Dead in the Wake of the Kennedy Assassination

Gary Underhill: Mysterious Death?

According to conspiracy books, Gary Underhill must have had some "inside knowledge" of the Kennedy assassination. According to James DiEugenio's Destiny Betrayed,
On that evening of November 22, 1963, Gary Underhill was a deeply troubled man. What he had learned, and the fact that they knew he had learned it, were too much for him. He had to escape. Once he was out of Washington, he could regain his equilibrium. Then he would decide what to do. He had friends in New York he could talk to without fear of the word getting back to Washington. (pp. 27-28)
DiEugenio goes on the recount how Underhill made several statements to his friends in New York, Robert and Charlene Fitzsimmons. Among his statements were the following:
You're going to Spain? That's the best thing to do. I've got to get out of the country, too. This country is too dangerous for me now.

I've got to get on a boat, too. I'm really afraid for my life.

Oswald is a patsy. They set him up. It's too much. The bastards have done something outrageous. They've killed the President! I've been listening and hearing things. I couldn't believe they'd get away with it, but they did!

They're so stupid . . . . They can't even get the right man. They tried it in Cuba and they couldn't get away with it. Right after the Bay of Pigs. But Kennedy wouldn't let them do it. And now he'd gotten wind of this and he was really going to blow the whistle on them. And they killed him!

But I know who they are. That's the problem. They know I know. That's why I'm here. I can't stay in New York. (p. 28)

How, supposedly, did Underhill know all this? DiEugenio claims that Underhill was "close to top military brass and higher-ups in the CIA." (p. 30)

The reality of Underhill's life was revealed in a secret memorandum from the CIA to the Justice Department dated 28 September 1967. By this date, Jim Garrison had made literally dozens of claims about the activities of the CIA and named several persons as sinister CIA operatives or agents. The Justice Department had asked the CIA just who among those persons named by Garrison actually had a connection to the Agency. The following passage in the memo relates to Underhill:

15. Who is the J. Garrett UNDERHILL referred to in Garrison's Playboy interview as a former CIA agent? UNDERHILL was born 7 August 1915 in Brooklyn, was graduated from Harvard in 1937, and committed suicide on 8 May 1964. He served with the Military Intelligence Service from 6 July 1943 to May 1946 as an expert in photography, enemy weapons, and related technical specialities. He was in infrequent contact with the New York office of the Domestic Contact Service, of CIA from late 1949 to the mid-'50s. The contact was routine. Mr. UNDERHILL was not an employee of CIA.
The fact that Underhill had had no connection with the CIA since the mid-1950s, and had never been an employee or agent puts Underhill's death in a very different light. His ranting and raving about the U.S. government could not have resulted from any "insider knowledge" of the assassination. Unlike Joseph Milteer, who is often erroneously claimed to have had "foreknowledge" of the assassination, Underhill's statements came after Kennedy was shot.

The one tiny sliver of evidence that conspiracists offer to suggest he was murdered is the claim that Underhill had been shot behind the left ear and the gun was found in his left hand, yet Underhill was right-handed (DiEugenio, p. 30). Assuming this is true — and given the unreliability of the "evidence" coming from the Garrison investigation it's not clear it is — that hardly proves he could not have shot himself. There is in fact no reason to doubt the assessment of the Washington, D.C. authorities in the Death Certificate which says that Underhill "shot self in head with automatic pistol" (District of Columbia Department of Public Health, Certificate of Death, dated May 8, 1964).

DiEugenio was doubtless correct saying that Underhill "was a deeply troubled man." It seems that the same mental instability and paranoia that caused him to rant about a government conspiracy caused him to take his own life.

Research by Kathleen Robbins was used in this essay.

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