Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Johnny Calvin Brewer, man who helped catch JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, honored by Dallas police

Reuters / New York Daily News / Dallas Morning News

Johnny Calvin Brewer stands in front of the Texas Theater in Dallas exactly 48 years after he helped catch JFK's killer. Photograph by Jeffrey McWhorter / AP.

Dallas police honored a man on Tuesday whose "keen observation skills and strong sense of civic duty" led them to Lee Harvey Oswald, who had crept into the back of a darkened movie theater to hide on Nov. 22, 1963, shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Police Chief David Brown presented Johnny Calvin Brewer with the department's Citizen's Certificate of Merit and praised his selfless act and "exemplary conduct" 48 years ago during a ceremony at the Texas Theatre - the same place where Oswald was captured about 80 minutes after Kennedy was killed.

"I'm just so overwhelmed," Brewer, 70, said after receiving the award and watching a video of his 22-year-old self recounting the events of that day.

Brewer, a manager at a shoe store located about 90 steps from the Oak Cliff neighborhood theater, was listening to news reports about the president's assassination when he heard reports that a Dallas police officer, J.D. Tippit, had just been killed a few blocks away.

A man whose behavior seemed suspicious then walked into the foyer of the shoe store. Brewer said the man stared at the display in the window and acted scared as police cars with blaring sirens raced by.

After the last squad car passed in one direction, the man stepped out of the store and walked in the opposite direction toward the movie theater.

Brewer saw him go into the theater without buying a ticket. He followed him, alerting the woman in the box office to call police. Brewer then shared his suspicions with the concessions operator and the two searched the theater and stood by the emergency exits.

Hearing noise behind his alley-exit door, Brewer opened it only to have police guns aimed at him. The movie theater lights went on and Brewer pointed out the suspicious man seated in the theater. Oswald was arrested after a brief scuffle, during which he punched an officer and pulled a gun.

The Citizens Certificate of Merit recognizes "unselfish devotion to fellow man," Lt. Scott Walton said.

"Mr. Johnny Calvin Brewer's actions on November 22, 1963, were heroic," police said in a statement. "At no time did he concern himself with the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald may be armed and possibly involved in the murder of a police officer."

Brewer's "outstanding observation skills and his quick action" were worthy of this award, which is presently rarely and only to very deserving individuals, Walton said.

Brewer’s eyes welled with tears as Police Chief David Brown gave him the award. He thanked his family and then had no more words.

“I knew this day was going to be emotional,” Brewer said after the ceremony.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, the police chief felt some of Brewer’s emotion.

“This brings chills to your body,” Brown said after watching video footage from 1963.
“At 22 years of age, Mr. Brewer did what a veteran police officer would do. The difference was that he was not armed.”

Brewer joined the Navy soon after the assassination to get away from Dallas. It was hard to forget the stressful events. The Austin resident has been back “less than 10 times” since.

The most emotional part on Tuesday, Brewer said, was meeting Tippit’s wife.

“I had been sitting around for weeks in Austin thinking about what it would be like,” he said. “It was more emotional than I thought.”

[Edited by Dale K. Myers]

Sources: Reuters / New York Daily News / Dallas Morning News

Crowd marks John F. Kennedy’s assassination with moment of silence at Dallas’ Dealey Plaza

by MARC RAMIREZ, Staff Writer / Dallas Morning News

Maria Ortiz (front) was joined by her children, Jose Ortiz and Teresa Guerrero, during a moment of silence Tuesday at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas to commemorate the 48th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Photograph by Patrick T. Fallon, Staff Photographer / Dallas Morning News.

To Dealey Plaza they came, the young and old, marking the 48th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination — mourners, tourists, conspiracy theorists and the simply curious.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, as dictated by tradition and history, many bowed their heads in silent remembrance, a small crowd of three or four dozen wrapped in jackets and hoodies against a November day that fought against the warmth.

It was a far cry from the event’s 30th anniversary, when more than 4,000 people showed.
But lurking beneath the surface of the proceedings was the wee specter of Penn Jones Jr., the diminutive former publisher and editor of the Midlothian Mirror who made it his life’s mission to crusade against lone-gunman explanations of the assassination.

It was Jones, some say, who launched the annual moment of silence, and while its origins remain officially unclear, it lives on in Jones’ absence.

“He’s definitely the one who started the tradition,” said John Judge, co-founder of the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), one of two research groups that continue to hold annual conferences in Dallas, similarly dissatisfied with the Warren Commission’s conclusions.

While the city of Dallas and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza have traditionally steered clear of any kind of official ceremony commemorating the assassination, Jones and others who question whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone have carried on the tradition — not only to honor a fallen president but to stoke the fires of conspiracy theory.

“We’ve tried to hold it every year regardless of the conditions around us,” Judge said. “We don’t feel that holding up a banner and asking questions is a carnival or circus atmosphere.”

Sixth Floor officials won’t confirm either the tradition’s origins or whether Jones had any part in it.

“We can’t document it well enough that the museum is comfortable with it,” said Gary Mack, the museum’s curator. “We’ve seen it referred to in several places, but the sources seem to be people who did not know him.”

Jones died in 1998 at age 83.

Judge said Jones asked him to continue the tradition as he fell increasingly ill with Alzheimer’s, and since 1994 — the year Judge founded the coalition — he has done so as part of the group’s annual meeting.

Jones was what conspiracy-minded groups call a first-generation researcher, someone who hit the ground running in the wake of Kennedy’s killing, whose newsletters on his findings and skepticism were published with the aid of a manual typewriter.

“I have all the issues of his magazine except for one,” said Debra Conway of JFK Lancer, another research group that, like COPA, holds its annual meeting around the anniversary of the assassination.

Jones, a World War II veteran who found success in real estate, eventually purchased the Midlothian Mirror, where he earned a reputation as a feisty researcher unafraid to buck the area’s conservative leanings.

The assassination — and his interpretation of events — would change his life forever, starting with the release of the Warren Commission’s report in 1964.

“He really spent time reading that whole thing,” said his son, Michael Jones of Dallas. “It was just so unsatisfactory to him. It helped give him the evidence he needed to conclude it was a conspiracy.”

While official findings attributed Kennedy’s murder to Oswald, Jones spent the latter part of his life pursuing a Sisyphean mission to convince the world otherwise.

Among his contributions to conspiracy lore is the “storm drain theory,” which holds that one of numerous gunmen hid in an Elm Street manhole, then escaped through a drain that once connected to the basement of an old jail. The drain has been since sealed with concrete.

Jones would espouse such theories on the anniversary of the assassination, energetically acting them out for anyone who was interested.

“He was a tiny little guy,” Conway said. “He’d stand up there on the [Dealey Plaza] pedestal where [Abraham] Zapruder had filmed so people could hear and see him, for no other reason except that he was 5-foot-3.”

As far as she knows, Jones was the person behind the moment of silence. “If someone did it before him, I don’t know about it,” she said.

Though the gesture was meant to honor Kennedy’s passing, Jones’ son Michael said it was also about his father’s growing disillusionment as he began to question the government’s findings.

“He saw it as a coup d’etat,” Jones said. “He felt the government had been taken away from the people. So the moment was kind of a protest to make that statement and get it back somehow.”

Among Tuesday’s crowd were Greg and Sandra Lewis, who had driven in from Lubbock for a family reunion. As Greg walked around taking photographs, Sandra waited with their terrier in the chill of the November day.

“It seems wrong to celebrate such a horrid thing,” she said.

“It used to be just a gathering,” Greg said. “Now it’s a tourist attraction.”

Nonetheless, the crowd had begun accumulating on the grounds near the foot of the former Texas School Book Depository — where Oswald had hidden on the sixth floor — recalling where they were on Nov. 22, 1963, or pointing out notable landmarks to their children.

Afterward, they continued to remember, wandering the grassy knoll or, like Susan Lazarow and Jessica Baxter of Boca Raton, Fla., snapping photos of the painted X on Elm Street, thought to be the approximate spot where Kennedy was hit.

“I think it’s neat to know,” Baxter said. “I’m going to put that on my Facebook page.”
“It’s a little eerie,” Lazarow said. “I don’t want to make light of it.”

But it was speeches like the one given by Judge of the political assassination coalition that drew most gawkers.

“We don’t know the truth about our own history,” Judge said, his jabbing finger and booming delivery drawing a growing crowd and eventual applause.

He then called for the moment of silence in keeping with Jones’ tradition.

With the city and The Sixth Floor Museum beginning to plan 50th anniversary proceedings for 2013, someone asked whether Judge and his group planned to return next year.

“We’ll be here,” he said. “We may have to crawl through the sewer system and pop our heads up where the assassin was, but we’ll be here.”

Source: Dallas Morning News

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Assassination of John F. Kennedy – 48 Years On


On November 22nd, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The evidence against the chief suspect Lee Harvey Oswald was overwhelming. Witnesses saw shots being fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Depository Building where Oswald was employed. A Mannlicher Carcano rifle was found on this floor. The bullet that hit the President and Governor Connally was traced to the rifle "to the exclusion of all other weapons". The rifle was purchased in the name of A. Hidell, a pseudonym used by Oswald. Handwriting on the purchase order was identified as Oswald’s. Oswald’s palm print was found on the rifle. Witnesses saw Oswald carry a package that could fit a disassembled Mannlicher Carcano. When asked about it by a fellow employee, he said the package contained curtain rods. But no curtain rods were ever found after the assassination and an empty package was found near the rifle with Oswald’s fingerprint and palm print.

About three quarters of an hour after the President was shot a Dallas Police Officer, J.D. Tippit was murdered. Two people saw Oswald shoot Tippit. Numerous witnesses saw Oswald fleeing the scene of the crime. Thirty-eight caliber shells found near the fatally wounded policeman were traced - "to the exclusion of all other weapons" - to the gun that Oswald was carrying when he was arrested a short time afterwards.

It would be difficult to conceive of a more clear cut case. Of course, Oswald's guilt does not preclude the possibility of a conspiracy. A year after the assassination the Warren Commission found that there was no evidence of this. However in 1978 the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) disagreed. The sole basis for this conclusion was acoustic evidence from a police recording device. A scientific analysis of the recording suggested that 3 shots were fired from the Texas school depository behind the President and there was a 95% probability that one shot was fired from the famous "grassy knoll" area to the front right of the President. None of the shots were audible on the recording so the Committee had to rely on expert evidence. Since the autopsy report on the President indicated that the bullet wounds were from behind and above the President (i.e. in the general area of the sixth floor of the Texas School Depository Building) the HSCA could only conclude that the grassy knoll shot had missed.

In the years after 1978 the acoustic evidence has been discredited. Since there was no credible corroborating evidence to support this piece of evidence the theory of a second gunman has collapsed like a house of cards. After nearly a half a century the Warren Commission view still stands: that three shots were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald; one missed (most likely the first shot); a second hit Kennedy, passed through his throat and then hit Governor Connally; and a third bullet was the fatal head shot.

However, even though the evidence points to a sole gunman this does not rule out a conspiracy. It is possible that Oswald received help and encouragement prior to the assassination. But it has to be said that if there was a conspiracy it was a little haphazard. Firstly, the weapon used was a Second World War Italian rifle, not the most modern of firearms. Secondly, the escape plan was disorganized. After leaving the building he hopped on a bus which took him back in the direction he had come from (i.e. towards the Texas School Depository). The bus stalled in traffic caused by the chaos following the assassination, so Oswald had to leave it and take a taxi home.

If there was a conspiracy it is more than a little surprising that the attempted escape was so shambolic. The co-conspirators would have risked exposure if Oswald was caught alive.

On the eve of the assassination Oswald left his estranged Russian wife his wedding ring. It seems as if he did not expect to see her again. Escape was the last thing on his mind.

Two days after Oswald was arrested he was shot by Jack Ruby. Was Ruby trying to prevent Oswald talking? And what could Oswald have revealed? Ruby ran a strip club. Inevitably in such a business he would have had connections with the mafia. At that time the mafia controlled the strippers’ union. He seems to have been in constant contact with "Union" officials complaining that rival strip clubs were undercutting him by not using unionized labor! However, that appears to have been the extent of Ruby’s underworld connections. Ruby was an unstable character given to violent fits of temper. He was the very last person that the Mafia would consider using for a "hit".

He also seems to have had a childish admiration for the police and tried to ingratiate himself to them, partly for business reasons. But the police seemed to have regarded him as a harmless buffoon. One police officer said at the HSCA hearing that if the Mafia had employed Ruby its personnel director should be fired.

But let’s assume it was a Mafia hit. What was the motive? If it was to silence Oswald, how could the silence of the garrulous Ruby be guaranteed? The idea does not make sense. Ruby died of cancer in 1967. So he had four years to spill the beans.

The movements of Ruby before the killing of Oswald don’t suggest a cold blooded, calculating assassin. On the morning that he killed Oswald (Nov.24), Ruby was attending to routine business. The Western Union Office recorded that Ruby wired some money to one of his employees at precisely 11:17 a.m. He then walked to the Dallas police station which was nearby and entered through the basement. It was at precisely this moment that Oswald was being transferred from the station to the County Jail. The window of opportunity for killing Oswald was very narrow and it was by a sheer fluke that Ruby managed to slip through.

The murder has the hallmarks of an impromptu act. The police had announced the previous day that Oswald would be transferred some time after 10:00 a.m. Anthony Summers in his book (Conspiracy: Who killed President Kennedy, 1980) thinks that the very fact that Ruby "knew" the precise time of the transfer meant that he must have had inside knowledge. But nobody knew at precisely when the questioning of Oswald prior to his transfer would be completed.

At first sight it might seem implausible that two "lone nuts" committed a murder within such a short period of time. But in the immediate aftermath of the assassination the United States was seized with a sense of grief. It doesn’t seem too far fetched to suggest that such an emotional atmosphere might have affected someone like Ruby who had access to the police station and carried a gun as a matter of routine. Ruby actually thought that he would be hailed as a hero. Indeed he received telegrams from all over the world congratulating him on his act. But, of course, he had completely undermined the investigation of Oswald as well as giving the Dallas police force a Keystone Cops image because of its failure to protect the chief suspect.

It might also be said that if there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy (through Oswald) and a conspiracy to cover it up (through Ruby) the pay rates were not very good. Oswald lived on the poverty line and Ruby was permanently on the verge of bankruptcy.

There the matter might have been allowed to rest if it were not for the enigmatic personality of Lee Harvey Oswald. Norman Mailer said of him:

"...Oswald was a secret agent. There is no doubt about that. The only matter unsettled is whether he was working for any service larger than the power centers in the privacy of his mind. At the least, we can be certain he was spying on the world in order to report to himself. For, by his own measure, he [was] one of the principalities of the universe." (Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery, 1995)

In his teens Oswald developed an interest in Marxism as a result of publicity surrounding the Rosenberg trial. However, he joined the Marines which suggests that his Marxism was not that profound. Edward Epstein in his book (Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald, 1978) thinks that Oswald may have been spying for the Russians when he was based in Japan. Epstein claims that Oswald had access to confidential information concerning America’s U2 spy plane and that he seemed to be living a lifestyle and socializing in a milieu above what would be expected of a marine with the rank of private. Also some of the women he had been seeing were considered way out of his league.

In October 1959 – the month of his 20th birthday - he left the Marines without being completely discharged and departed for the Soviet Union via a boat from New York, then a plane from England to Finland and finally boarding a train to Moscow. The Soviets did not want to accept Oswald’s application for political asylum, but after his attempted suicide they relented. (This was not the first time that Oswald had resorted to self harm to get his way. While in the Marines he shot himself in the arm in order to remain in Japan).

He was sent to Minsk where he worked in an electronics factory. He seems to have found Soviet life boring and in particular thought the factory lectures in Marxism were tedious: further evidence of his superficial commitment to Marxism. He saw Marxism as a means to express his alienation from American society rather than having virtues in itself. In February 1961 he applied to return to the United States. And the following month he met Marina Prusakova. Following a whirlwind romance he married her in May 1961. It was not until June 1962, more than a year later, that the couple was allowed to leave the Soviet Union for the United States.

Edward Epstein in his book is suspicious of the relative ease with which both Oswald and his wife were allowed enter the US. The word "legend" in the title of Epstein’s book has a specific meaning in intelligence circles. It is a false profile given to a person to enable him to spy. In Epstein’s view Oswald was not who he claimed to be when he returned to the US but a Soviet spy. The evidence for this is pretty flimsy. In 1964 a Soviet defector called Yuri Nosenko claimed that the KGB had not handled Oswald; that the Soviet authorities thought he was nuts; and that his wife Marina had "anti Soviet tendencies". According to Nosenko the Soviets were quite happy to see the back of them. Epstein gives some plausible evidence to suggest that Nosenko was not a genuine defector but a double agent whose object was to spread disinformation. However, it does not follow that because the Soviets wanted to convey a message to the CIA that that message was necessarily false.

The idea that Oswald could have been a Soviet agent when he returned to the US is preposterous. Firstly, and most obviously, Oswald was "damaged goods". He had defected to the Soviet Union and had a dishonorable discharge from the Marines. Such a person was not likely to be given any access to information that would be useful to the Soviets. Secondly, Oswald did not behave like a Soviet agent when he returned to the US. He continued to subscribe to left wing publications and espouse his idiosyncratic version of Marxism to anyone who would listen.

If Oswald was - to use Norman Mailer’s memorable phrase - "working for any service larger than the power centers in the privacy of his mind", could he have been a CIA agent? His political activities in the summer of 1963 have aroused suspicions. Oswald set up a branch of a pro Castro organization called the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans where he was then residing. Although he had correspondence with this group soon after he returned from the Soviet Union he was not active until the summer of 1963 and then only sporadically. Oswald, who was the only member of this branch, tried to infiltrate an anti Castro group. Shortly after this attempt he distributed pro Castro leaflets within a short distance of the anti Castro offices. This caused an altercation in the street, which resulted in the arrest of Oswald for disturbing the peace.

Proponents of the view that Oswald was working for the FBI or CIA believe that his activities in New Orleans were for the purposes of undermining support for pro Castro organizations. But this theory seems a little implausible for a number of reasons. Firstly, New Orleans was overwhelmingly anti Castro at the time. There was no pro Castro tendency to undermine. Secondly, he didn’t try to infiltrate any left wing groups or seek out such tendencies. His only contact with other members of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee was through correspondence with the head office in New York. Thirdly, as will be discussed later it is not at all clear that he did undermine the Fair Play for Cuba Committee by his activities.

Edward Epstein’s view that Oswald was trying to construct a left wing curriculum vitae for himself for the purpose of obtaining a visa for Cuba seems more likely. Oswald assiduously collected newspaper cuttings of his court appearance in New Orleans and presented them at the end of September 1963 to bemused officials of the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City. But while Epstein’s theory is plausible, it undermines his overall thesis that Oswald was a Soviet spy. Why go to the trouble of constructing a left wing CV if you are already working for the Soviets?

There are a number of radio and television recordings of Oswald available on the internet. These date from his New Orleans political activities in August 1963. There is a two part radio interview (part one recorded on August 17, 1963 – a portion of which was later broadcast) conducted by William Stuckey who is hostile without being abusive to Oswald. Oswald is extremely impressive in his defense of Castro and a policy of non intervention by the United States. It is very likely that any anti Castro activists listening to this would have been apoplectic. In part 2 of the interview, which was broadcast live on August 21, 1963, and was probably as a result of complaints by anti Castro elements, Oswald is confronted by an anti Castro Cuban (Carlos Bringuier) and a professional anti communist (Ed Butler).

There is little pretense of balance and Oswald is ambushed with the accusation that from 1959 to 1962 he was in the Soviet Union. There is no doubt that this would have given most listeners pause for thought. Nevertheless, Oswald handled this devastating fact with some skill. Later when asked if he was a communist he replied that he was a Marxist but not a communist. He then gave examples of countries such as Britain, Ghana and Yugoslavia that had socialist elements, but were not necessarily communist. In the case of Britain he gave the example of socialized medicine as a socialist feature of Britain. The point he seems to be making is that a Marxist – in contrast to a communist - is not ideologically bound to a particular model or state. One could agree or disagree with Oswald on this point, but it must be admitted that it is quite a sophisticated political argument.

However, there is a famous photograph of Oswald, which suggests the opposite: that he was a political simpleton. The photograph shows him carrying a rifle in one hand and two left wing magazines: The Worker, which was a Communist Party or Pro Soviet publication; and The Militant, which was a Trotskyist or anti Soviet publication. Oswald seems to have been impervious to the profound ideological differences between the two publications.

Later in the radio discussion he makes the point that the American State distinguishes between the various political systems in the world. He gives as an example the subsidies amounting to over 100 million dollars, which the US gives to Yugoslavia. But this is a point that would not come naturally to a Marxist. It’s a geo political rather than a philosophical point. The competence of Oswald’s media performance as well as its content gives the impression that he had been coached by someone working for the US State.

After the Second World War the CIA actively encouraged and sponsored independent Marxists and social democrats as a means of undermining the strong pro Moscow communist parties in France and Italy. So although it is difficult to see how such a strategy might make sense in the United States, there was at least a precedent for such a policy. Also, Oswald was correct about Yugoslavia. His sympathy for Communist Yugoslavia would not have been completely incompatible with US foreign policy at the time since Yugoslavia had left the Pro Moscow Communist International in 1948. The US was trying to isolate the Soviet Union by encouraging division within the communist camp.

The mystery regarding Oswald’s political influences is resolved by a reading of the Warren Commission testimonies; in particular the testimony of the enigmatic George de Mohrenschildt. De Mohrenschildt was born in 1911in Russia. In 1922 following the revolution his aristocratic family emigrated to Poland. He served in the Polish Cavalry. In 1938 he arrived in the USA. Following the outbreak of war in 1939 Poland was carved up between the Soviet Union and Germany. Edward Epstein thinks that when the Polish State collapsed its former employees gravitated towards either the Soviet or German State. Given de Mohrenschildt's aristocratic Russian background it is more likely that he would have had German sympathies.

In his testimony to the Warren Commission de Mohrenschildt claimed to have worked for French intelligence during the war. However, it appears that the FBI suspected him of working for German intelligence. He was arrested for sketching a naval station in Texas. Edward Esptein says that de Mohrenschildt corresponded with the Japanese Prime Minister’s son who was responsible for co-ordinating Japanese and German intelligence in America. These activities were an obstacle to obtaining US citizenship. They also might have made him vulnerable to US State influence after Germany lost the war.

Whatever about the murky world of espionage the handsome, aristocratic and charming de Mohrenschildt seems to have cut a dash in American high society. He became very friendly with the Bouvier family. The young Jacqueline – the future first lady – used to call him "Uncle George".

After the war he became involved in oil exploration. This business took him all over the world. It is in the nature of this business that the exploration company must have a relationship with the State in which the exploration is done. That relationship in the case of American companies is mediated through the US State. Also the various arms of the US State would have been in a position to help win foreign contracts for American companies.

It is very clear that de Mohrenschildt had a close relationship with the CIA. Interestingly, given Oswald’s radio interviews, de Mohrenschildt had visited Yugoslavia and Ghana. He told the Warren Commission that he was shot at when sketching some fortifications around Marshall Tito’s villa (it seems that the Yugoslav communists were no more appreciative of de Mohrenschildt’s artistic pursuits than the FBI!). When he returned to the USA in 1957 he was debriefed by the CIA.

De Mohrenschildt said at the Warren Commission that he voted Republican. Nevertheless Igor Voshinin (a member of the Russian community living in Dallas at the time) in his Warren Commission statement said that both de Mohrenschildt and his wife were pro-Yugoslavia. De Mohrenschildt also believed that a communist system might be suitable for undeveloped countries, a view, which Oswald also expressed in his radio interviews.

De Mohrenschildt was one of the casualties of the fallout from the Kennedy assassination. He made a number of statements that were embarrassing to the CIA and would have as a consequence damaged his business interests. Around the time he first met Oswald in the summer of 1962 he made contact with J. Walton Moore, who worked for the domestic contacts division of the CIA. He told the FBI that he asked Moore about Oswald. Moore, according to de Mohrenschildt, immediately replied without consulting his files that Oswald was a "harmless lunatic" (Conspiracy: Who Killed President Kennedy, 1980, page 227). Much has been made of this statement. It indicates that the CIA knew all about Oswald and that they had formed a spectacularly wrong assessment of his harmfulness. But it would have been amazing if a CIA agent based in Dallas was not aware of Oswald. It is doubtful that there were any other American born Dallas or Fort Worth residents who had returned from the Soviet Union. Secondly, Oswald had no violent convictions. So the assumption of his harmlessness was reasonable at the time.

A number of commentators have questioned the relationship between a wealthy and sophisticated individual in his early fifties such as de Mohrenschildt and a social misfit in his early twenties. There is no suggestion of a homosexual relationship. It seems likely that de Mohrenschildt was debriefing Oswald on behalf of the CIA. He encouraged Oswald to write down his memoirs with particular emphasis on his time in Minsk. However, it appears that there was much more to it than that. De Mohrenschildt and his wife appear to have grown quite fond of Oswald. George, in particular, enjoyed late night political discussions with him and regretted that his own children were not interested in such matters. The New Orleans radio interviews suggest that de Mohrenschildt had a quite profound influence on Oswald and Oswald, for his part, must have found it a very pleasant and novel experience to have his political views taken seriously.

The relationship with Oswald began in the Summer of 1962 and lasted until April 1963 when a very significant event occurred. On the evening of April 13, 1963, George and Jeanne de Mohrenschildt arrived unannounced at the Oswalds’ home with an Easter present for their child. While Marina was showing Jeanne around the apartment the latter noticed a rifle in one of the closets. Jeanne immediately remarked on this to her husband who asked was Lee the person "who took a pot shot at General Walker". This jocose comment referred to an unsuccessful assassination attempt a few days earlier on this very right wing Texan. It was also a reference to a conversation George, Lee and a German geologist called Volkmar Schmidt had at a party earlier that year in which Schmidt expressed the opinion that Walker was an American Hitler. George de Mohrenschildt noticed that Lee was highly embarrassed by this joke. Jeanne de Mohrenschildt by contrast denied that she noticed anything unusual in Oswald’s reaction. She said she asked what Oswald was doing with a rifle. Marina replied that he liked to shoot leaves in the park. In Jeanne de Mohrenschildt’s testimony to the Warren Commission she claimed that she didn’t think there was anything unusual about this explanation.

George de Mohrenschildt’s jocose comment was a case of "never a truer word spoken in jest". After the assassination of Kennedy police found surveillance photos of the Walker residence among Oswald’s personal effects. Marina testified that Oswald was not at home the night of the Walker assassination attempt. Also, he left a note giving her instructions as to what she should do if he did not return that night. Ballistic evidence indicated that the bullet that missed Walker could have been fired from Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano. However, the damage done to the bullet was such that experts could not exclude the possibility that it was fired from a similar weapon.

George Mohrenschildt’s evidence to the Warren Commission reads like a man who is wrestling with his conscience. On the one hand he says that the security services should have protected him and his wife from "even knowing" a man like Oswald and "they shouldn’t have let him come back to the United States". On the other hand he thinks Oswald was innocent. The Warren Commission Counsel asked him about the rifle incident on April 13, 1963. Remarkably, de Mohrenschildt was not asked if he mentioned this to any security service. Was the Warren Commission Counsel covering up for the CIA or was he saving de Mohrenschildt himself from embarrassment?

It is unlikely that de Mohrenschildt did inform his CIA handlers or any other state agency of his suspicions. If he had, he would have not been so insistent in subsequent years about Oswald’s innocence.

In April 1963 the de Mohrenschildts were preparing to leave Dallas and begin a new life in Haiti where George was involved in a long term geological project. Perhaps at the time they regarded the period in which they knew the Oswalds as an amusing interlude in their adventurous lives. They could not have known then that their fate had already been sealed and that they would never escape from their association with Lee Harvey Oswald.

After the assassination George de Mohrenschildt’s business declined and he was ostracized by his wealthy friends. In particular, the Bouvier family was not sympathetic. The assassination also inflicted a heavy psychological toll on de Mohrenschildt.

It is sometimes the case that those people with only a peripheral involvement in a violent criminal act suffer the most psychological trauma. De Mohrenschildt cannot be held responsible for the assassination of Kennedy. But in his quiet moments he might have wondered what would have happened if he had behaved differently. What, for instance, would have happened if had contacted his CIA friend J. Walton Moore and suggested that the latter revisit the "harmless" part of his "harmless lunatic" description of Oswald. It might be said that it is not an honorable thing to inform on your friends. But if de Mohrenschildt had already been passing on information to the CIA on Oswald’s time in Minsk, what moral objection could there be to informing on Oswald’s recent violent inclinations. De Mohrenschildt’s friendship with the Bouvier family must have added bitterness to his inner turmoil.

But it seems that de Mohrenschildt dealt with these doubts by convincing himself that Oswald was innocent. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) published a manuscript that de Mohrenschildt had written entitled "I’m a patsy! I’m a patsy!" about his "dear, dear friend" Oswald. He is sympathetic to Oswald but has some unkind words to say about Jackie Kennedy:

"Jacqueline was not so beautiful. Especially, she was not beautiful inside when she married that gangster of international shipping Aristotle Onassis."

In the 1970s Jeanne de Mohrenschildt committed her husband to a mental institution for three months suffering from severe depression. By 1977 it had all become too much. He had granted a series of four interviews to Edward Epstein, but never completed them. On the day that he received a summons to appear before the HSCA he put a gun to his head and shot himself.

It is difficult to accept that a social misfit such as Oswald could have killed the most powerful person in the United States. It is even more difficult to accept that he acted alone. And yet that is where a cold, dispassionate examination of the evidence leads. But it appears that a significant element within the American Left cannot set aside its emotional predilections and see the obvious. It views the world in terms of conspiracies perpetrated by an almost omnipotent elite against the passive, inert and impotent masses. The conspiracies can be benign or malign depending on the nature of the elite in question. A prime exponent of this worldview is the influential filmmaker Oliver Stone.

The Stone view of the world dictates that Kennedy’s virtues must be embellished and if he made mistakes in the past (the Bay of Pigs) he had the potential to be the greatest President. Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights record must be diminished in order to emphasize the loss to the world caused by Kennedy’s assassination. And since the assassination was a catastrophe, it could only have been perpetrated by a malign elite. Stone’s film JFK is a risible pot pourri of long debunked conspiracy theories. It is irrelevant that the conspiracies have no basis in reality. The ideological perspective cannot conceive of an individual acting independently of an elite.

There is no doubt that this perspective is disabling for any left wing development in the USA. One might find the Tea Party Movement repugnant, but it must be admitted that there has been no equivalent grassroots movement in recent times on the American Left.

Oswald was capable of independent action but there is less to him than meets the eye. Knowledge of the events of November 22nd, 1963 tempts the reader to infuse his prior actions with a meaning that is not there. His defection to the Soviet Union and his political engagement distinguish him from other notorious killers. But in other respects there is a similar pattern. He never knew his father. His brother Robert has said that his mother considered her children, and particularly Lee, a burden. When he lived in New York as a child, a social worker discovered that he didn’t attend school and spent all his time looking at television. From an early age he was alienated from society.

A remarkable feature of Oswald’s personality was the unbalanced nature of his intellectual capacities. He had the ability to become fluent at Russian - a considerable intellectual achievement – and yet was barely able to write in English, possibly because of dyslexia. He was able to hold his own in a foreign policy debate on a New Orleans radio station but seemed to have no understanding of basic Marxist concepts or debates within the communist movement.

His political activity reflected his social isolation. It does not appear that he ever co-operated with anyone to achieve a political goal. His demonstration in New Orleans against American foreign policy consisted of just himself and a paid assistant. Although his political activity in New Orleans was presented as being under the auspices of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee it does not seem that he ever submitted to that organization’s discipline or advice. His communication with it consisted of him telling them what he was going to do in its name. His inability to work with others has as its corollary that others would be unwilling to work with him. It is inconceivable that his putative conspirators: the CIA, the Mafia, the Soviets, the Cubans etc would have touched Oswald with the proverbial 30 foot barge pole.

The tragic story of Lee Harvey Oswald has its comic elements. His grand act of allegiance to the Soviet Union was met with sublime indifference by his communist hosts. He had to threaten suicide before he was allowed to stay in the Soviet Union. The United States treated his renunciation of citizenship with equal indifference and was happy to allow him return when he grew tired of his Soviet sojourn. His brother Robert said that he was disappointed that there had been no reporters on his arrival at Dallas airport. The Cubans had no interest in his New Orleans heroics when he arrived at their embassy in Mexico City. His wife laughed at him when he said that he could become a senior official in the Cuban government or when he said that in the future he would be a "Prime Minister" of the USA. He couldn’t provide for his children or his demanding and materialistic wife who was dependent on the charity of the virulently anti communist Russian émigré community in Dallas.

Objectively, the assassination was a political act with political consequences. But the motivation was primarily psychological. When Oswald was caught he did not proclaim any political objective. On the contrary he denied having anything to do with the assassination. He did not want legal representation from Dallas but instead contacted John Abt, a New York lawyer who had represented defendants prosecuted under the Smith Act, which prohibited advocating the violent overthrow of the US government and was used against communists in the 1950s. It appears that Oswald wanted to present himself as an innocent victim who had been mistreated by a world whose most famous representative was John F. Kennedy.

On the eve of the assassination his separated wife refused to take him back. Perhaps the assassination was a vicarious suicide. By killing Kennedy, Oswald would bring finality to his own life. At last he would be taken seriously. It is said that nobody would have been more pleased about the thousands of books, articles and documentaries on the assassination than Lee Harvey Oswald himself. [END]

First published in the September 2011 issue of Irish Foreign Affairs. Republished with permission.

The author was born in Ireland in 1964. He is a regular contributor on economic and historical matters to current affairs magazines such as Irish Foreign Affairs and the Irish Political Review. His most recent book The Irish Times: Past and Present was published in 2008.

Gap in history to be closed: A memorial marker for Officer J.D.Tippit


Today is the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy in downtown Dallas.

As people visit Dealey Plaza, there will be few if any visitors stopping by an important spot left unmarked; Where Lee Harvey Oswald killed Officer J.D. Tippit.

But that should be changing next year, all because of a News 8 report in 2010.

The corner of 10th and Patton now borders where the Dallas school district is expanding the Adamson High School campus.

If plans fall in place, there'll be something else built on this corner.

Kennedy assassination expert Farris Rookstool calls it a long time in coming.

"It's better to do it late than never, and this is a very important project not only for the City of Dallas, but also for the State of Texas," Rookstool said.

The district agreed to the placement of a marker on Adamson school property to show where Officer J.D. Tippit was shot by Oswald.

Other JFK locations have state markers, such as the old school depository and the former police building where Oswald was shot.

But there's nothing in Dallas to remember Tippit and where he fell on 10th Street, about 100 feet east from its intersection with Patton.

After News 8 reported on this gap in history last year, the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League (OOCCL) applied for a Texas Historical Commission marker, with Rookstool assisting.

The Texas Historical Foundation, a non-profit, donated $5,000 for the marker. And the school district designed what will be a small plaza for the marker.

"Having this sitting area and having a nice big tree that is going to mature and get huge in the Texas sun is going to be a great thing, and I think people are going to hang out here and I think they are going to read the marker, and I think more people are going to become aware of what happened on this corner," said President of the OOCCL Michael Amonett.

The Texas Historical Commission votes on the marker application in January.

If it approves, the marker should be in place for the 49th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and Officer Tippit's murder.

Source: [View related video story]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

TV: The Lost Bullet and more


Television acknowledges the 48th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination this year with three documentaries, only one of which is new.

The History Channel and National Geographic Channel are both offering up reruns of 2003's Beyond Conspiracy and 2010's The Lost JFK Tapes – programs worth watching.

The new documentary, JFK: The Lost Bullet, produced by Robert Stone (Oswald’s Ghost), examines Max Holland’s 2007 theory that Oswald fired his first shot several seconds before Abraham Zapruder began filming the Kennedy limousine, and consequently, Zapruder’s infamous film did not capture the entire shooting sequence as previously believed.

The basis of Holland’s theory was that he believed that more earwitnesses thought the last two shots were closer together in time than the first two. This and many other aspects of Holland’s theory have been examined and debunked on the pages of this blog over the last four years.

These links will help you get up to speed:

Max Holland’s 11 Seconds in Dallas

Holland Déjà vu

Cherry-Picking Evidence of the First Shot

Here’s this years TV schedule (all times EST):

National Geographic Channel

The Lost JFK Tapes: The Assassination

To mark the anniversary of JFK's assassination hundreds of hours of news footage, radio reports, audio recordings and home movies have been released that captured history as it was chaotically unfolding. This unique eyewitness material was first stored by local news stations in Dallas/Fort Worth and then in the vault of The 6th Floor Museum, which is dedicated to helping others understand the day Kennedy was killed.

07:00 PM to 09:00 PM / Sunday, Nov. 20
2:00 AM to 4:00 AM / Monday, Nov. 21

JFK: The Lost Bullet

The world premiere documentary offers the exclusive first look at home videos from that fateful day, including the restored Zapruder film, remastered in crystal-clear high definition and combined for the first time together in one film. The digital scans offer more than projected images ever could - including details in the areas of exposed film between the sprocket holes. Could this obscured information shed light on some of the many controversies surrounding JFKs death?

09:00 PM to 10:00 PM / Sunday, Nov. 20
12:00 MID to 1:00 AM / Monday, Nov 21
10:00 AM to 11::00 AM / Sunday, Nov. 27

The History Channel

The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy

The Peter Jennings' special examines the many conspiracy theories regarding the assassination of John F. Kennedy and features a computer reconstruction of the crime by animator Dale K. Myers.

8:00 PM to 10:00 PM / Tuesday, Nov. 22
12:01 AM to 2:01 AM / Wednesday, Nov. 23

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lost JFK assassination tapes on sale

by JOANN LOVIGLIO / Associated Press

A long-lost version of the Air Force One recordings made in the immediate aftermath of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, with more than 30 minutes of additional material not in the official version in the government's archives, has been found and is for sale.

There are incidents and code names described on the newly discovered two-plus hour recording, which predates the shorter and newer recording currently housed in the National Archives outside Washington and the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Texas. The shorter recording was thought to be the only surviving version of the tape.

The asking price is $500,000 for the reel-to-reel tape, which is inside its original box with a typewritten label showing it was made by the White House Communications Agency for Army Gen. Chester "Ted" Clifton Jr.

It is titled "Radio Traffic involving AF-1 in flight from Dallas, Texas to Andrews AFB on November 22, 1963."

"As Americans have looked to the history of the Kennedy assassination in search of answers, somewhere in an attic there existed a tape made years before the only known surviving version, of the conversations on Air Force One on that fateful day," said Nathan Raab, vice president of The Raab Collection, a Philadelphia historic documents dealer that put the tape up for sale Tuesday.

The recording is the highlight of the personal effects from the estate of Clifton, who was Kennedy's senior military aide and was in the Dallas motorcade when the president was assassinated.

Clifton, who died in 1991, had kept a collection of audio tapes, documents, photographs and video stemming from his years in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The Raab Collection, which is selling the tape and the rest of the archive, acquired the items at a public sale from Clifton's heirs after the death of Clifton's wife in 2009.

"At a time when there really wasn't what we consider today a chief of staff, Clifton carried on many of those functions," Raab said. "He retires in 1965, this goes with him."

The recording consists of in-flight radio calls between the aircraft, the White House Situation Room, Andrews Air Force Base and a plane that was carrying Kennedy press secretary Pierre Salinger and six Cabinet members from Hawaii to Tokyo when the president was assassinated.

The Clifton tapes include additional debate about whether Kennedy's body would be brought to Bethesda Naval Hospital or Walter Reed Hospital for autopsy and if first lady Jackie Kennedy would accompany the fallen president, as well as expanded discussions about arranging for ambulances and limousines to meet the plane.

No references to Kennedy nemesis Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay occur in the shorter version, but the Clifton tape contains an urgent attempt by an aide to contact him. The aide, seeking to interrupt Air Force transmissions to reach LeMay, is heard saying the general "is in a C140. Last three numbers are 497. His code name is Grandson. And I want to talk to him."

The whereabouts of LeMay, whose enmity for the president makes him a central figure for Kennedy assassination researchers, have long been disputed. The newly discovered recording can finally end the speculation and pinpoint his location immediately after the president's murder, Raab said.

Other conversations on the tape refer to "Monument" and "W.T.E." — code names for people as yet unknown — and someone only called "John."

Parts of the audio are difficult to discern because several conversations from the different patches are going on simultaneously. Raab said their digital copy was made as a straightforward recording, not as a forensic analysis, and current or future technology may be able to tease out and enhance the conversations.

The edited recording in the National Archives and the LBJ Library, available to the public since 1971, begins with an announcer stating it has been "edited and condensed" but not explaining how much was cut or by whom.

A more complete version of the Air Force One tapes were long sought but never found, adding fuel to decades-old suspicions that there is more to Kennedy's assassination than the official account naming Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman.

The Assassination Records Review Board, created by an act of Congress in 1992 after the Oliver Stone film "JFK" caused public uproar to re-examine Kennedy's killing, unsuccessfully sought the unedited Air Force One tapes for its probe. In its final report in 1998, the board said the LBJ Library version was filled with crude breaks and chopped conversations.

"That this tape even exists will change the way we view this great event in history," Raab said. "It took decades to analyze the shorter, newer version and it will take years to do the same here."

The Clifton tape has been professionally digitized and a copy is being donated by the Raab Collection to the National Archives and the John F. Kennedy Library so the public will have access to the material even if the original tape is sold to a private collector.

Douglas Horne, who studied the LBJ Library version of the Air Force One tapes as an analyst for the Assassination Records Review Board, called the Clifton tape an exciting discovery that could yield valuable new information.

"There's a possibility that this find could really add to the story," he said.

Max Holland, a researcher who has written extensively about the Kennedy assassination and transcribed the Air Force One tapes from the LBJ Library, disagreed and said the additional material on the new tape appeared to be "very minor and incremental."
"If that's the best they've got, they ain't got much," he said.

The wholly unedited "raw" recording of the entirety of the trip, which also would have included periods of silence and static, has never been located. It would have been roughly 4½ hours long.

[Editor's Note: Listen to excerpts online here.]

Source: The Associated Press