Early reports from newsman and authorities on November 22nd 1963 indicated that the weapon allegedly used to assassinate President Kennedy was a 7.65 German Mauser bolt action rifle. The rifle had been found by Dallas police on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, a building which overlooked the Presidential motorcade at the time of the assassination. Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade passed on this bit of information to the press with a moderate degree of certainty, and various news anchors such as Walter Cronkite presented the Mauser claim as fact to the American public.
Within a matter of hours, these initial reports were corrected, and news-hungry Americans were informed that the alleged murder weapon was actually a 6.5 Italian Mannlicher Carcano bolt action rifle with a leather strap and telescopic sight attached. The Mannlicher Carcano was traced to the post office box of one A.J. Hiddell. A false identification card with that name had been found on the person of a suspect the Dallas Police had in custody for the murder of patrolman J.D. Tippit. This suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald, had been working in the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the shooting. The Warren Commission later confirmed that this was indeed the weapon used to assassinate the President, and that Oswald was the one who had fired it. To this day, the rifle sits in the National Archives as an important part of American history.
But what about the initial claim that the weapon found in the Depository was a 7.65 Mauser? The man who found the gun, Deputy Eugene Boone, signed a sworn affidavit claiming the weapon in question had been identified as a Mauser. Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig, who was present when the rifle was found, even claims to have seen “7.65 Mauser” written stamped on the murder weapon. Did the Dallas Police really find another rifle in the Texas School Book Depository, or was it simply a matter of mistaken identity? If the Dallas Police did indeed find a Mauser, what happened do it? Did someone else later plant the Carcano to implicate Oswald? Although a Mauser and a Carcano bear a superficial resemblance to each other, the only real connection is that they were both bolt action rifles used against American soldiers during World War II.
The Dallas policemen who initially inspected the murder weapon, Eugene Boone, Seymour Weitzman, Roger Craig, led by Homicide Captain Fritz, must have quickly identified the firearm as an enemy weapon from World War II. Since most people think of Germans as the main adversary in the Second World War, not the Italians, the officers must have assumed it was of German origin, and thus a Mauser. Even though they were familiar with firearms, these men were probably not familiar with what guns were made in what country during World War II. Seen in that light, a couple of Dallas cops not knowing the difference between the different guns various soldiers of the Axis powers used during World War II seems quite plausible. In his final testimony, Boone admitted that he had had been mistaken in his initial identification of the murder weapon. The Carcano story became part of the official history.
But Roger Craig never changed his story. Some people insist he was a liar, others claim he was an American hero. Either way, he went to his grave insisting that the gun found that day on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository was unquestionably a 7.65 German Mauser. And the sad series of occurrences which led Mr. Craig to that grave is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking footnotes to the Kennedy Assassination tragedy. Craig’s refusal to change his story about the Mauser, like all the other officers had done, caused him to be ostracized by his peers. He was fired from the Dallas Police Department in 1967, apparently for discussing sensitive information with a journalist. Roger Craig never found steady work again, he lost his wife, and then began suffering a series of bizarre accidents which left him severely injured. He was shot at, driven off the side of the road, and at one point his car engine mysteriously exploded. The injuries induced by these incidents left Mr. Craig in almost constant physical pain. In 1975, Roger Craig took his own life.