The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which took place 59 years ago this month, is one of the reasons I became a journalist.
Evoking an old cliché about remembering where you were that fateful day on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963: I was 9 years old at Beverly Vista Elementary School in Beverly Hills when my neighborhood chum Paul Small ran up to me on the playground at recess near 11 a.m. and
cried “Kennedy got shot!” and ran off. (The classroom thereafter was somber, and a pall was cast over that late autumn weekend leading to no school Monday.)
The big question ever since has been, shot by whom?
The answer got muddled very quickly because, as we’ve since discovered, just about everyone had a motive: The Russians, the Cubans, the anti-Castro Cubans, South Vietnamese loyal to President Ngo Dinh Diem (overthrown and assassinated in a coup supported by the CIA under JFK), the Italian Mafia, Texas oilmen, the CIA — and maybe the odd husband or two of women who slept with the 35th president of the United States.
But the Warren Commission, as appointed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson and orchestrated by former CIA Director Allen Dulles, through the process of selective evidence, the cherry-picking of witnesses and their preferred reasoning, decided that “lone nut” Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole culprit.
Everything was easier and cleaner that way (for the commissioners and the culprits).Loose ends were supposedly tied up as we recklessly lowered the temperature of the Cold War with Russia and began a full scale war in Vietnam, costing our country needless money and the lives of 58,000 military servicemen even though the Commission’s conclusion was the biggest pile of poop ever laid on the American public.
JFK was no angel, mind you. He was inexperienced and had teed off a lot of folks (hence the multiple motives) including his own wife Jacqueline with a slew of nonstop infidelities including his embarrassing dalliance with Marilyn Monroe. (“Happy Birthday, Mister President…”).
However, JFK had been democratically elected, and that’s how the system works, how it’s supposed to work, in the United States of America.
The nagging problem is that Lee Harvey Oswald did not kill JFK but was set up as the patsy he claimed to be a day before getting whacked himself on live TV by mobbed-up nightclub owner Jack Ruby. (The true killers could not abide such claims — nor Oswald’s future testimony.) The deal (in Ruby’s mind) to break him out of prison and set him up a millionaire in Mexico went unfulfilled. As was the deal promised Oswald for showing up at his place of work that day, mail-order rifle in hand.
And so the years went by, and we witnessed the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King and shortly thereafter the murder of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy after it seemed increasingly probable within seven months he would move into the White House.
RFK knew precisely who killed his brother and the culprits knew he knew, and they could not chance that he would be elected President and go after them with the same tenacity he went after Teamster labor union boss Jimmy Hoffa, as he most certainly would have, only ten times more tenaciously.
As for myself, I watched these events unfold and I even heard the wailing siren of an ambulance as it coursed down Wilshire Boulevard past midnight on June 5, 1968 on its way to the Ambassador Hotel downtown where RFK lay dying from an assassin’s bullet.
But it was a few years later, after I’d moved to London and finished high school that I, inexplicably, became fixated on the JFK assassination. And maybe that’s why my quirky choice of higher education was near Hyannis Port (and the famed Kennedy compound) in
Massachusetts and why I addressed my public speaking class at Cape Cod Community College on Friday, Nov. 22, 1974 with an impassioned speech about JFK’s assassination that drew applause from my fellow classmates. (This was a first for me, the poor student I was due to ADD or ADHD but managing to escape diagnosis and Ritalin because it thankfully arrived after my time.)
Late that afternoon I took a long walk on Craigville Beach, and till then had never felt so high and low at the same time.
Thereafter, the truth became my quest. And when I switched over to The American University in Washington, D.C. I pursued an interest in everything that did not get reported by the news media. I read everything we’re not supposed to read, learned stuff we’re not supposed to know and endeavored to spread the truth any way I could. (Turns out I went into a
profession — journalism — that had no future, but no matter since I was always in it for the knowledge, not the money.)
It took me a few decades to visit Dealey Plaza in Dallas (life got in the way), but when I finally got there, everything I ‘d ever learned about the killing of Kennedy fell into place as it did.
As it did for Rolf Mowatt-Larsen, a 22-year veteran of the CIA who was station chief in Moscow before becoming European division chief.
About Dealey Plaza, Mr. Mowatt-Larsen has said: “Everything was so easy to control, so easy to manipulate in a setting that was so conducive to everything that day.”
Not exactly what an unstable 24 year-old “lone-nut” can configure.
I’d like to revisit my Dealey Plaza experience in this column and quote from my journal, starting with the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas:
“We’re supposed to learn how Johnson anguished over Vietnam with no mention of his Texas cronies profiting on armaments and war support services while millions of lives on both sides were snuffed out and countless more lives destroyed by drug addiction or from losing
loved ones and no mention of the so-called ‘domino effect’ and how Johnson lectured the American public that if we didn’t take a stand in Vietnam, the rest of Southeast Asia would fall and Communist combatants would roll up onto the shores of Hawaii. No mention also of napalm or of Rolling Thunder, the sustained bombing campaign that cost so many lives of innocents and led to America for the first time in history losing a war albeit one it was never justified to fight.
“An exhibition on the assassination of JFK glosses over the horror that allowed Johnson to move into the White House and actually glorifies the findings of the long-since disgraced Warren Commission.
“But what truly causes the bile in my stomach to revolt is a serial on a TV screen showing something called Times of 1957-1965 that includes an old TV commercial advertising Alka-Seltzer that immediately follows JFK’s delivery of the most inspiring line of his inaugural address (‘Ask not what your country can do for you…’), no editing accident you can be certain.
“This is not a memorial library but a hellacious monument in honor of whitewash and prevarication.”
Then onward to Dallas:
“I knew it would be a tedious trek, but I did not count on just how depressing and surreal it would be in Dealey Plaza where a U.S. president was violently slain and the course of U.S. history diabolically diverted into decline.
“The three-hour drive feels like six as the unmerciful heat fights to penetrate our air-conditioned bubble through every crack or just by broiling the windshield along a dreary flat road.
“The Dallas skyline finally appears and a jumble of highways suck us into its ‘historic’ downtown where moments later we find ourselves smack outside the Texas State Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly shot John F. Kennedy as he rode in an open limousine down Elm Street.
“We ascend to the sixth floor museum though the only real ‘attraction’ is the corner window from which Oswald may have concealed himself and taken aim and shot.
“We descend and alight from the building to inspect the infamous grassy knoll. So-called ‘conspiracy theorists,’ a term created by the CIA in 1967 to thwart and ridicule those who criticized the Warren Commission, have long speculated this mound to be the true location from which a shooter stood. It is certainly closer to an ‘X’ permanently taped onto Elm Street marking the spot where Kennedy took a fatal head shot, a trajectory that makes far more sense than Oswald’s distant perch from on high and more consistent with a frontal bullet impact so graphically captured by Abraham Zapruder’s infamous eight-millimeter film.
“Walking around the Museum Café and Gift Shop full of cheap souvenirs from China, this thought reverberates around my aching skull: Put him on a 50-cent piece and they’ll get over it.”
Well, I’m not.
It took more than reading over 100 books and magazine articles plus my own journalistic skills to get to the bottom of this. What it really took was my entry into the shadowy world of intelligence to finally sort out what was fiction (often planted) and what was real— and in the end the answer was not so complicated but obvious to some as far back as a half-century ago.
Some believe the Russians conspired to kill JFK but this is nonsense. Following the Bay of Pigs debacle in 1962, JFK sought to secretly improve his relationship with Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev (who reciprocated through regular correspondence through a trusted un-swampy channel) and sought to de-escalate the Cold War in a way that left the U.S. industrial-security complex discombobulated and somewhat threatened.
Some pointed at Fidel Castro in the belief that the bearded one acted in retaliation over having been targeted for assassination (exploding cigars…) by the CIA in the late 1950s into the early 1960s.
But Castro was no fool, and he knew that such a foolhardy act would have resulted in Cuba’s forced enjoinment with Atlantis deep beneath the ocean.
Spy novelist and former CIA officer Charles McCarry tried to blame it on the South Vietnamese in his highly acclaimed novel “Tears of Autumn,” but this was fanciful and quite possibly a stab at disinformation. President Diem was assassinated on Nov. 2, 1963. It takes far longer than 20 days to organize a hit in general — and of a president of the United
States? Not possible. Moreover, there are no connections of any kind between the Vietnamese and the circumstances surrounding the murder of JFK.
Others believe LBJ ordered the hit on the basis of “Who had the most to gain?”
True enough that Vice President Lydnon B. Johnson, who referred to JFK in the late 1950s as “that spavined hunchback,” had grown tired of JFK’s Irish mafia’s sobriquet for him, “Uncle Cornpone,” and was weary of being ignored and ridiculed by President Kennedy’s kitchen cabinet. Furthermore, a looming corruption scandal in Texas involving Billie Sol Estes and others threatened to get LBJ dumped as JFK’s VP in 1964 and end his political career. All of this was hushed up and buried (literally, bones and all) after LBJ became president. (This comes directly from Walt Perry, ace
undercover agent for the IRS who duped Billie Sol in a masterful sting operation.)
For years I believed that the Italian Mafia, enraged by how JFK (and especially his brother RFK as. attorney general) turned on them after all the assistance they provided swinging the 1960 election for “Joe the Bootlegger’s boy.” (Family patriarch Joseph Kennedy made his fortune importing illegal hooch during Prohibition.)
Specifically, this theory put the spotlight on two Mafia godfathers, Santos Trafficante of Miami and Carlos Marcello of New Orleans and even more specifically their henchmen Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana — the latter two murdered soon after receiving subpoenas to testify before a congressional committee investigating JFK’s slaying.
Roselli was sawn into pieces and stuffed into an oil canister, then dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. Giancana was shot at close range as he prepared a late-night sausage and pepper sandwich in the kitchen of his home.
The Mafia had a very strong motive to murder JFK but not the means, though they were tied into the CIA’s efforts to remove Castro in the expectation that their once highly profitable gambling franchise in Havana could be returned to them. An overlap between the two was proven to exist stretching back to early CIA-Mafia cooperation against the communists in Italy post World War II, overseen on site by a young CIA officer named James Jesus Angleton.
It was Mr. Trafficante who proposed, at a mob pow wow bugged by the FBI, putting a contract on Robert Kennedy, who, in addition to seriously riling Jimmy Hoffa had also arranged for Mr. Marcello to be deported to Guatemala.
Having snuck back into the United States, Mr. Marcello countered by saying, “If you cut off the dog’s tail, the dog will only keep biting.” He
proposed hitting the top enchilada.
And so indeed the Mafia was delighted to play a role in assassinating JFK, not as the instigators (which to their delight they discovered unnecessary) but instead as part of a peripheral if integral presence and trail-muddying, as confided to me three decades ago by senior CIA operations officer Jim Fees.
Which brings us to the real assassins of JFK.
Quite likely the person most responsible for putting JFK into an early grave was James Angleton, who after his stint in post-war Italy became the CIA’s very powerful (some say legendary) counterintelligence chief. His second-in-command on this heinous op would have been Cord Meyer, who headed the agency’s directorate of plans (covert action). In addition,
both were quite likely responsible for the murder on Oct. 12, 1964 of Cord Meyer’s ex-wife Mary Pinchot Meyer, with whom JFK had been having an affair and whom the President considered his soul mate. (They even took LSD together in the White House, as supplied to Mary by Harvard’s Timothy Leary,).
Ms. Meyer was livid over the Warren Commission’s bogus findings and immediately upon their release one month before her murder had raised hell among her very influential D.C. friends including Washington Post honcho Ben Bradlee. She was shot and killed by a hitman while taking her normal walk along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath, not far from where she lived and worked as an artist in Georgetown — a murder without rape or theft that has never been solved.
It was not the CIA as an institution that murdered JFK or Mary Pinchot Meyer.
Jim Angleton and Cord Meyer were running a rogue operation (much easier back then), and it is doubtful CIA Director John McCone (a JFK-political appointee) knew about it, because a somewhat suspicious and grief-stricken Robert Kennedy asked him pointblank, “Did the CIA kill
my brother?” and Director McCone said no.
Said former CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larsen: “Only the very top people in our organization [CIA] could have done something like this. I mean, the best operational minds. To keep it a secret. To take it to the grave.”
One person who was briefed and went along with the plan as a passive participant was LBJ.
And the Warren Commission?
Again, Mr. Mowatt-Larsen: “A CIA cover story, a media legend by experts in the craft of intelligence.”
That would be commissioner Allen Dulles, whom JFK fired as CIA director after he felt ill-advised over the Bay of Pigs failure and who even authored a book titled The Craft of Intelligence. Mr. Dulles whipped the other commissioners into shape by invoking “national security” as means of pushing over the hump any commissioner who dared dissent.
According to Mr. Mowatt-Larsen, four elements were needed for a successful assassination:
One: Motive. Check, for reasons ascribed above and to prevent JFK from further damaging (in their opinion) the CIA.
Two: Opportunity to misappropriate CIA resources. (Easy for Angleton and Meyer with their black budgets.) Check.
Three: Access to recruiting Oswald. (That would be David Atlee Philips, a senior CIA operations officer who befriended and recruited Oswald under the cryptonym Maurice Bishop.)
Four: Ability to provide Oswald a cover story and sell him a false bill of goods. Again, Mr. Atlee as Maurice Bishop. Check.
So now you have three rogues: Jim Angleton, Cord Meyer and David Atlee Philips.
Add to the mix: William Harvey, a former FBI agent who — disliked by J. Edgar Hoover — transferred over to CIA and had Mafia connections. Mr. Harvey was the link to Mafia support, which was compartmentalized on a “need-to-know” basis.
Two others: David Sanchez Morales, part of JMWAVE, the CIA station in Miami that ran anti-Castro operations. And Frank Sturgis, also JMWAVE and later one of the Watergate burglars. (This dude got around.) Another Watergate burglar and JMWAVE CIA alumnus, E. Howard Hunt, was invited to the party (as he confessed to his son when close to death) but (he claimed) declined.
There were three shooters on the grassy knoll that day. Two were Mafia-related hit men. Both were quickly flown off on a private plane and disposed of instead of provided with the rewards they were promised. The other was a Corsican mafia assassin believed to have pulled the trigger on the bullet that literally blew JFK’s brains out. That would be Lucien Sarti,
who was smart enough to refuse the flight of no return taken by his ill-fated fellow hitmen —t hen disappeared forever.
If the CIA as an institution ever uncovered the truth about the involvement of its most senior rogue officers it clammed up because, explains Mr. Mowatt-Larsen, “that would have been the end of the CIA.”
MAD ABOUT HARRY
President Harry S. Truman warned his successor General Dwight Eisenhower in early 1953 about his deep concern that CIA (created in 1947 during Harry’s presidency) had become a rogue agency out of control.
On Dec. 22, 1963, exactly one month after JFK was assassinated, former President Truman wrote in The Washington Post that “for some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment,” adding that the CIA’s operational activities “should be terminated.”
A mortified Allen Dulles demanded that Mr. Truman retract what he wrote.
Harry responded, “No dice.”
Instead, in a June 10, 1964 letter to Look magazine former President Truman reiterated his position, stating that when he created the CIA he never intended for it to be involved in what he discreetly referred to as “strange activities.”
As I wrote at the beginning of this column, many folks had a motive and that’s why it was so easy for the real culprits to muddy the trail. And just like everyone had a motive, everyone else has a theory and will believe what they choose to believe.
Unfortunately, we will likely be long gone when the archives we paid for are opened, and the truth is revealed.
But if you live long enough, you’ll discover everything written above is about as true as it gets.
Sadly, the newer generations will not care (already no one cares much) because for them, it will be nothing more than a history lesson and, in any case, they will be groomed to anticipate such news so that it doesn’t come as a devastating surprise, but instead, uh-huh, we expected that, just like how the public is finally being warmed up to the existence of UFOs.
And that is why high-level crimes and the ensuing cover-ups like the assassination of JFK perpetuate (and Martin Luther King Jr. and RFK) and will always be the norm as society becomes ever more distracted by the magician’s sleight of hand and does what they are told by a mainstream narrative fed by the government to a corporatized media, which poops out their indoctrinating message and spreads it around like fertilizer to grow the obedience of the general population and the control over it they seek.
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.