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Those Tricky Backyard Photographs

<Photo: Three Backyard Photographs of 3/31/1963, and the alleged photographer, Marina Oswald>

This blog post is about the outstanding, urgent issue of the famous Backyard Photographs, i.e., perhaps five different photographs that Marina Oswald allegedly took of Lee Harvey Oswald (hereafter LHO) on Sunday, March 31, 1963 (ten days before his attempted assassination of the resigned General Walker). In these photographs, LHO stood in his backyard dressed all in black, wearing his pistol at his hip, and holding his rifle in one hand and two communist newspapers in the other.

This photo was published on the cover of LIFE Magazine on February 21, 1964, and it basically convicted LHO of the JFK Assassination in the public mind.

The urgent issue is that even though we can count up to five different Backyard Photograph versions, Marina Oswald told the FBI that she remembered taking only *one* snapshot. She snapped that shutter button only once, she insisted! Let’s begin by quoting the FBI on this:

“On February 27, 1964, MARINA OSWALD advised SAs WALLACE R. HEITMAN and ANATOLE A. BOGUSLAV that she had originally taken the photograph of LEE HARVEY OSWALD with a rifle and pistol which had recently appeared on the front page of LIFE Magazine. She stated she took this picture with the American-made Imperial Reflex capers owned by OSWALD and that the picture was taken in the yard at their Neely Street address in Dallas, Texas. She stated she could only recall that she snapped the camera one time but she stated she ‘must have’ snapped it twice because there were two different poses of OSWALD with the rifle.” (Warren Commission Exhibit 1788; CE-1788)

After Marina told the FBI that she had taken only one picture, the FBI produced two completely different poses of LHO in his backyard, namely, CE-133A and CE-133B. So, they refused to accept the testimony of Marina’s memory – she ‘had to be’ mistaken, so they convinced her that she took two Backyard Photographs without knowing it.

While it is clearly possible that an amateur with a camera could accidentally press the snapshot button twice while trying to press it only once -- the result would have been two identical or near-identical photos. It’s absurd to think that anybody could take two distinct photographs of two different bodily poses and think that they only took one photo.

In any case, the FBI and Warren Commission could not under any circumstances allow Marina’s original testimony to stand – because if she took only one photo then where did this other one come from? This question has spawned various conspiracy theories, usually blaming the CIA or some other government agency of using sophisticated photographic equipment to frame LHO for the JFK Assassination.

We reject this knee-jerk reaction; as there are plenty of other plausible explanations.

In any case, if Marina only took one Backyard Photograph, then somebody else would have to be involved to account for any others. Yet any story that anybody else was involved in taking the Backyard Photographs could suggest that LHO had accomplices in his project to kill the resigned General Walker on April 10, 1963.

But if LHO had accomplices in the Walker shooting, then logically LHO could have had accomplices in the JFK Assassination; and that story was flatly disallowed by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and US Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, who wrote on Nov. 25, 1963, that “the public must be satisfied that Oswald...did not have confederates who are still at large.”

But how could they be certain of that, before any trial, on the same day that LHO had been shot dead by Jack Ruby? Well, it was during the Cold War, and the FBI declared it was a matter of National Security; so perhaps it was political.

To complicate matters further, the WC also reported LHO’s mother as saying that Marina showed her one of the Backyard Photographs on the night of the JFK assassination. But this Backyard Photograph had a completely different pose than CE-133A and CE-133B. This one allegedly showed LHO holding his rifle and his newspapers high above his head! Marguerite advised Marina to burn that photo, so she did. That pose is now lost, so the WC dismissed its existence as inconvenient hearsay.

The FBI and WC had convinced Marina that -- in her ignorance of cameras -- she must have taken more than one pose of LHO without realizing it. As weak as that sounds, it was finally accepted by all parties, and the Warren Report was published saying that.

HOWEVER – everything changed in 1977 when Marina Oswald (now Marina Oswald Porter) was subpoenaed by the HSCA (House Select Committee on Assassinations) to testify again. Strangely, a completely different, third pose of LHO’s Backyard Photograph emerged in 1976 from Geneva White, a former hostess at Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club, and the wife of Dallas police officer Roscoe White. It was eventually labeled, CE-133C.

The HSCA called Marina to testify, and they asked her, in effect:

“Marina, you told the WC that you remembered taking only one Backyard Photograph, and yet they showed you that they had two different poses and convinced you that you ‘must have’ taken two without knowing it. Recently, however, we discovered a third pose of LHO. So, isn’t it just as possible that you photographed three different Backyard Photograph poses without knowing it?”

Marina would have felt befuddled by all this. How could she deny the material evidence that the HSCA dangled before her eyes? She had remembered pushing that snapshot button only once!

Could an old camera be so magical that it could automatically take three distinct snapshots of three different poses of a person when the camera operator snapped only one? Yet here was the material evidence! How could anybody deny it?

Marina’s feeble response to the HSCA was that although she strictly and truly didn’t remember it, she ‘must have’ taken three snapshots of three different poses – without knowing it! It was a feeble answer – because it’s logically absurd that anybody could take three distinct photographs of three different bodily poses and think that they only took one photo!

Then the HSCA obtained yet another Backyard Photograph, this one handed over in 1977 by George DeMohrenschildt who was LHO’s Dallas friend in 1963. George had been subpoenaed by the HSCA to testify again, and he began by handing this photo over. George’s copy of the Backyard Photograph had the same pose as CE-133A; however, it had a significantly larger background! But how? Could this be called a fourth Backyard Photograph?

Also, on the back of this new Backyard Photograph was an inscription. Somebody wrote in Russian, “Hunter of fascists, ha-ha!” Marina denied that the handwriting was hers. In any case, this peculiar message -- written only days before LHO’s Walker shooting – suggested some relationship between this photo print with LHO’s attempted murder of General Walker on April 10, 1963 – and evidently implicating George DeMohrenschildt!

I said that there are other plausible explanations, and here’s mine: LHO knew all these photos were fakes, as he allegedly declared, because he himself had made those fakes earlier that year at his job in the upscale printing company, Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall – a job he allegedly got with the help of George DeMohrenschildt.

It seems reasonable to me – as researchers have proposed for over a half-century now – LHO’s face was cut from the first photo and pasted onto somebody else’s body. Note that the chin is not LHO’s. The neck and shoulders are not LHO’s, and besides, LHO never owned an all-black outfit.

But who would voluntarily pose as that body-double? Photographer Jack White told the HSCA that Roscoe White was likely the body-double. Roscoe had that flat chin, that thicker neck and broader shoulders. But why would LHO bother to make several Backyard Photographs on the eve of his attempted assassination of the resigned General Walker? Most likely because LHO was basically an immature child living in his “double-agent” fantasy world, and hoped to impress his wealthy new friend, George DeMohrenschildt.

Why did Oswald try to kill General Walker only days later? I propose that it was in order to please George DeMohrenschildt, who despised and hated General Walker, as he himself averred in his WC testimony and in his pre-suicide HSCA booklet, “I’m a Patsy! I’m a Patsy!

In summary, Marina Oswald told the truth under oath – including this time, when she swore that she took only one Backyard Photograph. All the others must be explained somehow – and the most plausible explanation is that LHO had at least one accomplice.

No, it wasn't the CIA or any government agency. But the Walker shooting – and LHO's immaturity – provide solid clues to understand the true dynamics of the JFK Assassination. I say it was because of General Walker's discovery only four days later that LHO was the main suspect in that April shooting -- that set all the wheels in motion for the JFK Assassination in Dallas six months later.

Best regards,

--Paul Trejo

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