A Phone Call that Links Oswald to Military Intelligence?

The Raleigh/Hurt Phone Connection

If Lee Oswald was working for some intelligence service, it might make sense that he might try to contact it for help or instructions after he was arrested by the Dallas cops.

Or course, this notion is questionable in a lot of ways. If Oswald really was working for some intelligence service, it would be stupid for him to “blow his cover” by trying to contact his handlers. And if he had inferred that he had been manipulated and made a “patsy,” it would have made no sense to call the people who had manipulated and patisfied him to complain.

But still, in many conspiracy books, it’s considered somehow revealing that Oswald supposedly tried to make a call, from the Dallas jail, to a John David Hurt in Raleigh, North Carolina. Hurt had been in counterintelligence during World War II, which seems somehow sinister (in spite of there being no evidence he had been in any way connected with any intelligence service since the war).

More Information

For a more complete account of the Raleigh call incident, from a researcher who seems to think it might be sinister, and a nice collection of documents about the event, check the website of Grover Procter.

But did Oswald really trying to make such a call? A “call slip” from a telephone operator serving the Dallas Police Department seems to say so. And it does list the phone numbers of two real individuals named “John Hurt” in Raleigh (one of them being John David Hurt). But many researchers have raised the question of whether the call was an outgoing call from Oswald, or an incoming call from an individual who had called the Dallas Police wanting to speak to Oswald. An incoming call could have been from a crank who somehow decided he wanted to speak to the famous assassin/patsy.

The story of how this issue has been investigated can get quite complex, but the best assessment probably comes from conspiracy author Henry Hurt, in his book Reasonable Doubt (pp. 244-245).

A peculiar incident possibly linking Oswald to the military intelligence was the mysterious telephone call involving Oswald in the Dallas County Jail following his arrest. The first account that emerged from intensely conflicting evidence was that Oswald tried to make an outgoing telephone call to one John Hurt in the 919 area code, which is eastern North Carolina. For years a debate continued about whether the call was really outgoing to North Carolina or incoming to the jail, since the best evidence was on a slip of paper written by a jail telephone operator and, according to one version, thrown into a trash can and later retrieved by a souvenir hunter. The evidence was tainted, to say the least, and the contradictory testimony of the telephone operators only added to the confusion. The speculation was that Oswald, if an agent, might have been trying to contact his control.

When researchers finally found a John Hurt in Raleigh, North Carolina, he proclaimed complete ignorance about the matter. He said he had never known or heard of Oswald before the assassination and that he made no telephone call to Oswald and, of course, had no knowledge of Oswald’s trying to telephone him.

This claim was quickly tarnished, however, when researchers discovered that Hurt had a background in military intelligence as well as a law degree. Hurt insisted to researchers that he had no idea why Oswald might want to call him. That only fanned speculation that Hurt — who perhaps had some covert operations connection with Oswald — was keeping the cover. The mystery remained, even though arguments that the call was incoming were as strong as the arguments that Oswald made the call.

John Hurt died in 1981. A few months later, his wife told the author that Hurt had admitted the truth before he died. Terribly upset on the day of the assassination, he got extremely drunk — a habitual problem with him — and telephoned the Dallas jail and asked to speak to Oswald. When denied access, he left his name and number. Mrs. Hurt said her husband told her he never had any earlier contact with Oswald and had been too embarrassed to admit that he got drunk and placed the call. In view of the fact that Hurt’s military-intelligence background appears innocent of any deep operational connections, the account by John Hurt’s wife makes as much sense as anything else.

Likewise, conspiracy author David Lifton called Hurt circa 1970, and Hurt admitted to him that he was drunk, and had made what was, in effect, a crank phone call. Lifton believed that Hurt sounded credible. Lifton concluded “I had done what I could do, pursuing this lead, and there wasn’t much to it.”

Both Henry Hurt and David Lifton, remember, are conspiracy authors, and would be willing to believe any credible account that suggested a conspiracy. But for both of them this particular incident didn’t make the cut as being any kind plausible conspiracy evidence.

Dave Reitzes posted online the sources that are the basis for this essay.

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