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Captain Block on Oswald in the Marines

Block, who retired from the Marines in 1966 and now owns an insurance agency in Garden Grove, said the FBI interviewed him three days after President Kennedy’s assassination but that he hasn’t been interviewed since. He said he has a clear memory of Oswald, although his Tustin performance was only adequate and not marked by any particular trouble.

“I can recall one time when we had a locker inspection. It was a surprise, you might even call it a search. Those were pulled quite frequently. When we opened his locker, we found copies of the Daily Worker (a communist newspaper) in there. Everybody was kind of surprised, and yet it was blown over because at the time the Marine Corps was trying to indoctrinate Marines as to what communism was and who their adversary was. They were actually holding classes on communism.”

Oswald used that rationale when confronted with the newspapers, although his barracks mates already had been teasing him about his Marxist sympathies.

Several examples of that have reappeared in a new book entitled “Case Closed.” Written by Gerald Posner, the book focuses on Oswald and Jack Ruby and concludes that Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy and that Ruby acted alone in killing Oswald.

Block, now 64, chuckled as I read passages from the book in which Oswald’s fellow enlistees joked about his communist leanings. One Tustin air base acquaintance said Oswald often answered with “da” and “nyet,” used red pieces when playing chess to represent the Red Army and greeted fellow Marines with “Hello, comrade.”

Block said he hadn’t heard some of those stories, but he laughed when recalling that Oswald was often called “Oswaldskovich” by other Marines.

“Oswald was an introvert,” Block said. “He would never have won any popularity contests and I think he had one or two close associates and that was only because he lived close to them” in the barracks.

Block was in a barber’s chair when he heard about the assassination. “Shortly thereafter they said they had captured the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and I damn near fell out of the chair,” Block said.

Block went back to his unit headquarters. “Everybody was talking about Oswald. Everybody’s first thought was, ‘No way,’ ” Block said. “It was a disbelief that he would have been able to accomplish something like that and even further disbelief when the mechanics of it were broadcast. I don’t care what kind of rifle he had. I don’t think it would have been within his capability.”

Oswald’s marksmanship has been a key part of the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination. His Marine rating was “sharpshooter,” and while that is the middle range of three levels of expertise, Block said, “Really, you see a sharpshooter badge on a Marine--I’d be ashamed to have it on my chest.”

Many argue the fatal shots were well within Oswald’s capabilities, but Block disagrees. “You’ve got a moving target there, and when you’re talking about hitting somebody in the head from that distance and that angle, it just boggles my mind that he would even have that capability. I don’t know where he could have practiced, whether in the woods or remote areas or in Russia, but you’ve got to come up with some pretty good marksmanship to carry off something like that.”

Block was indeed interviewed by the FBI on Dec 5, 1963. In that interview, he said it was the People's World that Oswald was reading and that it had not been found in a surprise search but had been reported to him by fellow Marines.

Firstly, let's put the slightly different versions down to the passage of thirty years. The real question is whether or not Oswald was reading any communist literature at all.

Not according to Nelson Delgado. And Delgado would know on two counts. He was one of the few close to Oswald and he was also the one who delivered the mail.

What is obvious from Delgado's testimony is that Oswald only received one foreign language publication. This had to be in Russian because it caused Delgado (and apparently all the other grunts) into believing it was Communist.  But it was only when Delgado actually asked Oswald if it was Communist that he got an an answer. Oswald told him it was White Russian. In other words, it was actually anti-Communist. It seems that Oswald was happy to allow them all to think whatever they wanted, but told Delgado the truth simply because Delgado asked.

Mr. DELGADO - Personally; I did; because I thought it funny for him to be receiving a caller at such a late date time. Also, up to this time he hardly ever received mail; in fact he very seldom received mail from home, because I made it a policy, I used to pick up the mail for our hut and distribute it to the guys in there, and very seldom did I see one for him. But every so often, after he started to get in contact with these Cuban people, he started getting little pamphlets and newspapers, and he always got a Russian paper, and I asked him if it was, you know, a Commie paper--they let you get away with this in the Marine Corps in a site like this--and he said, "No, it's not Communist; it's a White Russian. To me that was Greek, you know, White Russian, so I guess he is not a Communist; but he was steady getting that periodical. It was a newspaper.
Mr. LIEBELER - In the Russian language?
Mr. DELGADO - Right.

Although Delgado connected the literature received with an alleged trip Oswald made to the Cuban Consulate, it seems to have been nothing more than assumption.

Delgado's description of the other material points to it being something else again. No Daily Worker. No People's World - both of which were published in English and would stand out as obvious pro-Communist publications.

Mr. DELGADO - Right. And he also started receiving letters, you know, and no bd. ooks, maybe pamphlets, you know, little like church, things we get from church, you know, but it wasn't a church.
Mr. LIEBELER - Were they written in Spanish, any of them, do you know?
Mr. DELGADO - Not that I can recall; no.

This material sounds more like literature on the Albert Schweitzer College which could be obtained through the Unitarian Church with owned and operated the college and had a US fund-raising and enrollment arm.

Even if Oswald was getting communist material through the mail, it could only feasibly happen with consent since the Armed Forces had its own Post Office and would immediately report such material. Alternatively, it would not come through the mail at all, but would be supplied by his superiors for study.

On the basis of the evidence however, it looks like one Russian language newspaper was enough to start the rumors and the only person to ask, got the facts. It was an anti-Communist paper - otherwise Oswald appears to have been playing along with the ribbing and the rumors.

But even the White Russian publication could have been part of some education and training since it was a White Russian Red Skin agent dropped into Mink while Oswald was there and whose mission was to recruit small cells in place.

Mikhail Platovsky Platov12

As John Donovan testified "Our function at that base was to surveil for aircraft, but basically to train both enlisted and officers for later assignment overseas.