Destruction of the Oswald Note
In 1975, the allegation surfaced that the FBI had destroyed a note delivered to it by Lee Harvey Oswald, just one or two weeks prior to the assassination of President Kennedy. An internal FBI investigation failed to find any records relating to this, but interviews of Dallas Field Office personnel established that an Oswald visit and note dropoff had occurred.
The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from several relevant witnesses, as did the contemporaneous Church Committee. The results of this were:
- Oswald definitely did visit the Dallas Field Office a week to two weeks prior to the assassination, looking for Agent Hosty, who had recently visited his wife Marina.
- When told that Hosty was not in, Oswald left a note in an envelope which was unsealed.
- The note contained some sort of threat, but accounts varied widely as to whether Oswald threatened to "blow up the FBI" or merely "report this to higher authorities."
- Within hours after Oswald's murder on 24 Nov 1963, Hosty destroyed the note and a memorandum which Special-Agent-in-Charge Gordon Shanklin had ordered written on November 22.
Hosty maintained that Shanklin, head of the Dallas Field Office, had ordered him to destroy the note. Shanklin denied ever having heard of the note until 1975, though Assistant Director William Sullivan did recall the incident. The House Select Committee on Assassinations reviewed the incident and did not find Shanklin's denial credible.
The movie JFK added a new twist based on rumors which have never been substantiated. In the film, New Orleans DA Jim Garrison wonders why the FBI would destroy a note which would tend to confirm Oswald's violent character, and presents his staff with an alternative: "This is just speculation, people, but what if the note was describing the assassination attempt on JFK?"
The Oswald Note: Information or Disinformation, by Peter Whitmey.
Agent 179: The Making of a Dirty Rumor, by Jerry Rose.
Primary Sources: Theory - FBI, Secret Service, by Spartacus Educational.
FBI vs. ARRB: Heading into Overtime, by Probe.
Assignment Oswald: A Review, by Ken Thompson.
The JFK 100: Oswald's note to FBI Agent Hosty. Dave Reitzes critiques the film JFK's handling of the Oswald note story.
Hearings on FBI Oversight: Destruction of the Oswald Note. Congressman Don Edwards' Judiciary Committee held hearings on the note's destruction, transcribed here.
Schweiker-Hart Report, Appendix B: The FBI and the Destruction of the Oswald Note. This is the Church Committee's summary of the information gathered by the Edwards Committee.
Testimony of Nanny Lee Fenner and Gordon Shanklin. This 11 Dec 1975 testimony was given to the House Committee on the Judiciary (excerpted from the hearings).
Testimony of James Hosty and Kenneth Howe. This 12 Dec 1975 testimony was given to the House Committee on the Judiciary (excerpted from the hearings).
Summary of interview with James P. Hosty, Jr.. This interview with Hosty was conducted a week prior to the testimony above.
Preliminary Report of Investigation into the Assassination of President Kennedy, p. 112. This internal Church Committee report discusses the Oswald note destruction.
Testimony of Gordon Shanklin. This Church Committee interview is dated 19 Dec 1975.