10 Things You Didn’t Know About Lee Harvey Oswald


Fifty years after the assassination and with conspiracy theorizing and cover-ups still dominating the conversation, one might expect that the public already knows everything about Lee Harvey Oswald. Yet much of his personal background, his troubled childhood and his downward spiral, remains a mystery, lost behind extravagant tales of espionage, multiple shooters, imposters and coordinated plans involving multiple agencies of the U.S. government. How many of these facts about Oswald—pieces of the story that would one day lead a desperate, delusional man to shoot an American President—do you know?

1. When Lee was 9 years old, a neighbor saw him throw a large butcher knife at his brother, barely missing him. His mother laughed it off, saying he often gets involved in these “little scuffles.”

2. One of his favorite TV programs was I Led Three Lives, about an FBI agent who infiltrated the American Communist Party by posing as both a Communist and a Communist counter-spy.

3. When he was 12, Lee hit his mother and threatened his half-brother John’s wife with a knife, another confrontation his mother treated lightly. But within days, he and his mother were asked to move out of his brother’s apartment—and an insulted Lee refused to speak to John for more than a decade.

4. Lee dropped out of school as soon as he turned 16, convinced that they had nothing to teach him. It was an attitude his mother reinforced.

5. After defecting to the Soviet Union in October 1959 and about to be thrown out of the country because of an expired visa, Oswald attempted suicide in his hotel room. The Soviets subsequently let him stay.

6. After Oswald met his future wife Marina in Minsk, he told her that he, like her, was an orphan, and that he had no siblings.

7. After returning to the U.S. in June 1962, Oswald frequently beat his wife Marina.

8. In the last months of his life, Oswald tried to convince Marina to join him in a plot to hijack an airplane to Cuba.

9. Oswald read a number of biographies of great men. In the months leading up to the assassination, Oswald told Marina that within 20 years he would be a prime minister.

10. When Lee was 13 and taken into custody for chronic truancy, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals in New York diagnosed him as emotionally disturbed. They urged psychotherapeutic treatment—for him and his mother Marguerite. That never happened: his mother moved him back to New Orleans and out of the court’s jurisdiction.

Steven Beschloss is the author of the The Gunman and His Mother: Lee Harvey Oswald, Marguerite Oswald, and the Making of an Assassin, available on Amazon and iBooks.