Lee Harvey Oswald spent several days in Helsinki in 1959 before his defection to the Soviet Union
The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (SUPO) has declassified a 60-year-old file detailing Lee Harvey Oswald’s mysterious visit to Helsinki in advance of his defection to the Soviet Union, just over four years before he assassinated US President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Oswald was adjudged by the Warren Commission in September 1964 to have been the sole gunman who fired the fatal shots from the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street in downtown Dallas that killed Kennedy the previous November.
The day after Kennedy’s murder – November 23, 1963 – SUPO composed a memorandum into Oswald’s Helsinki trip that paints a unique, if somewhat incomplete, portrait of one of the most infamous characters of the 20th century.
The newly declassified files show that former US Marine Oswald, then 19, checked into Helsinki’s Hotel Torni on October 10, 1959 for a five-night stay, but stayed for just two nights, local outlet Yle News reported Saturday. Oswald’s US passport application showed his stated intention for the trip was related to seeking education either in Switzerland or at the University of Turku in Finland.
However, as Yle notes, Oswald’s application to the Finnish university proved to be false and ignited speculation as to his true motivations. Despite their efforts, Finnish authorities were unable to discover more information about his movements during this brief period.
On October 12, 1959 Oswald applied for a USSR visa at the Soviet Embassy in Helsinki – an application, the Warren Commission would later note, that was approved unusually quickly. Details about his arrival in Helsinki also remain somewhat of a mystery. Uncertainties as to his exact route have led to speculation he arrived in Finland from either England or Sweden.
The SUPO investigation, the declassified files reveal, found it more likely that Oswald arrived via Stockholm either by plane or boat. The Finnish intelligence service also determined that while in Helsinki, Oswald had been “apparently waiting for a visa.”
It also notes that after departing Helsinki, Oswald arrived in Moscow where he almost immediately expressed an interest in obtaining Soviet citizenship. Oswald spent about two and a half years in the Soviet Union, mostly in Minsk, present day Belarus, where he worked as a lathe operator in an electronics factory.
A separate trove of documents into Kennedy’s assassination released by the US government last year cited comment from former KGB officials who said that “at no time” was Oswald a KGB agent, and that he was considered to be “crazy and unpredictable” during his Soviet years. The US government source added that Oswald was suffering from depression and homesickness for much of his time in Belarus.
Oswald, who never formally renounced his US citizenship, returned to the United States in the summer of 1962. He was shot dead while in police custody by businessman Jack Ruby two days after Kennedy’s assassination.