Friday, June 13, 2014

Oswald takes MATs Flight to Defect?

MATS flight from McGuire to Germany – October 1959 w/ Lee Oswald, USMC

In September 1978, a chief investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) had an assistant contact Louisea Steenbarger – of Peru, Indiana, to see what information she wanted to relay in regards to their investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The assistant made the phone call and talked to Louise Steenbarger and wrote this report:

DATE 9-26-78 TIME

I.                    Identifying Information: Name Louise Steenbarger Telphone 317-172-1771Address 128 East Sixth Street, Peru, Indiana Type of Contact – x Telephone ___ Person

II.                 Summary of   Contact:
Pursuant to Cliff Fenton’s request, I called Mrs. Steenbarger because she contacted the Committee to give information.

Mrs. Steenbarger related the following:

In Mid-October 1959 her husband, Maurice Eugene Steenbarger, was stationed with the Air Force in Phalsbourg France. He husband was a civilian auditor with the Auditor General. At that time she left her home in Marion, Indiana with her eight year old son, David (dob 11/29/51) to join her husband in France. Her travel was arranged through the military and she was issued travel orders. She left from Bunker Hill Base (now called Garisson) in Indiana and flew to MacGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. MacGuire was the point of departure for military transport flights were called MATS.

On the airplane her son sat in the window seat and she sat in the middle. The man sitting in the aisle seat said his name was Lee Oswald; she doesn’t remember him using a middle name. He seemed tense and didn’t say much; he gripped the arms of the seat so tightly that his knuckles were white. She thought he was merely afraid of flying. He was quite taciturn and actually seemed hostile when she tried to talk to him.

The young man relaxed after they had a meal. He seemed to her like he had a lot of pent-up emotion. He said he had served in Japan and the Philippines. He was wearing a Marine Corps uniform. He said he had fallen in love with a Japanese girl and had been imprisoned in either Japan or the Philippines because he wanted to marry her. He said he was being shipped to Germany by the military; the departure had been so hastily arranged that he had not even been able to see his mother.

Mrs. Steenbarger described the man as having light to sand hair, light eyes, with sharpshooter medals on his uniform, a name plate saying “Lee Oswald” and a slight Southern accent.

He said his father was named Robert E. Lee Oswald. He talked about putting down the American system. He said he was being shipped to Germany because they needed him right away and that he had a skill he could use there, but she doesn’t recall if he specified what skill.

The plane landed in Preswick in Scotland. Mrs. Steenbarger and her son deplaned to use the restroom. Oswald said he was ill. He stood at a distance and seemed to be watching her coldly and suspiciously. After that, he didn’t speak to her any more.

When they got back on the plane the man named Oswald sat across the isle from her and her son and a couple of rows up. Another man in nice civilian clothing sat next to her. He let a cigarette dangle on the armrest but appeared distracted and did not smoke it. There may have been other civilians on the plane, but she is not sure.

The man named Oswald told her that he was still under surveillance from his trouble with the military police. The man sitting next to her after Oswald moved behaved oddly that she wondered if he was in fact the person who was watching Oswald.

Their plane landed at either Rhine/Maine or Frnakfurt.  That was the last time she saw the man named Oswald. She did not notice how he left the airfield.

Mrs. Steenbarger offered that her travel arrangements and possibly a manifest of that flight could be gotten from the Air Force. She provided the following vital statistics on her and her husband:

Lola Louise Steenbarger
Dob 3/19/23

Maurice Eugene Steenbarger
Dob 10/5/16
Civil Service Retirement #CSA 1718774
Began work with Auditor General in 1955

III.               Recommended Follow-up (If any):
Request from Air Force travel manifest for flight taken by Mrs. Steenbarger to see if Oswald’s name appears.

Signature Surell Brady Surell Brady


October 24, 1956 – Oswald enters the USMC

Feb '58 Oswald rotated back to U.S. and assigned to MAC 9 in Santa Ana Ca        

June 20,  '58 - Oswald into brig for 45 days for barroom altercation with Sgt.

November 19, 1958 to December 22, 1958 LHO gets 30 days leave

December 1958 – September 1959 – While LHO stationed in California, he has one date with “Rose” – ex-airline hostess who speaks Russian and who is Henry J. (“Beezer”) Rouseeelle’s aunt. Rousselle is in USMC and from coastal Louisiana town. (CD 129:1-3)

December 1958 – Oswald has one month leave from USMC (16:337; CD 6:455)

December 28 1958 until September 1959 – LHO stationed at El Toro, Sana Anna (MACS 9 – radar team of 10)

1959 - DPD Lt. George Butler says a Marine buddy tells of Oswald making mysterious trips while stationed in California in 1959.

Feb   '59 Oswald takes proficiency test in Russian from Marines
Mar  '59 Oswald applies to Albert Schwitzer Russian proficiency.

April – June 1959 – Oswald becomes acquainted with a fellow Marine named Kerry W. Thornley at the California base. Thornley’s father is a Whittier, California, photoengraver. Thornley is a New Orleans writer (in 1963) whose unpublished novel has an Oswald-like central character. Thornley says he was a ‘leftist’ in 1959 and a ‘rightest’ in 1963. He knew nothing of Schewitzer College. Thornley goes to California from New Orleans in May 1963 and  returns to New Orleans through Mexico in September 1963.

June 6, 1959 – Saturday – Oswald writes to his brother Robert that he knows what he’s going to do when he gets out of USMC. (16:824) USMC friend of LHO recalls he had Russian language records and mentions going to Schweitzer College between 12/58 and  9/59.  Oswald tells mother of his plans to attend Albert Schweitzer College.

June 19, 1959 – Oswald sends $25 deposit to Schewitzer College for future enrollment (Spring 1960)

July 1959 – Oswald is told of his mother’s injury.
Aug ’59 Gladys Davis will later report to FBI that her husband and a Cuban known to her as “Mexicano” introduced Oswald to her at her home in Miami

August 1959 – 17 (Monday) – Oswald requests a dependency discharge from the USMC because of  his mother’s injury. Robert says that Oswald is due to be discharged on December 8, 1959 on his regular tour. LHO on 30 days leave from LUMC, El Toro from 11./19/58 until – LHO was in Fort Worth when mother injured!!)  letter of  8/17 a fraud.

September 1959 – Oswald stationed at El Toro Naval Air Station, San Diego since Dec. 28, 1958

Sept 4 '59 Oswald passport application references DOD card issued on Sept 11!! and carries same officers signature, who does not recall sighing either.

September 4 1959 (Friday) Oswald gets letter from the USMC saying that he is to be discharged on September 11, 1959. He takes this letter and applies for a passport in Los Angeles. He states o this application that he is  in the export business and that he is planning a four-month trip to attend A. Schweitzer (sic) College in Switzerland and the University of Turku in Finland, with tourist trips to Switzerland, Finland, Cuba, Dominican Republic, England, France, Germany and Russia. He plans to leave from New Orleans about September 21, 1959. This application was received in Washington on September 9, and granted on September 10.

Sept 11 ' 59 Oswald receives DOD ID card with same photo as later seen on phony "Alek Hidell" Selective Service card....card sometimes issued to civilians requiring ID overseas; same as issued to Gary Powers by CIA
Sept 11 '59 Oswald given hardship discharge based on Mothers injury.....this is clearly a case of misrepresentation on his part as he already plans to go overseas.

September 10 1959 (Thursday) Oswald receives passport #1733242 in Los Angeles.

September 11, 1959 (Friday) Oswald is released by the USMC at El Toro, California, so that he can care for his injured mother in Fort Worth. Oswald receives $219.20 severance and travel pay. He is obligated to serve in the USMCR until December 8, 1962.

September 11, 1959 LHO issued Dept. of Defense “Unifovored Services Identificaiton and Privileges Card #4271617, DD form 1173, 1 January 57. Oswald’s photo from this card used on Hidell’s fake Sel. Serv. Reg. card.

September 12, 13, 14 -1959 (Sat-Mon) Oswald stays with his mother in Fort Worth. He mentions that he may go to Cuba. He goes hunting with Robert.

September 14, 1959 (Monday) Oswald registers with his Fort Worth draft board. Address: 3124 W. 5th, Ft. Worth Why?

September 14, 1959 Oswald withdraws $203 balance from Fort Worth Bank.

Oswald give mother $100. She believes Oswald saved $1600 from USMC pay.

September 16, 1959 – Oswald is at the Liberty Hotel, New Orleans. Signs passenger immigration D-32 questionnaire in New Orleans.

September 16, 1959 – (Thursday) Oswald books passage on “Marion Lykes” through Travel Consultants, International Trade Mart

September 19, 1959 – (Saturday) Oswald writes to Mother telling her that their ways are different.

September 20, 1959 – (Sunday) Ship leaves New Orleans

October 5, 1959 – (Monday)  - Marion Lykes – arrives at LaRochelle, France.

October 1959 – this is the first month on a calendar handwritten in Oswald’s notebook.

October 8, 1959 (Thursday) Oswald’s passport is stamped as entered at LeHarve.

October 9, 1959 (Friday) Oswald’s passport is stamped as embarked at London airport.

October 10, 1959 – Oswald arrives in Helsinki – Torni Hotel.

October 11, 1959 (Sunday) – Oswald moves to Klaus Kurki Hotel, Helsinki.

October 14, 1959 (Wednesday) Oswald gets USSR visa.

October 15, 1959 (Thursday) Oswald arrives in USSR via Finland


  1. Do you have a RIF # for this Louise Steenbarger document?



  3. Bill,thank you for your two articles about the very intriguing Steenbarger story! Are there any updates since your two 2014 articles on this subject? Anything about the MATS flight? I have done genealogical research on her and her son, David. Sadly, I discovered she died Aug 29, 2008 in Muncie, IN. She and her husb, Maurice, have a findagrave memorials. I had hoped to contact her son, David, about his recollections of the Oswald encounter, but found he had also died, age 56, in Dayton, OH on Sep 9, 2008 - just 11 days after she died! He does have a sister, Margaret, who is 13 years his junior, and is still living. I made him a findagrave memorial today and have put photos on both memorials. I have not found a record of the MATS flight on, but it could have been destroyed, who knows. I did find a record of another flight she and her son, David, took to France in '55 when he was 4. It was on a carrier I hadn't heard of before - it was not MATS. Next to her name on the manifest it listed her husband, Maurice, and his government rank, GS-9, in parenthesis. He was not a passenger - they were probably going to visit him in France. Here are their findagrave memorials.:

  4. Yes, I too tried to contact Mrs. Steenbarger and her son, and missed her son, a Dayton Community College teacher by a few months. I also contacted MacGuire AFB to see if they have the MATs manifests, but they no longer have them. Fortunately, Professor David Montague, who was with the HSCA and wrote the Steenbarger memo - requesting further investigation, will be at the CAPA conference this November 19-21 at the Dallas Sheraton - and I will question him about it. Thank you for your followup as well.

  5. Hi Bill, That's too bad! I hope you can get some info from Prof Montague at the CAPA Conference! I look forward to your update afterwards. You could also contact his sister, Margaret Ann Linn or his 1st wife, Linda Irene Driscoll Steenbarger, both still living. Maybe he reported his and/or his mother's experience to them.