Discussions about Lee Harvey Oswald often venture to speculation when seeking to provide a feasible motive for Oswald's purported actions. With scant time to prepare, without verifiable practice, some deem his alleged associations can explain what officials failed to repeatedly. Often the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), an organization in the United States that promoted the interests Fidel Castro and by extension his Communist regime is attributed some blame. Others assert Oswald was a loyal and active member serving the Communist or Socialist factions within the group. This claim is followed by allegations that Oswald was a lone gunman or a creature of Cuban or Soviet intelligence. However, the FPCC was a loosely organized group that never directed Oswald to do anything.
"April 6, 1960...'The New York Times' paper contained a full-page advertisement captioned 'What Is Really Happening In Cuba,' placed by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). This advertisement announced the formation of the FPCC in New York City and declared the FPCC intended to promulgate 'the truth about revolutionary Cuba' to neutralize the distorted American press." This declaration largely alienated the FPCC with most American media and labeled it a possible subversive threat to some powerful American officials and organizations. The inflammatory opening press salvo was a seeming misstep and some were intent on manipulating or destroying the pro-Castro Committee.i The New York Times reports later that year in November that FPCC asserted having 5,000 paid members in the United States.ii
The FBI was already investigating the FPCC by April 13, 1960 and tracing the origin of the Committee's initial advertisement. A confidential informant provided the Bureau data that led officials to request information regarding who paid for the FPCC advertisement in the New York Times.iii In March 1961, an unnamed Agency employee was seeking information from FPCC member Court Wood. They report, "Court seems to be extremely naive concerning my position with the Agency, and he is very open and frank with me in all areas. I am certain if given enough time I can obtain a great deal of information on the background and activities of his associates."iv Subsequently, investigation of the FPCC had spread to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Thomas J. Dodd was concerned with not only the loosely regulated distribution of mail order guns but also the FPCC as a potential domestic security threat.v
Some claim a person would have to be a formal participating member of the FPCC to affiliate with them; however, that was not the case. Harold Alderman was a graduate student at Tulane University and had participated in multiple FPCC events. In the past Alderman picked up literature for distribution and wore a lapel pin with the words "Hands Off Cuba". He also participated in a picket line the FPCC had sponsored near the prior CIA Washington D.C. headquarters and he participated in a separate protest of President John F. Kennedy as well. His public actions supporting the FPCC were seemingly as extensive as Lee Harvey Oswald's, yet Harold Alderman was never a member. After his arrival in New Orleans, Alderman claims he did not pursue the FPCC's agenda beyond debating anti-Communist writer Alexander Rorke in October of 1962.
Alderman confessed sympathy for the FPCC but stated he was "disappointed with the people who constituted the membership. He said...they are motivated emotionally rather than politically. He said he knows of no Fair Play for Cuba Committee organized activity in the New Orleans area, now or in the past." However, in the summer of 1963 he learned about a fellow student Hugh Murray who received an FPCC handbill on campus. After obtaining a copy of the handbill, Alderman later discovered the name on this handbill was A.J. Hidell the alias officials allege Oswald used.vi Consequently, a person did not need to be a member to participate in the FPCC, someone who desired formal membership possibly had other reasons to want a demonstrable connection.
From Oswald's private writings we can demonstrate in some respects he was just as averse to Communism in the United States as he was Capitalism. In a handwritten speech, Oswald states, "The Communist Party of the United States has betrayed itself! It has turned itself into the traditional lever of a foreign power to overthrow the United States government; not in the name of freedom or high ideals, but in servile conformity to the wishes of the Soviet Union and in anticipation of Soviet Russia's complete domination of the American continent." His words are not a ringing endorsement of Communism, and seem to indicate Oswald was not just a mere tool of the Cubans or Soviets. Oswald would denounce the Soviet Union's tactics and American Communism multiple times. Additionally, he never attended a meeting of Communist Party in America or Russia and he never attended a meeting of the FPCC. Yet he feasibly tried to generate the appearance of association.
May 26, 1963 Lee Harvey Oswald writes a letter to V. T. Lee the National Director of the FPCC. His letter contains a few quite interesting requests; the first is seeking formal membership.vii As was demonstrated by the previous statement of Harold Alderman, one could work for the Committee without formal membership, unless they sought to be associated with subversive activities. Oswald also requests a membership charter purportedly to establish a New Orleans chapter, which he never does. In a response letter to an address change notice sent by Oswald, the National Director states they have no past mailing information regarding him. He refers to renewal of Oswald's subscription to FPCC literature, places him on the mailing list, sends a "replacement" membership card and thanks him for his reported efforts.viii Yet there is no proof Oswald had prior been an official member and the FPCC had also maintained non-member organizations that affiliated with it as well.ix
Oswald then wrote of desiring an office in the group and requested a chapter charter and additional materials. According to officials, Oswald has Marina forge the name of A.J. Hidell, his alleged alias, on his new membership card. The unknown Hidell on paper claimed to be leader of the new group, yet Hidell represents a fictional officer in the nonexistent New Orleans Chapter. Oswald had allegedly fabricated a chapter to aid in his public Communist veneer. During Oswald's later arrest in New Orleans connected to his FPCC related activities, he requests an FBI agent then proceeds to report all his subversive behavior. The interviewing Bureau agent believed Oswald possibly staged a public confrontation for unspecified reasons and was dishonest about his affiliations.
In a statement to officials V.T. Lee states, "...all of Oswald's activities on behalf of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee were taken on his own initiative without the consent and approval of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee headquarters. Lee advised that Oswald had never been granted a chapter, that the Fair Play for Cuba Committee does not maintain a membership list, that he had no recollection of granting membership to Oswald and that he was unable to locate a plate for Oswald on the mailing list." This lack of a membership list could prevent officials from targeting a list of subversive members. Yet like Alderman, Oswald is seemingly associated with but according to V.T. Lee's statement not an official member and never in a legitimate FPCC chapter.x
While Oswald indeed claimed to be a former member of the FPCC and to have chapter members in New Orleans, officials dealing with Oswald doubted his claims of a chapter but supported his claims of membership.xi "Vincent Ted Lee, National Chairman of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee was interviewed December 3, 1963. He stated he had no knowledge of a charter having been issued by or anyone else for a Committee Chapter in New Orleans."xii When Oswald's chapter card information was falsified, it ceased to be valid and Oswald's membership was feasibly compromised when the fraudulent card was reportedly created June 15, 1963.
In late September of 1963 the Central Intelligence Agency desired information "...concerning the availability of samples of FPCC stationery and the current foreign mailing list in connection with their consideration of plans to counter the activities of the FPCC in foreign countries...".xiii Another FBI document states a confidential informant within the subversive group had provided a piece of FPCC stationery, one envelope, their foreign mailing list, and one membership card to the Bureau for official use. This would allow officials to study and feasibly recreate such materials for use in counterintelligence operations. Officials were later able to make exact reproductions and used them for study after President Kennedy's assassination.
Despite prior official claims, the FPCC leadership opposed becoming a mere proxy of other leftist groups. A Bureau official notes "...currently the FPCC is in a state of turmoil. Ted Lee has announced his intention of resigning as director of the FPCC within 30 to 60 days and apparently has made arrangements for the FPCC to be turned over to the CP (Communist Party). However, Lee is unpredictable and with the situation within the FPCC changing on an almost daily basis, it is difficult to predict the outcome of this current strife, which centers around Ted Lee who is 'fed up'. "xiv After President Kennedy's assassination, some claim that Oswald was an active member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.
Just days prior to 1964 the New York World Telegram and Sun reported the FPCC sought to end its organization. Its swift end was attributed to the prior Senate investigation of its activities that revealed funding with links to Fidel Castro. The final nail in the FPCC's coffin was the deep connections officials alleged the group had with Lee Harvey Oswald. One Bureau informant stated in February of 1964 "V.T. Lee had recently remarked that the FPCC was dead, and that there were no plans to organize another similar organization." The group Oswald sought to associate with largely perished a few months after he did. Yet the unproven allegations of those seeking to brand him a Communist live on.
i. President's Commission Document 892, Federal Bureau of Investigation Letterhead Memorandum Re: Fair Play for Cuba, April 3, 1964
ii. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Oswald Headquarters File 105-82555, Section 182, Fair Play for Cuba Committee Bay Area Chapter, June 1, 1964, p. 1
iii. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Segregated CIA Collection, Report of Investigation Fair Play for Cuba Committee, Box 41, April 13, 1960, pp. 3-4, 1993.08.10.17:48:36:340039
iv. HSCA, Seg. CIA Coll., Note Re: Fair Play for Cuba Committee, March 18, 1961, 104-10114-10152
v. Hearing of the U.S. Senate Judicial Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act, Fair Play for Cuba Committee, June 13, 1961 p. 356-357, 1993.08.10.17:48:36:340039
vi. FBI, Ruby Headquarters File 44-24016, Section 14, Statement of Harold Gordon Alderman, November 26, 1963
vii. HSCA Report, Appendix Volume VIII, p. 337
viii. President Commission Document 1, FBI Summary Report, Letter from VT Lee to Lee Harvey Oswald, May 22, 1963
ix. FBI, Oswald HQ File 105-82555, Section 182, June 1, 1964, pp. 1-2
x. FBI, HSCA Administrative Folder-F8, Rough Draft Re Brief, Fair Play for Cuba Committee, p. 40
xi. Hearings of the President's Commission, Volume X, Testimony of Francis Martello, p. 57
xii. President's Commission Document 1, FBI Summary Report, p. 65
xiii. Central Intelligence Agency, Miscellaneous Series, Airtel- Fair Play for Cuba Committee, October 4, 1963, pp. 1-2, 104-10310-10070
Bill Simpich and C.A.A. Savastano on Lee Harvey Oswald