The Great Carcano Swindle
This article reproduced here with the permission of the author
MURDER WEAPON FOUND!
Within an hour of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy Dallas Police Department (DPD) announced the discovery of a rifle on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) in Dealey Plaza.
Two DPD officers, Eugene Boone and Seymour Weitzman, were present when the weapon was found and both were credited with finding it by the Warren Commission (WC). Both officers subsequently described the rifle they found as a 7.65MM Mauser bolt-action rifle.
On November 22nd 1963, the day of the assassination, Eugene Boone prepared a written report for his superior Sheriff Decker in which he confirmed the rifle he had found was a Mauser. On November 23rd, a full day later, Seymour Weitzman signed a detailed sworn affidavit confirming his original identification of a Mauser. Also on November 23rd Dallas District Attorney Henry M. Wade gave a televised press conference at which he advised the media that the weapon found in the TSBD was a Mauser 7.65MM bolt action rifle.
More than 24 hours would elapse before anyone would publicly announce that the rifle found was anything other than a Mauser. Indeed a CIA report dated November 25th was still describing the rifle as a Mauser.
Subsequent claims would indicate that the true identity of the rifle found was known to Dallas Police within a very short time of its discovery but there is absolutely no documentary evidence to support this assertion. All that does exist is a record of conflicting stories, missing documents and evasive testimony.
Eventually the DPD revealed that the TSBD rifle was in fact an Italian made Mannlicher Carcano 6.5MM carbine, serial no. C2766, manufactured in 1940. Based on an original Mauser design the Carcano superficially resembles the Mauser genre from which it was derived but is betrayed by its inferior build-quality.
Mannlicher Carcano C2766 was allegedly purchased from a Chicago mail order house by an A. Hidell, an alias apparently used by Lee Harvey Oswald. Almost immediately suspicions began to emerge in some quarters that the rifle originally found had been switched for the Mannlicher Carcano linked to Oswald. Oswald had been arrested shortly after the assassination in connection with the killing of DPD officer J.D. Tippit.
Controversy over the true identity of the rifle originally found in the TSBD has continued to rage ever since. In seeking to unravel this mystery it quickly becomes clear that a dark shadow hangs over the testimony of many of the individuals involved in the finding of the TSBD rifle. More than that, it seems highly probable that the chain of evidence linking Lee Harvey Oswald to the ownership and use of Mannlicher Carcano C2766 was fabricated by those charged with responsibility for investigating the assassination of John. F. Kennedy.
A RIFLE IS BORN
Our story begins not in Dallas but in the Italian town of Terni in 1940. Italian involvement in world war two created an urgent demand for rifles to equip the armed forces. At the Royal Arms Works in Terni (Regio Esercito Terni-RE Terni) north of Rome workers were turning out 2,500 rifles a day. It was here that Mannlicher Carcano C2766 was made.
On pages 21-22 of his 1975 book "The Gun: A Biography of the Gun that Killed John F. Kennedy", Henry S. Bloomgarden described the means by which C2766 acquired its allegedly unique identity:
"Each weapon was stamped with its own numbers and marking; together these would brand each gun as a unique entity."
He went on to describe one such gun thus:
CAL 6.5 (the calibre of the weapon)
RE TERNI (place of manufacture)
TNI (with a proof mark in the form of a crown)
PG (initials of the bolt handle designer)
SD (initials of the inspector of the rifle)
ROCCA (after Giuseppe Rocca manufacturer of the bolt cocking piece)
C2766 (the serial number)
1940 (the year of manufacture)
According to Bloomgarden:
A serial number and letter in combination were stamped into the metal giving a particular unit identity; no other gun would be so marked. One was branded, forever, C2766.
As with much of the lore surrounding C2766, this assertion was only partly accurate. In fact Mannlicher Carcano rifles were being made at several plants throughout Italy. The Model 91/38 Carcano, of which C2766 is an example, was also manufactured by Beretta, FNA and Gardone VT as well as the Terni plant. The Royal Arms Works at Terni was, however, the largest producer accounting for around 800,000 units out of a total of 948,000 Model 91/38's made.
The nomenclature, markings and identification of Carcanos varies widely. Specific models are not always marked in like fashion and this often causes confusion, which is reflected in the available Carcano literature. Regardless of Bloomgarden's conviction that each Carcano made bore a unique serial number, the fact is that several Carcanos may have carried the serial number 2766 with or without the "C" prefix.
After the war Carcano rifles and carbines found their way back to the RE Terni plant by the thousand. Most of these weapons had seen service on the battlefields of Europe and Africa and were in poor condition. The Terni plant, which had once manufactured Carcanos now, turned its attention to repairing and restoring the detritus of war.
In 1958, the Italian Ministry of Defence (Ministero della Difesa), offered for sale a consignment of more than 500,000 rifles. Sicilian Attorney Alberto Bagnasco got wind of the Ministry of Defence plans and contacted Philadelphia attorney Andrew Farnese, a business contact, with a view to finding a buyer for the surplus Carcanos.
Farnese contacted Louis and Irving Feldsott, owners of the Folsom Arms Company of New York, who expressed an interest in acquiring the surplus Carcanos but lacked the financial resources necessary to make a bid for the inventory. An approach was then made to Adam Consolidated, who agreed to fund the venture.
The Adams Consolidated/Folsom Arms alliance bid of $1,776,000 was accepted by the Italian Ministry of Defence. In Italy, Irving Feldsott and Alberto Bagnasco agreed the terms of a contract with the Ministry of Defence on behalf of the Adam Consolidated consortium.
Adam Consolidated were to act as financiers and importers. A new company called Crescent Firearms was incorporated, with Louis Feldsott as President, to distribute the rifles.
The contract provided for the supply of approximately 570,000 Carcano Model 91/38 6.5MM rifles and 5300 kilos of assorted spare parts. Some 300,000 of the Carcanos to be supplied were known to be defective to a greater or lesser degree.
Prior to shipping the Carcanos to the United States, Bagnasco was retained by Adam Consolidated to arrange for the renovation and repair of the defective units to make them ready for the US market. Bagnasco contacted the Brecia-based arms company Breda in the hope that they might be interested in contracting for the renovation and repair of the Carcanos but they declined. Breda did, however, suggest that company executive Luciano Riva, a 5th generation gunsmith of some repute, might be interested.
Riva was later provided with various sample weapons to work on in order that Adam Consolidated might assess the quality of his workmanship. Riva evidently impressed Adam Consolidated because Bagnasco was soon instructed to offer him the contract. Riva was initially reluctant to enter into a contract with Adam Consolidated on his own account. His stated preference was to carry out the work as a sub-contractor to Breda but eventually he was persuaded to sign the contract.
Under the terms of the contract, Riva was required to renovate and repair damaged or defective weapons and, where appropriate, to shorten or lengthen the barrels of weapons to meet the needs of the US sporting and target shooting fraternities. Additionally, and most importantly, all identifying markings on the weapons were to be removed and the words "Made in Italy" stamped on each barrel.
As Bloomgarden wrote in his book:
"A very simple operation, Riva said: To shorten the 91's with long barrels, to lengthen those with short barrels...and to remove the markings and inscribe "Made in Italy" on each weapon - these were easy tasks. Shortening was a matter of sawing; lengthening was a matter of inserting a sleeve; the various digits and letters could be removed by grinding."
So it was that Luciano Riva accepted the contract from Adam Consolidated, repaired, renovated and restored the Carcano rifles entrusted to him and removed all the unique identifying marks, including serial numbers, replacing these with the simple legend "Made in Italy". By reputation, Luciano Riva was a proud and dedicated craftsman who would produce workmanship of the very highest standard for his new benefactors.
On May 24th 1960, Riva signed the contract that charged him with the obligation to renovate and repair 150,000 rifles to be shipped to the United States in four lots as follows:
50,000 by end of July 1960
15,000 in August 1960
45,000 in September 1960
40,000 in October 1960
All told, Riva made a total of 12 shipments of Carcanos to Adam Consolidated. The last of these left Riva's Brescia workshop in September 1960. Shipments ceased abruptly when Adam Consolidated and Riva became caught up in a dispute. Riva was angered by Adam Consolidated's failure to pay for the rifles already shipped to the United States whilst Adam Consolidated claimed that large numbers of rifles leaving the Brescia workshop were defective.
Henry Bloomgarden defended Riva against this attack on his competence:
"Riva knew guns. His family had been gunmakers for 5 generations. He knew his work had not been defective. His only failure, towards the end, had been in not removing the identification marks on the last of the guns, as with 2766."
The claim that Riva failed to remove the identifying marks on rifles shipped towards the end is a vital element in the chain of evidence relating to Mannlicher Carcano C2766. Everything I have learned about Riva points to a man who was exploited by Adam Consolidated but was possessed of great professional integrity. On balance, I am inclined to think that Luciano Riva would have honoured his contract and would have removed the markings on all Carcanos shipped from his workshop. It would seem extremely odd if he had renovated and repaired these rifles as required by his contract and then failed to erase the markings...why would he?
Whilst Henry Bloomgarden's book is a helpful resource it falls down in many important respects. He provides no sources for any of the claims he makes and his reliability on the matter of serial numbers is undermined by contradictions in his own reporting. Referring to documentation raised to support shipments he says:
"Riva made 12 shipments, all handled identically...packed ten to a carton, the serial number of each gun was checked and recorded on a slip headed "Crescent Firearms Inc."
WHAT SERIAL NUMBER?
Bloomgarden makes a further reference to serial numbers on pages 114-115:
"Periodically, Fred Rupp, RFD 2, Mink Road, Perkasie, Pennsylvania, picked up loads of 91's from Harborside Terminal. He brought them to his shop where, under a subcontract with Crescent Firearms, he would clean and test fire each weapon, then ship it from his place to various customers designated to him by Crescent. If a carton was mutilated, he would repack the weapons in a new carton after cleaning and test firing them. The new carton would be numbered by him with the same number as appeared on the original carton picked up from Harborside. If a particular gun did not function properly, he would replace it with another, and he would indicate on the slip the serial number of the weapon removed and the weapon substituted."
Note again the reference to serial numbers when Bloomgarden himself agrees that the serial numbers were to be removed, and in all but a few alleged examples were removed, in accordance with the terms of Riva's contract. Bloomgarden is completely unreliable on the matter of serial numbers and apart from one Carcano allegedly bearing the serial no. C2766 there is no evidence to suggest that Riva did not remove all serial numbers from the rifles he shipped.
It also appears that Fred Rupp had a stockpile of Carcanos, which he could use as replacements if "a particular gun did not function properly.." Since there is no known record of where these "spare" Carcanos came from, it is possible that Rupp, acting for Crescent Firearms had sources other than Riva. Further checks reveal that alternative stocks of Carcanos were being drawn upon by Adam Consolidated/Crescent Firearms.
Adam Consolidated was struggling to meet the terms of the agreement they had signed with the Italian Ministry of Defence. As indicated earlier Adam Consolidated had contracted to buy 570,000 rifles but the hiatus in dealings with Riva meant that only 150,000 had been processed. Under the threat of breech of contract litigation by the Defence Ministry, Adam Consolidated asked Alberto Bagnasco to find an "alternative renovator". This "alternative renovator" was duly found and shipped a further 80,000 rifles to Adam Consolidated.
Mannlicher Carcano C2766 has not yet reached Klein's Mail Order house in Chicago yet its provenance is already looking a little shaky.
C2766 WHERE ARE YOU?
Mannlicher Carcano serial no. C2766 was apparently dispatched from Riva's Storo workshops in carton no. 3376 on Crescent Firearms shipping slip no. 3620. Carton no. 3376 was one of 520 such cartons making up a consignment of 5,200 rifles loaded aboard the cargo ship Elettra Fassio at the port of Genoa on September 29th 1960 bound for New York. The ship docked in the USA on October 17th 1960.
It would be another 28 months before the carton said to contain C2766 would find its way from the Harborside Terminal to Fred Rupp's workshop. The reason for this delay was apparently due to the fact that the shipment had been impounded by US Customs on the grounds that Adam Consolidated had undervalued the cargo in an attempt to reduce the amount of duty payable. I have been unable to discover why this one consignment out of the 12 identical consignments shipped from Riva should have been singled out in this way. It may be that Adam Consolidated was simply the victims of a random swoop.
The record shows that between October 1960 and October 1962 , Fred Rupp continued to take delivery of consignments of Carcanos from Harborside without let or hindrance from US Customs. These included rifles shipped from Riva and the 80,000 rifles renovated elsewhere.
On February 12th 1963, Fred Rupp dispatched carton no. 3376, said to contain C2766, via North Penn Transfer Company against Crescent Firearms order no. 3178 to Klein's Sporting Goods of Chicago. If the record thus far is to be believed then Klein's took delivery of Mannlicher Carcano serial no. C2766, allegedly one of a very very few rifles out of a total of 150,000 repaired and renovated by Luciano Riva that did not have its identifying marks removed.
Luciano Riva allegedly failed to ensure that all identifying marks were removed from a small number of Carcano rifles. The seemingly arbitrary decision of US Customs to impound that particular consignment of 5,200 rifles out of 150,000 shipped to Adam Consolidated, resulted in the contents of carton no. 3376 being sold to Klein's Sporting Goods. How lucky could the FBI get?
KLEIN'S LOSS IS YOUR GAIN
There is nothing like a little white lie to oil the wheels of commerce and the people at Klein's were not above spicing up their marketing copy with a few harmless untruths. The banner on their full page spread in the February 1963 issue of the American Rifleman magazine proclaimed: RECEIVED TOO LATE FOR THE HUNTING SEASON....Klein's loss is your gain!
The fact that Klein's had not screwed up on an order or been let down by a supplier resulting in an accumulation of bad stock was by the by. There has to be an excuse for every bargain offer lest the buying public think there may be something wrong with the goods being offered. What better reason than an unspecified faux pas that had left Klein's up to their eyes in guns at a time of the year when the customer's buying inclinations were directed elsewhere?
KLEIN'S RECEIVE AN ORDER FROM DALLAS
On 13th March 1963, Klein's received an envelope containing a small order slip clipped from their full-page advert in the February issue of American Rifleman. Mr A. Hidell of Dallas, Texas, had enclosed a US Postal Money Order no. 2,202,130,462 to the value of $21.45 in payment for one Mannlicher Carcano 6.5MM Carbine with scope as advertised with reference no. C20-T750 priced at $19.95 with an additional $1.50 postage and handling. Though the advert offered ammunition and a clip as added extras Mr Hidell did not order either.
On March 20th 1963, Klein's dispatched a Mannlicher Carcano, apparently bearing the serial no. C2766, to the order of Mr Hidell. whose postal address was P.O. Box 2915, Dallas, Texas.
The case against Lee Harvey Oswald depends entirely upon establishing a solid chain of evidence that links him to the Mannlicher Carcano dispatched by Klein's to the order of A. Hidell and places him (Oswald) on the 6th floor of the TSBD with that weapon at 12.30 PM on November 22nd 1963. It will become clear that no such chain of evidence exists.
Lee Harvey Oswald rented Dallas Post Box 2915 on October 9th 1962 using his own name. Effectively the address A. Hidell, PO Box 2915 never existed. In order to rent a post box, Oswald was required to fill out Form 1093 (Application for Post Office Box). This was a multi-part form. Part 3 of the application form included a section where the applicant could nominate other persons authorized to collect mail from that particular box. Harry D. Holmes, Dallas Postal Inspector, told the WC that:
"Form 1093 includes a place for name of person entitled to receive mail through the box other than the applicant himself."
The ability of Lee Harvey Oswald to collect a package addressed to A. Hidell at Post Box 2915 depends entirely upon A. Hidell being listed as an authorized person in Part 3 of Oswald's application. It should have been an easy matter to verify this by reference to Part 3 of Oswald's application but, as Postal Inspector Harry Holmes told the WC, Part 3 had been destroyed:
"...when the box has been closed, Postal Regulations require that they tear off Part 3 and throw it away."
Box 2915 had been closed by Oswald on May 14th 1963.
Fortunately, Postal Inspector Holmes is not the final authority on Postal Regulations. The Postal Manual, Section 846.53b, states quite unequivocally that "Part 3 of the box rental application, identifying persons other than the applicant authorized to receive mail must be retained for 2 years after the box is closed."
Harry D. Holmes lied about postal procedures and the WC accepted that lie as fact.
A week after the assassination Harry D. Holmes was quoted in a New York Times article where he stated:
"No one other than Oswald was authorized to receive mail at that box".
Holmes could not have made this statement unless he had seen Part 3 of Oswald's application form after the assassination.
Further confirmation that Part 3 of Oswald's application form existed after the assassination and that A. Hidell was not an authorized nominee can be found in the Warren Report (WR). To refute claims made by writer Thomas G. Buchanan in his book "Who Killed Kennedy?", the FBI produced a document that specifically addressed 32 different allegations made by Buchanan. Published in the WR, this document CE 2585, contained the following:
12. CLAIM: The Post Office in Dallas to which Oswald had the rifle mailed was kept both under his name and that of A. Hidell.
INVESTIGATION: Our investigation has revealed that Oswald did not indicate on his application that others, including an A. Hidell, would receive mail through the box in question, which was Post Office Box 2915 in Dallas.
As with Harry D. Holmes revelations to the New York Times, the FBI could not have made this determination unless they had seen Part 3 of Oswald's application form. The only conclusion it is possible to draw from this information is that Part 3 of Oswald's application still existed after John F. Kennedy was assassinated and that Harry D. Holmes and the FBI knew as much. Harry Holmes' story that Postal Regulations required Part 3 of the form to be destroyed when the box is closed was an act of perjury that attempted to hide the fact that an important piece of evidence had been destroyed sometime after the assassination.
It cannot be stated strongly enough that Part 3 of Oswald's application form is the one document that underpins the entire chain of evidence linking Oswald to the Carcano and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. If A. Hidell was authorized to collect mail at Post Box 2915, then Oswald could have taken delivery of the Carcano by masquerading as Hidell. If A. Hidell was not authorized to collect mail at that box then Oswald would not have been able to take delivery of the Carcano package.
In practice, when the Carcano package addressed to A. Hidell at Box 2915, was received Post Office staff would have checked the appropriate documentation. They would have noted that Box 2915 was rented in the name of Oswald and that A. Hidell was not authorized to collect mail. An additional check may have been made to establish if A. Hidell was a previous renter of Box 2915 who had left a forwarding address. In the event that these checks proved negative the Carcano package would have been returned to sender.
Even exercising great generosity of spirit it is difficult to see any explanation for the destruction of Part 3 of the Oswald application form other than to sustain a false chain of evidence. The WC accepted as fact the sworn testimony of Harry D. Holmes that Part 3 of the form had been destroyed legitimately in line with Postal Regulations. In addition, they allowed Holmes to create a false mechanism by which Oswald could still have collected the Carcano package. This was typical of the "belts and braces" approach the WC used to cover all angles.
Holmes claimed that when a package was received, a notice would be placed in the relevant box to advise the holder that a package was waiting to be collected. This would be done, Holmes claimed, regardless of who the package was addressed to, authorized or not. Thereafter, the holder of the box would only have to produce the notice at the collection window to take delivery of the package. Possession of the notice was deemed to be proof of entitlement.
This is how the WC created the foundations of the chain of evidence linking Oswald to the Carcano. It is ironic that the WR could publish the testimony of Holmes claiming that Part 3 of Oswald's application form had been destroyed and the FBI document, CE 2585, proving it had not.
All evidence is not equal and in seeking to take a view it is necessary to decide what weight can be placed on any particular piece of evidence. The evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald could not have taken delivery of the Carcano package by any known official means is very strong indeed. It is strengthened even more by the knowledge that Harry D. Holmes offered perjured testimony and that a crucial piece of evidence, Part 3 of the Oswald's application form, was destroyed during the post-assassination period.
I think the only plausible interpretation of the facts is that Oswald could not, and did not, take possession of the Carcano package. To sustain the illusion that Oswald did collect the Carcano package, vital evidence was destroyed and additional evidence was fabricated.
The Post Box evidence is not the only evidence the WR offers to link Oswald to the Carcano. Other evidence includes the infamous "backyard photographs", the testimony of the DeMohrenschildts and Marina Oswald, the mysterious contents of the brown paper bag Oswald is alleged to have carried into the TSBD on the day of the assassination, the analysis of the handwriting on the Klein's order slip and the apparent linkage between Oswald and the A. Hidell alias.
THE BACKYARD PHOTOGRAPHS
An in depth analysis and appraisal of the backyard photographs is beyond the scope of this article and is probably a pointless exercise anyway. For decades the arguments for and against fakery have raged back and forth without any kind of consensus being reached. Far from clarifying matters, experts brought in to appraise the evidence have succeeded only in creating more confusion. On paper the idea of seeking the opinion of an expert witnesses seems a valid one. Sadly, for every expert witness who expresses an opinion it is usually possible to find another equally qualified witness who will express the opposite opinion.
The best available evidence on the authenticity of the backyard photographs is to be found in the conclusions of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) photographic panel. After extensive tests on the photographs and negatives the panel concluded that the photographs were probably genuine and that the rifle being held by Oswald appeared to be Mannlicher Carcano C2766. A photographic panel spokesman did later concede that "it is possible to make a false photograph that we would not be able to detect."
In seeking to take a view on the matter of the backyard photographs context is everything. The totality of the evidence surrounding the assassination strongly suggests that Oswald was offered up as a scapegoat by the investigative and intelligence community. There is no doubt that important evidence was tampered with or even destroyed. Witnesses were ignored or "persuaded" to modify their evidence. Oswald was characterized as a disaffected and feckless loner when the know facts point more to a young man who was intelligent, thoughtful and probably an intelligence operative.
The HSCA photographic panel concede that the backyard photographs could be fake. If they are then it is likely that the faking was done by experts in the employ of one or other government agency. This is the context in which these photographs must be viewed.
Taken in isolation I would have to concede that the photographs probably are genuine but the behaviour and activities of the FBI, CIA and ONI in this case cast grave doubts on the authenticity of any the evidence. I am certainly not confident enough in the backyard photographs to include them in this charted history of C2766.
Marina Oswald testified that she had taken the backyard photographs at Lee's request. Whilst she was able to state that Lee did have a rifle her various descriptions of that weapon could in no way be regarded as a positive identification of C2766 to the exclusion of any other rifle. The best guide to the weapon Marina claims to have seen are the backyard photographs. George and Jeanne De Mohrenschildt testified to knowledge of Oswald's rifle but were unable to confirm that the rifle in question was C2766.
It is interesting to note that one of the backyard photographs did not turn up until April 1967. George DeMohrenschildt announced that during a search of luggage held in storage he had uncovered a photograph of Oswald. The photograph was another copy of the backyard image showing Oswald holding the rifle and leftist literature. Oddly, there was an inscription on the back of this photograph written in Russian Cryllic Script. The inscription translated to: "Hunter of Fascists ha-ha-ha!!!". The photograph was endorsed with the words "To my friend George from Lee Oswald 5/IV/63" written in Oswald's hand.
The DeMohrenschildts were unable to throw any light on how the photograph came to be in their luggage. An analysis of the Cryllic inscription revealed that it had originally been written, then rewritten in pencil by someone unfamiliar with the Cryllic alphabet. The Cryllic inscription could not be matched to the handwriting of Lee or Marina Oswald.
George DeMohrenschildt's son-in-law Gary Taylor also testifying to seeing a rifle in the Oswald household but was unable to confirm that it was C2766.
ATTEMPTED MURDER OF GENERAL WALKER
The WC tried to link Oswald and Mannlicher Carcano C2766 to the attempted murder of General Edwin Walker on April 10th 1963. In 1978 the HSCA commissioned Neutron activation tests on the remnants of the bullet CE 573 fired at Walker. The tests were conducted by Dr Vincent P. Guinn who testified that CE573 was "rather characteristic of WCC Mannlicher-Carcano bullet ." This language was typical of that used throughout the WC and HSCA investigations and tends to mislead rather than inform. There was no such thing as a "Mannlicher Carcano bullet". What Dr Guinn should have said was "a 6.5MM WCC bullet that was suitable for a range of weapons including a Mannlicher Carcano 6.5MM."
I dealt with the Guinn Neutron activation tests at some length in my article "On the Trail of a Magic Bullet". At that time I concluded that "Dr Guinn's work is interesting as far as it goes but in reality that is not very far". I don't think that Dr Quinn succeeded in demonstrating that the bullet fragments recovered after the Walker shooting and the JFK assassination were fired from C2766. In the case of CE573, the bullet was so badly damaged that no Ballistics evidence linking it to C2766 could be gleaned. The FBI tried to overcome this by stating that CE573 "showed the characteristics of a round that had been fired by a Mannlicher-Carcano".
The following exchange demonstrates the way in which the FBI in the person of Special Agent Andrew M. Newquist tried to create evidence that didn't exist:
Mr. McDonald: Did you find similar class characteristics, between the Walker bullet, CE-573, and the panel test bullets that you have before you?
Mr. Newquist: Yes, class characteristics of CE-573 and the class characteristics of the bullets, CE-572, the Federal test from the Oswald firearm and also the panel test fired from the Oswald firearm were consistent in number, width, and direction of twist.
Mr. McDonald: Could your panel reach a conclusion as to the rifle of origin for CE-573 using the evidence available to you?
Mr. Newquist: Would you repeat the question?
Mr. McDonald: Were you able to reach a conclusion as to what rifle fired CE-573, the Walker bullet?
Mr. Newquist: No, we were not, due to the distortion of CE-573, and lacking a significant correspondence of individual characteristics with the test, no conclusion could be reached. However, no significant difference was observed from CE-573 to CE-572, no gross difference was noted to indicate that it had not been fired from it.
Mr. McDonald: But what you are saying is, through distortion, because of impact, the peculiar identifying marks were not able to be found by your panel on CE-573?
Mr. Newquist: That is correct.
Mr. McDonald: And was this the conclusion that the FBI reached in 1963?
Mr. Newquist: That is correct.
Neither Mr Newquist nor Dr Guinn offer anything persuasive to suggest that Mannlicher Carcano paused briefly in the backyard of the Walker household en route from Terni to the TSBD.
Did Lee Harvey Oswald take a brown paper bag containing a Mannlicher Carcano rifle into the TSBD on the morning of November 22, 1963? Neighbour and co-worker Buell Wesley Frazier drove Oswald to work on the morning of the assassination. The WC called Frazier to testify at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Building, Washington DC. on Wednesday 11th March 1964. Frazier told the commission that he remembered Oswald had a package with him on that morning. WC counsel Joseph A. Ball was keen to establish that this package contained C2766.
When disassembled Mannlicher Carcano C2766 measured approximately 34.8 inches. Frazier offered the following testimony:
Mr. Ball: You say he had the package under his arm when you saw him?
Mr. Frazier: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ball: You mean one end of it under the armpit?
Mr. Frazier: Yes, sir; he had it up just like you stick it right under your arm like that.
Mr. Ball: And he had the lower part....
Mr. Frazier: The other part with his right hand.
Mr. Ball: Right hand?
Mr. Frazier: Right.
Mr. Ball: He carried it then parallel to his body?
Mr. Frazier: Right, straight up and down.
This was not the kind of testimony Joseph Ball wanted to elicit. It was just not physically possible that Oswald could carry a package on that length in the manner described...his arms would not have been long enough. Ball repeatedly tried to shake Frazier's testimony on this point:
Mr. Ball: When you saw him get out of the car, when you first saw him when he was out of the car before he started to walk, you noticed he had the package under the arm?
Mr. Frazier: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ball: One end of it was under the armpit and the other he had to hold it in his right hand. Did the package extend beyond the right hand?
Mr. Frazier: No, sir. Like I say if you put it under your armpits and put it down normal to the side.
Mr. Ball: But the right hand on, was it on the end or the side of the package?
Mr. Frazier: No; he had it cupped in his hand.
Mr. Ball: Cupped in his hand?
Mr. Frazier: Right.
Frazier remained adamant throughout the cross-examination. Yes Oswald had taken a package into work that day but the package he saw could not have contained the Mannlicher Carcano.
The testimony of Buell Wesley Frazier was not uncorroborated. Linnie Mae Randle, Frazier's sister, also testified before the commission that day:
Mrs Randle: I saw him as he crossed the street and come across my driveway to where Wesley had his car parked by the carport.
Mr Ball: Was he carrying any package?
Mrs Randle: Yes; he was.
Mr Ball: What was he carrying?
Mrs Randle: He was carrying a package in a sort of heavy brown bag, heavier than a grocery bag it looked to me. It was about, if I might measure, about this long, I suppose, and he carried it in his right hand, had the top sort of folded down and had a grip like this, and the bottom, he carried it this way, you know, and it almost touched the ground as he carried it.
Mr Ball: And where was his hand gripping the middle of the package?
Mrs Randle: No, sir; the top with just a little bit sticking up. You know, just like you grab something like that.
Mr Ball: And he was grabbing it with his right hand at the top of the package and the package almost touched the ground?
Mrs Randle: Yes, sir .
At this point Counsel Ball showed the witness a mock-up of the bag allegedly found in the TSBD.
Mr Ball: Now, was the length of it any similar, anywhere near similar?
Mrs Randle: Well, it wasn't that long, I mean it was folded down at the top as I told you. It definitely wasn't that long.
Mr Ball: I see. You figure about two feet long, is that right?
Mrs Randle: A little bit more.
Mr Ball: Is that about right? That is 28 and a half inches.
Mrs Randle: I measured 27 last time.
Mr Ball: You measured 27 once before?
Mrs Randle: Yes, sir .
Jack Dougherty, an Oswald co-worker was the only person to see Oswald arrive at work on the morning of the assassination. Dougherty testified that he didn't see Oswald carry any package into the TSBD on that day.
I find the testimonies of Frazier and Randle very credible...infinitely more credible than many of the witnesses the WC relied upon to "convict" Oswald. In the face of a prolonged and determined effort by Ball to get them to modify their opinions neither would be deflected.
I do not believe that Oswald carried the Mannlicher Carcano into the TSBD that morning in the way the WC claimed. I also have grave doubts over the origins of the paper bag allegedly used. Crime scene photographs taken at the time do not show the paper bag in position as good evidence handling practice requires. There is also considerable doubt that Oswald could have had access to the materials required to construct the bag. I would direct the reader to the testimony of TSBD employee Troy Eugene West for further information on this matter.
A GUN IS FOUND
At approximately 1.22pm on November 22nd 1963 Dallas Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone discovered a rifle concealed behind boxes on the 6th floor of the TSBD. Detective Seymour Weitzman was nearby and noticed the weapon almost simultaneously.
Seymour Weitzman identified the rifle as a Mauser 7.65MM Bolt-action rifle. Boone concurred with this identification. Later in the day Eugene Boone prepared a written report in which he confirmed the rifle found to be a Mauser. The next day, Seymour Weitzman swore an "Affidavit in Any Fact" in which he again described the rifle as a Mauser.
This description of the rifle as a Mauser persisted for some considerable time after it was found as noted earlier in this article before finally being confirmed as a Mannlicher Carcano 6.5MM Carbine serial number C2766 (CE 139) Establishing whether the rifle found by Boone was the same weapon we have followed since the time of its manufacture in Italy has not proved easy.
An attempt was made by the WC to show that the original description of the rifle as a Mauser was nothing more than a simple, honest mistake. If this was the case then the record should have been capable of dispelling any lingering doubts that anyone might have had. Regardless of any misidentification of the rifle by Weitzman and others there should exist a detailed and verifiable chain of evidence that shows how the rifle was finally identified, when and by whom. That chain should detail the means by which the rifle was traced to its supplier and satisfy us that C2766 was genuinely all that it was later purported to be.
I now propose to look in detail at the handling and processing of the rifle eventually entered into evidence as C2766 from the time it was allegedly found through to the conclusions contained in the WR.
THE CHAIN OF EVIDENCE
Weitzman and Boone are agreed that immediately after the rifle was found DPD Captain W.J. Fritz, a 42 year veteran in the Dallas Police, took charge of the weapon and ejected one live round from the chamber. A short time later they were joined by Lt. J.C. Day in his capacity as a crime scene investigator. Boone testified:
Mr Ball: There is one question. Did you hear anyone refer to this rifle as a Mauser that day?
Mr Boone: Yes I did. And at first, not knowing what it was, I thought it was a 7.65 Mauser.
Mr Ball: Who referred to it as a Mauser that day?
Mr Boone: I believe Captain Fritz. He had knelt down there to look at it, and before he removed it, not knowing what is was, he said that is what it looks like. This is when Lieutenant Day, I believe his name is, the ID man was getting ready to photograph it. We were discussing it back and forth. And he said it looks like a 7.65 Mauser.
There were several police officers present, some of senior rank and vast experience. There were 2 officers from the identification section, Day and Studebaker, present also. They discussed this weapon back and forth and said it looks like a 7.65 Mauser. The Mannlicher Carcano this rifle was later claimed to be had the words "Made in Italy" and "Cal 6.5" stamped on its barrel...what was there to discuss and speculate about?
WC Counsel Joseph Ball would later question Captain Fritz about the identification of the rifle:
Mr Ball: Was there any conversation you heard that this rifle was a Mauser?
Mr. Fritz: I heard all kinds of reports about that rifle. They called it most everything.
Mr. Ball: Did you hear any conversation right there that day?
Mr. Fritz: Right at that time?
Mr. Ball: Yes
Mr. Fritz: I just wouldn't be sure because there were so many people talking at the same time, I might have; I am not sure whether I did or not.
Mr. Ball: Did you think it was a Mauser?
Mr. Fritz: No, sir; I knew...you can read on the rifle what it was and you could also see on the cartridge what caliber it was.
Mr. Ball: Well, did you ever make any...did you ever say that it was a 7.65 Mauser?
Mr. Fritz: No, sir; I am sure I did not.
Mr. Ball: Or did you think it was such a thing?
Mr. Fritz: No, sir; I did not. If I did, the Mauser part, I won't be too positive about Mauser because I am not too sure about Mauser rifles myself. But I am certainly sure that I never did give anyone any different caliber than the one that shows on the cartridges.
Mr. Ball: Did you initial the rifle?
Mr. Fritz: The rifle; no, sir.
Fritz never did answer Joseph Ball's question about a Mauser being discussed...he just ignored it. Two things I find odd here. Texas was the gun capital of the USA, practically everybody had one. Fritz was a 42-year police veteran, 31 of those in homicide and he says he wasn't "too sure about Mauser rifles?" Also, Fritz mentioned that he hadn't initialed the rifle...no officer did. This is a standard evidence handling procedure to assist in the positive identification of exhibits at a later stage.
Seymour Weitzman testified before the WC on April 1, 1964. Far from clearing up doubts over the true identity of the rifle he found his testimony served only to raise suspicions:
Mr. Ball: In the statement that you made to the Dallas Police Department that afternoon, you referred to the rifle as a 7.65 Mauser bolt action?
Mr. Weitzman: In a glance, that's what it looked like.
Mr. Ball: That's what it looked like did you say that or someone else say that?
Mr. Weitzman: No; I said that. I thought it was one.
Mr. Ball: Are you fairly familiar with rifles?
Mr. Weitzman: Fairly familiar because I was in the sporting goods business awhile.
On the surface Weitzman's claim that he had only glanced at the rifle seems a fair enough explanation of how the misidentification occurred but later in his testimony he was able to describe that rifle in far greater detail than he could possibly have done if he had only seen it "at a glance".
Mr. Ball: I understand that. Now, in your statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you gave a description of the rifle, how it looked.
Mr. Weitzman: I said it was a Mauser-type action, didn't I?
Mr. Ball: Mauser bolt action.
Mr. Weitzman: And at the time I looked at it, I believe I said it was 2.5 scope on it and I believe I said it was a Weaver but it wasn't; it turned out to be anything but a Weaver, but that was at a glance.
Mr. Ball: You also said it was a gunmetal color?
Mr. Weitzman: Yes.
Mr. Ball: Gray or blue?
Mr. Weitzman: Blue metal.
Mr. Ball: And the rear portion of the bolt was visibly worn, is that worn?
Mr. Weitzman: That's right.
Mr. Ball: And the wooden portion of the rifle was what color?
Mr. Weitzman: It was a brown, or I would say not a mahogany brown but dark oak brown.
Mr. Ball: Rough wood, was it?
Mr. Weitzman: Yes, sir; rough wood.
Mr. Ball: And it was equipped with a scope?
Mr. Weitzman: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ball: Was it of Japanese manufacture?
Mr. Weitzman: I believe it was a 2.5 Weaver at the time I looked at it. I didn't look that close at it; it just looked like a 2.5 but it turned out to be a Japanese scope, I believe.
This segment of testimony seriously compromises Seymour Weitzman. I have had the benefit of inspecting a Mannlicher Carcano M91/38 carbine fitted with the same model of Ordinance Optics scope as C2766. This scope bears the following information in highly readable white print against the black cylinder of the scope:
4 x 18 coated
Ordinance Optics Inc
010 Japan. OSC
I do not believe for one minute that Seymour Weitzman could have gleaned the information he did about the colour, texture and degree of wear and tear on specific components of C2766 "at a glance" or that he could remember these in such detail 5 months later. Nor do I believe that having been able to glean so much detail about the appearance and condition of C2766 he could have failed to read the information on the scope and confuse this Japanese instrument with a Weaver.
Some people have tried to suggest that Seymour Weitzman was a firearms expert who could reasonably be expected to know his Mausers from his Mannlichers. I do not believe that there is any evidence to support this assertion. Weitzman does, however, admit to having worked in a sports shop and to being "fairly familiar" with guns. I find it hard to accept that a man with this background, with a working knowledge of guns would not have taken an immediate interest in matters such as the markings and other identifying features of the rifle found. There is ample evidence that the identity of the gun was discussed among the officers present and it is more than likely that Seymour Weitzman contributed more to that discussion and the eventual identification than he has ever been prepared to admit.
A "DAY" TO REMEMBER
Lieutenant John Carl Day played a pivotal role in the handling and processing of the rifle found in the TSBD. Day had 23 years police experience including, most recently, 7 years as a supervisor within the Identification Bureau responsible for crime scene analysis. Of all those present when the rifle was found Lt. Day should have known how to handle and record the evidence in order to preserve the chain of possession. Like many others involved in the investigation of the assassination, Lt. Day fell well short of the acceptable standard.
In his capacity as an officer of the Identification Bureau, Lt. Day had certain priorities with regard to the handling of the rifle and these were outlined by Richard Bartholomew in his thought-provoking article "The Gun that Didn't Smoke":
Fingerprints take priority during collection because they are the most fragile. But prior to submitting a gun to the crime laboratory, it should be unloaded and all parts that are removable without the aid of tools, and which may leave an imprint on the bullet or cartridge case, should be removed from the gun and properly marked or labeled for identification as they are being collected or as soon as possible thereafter. All of that information, plus any unique characteristics, such as caliber or gauge, make, lot number, and serial number, should be recorded in the investigator's notebook during or immediately after the search.
Perusal of the record of evidence seen and collected on November 22nd 1963 fails to reveal any mention of an ammunition clip. There is no clip mentioned in the Property Clerk's receipt dated November 26th which otherwise lists everything else about the rifle allegedly found. There is no record in either the reports made by the many officers present, or the reports of the conversations between these officers, of anyone having seen a ammunition clip. I have viewed photographs and television footage of the rifle being handled by Lt. Day soon after it was found and there is no sign of any clip. The significance of this clip to the events of that day are many. It is a peculiarity of Mannlicher Carcano rifles that the ammunition clip falls out once the last round in the clip is chambered.
When the rifle was found it had a live round in the chamber, which Captain Fritz admitted to ejecting. Other officers present when Fritz ejected the round confirm his admission. As found, either the clip had fallen out of the rifle when the last round was chambered or due to some malfunction had remained in place. As noted earlier, there is no sign of a clip in the magazine. The television footage mentioned shows Lt. Day rotating the rifle in such a way that had there been a clip in the magazine it would have been visible. This only leaves a scenario where the clip fell out, as designed to, when the last round was chambered. So where was the clip?
Without this clip the Mannlicher Carcano would only have been capable of firing a single shot at a time making a mockery of the brief time window available for that rifle to have fired all the known shots at the Presidential Motorcade.
As one of the more likely sources of fingerprints the clip would have been of immediate interest to Lt. Day but there is no mention of him finding this clip or checking it for fingerprints. What is odd, however, is that photographs taken of Lt. Day leaving the TSBD show a clip projecting from the magazine, a clip that was certainly not there earlier.
Something else to consider with regard to the Mannlicher Carcano clip is the fact that it is designed to hold 6 bullets. Since only 3 spent shells and 1 live round were apparently found at the scene it is logical to assume that if there was a clip it only contained 4 bullets at the time the shooting occurred. This is problematic because when a Carcano clip is underloaded the bullets have a strong tendency to fall over making it impossible to load and shoot them properly.
After leaving the TSBD Lt. Day said that he took the rifle to the Identification Bureau where it was locked in an evidence box until further checking could be done. This was around 2pm on the afternoon of the assassination. At approximately 2.45pm Lt. Day returned to the TSBD to continue the investigation with other crime scene officers. It was not until about 7pm that evening that Lt. Day returned to the Identification Bureau to begin checking the rifle for fingerprints. It seems a little strange to me that the single most important piece of evidence should be locked away untouched for 5 hours but Lt. Day claims that is what he did.
The time factor involved in investigating the rifle are quite important because, by any standard, the FBI were able to trace it to A. Hidell a.k.a. Lee Harvey Oswald extremely quickly. Quicker than they were able to settle on the type of rifle it was apparently.
If Lt. Day is to be believed, the FBI trace on the rifle could have begun as early as 2pm because he claims that he was driven back to the Identification Bureau by FBI Special Agent Odum and that Odum called in the description of the rifle. There should be a record of this action on the part of SA Odum to which we can refer but it doesn't exist. This is not the only Carcano-related evidence that is missing. Lt. Day claimed that upon his return to the Identification Bureau he dictated a report to his secretary that included an accurate description of the Carcano, not a Mauser. This report is missing. Also missing are FBI documents in which Seymour Weitzman and DPD detective C. Dhority provided descriptions of the rifle.
TRACING THE CARCANO
Despite the denials of Lt. Day, Captain Fritz and others one thing emerges from the testimony and contemporaneous documentation of the events if November 22nd 1963, no one, but no-one, ever identified the rifle as a Mannlicher Carcano.
" No, sir; I knew...you can read on the rifle what it was and you could also see on the cartridge what caliber it was".
Lt. Day said:
"On the gun itself, "6.5 caliber C2766, 1940 made in Italy." That was what was on the gun."
In the face of the reported facts it is strange that the FBI were able to trace this "unidentified" rifle to Klein's and thence to Oswald by the early hours of Saturday morning. Personally I do not see any reliable evidence to suggest that the FBI began tracing this rifle before late Saturday night when Lt. Day was ordered to hand the weapon over to FBI Special Agent Vincent Drain. If this is the case then the ability of the FBI to trace the rifle to Klein's almost instantaneously is highly suspicious.
People will argue that Lt. Day provided Special Agent Odum with sufficient information to start a trace on the weapon during the drive back to the Identification Bureau around 2pm on the day of the assassination but where is the evidence? As mentioned earlier there is no record of Special Agent Odum calling in a description of the weapon, there is no written report by Odum detailing his actions that afternoon. All we have is the word of Lt. Day, an experienced officer who did not exactly cover himself in glory by his actions, who proved evasive to the point of deception in important areas of his testimony before the WC and who, in common with many others, had a propensity for failing to follow procedure and lost documentation.
There should be no room for speculation about how the rifle was traced. There should exist a detailed public record of how the rifle was identified and how it was traced. All that does exist is an account, in the most general of terms, with no detail of how the trail led to Klein's.
Jim Bishop. in his book "The Day Kennedy Was Shot" provides the following narrative:
The New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had traced a big shipment of cheap Italian military rifles to Crescent Firearms, which sold in lots to mail order distributors. Early in the evening, the Dallas office had notified Washington that the rifle found on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository building was a 6.5-caliber Mannlicher-Carcano with the serial number C2766 stamped on it. Alan Belmont had passed this information on to all field offices. The New York group, contacting one gun house after another, found that Crescent had them.
Unfortunately Jim Bishop's book is another of those apparently scholarly works on the assassination that has no sources. That aside, if his account is right then the FBI did not get a description of this rifle until early evening. What Bishop's account does not say is whether this description was passed on in the early evening Dallas Time or Washington time. Either way, it does appear that if Special Agent Odum was the source of the description and did indeed "Call it in" then it took at least 2 hours, and perhaps as long as 4 hours, for that information to be sent to Washington. That degree of time lag seems unreasonable and for that reason I have doubts that Special Agent Odum was the source of the description the FBI used to trace the rifle. I also have doubts that anyone had identified the rifle as a Mannlicher Carcano by early evening. At best the FBI had a description of a 6.5 mm rifle "Made in Italy" to go on.
Supposing that Odum was not the source of the description that started the trace on the rifle then we know that the rifle remained locked in an evidence box until around 7pm when Lt. Day returned to the Identification Bureau to begin checking for fingerprints. It seems more reasonable to conclude that Jim Bishop's reference to "early evening" referred to around 7pm Dallas time when Lt. Day returned to the Identification Bureau.
Jim Bishop continues:
The company had cooperated in keeping the office open as the FBI agents watched employees run through the files. The records were not overly precise, but they indicated that C2766 had been sent to Klein's Sporting Goods, Incorporated, at 4540 West Madison Street, Chicago. The Chicago office of the FBI was alerted and, late at night, found William J. Waldeman, Vice-President of Klein's, at his home, 335, Central Avenue, in Wilmette, Illinois.
Jim Bishop goes on to explain how Mr Waldeman agreed to accompany the FBI to his office, how he needed to call in staff to help search the records, how they ransacked the file cabinets. This, it seems, was no quick rummage through the filing cabinet. Klein's, as their turnover indicates, was a company involved in selling a large and diverse range of goods in considerable numbers. It was already after midnight when an invoice from Crescent Firearms was found detailing a shipment of Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 mm Carbines. These were packed 100 to a box and shipped by the North Penn company.
This prompted a search through the microfilm records at Klein's. Jim Bishop's footnotes reveal:
At 4am. Dallas time, the order for C2766 was located. It was a coupon clipped from the "American Rifleman" of February 1963. It was ordered by A. Hidell, PO Box 2915, Dallas Texas.
This is largely the way in which C2766 was allegedly traced to Klein's and thence to Oswald a.k.a. Hidell. There are variations to be found in the WR and in the assassination literature but all saying essentially the same thing. What they all have in common is an absence of the definitive time when the rifle was identified as a Mannlicher Carcano and a meaningful timeline showing the sequence of events from the time the rifle was allegedly identified until it was traced to Oswald.
I have strong reservations about how the rifle was supposedly traced in such a short time but cannot prove anything untoward. All I can observe is that, if the FBI did indeed trace this rifle in the time available and in the manner suggested, it was perhaps the only decent, solid example of police work of the entire investigation.
We have traced the life of C2766 from the time it was manufactured through to the WC investigation and a sometimes tortuous journey it has been. During the 2 years I have been researching this article one question keeps cropping up in my mind, is the Mannlicher-Carcano serial number C2766 manufactured at Terni in 1940 the same rifle that was found in the TSBD and is now in the National Archives? At times I have even wondered if C2766 was manufactured in 1940 at all.
MAUSER OR CARCANO?
I am as certain as it is possible to be that Boone and Weitzman did not find a Mauser rifle in the TSBD. Apart from the admission of Weitzman and statements attributed to others present at the time, there is no evidence to support the Mauser story. Film and photographic records clearly shows a Carcano, not a Mauser. Some people have claimed that a uniformed police officer was seen bringing a rifle down from the roof of the TSBD. The weapon in question was clearly a police-issue shotgun not a rifle.
Ruling out a Mauser does not automatically mean that the rifle actually found was Mannlicher Carcano C2766. Too many question marks hang over the conduct of many of the officers involved in searching the TSBD in the aftermath of the assassination. Evidence handling procedure was at best poor and at worst corrupt. There is no doubt in my mind that certain parties were guilty of evasion, equivocation and downright dishonesty in their testimony before the WC. Crucial documentary evidence simply vanished presumably because it was thought to contain inconvenient information.
Although the Mauser identification may have been made in genuine error, it is difficult to avoid speculating that it persisted much longer than it had to and became a convenient means to confuse the issue of identification for a period of time after the rifle was found. Describing the rifle as a Mauser bolt-action would have had the effect of precluding Carcano specific questions but allow later deniability on the grounds that a Carcano bears a superficial resemblance to a Mauser.
In reaching this conclusion I am mindful of the fact that, at no time during the day of the assassination, despite the incessant media clamour for information, did one single piece of information about the Carcano emerge. There was no mention anywhere that the rifle was 6.5 mm, no mention that it bore the legend "Made in Italy". Nothing emerged from the DPD that could later be uniquely associated with C2766.
The action of Lt. Day in taking the Carcano back to the Identification Bureau and locking it up for 5 hours strikes me as suspicious too. No other item of evidence was more important than the suspected murder weapon. This weapon would hold out the expectation of fingerprints, Ballistics evidence and perhaps be traceable to its owner. It beggars belief that the investigation of the evidence the weapon potentially had to offer was ignored for 5 hours. In the circumstances, it seems much more likely that the weapon was locked away for the same reason it was misidentified as a Mauser...to preclude Carcano-specific questions in the hours immediately after it was found.
Reading the testimonies provided by Fritz, Boone, Day and Weitzman there are obvious signs of prevarication.
Ludicrous though it may now seem, Weitzman was never shown the Carcano during his appearance before the WC and asked to confirm this was the rifle he had found and misidentified. The Carcano was there, it would have been a simple matter to hand the weapon to him and ask "Is this the rifle you found that day in the TSBD?". Easy to ask but no-one did. Co-finder Eugene Boone was shown the rifle but he could not confirm it was the same rifle. Even lawyer-cum-assassination writer Mark Lane got to handle the rifle at the WC hearings but not Seymour Weitzman.
Proponents of the lone assassin theory dismiss speculation over the rifle as groundless but there is much that needs explaining. The facts as we know them are that the true identity of the rifle did not emerge for some time after it was found. The officers who found the rifle and those, like Fritz, who joined them soon after left a lot to be desired in their professional conduct that day.
SO IT WAS A CARCANO?
There is little doubt in my mind that a Carcano was found by Boone and Weitzman but I am not convinced it was same Carcano later introduced into evidence. A closer look at the post-assassination affidavit and WC testimony of Seymour Weitzman provide valuable clues. Weitzman's affidavit is not that detailed with regard to the rifle found. He simply describes it as:
"a 7.65 mm Mauser bolt action with 4/18 scope with a thick brownish-black sling on it."
It seems clear that the rifle was discussed by Weitzman, Boone, Day and Fritz although the latter two deny it.
I do not subscribe to the popular view that Weitzman was a firearms expert but it is likely that he knew more than most. A Mannlicher Carcano is sufficiently similar to a Mauser in appearance to be mistaken for one without a really close examination. It has to be understood that there was no such thing as a unique Mauser. Mauser rifles were made under license by a number of countries. These included Belgium, Argentina, Turkey and Sweden. It would be unreasonable to suppose that Wietzman would be familiar with the many incarnations of this popular rifle. It would, however, be perfectly reasonable to suppose that Weitzman would recognize a Mauser-type bolt-action rifle, which is precisely what a Carcano is.
I think that Weiztman genuinely thought the rifle he had found was a Mauser. I think he looked at the rifle and reported what he saw. He saw a bolt-action rifle with a brownish-black sling, 4/18 scope and apparently marked 7.65mm.
By the time Weitzman came to testify before the WC his identification of the rifle was already an issue. It became important to dismiss any lingering doubt that Mannlicher Carcano C2766 was the weapon he found. Seymour Weitzman did what most people would do when faced with the situation he found himself in...he embellished. First he sought to minimize any responsibility for his "mistaken" identification by claiming he only saw the rifle at a glance. He could hardly go on to tell the WC that he knew all along that the rifle was a Carcano so he did the next best thing, he provided a highly detailed physical description of the rifle. The description he provided was sufficiently applicable to C2766 that it served to offset his earlier "mistaken" identification.
Three things stand out in Weitzman's testimony:
1) he gave a much more detailed description of the rifle than he could have gleaned "at a glance",
2) he provided largely new descriptive information that did not appear in his affidavit and
3) he was never shown the rifle he was apparently identifying for the purpose of confirmation.
I believe that the detailed description Weitzman provided for the WC was "given" to him sometime after the affidavit and that the report he provided for the FBI was deliberately destroyed because it was incompatible with C2766.
The rifle forever associated with the assassination is a 6.5mm Carcano serial number C2766. I suspect, the rifle Seymour Weitzman and Eugene Boone found was actually a 7.35mm Carcano. It is a fact that 7.65mm Mausers were not exactly common in the USA in 1963. Unless Seymour Weitzman had seen something on the rifle that led him to designate it 7.65mm, it is much more likely he would have called it a 7.62mm.
The confusion that surrounds the rifle is virtually impenetrable. If we take Eugene Boone's testimony at face value then it was Fritz who identified the rifle as a Mauser. Fritz would later protest that he had no knowledge of Mausers but coming from a 40-year veteran with 31 years experience as a homicide officer I cannot believe he had never come across Mauser rifles before.
Even the time the rifle was found is open to interpretation.
It has always been thought that Boone and Weitzman found the Carcano at approximately 1.22pm on the day of the assassination. This is the time Boone claimed to have noted from his watch. In 1971, former Dallas Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig produced a manuscript entitled "When They Kill A President"which was never formally published. Craig's manuscript contained an account of the discovery of C2766:
Lt. Day inspected the rifle briefly then handed it to Capt. Fritz, who had a puzzled look on his face. Seymour Weitzman a deputy constable was standing beside me at the time. Weitzman was an expert on weapons, being in the sporting goods business for many years he was familiar with all domestic and foreign weapons. Capt. Fritz asked if anyone knew what kind of rifle it was. Weitzman asked to see it. After a close examination (much longer than Fritz or Day's examination) Weitzman declared that it was a 7.65 German Mauser, Fritz agreed with him....At that exact moment an unknown Dallas police officer came running up the stairs and advised Capt. Fritz that a Dallas policeman had been shot in the Oak Cliff area. I instinctively looked at my watch and the time was 1:06 P.M.
If Roger Craig's account is true then it suggests a rifle was found as much 16 minutes earlier than the official record claims. It is known that the first media account that a rifle had been found was broadcast by WBAP-TV at 1.23 PM, one minute after the time the rifle was officially discovered. This report seems to have been broadcast far too early to be consistent with the official time the rifle was allegedly found.
Similar question marks exist over the exact time Luke Mooney found the empty shells by the 6th floor window of the TSBD. The Warren Report states that Mooney found the shells at 1.12 PM and claims this timing is supported by Mooney's testimony. Mooney actually testified that he found the shells no later than 1pm.
Captain Fritz said he arrived at the TSBD around 12.58 PM and that it wasn't long before the shells were found.
Discussion of the shells is beyond the scope of this work but the same confusion that surrounds the rifle is apparent in the story of the shells. There is evidence that Captain Fritz was responsible for moving the shells prior to them being photographed. It is a fact that he put the unused bullet ejected from the rifle into his pocket and retained it for several days such that it only found its way onto the Property Clerk's receipt as an afterthought. As mentioned earlier, the clip essential to firing a Carcano in the manner proscribed and from which these shells would have been fed never did appear on the property sheet.
PROBLEMS WITH THE SERIAL NUMBER
It is impossible to state with any certainty that C2766 is a serial number uniquely associated with the Carcano alleged to have belonged to Oswald. Unlike a new rifle, the true history of C2766 is not necessarily known. It is entirely possible that C2766 is a hybrid rifle repaired and renovated using parts cannibalized from other Carcanos. Some Carcanos were remodeled and carry 2 serial numbers, the original serial number and a new number added after remodeling. It is also the case that Carcanos were made in a number of factories where the prefix "C" was used for serial numbers. (44)
There is some evidence, though it may be moot, that Klein's sold Carcano rifles and carbines with a C2766 serial number and that Dr Lattimer bought one. (45)
In 1964, J. Edgar Hoover wrote a memo in which he conceded that the serial number C2766 was not necessarily unique. It is known that the FBI did trace a Carcano rifle serial number 2766(prefix unknown) to an unidentified Canadian firearms supplier. The WR Chapter IV quotes the rifle serial number as CS-2766. This might be a typographical error but the prefix "CS" is a valid Carcano serial number.
Serial number duplication is not sufficient by itself to render the WR claims and conclusions unsafe but there are other matters already hinted at that do seriously undermine the official story.
If C2766 is the same rifle the FBI claim they traced to Klein's Sporting Goods of Chicago the fact that it bears any serial number at all is strange. Henry S. Bloomgarden faced this dilemma when he tried to document the history of C2766. Bloomgarden's book purports to be a history of C2766 but it is much more a political statement in support of the anti-gun lobby. In order to make his political statement he had to show C2766 was the same rifle imported by Crescent Firearms, sold on to Klein's and used to assassinate JFK. The fact that Riva was required to remove serial numbers from the rifles he renovated became a problem. To overcome this problem Bloomgarden simply claimed that of all the shipments Riva made, only those in the shipment containing C2766 had their serial numbers intact. (46)
It should not escape attention either that there were literally thousands of Carcanos circulating in the USA with no serial number. A simple enough matter to convert a Carcano without a number to any serial number desired.
PROBLEMS WITH THE CARCANO
The Carcano Oswald allegedly ordered from Klein's is not the same as the one entered into evidence by the WC. A coupon clipped from the February 1, 1963 issue, supposedly used by Oswald to order the rifle, shows a Carcano, order number, C20-T750, measuring 36 inches. The rifle entered into evidence, as CE 139 is 39 inches long. Interestingly, the Klein's advert entered into evidence by the WC is for a Carcano of the right length but comes from the November 1963 issue of Field and Stream. This advert was offered to the WC by the ubiquitous Postal Inspector Harry Holmes! (47)
This might be as good a time as any to mention that Harry D. Holmes was more than just a Postal Inspector. In addition to his postal duties, Holmes was an FBI informant. He appeared to have an uncanny knack of being in crucial places at crucial times during the day of the assassination and on subsequent days. Odd though it may seem, he also took part in the interrogation of Oswald at the DPD. (48)
There is a lesser-known problem relating to the Carcano that I believe to be significant. At the time it was recovered C2766 was said to be in generally poor condition with the firing pin in particularly precarious condition due to rusting. It was fitted with a scope that had to be fitted with shims to be used accurately. The problem here is that, according to the evidence, C2766 had only been in Oswald's possession for 8 months. It is claimed that during most of this 8 months the rifle was wrapped in an old rug. How exactly does a reconditioned rifle with a new, professionally fitted scope, get into such a poor condition in just 8 months? (49)
In contrast to all this evidence suggesting that Oswald had purchased C2766 there was a total absence of any evidence that he ever bought the Western Cartridge Company ammunition that was allegedly used in the assassination. Only 4 bullets were apparently found at the scene, 3 in the form of spent shells and 1 live round in the rifle. Despite thorough searches of property and premises associated with Oswald no ammunition was ever found.
This particular ammunition was part of a consignment of 4 million rounds made by the Western Cartridge Company of Alton, Illinois and shipped it 4 lots numbered 6000 - 6003. The ammunition was apparently purchased by the US Army to supply allies but in reality it was purchased by the CIA for use in the weapon provided to the Cuban rebels being trained for the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion. Part of the consignment found its way on to the surplus market and was available in Dallas. The owners of gun shops stocking this ammunition were questioned but did not recall selling any to Oswald or anyone resembling Oswald.
In fact, investigators were unable to find any of the normal paraphernalia one might expect to find in the possession of a gun owner such as lubricating oil and cleaning kit.
This raises another dilemma. The ammunition allegedly found at the TSBD had marks consistent with it having been chambered more than once. The implication of these marks is that the shells may well have been fired previously, the empty shells collected and then reloaded. Another possibility is that the shells were fired in another rifle and then loaded into C2766 to produce forensic evidence. (50)
Needless to say, Oswald did not appear to own any of the equipment necessary to reload ammunition. In Dallas 2 gun shops stocked Western Cartridge Company 6.5mm ammunition but only one of these reloaded bullets with the same type of hunting load used in the suspect bullets. He was John Masen, a right-wing extremist and member of the notorious Minutemen organization and a man with a history of illegal arms dealing. Perhaps the most significant thing about Masen is that he bore an uncanny physical resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald. (51)
PROBLEMS WITH THE PAPER TRAIL
The speed with which the FBI were able to trace C2766 to Klein's of Chicago was breathtaking. There were many places that particular type of rifle could have been sourced. The WR contains a version of how the rifle was traced to Hidell a.k.a. Oswald but it lacks the ring of truth:
Shortly after the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building, agents of the FBI learned from retail outlets in Dallas that Crescent Firearms, Inc., of New York City, was a distributor of surplus Italian 6.5-millimeter military rifles. During the evening of November 22, 1963, a review of the records of Crescent Firearms revealed that the firm had shipped an Italian carbine, serial number C2766, to Klein's Sporting Goods Co., of Chicago, Ill. After searching their records from 10 PM. to 4 am. the officers of Klein's discovered that a rifle bearing serial number C2766 had been shipped to one A. Hidell, Post Office Box 2915, Dallas, Tex., on March 20, 1963. (52)
Although the record of how the rifle was traced leaves much to be desired it is clear that the FBI did not learn "shortly after" the assassination that Crescent Firearms Inc of New York was a distributor. Contact was not made direct with the FBI in New York as would be expected if this were true and the call that did alert the FBI Washington Office did not come until early evening. The FBI Washington office circulated details of the rifle to all FBI offices and apparently it was old-fashioned legwork by the FBI in New York that produced the link to Crescent. (53)
Although the official version of events states that Fred Rupp dispatched the Carcano to Klein's in response to their order number 1243 on January 24th 1963, Louis Feldsott of Crescent told the FBI that the rifle was sold to Klein's on June 8th 1962. (54) In June 1962, C2766 was supposedly still impounded by New Jersey customs.
Klein's Vice-President William Waldman claimed that Oswald's money order for $21.45, dated March 12th, was received on March 13, 1963 and was banked that day as part of a deposit amounting to $13,827.98 and this was supported by a deposit slip entered into evidence. The date on the bank slip showing a deposit of $13,827.98 is 15th February 1963. (55)
One of the things that stood out in the paperwork from Klein's was that it was comprehensive to the point of overkill. Strange then that these anomalies should arise. (56)
The order coupon produced by Klein's purports to written in Oswald's hand. Below I indicate why I feel the backyard photographs are fakes and the same general comments apply to the handwriting evidence, which can easily be faked.
PROBLEMS WITH THE DALLAS POST BOX
Without question the problem of Oswald's Dallas post box deals a fatal blow to the Carcano chain of evidence. At the same time, the destruction of the crucial Part 3 of Oswald's application form points to criminal evidence tampering. The destruction of this key piece of evidence points to a deliberate attempt to sustain a false chain of evidence but this may not be the only interpretation. If, as Postal Inspector Harry Holmes and the FBI report claim, A. Hidell was not authorized to collect mail at Oswald's box the implication is that only Oswald could collect mail. If Part 3 of Oswald's form did not contain the names of anyone authorized to collect mail then why destroy it? The existence of a blank Part 3 is in no way injurious to the case made against Oswald by the WC. I strongly believe that there was another person(s) authorized to collect mail at Oswald's box and the document was destroyed to conceal this information. There was at least one Dallas FBI agent whose relationship with Oswald was never fully explained and who had a propensity for destroying evidence. He is only one of a number of individuals whose name might conceivably have appeared on Part 3 of Oswald's application for a post box.
The FBI were responsible for destroying the note left by Oswald at Dallas FBI headquarters for Special Agent Hosty and were at least party to the knowledge that Part 3 of Oswald's application form had been deliberately destroyed in the post assassination period. Military intelligence operatives are also known to have destroyed their Hidell file...routinely so they claimed. (57)
Agencies that are capable of destroying evidence that does not suit its purpose are equally capable of creating false evidence that does. The conveniently incriminating backyard photographs of Oswald posing with a rifle he could not have collected from the Dallas Post Office are a case in point. In the absence of any reliable evidence that Oswald could have taken delivery of the Carcano package the backyard photographs cannot be genuine. It is a fact that agencies known to have destroyed vital evidence had the technical expertise to produce impeccable fake photographs. It is known that DPD had a ghost mask image of Oswald posing in the backyard. Such a mask represents a stage in the production of a fake photograph. No satisfactory explanation of when, why and who created this image has ever been forthcoming. (58)
Much of the evidence relating to C2766 is less clear-cut than the WR tried to claim. There are many problem areas that should have been investigated in greater detail to resolve issues raised. For the most part these issues were simply ignored. The chain of evidence that places C2766 in the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald on the 6th floor of the TSBD at 12.30PM on November 22nd 1963 is fatally flawed and evidently contrived. There is no reliable evidence to show that C-2766 is the same rifle Luciano Riva restored, no reliable evidence that C2766 was ordered and sold to Klein's in the manner and on the dates claimed. There is no reliable evidence that the money order Oswald was alleged to have used to purchase the rifle arrived at Klein's on the date and in the manner claimed.
It cannot be satisfactorily established that Oswald could have taken delivery of the Carcano in the way Harry Holmes alleged.
On the day of the assassination no one saw Oswald take any package into the TSBD that could reasonably have contained C2766. Vigorous attempts were made to induce Buell Wesley Frazier, Linne May Randle and Jack Dougherty to say otherwise but these attempts failed. There is strong evidence that Oswald could not have fabricated the bag alleged to have been used to carry C2766 into the TSBD and a complete absence of photographic evidence that the bag ever existed.
The testimonial evidence raises more questions than it ever answers. The conduct and professionalism of the DPD officers involved in the finding and handling of C2766 was dire. The testimonies of Fritz, Day and Weitzman in particular are replete with prevarication and equivocation. In taking the testimony of these officers the WC counsel had ample opportunity to fully air all the issues raised and to clarify the ambiguities. In failing to do so, the WC counsel were culpable.
Perhaps most damning of all is the destruction/loss of evidence and the fabrication of new evidence. It must have been apparent to the WC that something was wrong. Why, for example, rely upon Postal Inspector Harry D. Holmes to explain the procedure for handling post box application forms when it would have been a simple matter to obtain the official procedure manual? Why accept the evidence provided by Holmes and the FBI that Hidell was not authorized to collect mail from P.O. Box 2915 when they could not have known this unless they had seen Part 3 of the form supposedly destroyed?
So many years after the assassination it has still been possible to trace the history of C2766 and the evidence tendered in support of it being the assassination weapon. It is not possible to state that Lee Harvey Oswald was not involved in some way with the assassination but I am satisfied that the evidence linking him to C2766 is not legitimate.