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Oswald's language abilities and evidence related to his Soviet soujourn (1959-63)


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Mathias Baumann writes:

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what do we know about the "other US military types who defected"? Were they given Russian tests too?

Actually, I was wrong. One of the defectors was not a native speaker of English, but I'll come back to that later.

There doesn't seem to be much detailed information on many of the other defectors apart from three mentioned in HSCA Report, Appendix 12, pp.435-473 (https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=84#relPageId=439) :

- Bruce Frederick Davis (p.441) had spent five years in the US Army before defecting, first to East Germany and then to the Soviet Union, in 1960.

- Vladimir Sloboda (p.448), like Davis, had been in the US Army in West Germany before defecting first to East Germany and then to the Soviet Union in 1960. Sloboda had been born in Ukraine but ended up in the USA after the war as a displaced person, and became a US citizen. His native language was almost certainly Ukrainian rather than Russian, since he was placed in Lviv in the Ukrainian-speaking western part of Ukraine after his defection. The Russian-speaking minority was mostly confined to the eastern part of the country and to Crimea.

- Robert Webster (p.449) had been in the US Navy but was a civilian at the time of his defection, which coincided almost exactly with that of Oswald.

I've seen references to seven other men with military-type backgrounds who defected in the 18 months or so before 1960: one more from the Navy, four more from the Army, and two from the National Security Agency. I'm not aware that any of them were given Russian tests.

In short, probably the only military-type defector to have been given Russian tests was the one and only Lee Harvey Oswald. As you point out, his performance in the tests was hardly consistent with that of someone whose native language was Russian. Oswald was clearly a native speaker of English.

Among all the military defectors, Vladimir Sloboda was the ideal candidate for the role given by the 'Harvey and Lee' believers to the imaginary Oswald doppelganger, since Sloboda was the only defector who was a native member of the language community in which he lived after his defection.

Edited by Jeremy Bojczuk
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Tracy Parnell writes:

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His ability was in the eye of the beholder. To the Marines, most of whom presumably had no Russian speaking ability at all, he seemed to be reading and speaking Russian.

Someone with no knowledge of Russian would of course be liable to overestimate Oswald's competence.

Whatever level they thought his Russian had reached, Oswald's Marine buddies knew that he was teaching himself the language, as we can see from a quick glance at volume 8 of the Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits (https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=36) :

James Anthony Botelho (p.315): "It was common knowledge that Oswald had taught himself to speak Russian."

David Christie Murray (p.319): "When I knew him, he was studying Russian."

Henry J. Roussel (pp.320-1): "I remember that Oswald could speak a little Russian ... I knew of Oswald's study of the Russian language ... I am under the impression that prior to studying Russian ..."

Mack Osborne (pp.321-2): "Oswald was at that time studying Russian. He spent a great deal of his free time reading papers printed in Russian ... with the aid of a Russian-English dictionary. ... Because of the fact that he was studying Russian, fellow Marines sometimes jokingly accused him of being a Russian spy."

The notion that Oswald didn't teach himself Russian is obviously mistaken. The questions that need answering are:

- How much, if any, tuition did he receive while in the Marines, in addition to his self-teaching?

- If he was a native speaker of Russian, why was he teaching himself the language?

- If he was a native speaker of Russian, why was he using a Russian-English dictionary? To brush up on his English vocabulary?

- If he was a native speaker of Russian, what was he doing in a top-secret long-term doppelganger scheme? 

- If he was not a native speaker of Russian, what was he doing in a top-secret long-term doppelganger scheme?

Which leads me onto my next comment ...

Edited by Jeremy Bojczuk
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Jim Hargrove writes that Oswald

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was a U.S. spy who successfully worked in the Soviet Union understanding everything that was said about him but pretending he barely understood a word.

Leaving aside the question of whether or not that's true, what Jim has written is consistent with Oswald being either a native or a non-native speaker of Russian. Jim's earlier comment ("reasonably fluent in the Russian language") suggests that Jim thinks he was not a native speaker. James Norwood appears to think otherwise.

I'm unclear about the official 'Harvey and Lee' position on this, if there is one. Is Oswald's behaviour taken to imply that the defector was a native Russian speaker or not?

If, according to 'Harvey and Lee' doctrine, Oswald was a native Russian speaker, why was this necessary if all he had to do was understand what was being said around him?

If, according to 'Harvey and Lee' doctrine, Oswald was not a native Russian speaker, what was the point of the long-term doppelganger scheme?

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7 hours ago, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

If, according to 'Harvey and Lee' doctrine, Oswald was not a native Russian speaker, what was the point of the long-term doppelganger scheme?

I don't think that the originators of the Oswald Project had a formal objective in the beginning.  Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner, James Angleton, Richard Helms, and others in the origination and planning of this scheme did not have a particular intelligence task in mind.  They just had a desire to strike at the new and upcoming enemy after WWII. 

Then when the boys were teenagers the knowledge that the U2 would eventually be shot down gave rise to the military experience and training of Harvey and Lee.  This occasioned a way to use the defector program in a meaningful way.  Use the U2 in some scheme to disrupt the Russians. 

Edited by John Butler
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Minor Oswald speaking observation that may have no significance but ...

"Axed" versus "Asked."

When a handcuffed and disheveled Oswald was allowed to face the press crowd in the frantic Dallas Police Department building for a couple of minutes in between being hustled from room to room late Friday night on 11,22,1963, he was presented with questions from them.

This is when Oswald was asked "did you kill the President?" Oswald responded " no. I have not been charged with that " ...

"the first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall ... AXED me that question."

I noticed this slight specific word pronunciation variance by Oswald a long time ago while first watching this video and 100 X since.

I whimsically thought to myself it sounded like a variance one hears some African Americans use in their pronunciation of the word..."ask."  Similar to variant ( or invariant?) pronunciations of other words like "pOlice."

Some cite these word variances as part of a specific African American linguistic speaking pattern called "Ebonics."

I do not in anyway mean to mention or frame this comparative variant word pronunciation observation in a racially biased way. 

Some may laugh at my even mentioning this obscure one word variance observation in Oswald's 11,22,1963 police department press interview but here is my point.

If Oswald's "axed" versus "asked" word pronunciation wasn't the result of hours of simple nervous, physical even frightened exhaustion resulting in a dry mouth garbling of that one word, I had a fleeting thought that it was due to Oswald being raised in the deep South ( especially Creole New Orleans) and hearing black ebonic American speech so often he unconsciously spoke the word in a way that he grew up hearing as often as the white English pronunciation.

I wondered if this could have shown that the Oswald we saw in the Friday night Dallas Police Department press appearance, the Oswald we heard loudly claim "I am just a patsy", was truly someone raised in this country from birth.

Surely a planted foreign born Oswald double would not be so fined tuned and prepped with such obscure regional and racial difference dialect subtleties in his English speaking.

Probably nothing more than my suspicious imagination running wild but then again,  nothing is too "out there" when it comes to the JFK assassination and the 10,000 conflicting even confounding stories and observations related to it, no?

 
AUTOPLAY
 
 
 

 

 

 

Edited by Joe Bauer
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On 8/15/2020 at 1:39 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

In short, probably the only military-type defector to have been given Russian tests was the one and only Lee Harvey Oswald. As you [Mathias Baumann] point out, his performance in the tests was hardly consistent with that of someone whose native language was Russian. Oswald was clearly a native speaker of English.

 

To come to that conclusion, Jeremy has to completely ignore this fact:

 

On 8/14/2020 at 6:14 PM, Jim Hargrove said:

Oh, good grief!

According to the 1964 testimony of Lt. Col. Allison G. Folsom, Lee Harvey Oswald answered four more questions right than wrong in a Russian language exam administered to him while he was still in the Marines.  The overall score was rated “poor,” which is the same rating he was given in a series of tests including English reading and vocabulary.

Before ever setting foot in the Soviet Union, Oswald scored as well in a Russian-language exam as he did in tests of his English.  Are we to believe this, as the Warren Commission told us,  was merely because he was “motivated” to teach himself Russian?

 

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On 8/15/2020 at 1:41 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

Whatever level they thought his Russian had reached, Oswald's Marine buddies knew that he was teaching himself the language, as we can see from a quick glance at volume 8 of the Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits (https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=36) :

James Anthony Botelho (p.315): "It was common knowledge that Oswald had taught himself to speak Russian."

David Christie Murray (p.319): "When I knew him, he was studying Russian."

Henry J. Roussel (pp.320-1): "I remember that Oswald could speak a little Russian ... I knew of Oswald's study of the Russian language ... I am under the impression that prior to studying Russian ..."

Mack Osborne (pp.321-2): "Oswald was at that time studying Russian. He spent a great deal of his free time reading papers printed in Russian ... with the aid of a Russian-English dictionary. ... Because of the fact that he was studying Russian, fellow Marines sometimes jokingly accused him of being a Russian spy."

The notion that Oswald didn't teach himself Russian is obviously mistaken.

 

If any of us had a bunk mate who spoke English without an accent, but was constantly seen reading Russian documents, we would naturally have thought that he was studying Russian. Some might even have thought he learned the language on his own.

And that is what the guys Jeromy quoted thought. Most of them thought that Oswald was studying Russian, and that is what I believe myself. I believe that Oswald learned to speak Russian as a child from his Russian-speaking family and peers, and when in the Marines was studying it so as to become more proficient with the language as an adult.

What Oswald's buddies said is consistent with the H&L theory.

 

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On 8/15/2020 at 1:41 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

The notion that Oswald didn't teach himself Russian is obviously mistaken. The questions that need answering are:

- How much, if any, tuition did he receive while in the Marines, in addition to his self-teaching?

- If he was a native speaker of Russian, why was he teaching himself the language?

 

To improve upon his Russian in preparation for his upcoming intel mission to Russia.

 

On 8/15/2020 at 1:41 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

- If he was a native speaker of Russian, why was he using a Russian-English dictionary? To brush up on his English vocabulary?

 

Geez, I'm a native speaker of English and even I need and English dictionary -- which is basically an English-to-English dictionary -- from time to time. I think we all do.

 

On 8/15/2020 at 1:41 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

- If he was a native speaker of Russian, what was he doing in a top-secret long-term doppelganger scheme?

 

Oswald was spying on Russia, pretending to speak a little Russian but actually knowing a lot. The role of the other Oswald was to provide an American upbringing in the records just in case the Russians investigated the background of the spy Oswald.

 

On 8/15/2020 at 1:41 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

 - If he was not a native speaker of Russian, what was he doing in a top-secret long-term doppelganger scheme?

 

John Armstrong's H&L theory states that Oswald was a native Russian speaker. Of course, you are welcome to  come up with your own " top-secret long-term doppelganger"theory where Oswald merely learned Russian on his own or with hidden schooling. Or any other theory that explains all the evidence.

 

On 8/15/2020 at 1:41 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

Which leads me onto my next comment ...

 

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11 minutes ago, Sandy Larsen said:

To improve upon his Russian in preparation for his upcoming intel mission to Russia.

Right - the upcoming intel mission is so secret that he just sits in his barracks openly reading Russian materials for all to see? Another masterstroke by the long-term doppelganger plotters!

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On 8/15/2020 at 1:47 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

Leaving aside the question of whether or not that's true, what Jim has written is consistent with Oswald being either a native or a non-native speaker of Russian. Jim's earlier comment ("reasonably fluent in the Russian language") suggests that Jim thinks he was not a native speaker. James Norwood appears to think otherwise.

 

I can assure you that Jim does believe Oswald was a native speaker of Russian. And I'm pretty sure that Jim believes Oswald's level of Russian was that of a boy and that he improved upon it by reading Russian documents while in the Marines.

 

On 8/15/2020 at 1:47 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

I'm unclear about the official 'Harvey and Lee' position on this, if there is one. Is Oswald's behaviour taken to imply that the defector was a native Russian speaker or not?

 

Armstrong's H&L theory, which Jim largely believes, states that the Oswald who was the native speaker of Russian was the same as the defector to Russia.

 

On 8/15/2020 at 1:47 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

If, according to 'Harvey and Lee' doctrine, Oswald was a native Russian speaker, why was this necessary if all he had to do was understand what was being said around him?

 

Because Harvey -- the spy Oswald -- was sent to Russia to spy. The better he could understand Russian, the greater his spying effort could be. And it was easier for a native speaker to learned advanced Russian than for most other young unmarried guys.

How else could the CIA find an advanced-Russian speaking American who didn't have a record of his taking Russian lessons?

 

On 8/15/2020 at 1:47 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

If, according to 'Harvey and Lee' doctrine, Oswald was not a native Russian speaker, what was the point of the long-term doppelganger scheme?

 

I don't know. That would be the subject of an alternate H&L theory.

 

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On 8/15/2020 at 8:50 AM, John Butler said:
On 8/15/2020 at 1:47 AM, Jeremy Bojczuk said:

If, according to 'Harvey and Lee' doctrine, Oswald was not a native Russian speaker, what was the point of the long-term doppelganger scheme?

I don't think that the originators of the Oswald Project had a formal objective in the beginning.  Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner, James Angleton, Richard Helms, and others in the origination and planning of this scheme did not have a particular intelligence task in mind.  They just had a desire to strike at the new and upcoming enemy after WWII. 

Then when the boys were teenagers the knowledge that the U2 would eventually be shot down gave rise to the military experience and training of Harvey and Lee.  This occasioned a way to use the defector program in a meaningful way.  Use the U2 in some scheme to disrupt the Russians. 

 

I don't believe that John Butler's two-Oswald theory is the same as John Armstrong's and Jim's.

 

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38 minutes ago, Jonathan Cohen said:
51 minutes ago, Sandy Larsen said:

To improve upon his Russian in preparation for his upcoming intel mission to Russia.

Right - the upcoming intel mission is so secret that he just sits in his barracks openly reading Russian materials for all to see? Another masterstroke by the long-term doppelganger plotters!

 

Oswald didn't take his bunk mates with him to Russia, nor was what they saw recorded on any official records, in particular any that could be seen by civilian eyes.

Besides, as far as I know, Oswald didn't hide from the Russians that he knew a little Russian.

 

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56 minutes ago, Jonathan Cohen said:

Right - the upcoming intel mission is so secret that he just sits in his barracks openly reading Russian materials for all to see? Another masterstroke by the long-term doppelganger plotters!

Agree.

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1 hour ago, Jonathan Cohen said:

Right - the upcoming intel mission is so secret that he just sits in his barracks openly reading Russian materials for all to see? Another masterstroke by the long-term doppelganger plotters

Strongly disagree.

This is what is known as creating a legend.  The role that Oswald was playing was in laying a trail of evidence that would make the "defection" seem plausible to the Soviets.

One individual who recognized the legend immediately was Oswald's fellow Marine in Santa Ana, James Botelho, who knew that his buddy was not a genuine Marxist.  In an interview given to Mark Lane, Botelho observed that

“Oswald was not a Communist or a Marxist.  If he was I would have taken violent action against him and so would many of the other Marines in the unit.”  

After Oswald’s defection was made public, Botelho told how an investigation at the Santa Ana Marine base was conducted purely for show:

“It was the most casual of investigations.  It was a cover-investigation so that it could be said there had been an investigation….Oswald, it was said, was the only Marine ever to defect from his country to another country, a Communist country, during peacetime.  That was a major event.  When the Marine Corps and American intelligence decided not to probe the reasons for the ‘defection,’ I knew then what I know now:  Oswald was on an assignment in Russia for American intelligence.”

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