Author Peter Savodnik: Why Lee Harvey Oswald Fled to the Soviet Union

A copy of an envelope containing a letter sent by Oswald to the Supreme Soviet asking for political asylum in the former U.S.S.R. (Reuters)

A copy of an envelope containing a letter sent by Oswald to the Supreme Soviet asking for political asylum in the former U.S.S.R. (Reuters)

The years Kennedy’s assassin spent in Minsk only deepened his isolation, biographer Peter Savodnik says.

Heather Maher writes:  To mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, a wave of books has been published in the United States covering everything from Kennedy’s legacy to alleged new details about his death. One new title examines the Soviet chapter of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who shot Kennedy. Oswald defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and spent two and a half years living in Minsk before he grew tired of the adventure and returned home. In The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union, Peter Savodnik looks at why Oswald fled America, his life in Minsk, and what ultimately led him to climb to the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas and aim a rifle at Kennedy’s head on November 22, 1963. An interview with the author follows:

You write that Lee Harvey Oswald’s decision to defect to the USSR was part of an unhappy pattern that existed throughout his entire life and was established by his mother.

Peter Savodnik: Before joining the Marines [at the age of 17] and leaving home, Oswald moved 20 times with his mother. And each move was precipitated by some failure on her part—a failed relationship, a lost job, or some rupture or crisis. The point is that Oswald never has, throughout his childhood or adolescence, anything akin to a home, a sense of rootedness. And if you view the Soviet foray through this prism, then it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that the whole point of going there—even if Oswald wasn’t aware of it—was to find some sense of permanence, a place to call home. Read the rest of this entry »


A Back Story to the Kennedy Killing

Oswald-Dallas

Two lives change forever after a brush with Lee Harvey Oswald

Quin Hillyer writes:  One of the few men who ever interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald ended up renting my old room for about four years. Another man, one of the few innocents who lost their jobs due to the Kennedy assassination, wrote feature stories for me when I was managing editor of the New Orleans weekly Gambit. The reverberations from that assassination a half century ago altered not only the course of a nation but also the course of numerous private lives, in ways poignant and deep.

For the two men I knew, Ed Butler and Jesse Core, August 16, 1963, was a fateful day. It was then that Lee Harvey Oswald was passing out leaflets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, outside the International Trade Mart in New Orleans. Core was the Trade Mart’s publicist; as Oswald started causing a commotion, Core tried to shoo him away to avoid bad publicity for the Trade Mart. Core promptly reported the incident to the FBI. Five days later, Butler, as the head of an anti-Communist outfit called the Information Council of the Americas (INCA), joined a Cuban exile and two local reporters on WDSU radio to interview, or debate, Oswald.

Hauntingly, it is one of only two readily available recordings of Oswald before the assassination. It was Butler who helped goad Oswald into proclaiming that he was a Marxist — an admission that the late U.S. representative Hale Boggs, who served on the Warren Commission and who greatly admired INCA, thought was highly important in establishing Oswald’s motives. Read the rest of this entry »