JFK Assassination and Lee Harveys Passport

JFK Assassination and Lee Harveys Passport with East German stamp

Recently, over 3,800 CIA and FBI documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy were released to the public. Few events in American history have been the subject of as much intrigue as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That morbid fascination has stemmed not only from what is known by the public, but—even more centrally—what isn’t. However there are detailed reports on his passports and travels in these files which I summarize here.

Passport Application

From September 4, 1959, when he applied for his first passport, until shortly before the assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald had numerous dealings with the U.S. Department of State in Washington and with the American Embassy in Moscow. In connection with Marina Oswald’s entry into the United States, the dealings also extended to the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice. During the course of these dealings, the Department of State and the Immigration and Naturalization Service were called upon to decide a series of legal and administrative questions which arose under the laws of this country.

In order to determine whether Lee Harvey Oswald or his wife received any treatment not accorded others in similar positions, the Commission has examined the manner in which the transactions with the Oswalds were handled and the manner in which the relevant legal questions were resolved. In light of the facts then available and the applicable statutes, regulations, and practices in force at the time, the Commission has found no indication that the treatment accorded the Oswalds was illegal or different in any respect from the treatment that other persons similarly situated would have received.


On September 4, 1959, while on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, Oswald applied for a passport before a clerk of the superior court at Santa Ana, Calif.1 On the application Oswald stated that he intended to leave the United States for 4 months on approximately September 21, 1959, by ship from New Orleans, La., and that the purposes of his trip would be to attend the Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland 2 and the University of Turku in Finland, and to visit Cuba, the Dominican Republic, England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Finland and Russia as a tourist.

With the application, Oswald submitted a statement signed by a Marine officer that he was to be discharged from the Corps on September 11, 1959.3 The passport, No. 1733242, was routinely issued on September 10, 1959.4 At the time, the United States proscribed travel to none of the countries named in Oswald’s application.


American officials in Moscow had no knowledge that Oswald was in Russia until October 31, 1959,5 more than 2 weeks after he had arrived, since he failed to register at the U.S. Embassy, as Americans traveling through Russia normally did.6 However, on October 31, 1959, a Saturday, Oswald presented himself at the American Embassy in Moscow. He placed his passport on the receptionist’s desk and informed her that he had come to “dissolve his American citizenship.”

She immediately summoned the consul, Richard E. Snyder, who invited Oswald into his office. In the room with Snyder was his assistant, John A. McVickar, who observed what ensued. Snyder recalled Oswald as “neatly and very presentably dressed,” but he also remembered his arrogance. Oswald seemed to “know what his mission was. He took charge in a sense, of the conversation right from the beginning.”

Oswald stated at once that he was there to renounce his citizenship  and that “his allegiance was to the Soviet Union.”  He said he had already applied for Soviet citizenship. He said he knew the provisions of American law on loss of citizenship and did not want to hear them reviewed by Snyder. Having taken his passport back from the receptionist, Oswald put it on Snyder’s desk. Snyder noticed that Oswald had inked out the portion which would have shown his address in the United States. Snyder did not permit Oswald to renounce his citizenship at that time. Read more…


On February 1, 1961, as a result of a visit by Oswald’s mother to the Department of State on January 25, 1961, the Department sent a request to the Moscow Embassy as follows: The Embassy is requested to inform the [Soviet] Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Mr. Oswald’s mother is worried as to his present safety, and is anxious to hear from him.

The inquiry went to the Embassy by diplomatic pouch and was received in Moscow on February 10 or 11. On February 13, before the Embassy had acted on the Department’s request, the Embassy received an undated letter from Oswald postmarked Minsk, February 5. Read more…


On June 24, 1963, Oswald applied for a U.S. passport at the Passport Office in New Orleans, La.257 He said he was planning to visit England, France, Holland, U.S.S.R., Finland, Italy, and Poland, and that he intended to leave the country sometime during November or December 1963 by ship from New Orleans.258 He stated further that he was married to a person born in Russia who was not an American citizen. For occupation, The word “Photographer” was inserted on the application. Read more…

JFK Assassination and Lee Harveys Passport with East German stamp

JFK Assassination and Lee Harveys Passport with East German stamp
East German transit visa June 2, 1962

JFK Assassination and Lee Harveys Passport with East German stamp


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FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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