On November 23, 1963 a report was distributed by the two major wire services, AP and UPI, which ran in The Seattle Times under the headline “Was Connally Primary Target? Oswald Letter Raises Question.” According to the report, the Pentagon had released a letter written by Lee Harvey Oswald to John Connally, the former Secretary of the Navy, dated January 30, 1961, although the report pointed out that Oswald apparently dated the letter wrong, as it should have read “January 30, 1962”. At the outset, the report stated that “Lee Harvey Oswald, charged with the assassination of President Kennedy, once threatened ‘to employ all means’ to right a wrong he said had been done him in military service.” Oswald addressed the letter to the Secretary of the Navy in Fort Worth rather than Washington D.C. and stated: “I wish to call your attention to a case about which you may have personal knowledge since you are a resident of Ft. Worth [sic], as I am” (the last three words were underlined.)
Writing in the third person, Oswald reminded Connally that in “..Nov. 1959 an event was well publisited (sic) in the Ft. Worth [sic] newspapers concerning a person who had gone to the Soviet Union to reside for a short time (much in the same way E. Hemingway resided in Paris). This person in answers to questions put to him by reporters in Moscow critisized (sic) certain facets of American life. The story was blown up into another ‘turncoat’ sensation, with the result that the Navy Department gave the person a belated dishonourable (spelled the British/Cdn. way) discharge, although he had an honourable discharge after three years service on Sept. 11, 1959 at El Toro, Marine Corps base in California. These are the basic facts of my case.”
The AP/UPI report mentioned the reference to Hemingway, but did not include Oswald’s critical comments about U.S. life at the time of his defection, or Oswald’s belief that the media had “blown up” the event. Although Oswald had received an “honorable discharge” from active duty in the Marine Corps, which he had mentioned in his letter, this fact was not referred to in the article, but instead it stated that “Oswald had received an undesirable discharge from the Marine Corps”, with no reference made to the fact that it had been reduced, because Oswald had failed to report for USMC Reserve training. Instead, he left the U.S. by freighter from New Orleans, planning to attend Albert Sweitzer University in Switzerland, and possibly another in Finland. However, Oswald ended up in the U.S.S.R., on a six-day visa, at which time he offered to provide military secrets (related to the U2 spy plane), in exchange for Soviet citizenship, which was never granted.
The report stated that “Oswald had been court-martialed twice while in the service and received an undesirable discharge so he could accept citizenship in Russia”, suggesting that Oswald’s discharge might have been made in order to make him more attractive to the Soviet Union (but, of course, the Russians suspected at the outset that Oswald might be faking his defection). According to the report, “While stationed in Japan, Oswald was court-martialed in April, 1958, for failure to register a personal weapon. Three months later he was convicted for using provocative langauge to a noncommissioned officer.”
Writing in the first person, and quoted in the newspaper report, Oswald claimed that he had “...and allways (sic) had the full sanction of the U.S. Embassy, Moscow U.S.S.R. and hence the U.S. goverment (sic). In as much as I am returning to the U.S.A. in this year with the aid of the U.S. embassy (I) bring with me my family (since I married in the U.S.S.R.) I shall employ all means to right this gross mistake or injustice to a boni-fied (sic) U.S. citizen and ex-serviceman. The U.S. goverment (sic) has no charges or complaints against me. I ask you to look into this case and take the necessary steps to repair the damage done to me and my family.” The report emphasized that Oswald had “threatened to ‘employ all means’ to right a wrong he said had been done to him in military service.” All spelling errors had been corrected.
The article pointed out that “Oswald enlisted in the Marine Corps at Dallas, Texas on Oct. 24, 1956 and was discharged from the Marine Inactive Reserve Sept. 13, 1960 as an ‘undesirable.’ His discharge came two months after he requested it.” Oswald, in fact, had received a “hardship discharge” from active duty three months early in the fall of 1959, in order to look after his injured mother, but after a brief visit, he left for Europe on a small freighter, from New Orleans, with a passport obtained seven days before his release, without notifying the USMC. According to the report, while in the Marines, from “July, 1957 to Oct. 1958 Oswald was assigned to the 1st Marine Air Wing at Atsugi Air Base, Japan. It was there that he was court-martialed twice.” No reference was made to monitoring U2 flights, since this was not publicly known, until a U2 crashed in the Soviet Union six months after Oswald defected. For a third time, the report reminded readers that Oswald’s discharge was “undesirable.”
As mentioned, Oswald had received a reply from Connally, indicating “he no longer was connected with the Navy. He referred the letter to his successor as secretary of the Navy, Fred Korth.” No comment was made about Korth having also been a resident of Fort Worth or the fact that he was recommended for the position by Vice-President Johnson, also from Texas. All three had been good friends for many years. Of course, it would not have been known that Korth represented Oswald’s stepfather, Edwin Ekdahl, in divorce proceedings against his mother back in 1948, although Oswald might have known this. According to Robert Oswald, Lee had developed a close relationship towards his stepfather. Oswald’s father, Robert Edward Lee Oswald, had died of a heart attack, shortly before Lee’s birth.(1) No reference was made to the fact that Korth had been fired by JFK the previous month as a result of a scandal involving Korth’s banking interests back in Fort Worth. As Secretary of the Navy, Korth had reviewed the bidding of three aircraft companies for a major fighter jet contract, which he awarded to a Fort Worth company, even though the bid by Boeing was the lowest.
Despite Oswald’s 1959 defection, Oswald was able to retrieve his passport from the U.S. Embassy and obtained exit visas for himself, Marina and their daughter, June. With a loan from the State Department, Oswald and his family returned to the United States in June, 1962, after Oswald appeared to become disillusioned with life in Russia. He brought with him a lengthy report on life in Minsk and was possibly debriefed by a CIA agent named Anderson upon his return, according to author and former Army Intelligence officer, John Newman.
The following essays are also by Peter Whitmey:
And yet, unlike in the case of another “disillusioned defector” named Robert Webster, who had returned from Russia only a month before Oswald’s departure, (with extensive coverage of his odyssey from beginning to end in the New York Times), Oswald’s return via New York City was limited to two brief reports: one in the Washington Post shortly after leaving Moscow, followed by another in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram upon Oswald’s arrival there. Unlike Webster, who left a Russian girlfriend behind and was reconciled with his wife and children, Oswald came back with a Russian wife and a young daughter, who were granted exit visas, against all odds (2). Even Svetlana Stalin was unable to obtain one in 1967, defecting to the U.S. via India, Italy and finally Switzerland. Her memoirs were subsequently translated by none other than Priscilla Johnson McMillan (whose book Marina and Lee wasn’t published until 1977).
Although Oswald asked the U.S. Marine Corps for a review of his undesirable discharge, a few months before leaving Russia, he was required to make an official application upon returning to Texas, which was received by the USMC Review Board on June 20, 1962. It should be pointed out that on his 1959 passport application a notation at the bottom of the form indicated that a “MCR Inactive I.D. card had been submitted”, suggesting that his trip had been approved. (Cadigan Exhibit #3, XIX, p. 269.) Despite Oswald’s insistence in 1962 that he had never tried to renounce his U.S. citizenship or had violated any American laws, the U.S.M.C. Review Board upheld the original reduction of his “honorable discharge” to “undesirable.” On July 19, 1963 Oswald was informed that “...the discharge originally issued is proper and no change, correction or modification be made...” (Cadigan Exhibit #3, Vol. XIX, p. 267.) The board’s decision was reviewed and approved by the Under Secretary of the Navy, Paul B. Fay, Jr., who happened to be an old friend of President Kennedy, from their time in the Navy during World War II. (Fay replaced Fred Korth as Secretary of the Navy in early Nov. 1963 after Korth was fired by JFK, and following the assassination Fay wrote The Pleasure of His Company).
Surprisingly, Priscilla Johnson McMillan makes no reference in her book Marina and Lee to Oswald's application, which was mailed from Forth Worth four days after the Oswalds arrived there from New York City. The only comment made by McMillan (p. 371) is in reference to Gov. Connally visiting Dallas on April 22, 1963. McMillan points that Oswald had “corresponded” with Connally “in a fruitless effort to alter his ‘undesirable’ discharge.” For some reason she chose not to discuss the arguments put forth by Oswald in his appeal to the USMC Review Board, and the decision upholding the original undesirable discharge, nor the possible impact it had on Oswald’s attitude towards the USMC, the Under Secretary of the Navy, Paul B. Fay, Jr., and President Kennedy himself.
However, the fact that Oswald wasn’t charged with failing to report for non-active duty in the spring of 1960, or for denouncing the United States and offering to provide military information to the Soviets, strongly suggests he was part of an ongoing “fake defection” program, and the reduction of his discharge and his reaction was part of the cover story created. This has been supported by an alleged CIA memo dated March 3, 1964 and sent to James J. Rowley, Chief of the Secret Service, from John McCone, Director of the CIA, which reveals that Oswald had been “trained by this agency, under cover of the Office of Naval Intelligence, for Soviet assignments” and had received “additional indoctrination at our Camp Peary site from September 8 to October 17, 1958.” McCone points out that Oswald was “on special assignment in the area of Minsk” after “arrangements were made for his entry into the Soviet Union in September 1959.”
Later in the memo, he emphasizes that after Oswald’s return to the U.S. the CIA came to the conclusion that Oswald was “unreliable and emotionally unstable” and was “of little use to us after his marriage”, suggesting the Agency would have preferred it if Oswald had remained single while in Russia. The memo also suggests that Oswald may have returned to the U.S. as a so-called “sleeper agent”, working for the KGB. In addition, the memo suggests the possibility that Oswald “…given his instability, might have been involved in some operation concerning Hoffa”, which, implies involvement with organized crime, consistent with the HSCA’s conclusions. Was the memo, perhaps, withheld from the Warren Commission on the orders of McCone, for obvious reasons?
The question of the document’s validity has been raised and debated at various Internet sites, including at the moderated newsgroup “alt.assassination.jfk”, since it first appeared on the Internet in 2004. It was also the subject of an article by Prof. Walt Brown in the Oct. 2004 issue of his journal JFK: Deep Politics Quarterly, who discusses both sides of the issue, but leans towards it being legitimate. Most researchers appear to have concluded that it is either a false document, or an altered one, especially since its source is a reporter named Jim Moore, associated with tabloid journalism back in the late 1970s (who claims to have received it from a former FBI agent in Tennessee). I was able to contact the journalist (with the assistance of researcher Gary Buell), and he suggested that the format of the document (which includes a Secret Service file number rather than a CIA one) might have been created intentionally, so that the content would not be taken seriously if it was leaked to the press. It is also possible the file number was added, as a cross reference to earlier correspondence between the Secret Service and the CIA noted at the beginning of the memo. As for Moore, he has never been investigated or charged with creating a bogus government document, and appears to believe the content is valid. Gary Buell has created a blog site in which the document and related material can be read. (3)
After Oswald settled into domestic life in Fort Worth in June, 1962, he somehow managed to obtain employment at a Dallas photo lab, which did top secret contract work with the U.S. Army, some of which was directly related to the aerial photography over Cuba leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of that year, suggesting that Oswald still had military and intelligence connections. During the summer and fall Oswald would have quickly discovered that John Connally was immersed in a campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor against five other opponents, including the extreme right-winger General Walker. Walker now lived in Dallas, after being fired by President Kennedy for distributing anti-communist literature to his troops in West Germany (although he claimed to have resigned). Connally easily defeated his opponents and in November won the governorship against Republican Jack Cox. Since Oswald was still a U.S. citizen, he could have voted in the 1962 elections, but there is no indication that he did.
Although he showed no outward bitterness towards Connally, Oswald did become increasingly incensed with the potential threat of Walker, who had finished dead last at the nominating convention, but was gaining a great deal of national attention along with Senator Barry Goldwater; he even made the cover of Newsweek magazine in early 1963. In February, Oswald and his wife were invited to a dinner party at the home of George DeMohrenschildt, a geologist who spoke fluent Russian (and who was later impressed with Oswald’s command of the language). A colleague of DeMohrenschildt’s at Magnolia Labs (a Mobil Oil subsidiary near Dallas), Dr. Volkmar Schmidt, was also in attendance, along with Magnolia Labs’ librarian, Betty MacDonald, a friend of Ruth Paine’s. (4)
Schmidt, whose father was apparently a member of Hitler’s S.S. (according to Edward J. Epstein in his 1978 book Legend), and who had recently immigrated from West Germany, prided himself on being an astute judge of character. In the course of the evening, he struck up a conversation with Oswald and pretended to be sympathetic to his hostile feelings towards Walker, deliberately comparing Walker to Hitler, suggesting both should be treated as “murderers at large.” As expected, Oswald totally agreed with Schmidt’s assessment, expressing his belief that the U.S. was “moving towards fascism.”
Based on their conversation, Schmidt (who died in 2012) concluded that Oswald was a self-destructive, alienated, and self-obsessed young man, similar to the assessment provided by McCone, raising the possibility that Schmidt might have reported his analysis to the CIA either directly or through DeMohrenschildt (who was a friend of a CIA agent in Dallas). Schmidt suggested to his roommates, Everett Glover and Richard Pierce, that they also host a party for the Oswalds, which Ruth and Michael Paine attended (who also appeared to have intelligence connections through their respective families). For some reason Schmidt was unable to attend this gathering, however. I learned from him that he remained good friends with DeMohrenschildt even after moving to Alberta in the late 1960s, up to the time of DeMohrenschildt’s apparent suicide a few hours before he was to be interviewed by both Edward J. Epstein and Gaeton Fonzi (representing the HSCA) in 1977. DeMohrenschildt left behind a rough manuscript about Oswald entitled “I Am A Patsy!”
After the assassination and death of Oswald, it was revealed that Oswald had allegedly been the person who fired one shot at General Walker in April, 1963 (which missed its target), two months after his conversation with Schmidt. Photos of Walker’s home and the lane behind it were provided to the FBI by Marina, along with her recollections of Oswald having boasted about getting away with it. Although the bullet was badly mangled, the Dallas Police at the time believed it was a 30.06 round. A month earlier Oswald had purchased a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from a Chicago mail-order company, as well as a pistol from a Los Angeles weapons distributor. Oddly enough, when ordering the rifle, he chose not to purchase one hundred rounds of ammunition (which came with a free clip). The bullet recovered at the Walker scene could not be linked to Oswald’s rifle (nor could the FBI determine where Oswald had purchased the bullets used in the assassination.)
Nevertheless, based on Marina Oswald’s recollections, as well as the incriminating photos, it would appear that Oswald had some involvement in the incident, and certainly wanted his wife to believe he was solely responsible. It’s amazing that Schmidt did not contact the Dallas Police, given the conversation he had with Oswald only two months earlier, but he told me in 1993 that it never occurred to him that Oswald might have been the shooter when he heard the news on the radio. There seemed to be some suspicion at the time that the assassination attempt had been carried out by either a disgruntled former employee of Walker’s, or that it might have been staged to show the risks that Walker was taking by speaking out against communism, integration and Big Government.
Either way, the incident prompted Walker to state to the press that there was, indeed, an “internal threat” to the Far Right, contrary to assurances by “the Kennedys”, as discussed in the April 22, 1963 issue of Newsweek. Walker also pointed out that the shooter was a “lousy shot”, although he was later quick to accuse Oswald of being part of a communist plot in the assassination of President Kennedy, willing to accept Oswald’s improved marksmanship (or “Marxmanship” as Walkers’ colleague, Prof. Revilo Oliver put it in a lengthy two-part article which the Warren Commission allowed him to expound upon near the end of their investigation, and which is included in the Warren Commission’s documents.)
Walker became “military editor” of the extreme anti-communist magazine American Mercury in early 1963, which had been sold and moved from Wichita, Kansas to McAllen, Texas, having previously been sold in 1960 and moved from its long-time New York City location, where it had prospered for many years as a literary magazine. In an article on the assassination Walker asked: “Who was the mastermind behind Oswald who furnished the exact route of the President six weeks before it was published?” Intriguingly, the issue that carried his commentary was dated “October, 1963”, which was either a printing error, or evidence that Walker knew what was going to transpire ahead of time. Since he was closely associated with other Texas right-wingers, such as the wealthy oilman H. L. Hunt and the Murchison brothers, he could very well have known that John Kennedy was going to be killed (if he had his way).
Not long after the Walker incident, possibly concerned about being a suspect if Schmidt had contacted the police, Oswald decided to seek work in New Orleans, while his pregnant wife and daughter, June, temporarily moved in with Ruth Paine, who was separated from her husband (although he visited regularly). While in “The Big Easy” Oswald contacted a lawyer named Dean Andrews, who was closely associated with mob boss Carlos Marcello, in regard to his Marine Corps discharge, although Andrews never saw him again. It could be that Oswald’s uncle, “Dutz” Murrett, who worked on the docks but was also a bookie in Marcello’s criminal organization, suggested that his nephew talk to Andrews. Oswald might have also spoken to Clem Sehrt, another Marcello associate. He had known Oswald’s mother since childhood and had been contacted by her when Oswald was eager to join the Marines when he was only sixteen (5).
Upon Oswald’s return to Dallas in early October, 1963, after having travelled to Mexico City from New Orleans by bus after Ruth Paine picked up his wife and daughter, either Oswald or someone similar in features was allegedly overheard talking to Jack Ruby at the Carousel Club. According to a lawyer named Carroll Jarnegin, a regular at the club, they were discussing a plan to kill Governor Connally, on behalf of “the boys in Chicago.” Connally was expected to be in Dallas campaigning for reelection (at that time the governorship was contested every two years) and it was suggested he would be an easy target. Ruby offered “Oswald” an undisclosed amount of money to kill Connally – an offer he willingly accepted. Jarnegin claimed to have reported what he overheard to the Texas Department of Public Safety on October 5, not long after Oswald had arrived in Dallas, where he was temporarily staying at the YMCA, although, unfortunately, there is no evidence that he did.
After the assassination Jarnegin did write a detailed seven-page letter about the incident, which he sent to the FBI in Washington, D.C., addressed directly to J. Edgar Hoover and dated Dec. 5, 1963 (6). According to authors Warren Hinckle and William Turner in their 1981 book The Fish is Red, Jarnegin had a “prodigious memory” and was a former chess champion, which helps explain the details he was able to provide. In a 1988 Jack Anderson tv special on the assassination (featuring a live interview with Marina), Jarnegin stood by his experience.
The FBI investigated Jarnegin’s allegation, but quickly discounted it, due mainly to his problems with alcohol, and a lack of support from a young woman who had been in his company on the night of the alleged conversation. Nevertheless, his story was revived in 1988 by author James Reston, Jr. (son of the famous New York Times journalist) in his biography of John Connally entitled The Lone Star, portions of which were included in the Nov. 28, 1988 issue of Time magazine for the 25th anniversary coverage of the tragedy in Dallas. It should be noted that in the course of the “Ruby-Oswald” discussion, no mention was made of John Kennedy’s proposed trip to Texas, although Ruby suggested at one point that “the boys” would love to “get” Robert Kennedy, but, unlike his brother, he was never an easy target. Ruby was also concerned about “Oswald’s” shooting ability and the importance of only hitting Connally, but “H. L. Lee” assured Ruby that it would not be difficult, as he was a former Marine sharpshooter (actually he had been trained in electronics and was a radar operator).
The fact that he was calling himself “H.L. Lee” suggests a possible link to H. L. Hunt. Intriguingly, the name “Hunt” also came up during a Warren Commission interview with Sgt. Dean in regard to how Ruby managed to get into the basement. Dean indicated “Hunt” was one of several volunteer Dallas Police officers in the basement, but couldn’t provide a first name. Also, in the mid-1970s a letter was published which was addressed to “Dear Mr. Hunt”, allegedly written by Lee Harvey Oswald, although handwriting analysis appeared to conclude it was a forgery. Again, a possible connection to Hunt was implied.
If it was Oswald whom Ruby was talking to in his club, Ruby might have been aware of Oswald’s failure to kill Walker, which could have been the reason why he was approached in the first place, with the threat to turn him in if he didn’t cooperate. Conversely, knowledge of Oswald’s attempt on Walker’s life might have prompted Ruby and others to set Oswald up, with plans to reveal his “psychopathic” personality after his anticipated arrest. However, it is more likely that Jarnegin confused Oswald with Larry Crafard (who reverted to his real name “Curtis Laverne Craford” in 1964), who had begun working at the Carousel Club in early October, 1963, after meeting Ruby at the Texas State Fair. He also stayed briefly at the YMCA upon arriving in Dallas, following a trip from Memphis, where he had been working in a carnival. Craford was attempting to relocate his first wife and young child, who were living in the Dallas area. He had also been in Dallas earlier, and possibly met Ruby at that time.
I managed to locate Craford through his father in 1989, and wrote to him c/o the local post office, as his father only told me the name of the town where Curtis lived. Not long after writing to him, I received a written reply from his second wife, (whom Curtis married in 1964), partially on his behalf. In response to my query as to why Crafard had left Dallas so abruptly on Nov. 23,1963, his wife was quite insistent that Curtis had left Dallas on November 22, which I suspect Curtis had always wanted her to believe. However, Curtis had told the FBI and the Warren Commission, as well as during cross-examination at the Ruby trial (where he testified as a character witness for Ruby), that he left Dallas around noon on Nov. 23, 1963.
In my written reply I pointed this out, but possibly because she had been deceived by her husband, she never wrote back to me again, although I did speak to her on several occasions throughout the 1990s, both before and after she split up with Curtis in 1991. When I finally visited Craford in Dec. 2001, he remained adamant that he left on the day of the assassination. However, after showing him his own statements, he reluctantly agreed that he had been mistaken. It would appear that Curtis also didn’t want me to think that there was any possibility that he had first-hand information about the assassination, or Tippit’s murder, or Ruby’s decision to kill Oswald – one or more of which might have prompted him to abruptly quit his job, while Ruby was back at his apartment in Oakcliff, and hitchhike all the way to northern Michigan with only seven dollars in his pocket.
In the letter I received from Craford’s wife, she also mentioned that in 1965 Earl Ruby had phoned Curtis from Detroit, having met him at his brother’s trial the year before. Earl ran a commercial drycleaning business in the Cobo area of Detroit, and when he learned that Curtis was unemployed, Earl offered him a job, which Curtis cheerfully accepted. However, after working there for several months, he was fired, allegedly for stealing some clothes, although Curtis claims that they were given to him for his pregnant wife, who had accompanied him. Afterwards, Craford worked for awhile for an oil company, long enough to buy a car, at which point he and his wife drove back to Oregon, where they have lived ever since. He later concluded that Earl’s real reason for hiring him was to find out what he knew about his brother’s activities in Dallas, possibly because Jack’s lawyers were appealing his conviction (which was successful, although Ruby died before his new trial was to begin in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1967).
I also learned from Curtis that in 1980 he and his wife, along with two of their four children, were involved in a serious car accident, caused by faulty steering, even though the vehicle was quite new. Curtis was convinced that someone had tampered with the steering, which has made him fearful for his safety ever since. After his wife read Contract on America, by David Scheim, which I had recommended, she too seemed suspicious of the accident. I also recall when I was speaking to Craford in the late 1990s on the phone, apparently my voice was fading in and out, which caused Curtis to believe that the line was tapped.
During my initial interview with Craford at a bar/restaurant in the small town where he lives in a rural area of Oregon, he revealed to me that he had been a “hit man” in the early sixties in San Francisco, prior to going to Dallas. While living there he got involved with the granddaughter of the local “Don”, and, unfortunately for Craford, she became pregnant. However, in exchange for leaving town and promising never to contact her again, Curtis was spared the usual harsh treatment associated with organized crime. Although I was somewhat skeptical of Craford’s claim, his older brother, whom I later spoke to by phone, appeared to confirm what Curtis had revealed to me.
Earlier, after dropping out of highschool in Dallas, Oregon (!) in 1958, Craford had joined the Army, following in the footsteps of his brother (who was, by then, a sergeant). In November 1959 he was abruptly released, however, after serving most of his fourteen months in West Germany (where he might have been exposed to General Walker’s anti-communist propaganda), because of a medical problem of some sort. Despite having “messed up”, as he put it to me, he claimed to have been selected for several covert operations as a demolition expert, which took him over the Berlin Wall as well as into southeast Asia (presumably either Laos or Vietnam). He even showed me a scar on his leg, which he treated as a badge of honour related to one of those operations. Craford was vague about whom he was working for, but emphasized to me that there would be no written records related to his covert operations.
Although I didn’t think to ask him, Curtis likely bragged about his “intelligence” experience while working for Ruby. A woman named Beverly Oliver, who was only seventeen in 1963, sang at the Colony nightclub, and hung out at the nearby Carousel. Years later, after her first husband had been gunned down in a shootout with the Texas Rangers, she claimed to have been introduced to “Lee” by Jack Ruby, a few weeks before the assassination. Ruby mentioned that his new friend was with the CIA. Given what Craford told me, it’s very likely she actually was introduced to “Larry”, not “Lee.” I wrote to Beverly in this regard, having met her at the 1996 Sudbury, Ontario JFK conference, but in her reply, she confused Craford with Corky Crawford, another seedy associate of Ruby’s, and didn’t remember having ever met Ruby’s handyman. However, her unflattering description of him (featured in the movie “JFK”) is clearly much more consistent with Craford than Oswald.
Nothing incriminating, of course, was revealed to Burt Griffin and Leon Hubert during Craford’s three-day Warren Commission “interrogation” in Washington D.C., although Judge Griffin told me at a Chicago conference in 1993 that he and Hubert felt that Craford was holding back and not being honest about himself and his activities while in Dallas. After interviewing Craford, I decided to provide Judge Griffin with a summary of our conversations, but for some reason, I did not receive a response. Later, I did get a brief reply in regard to a Berkeley, CA company (“Stewart-Hill”), which Craford was asked about during his W.C. interview, but which he didn’t remember working for during the summer of 1960. Unfortunately, Judge Griffin couldn’t recall what kind of company it was or how the information had been obtained. Possibly this was when Craford was working as a hit man.
He also claimed to have been a crack shot while in the Army, and still had a keen interest in weapons, proudly showing me two high-powered revolvers that he owned, possibly needed for his job as a licensed security guard. In the case of Oswald, even though he had purchased an antiquated Mannlicher-Carcano rifle as well as a .38 pistol (both by mail order), there is no evidence that he ever practised firing either weapon, neither while in New Orleans nor after moving back to Dallas. But there is evidence that someone posing as Oswald was firing a rifle and behaving in a hostile manner towards others at a firing range on the outskirts of Dallas, a month or so before the assassination.
During one interview with Garland Slack on April 2, 1964, conducted by attorney Wesley Liebeler, he was actually shown colour photos of Craford (taken by the FBI when they tracked him down at his sister’s remote cabin in northern Michigan a week after the assassination). Although Slack insisted it was Oswald he had seen at the firing range five months earlier, the Warren Commission knew Oswald had no way of getting there, and was either at work or visiting Marina and his daughter in Irving on the dates provided by Slack. It would appear members of the Warren Commission’s staff considered the possibility that Craford might have been posing as Oswald. In fact, in a Griffin/Hubert memo written in March, 1964, they stated that Craford “closely resembles Oswald.” In the letter I received from the Crafords in 1989, Curtis denied ever pretending to be Oswald, however.
Someone also posed as Oswald at a Mercury car dealership in Dallas, letting the salesman know he was coming into some money soon, after taking a vehicle for a test drive and driving quite erratically. He also mentioned having lived in Russia, and was quite abrasive towards the staff, once again giving the impression he was emotionally disturbed. The salesman recalled writing “Oswald” on a card, anticipating doing business in the near future. The real Oswald was taking driving lessons from Ruth Paine at that time, but was four inches taller than the impostor, who was described as being 5’ 5” in height. Intriguingly, when I met Craford, I was surprised, after seeing photos of him published in the Warren volumes, that he was noticeably shorter than I expected. Since I am 5’ 8 ½” tall, Craford was definitely no taller than 5’ 7”, even with a cowboy hat and boots on (years earlier he had worked in the rodeo).
Allegedly, Craford also pretended to be Oswald during an interview with an employment counselor in Dallas named Laura Kittrell, who, in the course of her own investigation, came across the photos of Craford in the Warren Commission volumes. In a lengthy manuscript written in 1966, and later provided to the HSCA, she recalled in an interview with Gaeton Fonzi that “Oswald” appeared for a third interview in late October, 1963, still wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket as before. Unlike her original client, however, whom she stated was “neat as a pin”, “Oswald” was “slouchy…kind of unkempt and very unmilitary looking; he had a “peculiar way of laughing and talking so that people all over the room could hear him.” Kittrell later realized that this third interview could not have been with Lee Harvey Oswald, as records show he was already working at the Texas School Book Depository. In fact, there was no evidence that Oswald visited the Texas Employment Commission in 1963 at all, but Kittrell later found Craford’s application form in the inactive file, although he told me he was quite certain he had never visited the Texas Employment Commission. Curtis also recalled that he avoided laughing in public because he was missing his front teeth, which made him self-conscious.
During his third visit “Oswald” informed Kittrell that he had been sent back by the claims office, as he had just become a member of the Teamsters’ Union, hoping to get a union job as a forklift driver, as he had previously driven one while working in a New Orleans warehouse. Since it was a union position, Kittrell was required by law to alter his work classification again. However, “Oswald” did not produce a union card to verify his membership, claiming it hadn’t been sent to him yet. Kittrell wondered if he could even afford the initiation fees, knowing he had a pregnant wife and young daughter to support. It would appear from the evidence that it was not Oswald who visited the employment office, especially since Oswald did not wear a black leather motorcycle jacket. Instead, it was likely someone very familiar with Oswald’s background, suggesting the person was pretending to be Oswald to once again make him look unstable.
Even though Kittrell stated in her 1966 manuscript that the impostor might have been Craford, by the time she was interviewed by Gaeton Fonzi on July 18, 1978 at her home in Dallas (on behalf of the HSCA), she must have decided not to mention Craford, possibly expecting Fonzi to ask her about her suspicions. The lengthy summary of Fonzi’s interview makes no reference to Craford, nor does his notes, which he kindly sent me, along with the following comment in an e-mail: “I recall Kittrell and remember coming away from the interview with her thinking she went way up and way down on the scale of validity but I had a tough time figuring what was up or down. I don’t recall anything about Craford.” (7)
After the assassination, Ruby decided to close his nightclub, which enabled him to show up at a midnight press conference held by the Dallas Police, posing as a reporter, with numerous questions being hurled at Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspect in both the shooting of Tippit as well as Kennedy and Connally. The following day Ruby came across a billboard with the statement “Impeach Earl Warren” on it, with a box number and Jewish name provided in the corner, which he suspected might be linked to a “Wanted For Treason” leaflet circulating in Dallas when JFK arrived. In the middle of the night on Nov. 23, Ruby woke Craford up at the club and told him to get the Polaroid camera, as Jack was upset about the sign, even though he apparently didn’t know who Earl Warren was. Ruby, George Senator (Ruby’s roommate) and Craford all drove out to take pictures of it, and also went to the post office to check out the listed mailbox, which turned out to be different than the one listed on the “Wanted For Treason” leaflets. After dropping Craford off at the club, Ruby and Senator had an early breakfast downtown before returning to their apartment in the Oakcliff area, not far from where Tippit had been gunned down (8).
Around 8:30 that morning, Craford, who was responsible for feeding Ruby’s dogs, which were kept at the club, realized there was no dogfood and phoned Ruby at his apartment. Ruby, who had been sound asleep, told Craford off for calling him, and treated him so harshly that Craford apparently decided later that morning to quit his job and leave Dallas, hitchhiking all the way to Michigan. A Griffin/Hubert memo described Craford having “fled Dallas”, implying it was not just because of an argument over dogfood. During Craford’s testimony at Ruby’s trial, in March, 1964, he did not even mention the argument with Ruby as the reason he abruptly left town, stating instead that “When I get ready to go someplace, I go. I was ready to go, so I left.”
However, with only seven dollars in his pocket, he wasn’t exactly well prepared for a cross-country journey, especially in late November. Although Craford was interviewed at length by Griffin and Hubert in Washington D.C. for the Warren Commission, which took three days and takes up over two hundred pages in the Warren volumes, Judge Griffin continued to be bothered by Craford’s abrupt departure from Dallas on Nov. 23 in the coming years. In an interview conducted by the HSCA in Nov. 1978, he stated that “one of the most important issues we never resolved …is why Larry Crafard split town like he did.” He went on to state that he had “always been bothered by that very much, the whole circumstance of it. And I heard you haven’t been able to locate Crafard.”
It is difficult to understand why the HSCA were unable to contact Craford, as he had been gainfully employed for many years in Oregon in the security field, was married with several children, and had family members living in the area, all of whom had listed phone numbers. Presumably the HSCA simply ran out of time or couldn’t gain the cooperation of Craford’s parents and/or brother. Once again, Craford managed to avoid the limelight.
As for the Warren Report, it downplayed the reason why Craford had abruptly quit his job at the Carousel Club and hitchhiked all the way to Michigan (rather than returning to Oregon) and suggested it was a consistent part of his lifestyle. He initially visited his aunt and uncle near Detroit (and their daughter, whom he seemed to have a crush on, suggested in a letter written to her from the Carousel Club). After revealing to them that he had worked for Ruby, whom he spoke positively about, Craford avoided discussing his time in Dallas, nor did he watch JFK’s funeral, preferring to read comic books in the guestroom. He claimed during my interview that he didn’t want to show his emotions to his relatives (which might have been more a case of guilt or remorse than sadness.)
The next day he headed to his sister’s cabin for Thanksgiving, who didn’t live too far from the Canadian border, possibly planning to leave the country had the FBI not tracked him down. He made no effort to contact the authorities in regard to having worked for Ruby, after learning about Oswald’s murder while getting a ride to Chicago (where he told me he had visited someone associated with organized crime). However, he was located by the FBI through the relatives he had earlier visited, and was subsequently interviewed and photographed, as well as being asked to maintain contact with the FBI if he moved. Craford was, in fact, called by Jack Ruby’s defense counsel as a character witness on the final day of testimony, and a few weeks later was flown to Washington D.C. from his home in Oregon to testify at the Warren Commission hearings. Craford told me that he was driven to the airport by FBI agents from the Portland office.
In late 1991, shortly before the release of Oliver Stone’s controversial film “JFK”, which made no reference to Craford, I received a phone call from journalist Ron Rosenbaum, whose name I recognized, as he had written a lengthy article on Oswald for Texas Monthly magazine in November 1983. Since he had continued to maintain periodic contact with other assassination researchers, Rosenbaum learned about my contact with Craford through researchers Mary Ferrell and Paul Hoch, whom I was in regular contact with beginning in the late 1980s.
Years earlier Rosenbaum had interviewed Jim Garrison by phone, who identified Craford as a likely gunman firing from behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll, presumably based on the testimony of Julia Ann Mercer. Mercer had provided pre-assassination information to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Dep’t, which was included along with other eyewitness accounts in the Warren volumes. Her observations had been described in the prologue of Mark Lane’s 1966 bestseller Rush to Judgment, published shortly before Garrison began his investigation. Mercer’s account has been repeated in numerous books on the subject over the years, including the 2005 book entitled A Farewell to Justice by Prof. Joan Mellen of Temple University.
According to Ms. Mercer, she was driving down Elm St. an hour or so before the assassination took place, on her way to work in Fort Worth, and was forced to drive around a stalled green Ford pick-up truck parked in the curb lane, just before the triple under-pass. According to the November 22 report, the truck had the words “Air Conditioning” printed in black on the driver’s side and the hood was up. As she slowly passed the truck, she noticed a middle-aged, heavy set man slumped over the steering wheel, while a younger man, wearing a plaid shirt and woolen hat with a tassell, reached over the rear of the pick-up and took out what looked like a gun case. He proceeded to carry the case up the side of the grassy knoll towards the picket fence and disappeared from sight.
Ms. Mercer had assumed the man with the gun case was with the Secret Service, having commented that they weren’t so secret after all, while eating a late breakfast at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. Being a regular customer, she had gotten to know the employees and other customers, which often included several policemen. As a result of her comment and the fact that JFK had just been shot (unbeknownst to her), Ms. Mercer was pulled over by two policemen and brought back to Dallas for questioning by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Dep’t. The next morning she was questioned again by the FBI and claimed to have been shown four photos of the possible driver, selecting one with the name “Jack Ruby” on the flip side. When she saw Ruby shoot Oswald on live television the next day, she told her family who were visiting that he was the person whose photo was shown to her by the FBI. However, the FBI makes no such statement in its Nov. 23 report, although photos of Ruby and Oswald were shown to Ms. Mercer on Nov. 25 and Nov. 28.
In early 1968 Ms. Mercer and her husband, who was a member of the Illinois State Legislature, were in New Orleans on business, and contacted Jim Garrison in regard to her contention that the police and FBI summaries of her recollections were inaccurate. According to Garrison’s handwritten comments in the margins of the affidavit she allegedly signed on Nov. 22, 1963, she stated that the signature at the end of the statement was not hers but was a forgery. She also claimed that there was no woman present during her interview, even though it is signed by “Rosemary Allen”, a notary public of Dallas County (whose signature looks suspiciously like “Julia Ann Mercer”). Mercer also denied that the truck had any printing on the driver’s side, and insisted that she had gotten a good look at the driver, contrary to what was stated in the affidavit. She pointed out that she had looked directly at him and that he had looked back at her twice, which was why she recognized Ruby when he shot Oswald two days later.
Garrison later wrote to the HSCA on July 15, 1977 and suggested that Ms. Mercer be interviewed, providing copies of the Sheriff’s and FBI’s reports, along with his written comments in the margins, signed by her. However, the committee was unable to locate her, but did not contact Garrison in this regard, who was willing to provide assistance. In his letter he also suggested that Mercer’s statements be photocopied and cross-filed “under Laverne Crafard – wherever he is now.” He indicated that Craford was likely one of the men on the grassy knoll, as well as an “excellent candidate as the man who killed Tippitt (with an automatic, needless to say, and not a revolver).” The HSCA did summarize the material forwarded to them by Garrison in one of its twelve volumes, although no reference was made to Craford in its summary.
Apparently unbeknownst to Garrison, an investigation by the FBI of the stalled truck had been made, as revealed by author Josiah Thompson in his 1966 book Six Seconds in Dallas. A Dallas patrolman, Joe Murphy, provided a detailed description of the pick-up truck on Elm St., which was involved in construction work at a nearby building. One of the three occupants went for assistance, and it was possible some kind of tool was removed from the truck in an attempt to get it started. Within the hour, a second truck arrived to push the other truck out of the area. As the HSCA was likely aware of this report, the committee presumably felt it was unnecessary to interview Ms. Mercer, given her unsubstantiated allegations.
Mercer was later located and interviewed by author Henry Hurt for his 1985 book Reasonable Doubt. In exchange for an interview, Hurt promised not to divulge where she lived or her married name. Although Hurt was aware of the FBI report with patrolman Joe Murphy, he clearly downplayed it, simply stating that a policeman had observed the truck and believed it to be a legitimate breakdown. He also described what Ms. Mercer now believed was a rifle wrapped in brown paper rather than a gun case as was stated by her in 1963, and claimed that the young man in the woolen hat was Oswald, which makes no sense whatsoever and which was not suggested by Ms. Mercer at the time of the assassination. Like Garrison, he does not make any reference to Craford as the possible young man carrying a rifle up the knoll.
In 1993, on the heels of Oliver Stone’s film “JFK”, which dramatized Julia Ann Mercer’s recollections when she met with Garrison, Gerald Posner’s anti-conspiracy book Case Closed was published. He briefly describes Ms. Mercer’s account, including the alleged identification of the man with the gun case as Oswald (citing Crossfire by Jim Marrs as his source), but like Josiah Thompson years earlier, refers to the policeman’s FBI statement in regard to the stalled truck. The same year Michael Benson published Who’s Who In the JFK Assassination, and to his credit includes both Mercer’s allegations as well as the explanation provided by Dallas policeman Joe Murphy.
As for Rosenbaum’s article, it was entitled “Taking a Darker View”, and was published in Time magazine on Jan. 13, 1992, a month after Oliver Stone’s film “JFK” was released (9). According to the editor of the history section, Stone had “focused attention on the band of mostly self-appointed experts who zealously pursue theories of a wider plot” – a “subculture” which Rosenbaum had chosen to explore in a three-page essay. He begins with reference to another phone interview years ago, when he “finally succeeded in badgering Jim Garrison into naming the Name”, not “the Big Guys behind the plot”, but “the name of the man he believed fired the fatal head shot from the grassy knoll.”
At this point Rosenbaum stated that he wouldn’t provide “that name”, simply because he didn’t believe Garrison had given him “any evidence for singling out this person for historic infamy.” In fact, he believed on any other day, Garrison “might have picked another name out of the hat.” Of course, the person Rosenbaum was referring to was Curtis LaVerne Craford aka Larry Crafard, whom numerous writers, researchers and “assassination buffs” had suspected might have been the young man carrying a gun case up the knoll, given his close association with Ruby, and his suspiciously abrupt departure from Dallas the day after the assassination.
For anyone still uncertain as to the identify of “the Name”, his description of his Warren Commission testimony and the fact that it ran to more than two hundred pages, certainly was a major tip-off, along with a reasonably accurate description of his background in the carnival world, his failed first marriage and an attempt at reconciliation that led him to Dallas, Texas and a job at the Texas State Fair. That is where Craford first met Ruby, which resulted in obtaining work and accommodations at the Carousel Club in early October, 1963.
Even though Rosenbaum read Craford’s Warren Commission testimony after learning about him through his conversation with Garrison, he was quick to point out that the investigators were allegedly “interested in his story…mostly because he was a source who might shed light on the peculiarities of Jack Ruby’s character”, and not because they suspected his possible involvement in the assassination (or the murder of a Dallas policeman, or both). Consequently, Rosenbaum chose not to include a few points I had mentioned during our conversation: the fact that Craford had accepted a job with Ruby’s brother, Earl, at his commercial drycleaners in a rough part of Detroit in 1965, despite the possibility Earl, like Jack, might have mob connections (possibly through the Teamsters Union under Jimmy Hoffa); that he vaguely recalled seeing Oswald in the club contrary to what he told the Warren Commission; and that his second wife was led to believe by her husband that Curtis had left Dallas on Nov. 22, not the 23rd – all of which to me cast him in a much more suspicious light.
Rosenbaum points out that as a result of “the murk that has been churned up by the dissidents” and “three decades of revisionist Kennedy assassination investigation”, we now have “a much darker, more complex, less innocent vision of America.” He provides numerous examples to support his thesis beginning with the FBI, held responsible for JFK’s death by author Mark North in 1992 book Act of Treason, which he references. Rosenbaum cites various examples supporting a revisionist view of Hoover, in contrast to his image in 1963, when he was considered by most Americans to be a “peerless, incorruptible leader, a gangbuster nonpareil.” He mentions examples such as Hoover’s hatred of the Kennedy brothers; his power over LBJ and numerous other politicians bordering on blackmail; his relentless bugging of MLK; his knowledge of JFK’s extra-marital affairs and mob connections through Giancana, which forced the Kennedy brothers to keep him on as director; and Hoover’s willingness to ignore the growing threat of the Mafia
Likewise, Rosenbaum describes the CIA’s clandestine operations over the years that were now public knowledge, with reference to another controversial book entitled Plausible Denial, by the dean of conspiracy theorists, Mark Lane (who had represented Oswald’s mother and her dead son throughout the Warren Commission’s investigation). A poll conducted by TIME/CNN in late 1991 which was included along with Rosenbaum’s essay, indicated that 73% of the American public now believed there was a conspiracy, and the number one suspect was the CIA at 50% (followed by the Mafia at 48%, Cuba at 34%, anti-Castroites at 19%, the U.S. military at 18% and the Dallas Police at 13%), in contrast to the glamorous “James Bond” image that existed before JFK’s death.
Much of this suspicion was due to revelations of CIA plots (along with the Mafia) to kill Castro, beginning in 1960 and continuing up to November 22, 1963, with the full knowledge of the Kennedy brothers (but not the Warren Commission, as pointed out in another recent book Final Disclosure by former W.C. lawyer and lone assassin advocate David Belin); evidence of an impostor posing as Oswald in Mexico City in Oct. 1963, allegedly sent there by the CIA; the use of mind-control drugs by the CIA on unsuspecting American citizens (as well as some Canadians, I might add, through a program sponspored by the CIA at McGill University in Montreal); and the “paralyzing” effect on the CIA’s counter-intelligence operations, as a result of counterspy James Angleton’s growing paranoia, convinced that a KGB mole existed within the CIA, and that the Russians were behind the assassination (a subject Rosenbaum had written about some years earlier).
He also discusses the growing negative image of the Kennedys themselves, whom he feels have not been exempted from the “carnivalesque vision of America that has emerged in the wake of post-assassination investigations.” He points out that “otherwise skeptical assassination buffs are among the last misty-eyed believers in Camelot”, including director Oliver Stone, as reflected in the “Galahad-like” depiction of JFK in his film, “gallantly battling the sinister right-wing military-industrial complex to bring the troops home, ban the Bomb and ensure racial equality…a Kennedy killed because he was just too good to live.” Likewise, he cites author Jim Marrs’s book Crossfire, a major source for the “JFK” script, which he feels “echoes…this naïve vision” of the Kennedy brothers, convinced that most of America’s political woes would have been avoided had JFK not been killed.
In contrast to “Camelot”, Rosenbaum lists some of the “sordid revelations” associated with the Kennedy years, such as JFK’s involvement with Giancana’s mistress, Judith Campbell Exner (although without mentioning either by name); the use of “Chicago mobsters as hit men against a rival head of state” (that being Castro); unnamed “black-mail intrigues with Hoover” and the bugging of MLK’s bedrooms, approved by JFK; and the possible tacit support for the Berlin Wall’s construction (citing another new book by Michael Bleschloss entitled The Crisis Years). Rosenbaum concludes that Kennedy was more like Michael Corleone from “The Godfather” than Sir Galahad, (with his father, Joe Kennedy, standing in for Corleone’s old man), who, similarly, can’t escape his father’s legacy or his family’s cutthroat character.”
Rosenbaum feels the most “prescient or at least realistic” assassination theorists are those who considered the possibility of Castro’s involvement in JFK’s death, citing both Malcolm X, who had described the assassination as a case of the “chickens coming home to roost” two years before he, too, was killed, as well as LBJ, who revealed to Mike Wallace at CBS in 1969 that the U.S. had been running a “damned Murder Incorporated in the Carribean”, and that one of the those operations against Castro had likely backfired. This comment was deleted from the program and not shown until after LBJ’s death in the early 1970s.
Rosenbaum also mentions a new trend in “conspiracy-theory history – the increasing number of people coming forward not merely to claim they know who did it but to confess” that they were responsible, providing three examples: Charles Harrelson, the convicted Texas hit man (and father of actor Woody Harrelson); ex-con Robert Easterling (Henry Hurt’s prime suspect in his book Reasonable Doubt); and a Dallas cop named Roscoe White, who had died in a suspicious accident, promoted as the gunman on the grassy knoll by his own son. As Rosenbaum points out, the credibility of many conspiracy theorists has been greatly damaged by a willingness to “accept indiscriminately every self-proclaimed assassin or grassy knoll eyewitness” and yet “tear to shreds any evidence or testimony that might support the lone-gunman theory.”
Following this fascinating review of an emerging “darker view” of American politics, Rosenbaum returns to his initial curiosity, wondering “what had become of the man whom Garrison once named as the hit man.” One of several assassination buffs he contacted had told him about “a buff in Canada who made a specialty of tracking down lesser known figures in the case who might otherwise disappear into the mists of history” – namely me. Based on our telephone conversation, Rosenbaum revealed that I had “traced the still wandering whereabouts of the Name”, encouraged by the fact that “a former Warren Commission attorney [Burt Griffin] still couldn’t figure out why the Name made such a hasty exit from Dallas” as he hitchhiked all the way to Michigan “36 hours after the assassination.” One of Rosenbaum’s other sources suggested that Craford’s “eerie physical resemblance to Oswald” might have explained the alleged citing of Oswald at the Carousel, possibly the chief reason for the Warren Commission’s interest in him (indeed, the FBI showed Craford’s photo to numerous people who spent time at the club, all of whom claimed to have seen Oswald there). Several other buffs Rosenbaum spoke to suspected Craford might be the so-called “Oswald double”, involved in setting up “the real, innocent Oswald to be the assassination patsy.”
Referring again to our conversation, Rosenbaum concludes his essay by describing what had happened to Craford after “he fled Dallas”: “It seems he couldn’t really escape – Nov. 22 continued to haunt him. The FBI followed him to Michigan and questioned him repeatedly; he had to go back to Dallas for Ruby’s trial; he never found the wife he’d lost. And then in the early ‘80s, just when his life seemed to have settled down, renewed interest in the J.F.K. case made his name an object of speculation again; it appeared in a book on the organized crime connections to Ruby and the assassination [Contract on America]. His new wife [actually they had been married since 1964] read the book and began to get a little paranoid. She wondered about the serious car accident they had had: Was it really an accident? Eventually, things began to go awry: his marriage broke up, he lost his job. Last thing the Canadian buff heard, the Name was working as a night security guard in a mill, ‘boarding with some people’, without a traceable phone number of his own.”
Rosenbaum concludes his essay and his feelings towards both “the Name” and Americans in general by stating: “Looking back, it doesn’t seem that much of a mystery why the poor guy fled Dallas so abruptly. His life took a wrong turn down there and never recovered. So did ours. We’re all still fleeing Dallas, but it’s too late to escape.” But was Craford simply a “poor guy”, finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was there a “darker” reason that propelled Craford out of Dallas and towards northern Michigan with only seven dollars in his pocket? That would appear to be the case.
When Prof. Joan Mellen of Temple University in Philadelphia published her examination of Garrison’s JFK investigation in a book entitled A Farewell to Justice (Potomac Books, 2005), I was anxious to read her comments about Craford. Joan had contacted me back in November, 2001 in regard to “The Winnipeg Airport Incident”, but during our initial telephone conversation, she discovered that I had located Craford some years earlier. Given Garrison’s suspicions towards Craford, which he had expressed to the HSCA, she was naturally very interested in what I had learned over the years. As a result of our conversation, I contacted Craford and arranged to meet with him in the small Oregon town where he lives. I was also able to set up a telephone interview between Joan Mellen and Curtis, as well as with Edward Craford, his older brother, a U.S. Army veteran of twenty years.
Although Curtis is only mentioned briefly in Joan’s book, she makes some startling comments about his alleged activities in Dallas (spelling his name “Crafard”, the way he spelled it in 1963.) According to Joan, Ruby had introduced Craford to his friends as “Oswald”, which caused Curtis to “take a good hard look when one day Oswald walked into the Carousel Club.” She pointed out that Garrison “wondered if Craford had shot Tippit, whom (he) now admits to knowing.” Garrison also concluded, according to Joan, that Craford was “a professional killer” – a remarkable suspicion that Joan points out was subsequently supported by Craford’s admission to me in Dec. 2001 about having been a “hit man” for the mob in San Francisco, prior to his brief time in Dallas.
Joan’s telephone interview with Curtis was not included in the book, but her conversation with Edward Craford suggested he was much more frank about his brother’s activities in Dallas than he had been with me. He seemed to allege that “Curtis was heavily involved in the assassination”; that “he (Curtis) knew Ruby was acquainted with Oswald before the assassination”; and that “Curtis…did not leave Dallas until after Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, in contrast to (his) testimony that he had departed on November 23rd.” If all these statements made by Joan Mellen are accurate, no wonder Craford left so abruptly, although it would suggest he might not have hitchhiked after all, or did so later than he had claimed (which Griffin and Hubert seemed suspicious about, as Craford couldn’t account for the elapsed time involved in travelling to Michigan.)
After reading Joan’s book, I e-mailed her with some questions related to her comments about Craford, but she did not want to elaborate on what she had stated, in part to protect “a source”, and also because of tentative plans to write a second book on the subject. I also wrote to both Curtis and his brother, and enclosed copies of the pertinent pages, but did not receive a response from either one of them, nor apparently did Joan. Later I phoned Edward, and as usual, he was quite vague about his brother’s activities in Dallas, but suggested he was merely an observer and not a participant. He also seemed indifferent to Prof. Mellen’s comments. I did learn from him that Curtis’s estranged wife, Shirley, who had originally written back to me in 1989, died in Dec. 2005, as had his blind landlady, Rosa, more recently.
According to Sahl, Earl Warren and Gerald Ford had conducted the interview, when, in fact, it was lawyers Leon Hubert and Burt Griffin; Craford was described as having been a bartender at Ruby’s club, when he was a handyman, who occasionally worked behind the bar; also, Craford claimed to have been a “master sniper while in the Marine Corps”, when apparently he received only basic weapons training while serving in the U.S. Army (from which he was released after only fourteen months service); he had supposedly been “seized” by the FBI while “hightailing it” out of Dallas, suggesting he was arrested at some point, when, actually, he was contacted by agents in northern Michigan a week later and brought to the local office for questioning, as well as being photographed; and he allegedly stated to someone before being “seized” that the authorities were not going to “pin this on me.”
After obtaining a copy of the review, along with a speech based on it made by former HSCA researcher Gaeton Fonzi (given at a Dallas JFK conference and later published in the JFK magazine “Lancer” and website), I wrote to Debra Conway at “JFK Lancer”, Craford, Fonzi, Sahl (through his website) and The New Yorker. As a result of my e-mail to Ms. Conway, the section about Craford in Fonzi’s speech was initially deleted in the on-line version of Fonzi’s speech, but later was reinserted with a footnote quoting from my e-mail with Ms. Conway’s response. Amazingly, Craford was more amused than upset by the reference to him and the numerous factual errors. Even though there was a strong suggestion made that he might have been involved in the assassination, he had no desire to speak to a lawyer in regard to a possible defamation suit, prefering to remain out of the media spotlight. Fonzi was somewhat defensive, but clearly had been under the impression that Sahl’s reading of the Warren Commission’s interview with Craford was accurate, and not a humorous means by which Sahl could make his point. No one at Sahl’s website got back to me.
As for The New Yorker, Owen Ketherry responded on July 21, 1999 to my e-mail by stating “…that, in the passage in question, Mort Sahl’s alleged reading of the Warren Commission Report is nothing more than a spoof.” Although Sahl was trying to show, in his typically satirical manner, how disinterested the W.C. was in finding the real assassin(s), as Warren and Ford allegedly asked about entertainment at the Carousel Club in response to Craford’s declaration about being a “master sniper”, Sahl clearly suggested Craford’s possible involvement in the assassination. I had also written to John Lahr, the senior drama critic at The New Yorker, but didn’t receive a reply from him.
Despite Owen Ketherry’s legal-sounding response, Sahl’s statement that Craford had “hightailed it” out of Dallas obviously implied that he was anxious to leave, possibly because he had either been involved in the assassination (or the murder of Tippit, or both), or simply because he might have known too much through his contact with Ruby - maybe even the fact that Ruby was plotting to kill Oswald. It is also possible that Craford agreed to pose as Oswald at a firing range, as well as at an auto dealership, on dates when the real Oswald was visiting his wife at the Paine’s residence in Irving, and yet was left in the dark as to the reason why Oswald was being portrayed in such a negative manner.
Near the end of my second interview with Craford at his home, I mentioned the New Yorker review and the errors made by Lahr. To my surprise, Craford quite willingly indicated that “hightailing it” was an accurate description of his movements on November 23, 1963 (although he wouldn’t elaborate). However, possibly fearing that he had said too much, given that I was in contact with a writer, he later tried to convince me over the phone that I had misunderstood his comment, very likely because of pressure from his blind landlady (and former girlfriend). She had sat in on the second interview and asked me, as I was about to leave, not to reveal her address to anyone as she didn’t want “the Mafia coming around”!
When Craford was interviewed by Griffin and Hubert, he gave the impression he hadn’t been interested enough to watch JFK’s motorcade, and had allegedly been asleep when bartender Andy Armstrong woke him up with the news of the assassination, which took place a few blocks away. It should be noted, however, that Armstrong had a lengthy criminal record, and was out on parole. He had also previously worked for H.L. Hunt. Later, he received a full pardon from Dallas County Sheriff Decker (the Dallas County building is named after Decker today).
During my interview with Craford, he did indicate that he was quite certain how JFK was shot, as though from first-hand knowledge. Unlike the Warren Commission, Craford believed one shot was fired from the storm drain, and another from the grassy knoll, one of which hit the president in the throat, exiting through the back of his head. No mention of Oswald’s possible role was included in his description, however, suggesting that he wasn’t involved, other than by being a patsy.
Intriguingly, in a two-part MPI documentary entitled “The JFK Assassination: A Revisionist History”, broadcast in 1998 on the CBC-Newsworld series “The Passionate Eye”, a young Dan Rather was shown reporting from Dallas. Just like in Craford’s scenario, he referred to the throat wound as being one of entry, exiting through the back of Kennedy’s head. It should be noted that this series has never been broadcast in the U.S., although it is possible Craford was simply repeating what he had heard or read over the years. However, he seemed quite certain what had transpired, almost as though he had been there.
Not long after the assassination, an off-duty member of the Dallas County Sheriff’s department saw a man running from the TSBD, who got into a Nash Rambler station wagon with a luggage rack on top, driven by a dark-skinned man (such a vehicle can be seen in photos taken by various reporters and onlookers). He was certain it was Oswald, but since Oswald had allegedly taken a bus after leaving the TSBD and then switched to a taxi, which drove him near his rooming house in Oakcliff, it has occurred to me that the person who got into the Nash Rambler might have been Craford, with Armstrong behind the wheel? Possibly he left the station wagon with instructions to go to Ruby’s apartment in Oakcliff, and subsequently obtained a ride with a man from North Carolina named Cecil Small.
Small had claimed for many years that he picked up “Lee Harvey Oswald” while driving by the TSBD after leaving a Western Auto Parts store, which didn’t have the part he needed, but had directed Small to a store in Oakcliff. Cecil, a middle-aged and heavy-set “good ole boy” from North Carolina (as described to me by his niece) had pulled over and asked “Oswald” how to reach Oakcliff, as he and his wife had only been in Dallas for a short while, after their truck broke down on the way back home from California. Small dropped “Oswald” off prior to the Tippit shooting after discussing the possibility of trading revolvers, after “Oswald” accidentally discovered Small’s handgun, located in the glove compartment, which he preferred to his own .38 (which had a longer barrel).
If Small’s story is true, it is possible he gave the real Oswald a ride, since Oswald did retrieve his pistol, probably because he feared for his life, as he knew he had been set up. Although it’s more likely the real Oswald would have introduced himself as “Lee Oswald”, not “Lee Harvey Oswald”, Small recalled mentioning to Oswald that his middle name was “Lee”, which might have prompted Oswald to mention his middle name too (9). In that case, the man on the bus who switched to a taxi possibly was Craford. The real Oswald was not known to travel by taxi, given his limited income, and the fact he now had two children and a wife to help support.
After Oswald’s arrest, he denied shooting anyone, claiming to the press at one point, in an exasperated voice, that he was nothing more than a “patsy.” Whether or not he was on the sixth floor of the TSBD or in the lunchroom on the second when JFK was shot, Oswald likely realized immediately he would be blamed for the assassination, which would explain why he decided to leave the building, unlike his fellow workers. Although he was initially booked for the shooting of a Dallas policeman named J. D.Tippit (which occurred not far from Ruby’s apartment in the Oakcliff area), based on the testimony of several eyewitnesses who claimed they saw Oswald running from the scene, others weren’t so certain (including a man who was later shot) and several saw more than one person fleeing.
One eyewitness, Jack Tatum, chose not to come forward, as he believed it was a gangland murder, and didn’t want to get involved. Even though Tippit was likely already dead, according to Tatum, the killer walked slowly around the police car and fired a fourth shot at his head, while standing directly over him, which, according to the HSCA’s deputy chief counsel. Gary Cornwell , in his book Real Answers, is “…commonly described as a ‘coup de grace’…more indicative of an execution than an act of self-defense or escape.” The coroner had been unable to explain the head shot at the time of Tippit’s death, which was not consistent with the other three, fired across the hood of the police car from the sidewalk.
Tatum, who discussed his experience with relatives and friends over the years, was tracked down at his workplace in Dallas and interviewed by the HSCA. Although he was certain it was Oswald, he observed the events from inside his car a block past the scene, mainly through his rearview mirror. Given Tatum’s fear of mob involvement, he might have felt it was safer to blame it on a dead man with no apparent mob connections. However, from his description, it sounded like the actions of a professional killer, not an agitated ex-Marine. After what Craford revealed to me about his background prior to going to Dallas, the possibility that he was involved in Tippit’s murder immediately comes to mind. Tatum unfortunately died several years ago, but was featured on the 1992 FRONTLINE documentary about Oswald.
Based on the manner in which the shooter casually spoke to Tippit and the fact that Tippit did not take out his revolver when he exited the car, it would appear the two knew each other; there is no evidence linking Oswald to Tippit at all. Craford, however, did indicate to the W.C. that he believed Tippit had been in Ruby’s club, and claimed to have no recollection of seeing Oswald there (although the letter written to me by Mrs. Craford, he “vaguely” recalled seeing Oswald at the Carousel). Possibly Tippit recognized Craford and wondered what he was doing so far from downtown Dallas (likely heading for Ruby’s apartment).
It should also be mentioned that eyewitness Helen Markham, who became quite hysterical when Tippit’s killer came towards her, was walking south to catch the 1:15 bus to take her to work downtown at the Eat Well restaurant directly across from the Carousel Club. Since Craford regularly ate at the Eat Well, possibly it was Craford and not Oswald that she saw fleeing from the scene after shots rang out, causing her to fear for her own safety. She told the Warren Commission that she left her home on 9th and Patton, and reached the corner of 10th and Patton around 1:07 or 1:08 p.m.! Even if her recollection of the time is not absolutely correct, it’s not likely the shooting would have been any later than 1:10, as she still had a block to go to reach the nearest bus stop. That is also the time given by another bystander who had looked at his watch while trying to report the shooting to the Dallas Police dispatcher.
It is clear that Oswald could not have walked or jogged almost a mile in six or seven minutes to 10th and Patton (having left his roominghouse around 1:04 p.m. according to his landlady) unless he got a ride, and there is no evidence he did. His landlady also recalled that a police car, with two people in it, had pulled up and honked in front of the roominghouse before driving off, while Oswald was in his room. Even if the car was simply honking at another driver, since Tippit was the only officer assigned to the Oak Cliff area, it had to be him.
There is also the matter of a thin, light-coloured jacket found in a car lot, which had been allegedly discarded by Tippit’s killer as he ran from the scene. Although it supposedly belonged to Oswald, it was medium in size, contrary to Marina Oswald’s recollection of a small-size grey jacket that Oswald purchased before going to Russia in 1959 (along with a heavy, blue-coloured winter jacket, both of which she used to wash). Intriguingly, the jacket in the car lot had two laundry tickets inside, one of which a patrolman in the area reported to the dispatcher as being “B 9738.” According to author Henry Hurt in his 1984 book Reasonable Doubt, and earlier by Josiah Thompson in Six Seconds in Dallas, the FBI checked over 700 drycleaners in both the Dallas-Fort Worth and New Orleans areas without locating the business which had drycleaned it. Since the jacket was originally sold in California, maybe it actually belonged to Craford. As mentioned earlier, he had spent time in the San Francisco area prior to coming to Dallas, and apparently worked for a Berkeley company in the summer of 1960, so it is conceivable the jacket had been drycleaned there.
Like Oswald (and possibly Craford too), Ruby’s behaviour following the assassination suggests he, too, realized that he had been duped into believing Connally was the real target. The Warren Commission, of course, by accepting the “single bullet theory”, concluded that Connally was only accidentally shot, but given the severe nature of his wounds, and his own recollections of being shot separately, I strongly suspect he was also a target. It is possible that the initial plan was to assassinate Connally, but when earlier attempts to kill JFK in Chicago as well as Miami fell through, both men became targets, with JFK being the primary one. Oswald might have fired his rifle (although paraffin tests seemed to indicate he didn’t), but why would he have wanted JFK killed, knowing that a Texan would now be president, who was far less liberal than JFK, with close links to both Connally and Korth, both of whom he likely still despised? Although the HSCA did conclude that one shot was, indeed, fired from the grassy knoll, they insisted it had missed the entire vehicle, which I find difficult to believe, having stood behind the fence on the knoll. Presumably, whoever was firing from there was also an experienced marksman and couldn’t possibly miss.
It is conceivable that Ruby was kept ignorant of the altered plan, and that his grief-stricken reaction was somewhat genuine. In fact, his decision to subsequently kill Oswald might have been “justified” by an article published in the Dallas Morning News (and other newspapers throughout the country) on the morning of Nov. 24 – a revised report by “journalist” Priscilla Johnson , who had interviewed and written about Oswald back in 1959 for NANA (although UPI reporter Aline Mosby had already interviewed Oswald shortly after his defection and written a report which had been published in mid-Oct.). Johnson took the liberty of making some subtle changes in her article, strongly suggesting that Oswald was guilty of killing the president, in part, because he had come across in 1959 as being a “fanatic” - a term not used in her original report (published initially in the Nov. 26, 1959 issue of the Washington Star, as well as the Dec. 3, issue of the New Haven Evening Register). (10)
Even though Ruby gave the impression that he was upset with JFK’s death enough to close his nightclub for several days, there is clear evidence that he was also under pressure to kill Oswald, which led him to show up for Oswald’s Nov. 22 midnight press conference, posing as a reporter. This might also explain why he decided to close the club even though his competitors didn’t, so he could concentrate on getting the job done. During the press conference, Ruby even corrected the district attorney, who had mistakenly associated Oswald with a “Free Cuba” committee, rather than the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee.” The following evening, according to a Dallas police sergeant, he received a warning from a familiar voice that he could not match with a name and face, indicating that Oswald would be shot during his transfer to county jail the next morning (see “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” series). The police officer realized when Ruby was arrested that Jack had made the call, as he had spoken to Ruby in the past. The pressure on Ruby was likely mob-related, given the comments overheard by Jarngegin about “the boys in Chicago.”
As for who had conveyed the “suggestion” to Ruby, a likely candidate whom both the W.C. and the HSCA had interviewed, was a sporting goods sales manager from Chicago named Lawrence V. Meyers. Meyers had known Ruby for about six years, although they possibly knew each other back in Chicago earlier. Meyers always looked Ruby up when he was in town on business, as a sales representative for the sporting goods division of Ero Manufacturing, and, in fact, moved to Dallas with a different company in the spring of 1964 (contrary to what he told Burt Griffin during an interview that summer), where he lived until his death in the mid-1980s. There is no hard evidence that Meyers had mob connections, but his HSCA interview certainly suggested he might, given some of the questions asked and the careful manner in which he answered them.
When Meyers was interviewed by the HSCA, he revealed that one of his sons, Ralph, had been in Army Intelligence in the late 1950s, after being trained in Russian at the Monterey Language School (where he might have crossed paths with Oswald). Upon leaving the military in the early 1960s, Ralph Meyers drove a bus in Chicago for a year, and then moved to Mexico City in the spring of 1963, planning on working there as a reporter. It has occurred to me that possibly the person photographed (and audiotaped) in front of the Russian Embassy using the name “Lee Oswald” in September, 1963, was, in fact, Ralph Meyers. The man has never been positively identified, which is quite amazing, and I can find no evidence that Meyers was actually a reporter.
Lawrence Meyers, who was married, with three grown children, had arranged to fly to Dallas, partially for business but mostly for pleasure, with a young 27-year-old woman named Jean Aase (whom the FBI indicated in a Dec. 4 report was living in a Chicago apartment building and sometimes went by “Jean West”, which she used during the trip, although she was listed in the Cabana Motor Hotel registry as “Mrs. Meyers”). Meyers’ brother was also there from New York City for a bottlers’ convention (suggesting a connection to the Teamsters Union) at which Richard Nixon spoke, who had returned to law practice and was representing Pepsi. Allegedly, Ralph Meyers was also staying at the Teamster-financed Cabana Motor Hotel (where the Beatles stayed in the fall of 1964 during their U.S. tour). Meyers visited the Carousel Club with Ms. Aase the night before the assassination, and also spoke to Ruby by phone after Oswald’s arrest.
On Sunday morning Meyers drove out to an Ero Manufacturing Co. warehouse by himself on business, planning to also play golf at a U.S. Air Force golf course (which presumably was closed because of the assassination). Seemingly indifferent to President Kennedy’s death, he heard on the radio that his friend Ruby had killed Oswald, which might not have come as a surprise, although he told the FBI later that his reaction was “one of shock and disbelief.” However, he chose not to visit Ruby in jail either that day or later, nor speak to the Dallas Police after returning to the city. Later Meyers told the FBI that he thought “…in light of the apparent hectic activities then ensuing at the police station it would be better if he did not do so.” Wasn’t that thoughtful of him?
Meyers was asked about Aase by the FBI and referred to her in a disparaging manner, describing Jean as a “dumb, accommodating broad.” He also indicated that his wife was not aware of their relationship (which possibly enabled him to convince Griffin and Hubert of the W.C. not to mention her during his testimony, giving the impression he had gone to Dallas by himself). He later suggested to the HSCA that Jean had been a “party girl” and a “semi-professional hooker”, and also described her as a “kid”, even though she was twenty-seven.
When I first contacted Ms. Aase by phone in 1992 after discovering she was living in Minneapolis (through a comment made by Meyers to the HSCA, who were trying to locate her), I learned that she had never read Meyers’ remarks about her. To my surprise, she had also never read any of the books (at least sixteen) which make reference to her, beginning with Garrison’s 1970 book Heritage of Stone (in a footnote), but more extensively in his 1988 bestseller On the Trail of the Assassins, amongst others (she is the first person described in the 1993 reference book Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination, as names are listed alphabetically).
Ms. Aase was quite hesitant to answer any of the questions I had asked her in a letter preceding my phone call, but wanted to know right away if Meyers was still alive. I got the distinct impression that Jean still feared for her safety. When I later mentioned to her that Meyers had died in 1985 (through contact with author Anthony Summers, who was working as a consultant for the FRONTLINE documentary on Oswald that aired in November, 1993), the news seemed to be a source of relief for her. As a result, she began to open up, and subsequently agreed to meet with me for lunch when I phoned her in Minneapolis on my way home by bus from a conference in Chicago in the spring of 1993. After learning that she had a doctor’s appointment and would be out for several hours, I arranged to call her in the afternoon (as another bus was available at 5:00 p.m.). However, her telephone line was continually busy, as was the case when I buzzed her apartment located close to the downtown area. I suspect she might have been advised to take the phone off the hook.
After I arrived home three days later I phoned her, and she claimed that the phone had not been working properly. At the same time, she also revealed that she had hired a lawyer and that all further communications would have to be through him. Possibly hoping to take advantage of increased interest in the subject leading up to the 30th anniversary, Jean’s lawyer stated in an April, 1993 letter to me that the fee for an interview, subject to “format, length, location, etc…will start at $3000”, which implied that Jean might have something important to reveal. A tentative date of June 15, 1993 was agreed upon for an interview, in which I would also be representing FRONTLINE, but it fell through when I was informed by a representative of the program that PBS has a strict policy of not paying for interviews. Consequently, neither Aase nor Meyers were mentioned in the documentary (which was rebroadcast for the 40th anniversary in November, 2003). Anthony Summers subsequently asked that his name be withdrawn from the closing credits, given the emphasis placed on Oswald likely being a lone assassin (Tony’s voice can still be heard in several interviews, however).
Nevertheless, with some persistence and encouragement from Tony, I was eventually able to obtain an interview with Jean through her lawyer, which took place near the University of Minnesota campus in May, 1998 for a mere $300 fee (which Tony kindly paid), across the street from where a young student from Hibbing, MN named Robert Zimmerman began performing folk songs in 1959-60, calling himself “Bob Dylan.” Unfortunately, I came away from the decidedly brief 45-minute conversation over lunch with the distinct feeling that Jean had been encouraged by her lawyer to either be vague in her answers or totally change what she had previously stated. She claimed that it was a long time ago, making it difficult to remember certain events, despite the fact it was undoubtedly a very shocking experience for her.
As for changing her story, Jean had suggested in a 1993 telephone conversation with another consultant, Gus Russo, (also working for the FRONTLINE documentary), that she already knew Meyers by Sept. 24, 1963 when a call was made by David Ferrie to her apartment building. However, since she had never heard of Ferrie, she insisted the fifteen-minute call must have been for Meyers (11). Meyers denied when questioned by the HSCA that he ever knew Ferrie, although his business phone records showed he had been in New Orleans for several days in mid-November, 1963. Contrary to what she had said to Russo, however, Jean insisted during our conversation in 1998 that she didn’t meet Meyers until sometime in October, 1963. In regard to his death, she now claimed that she was sad to learn he had died, not relieved as I had concluded was the case in 1993, even though she never saw or heard from Meyers again after the trip to Dallas. She also knew from our previous correspondence how he had disrespectfully described her both in 1963 and 1978, and was most likely not treated with much respect by Meyers.
She also claimed to have returned to Chicago because of her job as a part-time waitress on Nov. 23, the day before Oswald was shot, although she had told the Chicago FBI in Chicago in Dec. 1963 that she had returned with Meyers on Nov. 25. Meyers provided the same date to both the W.C. and the HSCA (their recollections were almost identical, as though rehearsed). As for her job, the FBI report stated that she was unemployed, and made no mention of her having been laid off. Of course, if she was a call girl, she certainly wouldn’t have revealed that, which is likely how she got to know Meyers in the first place (whom she thought was a bachelor.) In addition, she claimed that the FBI had phoned her, even though two agents’ names appear on their report, who had earlier in the day interviewed Meyers at his place of employment, with no suggestion that it was conducted over the phone (which would be very unusual.)
If Jean did return abruptly on November 23 following the assassination, it could be that she became frightened about her relationship with Meyers, and possibly even knew that pressure was being put on Ruby to kill Oswald. I was able to obtain the second page of a FBI report with Joyce Lee McDonald, a Ruby employee who had met Jean (although she recalled her name was “Ann”). Joyce had arranged to go shopping with her on Nov. 23. For some reason, only page one of the FBI report was included in the Warren Commission’s volumes; a handwritten note was included with page two stipulating that page two be excluded from the W.C. exhibits. Miss McDonald told the FBI that she was unable to reach “Ann” at the Cabana Motor Hotel, and never saw her again. This suggests that Jean might not have returned to Chicago with Meyers on Monday, Nov. 25 after all, but was told by Meyers to pretend she had, so she wouldn’t have to explain her sudden desire to leave Dallas on the day after Oswald’s arrest.
In February, 2002, I phoned Jean again in regard to my research and the fact that author Joan Mellen was interested in interviewing her for a biography on the life of Jim Garrison, but was told bluntly that she did not want to discuss the subject, and suggested I contact her lawyer, which I attempted to do. She also threatened to call “the Attorney-General” if I didn’t leave her alone. Unfortunately, the lawyer did not reply to my letter nor to a phone message, and recently I discovered that his office number is no longer in service. Given that Jean was quite poor, I doubt very much that she was able to retain him all these years. (I also had signed a 50-50 agreement in regard to possible royalties when I interviewed her, but was never sent a copy of it, despite requesting one several times.) I personally believe Jean Aase, like Curtis Craford, knows much more than she has ever revealed about events in Dallas that weekend. It’s unfortunate that the HSCA did not make more of an effort to locate her under her real name.
Even though Hoover was determined to short-circuit any effort to prove the existence of an organized plot to kill both JFK and Connally, with multiple shooters involved, his report provided to President Lyndon Johnson in December, 1963 did make the assumption that Connally was shot independently of JFK, as reflected on page 13 of The Torch is Passed, published by the Associated Press that month:
“…The President probably never heard the shot or knew what hit him. It was a piece of metal a little bigger than an ordinary pencil. It struck him in the back [not the neck], penetrating two or three inches [not going through his throat]. He was struck as he turned to his right to wave. His hands snapped up reflexively to his throat [the Dallas doctors identified a throat wound, which they believed was an entrance wound, as it was neat and round, the size of the end of a pencil]. Wordlessly, he slumped over toward his wife [after being driven backwards and to his left, as shown in the Zapruder film, which the FBI had viewed]. In the jump seat ahead, Gov. John Connally turned and a second bullet [more likely the third bullet] caught him in the back, passed through, struck his right wrist and lodged in his thigh. The third and last shot hit the back of the President’s head above ear-level, as he was bowed forward.”
As noted, the A.P. report failed to mention the apparent throat wound, which Life magazine had earlier attempted, unbelievably, to reconcile with Oswald’s alleged placement in the TSBD’s sixth-floor window, located behind the motorcade. Writer Paul Mandel claimed that the Zapruder film showed “…the President turning his body far around to the right as he waves to someone in the crowd. His throat is exposed – towards the sniper’s nest – just before he clutches it.” Anyone who has viewed the film, as Mandel had, knows with absolute certainty that JFK did not turn around, and, in fact, would have had difficulty, as he was wearing a brace to support his ailing back. Life magazine had the nerve to run Mandel’s article in both the December 6, 1963 issue as well as a special memorial issue, which has been republished both in November, 1988 and again in November 2003. Mandel died quite young in 1965, and no reference to this blatant lie was made by author and former Life journalist Loudon Wainwright in his 1988 book about the history of the magazine. In addition, neither he nor Richard Stolley, who purchased the Zapruder film on behalf of Time-Life, appeared to be aware of this deception, when I contacted both of them in the late 1980s, first by letter, and then by phone.
Although the FBI was aware that one shot had missed its target, striking the pavement near bystander James Tague, this important detail was also not mentioned in their report, suggesting that at least four shots had been fired in less than seven seconds, an impossibility for the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Nor was there any reference to the fact that Connally had been hit less than two seconds after JFK, which again could not be accomplished by that rifle, regardless of who was firing it, although the HSCA suggested it was possible if the rifle was fired using the iron sights only. Of course, that would require a fair amount of regular practice, which could not be associated with Oswald, even when he was in the Marines.
In regard to the nature of the wounds, TIME magazine reported in their December 27, 1963 edition, based on leaks from the official autopsy conducted in Bethesda, Maryland, that the throat wound was actually caused by “a fragment of the last bullet, which literally exploded in Kennedy’s head”, (even though the wound was very neat), along with a description of the bullet that struck JFK in the back “some six inches below the collar line”, having penetrated “but two or three inches.” Newsweek magazine also reported on the autopsy in their December 30 edition, adding that the whole bullet found at Parkland Hospital “probably dropped out of the President’s body” onto his stretcher. None of this information was consistent with one bullet going through both Kennedy and Connally, as the Warren Commission later concluded. The likelihood of multiple shooters was also supported by the fact that JFK’s shirt and jacket had a bullet hole six inches below his collar, consistent with the information leaked from the autopsy, as well as Connally’s assertion that he had reacted to the first shot that hit President Kennedy, a split second before he was hit (which he described quite accurately from his hospital bed before ever viewing the Zapruder film.) One of the Secret Service agents riding in the follow-up car also described, in a report written on Nov. 22, one shot striking “the boss” six inches below his collar.
Of course, the famous film, which was not shown on television until 1975, clearly showed that at least one shot was likely fired from in front of the motorcade, as JFK was driven violently backwards and to his left as a result of the head shot. In fact, it happened so fast that not a single bystander saw the backward movement , such as Jean Hill, Mary Moorman, Gerald Brehm or Mary Woodward. In the case of Woodward, as a reporter on her lunch break, she dashed back to the Dallas Morning News and immediately wrote a report for the morning newspaper, which was published the next day. In it, she described a shot coming from behind her, as she stood with two other colleagues on the north side of Elm St. directly in front of the grassy knoll (12). Unbelievably, none of the women were interviewed by the Warren Commission.
When Life magazine carried their extensive report on the Warren Commission’s conclusions in their Oct. 2, 1964 edition, they included a frame from the Zapruder film (321) showing JFK being driven backwards, with a caption that read: “The assassin’s shot struck the right rear portion of the President’s skull, causing a massive wound and snapping his head to one side.” In fact, Kennedy’s entire upper body had been driven backwards (even though his head had been driven forward at high speed covering only two frames or 1/9 of a second before reversing direction, suggesting the possibility of two simultaneous head shots from two different directions).
As for Life’s careful wording, they were concerned enough about the suggestion of a frontal shot to actually release (at great expense) a second edition with a different caption that read: “The direction from which the shots came was established by this picture taken at the instant a bullet struck the rear of the President’s head and, passing through, caused the front part of his skull to explode forward.” In their haste, however, they forgot to change the photo, so a third edition was released, with frame 313 replacing frame 321, which now showed JFK’s head exploding, but prior to the backward movement. Clearly, Time-Life had caved into pressure from the U.S. government to report what the Warren Commission desperately wanted the public to believe: that only one assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was involved in both the murder of President Kennedy and the accidental attempted murder of Governor Connally, thanks to the creation of the “single-bullet theory”, initially proposed by Arlen Specter, a young lawyer on the Warren Commission staff and later a senator from Pennsylvania (13).
The ongoing controversy surrounding the assassination is certainly justified, despite author Gerald Posner’s attempt to end it with his 1991 book Case Closed, followed by the FRONTLINE documentary on PBS in November 1993, as well as ABC-TV’s broadcast in November, 2003 of a computer analysis supporting the single-bullet theory (hosted by the late Peter Jennings, who had recently become an American citizen, but unlike fellow anchorman and Canadian, Robert McNeil, was a staunch supporter of the Warren Commission). There continue to be questions related to such matters as: the conflicting medical evidence between Dallas and Bethesda; Oswald’s motivation to kill JFK, knowing that LBJ was waiting in the wings; the condition of Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle and whether it was even fired that day; the actual number of shells found below the sixth-floor window (as the Dallas Police inventory list only included two shells, with no mention of a third shell with a dented lip); Oswald’s ability to fire three shots and more likely four, given the restrictions of the weapon and his questionable skills as a rifleman; conflicting eyewitness reports as to the source of the shots; the suppression of evidence that the CIA and the Mafia had been attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro since 1960; Oswald’s possible links to David Ferrie, Guy Banister, Clay Shaw and others in New Orleans, all with connections to various branches of the U.S. government, as well as right-wing organizations; and the suspicious and conflicting comments made to me by both Curtis Craford and Jean Aase, both linked to Jack Ruby (15), and still concerned for their safety after all these years.
Even though the Warren Commission believed Oswald had the means and opportunity to kill President Kennedy, his motive was difficult to grasp, especially since he was adamant that he hadn’t killed anyone and was nothing more than a “patsy.” His wife, Marina, was especially perplexed, since Lee had nothing but good things to say about JFK. During her fourth and most revealing interview with members of the Warren Commission (at an air force base outside Dallas) in early Sept. 1964, she suggested that perhaps her late husband was trying to kill Governor Connally.
Of course, Marina was not aware of Jarnegin’s letter to the FBI claiming to have overheard such a conversation allegedly involving Oswald and Ruby, but it made much more sense to her. As stated earlier, it is difficult to understand why he would want JFK to be replaced by Lyndon Johnson, a Texan wheeler-dealer, associated with both Connally and Korth, as well as a corrupt protege named Bobby Baker. At that very moment, Baker was being investigated by a Senate committee, which had been an embarrassment to President Kennedy because of Baker’s longtime affiliation with LBJ.
In fact, Life magazine published a photo of Johnson and Baker on the cover earlier in the month, and the November 22 issue included an update on the Senate hearings. Playing up this politically charged situation, Richard Nixon, while in Dallas, suggested to the press before he left Love Field on November 22 that he believed Kennedy would be forced to replace Johnson with someone else as Vice-President. A few hours later, that was no longer going to happen, as LBJ became the next president of the United States.
With the death of John Connally in 1993, it looked for a moment like an exhumation might take place, as requested by lawyer James Lesar, president of the Assassination Archives and Research Center in Washington D.C., in order to determine once and for all how much “lead” was still in Connally’s wrist and thigh, and whether it could be matched to the “magic bullet.” Unfortunately, a request to exhume the body made by the F.B.I. office in Dallas was flatly rejected by Mrs. Connally. In 2003 she co-wrote a book entitled From Love Field: Our Final Hours with President John F. Kennedy, but it fails to mention the exhumation request. Nor was she asked about the subject when she appeared on “The Larry King” show, but since the program was videotaped, there was no possibility of the subject being raised by a viewer. Hopefully, legal action will eventually overturn her decision, so we will finally begin to learn what really happened in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
- Peter R. Whitmey, Abbotsford, BC, Nov. 18, 2007