Strange Life of Lee Harvey Oswald: Childhood Years
by Ron Kurtus (revised 22 November 2013)
Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) is the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
Oswald's life leading up to the assassination was somewhat unusual and even strange. As a child, he showed signs of violence and rebellion. He later was a U.S. Marine, lived in Russia, and was involved in pro-Castro activities before he decided to kill Kennedy.
Shortly after his arrest, Oswald told his brother that he had done the job himself. Two days later, Oswald himself was assassinated on national television. Afterward many people felt that the Kennedy assassination was a result of a conspiracy with Oswald considered a "patsy" and with others involved.
Questions you may have include:
- What where Oswald's childhood days like?
- What sort of adventures did he have as an adult?
- What happened during and after the assassination?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Lee Harvey Oswald is born on October 18, 1939 in Slidell, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. His father had died before he was born. He had an older brother Robert. He also had an older half-brother John Pic, from his mother Marguerite's previous marriage.
Marguerite spoiled her youngest child with excessive attention. But she was also very domineering, and her neighbors called her quarrelsome.
8-years-old: threatens half-brother
In 1948, after Lee completed the second grade, he threatened his older half-brother John with a knife. This may have been a sign of violent tenancies.
Marguerite moved the family often, such that Lee never spent much time in a given location or school.
Young Lee Harvey Oswald
12-years-old: threatens half-brother's wife
In 1952, Marguerite, Robert and 12-year-old Lee moved to New York city to stay with John, who was now married and had a family. Lee was enrolled at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School. However, their stay with John didn't last long, because Lee threatened John's wife with a pocketknife. The Oswalds were then asked to leave.
They moved to an apartment in the Bronx. Lee entered a public school in the 7th grade. He was a loner and didn't fit in with the other children. He was frequently absent from classes.
13-years-old: often truant from school
By the time Lee was 13, truancy hearings were held regarding Lee's absences from school. Lee was declared a truant and sent to a youth house where he received a psychological evaluation. The examining doctor noted that Oswald tried to compensate for his shortcomings and frustrations by fantasizing having great power.
Lee was then placed on probation. In September 1953, Lee entered the 8th grade. Due to his behavior, his probation period was extended several times until January 1954.
In February 1954, Lee's mother moved the family back to New Orleans.
15-years-old: wanted to be in military
When he was 15-years-old, Lee filled out a personal history in school and indicated his future career choice as being in the military. That year he joined the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol. One of the leaders was a man named David Ferrie, who was a fervent anti-communist. He taught Lee how to use a telescopic rifle sight.
Note: Ferrie turned up later as a suspect in the Kennedy assassination, being accused of influencing Oswald.
Since his family moved so often, Lee had attended 12 different schools. He often did not get along with classmates, because he was usually new and also withdrawn and temperamental. Although he apparently had problems writing, he regularly kept a log of his thoughts in a diary.
Note: After leaving Russia, years later, Oswald tried to have a manuscript of his experiences and thoughts published.
16-years-old: dropped out of school
In 1955, Lee entered the 10th grade but soon dropped out of high school. He tried to enlist in the Marines but was turned away as being too young.
Lee then took on a number of jobs until July 1956, when Marguerite, Lee, and Robert moved to Fort Worth, Texas. That September, Lee enrolled in high school but dropped out by the end of the month.
Robert joined the U.S. Marines. Lee idolized his older brother and even wore Robert's Marine ring.
Lee was becoming more interested in politics and contacted the Socialist Party of America for information about the group. As a result, he became a Marxist. He read voraciously, especially about politics and socialism. He often claimed he was more knowledgeable than those around him.
Lee Harvey Oswald showed signs of violence and rebellion as a youth. He threatened his brother John and wife with a knife, was truant from school, and seemed a trouble youth. He idolized his brother Robert and wanted to join the Marines.
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Resources and references
Chronology of Oswald's life - Marquette University
Lee Harvey Oswald - Famous Texans
Lee Harvey Oswald - Spartacus Schoolnet, United Kingdom
Lee Harvey Oswald in Russia - Conspiracy theory
The Assassination Goes Hollywood - Refuting "facts" of Oliver Stone movie JFK
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Strange Life of Lee Harvey Oswald: Childhood