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The Twelve Who Built the Oswald Legend


by Bill Simpich, Oct 1, 2020

Epilogue:  A Path Toward Historical Resolution of the JFK Case

Let's wrap up the story of the twelve who built the Oswald legend - and see how we can make this story plain in the modern world.

This wrap-up will focus on the milieu of the legend makers and Oswald, not on those that planned 11/22. (For my thoughts on that subject, see the Conclusion of State Secret.) Here's my analysis, based on the facts as I see them.

I think these thoughts also offer a path toward historical resolution of the JFK case. This case is not nearly as mysterious as many people like to portray it. The most important thing to do? Take a flinty-eyed look at the people around people like the Paines. People leading to people like FBI agent Bardwell Odum.

Of all the legend makers, the Paines are the most significant ones during the autumn of 1963. Ruth wrote her mother in mid-October - the four-page letter is almost entirely about Lee Oswald, with Ruth exclaiming that during his visits to her home "...(he has) generally added a needed masculine flavor. From a poor first impression I have come to like him." She hoped that Marina would stay through Christmas and then get her own place with Lee.  

Meanwhile, Michael and Lee were going to a series of meetings focused on the tensions in Dallas that bubbled up with the physical attack on Adlai Stevenson organized by right-wing activist Larrie Schmidt on 10/24/63. Time Magazine called them "Dallas' adult juvenile delinquents." The Texas Observer commented: "If the Birchers had not been in the minority, the Stevenson Riot would have had blood as well as spit."

Shortly before the assassination, Schmidt spread around town an insulting JFK mugshot emblazoned "Wanted for Treason". He also arranged for it to be run as a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News on November 22. I think the purpose of this campaign was to offer a wall of protection to the ultra-right wing of Dallas - reasonable people would conclude that no one was crazy enough to politically attack the President and at the same time participate in a plan to kill him.

Schmidt's "Wanted for Treason" poster

By November 4, security director Paul Rothermel wrote a memo about the political tensions in Dallas. Rothermel worked for oil magnate H. L. Hunt, who had over five hundred radio stations broadcasting his nationally syndicated radio program Life Line.

Rothermel told DPD and FBI that on 11/4 he heard there would be violence on the JFK route. He had the FBI's ear as an ex-FBI agent - he served as a regular informant and was referred to as "former SA Rothermel". Note an 11/5/63 memo from Jack Revill of Dallas' Red Squad to Special Services Bureau chief Pat Gannaway that may have been written in response to Rothermel's tip.  Revill said that one of the ultra-right groups planning to protest JFK threatened: "We will drag his dick in the dirt".

Rothermel dictated the contents of his memo to the FBI -  Rothermel said that the Dallas police had informants within right wing groups ready to start an incident - and that he had heard a left wing group was ready to start an incident with a right wing group and then withdraw. "The talk is that the incident involving Adlai Stevenson made the present administration hopeful in that if they could get the same thing to happen to Kennedy it could reassure his election."

On his part, H.L. Hunt read Rothermel's memo and decided against taking action to either protect or dissuade his right wing friends. Dallas historians Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis found that Hunt concluded that "maybe, just maybe, it would be useful for the president to see how little he is liked in Dallas."  (See their book 1963: The Road to the Kennedy Assassination, p. 264).

Rothermel's memo illustrates that many people thought that incidents on the motorcade route might help their cause in some way. Everything in Oswald's background as a provocateur fits into that scenario.

Doug Thompson, the webmaster at Capitol Hill Blue, had dinner with John Connally in 1982. Connally told him "you know I was one of the ones who advised Kennedy to stay away from Texas. Lyndon was being a real asshole about the whole thing and insisted." Thompson asked Connally if he thought Oswald was the shooter. "Absolutely not.  I do not, for one second, believe the conclusions of the Warren Commission." Why didn't Connally speak out?  "Because I love this country and we needed closure at the time. I will never speak out publicly about what I believe."

Connally's actions are why Oswald was stuck without GI Bill benefits - something Oswald needed to fix

Nellie Connally wrote in her book From Love Field that John Connally personally signed the documents that gave Oswald an undesirable discharge.

Oswald hand-wrote a memo shortly before 11/22/63 describing his experience with "street agitation" - citing his recent arrest in New Orleans. He may have written this for his still-unknown contacts in Dallas.

In my opinion, Lee Oswald's note to Hosty and letter to the Soviets was motivated to be seen as a player in the world of espionage - this was his best shot to get his GI Bill benefits ASAP. When Oswald's room on Beckley was searched, all three of his key undesirable discharge rulings from 1960-1963 were found together among his few possessions in that tiny room.

I don't think that taking a pot shot at ex-Navy secretary John Connally or JFK from the highly insecure sixth floor of the book depository was a good way to make that happen. The way for Oswald to get his benefits was to make himself seen as an important player in the world of espionage - if he could figure out his place in the scheme of things.  

I think Oswald's 11/9/63 letter and his letter to Hosty at about the same time were two halting steps in that direction. I also think that Oswald was involved in doing some favors for someone in the tense behind-the-scenes atmosphere of 11/22. Why else would he head to the Texas Theatre, except to look for a contact? And why in the world would he not bring his handgun to work if he was planning to shoot the President? Only a crazy person would fail to bring his protection along with him if he wanted to get away. Anyone conducting a long-distance ambush is trying to get away.  Oswald was not crazy.

Meanwhile, it's a sure thing that the planners of the Kennedy assassination had access to the Oswald file. One glance at it would provide convincing evidence that Connally took away Oswald's military benefits - and, in turn, provide a factual foundation for the cover story. The Connally part of the cover story was a "spare part" that was never used - but it was available, if needed.

Navy counsel Andy Kerr's memoir A Journey Among the Good and the Great also backs up Kerr's account of  Connally's involvement in Oswald's loss of his GI Bill benefits. Kerr wrote that he advised Connally:

"In Oswald's case, my conclusions were that his complaint had no legal basis, his request was without merit, and that Connally should not involve himself in any way. 

This routing slip supports the story about how Connally deep-sixed Oswald's attempt to obtain an upgraded discharge by directing
This routing slip supports the story about how
Connally deep-sixed Oswald's attempt to obtain
an upgraded discharge by directing
"appropriate action".

"I recommended that he refer the letter to the commandant of the Marine Corps for 'appropriate action'." (Emphasis added.) This phrase meant, in clear officialese, that the secretary was washing his hands of the case. The commandant could do with it as he wished. No one could doubt that the result would be. It was a kiss-off.

"A day or two later, Connally called me into  his office. He had obviously read the entire file and was intrigued. We discussed the case for half an hour or so, and at the end he said, "I agree with you, Andy--this is the way we should handle it." He then signed that second piece of paper that sent Oswald's letter on its way, we thought, to oblivion."

And, in fact, that's precisely what happened. The Warren Commission has a memo dated 2/26/62 - three days after the purported cc from Connally to Fred Korth, at a time when Connally was clearing his desk as Secretary of the Navy to pass the reins to Korth - stating that the Oswald matter was being "routed to CMC (Commandant, Marine Corps) for 'appropriate action'."  (Emphasis added.)  

There's no sign that Fred Korth saw this memo. There's an initial "C" on the bottom - that may be from Connally. Connally's signature looks similar.

Instead, a week later, Oswald was sent a "kiss-off letter" from Brigadier General R. Tompkins of the Marine Corps, saying that your letter "was referred to me for reply".  

Kerr's colleague Hank Searles also corroborates Kerr's account. Searles recalled the morning that Kerr opened the Oswald letter, read it, and advised Connally to reject it. Are there any indications that Fred Korth ever saw any of Oswald's requests for a discharge upgrade?

Where was Oswald during the motorcade?

As I have written in State Secret and in my examination of the Warren Commission's conclusions, the evidence against Oswald falls apart like a cheap shirt.

It's hard to imagine anyone in Dallas more interested in politics than Oswald - so why wasn't he right up front watching the motorcade? I think he was involved in something, and was told to wait out of sight on the first floor - maybe within earshot of one of the telephones on the second floor.

At the end, Oswald might have given into temptation and stood at the back of the book depository steps to get a peek at the motorcade, figuring he was safe from being seen in that remote location. The ones standing next to him may not have noticed him, because they were staring so intently at the street. (For more on that possibility, see the "Prayer Man" website.)

In any case, if anyone was shooting from the book depository, their goal couldn't have been to get off an accurate shot from that highly insecure location. Why fire from long distance, unless your goal is to get away?

The goal of any book depository shooter was most probably to cause a provocation and get away. If there was such a plan, Oswald could have been positioning himself in any one of a number of ways - or, without his knowledge - he could have been positioned to take the fall.

Allen Dulles had ties to de Mohrenschildt and the Paines

Ruth Paine, Marguerite Oswald, Marina Oswald with baby Rachel, on the Friday evening of the Kennedy assassination
Ruth Paine, Marguerite Oswald, Marina Oswald with baby Rachel,
on the Friday evening of the Kennedy assassination

I believe that the relationships between the Paines and de Mohrenschildt, the Paines and Oswald, and de Mohenschildt and Oswald are all tied to Allen Dulles. The Magnolia party described in Part 7 brought together Ruth Paine, George de Mohrenschildt, and the Oswalds, surrounded by oil-affiliated people with ties to Radio Free Europe and the Dulles wing of the CIA. Dulles liked working with Unitarians and Quakers, because they were filled with people interested in the left-wing movements as well as people who wanted to bring the communists down.   

I also believe that the Paines were being closely observed by the White Russians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, who knew that anti-Soviet NTS intelligence operatives and similar forces were all around them. As Ruth's tutor Dorothy Gravitis told the Warren Commission, "I said to Mrs. Paine to be more careful."  

Flowchart of CIA-NTS relationship
Flowchart of CIA-NTS relationship

This flowchart shows the powerful relationship between the CIA and the NTS discussed in Part 6 - which included working with "singleton" agents who would go into the Soviet Union in programs such as REDSKIN discussed in Part 1.  

The Paines were very much at home with Dorothy Gravitis, her son-in-law Ilya Mamanov (who was recruited by Army Intelligence to assist the FBI in interrogating Marina on 11/22), and other "displaced persons" in the White Russian community, because of Ruth's attraction to the Russian language and because of their shared anti-communist values.

The CIA had an office in Dallas, run by Jim Moore - who was the college roommate of FBI agent Wallace Heitman. Heitman spoke Spanish; his partner Anatol Bogaslov was the FBI's top Russian translator. (James Hosty, Assignment:  Oswald, p. 103).  The skills of Heitman and Bogaslov were great assets in working with the White Russians of Dallas, who harbored the powerful NTS network.   Heitman interviewed Marina Oswald literally dozens of times in the weeks after 11/22/63, and kept at it until late 1964. Can you imagine how exhausted Marina must have been? Willing to say anything to avoid being deported or worse.

FBI agent Bardwell Odum kept an eye on the Paines

Heitman had a close colleague - Bardwell Odum. Odum was a native Texan, whose brother Arthur was vice consul at the Venezuelan consulate at Maracaibo during 1963. While Heitman specialized in working with the Russians and the Cubans as a valued CIA liaison for the Dallas office, Odum was a senior criminal specialist and a favorite of Dallas FBI chief Gordon Shanklin.  

Heitman was the man who met Eldon Rudd on the tarmac the night of the assassination. Rudd was delivering documents provided to him by CIA Mexico City chief Win Scott - a photo of the Mystery Man that Scott allegedly believed was Oswald, and wiretap transcripts allegedly of Oswald. A memo indicates that audiotapes from Mexico City also made it to Dallas.  

Within less than 24 hours, Odum showed Marguerite Oswald the "Mystery Man photo" described in Part 10 on November 23 - which Marguerite later claimed was a photo of Jack Ruby - shown to her one day before Ruby killed Oswald. Marguerite's mistake in confusing the Mystery Man for Ruby has distracted researchers from realizing that Odum was a major player - he was entrusted with these very important CIA documents very early on.

Like Heitman, Odum was a veteran in the world of intelligence. As discussed in Part 12, Michael Paine said he knew him as "Bob Odum" before the assassination, while the Irving barber Cliff Shasteen regularly gave haircuts to both Oswald and Odum before the assassination. Odum spent many years as a contact to Ruth Paine after the assassination. I believe Odum was the FBI man who "handled" the Paines both before and after the assassination - whether they knew it or not.

Oswald told Ruth that he left a note for "the agents" at the FBI office. Ruth told the Warren Commission that she believed it until she learned after the assassination that it was "another lie" by Oswald.

In 1975, when the Oswald note to Hosty was finally revealed to the public, most of the agents at the office admitted they knew the story. But not Odum.

Bardwell Odum with Marina Oswald on 11/23/63.
Bardwell Odum with Marina Oswald on 11/23/63.

Odum claimed to Ruth that he had never known about the Oswald visit to the Dallas FBI office - even though just about everyone else did! When Ruth found out that Oswald had actually delivered the note to Hosty, she blurted out Odum's name to the media as her source.

She then called Odum and apologized, saying that "it's all my fault". Ruth referred to Odum as "her primary contact".

The relationship between Hosty and Odum is also fascinating. To hear Hosty tell the story in his book Assignment: Oswald, Odum knew all about how Hosty was ordered to destroy the note Oswald brought to the FBI office as soon as Hosty's boss Shanklin heard that Oswald was dead. Odum denies every word of Hosty's account - stating that if any FBI agent was involved in destroying evidence, he "would not forget it".

Odum had a lot to forget about. He was busy on November 22 and afterwards. Martha Moyer and Raymond F. Gallagher wrote articles that schooled me over the years about Mr. Odum's busy schedule.  Researcher Leslie Sharp knew I was hot on Odum's trail, and she reminded me just how busy he was from the very first moments after JFK was shot.

We first see Odum driving J. C. Day from the book depository to put the alleged assassination rifle into a locked evidence box in Day's fourth floor office at the police department - Odum called in over the FBI radio channel that has now disappeared into the ether without a trace. We then see Odum stationing himself as a guard in the lobby of the Texas Theatre, watching Oswald being frog-marched away. Curiously, Odum was allegedly standing inside the theater near FBI counterintelligence officer Robert Barrett and Dallas Captain Pinky Westbrook. Like Odum, Barrett has also told his share of whoppers. Barrett told a variety of stories about whether or not he was looking for bullets with Detective Buddy Walthers in Dealey Plaza in the moments after the assassination.

Similarly, when Westbrook was videotaped holding a wallet similar to Oswald's at the Tippit death scene, Barrett claimed that Westbrook told him that the wallet had both Oswald and Hidell's ID in it - on other occasions, Barrett falsely told the news media that a card with "O. H. Lee" on it was also found in the wallet. The lies of Odum and Barrett were designed to confuse everyone about the key events surrounding the assassination.

By 1:51 pm, the Dallas radio transcript shows that Jerry Hill and his colleagues are en route to headquarters with Oswald. Hill was with Luke Mooney on the sixth floor when they claimed to find the Mannlicher-Carcano hulls that matched the rifle that Odum escorted to the evidence room. Odum is busy.

Then Odum shows up at the searches of Ruth Paine's home. Ruth felt that Marina "must have known that Lee went to Mexico", based on the materials from Mexico that she and Odum allegedly found while going through Marina's dresser drawers. He's busy.

A ring of contradictions

Oswald has a ring on his left hand.
Oswald has a ring on his left hand.

On November 22, a ring can be seen on Oswald's left hand, which later disappears. It might be his wedding ring, but even if it is his Marine ring - and someone should be able to figure this out - it still doesn't really matter. Like much of the evidence, the chain of custody of these two rings is hotly contested.

Researcher Timothy Cweik did a great job studying this situation - he pointed out that Marina made two contradictory statements. On 12/3/63 she said that she saw Oswald's wedding ring left behind when she woke up that morning, even though it was on his hand the previous evening. But she didn't see the ring on her dresser that morning - she only saw it after the police arrived that afternoon.  

Marina made two other contradictory statements. She said that she called Ruth Paine and told her about finding the ring on her dresser - important, because that was right about the time that Marina was taken into protective custody by the Secret Service. But when Ruth testified to the Warren Commission, she told them that Odum was the one who asked her to find the wedding ring. He asked Ruth if she had any idea where it might be.  Ruth found the ring in the first place she looked - "the little tea cup that is from her grandmother".  

The National Archives pored through their records, and could find no record of any ring being turned over to the FBI. Yet, in an interview, Marina told journalist Jessamyn West that the federal government had possession of the wedding ring and returned it to her years later - even in the face of the laws mandating that the Archives retain all evidence of the case. Ruth's finding of the wedding ring appears to have been choreographed by Odum.  Nonetheless, it's a great story that is frequently touted as proof of Oswald's guilt.

Ruth and Michael regularly spoke with Odum.  Marina did not.

Ruth and Michael regularly spoke with Odum. Marina did not. She told Odum she would not talk to the FBI on 11/23/63 - this brave talk got her nothing but the aforementioned relentless scrutiny of agents Heitman and Bogaslov. There is a LIfe photo documenting this incident showing Marina talking with Odum while holding the newborn Rachel.

The 23rd was also the day that Ruth gave Oswald's draft letter to the Soviet consulate to Jim Hosty after holding it back from the Dallas police on the day of the assassination. To me, this is the clearest example that the Paines knew that they were enmeshed in a relationship with the federal government due to the nature of their relationship with the Oswald family. Any other person other than Ruth Paine would have provided the Oswald draft letter to the Dallas police right on the spot.

On the 24th, Odum interviewed Ruth and obtained her copy of the Oswald draft letter. Hosty said that Odum was sent by their boss to verify Hosty's story and to make sure Hosty hadn't mistreated Ruth or Marina in his interviews with them before the assassination. Odum signed an affidavit saying he did not recall this story.   

Odum went on to interview Ruth at least ten times during the next year, as confirmed by this list.  I see no evidence that Odum ever spoke to her again until 1975.

Dallas Police evidence list including Minox camera
Dallas Police evidence list including Minox camera

Odum did, however, get caught up in at least two other controversies. The Dallas police found a Minox camera at Ruth Paine's home, as shown on this list of Oswald's possessions and Gus Rose's personal recollection. It's a classic spy camera. When Wally Heitman obtained control of the chain of custody list, he changed the DPD listing of "a Minox camera" to a "Minox light meter".

When the ownership of the Minox became a major issue, the Oswalds' host Michael Paine came forward to Bard Odum and said the Minox found in Ruth's home was his camera. By definition, a #27259 camera is a Minox II, as that model goes up to #31500. John Armstrong, Harvey and Lee, p. 910. Nonetheless, Paine's camera was mistakenly logged in by Odum into the FBI records as a Minox III

Paine's camera was returned to him. A real Minox III is sitting in the Archives today. It is believed to be Oswald's Minox. It is currently jammed and thus the serial number remains unknown.   (Researcher Carol Hewitt has written a fine summary of this imbroglio.)

Odum is also cited in a 1964 memo summarizing a series of interviews with witnesses regarding firearms evidence. It states that witnesses O. P. Wright and Daniel Tomlinson believed that the infamous "magic bullet" CE 399 - referred to by the FBI as C1 - "appeared to be" the same bullet that they had seen on November 22. This pristine bullet was supposedly found near a stretcher in Parkland Hospital - but O.P. Wright, a former Dallas cop, maintained that the magic bullet had a pointed tip like a 30-30, and not a rounded tip like CE-399 that is now in the National Archives.  

Many years later, researchers Tink Thompson and Gary Aguilar sought out Odum and interviewed him about this contradictory evidence in 2002.

Odum's response was to label the 1964 memo as mistaken - that he had never had possession of the magic bullet.  Odum said that if he had conducted such interviews with Wright and Tomlinson as indicated by this memo, the established procedure was for him to write up his own memo recounting these interviews. No such memo has been found in the Archives, despite numerous searches.  

A number of evidentiary problems have been Identified. The question has to be asked. Did Bardwell Odum simply fabricate this evidence?

Marina had to part ways with Ruth after 11/22 - because Marina understood English fluently

Marina Oswald
Marina Oswald

Ruth and Marina have been estranged from each other since the assassination. Ruth has stated that she believes it is because Marina knew that the rifle was in the Paines' garage and didn't tell her about it.  

Whether that it is true or false, I believe the reason why is that Marina could not reveal to Ruth that her English was a lot better than Ruth had been led to believe. Since she met Marina in February of 1963, Ruth had been operating under the assumption that Marina had virtually no understanding of English. Marina was keeping her eyes open upon her introduction to the USA, just like Lee had done when he arrived in the USSR. Marguerite Oswald tipped off the Warren Commission that her daughter-in-law understood English fluently.

We see just how well Marina knew English when we review her testimony to the Warren Commission in a joint session with two women who insisted that they had seen Lee drive her and the girls to the suburban Irving Furniture Mart near Ruth's home - in the early afternoon on a weekday in early November - probably the 6th, 7th, or 8th - when Oswald would have been at work.   

Marina protested repeatedly - and the Commission noted all of her responses in English, ignoring the translator - that these women were mistaken, as she had "never seen Lee drive the car in my lifetime."  Ruth wrote an affidavit saying she never took the Oswalds to the Irving Furniture Mart. This series of events indicates an operation designed to impersonate the Oswald family. As we will see, Ruth must have been shaken to see her two-tone vehicle dragged into the story - just like it was in the moments after the assassination (see Part 11).

Edith Whitworth ran the Irving Furniture Mart. Her friend Gertrude Hunter had a habit of visiting on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (which aligns with Whitworth's recollection of the 6th, 7th or 8th of November).

Both of them testified that they saw the Oswalds drive up in a two-tone blue and white Ford or Plymouth (the same color scheme as Ruth's Chevrolet). When the family came inside, the man asked for a gun part - Whitworth explained that although there was a gunsmith sign displayed outside the business, the gunsmith had recently departed.  When the man asked for a referral, Whitworth suggested that he go to the Irving Sports Shop.

Whitworth expressed interest in seeing the tiny baby in the woman's arms, but the family never did show the baby to them. The Oswald figure explained that he would have preferred having a boy (his possessions contain notes about a hoped-for son, David Lee Oswald), and Mrs. Whitworth joked that maybe she could trade her baby grandson for the baby girl. Despite her humorous comment, the family demurred from giving the women a look at the baby.

After the Oswalds were seen at Whitworth's Irving Furniture Mart, there is testimony regarding the Irving Sports Shop, where a gunsmith named Dial Ryder did business. What Ryder remembered was seeing a work ticket with the name "Oswald" on it, along with a note indicating the intention to drill holes for the installation of a telescopic scope on a rifle.  Ryder found the tag while cleaning his work bench on November 23.

The problem with the Ryder story is that the Carcano in police custody already had a telescopic scope.  When Ryder was shown a photo of Oswald, he associated it with a man who brought in an Argentine rifle on a separate occasion.  

Ryder's boss said the work ticket was probably prepared on either Monday the 4th or Friday the 8th, which aligned with the testimony from the women at the Furniture Mart. James Malley, an FBI inspector, said the agency "was trying to get away from the possibility that Oswald had actually had any work done in the work shop."  The Ryder/Whitworth story got dropped by the Warren Commission like a hot potato.

There are two very curious things about all this. One is this:  How did these women know that Oswald wanted a son in the first days after the assassination? On November 27, Jean Campbell, a British newswoman, saw the old gun shop sign, sought out Edith Whitworth, and ferreted out her story about the Oswald family in the first days after Kennedy was killed.  Whitworth was not seeking publicity.

The other is this:  The Irving Sports Shop story was discovered as a result of an anonymous call to Channel 8 news in Dallas - the report was that Oswald was having his rifle sighted in at the Irving Sports Shop.  On November 24, the reporter called the Dallas police with this information, who then went out and paid a visit to Mr. Ryder.  Ryder was not seeking publicity.

What happened to Oswald's other legend makers?

Legend Maker #1: James Angleton

James Angleton

CI chief Jim Angleton carried on at his post until 1974, but he was never really the same after 1963. He obtained control of the JFK investigation by late December 1963. Once Angleton had control of the investigation, he decided to "wait out the commission", while he chased every Soviet angle in sight. For more on that sorry tale, see State Secret, Chapter 6. From there, he descended into paranoia and alcoholism.  

An Angleton confidante, author Edward Jay Epstein, has an intriguing statement from Angleton after an alleged North Korean attempt to kill the South Korean president in 1983:    

"To Angleton, political assassination involved not only the murder of an incumbent office-holder but the intimidation of his successors... As in Mario Puzo's book, The Godfather, when the Mafia chief put a horse's head in the bed of a recalcitrant film producer, the point of the exercise was not punishing the Koreans who were blown up by the bombs but inducing future cooperation from their successors.

'It is rare to find such a clear example of a state act.' Angleton delicately said. He pointed out that states usually have the ability to hide their assassinations. 'A common thug can kill someone, but it takes the talents of an intelligence service to make a murder appear to be a suicide or accidental death.'"

Angelton died in Washington D.C. in 1987.

Legend Maker #2: Cord Meyer

Cord Meyer

Someone murdered Cord Meyer's ex-wife Mary Meyer within the year after Kennedy was assassinated. This murder was never solved, and was a terrible blow to Cord Meyer and his children.  (See Peter Janney, Mary's Mosaic

James Angleton was at Mary's house almost as soon as the murder happened, asking for Mary's diary.  As he was a family friend, it was given to him for safekeeping. The diary has disappeared. (Jefferson Morley, Our Man in Mexico (2008), p. 241. Angleton went on to make many of the initial determinations as to how the CIA would release information about the JFK assassination.   

After retirement, Meyer was a columnist and a book author. He died in 2001.

Legend Maker #3: Priscilla Johnson

Priscilla Johnson

Johnson was presented with a suitable gift for her hard work. When Stalin's daughter defected to the United States in 1967, James Angleton made arrangements for Miss Svetlana Alliloueva to "be the guest of Mr. Stewart Johnson, Locust Valley Farm, Nassau County, New York. Mr. Johnson is a relative of Priscilla Johnson McMillan, who has been commissioned to write a book of Mme. Alliloueva's memoirs for Harper & Row publishers..."  Mr. Johnson was Priscilla's father. Years later, Svetlana Alliluyeva said that the book she wrote on her arrival in New York was "a collective creative production...(due to a contract with) a powerful American law firm with close links to the State Department". (Guardian, 11/17/84)

By the mid-1970s, the American people made it clear that they did not believe the official story of the assassination. There was widespread public outrage when the Zapruder film was finally shown on television. Millions of people finally saw Kennedy shot in the forehead, while Oswald was supposedly firing from well behind the president. Congress was forced to form the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

After fourteen years of working on her book, Johnson released Marina and Lee just as the HSCA was starting its review of the work done by the Warren Commission. Priscilla is the only one of the twelve legend makers still alive to this day.

Legend Maker #4:  Richard Snyder

Richard Snyder

Snyder attempted to return to the CIA in the 1970s, without success. Snyder lost points with the HSCA by telling them he did not work with the CIA in the 1956-1957 period as a spotter on a university campus (see Part 1, when Snyder spotted Priscilla Johnson at Harvard), when the documents indicated otherwise. Snyder wrote his own account in 1979, which includes his grumbling admission that whether Oswald was working with the CIA is at least "a question that is at least susceptible to rational inquiry". Snyder died in 2012.

Legend Maker #5: Ann Egerter

Ann Egerter

Egerter was forced to testify during the HSCA proceedings. When Egerter said "she did not know anything about Oswald that was not in the papers" and that she would not talk to the HSCA, it took the threat of a subpoena to get her to show up. As Angleton's key aide, she was asked many penetrating questions. She admitted in 1978 that the 201 file for a CIA asset "would be a restricted 201 file and it might even be a false 201 file, not having anything in it. Everything would be held by the case officer...operational material is not filed in 201 files...It would be held by the operations officer, case officer."

This is reminiscent of what William Harvey said about the importance of creating a "false 201 file" to backstop an assassination operation.  Harvey was in the center of the assassination plots circling around Lumumba and Castro. Harvey's notes emphasize that:

"Planning should include provisions for blaming Sovs or Czechs in case of blow. Should have phony 201 in RG (Central Registry) to backstop this, all documents therein forged and backdated...(the phony 201) should look like a CE (counterespionage) file".

To put it mildly, CIA chief Richard Helms did not enjoy being interrogated by the HSCA about Harvey's bombshells.  Egerter didn't like it either, but she was getting old and feeble - she gave up more than she intended.

To see Egerter's handwriting on the document that opened the 201 file, look at the document in the last hyperlink to this paragraph. A glance reveals how both the line displaying her name, title, phone number, and other identifying information and the line with the "Lee Henry Oswald" phrase are distinctively hand-printed using upper case letters. Rocca first tried to cover for her by arguing that somebody else wrote "Henry", and then upped the ante with the claim that all of the words "Lee Henry Oswald" are in someone else's handwriting. I think that reasonable people will agree that only one person wrote all the original words on Egerter's 201 request.

Egerter complained to the CIA after the deposition was over that she had not done well, citing in particular her problem in explaining the "Lee Henry" entry. She died on July 16, 1990, in Washington, DC.

Legend Maker #6: Marvin Gheesling

Marvin Gheesling

Immediately after the assassination, Hoover's investigator asked Gheesling for an explanation of several of his actions. Why was Oswald taken off the watchlist, especially after his arrest while distributing FPCC leaflets?  Gheesling's response:

"This stop was placed 11-10-59 to assist the Bureau's being notified in the event subject returned to the U.S. under an assumed name. When information was received that subject had returned to the U.S., the purpose of that stop had been accomplished. When case was closed by me on 9-7-62, I inadvertently did not remove the stop. I did remove the stop after receipt of the Identification Record October 8, 1963 showing subject's arrest by the New Orleans Police Department. At the time I removed the stop I advised SA Lambert L. Anderson, who was then handling the case, of the existence of the stop, the purpose for which it was placed, and that I was removing it. He had no objections to such action." (For more, see State Secret, Chapter 5, endnote 38)

Soon after Gheesling took these actions, Hoover transferred Gheesling out of headquarters and to Indianapolis in April 1964. Although one note said "send this guy to Siberia!", a supervisor's suggestion of Detroit became Gheesling's next stop.  (See James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, p. 178). Supervisor J. P. Mohr said Gheesling did not blame the Director, only the Warren Commission's unjust criticism of the FBI. Mohr added that "Mr. Gheesling was most sincere and contrite during his interview with me.  He is a strong man with a great deal of pride, yet he openly wept." Memo from J. P. Mohr to Clyde Tolson, 10/7/64, 124-10327-10051. Gheesling later went to the slightly warmer city of Denver (see his initials on the memo - "WMG"). He died in 1982 without ever being questioned by the Warren Commission or the HSCA for more details on why he took Oswald off the watch list on October 9, 1963.

Legend Maker #7: John Fain

John Fain

John Fain and the other Dallas agents that conversed with Oswald all denied that they ever heard a tape of Oswald's voice in Mexico City for comparison purposes. To my knowledge, Fain was never interviewed by anyone about his assistance to Egerter in her "marked card" operation. Fain died in 2000 at the age of 92.   

Legend Maker #8:  Aleksandr Ziger

Oswald and Aleksandr Ziger

Aleksandr Ziger, aka "Don Alejandro", allegedly became a target of the Soviet political police by the end of 1961. After years of effort, Don Alejandro and his family were permitted to move back to Argentina in about 1971. His daughter Eleanora was forced to wait an additional decade before she was allowed to join them. (John Armstrong, Harvey and Lee, p. 372). Ziger died in 1992.  (Norman Mailer, Oswald's Tale, Acknowledgements, p. xxi.)

Legend Maker #9:  George de Mohrenschildt

George de Mohrenschildt

In September 1976, de Mohrenschildt, a professor and a well-educated man, scrawled a handwritten letter to CIA director George Bush begging him to take action to stop the FBI from tailing him day and night. Bush knew de Mohrenschildt from school days at Andover, and wrote him a personal reply saying he knew of no such activityBush turned the matter over to the CI staff for more information on de Mohrenschildt, and the file appears to have gone back into Egerter's lap.

Dogged by the FBI and the media, and knowing he was facing public disgrace at the HSCA, an anxiety-ridden de Mohrenschildt allegedly committed suicide on March 29, 1977 - in circumstances very similar to that of the alleged anthrax killer Bruce Ivins.

Legend Maker #10: Guy Banister

Guy Banister

Guy Banister died within a year of the assassination. He was never interviewed by any of the investigating bodies. The extensive files he left behind were purchased in late 1964 by the Louisiana State Police from his widow. The police superintendent later issued an order that all files that were not part of the public record or part of an ongoing criminal investigation were to be burned. Pursuant to this order, Banister's files were burned.  

Legend Maker #11: Anne Goodpasture

Anne Goodpasture

Ann Lorene Goodpasture died in 2011 at age 92. Her obituary used a different spelling of her first name. She played a major role in the cover-up. Her lie about the date of the Mystery Man photo alone is incredible.

Goodpasture had the main responsibility for the photo surveillance on a daily basis, and lied saying that the most junior operations officer in Mexico City had the job. Her Fitness Report makes it clear that she worked with Jeremy L. Niarcos (the pseudonym for CIA officer Tom Keenan) in supervising the three photo bases operating against the Soviet embassy.

After Goodpasture claimed that the Fitness Report was wrong, Lopez and Hardaway cornered Deputy Chief of Station Alan White, who testified that she had main responsibility for both the photo and the electronic surveillance.

Thus, Goodpasture would have known right away if Oswald had entered either consulate. If taps or photo surveillance indicated that the Oswald figure was an unknown figure, one would think that she would have asked for a photo when the Oswald figure entered Mexico City in late September, rather than waiting until October 15.

Legend Maker #12: Michael Paine

Michael Paine

There has been much discussion of a report by a third party that Michael Paine said to Ruth over the phone that Lee killed JFK but "we both know who is responsible." I don't think this story came from a wiretap - rather, I think that this story was entirely made up by an intelligence operative. This operative - who either was a telephone repairman or gave the story to the repairman - passed on this planted story to Irving police chief Paul Barger with the hope of linking Oswald to the Communist menace and instigating an attack on Cuba. When LBJ and his team made it clear to the Dallas district attorney Henry Wade, Chief Justice Earl Warren, and others that rumors about Communist involvement had to be squelched, efforts were made to bury Barger's report.

Ruth initially denied such a statement was made to her in her conversation on 11/22/63 with Michael in the first hour of the assassination - a conversation that is shown in her phone log, below. (A curious anomaly is that the phone log shows that she initiated the call from Michael's office, which both of them deny. It may have been a simple phone company mistake.) By the seventies, Ruth was saying that the initial conversation referred to the American right wing forces that were creating a hostile environment prior to JFK's death.

Jim Hosty in his book Assignment Oswald says that the phone call happened on the night of November 22, and was between Lyman Paine and his son Michael. They didn't take it too seriously because they assumed that Lyman, a Trotskyist, was blaming the powers that be - reminding Michael how Stalin's people killed Trotsky. Hosty offers no documentary evidence of his claim.

Call log showing 11/22 collect call from
Call log showing 11/22 collect call from "Mrs. Michael Paine"

Irving PD chief Paul Barger said it was between Ruth's phone and Michael's work phone on 11/23/63 overheard by a "telephone repairman" - however, there is a phone log for Ruth's phone showing the 11/22 call - there is no phone call logged for 11/23 between these two numbers. A later memo shows Barger admitting that the call could have been on 11/22 as well as 11/23 - and that he believed the information came from "telephone company sources".

Both Michael and Ruth Paine told the Warren Commission, several times, that a phone call between themselves, from the same locations, occurred on November 22, 1963 at about one pm. Michael said he called Ruth immediately upon returning to the lab from lunch. Both Michael and Ruth said that no details were discussed other than that the assassination had happened, because they didn't know any details at that early point. Michael's co-worker Frank Krystinik implicitly supported this story with his testimony that he and Michael discussed Oswald's possible involvement once they heard that shots came from the book depository, but that Michael refused to take it seriously until Oswald's arrest at the theater. It makes sense that the call would have been made immediately after the shooting - making that kind of call is what most people do in a moment of crisis. They don't wait. Furthermore, even if the call was made after Oswald's identity was announced at 3 pm that day, there is no way that Michael Paine was any more "sure" that the shooter was Oswald at 3 pm than he was at 1 pm. Given Oswald's fraught relationship with the FBI, Oswald's arrest didn't give Paine any more reason to be sure about Oswald's involvement - much less for him to say that "we both know who is responsible".

Special Agent Robert Lish reports about his interview with Chief Barger, who had "received information that a male voice was overheard in a conversation," during a telephone call held on "November 23". "Captain BARGER advised that the male voice was heard to comment that he felt sure LEE HARVEY OSWALD had killed the President, but did not feel OSWALD was responsible, and further stated, 'We both know who is responsible.'" Barger does not identify the source of his information.

Gemberling Report on
Gemberling Report on "We both know who is responsible" call

We see this language verbatim in the FBI Gemberling Report of January 7, 1964, but instead of naming Paul Barger, the source is identified as Confidential Informant Dallas T-4...

...In a 1976 Dallas Times Herald article written to refute the allegations of a wiretap on the Paine's residential line, Hugh Aynesworth interviewed Paul Barger, then working for the Irving Independent School District. Barger claimed the source of his original report was known to him after all, and was a telephone repairman who by chance, "due to some mechanical difficulties ... he was checking out the line" and inadvertently listened in on the conversation. Barger, supposedly, did not identify the man back in 1963 over concerns of reprimand. Barger added he "did not believe the FBI had any wiretap on the Paine house, 'If they did,' he said, 'they wouldn’t have been asking me for what happened.'" (FBI 62-109060 JFK HQ File, Section A28, p. 71-72). The phone call itself, and its content, are not denied. But Barger claimed that he - himself - was T-4.

What I find fascinating is that when the FBI examined the records for Michael's office phone number CR 5-5211, it was initially described on 11/26/63 as an unpublished number for Bell Helicopter in Hurst, Texas. It's odd, because Michael worked in the Research Laboratory in Arlington, ten miles from Hurst, and was one of the few employees with a key to the lab.

On 12/10/63, a different FBI agent received a different story, describing CR 5-5211 as the number for "Bell Helicopter Plant, Great Southwest Development Center, 3006 Avenue East, Arlington, Texas. Mike Paine and George Johnson give access to the plant to telephone company employees."

To me, that indicates that "Mike Paine" had been assigned by Bell Helicopter to be its liaison to the telephone company - and that the operatives at the phone company had a personal relationship with Paine. This may have been who was supposedly listening into the phone call between "Mike Paine" and Ruth. Telephone company operatives have a close-knit relationship with intelligence operatives. I believe that the Paines told someone - maybe Mike's mother, maybe Mary Bancroft herself - that they would keep an eye on the Oswalds - and I believe they got in way over their head.

Furthermore, I think the whole story that the Paines "knew who was responsible" was made up, and was part of a plan to point the assassination on Castro's Cubans. This story was a "spare part" - linking Oswald to a larger Communist plot - that in the end was not used. Shortly after the assassination, the new Johnson Administration settled on the story that Oswald acted alone. LBJ made it clear to his friend Richard Russell on 11/29/63 that "we've got to take this out of the arena where they're testifying that Khrushchev and Castro did this and did that and kick us into a war that can kill 40 million Americans in an hour."

Former Irving police chief Paul Barger is still alive and in the immediate area at the age of 95. Michael Paine passed away in 2018.

A path to historical resolution of the JFK case 

The aforementioned evidence illustrates that Oswald was monitored by forces of intelligence during the last four years of his life. It wasn't hit-and-miss. It was constant, and from a wide array of sources.   

This is not the kind of treatment given to an isolated loner.  

There are several facets to the JFK case that most historians refuse to examine. These considerations should be central to any case analysis.

One consideration is offered by way of example. Examine how the 5 foot 10/165 description of the shooter - provided 15 minutes after JFK's death - and the anomalous 5 foot 10/165 Oswald description of LHO, found in intelligence documents - is simply never discussed in the analyses done by the Warren Commission. (There are many similar examples.) Such an analysis would reveal the role of forces of American intelligence in the shooting of the President.

A second consideration is that the shooting of JFK had the potential of getting the US into war with Cuba - which, in turn, could have led to war with the USSR. When LBJ warned Earl Warren that forty million Americans would die in such a war, that was what convinced Warren to join the commission. Yet this historical fact is rarely discussed.

Number three: How many of the closest people to the case - including Bobby Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy - believed that the killing of John F. Kennedy was a domestic operation.

Number four: How the dozens of intelligence operatives and assets discussed in this series - people that were close to Lee Oswald and people that had significant interactions with him or his file - are ignored in most historical accounts. Oswald was surrounded by intelligence agents, allies of intelligence such as de Mohrenschildt and Johnson, and people easily manipulated by intelligence such as Alexsandr Ziger and Michael Paine. Professor Paul Bleau, who writes about the JFK case at the Kennedys and King website, told me that he estimates that the "loner" Oswald had personal connections with more than sixty individuals with significant intelligence affiliations.

Ziger, de Mohrenschildt and the Paines are the most fascinating to me. I believe that when we agree on who was manipulating them, we will reach agreement on the deep currents at work in the midst of the assassination. My reading of the evidence leads me to the belief that de Mohrenschildt and the Paines were assets of the Domestic Contacts Division in the CIA's Dallas field office - and Allen Dulles in Washington.

I think those deep currents are forces exemplified by people fired and demoted by JFK. People like Allen Dulles - who loved to manipulate Quakers and Unitarians. Chief of Staff Lyman Lemnitzer - who loved fascists in the US and abroad. Bill Harvey - who loved guns, mobsters, and the Cuban underground.

Don't forget to state the problem

This is not a parlor room case. There is no point in trying to figure out "who did it" like Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the pipe wrench.

Study of the JFK case is not a project to rescue the American experiment.

It can be - and should be - an example on how to attain justice - and how untangling this case will untangle many other matters at the same time - all of which deserve justice.    

I would put these other matters in five major categories: Assassinations, repression of social movements, scandals (Watergate, Iran-Contra), the drug trade (a significant percentage of the entire US economy) and war (another significant percentage).

The history of the social movements are implicated in any JFK investigation. As just one example - Win Scott had tapes on the Black Panthers in his office - apparently on the off-chance that some of them might hide out in Mexico. If you are in the fight for LGBT rights - note that Win Scott kept files on lesbians too!

When looking at other assassinations and scandals of the 1960s and 1970s, don't forget that many of the same personalities are associated with both the JFK and the RFK assassination (such as CIA operative Manny Pena), the war on Cuba and the Watergate scandal (Howard Hunt, Bernard Barker/AMCLATTER-1, Eugenio Martinez/AMSNAP-3), the Warren Commission and Watergate (Jerry Ford, Albert Jenner, Leon Jaworski) and the war on Cuba and the Iran-Contra scandal (Felix Rodriguez/AMJOKE-1).

The difficulties in unraveling the JFK case - and how to achieve historical resolution

There are handlers of the historical figures, both living and past. People have suggested Hugh Aynesworth plays a role in handling Buell Wesley Frazier. Bardwell Odum watched over Ruth Paine while he was alive. Journalist and counterintelligence operative Joseph Goulden has possession of CIA officer David Atlee Phillips' archives, and has provided selected portions to the National Archives. These people and far more powerful forces are going to continue to obstruct those of us that research the JFK case.  We have to accept that as a given.

We don't have to totally untangle the JFK case in the short run. We do need to focus on a few of the participants who have already made damaging admissions. Larry Hancock and others have done a good job on that front. 

The organizations involved are already the product of a rough consensus - specifically, specific wings of the CIA, the military, the Mafia, the anti-Castro Cubans, and the ultra-right.

The why? At a bare minimum, it was a political rollback in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis -  the missile crisis was bad, but things were never the same after the Bay of Pigs. There had to be a policy change - right away. Certain forces were not ready for eight years of the Kennedys, let alone twelve or sixteen years or more.

We can outwit the dinosaur

John F. Kennedy in 1959
John F. Kennedy in 1959

The path to historical resolution is what the paleontologists do - reassemble the dinosaur. Then, effective storytelling. David Talbot once said to me "the best story wins!"

For most Americans, storytelling happens in the movies, television, videos, and podcasts. If we want to communicate effectively, let's meet people where they are, not where we want them to be.

I would much rather read a good book. But I think the best way for me to spend the rest of my life is to assist people write screenplays on this case and others like it.

More research is good - but slightly overrated. It's time for serious analysis of the massive amount of research that has already been done. Keep putting the bones together. Look at it from the macro level.  I love Vince Salandria, but don't slavishly follow his advice to ignore the micro level. We can outwit the dinosaur.

Let's run towards the evidence instead of running away from it. Run towards the facts that challenge you the most. Some of our most important allies are people who know the evidence and disagree with us. It's very important to also weigh the evidence.  Not all facts are created equal. Success depends on the power of working in small groups - among natural allies. Conferences are great for socializing and networking. Small groups are where decisions get made and solid work is done.

Facebook is a great place to let off steam after the analysis is done - it's not the best place to conduct analysis. Too much snark and showing off.

The central task is to methodically share materials. Don't hoard them. Family and friends throw many things away after you die, and too often while you're still alive!  

Put your research in a public place where people can easily find them - and back up the most important documents on the internet.

Let's organize ourselves as campaigners. NHK, Japan's largest broadcaster, describes the JFK critical community in just that way. Why should we settle for anything less?

Let's challenge the power structure on this case - and other cases like it - in Congress. Many of those in Congress are just as fascinated by this case as we are.

Let's challenge the power structure in the private sphere as well. There are well-vetted scientific processes that we can use to evaluate evidence, reach fact-based conclusions, and move towards a critical consensus.

We are not doing this for the young people. Young people get involved in the JFK case all the time. We are doing this because it's the right thing to do - and it's a door towards a better way of studying history.

- Bill Simpich

Bill Simpich is an Oakland civil rights attorney who knows that it doesn't have to be like this. He was part of the legal team chosen by Public Justice as Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2003 for winning a jury verdict of 4.4 million in Earth Firster Judi Bari's lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland police. He works with the Mary Ferrell Foundation to decipher the cryptonyms and pseudonyms used by intelligence operatives in the JFK documents, and suggests that we will achieve historical resolution in this case more quickly than most people believe.

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