Lee Harvey Oswald in Russia
An Unauthorized History from the Kennedy Assassination

The Journey From USA to USSR

 

Copyright © Peter Vronsky 1991-2004

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According to the WARREN COMMISSION REPORT,  Appendix XIII: Biography of Lee Harvey Oswald, SOVIET UNION, Oswald's journey from the USA to the Soviet Union went as follows through Helsinki Finland:

Oswald's 1959 Passport Photo"On September 4, [1959] the day on which he was transferred out of MACS-9 [Marine Air Control Squadron] in preparation for his discharge, Oswald had applied for a passport at the Superior Court of Santa Ana, Calif. His application stated that he planned to leave the United States on September 21 to attend the Albert Schweitzer College and the University of Turku in Finland, and to travel in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, England, France, Germany, and Russia. The passport was routinely issued 6 days later.

"Oswald went directly home after his discharge, and arrived in Fort Worth by September 14....  

"On September 17, Oswald spoke with a representative of Travel Consultants, Inc., a New Orleans travel bureau; he filled out a "Passenger Immigration Questionnaire," on which he gave his occupation as "shipping export agent" and said that he would be abroad for 2 months on a pleasure trip. He booked passage from New Orleans to Le Havre, France, on a freighter, the SS Marion Lykes, scheduled to sail on September 18, for which he paid $220.75. On the evening of September 17, he registered at the Liberty Hotel. The Marion Lykes did not sail until the early morning of September 20.... 

"The Marion Lykes carried only four passengers. Oswald shared his cabin with Billy Joe Lord, a young man who had just graduated from high school and was going to France to continue his education. Lord testified that he and Oswald did not discuss politics but did have a few amicable religious arguments, in which Oswald defended atheism....  No one on board suspected that he intended to defect to Russia.

"Oswald disembarked at Le Havre on October 8. He left for England that same day, and arrived on October 9. He told English customs officials in Southampton that he had $700 and planned to remain in the United Kingdom for 1 week before proceeding to a school in Switzerland. But on the same day, he flew to Helsinki, Finland, where he registered at the Torni Hotel; on the following day, he moved to the Klaus Kurki Hotel.

"Oswald probably applied for a visa at the Russian consulate on October 12, his first business day in Helsinki. The visa was issued on October 14. It was valid until October 20 and permitted him to take one trip of not more than 6 days to the Soviet Union.  He also purchased 10 Soviet "tourist vouchers" which cost $30 a piece. He left Helsinki by train on the following day, crossed the Finnish-Russian border at Vainikkala, and arrived in Moscow on October 16."

 

 ISSUES AND QUESTIONS ABOUT THE JOURNEY: 

Oswald's USSR entry visa was issued in twenty-four hours (or less), not forty-eight hours as previously alleged.

Oswald's 1959 Soviet Visa ApplicationSince the beginning, everyone has been questioning the rapidity with which Oswald's visa was issued.  It was generally held that Oswald requested his visa on Monday, October 12, the first business day after his arrival in Helsinki. His passport shows that his Soviet entry visa was issued on October 14, a mere forty-eight hours later.  Normally, tourist visas took approximately five to seven days to be issued. This unusually rapid issue of Oswald's visa is sometimes cited as evidence of Soviet facilitation of his entry into the USSR. 
     In fact, the situation appears even worse that thatthe visa was issued in twenty-four hours or less!    Lee Harvey Oswald's 1959 visa application form is still held in Russian archives, but KGB Colonel Oleg Nechiporenko reproduced a photographic copy of it in his 1993 book, Passport to Assassination .   In the photo it can be seen that the form is dated and signed by Oswald on  October 13, one day later than previously thought. It is unlikely that the Soviet Consular bureaucracy would have allowed Oswald to make a mistake on the dating of the application form.  He signed and submitted it on 13 October and within a mere twenty-four hours, the Soviet consulate approved and stamped Oswald's entry visa into his passport.
 

  
     Visa Application Signed 13 Oct 1959


 

HSCA Report  Findings on the Issue of Oswald's Visa:

"The relative ease with which Oswald obtained his Soviet Union entry visa was more readily amenable to investigation. This issue is one that also had been of concern to the Warren Commission. In a letter to the CIA dated May 25, 1964, J. Lee Rankin inquired about the apparent speed with which Oswald's Soviet visa had been issued. Rankin noted that he had recently spoken with Abraham Chayes, legal adviser to the State Department, who maintained that at the time Oswald received his visa to enter Russia from the Soviet Embassy in Helsinki, normally at least 1 week would elapse between the time of a tourist's application and the issuance of a visa. Rankin contended that if Chayes' assessment was accurate, then Oswald's ability to obtain his tourist visa in 2 days might have been significant.

"The CIA responded to Rankin's request for information on July 31. 1964. Helms wrote to Rankin that the Soviet Consulate in Helsinki was able to issue a transit visa (valid for 24 hours) to U.S. businessmen within 5 minutes, but if a longer stay were intended, at least 1 week was needed to process a visa application and arrange lodging through Soviet Intourist. A second communication from Helms to Rankin, dated September 14, 1964, added that during the 1964 tourist season, Soviet consulates in at least some Western European cities issued Soviet tourist visas in from 5 to 7 days.

"In an effort to resolve this issue, the committee reviewed classified information pertaining to Gregory Golub, who was the Soviet Consul in Helsinki when Oswald was issued his tourist visa. This review revealed that, in addition to his consular activities, Golub was suspected of having been an officer of the Soviet KGB. Two American Embassy dispatches concerning Golub were of particular significance with regard to the time necessary for issuance of visas to Americans for travel into the Soviet Union. The first dispatch recorded that Golub disclosed during a luncheon conversation that:

MOSCOW had given him the authority to give Americans visas without prior approval from Moscow. He [Golub] stated that this would make his job much easier, and as long as he was convinced the American was "all right" he could give him a visa in a matter of minutes * * *.

"The second dispatch, dated October 9, 1959, 1 day prior to Oswald's arrival in Helsinki, illustrated that Golub did have the authority to issue visas without delay. The dispatch discussed a telephone contact between Golub and his consular counterpart at the American Embassy in Helsinki:

* * * Since that evening [September 4, 1959] Golub has only phoned [the U.S. consul] once and this was on a business matter. Two Americans were in the Soviet Consulate at the time and were applying for Soviet visas through Golub. They had previously been in the American consulate inquiring about the possibility of obtaining a Soviet visa in 1 or 2 days. [The U.S. Consul] advised them to go directly to Golub and make their request, which they did. Golub phoned [the U.S. Consul] to state that he would give them their visas as soon as they made advance Intourist reservations. When they did this, Golub immediately gave them their visas * * *.

"Thus, based upon these two factors, (1) Golub's authority to issue visas to Americans without prior approval from Moscow, and (2) a demonstration of this authority, as reported in an embassy dispatch approximately 1 month prior to Oswald's appearance at the Soviet Embassy, the committee found that the available evidence tends to support the conclusion that the issuance of Oswald's tourist visa within 2 days after his appearance at the Soviet Consulate was not indicative of an American intelligence agency connection.  Note: If anything, Oswald's ability to receive a Soviet entry visa so quickly was more indicative of a Soviet interest in him."

My commentary on visa issue:  Oswald's filing his visa form a day later than first suspected, is consistent with the findings of the HSCA Report.  Oswald probably spent October 12 arranging his Intourist booking without which he could not have been issued a visa.  It is conceivable that Oswald might have first gone to the Soviet Consulate in Helsinki on the morning of the 12th, and there been told of the exact procedure necessary for a visa.  He then would have had to locate a travel agent in Helsinki and make his bookings.  Furthermore, he would have had to pay in advance for his booking and might have been required to proceed to a bank to convert his US currency into Finnish currency ( many European businesses do not accept US dollars due to strict currency regulations -- especially in the 1950's.) Banks in Europe close early as well.  The combination of all these factors might have prevented him from submitting his application form until the following day, October 13. 
     That might also explain why the usually frugal Oswald purchased "Deluxe Class" travel arrangements.  They would have been immediately available and would have instantly earned him expeditious treatment at the Consulate.  The rapid issue of Oswald's visa is probably more indicative of the USSR's historic hunger for hard-currency earnings than any intelligence shadow-play.

The Mystery of Oswald's Flight from London to Helsinki. 

In responding to Warren Commission requests, the CIA wrote that they could not identify any direct flight from London to Helsinki that would have allowed Oswald to arrive in time to book into his Helsinki hotel on the evening of October 10, 1959. [CE 2677]  That gave rise to infinite speculation of Oswald perhaps taking a military flight from London to Helsinki--again suggesting evidence that there was some sort of intelligence function behind Oswald's journey. This defies logic. Presumably any intelligence mission that Oswald was on was clandestine. After having Oswald take a slow boat to LaHavre, a ferry to Southhampton, a public train to London, would an intelligence service then suddenly expose him by putting him on a military transport for the final hop to Helsinki?  Moreover, Finland was not a NATO country where a discreet military flight could be hosted.  
     The solution is probably more prosaic. While there were no direct flights within the required time span, there were connecting flights. In 1994, Fred Huntley, Consultant Archivist, British Airways Archives and Museum Collection, Heathrow Airport, Hounslow, wrote to researcher Chris Mills stating that there was a choice of two other flights from London, one via Copenhagen (08:05) and the other via Stockholm (08:50). Either of these could have been utilized by Oswald, and both would have been offered if he had arrived in the early hours of the 10th trying to book a flight. These flights would have arrived in Helsinki at 17:05 and 17:35 respectively, thus giving Oswald ample time to book into his hotel in Helsinki on the evening of October 10.

What is mysterious, is why the CIA did not identify nor collect the passenger lists for these flights, which would have still been available in 1964. (Or if they did, why were they not submitted to the Warren Commission?)  Was there a sensitive name on the same flight with Oswald?


Lee Harvey Oswald in Russia
An Unauthorized History from the Kennedy Assassination

The Journey From USA to USSR



Copyright © Peter Vronsky 1991-2004

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MAIN PAGE