daughter June as being "almost
3 months old now" and since she was born on 15th February
1962, that date (10/V/62) is obviously 10th May 1962. This provides
a precedent for Lee writing a date in this "European"
style with a Roman numeral indicating the month. It also tells
us that the inscription on the de Mohrenschildt "backyard
photograph" was written on 5th April 1963 - a date, incidentally,
just five days prior to the attempt on the life of Major General
Edwin A Walker (12).
||133-A deMohrenschildt back of photo (HSCA Exhibit)
The identity of the author of the second (Russian) inscription
remains uncertain. It has been suggested that Marina Oswald may
have been the writer (13).
The photograph itself shows Oswald in a similar pose to that
in CE 133A but with both arms held higher. Photographic analyst
Jack White has claimed that the de Mohrenschildt photograph appears
to have been taken with a far more sophisticated camera than
the others. It allegedly shows far greater detail (14). We feel that further research
is required in this area. (See note 3.)
|| 133C-Dees (White)
In 1976, during the Schweiker-Hart
assassination investigation, yet another "backyard photograph"
emerged. This one was found in the possession of Mrs. Geneva
Ruth Dees, the widow of former Dallas Police Officer #1884 Roscoe
Anthony White (15).
The picture was reportedly found among a collection of 40 photographs
retained by White as souvenirs (16). Is there any significance to the
fact that during his brief DPD career (two years to the day -
7th October 1963 to 7th October 1965) (17), White had spent some time as a
photographic technician (18)?
(See Note 3.)
in the United States Marine Corps (a)
Oswald in training
his book "The Killing of a President," Robert J Groden
includes what he describes as "the only known legitimate
photograph of Oswald holding a rifle" (19). This photograph, taken during
Marine Corps training, shows a line of men apparently firing
rifles in the same direction (to the right). At first, we wondered
whether these men had been deliberately posed in this position.
Had each of them taken his turn to be the "front man"
to give everybody the opportunity to be the cameraman's principal
(See Note 4.)
Supposedly, however, that it was pure chance (and yet another
bizarre coincidence) that Marine 1653230 Lee Harvey Oswald was
the man closest to the camera. The photograph is virtually of
Oswald alone - with his colleagues extending in a straight line
away from the camera into the background.
Even under his jauntily-angled forage cap, we can recognize young
Oswald. He was undoubtedly only 17 years old at the time, and
this photograph was taken during his boot camp training. Oswald
had joined the service on 24th October 1956, just six days after
his 17th birthday. From 28th October 1956 to 18th January 1957
he was with the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps
Recruit depot, San Diego, California. He continued and completed
his training between 20th January 1957 and 26th February 1957
as a member of QUA Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Training
Regiment, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California (20).
It was normal practice for Marine Corps recruits to undergo three
weeks intensive marksmanship instruction during the course of
their Marine training
(21). This practice usually took up the seventh, eighth and
ninth weeks, with the first two days devoted entirely to dry
firing. This training was to ensure that the trainee was totally
familiar with his rifle before he was entrusted with any live
ammunition. We have no reason to suspect that Oswald's training
schedule was anything but normal, and it is thus possible to
"date" this photograph as taken on either the 10th
or 11th of December 1956 during dry firing training (22).
in the United States Marine Corps (b)
||Oswald with Marine group in 1957.
next photograph only just qualifies for inclusion here, but it
does show Oswald with what is undoubtedly a rifle. The photograph
shows a group of about ten Marines relaxing somewhere apparently
in the Far East. They are on a beach with palm trees in the background.
As in the preceding USMC photograph, Oswald is the central figure.
He is sitting cross-legged, wearing Marines fatigues. He is facing
left and, like his companions, he is wearing a forage cap. In
the foreground, at Oswald's feet, are his helmet and his rifle.
Edward Jay Epstein has identified Oswald's fellow Marines as
Godfrey Jerome Daniels, George A. Wilkins, Jr., Zack Stout, Bobby
J. Warren and James R. Parsons. He states that none of these
men was ever questioned by either the Warren Commission or the
Several books have featured this photograph (24) and one has indicated in its caption
that the group is waiting to board the USS Terrell County (25).
If that is true, then the photograph was taken on 20th November
1957 in the Yokosuka area of Japan (26), the only occasion on which Oswald
sailed on that ship (27).
We have since learned that Edward Jay Epstein endorses this opinion
Much additional attention has been this photograph by researchers
interested in Roscoe Anthony White. It has been claimed by his
son Ricky that Roscoe appears in the background, standing on
the left hand side (29).
Marine (later Corporal) #1666106 Roscoe White was once in the
same unit as Oswald (30),
but military records indicate that he was in Okinawa on the date
we believe this photograph to have been taken (31).
On leave from
We now come to the first
of two photographs appearing in Gerald Posner's book "Case
Closed." It shows Oswald with a severe Marines-style haircut,
dressed in casual clothes, standing alone in a field, clutching
what appears to be some sort of rifle (32). He is holding the weapon by his
left side in a very relaxed manner. The caption reads: A rare
photo of Lee hunting while on his first leave from the Marines
in February 1958, when he visited his family in Fort Worth, Texas.
The photograph appears courtesy of Robert L Oswald (Lee's elder
brother). During his periods of leave, Lee would hunt squirrels
and other game with Robert (33), but does not appear among the
Warren Commission Exhibits.We are mystified by Mr. Posner's statement
that this photograph was taken during Oswald's first leave in
(34) Oswald did not have to wait 16 months for his first
leave. There is nothing sinister about this photograph. It depicts
what appears to be a happy individual relaxing away from the
rigors of a career with the United States Marine Corps.
at 8 years.
second photograph of interest to us in Mr. Posner's book is also
credited to Robert L Oswald. It bears the following caption:
"In this seldom-seen photo, eight-year-old Lee plays with
his cap pistol while wearing his brother Robert's military academy
hat. At school, he had already developed a reputation as a bully."
The photograph does indeed show the young Oswald wearing a military
cap and pointing a cap pistol. Funnily enough, and probably to
Mr. Posner's disappointment, he is not pointing the toy gun at
the photographer but at some imaginary target way off to the
left and completely out of view of the camera. Oswald
is displaying a grin, and certainly not the smirk so frequently
credited to him by Mr. Posner. Unable to mention that in his
caption, Mr. Posner cannot resist the totally irrelevant remark
about developing a bully's reputation at school. We question
the author's motive in including this photograph in his book.
"Case Closed" contains only 36 photographs, and it
seems strange to us this one to the exclusion of others which
would have been of far greater value. There could, for example,
have been more than just two taken during the actual shooting
in Dealey Plaza Altgens 1-6 and the Moorman 3 polaroid).
there a fifth "backyard photograph"?
now return to what are loosely-termed the "backyard photographs"
to examine the photograph which originally inspired this
article. Mrs. Marguerite Oswald, mother of Lee Harvey Oswald,
testified before the Warren Commission at Washington D.C. on
Monday 10th, Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th February 1964. On
the morning of the first day, she made the following amazing
statement concerning events at the Paine house on Friday 22nd
November 1963 - presumably in the evening:
"Now, gentlemen, this
is some important facts. My daughter-in-law spoke to Mrs. Paine
in Russian. 'Mamma', she says. So she takes me into the bedroom
and closes the door. She said, 'Mamma, I show you.' She opened
the closet, and in the closet was a load of books and papers.
And she came out with a picture - a picture of Lee, with a gun.
It said, 'To my daughter June' - written in English. I said,
'Oh, Marina, police.' I didn't think anything of the picture."
After carrying on in a similar
vein for a minute or so, Mrs. Oswald continued:
"But I say to my daughter[in-law],
'To my daughter, June[?]', [a]nybody can own a rifle, to go hunting.
You yourself probably have a rifle. So I am not connecting this
with the assassination - 'To my daughter, June.' Because I would
immediately say, and I remember - I think my son is an agent
all the time - no one is going to be foolish enough if they mean
to assassinate the President, or even murder someone to take
a picture of themselves with that rifle, and leave it there for
evidence.......... I said 'No, Marina. Put it back in the book.'
So she put the picture back in the book. Which book it was, I
do not know."
"So the next day, when we were at the courthouse - this
is on Saturday - she - we were sitting down, waiting to see Lee.
She puts her shoe down, she says, 'Mamma, picture.' She had the
picture folded up in her shoe. Now, I did not see that it was
the picture, but I knew that it was, because she told me it was,
and I could see it was folded up. It wasn't open for me to see."
At this point there is nothing to indicate whether or not this
is one of the series of photographs apparently taken in the Neely
Street backyard. A few minutes later, however, J Lee Rankin,
General Counsel to the Warren Commission, showed Mrs. Oswald
an enlargement of one of the two known (at that time) "backyard
photographs" found during the search of the Paine garage,
together with a composite of those two photographs (37).
Mrs. Oswald said:
"No, sir, that is not
the picture. He was holding the rifle up, and it said,
'To my daughter, June, with love.' He was holding the rifle up."
The question and answer sequence
MR. RANKIN: "By holding
it up, you mean --"
MRS. OSWALD: "Like this."
MR. RANKIN "Crosswise,
with both hands on the rifle?"
MRS. OSWALD: "With both
hands on the rifle."
MR. RANKIN: "Above his
MRS. OSWALD: "That is
After further questions and
answers on other matter, Mrs. Oswald described how the photograph
was destroyed in a suite at the Executive Inn, on the outskirts
of Dallas, during the evening of Saturday 23rd November 1963.
This developed into what was virtually a monologue directed solely
towards Mr. Rankin:
"And Marina comes with
bits of paper, and puts them in the ashtray and strikes a match
to it. And this is the picture of the gun that Marina tore up
into bits of paper, and struck a match to it. Now that didn't
burn completely, because it was heavy - not cardboard - what
is the name for it - a photographic picture. So the match didn't
take it completely. The last time I had seen the picture was
in Marina's shoe when she was trying to tell me that the picture
was in her shoe. I state here now that Marina meant for me to
have that picture, from the very beginning, in Mrs. Paine's house.
She said - I testified before - 'Mamma, you keep picture.' And
then she showed it to me in the courthouse. And when I refused
it, then she decided to get rid of the picture. She tore up the
picture and struck a match to it. Then I took it and flushed
it down the toilet." (39).
It is simple to assume automatically that this photograph was
another part of the series taken in the backyard of the Oswalds'
Neely Street address in early 1963. That Mr. Rankin showed the
other two "backyard photographs" to Mrs. Oswald tends,
by association, to re-inforce this possibility, but that was
never actually said, and was not even indicated by his questions.
As respected researcher, Sylvia Meagher, observed, the weapon
being held over his head by Oswald could well have been the shotgun
he owned in Russia and the photograph could well have been taken
in that country
We were unwilling to leave this matter unresolved, and in October
1994, Ian Griggs had the opportunity to put this point directly
to Mrs. Marina Oswald Porter. Without hesitation, she confirmed
that this photograph was indeed a 'backyard photograph.' As she
stressed, had it been an innocent picture taken in Russia, why
would it have been necessary to destroy it? It would not have
There, this matter stands.
HOW MANY BACKYARD PHOTOS?
found by DPD
133-B, found by DPD
133-C, Dees-White photo
133-A, de Mohrenshchildt photo
Mrs. Oswald/Marina photo, destroyed
|1. Rifle in left hand, papers in
right hand held infront of chest.
2. Rifle in right hand, papers in left hand, both hands at shoulder
3. Rifle in left hand, papers in right hand, both hands held
up at shoulder height.
4. Similar to 133-A, but with more background showing. (See note
5. Rifle held over head with both hands.
is not really a formal conclusion to an article of this type.
We did not set out to prove or disprove any contentious point.
However, if we have provoked the reader into prodding
the surface and searching a little deeper to seek the truth,
then we have gained our objective. Over 31 years have passed
since the assassination and many thousands of researchers have
studied the case, some of them literally devoting their lives
to it. Hundreds of books, articles, videos, etc. have been produced.
Despite all this attention, however, there still remains much
to be learned. How did that dated postcard from Lee to his brother
have lain unnoticed and unrecognized until a young, but dedicated
researcher realized it's significance? What other similar gems
remain to be found and deciphered?
Ian Griggs & Melanie Swift at Oswald's gravesite.
It is surely up to all of
us -- from the most distinguished and widely-known professional
researcher to the total beginner who has just discovered Rush
to Judgment in his local library -- to continue to query and
to look beyond the obvious. We must not blindly accept everything
which has been written, irrespective of the standing of the author.
Check it all out! If a leading researcher made an honest error
in an early book, that error may well have been accepted, then
perpetuated in subsequent years. Go back to primary sources and
1. "Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits," Commission
Exhibits 133A and 133B. Cited hereafter in format CE 133A and 133B.
"Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President
John F Kennedy" (Warren Report). Washington D.C. Government Printing Office,
1964; pages 127/128. Cited hereafter in format WCR 127/ 128.
3. WCR 127.
"Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits", vol. VII, page 231. Cited
hereafter in format 7H 231. Testimony of Guy F Rose, 8th April 1964.
5. 7H 231.
Testimony of Guy F Rose, 8th April 1964.
6. CE 2003,
pages 263-272 of exhibit.
7. CE 2557,
page 2 of exhibit.
8. CE 2447,
page 1 of exhibit.
9. Jim Marrs: "Crossfire,
The Plot That Killed Kennedy"
(Carroll & Graff, New York, 1989), pages 287/288. (on finding of
de Mohrenschildt photo) Anthony Summers: Conspiracy (Victor Gollanez,
London, 1980), pages 240/241.
11. CE 321.
note from Walt Brown to the co-authors, November 1994.
White in "Fake" video film (JFK Video Group, 1990).
J Groden: "The Killing of a President" (Viking Studio Books,
New York, 1993), page 170.
16. J Gary
Shaw and Larry Ray Harris: "Cover-Up" (Thomas Publications, Inc.,
Austin, Texas, 1992). page 206.
Police Department Internal Intelligence Information memorandum, Corporal/Investigator
Jack L. Beavers to Captain W. R., 28th January 1964 (photocopy in Ian Griggs'
20. CE 1961,
page 4 of exhibit.
302. Testimony of Major Eugene D Anderson, USMC, 24th July 1964.
Griggs' discussion with Craig Roberts (ex-USMC), Olathe, Kansas, 19th October
Jay Epstein: "Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald" (Arrow
Books, London, 1978), page 303.
first page of photographs. Matthew Smith: "JFK - The Second Plot" (Mainstream,
Edinburgh, 1992), page 195. Henry Hurt: "Reasonable Doubt" (Sidgwick & Jackson,
London, 1986), twelfth page of photographs.
26. CE 1961,
page 4 of exhibit.
27. CE 1961,
page 4 of exhibit
Don White press conference at the JFK Assassination Information Center,
Dallas, Texas, 6th August 1990.
Police Department internal memo: see footnote 17 above.
Sea and Air Travel Embarkation Slips 1957/58 in respect of Roscoe White
(photocopy in Ian Griggs' collection).
Posner: "Case Closed" (Random House, New York, 1993), fifth illustration.
33. 1H 163.
Testimony of Mrs. Marguerite Oswald, 10th February 1964.
36. 1H 146.
Testimony of Mrs. Marguerite Oswald, 10th February 1964.
37. 1H 146/147.
Testimony of Mrs. Marguerite Oswald, 10th February 1964.
38. 1H 148.
Testimony of Mrs. Marguerite Oswald, 10th February 1964.
39. 1H 152.
Testimony of Mrs. Marguerite Oswald, 10th February 1964.
Meagher: "Accessories after the Fact" (Vintage Books, New York,
1976), page 201.
Griggs' discussion with Mrs. Marina Oswald Porter Olathe, Kansas, 16th
1.The missing negative.
HSCA VI, p 139
(1) History of the Backyard Photographs
In the early afternoon of November 23,
1963, Dallas detectives obtained a warrant to search the Paine residence
in Irving, Tex., where Marina Oswald had been living. (125) The search
concentrated primarily on a garage in which possessions of the Oswalds
were, stored. Among the belongings, Dallas Police officials found a brown
cardboard box containing personal papers and photographs, including two
snapshot negatives of Oswald holding a rifle. (126) (Only one negative
was made available to the Warren Commission; the other has never been
accounted for.) (127)
2. The Dees (White) Photo
HSCA VI, p 141
The committee obtained an 8 X 10 print of an additional view
of Oswald holding the rifle in a pose different from CE 133-A or generation
print, * was given to the committee on December 30, 1976 by Mrs. Geneya Dees
of Paris, Tex,
According to Mrs. Dees, it had been acquired by her former
husband, Roscoe White, now deceased, while employed with the Dallas Police
at the time of the assassination. The panel designated this recently discovered
photograph as 133-C.
3. The deMohrenshchildt Photo
HSCA VI, p141
The committee obtained another first generation print 133-A
on April l, 1977 from the window of George de Mohrenschildt. In the manuscript
of his book, which he was writing at the time of his death in 1977, he stated
that he and his wife had found the photograph in February 1967 among personal
belongings they had stored in Dallas before departing for Haiti in May 1963.
(381) On review of 133A-deMohrenschildt (see figs. IV-2O
and IV-21, JFK exhibits F-382 (front) and F-383 (reverse), the panel noted
that it had been probably made in a high quality enlarged with a high quality
Nevertheless the print has become yellowed with the passage of time indicating
that it was not adequately fixed or washed during the development process.
(382) The uncropped black border around the edge of this
print indicates that it was projected in an enlarger with it negative carrier
that was larger than the actual full size negative of CE 133-A. This type of
equipment might be found in a graphic arts shop or photo printing shop that
uses many sizes of negatives. It is also possible that the paper easel might
not have had the capability of masking a print this size.
As a result, the entire negative area is printed and the unexposed border
area outside the full camera aperture has been recorded as black on the
print. Because people normally like to have white borders on their pictures,
this is an unusual way of presenting a photograph.
The sharpness of the markings (from the film scratches) within this black
border, as well as the presence of fine scratches and emulsion tears. indicates
that this is a first generation print.
Another Marine photo of Oswald?
4. After this article was published, Robert Groden
published his book, "The Search For Lee Harvey Oswald," where
he shows a photo captioned "Lee in Japan on guard duty with a rifle
sometime in 1958." According to the sources listed in this book
the picture is from the National Archives.