As far as mainstream historians and media outlets are concerned, the Warren Commission reached the right conclusion in 1964: Lee Harvey Oswald, alone and unaided, was a deranged lunatic who ended the life of America's 35th President simply for attention. That the evidence never did allow such a definitive conclusion does not seem to bother them one bit. Take for example the Commission's claim that Oswald sneaked his cheap, mail-ordered Mannlicher-Carcano rifle into the Texas School Book Depository on the morning of the assassination inside a brown paper bag.
On the evening of Nov 21, Oswald rode with fellow depository employee Buell Wesley Frazier to Irving to visit his estranged wife Marina, who was living with a friend, Ruth Paine. Frazier lived a block away from Ruth Paine with his sister Linnie Mae Randle. Since Oswald would usually visit Marina on weekends, Frazier asked why he was doing so on a weekday. Oswald replied that he was going to pick up some curtain rods to use in his rooming house. The following morning Linnie Mae and Frazier both saw Oswald carrying a package in a brown paper bag. When Frazier asked what it was, Oswald replied, “curtain rods”. The commission claimed that Oswald had fabricated the curtain rod story and that the package contained the sixth floor rifle. The evidence indicates otherwise.
Firstly, the conclusion that Oswald lied about going to Irving to pick up Curtain rods may actually be correct but the Commission always new the real reason he went there that Thursday and it had nothing to do with picking up curtain rods or the rifle. On Sunday, November 17, Marina attempted to call Oswald at his North Beckley rooming house and was told that there was no one named Lee Oswald living there. The next day, according to the Warren report, "Oswald telephoned his wife. When she indicated that she had been upset by the fact that there had been no Lee Oswald at the number which she had asked Mrs. Paine to call Oswald became angry; he said that he was using a fictitious name and that she should not have called the Beckley Avenue number. He did not telephone on the following day, which was unusual." (R740) When Oswald turned up at the Paine home unannounced on Thursday evening it was obvious to Ruth and Marina "that he had come to Irving because he felt badly about arguing with his wife about the use of the fictitious name. He said that he was lonely, because he had not come the preceding weekend, and told Marina that he 'wanted to make his peace' with her." (Ibid) Oswald was a very quiet, private man and it is highly unlikely that he would have wanted to share his marital difficulties with Frazier. This the most likely reason that he invented the curtain rod excuse.
Frazier and Randle were the only two witnesses who saw Oswald carrying the package the following morning and both repeatedly stated that it was about 27-28 inches long. On December 1, 1963, Frazier was asked by FBI agents to mark the point on the back seat of his car that the bag had reached when Oswald had put it there with one end against the door. The FBI “determined that this spot was 27 inches from the inside of the right rear door” (24H408-9). Frazier was also certain that Oswald had carried the package with one end cupped in his hand and the other tucked under his arm. Even broken down the rifle was 34.8 inches long (R133) and would have been impossible for Oswald or anyone else to carry in this manner.
Linnie Mae Randle was looking out of her kitchen window when she saw Oswald cross the street, carrying the “heavy brown bag.” The FBI presented Randle with a “replica” brown paper bag and it was folded over until it reached “the proper length of the sack as seen by her on November 22, 1963.” Her estimate was measured at 27 inches long, exactly the same as that of her brother. (24H407-8) On March 11, 1964, when Randle appeared before the commission, she was asked to fold the bag again. Validating her earlier estimate, the resultant length was 28 ½ inches. (2H248-50) Perhaps most importantly, she testifed that Oswald carried the package with his hand at the top "and it almost touched the ground as he carried it." (2H248) If Oswald had been carrying a package of nearly 3 feet long with his hand at the top, unless he had the world's shortest arms, it would have been dragging on the ground! In fact, it would have extended beyond it.
The only witness to see Oswald enter the Texas School Book Depository on the morning of November 22 was employee Jack Dougherty. As the Warren report notes, “one employee, Jack Dougherty, believed that he saw Oswald coming to work, but he does not believe that Oswald had anything in his hands as he entered the door.” (R133) As it was harmful to the case against Oswald, the commission simply chose to ignore Dougherty’s testimony. However, he was certain in his recollection:
Mr. BALL: Do you recall him having anything in his hand?
Mr. DOUGHERTY: Well, I didn't see anything, if he did.
Mr. BALL. Did you pay enough attention to him, you think, that you would remember whether he did or didn't?
Mr. DOUGHERTY: Well, I believe I can---yes, sir---I'll put it this way; I didn't see anything in his hands at the time.
Mr. BALL: In other words, your memory is definite on that is it?
Mr. DOUGHERTY: Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL. In other words, you would say positively he had nothing in his hands?
Mr. DOUGHERTY: I would say that---yes, sir. (6H377)
Warren commission apologists often point out that Dougherty had learning difficulties which led to his receiving a medical discharge from the US Army as if this invalidates his testimony. In truth, Dougherty may not have been the sharpest tool in the box, but since he was at least intelligent enough to perform his duties at the depository, it is safe to assume that he could tell whether or not somebody had held something in their hands. But what to make of the apparent contradiction between Frazier’s and Dougherty’s observations?
As Frazier testified, he and Oswald did not walk into the depository together. Frazier had sat in his car for a few minutes with the engine running to charge up his battery and then lagged behind Oswald as he paused to watch the trains. (2H227-8) When Oswald entered the depository building, he had to pass through an enclosed loading dock where a number of rubbish bins were located and it seems that he must have discarded his package there so that his hands were empty seconds later when he emerged in the depository proper to be seen by Dougherty. The only question left unanswered is if it did not contain the rifle or curtain rods, just what was in the package? The precise answer to this question will probably never be known but the Paine garage was, as police would discover, full of junk. So Oswald could have picked out any number of objects that he could stick in a bag and tell Frazier it was curtain rods.
A 38-inch long paper bag, made from wrapping paper and tape from the depository’s shipping department, was allegedly found near the sixth floor window. The commission claimed that this was the bag Oswald had used to carry the rifle. Oswald had, they said, kept the rifle wrapped up in a blanket in Ruth Paine’s garage. The commission further claimed that the bag contained fibres that “could have come” from the blanket. (R129) The paper bag in question may be the most meaningless piece of “evidence” in the entire investigation. The commission offered no evidence that connected the rifle to the bag or even the bag to the so called “snipers nest.“ FBI Special Agent James C. Cadigan examined the paper bag supposedly found at the depository for any distinguishing marks that might link it to the rifle. From Cadigan’s testimony:
Mr. EISENBERG: Mr Cadigan, did you notice when you looked at the bag whether there were - that is the bag found on the sixth floor, Exhibit 142 - whether it had any bulges or unusual creases?
Mr. CADIGAN: I was also requested at that time to examine the bag to determine if there were any significant markings or scratches or abrasions or anything by which it could be associated with the rifle, Commission Exhibit 139, that is, could I find any markings that I could tie to that rifle?
Mr. EISENBERG: Yes?
Mr. CADIGAN: And I couldn't find any such markings. (4H97)
Whilst the absence of any distinguishing markings doesn’t automatically prove that the bag was not used to the carry rifle, it also does not in any way permit the conclusion that it was. The only other “evidence” the commission offered in an attempt to connect the bag to the rifle were the fibres found inside the bag that they said “could have come” from the blanket found in Ruth Paine’s garage. The Bureau’s hair and fibre expert Paul M. Stombaugh carried out various examinations of Oswald’s shirt, the blanket and the fibres:
Mr. EISENBERG: Now, what do you think the degree of probability is, if you can form an opinion, that the fibers from the bag, fibres in the bag, ultimately came from the blanket?
Mr. STOMBAUGH: When you get into mathematical probabilities, it is something I stay away from, since in general there are too many unknown factors. All I would say here is that it is possible that these fibers could have come. from this blanket, because this blanket is composed of brown and green woollen fibres, brown and green delustered viscose fibers, and brown and green cotton fibres. Now these 3 different types of fibers have 6 different general colors, and if we would multiply that, say by a minimum of 5 different shades of each so you would have 30 different shades you are looking for, and 3 different types of fibers. Here we have only found 1 brown viscose fiber, and 2 or 3 light green cotton fibers. We found no brown cotton fibers, no green viscose fibers, and no woollen fibers. So if I had found all of these then I would have been able to say these fibers probably had come from this blanket. But since I found so few, then I would say the possibility exists, these fibers could have come from this blanket. (4H81)
Was it really fair for the commission to state that the fibres “could have come” from the blanket based on Stombaugh’s testimony that “the possibility exists“? Stombaugh wouldn’t even say that they had “probably” come from the blanket, merely that “the possibility exists.” It would be fair to say, then, that the fibres “could have come” from any number of sources other than the blanket.
Just as there is no evidence that the paper bag was ever used to carry the rifle, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Oswald constructed the bag. As noted above, the bag was made from wrapping paper and tape from the depository’s shipping department. The depository employee responsible for looking after these materials was Troy Eugene West. As West testified before the commission, he would almost never leave his work bench, except to get water for coffee first thing in the morning before starting work, and was even in the habit of eating his lunch there. (6H356-63) When West was asked if he had ever seen Oswald “around these wrapper rolls or wrapper roll machines, or not?” he replied, “No, sir; I never noticed him being around.” (6H360) The commission had established through FBI agent Cadigan’s testimony that the tape used on the paper bag showed marks from the tape dispenser at West’s work station. The commission was ready to assume that Oswald had taken the paper and the tape and made the bag elsewhere. However, as West explained, the gummed tape was automatically moistened as it was dispensed by the machine:
Mr. WEST: Well, we have those machines with the little round ball that we fill them up with water, and so we set them up. In to other words, I got a rack that we set them in, and so we put out tape in a machine, and whenever we pull the tape through, why then the water gets, you know, it gets water on it as we pull it through. (6H361)
Bearing in mind that the tape bared marks from the dispenser, the commission wanted to know if the tape could be dispensed without being moistened:
Mr. BELIN: If I wanted to pull the tape, pull off a piece without getting water on it, would I just lift it up without going over the wet roller and get the tape without getting it wet?
Mr. WEST: You would have to take it out. You would have to take it out of the machine. See, it's put on there and then run through a little clamp that holds it down, and you pull it, well, then the water, it gets water on it. (6H361)
Thus the bag would have had to have been constructed at West’s workstation. Since West testified that he had “never” seen Oswald around and that he “never did hardly ever leave” his work area, Oswald simply could not have made the paper bag.
Equally as damning for the commission’s conclusions is the fact that the paper bag does not appear in any of the Dallas Police Department’s crime scene photographs. Additionally, the testimony of the three law enforcement officials who were first on the scene does not support the notion that the bag was found in the “snipers nest.” Dallas Police Sergeant Gerald Hill told the commission, “if it was found up there on the sixth floor, if it was there, I didn't see it.” (7H65) Deputy Sheriff Roger Dean Craig was asked "Was there any long sack laying in the floor there that you remember seeing, or not?" Craig’s reply was simple and direct, "No; I don't remember seeing any." (6H268) Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney testified, “No, sir; in my running around up there, I didn't observe it.”(3H289) Further doubt is cast by John B Hicks, a Dallas police detective who worked in the crime laboratory, was also asked about the paper bag:
Mr. BALL: Did you ever see a paper sack in the items that were taken from the Texas School Book Depository building?
Mr. HICKS: Paper bag?
Mr. BALL: Paper bag.
Mr. HICKS: No, sir; I did not. It seems like there was some chicken bones or maybe a lunch; no, I believe that someone had gathered it up.
Mr. BALL: Well, this was another type of bag made out of brown paper; did you ever see it?
Mr. HICKS: No, sir; I don't believe I did. I don't recall it.
Mr. BALL: I believe that's all, Mr Hicks. (7H289)
The evidence presented above leads one to the inescapable conclusion that the paper bag was in no way related to the assassination. To recap, the bag bore no distinguishing markings from the rifle (there was not even a trace of oil despite Marina Oswald’s testimony that her husband had kept the rifle well oiled), Oswald had neither the means nor the opportunity to construct the bag, it does not appear in any of the crime scene photographs and Dallas law enforcement officials who were in a position to see the bag testified that they did not. The only evidence lone assassin theorists have left to suggest a connection between Oswald and the bag is the fact that a single fingerprint and a palm print identified as Oswald’s were found on it. However, it hardly needs to be pointed out how meaningless it is that a paper bag, said to have been found on the floor where Oswald worked, had his prints on it.
So what does all this mean for the official story? Oswald's only rifle was, according to Marina, stored in the Paine's garage. For Oswald to be the lone assassin he had to have removed it on the morning of November 22 because at no other time was he seen taking a package from the garage, at no time was any rifle seen at his rooming house and at no other time did he take a large package into the depoistory. It was his only opportunity. So, if the package he carried that morning did not contain the rifle, and all of the evidence tells us it did not, then someone else placed the Mannlicher-Carcano on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and Oswald was exactly what he said he was: A patsy.