Some of the wildest theories about the Kennedy assassination center around The Umbrella Man -- a figure in Dealey Plaza holding an open umbrella in spite of the fact that no rain was falling. The House Select Committee located the man -- a fellow named Louis Witt -- who was engaging in a rather arcane form of political protest. The umbrella was a symbol of the policy of appeasement toward Hitler in the 1930s -- a policy Kennedy's father had supported as U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain.
But conspiracists obviously feel the man must somehow be implicated in the assassination. Many conspiracists believe that The Umbrella Man was a signaler of some kind, apparently believing that the conspirators couldn't afford a more sophisticated means of communication. But an even further-out theory was developed by Robert Cutler. Cutler believed that the umbrella contained a poison dart gun used by The Umbrella Man to shoot Kennedy and paralyze him. This supposedly made Kennedy a "sitting duck" for the head shot.
Very few conspiracists believe this, but one who does is L. Fletcher Prouty. The June 1978 issue of Gallery Magazine, contains an essay by Cutler and Richard Sprague on "The Umbrella System," and a sidebar from Prouty endorsing the idea. According to Prouty:
It was in my own office, in a part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in the Pentagon in 1960 that I first saw an early version of the weapon fired. On July 29, 1960 I flew to Fort Detrick, Maryland by helicopter from the Pentagon to see developments of this and other new weapons at that top secret installation. I am able *from personal and official experience* to support the Sprague- Cutler thesis that an umbrella weapon was used as part of the JFK murder plot.
The inventor of the flechette rocket was shown into my office by a fellow staff member, and I was told that he had something he wanted to demonstrate to the military to see if it could be developed into some useful tactical weapon system. In his hand he held several small plastic tubes which looked to me like soda straws, about "thick malt shake" size. Then he showed me a small plastic, nylon perhaps, rocket. It was a perfectly shaped, miniature rocket, complete with tail fins. Inside was a tiny charge of propellant.
Then, without further introduction, the inventor touched a button, and two tiny flechettes zipped out of the "straws" and slammed into the thick soundproofing of the wall across the office. Only their tail fins stuck out from the wall, and the inventor said that it was a good thing he had only a partial charge in them, because they could easily have gone right through a normal wall panel and acoustic board.
This early, unengineered weapon was shaped something like a pistol with a flashlight-size chamber above the grip. The inventor contemplated using about twenty-five or thirty "straws" mounted together and fired all at once or in clusters. This would give a buckshot impact and more effective target coverage. I was impressed.
I called my boss' office and introduced the inventor. Again we went through the demonstration. It was not long before the weapon system was under top secret control and was being worked on by some of the military specialists at Fort Detrick. I heard about the development of the weapon many times later, but I did not see it again until it was exhibited at the Church Committee hearings. Shortly after that, when I saw Cutler's first "Umbrella Man" book (The Umbrella Man: Evidence of Conspiracy), published in October 1975 and describing an "air-rifle" type umbrella weapon, I wrote to him to explain that I thought it much more likely that The Umbrella Man had used the rocket flechette I had seen demonstrated.
It remained for Senseney's Church Committee testimony to close the circle when he stated that he had developed just such an umbrella weapon at the same place I had gone with the earlier weapon---Fort Detrick. The rest of this remarkable story is developed by Sprague and Cutler.
As you read this article, consider this: It is against Secret Service directives for anyone to be permitted along the route of the President carrying something as conspicuous a weapon concealer as an umbrella. Furthermore, it is abnormal for anyone standing close to the President to open an umbrella in sunlight, raise it, lower it, and maneuver it as this man did. Why was this permitted by the Secret Service? Who had the power to arrange that TUM not be apprehended with the umbrella weapon that day?
Consider also that until the day of the JFK assassination in 1963, there was no place that anybody outside of the very small CIA and Special Forces group (perhaps as many as twenty people) could get access to that flechette-launching weapon system or anything like it.
Someone had the power to ensure TUM's nonapprehension and access to the weapon. That person was the murderer.