TESTIMONY OF JOHN A. McVICKAR beginning at 5H299...
Mr. COLEMAN. Mr. John A. McVickar, who is presently principal officer, American Consulate in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was consul in the American Embassy in Moscow in 1959, until at least the middle of 1961.
Mr. McVickar will be asked to testify concerning Oswald's appearance at the Embassy in October 1959, when Oswald announced his intention to renounce his American citizenship.
Mr. McVickar will also be asked to testify concerning his interview of Marina Oswald when she applied for a visa in July of 1961, and his actions in connection with securing a waiver of section 243(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, with respect to Marina Oswald.
Mr. McVickar will also be examined on two memoranda which he has provided the State Department since the assassination of President Kennedy.
At this time I would ask the Chairman to swear Mr. McVickar.
Representative FORD. Mr. McVickar, will you stand. Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Mr. McVICKAR. I do, so help me God.
Mr. COLEMAN. Mr. McVickar, will you state your full name for the record?
Mr. McVICKAR. John Anthony McVickar.
Mr. COLEMAN. That is spelled M-c-V-i-c-k-a-r?
Mr. McViCKAR. I have given the court reporter here my card.
Mr. COLEMAN. And what is your present address?
Mr. McVICKAR. American consulate, Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Mr. COLEMAN. What was your position with the American Embassy in cow in the fall of 1959?
Mr. McVICKAR. I was one of two officers in the consular section of the Embassy.
Mr. COLEMAN. How long did you remain in Moscow?
Mr. McVICKAR. I was there from June of 1959, until September of 1961.
Mr. COLEMAN. I take it you have been shown a copy of the Congressional resolution with respect to the formation of this Committee?
Mr. McVICKAR. I am not sure but I think so. With respect to this Commission?
Mr. COLEMAN. Yes.
Mr. McVICKAR. Do you want me to read it now?
Mr. COLEMAN. No, just generally have it available.
Directing your attention to the fall of 1959, did you have occasion to or to talk to Lee Harvey Oswald?
Mr. McVICKAR. I had occasion to see him and to talk briefly to him. I was present in the office at the time he was interviewed by Mr. Snyder. We had an office about the sir of this room with two desks in it, and Mr. Snyder's desk was at one end and mine was at the other, and we did our business in effect in the same room separately, but this was an unusual case, and I recall the man coming in and I recall parts of the conversation.
Mr. COLEMAN. Was the day he came in October 31, 1959?
Mr. McVICKAR. I couldn't say exactly but that sounds just about right.
Mr. COLEMAN. Was it a Saturday?
Mr. MCVICKAR. I don't know.
Mr. COLEMAN. Do you recall what time of the day it was?
Mr. McVICKAR I don't know. It might have been in the morning but I am not sure. I don't know for sure.
Mr. COLEMAN. Did Oswald speak to you at all or was all of his conversation with Mr. Snyder?
Mr. MCVICKAR. I think all of his conversation, subsequent conversation, was with Mr. Snyder. As I recall, he said a few words to those of us who were in the office, myself and the secretary, on his way out of the office probably, but I don't really remember very much about that, if he said anything at all.
Mr. COLEMAN. Could you tell the Commission to the best of your recollection what he said to Mr. Snyder that you overheard during the conversation of October 31, 1959?
Mr. McVICKAR. In an effort to be helpful I have already, in the fore of this memorandum, put everything I could remember down.
Mr. COLEMAN. Sir, are you referring to the memorandum you prepared on November 27, 1963?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; the two memoranda, the one of November 27, 1963, and of April 7, 1964, but, of course, I will try to recall again. As I recall, he came the office, and in a rather truculent fashion gave Mr. Snyder his passport and said that he wanted to renounce his American citizenship, and he was unusually nasty about it, and he then---Mr. Snyder talked with him for about I would say maybe an hour, in an effort to draw him out I think. The reasons that he gave were that he was very angry at the United States and that he was no longer under the illusion that we had a good system in the United State. He had seen capitalism and imperialism in operation, and I think that he referred to his tour in the Marine Corps, and I think to---possibly he was stationed in Okinawa.
I think that he did seem to know something about the renunciation process,
and it was almost as though he was trying to bait the consul into taking an adverse action against him.
He mentioned that he knew certain classified things in connection with having been I think a radar operator in the Marine Corps, and that he was going to turn this information over to the Soviet authorities. And, of course, we didn't know how much he knew or anything like that, but this obviously provoked a rather negative reaction among us Americans in the consulate section. I don't think I probably can recall anything more than that for sure.
Mr. COLEMAN. Sir, I take it at the time that Mr. Oswald was in the Embassy in 1959 that you did not prepare a memorandum at that time?
Mr. McVICKAR. No; because it was not my responsibility. I did prepare a memorandum which I have a copy of here, some time later with respect to a conversation I had with the correspondent, Priscilla Johnson, who had been at that time, as of November 17, 1959, in contact with Oswald, and I think she sought my guidance as to how she should handle her contacts with him, and also I think to inform the Embassy through me as to these contacts that she had had.
Mr. COLEMAN. I take it the memorandum you refer to is dated November 17, 1939?
Mr. McVICKAR. That is right.
Mr. COLEMAN. We have marked it Commission Exhibit No. 911. I will ask you whether that is a copy of the memorandum?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; that is a copy of the memorandum. Is it 911 or 9---excuse me I would like to call attention to the fact that it seems to me there is an error in the date there in the second paragraph of that memorandum. It says "She told me that on Sunday May 15."
I am almost certain that would have been Sunday, November 15.
Mr. COLEMAN. Sir, in that memorandum on the second page you have a P.S., and you state that Priscilla J. told you that Oswald has been told he will be leaving the hotel at the end of this week. Did Miss Johnson tell you that?
Mr. McVICKAR. I feel sure I wouldn't have written that if she hadn't.
Mr. COLEMAN. Do you know whether Oswald actually left the hotel the end of the week?
Mr. McVICKAR. I am not sure of the time that he left the hotel, but from what I gather from the record, that must have been about the time that he did leave the hotel and go to Minsk. As reflected in the other memorandum it was rather unclear exactly how long Oswald spent in Moscow, but I think that the record is approximately accurate here, and that this would have been about the time he would have left the hotel.
Mr. COLEMAN. According to other information which the Commission has, which happens to be Oswald's diary so we don't know how accurate it is, it is stated that he didn't leave Moscow until January 4, 1960.
Mr. McVICKAR. That is new to me.
Mr. COLEMAN. You had no such information?
Mr. McVICKAR. I had no such--this is the first time I heard that.
Mr. DULLES. He left the hotel, however, for a period, did he not? He was in the hospital for a period.
Mr. COLEMAN. No, sir; he was in the hospital before he came into the Embassy.
Mr. DULLES. That is correct.
Mr. COLEMAN. His suicide attempt was before October 31.
Mr. McVICKAR. Now it says leaving the hotel, but it doesn't say--and I think that would be all the information that would have been available at the time that I wrote that, I think the implication was that he was going to leave town as well, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he wouldn't have spent the ensuing weeks in some other place in the city of Moscow.
Mr. COLEMAN. In the P.S. you also indicated that "he will be trained in electronics." Did you get that information from Miss Johnson?
Mr. McVICKAR. Well, yes; I think 80, according to this.
Mr. COLEMAN. Did she say any more than Just he would be trained in electronics? Did she say what type of training he would get?
Mr. McVICKAR. I am afraid I have no more memory than what is written
here. In fact, I didn't even remember that I had written this memorandum until I saw it the other day.
Mr. DULLES. Is the language "he will be trained" or "he had been trained"?
Mr. McVICKAR. "He will be," that is what I wrote.
Mr. DULLES. Is it possible that could have been a reference to past training during the Marines when he was trained in electronics?
Mr. McVICKAR. No; I suspect, that what I meant was, that he would be trained in electronics by the Soviets, but I think that this was a rather sketchy note of the conversation, and I suspect that what she would have said, was that he would be trained in or used in the field of electronics, in such a way probably that they would get the greatest benefit from his knowledge.
Mr. COLEMAN. Sir, immediately prior to the time that you had the conversation with Miss Johnson, you had had occasion, hadn't you, on November 9, 1959, to attempt to deliver a message from Oswald's half brother to Oswald?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; there is a note in the file to that effect, and I don't really remember that incident very well, just very vaguely. I think that I was given the assignment to attempt to deliver a message. I think the idea was that we would try to see what we could do to get this fellow to change his mind and go back to the United States.
The attitude that we took toward him was, I think, a normal one, as one might toward a very mixed up young person, probably misinformed, and so I think this was an effort to put him back in communication with his family.
Mr. COLEMAN. I would like to show you a note from the Oswald file dated November 9, 1959, which has been given Commission Exhibit No. 942, and a copy of a telegram to Oswald from John E. Pic, which has been given Commission Exhibit No. 943, and ask you, is that the telegram you attempted to deliver, and is that the note you wrote at the time when you were unable to deliver the telegram to Oswald?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; that is the note, and I don't necessarily recollect this telegram. It may be that it was in a sealed envelope. I cannot say that I recollect the telegram, but it certainly looks like the probable telegram that would have been delivered, that I would have attempted to deliver at that time.
Mr. COLEMAN. I take it that after October 31 of 1959, until Oswald left Moscow, that you had no further contact with Oswald?
Mr. McVICKAR. That is my recollection, yes, that I had no further contact with Oswald. I must say that a great many things did take place in that 2 years.
I, for example, did not recollect, until just the other day when I saw the file, that I had interviewed his wife. But to the best of my recollection I never laid eyes on Oswald again.
Mr. COLEMAN. I think earlier in your testimony you said that you had prepared a memorandum on November 27, 1963, in which you attempted to recall what happened when you were in the American Embassy in 1959, 1960, and 1961, is that correct?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes.
Mr. COLEMAN. A copy of the memorandum has been marked Commission Exhibit No. 941. I want to ask you whether that is a copy of the memorandum which you prepared, and sent to Mr. Thomas Ehrlich?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; that is a copy of it.
Mr. COLEMAN. Now in that memorandum, on the last page, page 3, the second paragraph, you say: "In short, it seemed to me that there was a possibility that he had been in contact with others before or during his Marine Corps tour who had guided him and encouraged him in his actions."
Could you indicate to the Commission the basis for making that statement?
Mr. McVICKAR. Well, I think it is clear here, and if. it isn't I should certainly say, that this last page is in the nature of speculation and an attempt to be helpful.
Now in answer to your question, he gave me the impression, and this was supported by the impressions other people seemed to have at the time through conversation, that he was a very young person to have so many ideas in his head, and to have done so much about them, in effect, in such a relatively short time, and so it occurred to some of us that it may be that he had had
some coaching from somebody; but also, I must say, he was an unusual person and apparently sort of an ingrown person, and so it may be that he had conceived and carried out all these things by himself.
But I think that that paragraph in a way sums up that same idea, that it seemed that there was a possibility that he had had some guidance in carrying out this line of action.
Mr. COLEMAN. Does that also explain the sentence in the same paragraph where you say: "On the other hand, there also seemed to me to be the possibility that he was following a pattern of behavior in which he had been tutored by person or persons unknown"?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; the same applies.
Mr. COLEMAN. You had no independent evidence of this at all, did you?
Mr. McVICKAR. I was asked to explain this attitude I had as best I could, and I wrote another memorandum. dated April 7, 1964, in which I described to go into this line of thought.
Mr. COLEMAN. Could we have.marked as Commission Exhibit No. 958 a three-page memorandum from Mr. McVickar to Mr. Ehrlich, dated April 7, 1964?
(The document referred to was marked Commission Exhibit No. 958 for identification.)
Mr. COLEMAN. Is that the memorandum you just referred to?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; that is the same memorandum.
Mr. COLEMAN. You say this memorandum, Commission Exhibit No. 958, was written in April 7, 1964, after you had been asked to explain your earlier statement concerning following a pattern of behavior in which he had been tutored by person or persons unknown?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; that is correct. I believe that the Commission asked for this clarification from' the Department of State, and it was relayed out to me in Bolivia.
Mr. COLEMAN. In that memorandum you first indicated that you felt that Oswald probably would not know that Helsinki would be a good place to go to try to get a visa into Russia.
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; I think so. It is a well enough known fact among people who are working in the Soviet Union and undoubtedly people who are associated with Soviet matters.
But I would say that it was not a commonly known fact among the ordinary run of people in the United States.
Mr. COLEMAN. You also placed some reliance upon the fact that he didn't come in under a $30 per day individual tour or he didn't join a group, is that correct?
Mr. McVICKAR. Well, now, when you say that he did not do these things, I don't know that he did not do these things. I was merely discussing the fact that the particular type of visa that he obtained might have some significance, and I went into a little bit maybe not in complete detail and maybe not knowing all of the factors, but I tried to go into a little bit of the different kinds of Possibilities there might have been.
Mr. COLEMAN. Well, if it is established that Oswald got a tourist visa, then I take it that paragraph 2 of your memorandum pretty much disappears because the assumption is that he didn't get a tourist visa, is that correct?
Mr. McVICKAR. No; I don't think entirely so. I think you would have to take a look at the amount of time that it would take him to get a tourist visa or any kind of a visa.
But as I say, I can't be sure that it would be very significant. But I think it is a point, however.
Mr. DULLES. How long is the ordinary tourist visa good for?
Mr. McVICKAR. Tourist visas are usually issued for specific periods of time, specific tours. That might be a week or might be a month, and they vary in price with the length of time and where they are going, and also how many people are in the group. If you are going by yourself it is very expensive. If you are going with larger and larger groups it becomes less expensive.
Mr. COLEMAN. You also indicated in the memorandum in paragraph No. 4 that according to your experience Oswald's application to remain in the Soviet Union was relatively quickly accepted by the Soviet authorities?
Mr. McVICKAR. I think item 4 is more or less canceled out by the fact that my memory was inaccurate as to how long he had stayed in Moscow. I think that my paragraph 4 is based on my inaccurate memory that he was there for only about a week, but if he was there for much longer than that, I think that is vitiated.
Mr. COLEMAN. Assuming that he did stay the longer length of time then, I take it you don't think there is any particular significance in the fact that he was able to remain in the Soviet Union?
Mr. McVICKAR. No; I think that the length of time that he apparently was in Moscow was sufficient for them to make any bureaucratic decision.
Mr. COLEMAN. And in paragraph No. 5 you indicated that he seemed to be surprisingly competent and determined about what he was doing, considering his age and experience.
Could you indicate for the Commission just what he did which led you to that conclusion?
Mr. McVICKAR. Well, that goes back to my comment of a few minutes ago. I think his bearing and attitude was unusually confident in a very far away country where the way of doing things is very different from what it is in the United States, and considering presumably he hadn't traveled very much before, and he was very young. I think the word "competent" refers to what seems to be a rather efficiently organized chain of events which began, as I understand it, when he first applied for a passport in the United States in Los Angeles, on September 4, until his apparent appearance in Moscow about October 16, where he applied for Soviet citizenship. And it seems to me, just offhand I would say, that is a fairly well organized movement considering also that apparently he went by ship from New Orleans to Helsinki--that is what I understand--and was determined, as was very evident in everything he said when he was in the office, was determined to do what he was doing.
Mr. COLEMAN. In paragraph No. 8 of the memorandum you place some significance in the fact that he was permitted to belong to a rifle club and practice target shooting while in Minsk.
First, from where did you get that information?
Mr. McVICKAR. I apologize for that in a way. That is complete speculation, and the rifle club was something I read about in the newspaper. I cannot be very accurate about the rifle club business, and I point out in that note that it is not related to my contact with him.
Mr. COLEMAN. Do you think it would be unusual from your knowledge of life in the Soviet Union that people would belong to a rifle club and that they could practice target shooting?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; I would say so; yes.
Representative FORD. In other words, if it was a fact?
Mr. McVICKAR. If it was a fact.
Representative FORD. That he belonged to a rifle club and did shooting it would be unusual?
Mr. McVICKAR It would seem to me, yes, particularly for a foreigner, but unusual in any case, I think.
Mr. DULLES. But you did not hear that either from Oswald or from his wife whom you saw later, I believe.
Mr. McVICKAR. No; I did not. It is unrelated to anything except what I heard about the case, and I don't know really about this. I just remember reading about it in the paper, that is all.
Mr. COLEMAN. After November 17, 1959, you had no more contact with Oswald until some time in July 1961, is that correct?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; that is right, and I believe that I didn't have any contact with him in July of 1961. I believe I only had contact with his wife.
Mr. COLEMAN. Do you speak Russian?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; or I did.
Mr. COLEMAN. When did his wife come in in July of 1961?
Mr. McVICKAR. Well, as I recall, and as I say, my memory here was completely refreshed by the record, and I see that I have some notes in the file that are undated, but that they were used evidently to write a communication to the
Department of State which was dated on August 28, 1961, and so I am confident that this interview must have taken place in say the week before that.
I departed from the Soviet Union about the 1st of September, and things were pretty busy, and I can't remember very much more about it than I can see here in the record.
I do not really remember this interview, and I can only speak about it on the basis of the record.
Mr. COLEMAN. Isn't it possible that you saw her on July 11, 1961?
Mr. McVICKAR. No; because I think what happened, and I think this is reflected in the record. I think what happened was that Oswald himself came into Moscow and was interviewed by Mr. Snyder on July 10, and that he did not have his wife with him, and that he said that he was going to try to get his wife to come to Moscow in the next few days, so that she could be interviewed in connection with the visa, but that in fact she did not appear until several weeks later, some time in August.
Mr. COLEMAN. Are you certain about this, sir?
Mr. McVICKAR. This is the best of my recollection, and I am pretty sure that I read something in the record yesterday that indicates that she was not in Moscow at the time he was interviewed by Mr. Snyder in July of 1961.
Mr. COLEMAN. Wasn't it possible that Mr. Snyder talked to Mr. Oswald on July 8, which was a Saturday, and that Mrs. Oswald appeared at the Embassy with Oswald on July the 10th, or on July 11th, 2 or 3 days later?
Mr. McVICKAR. I won't say that it is not possible, and as I say, I don't remember this. But I very much doubt that I would have interviewed somebody in the middle of July and have not written to the State Department about it until the end of August, and I say that honestly. That was not the way we operated.
Mr. COLEMAN. You referred to some handwritten notes you saw in the file. I would like to show you Commission Exhibit No. 945 and ask you whether that is the copy of the notes that you were referring to?
Mr. McVICKAR. That is the copy of them. I do not believe they are dated, and it was with a ballpoint pen. I made this copy for myself from the copy that is in the file.
Mr. CHAYES. Would it be appropriate to point out that there seems to be more on your copy than on his copy?
Mr. McVICKAR. No, these are my own notes. This is exactly what it is here.
Mr. COLEMAN. Sir, I take it that Commission Exhibit No. 945 is some notes you took at a time when you had an interview with Marina Oswald, is that correct?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes.
Mr. COLEMAN. Now you have a notation "was not Komsomol." What does that mean?
Mr. McVICKAR. That I am confident means that I asked her whether she was a member of the Komsomol, which is the Communist youth organization, and this would have been an ordinary question for me to ask a visa applicant because this had some bearing on her admissibility to the United States under the immigration law, and I Was apparently satisfied from what she said she was not. There is no other way of really establishing it under such circumstances.
Mr. DULLES. Did she say whether she had at anytime been a member of the Komsomol?
Mr. McVICKAR I would have undoubtedly phrased my question in such a way as to cover that point, I think.
Mr. COLEMAN. Did you ask her whether she was a member of any particular Communist organization?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; and I believe that, as I stated in this report to the Department of State, and I think it appears a little bit in here, that she was a member of a Profcoes, which is probably a combination of English and Russian, but this would have been a labor union, and she apparently was a member of the medical workers labor union when she was in the technical school, and then later in her work since 1957, it says here.
Mr. COLEMAN. When you had this interview wouldn't she then have
to fill out or you would have to fill out a form or some type of petition to get her classified as an alien eligible for an immigration visa?
Mr. McVICKAR. This was not the procedure. There is a form of application for a visa, the number of which I forget. But that, under the procedure was filled out by the applicant at a later date. This initial interview was to obtain in effect the approval of the Department of State from the security point of view for the issuance of the visa, and the interview was in connection with preparing a report covering the points that are of concern to the Department in that connection, and this report was prepared by me, sent in on August 28, 1961.
Mr. COLEMAN. Sir, I have marked as Commission Exhibit No. 959 a copy of a petition to classify status of alien for issuance of immigrant visa, and it shows it was signed by Lee Harvey Oswald, and that the beneficiary was Marina N. Oswald, and that it was sworn to and subscribed before you on July 11, 1961. I ask you, have you seen that before?
Mr. McVICKAR. Well, this is something that I did not recall. But I see that. it was also an enclosure to my document which I sent in on August 28, 1961.
Undoubtedly I must then have taken Mr. Oswald's oath on this document on the date specified. This would not have required the presence of his wife, but I am sure then on the basis of what I see here that this must have occurred, but I did not remember it.
Mr. COLEMAN. Since you have that document before you, could you then say that there is a possibility that Commission Exhibit No. 945 was written on July 10 or July 11, 1961, rather than in August as you earlier testified?
Mr. McVICKAR. I would say there is a possibility, but again I doubt it because for one thing I do recall this item in the record which said that she was not present when he came in to the Embassy in July, and I am confident that there would have been no reason to hold up the type of report made here unless it was that she wasn't available for an interview.
But as I say, I couldn't say for sure, but I don't remember, I don't think of any reason that would have caused a delay of this kind unless it had been that she didn't come in. I think it is too bad that I didn't date this note, but I guess I didn't.
Mr. COLEMAN. Can we infer from Commission Exhibit No. 959 that you must have seen Mr. Oswald on July 11, 1961?
Mr. McVICKAR. Yes; I think this would be a safe assumption, but I don't remember anything about it, and it could have been a very routine thing you see, because the way the work was arranged was that Consul Snyder as the officer in charge handled our matters relating to citizenship, and I handled matters relating to visas, and this was a visa matter and he could very well have asked that I take Mr. Oswald's oath on this petition in behalf of his wife, and it might have a very pro forma thing. But I honestly don't remember this incident; but this sort of thing is never done unless the person is present, unless beth signing parties are present.
So it would seem to me that this man must have appeared to me and signed this thing and said that it was his legal act, and then I certified to that.
Mr. DULLES. By both signing parties you only mean Oswald and the notary or whoever certifies to it?
Mr. McVICKAR. I being the notary in this case you see. But the beneficiary, Mrs. Oswald, did not have to be present for this thing.
Mr. COLEMAN. There is a possibility she was present?
Mr. McVICKAR. Well, I think it is possible; but I rather doubt it frankly, and I doubt it on the basis of what I have said before, that I think I recall seeing in the record that she was not present, and that I don't see why this whole procedure would't have gone through much more quickly if she had been, that is all.
Mr. COLEMAN. You keep on referring to the fact that you recall seeing this In the record. Could you tell me where you saw it, please?
Mr. McVICKAR. Well, I can try to find it. I think the best thing would be if I looked at the Moscow official file. Is that right here? Okay; well, maybe I can find it. Is that all right if I take a minute to look through these papers?
Mr. COLEMAN. Yes.
(Discussion off the record.)