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Wednesday 21 March 2018

James Hosty

FBI special agent assigned to investigate Lee Harvey Oswald in the weeks before JFK assassination

JAMES Hosty, who has died aged 86, was the FBI special agent assigned to investigate Lee Harvey Oswald when Oswald arrived in Dallas, Texas, weeks before assassinating President John F Kennedy in November 1963.

For nearly half a century, Hosty faced accusations that he should have kept a closer eye on the gunman. "I'm sorry I ever got the case," he said.

James Patrick Hosty was born on August 28, 1924, in Chicago. Having served in the US army during the Second World War, helping to liberate survivors of the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, he graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1948 and joined the FBI in 1952.

He was first ordered to keep Oswald under surveillance in March 1963.

Hosty knew that Oswald, a known communist agitator and suspected Soviet spy, was working at the Texas School Book Depository, the warehouse overlooking the route of the presidential motorcade on November 22. But his sole concern, according to one authoritative account, "was whether or not Jim Hosty would catch a glimpse of Kennedy".

Having done so, he stepped into a diner for his lunch, only to be told by a waitress that shots had been fired. Within an hour he and four other interrogators were grilling Oswald ("cocky and argumentative") in Room 317 of the Dallas Police Department.

Hosty scribbled two pages of handwritten notes after the interview, but 48 hours later, in the police station basement, Oswald was himself shot dead by Jack Ruby, a strip-club owner.

Though Oswald had been known to the FBI and the CIA for years, Hosty claimed that he was never considered a priority, and the FBI believed he was involved in nothing more than low-level espionage.

But in its report, the Warren Commission implied that Hosty had bungled his surveillance operation. He received a furious dressing-down from J Edgar Hoover.

Hosty was suspended and later transferred to the relative obscurity of the FBI office in Kansas City. He retired in 1979 aged 55. But the case dogged him and in his memoir, Assignment: Oswald (1996), he conceded that he would probably "go to my grave trying to straighten this out".

James Hosty, who died on June 17, had nine children with his wife, Janet. She and two of their children predeceased him.

Sunday Independent

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