Sunday, January 25, 2015

The JFK Assassination and The Southern California Connections

DOWNTOWN L.A. at 12th AND GRAND - It has been over 50 years since the shocking and sickening assassination of President John F. Kennedy one November afternoon on Elm Street in Dallas, Texas. Of course that assassination still remains of great interest to many people, from conspiracy types, which has spawned its own industry with many books, films and videos, among other projects, to viewing that event in light of recent problems facing The Secret Service.

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Then presidential hopeful Kennedy arriving at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena for the 1960 Democratic Convention. July 13, 1960. Public Domain photograph.

Like any major event in the United States, or the World, there always seems to be some kind of Southern California connection, and with the JFK assassination there is indeed a Southern California connection.

In fact, there are two Southern California connections surrounding the assassination of The 35th President of the United States.

In Orange County

Probably the better known connection is that the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, who, on October 24, 1956, enlisted in the Marine Corps, lived in Orange County for about a year.

Mr. Oswald was apart of Air Control Squadron Nine at the Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana, which is actually in Tustin.

According to military records by way of The Warren Commission Report, Mr. Oswald arrived in Orange County in late 1958 after serving a tour of duty in Japan. 

It was only about a year that Mr. Oswald lived in Orange County, and, according to records, Mr. Oswald claimed that he needed to leave the Corps in late 1959 to take care of his mother and asked for a Dependency Discharge. The claim to take care of his mother soon turned out to be false as about a year later Mr. Oswald was living in the Soviet Union, without his mother.

During his time at the Air Facility in Tustin it was discovered Mr. Oswald kept communist literature in his locker, including several copies of The Daily Worker. Much of this was discovered during a surprise inspection, according to Mr. Oswald's former Caption, Robert Block.

Mr. Block said during his time in Tustin that Mr. Oswald's left-leaning tendencies bordered on the near-comic, according to a 1993 Los Angeles Times interview.

At the time the Marines were learning all about communism and, according to Mr. Block, the communist items found in Mr. Oswald's locker were not considered to be all that unusual, and was likely brushed off as no more than Mr. Oswald brushing up on his studies.

Mr. Block, who left the Marines in 1966 with a Honorable Discharge and went on to own an insurance agency in Garden Grove, says, basically, Mr. Oswald did not stand out one way or the other under his command.
 
Much has been said of Mr. Oswald's Marine training, which may have given him an advantage in allegedly gunning down Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Block does not believe Mr. Oswald's Marine training would have been enough to have killed the President in the way it was carried out, unless the assassin had additional training.

As Mr. Block told Dana Parsons of the L.A. Times in 1993, "You've got a moving target there, and when you're talking about hitting somebody in the head from that distance and that angle, it just boggles my mind that he would even have that capability. I don't know where he could have practiced, whether in the woods or remote areas or in Russia, but you've got to come up with some pretty good marksmanship to carry off something like that."

Evidence and investigation by The Warren Commission shows that Mr. Oswald was able to kill Mr. Kennedy in the matter that it was carried out. While it may have been an advantage there has never been a direct connection that Mr. Oswald's military training gave him an advantage in killing the President. Furthermore, the Report shows Mr. Oswald did not receive any kind of training, military or otherwise, while in Soviet Russia.

Aside from being stationed in Tustin not much is known about Mr. Oswald's time in Orange County. All evidence shows that Mr. Oswald pretty much kept to himself and did not engage in much activity outside the Air Station, and it appears he never even visited Disneyland. If Mr. Oswald's left-leaning beliefs are to be believed he would have found much of Orange County to be hostile to him as much of The Orange Curtain at this time was a hotbed of activity for The John Birch Society (not unlike parts of Dallas).

Perhaps most importantly, there has never been any evidence to suggest Mr. Oswald was involved in any sort of conspiracy with any person or group in Orange County or elsewhere in Southern California. In fact, after the assassination of Mr. Kennedy five federal investigations showed Mr. Oswald acted alone and was not involved in any sort of conspiracy with another person, group or government.

Downtown Los Angeles

There is a second Southern California connection to events related to the assassination, and it involves Downtown L.A.

Sometimes forgotten by history in the whole chaos of events on November 22 was another death allegedly at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald, the shooting death of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit.

After allegedly shooting at the presidential motorcade Mr. Oswald had gone back to his home in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, and it is believed while there he retrieved a Smith and Wesson .38 Special caliber revolver.

Mr. Tippit, after the Mr. Kennedy's assassination, received several police radio messages describing the suspect in the assassination. Officer Tippit was driving slowly past the intersection of 10th Street and Patton Avenue, and that is where he pulled alongside a man who resembled the police description of the man seen firing shots at the presidential motorcade. 

According to the Warren Commission the man, identified was Mr. Oswald, walked over to Tippit's car and exchanged words with him through an open vent window. 

Mr. Tippit then opened his car door and as he walked toward the front of the car Mr. Oswald drew the .38 Special and fired three shots in rapid succession, and all three bullets hit Tippit in the chest. Mr. Oswald then walked up to Tippit's fallen body and fired a fourth shot directly into his right temple, fatally wounding him. Mr. Tippit died before any help could arrive, according to The Warren Commission.

Mr. Oswald shortly after went into the nearby Texas Theater without buying a ticket. A person working at the Texas Theater noticed this person "acting suspiciously" and was a bit concerned that he did not buy a ticket, and so the movie theater employee called the police.

When Dallas Police arrived, according to The Warren Commission, the lights in theater were turned up, and Mr. Oswald seemed ready to give up when he shouted, "Well, it is all over now!" Yet, according to Dallas Police Officer Nick McDonald, it was not quite over yet as Mr. Oswald pulled out a pistol tucked into the front of his pants, then pointed the pistol at Mr. McDonald, and pulled the trigger, but the pistol did not fire because the pistol's hammer came down on the webbing between the thumb and index finger of Mr. McDonald's hand when he grabbed the gun from Mr. Oswald. Then after a scuffle Mr. Oswald was arrested.

So, what does all this have to do with Downtown L.A.?

Well, turns out the Smith and Wesson .38 that killed Officer Tippit was bought in Downtown L.A., at 1221 s. Grand Avenue to be precise.

No, Mr. Oswald did not buy the weapon while he was living in Orange County, but rather he bought the gun by mail.

George Rose and Co. of L.A. was a major distributor of that type of gun. The Mail order division of George Rose and Co. was called, Seaport Traders, Inc., which is where Mr. Oswald sent in the order for the gun.

On January 3, 1963, Seaport Traders received a shipment of 99 guns in one case, according to The Warren Commission, from Empire Wholesale Sporting Goods, Ltd. in Montreal, and in that shipment was the Smith and Wesson .38 confirmed by investigators as the gun used to kill Officer Tippit.

Towards the end of January of that year Seaport Traders received through the mail a mail-order coupon and cash for a, ".38 St. W. 2'' Bbl.," and was signed in ink by, "A.J. Hidell, age 28," according to the Warren Commission. There was also a signature by "D.F. Drittal" attesting to the fact that the person ordering this gun from Downtown L.A. is a U.S. citizen and has never been convicted of a felony.

It was soon revealed the writing on the coupon was that of Mr. Oswald, and, to no real surprise, the writing of the person claiming "Mr. Hidell" was criminally and mentally clear to buy a gun was that also of Mr. Oswald, according to the Warren Commission. This was confirmed by the work of Dallas Police, the FBI and Secret Service, and Mr. Oswald's Russian born wife Marina, who confirmed to authorities the writing on the mail-order form to Downtown L.A. was that of her husband.

"A.J. Hidell" was an alias used by Mr. Oswald during his time in Dallas and New Orleans. This name was used by Mr. Oswald to rent a Post Office box at a Dallas Post Office, which is where the weapon from Downtown L.A. was sent. 

Owners and employees associated with George Rose and Co. and Seaport Traders, Inc. were never charged with any crime, as there was no crime to be charged with. Further investigation showed those in Downtown L.A. had no clue that one of their items played a part on that dark day in American history until they were visited by authorities.

The Overwhelming Evidence Against Oswald

Even though five federal investigations show and proved Lee Harvey Oswald was solely behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy with overwhelming evidence the actions of Jack Ruby forever prevented Mr. Oswald from having his day in court, and thus he was never convicted, or acquitted, of the murders of Mr. Kennedy or Officer J.D. Tippit (also why in this piece Mr. Oswald at times is referred to as the alleged murderer of Mr. Kennedy).

The weight of evidence from the five federal investigations of the murder of John F. Kennedy shows that Mr. Oswald acted alone, and no person or group from the U.S. government, Soviet Union and Cuba, nor Jack Ruby or any other group or person that may not have been a big fan of JFK, was ever involved at any time in the president's murder.

While much has been made about Mr. Oswald and conspiracies galore, if you have not yet read it then it is strongly recommended you read The Warren Commission Report. Yes, it is not exactly a quick afternoon read, but after reading it most people from the layman to any first year law student could see the overwhelming evidence shows Mr. Oswald committed the murders of John F. Kennedy and J.D. Tippit, and acted alone.

In Tustin Today

As for the Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana, well, by 1979 the name was changed to better reflect their location, Marine Corps Air Station Tustin. At the end of The Cold War came many military base closures around the country, and, with the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1990, it was announced that the Tustin air station would be among those closed.

The full base closure came in July 1999, and since then much successful high-end suburban development has occurred in and around the defunct military base, which includes businesses like Whole Foods.

The old Marine air base is also home to the Orange County Sheriff's Department Academy.

In the last year there has been talk by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball owner Arte Moreno of building a new stadium at the old base and moving the ball team to Tustin once the current lease in Anaheim expires. Los Angeles Angels of Tustin?

L.A. Is Where JFK's Official Journey to The White House Began

At the risk of stretching this piece thin it is worth noting that the 1960 Democratic National Convention was held at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena, and that is where Mr. Kennedy accepted the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

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The 1960 Democratic Convention at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena., July 1960. Public Domain photograph.

Come Election Day Mr. Kennedy's Republican competitor was Vice President Richard Nixon, who, after voting in Whittier, was suppose to go over to the Ambassador Hotel to watch the elections results, and hopefully give a victory speech, but instead made a trip to Tijuana.

A Note on The President's Brother

In 1968 at The Ambassador Hotel the president's brother, Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated. In the aftermath of the death of RFK investigations found no links between the assassinations.

A Footnote To One of America's Darkest Days

In the end, at best Southern California's role in that whole tragedy that November day are mere, almost irrelevant footnotes of a bigger event, and, subsequently, it appears Mr. Oswald's time in Orange County did not really influence decisions he would make a few years later as, going back to his high school days in New York, he already showed signs of being a troubled man.

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