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by Steve N. Bochan
As most students of the assassination know, a salesman named Oscar Deslatte of the Bolton Ford Dealership, New Orleans, was visited by two men who claimed to represent a group called FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA, on January 20, 1961. 1 These men wanted to buy ten trucks from Mr. Deslatte, and the man who did most of the talking identified himself as Joseph Moore. As price was discussed, Moore said that he thought they should get the trucks for "no profit" for his organization, since theirs was a worthy cause 2.
Mr. Deslatte told the FBI later that Moore did not specify whether the trucks would be used here in the United States or in Cuba 3. When Mr. Deslatte checked with his Manager, Fred Sewell, it was decided to give the gentlemen a break on the price, and reduce the usual profit margin from $75 per truck to $50 per truck. 4 Deslatte filled out the order for the ten trucks and wrote in Joseph Moore's name as the buyer representing FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA. But Moore told Deslatte to change the name on the bid from "Moore" to "Oswald." 5
It was at this point that the second gentleman spoke up and said that "Oswald " was "his name and it should go on the form as he was the man with the money and would pay for the trucks, if they were purchased." 6
The real Oswald (or at least someone called "Oswald" other than the Bolton Ford "Oswald") was, of course, in the Soviet Union, in January 1961. So the question is: why were these people representing the FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA impersonating Oswald in January 1961?
Who were the FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA? Most researchers know the answer to this question arises anyone who saw the film, JFK.
Had the FBI sought an answer after the assassination by locating the Articles of Incorporation of the FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA (found in the New Orleans Court House where all public filings are located and available to the public), the Bureau would have discovered two things:
The FBI didn't seem interested in Deslatte's tale, especially since Deslatte could not identify a photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald an agent showed him on 11/25/63, and he was unable to give a good description of either man to the FBI. He told the Bureau that he remembered the incident because of the organization's name, not the name "Oswald."8 Deslatte called the FBI after the President was assassinated and after conferring with Manager Fred Sewell about "those two guys who was in here from Cuba trying to get some buses cheap."9
Of course it makes perfect sense that Deslatte didn't think the photograph of Oswald was either "Joseph Moore" or the other man who said he was "Oswald" if the real Oswald was not in New Orleans in 1961 but in the Soviet Union.
Whoever identified himself as "Oswald" was impersonating Oswald, and even though Deslatte thought enough of the incident to contact the FBI after the assassination, the Bureau either dismissed or ignored the incident: no references to it can be found in the Warren Report. But the evidence was an organization recently formed by ex-FBI Guy Banister, rabid anti-communist, was trying to surreptitiously purchase ten trucks - probably in preparation for the Bay of Pigs invasion - and was also using the name and impersonating a defector to the Communists:"Oswald." But where did Banister's new organization get the name "Oswald"?
Several possibilities exist. For example, since Banister and Ferrie were associated, Ferrie could have simply provided the name to Banister since he knew the real Oswald from his CAP days as a teen. Or Banister could have become aware of Oswald's defection through newspaper reporting of the event on November 1, 1959, and thus he could have simply used his newspaper clipping file to randomly pick the name "Oswald" to use for the purchase of the ten trucks.
But the strongest evidence indicates that at least one corporate officer of the FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA actually knew the real Lee Harvey Oswald. That person is Gerard F. Tujague, and he is listed as Vice-President of THE FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA in the articles of incorporation on record10. How did Tujague know the real Lee Harvey Oswald? It's part of that "gem" located in volume twelve of the HSCA hearings, p.143, note #64:
Although the FBI did interview Mr. Tujague on 11/26/63, where he provided Oswald's "employment release form" as well as various time punch cards, and the names of other employees who also worked there when Oswald did, nowhere does the report mention Tujague belonging to the FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA, his association with Guy Banister, or Oswald's name being used in 1961.11
A search of the Warren Report for a mention of Tujague reveals that there are the following two sentences in APPENDIX XIII, apparently gleaned from Marguerite Oswald and the FBI report of 11/26/63: "Between November 10 and January 14, Oswald was a messenger boy for Gerard F. Tujague, Inc., a shipping company, where he earned $130 per month. His employer remembers him as a quiet, withdrawn person."
Years later, when the HSCA investigated, Tujague had already died, and Frank DiBenedetto of Gerard F. Tujague's, Inc. Forwarding Co. stated that his company had employed Lee Oswald during the period in question. DiBenedetto, who took over the business following Tujague's death, stated that he had been Oswald's supervisor and that Oswald had been employed as a messenger. He stated further that Oswald's work consisted largely of delivering company papers and messages to various steamship lines on the docks.12
Therefore, at least one corporate officer of Guy Banister's newly-formed organization in January of 1961, the "FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA," knew the real Lee Harvey Oswald before 1961 and thus probably supplied the name to the two buyers of the trucks for the surreptitious purchase. Since the Vice-President of FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA, Gerard F. Tujague, knew Oswald, chances are good that Banister was also aware the name"Oswald" was being used.13
But why? Why would a staunch anti-Communist and ex-FBI man like Guy Banister and an anti-Communist group like FRIENDS OF DEMOCRATIC CUBA not only use the name of a recent defector - a "Marxist" - but impersonate him as well, for a surreptitious plan to purchase 10 trucks for probable anti-Castro operations three months prior to the Bay of Pigs operation?
With proof that Oswald was known personally to officers of a group which Banister was connected for the purpose of aiding anti-Castro activities as early as 1961 at hand, it becomes fairly easy to see how this incident might have anticipated later anti-Castro actions during the summer of 1963 in New Orleans with Banister and Oswald once again taking center stage.
1. FBI report, 11/25/63, File No. 89-69, CD-75, SA McDonald an Danielson.
4. Fred Sewell interview with James Alcock, NODA, 5/2/67
5. FBI report, 11/15/63
7. Articles of Incorporation, Friends of Democratic Cuba, HSCA Record Numer: 1801007610242, Agency File Number: 009039
8. FBI Report, 11/15/63, File No. 89-69, CD-75, SA Mc Donaland Danielson.
9. Fred Sewell interview with James Alcock, NODA, 5/2/67
10. Articles of Incorporation, Friends of Democratic Cuba, HSCA Record No.1801007610242, Agency File No. 009039
1.1 FBI Report, 11/25/63, File No. 89-69, Record No. 1801007610242
12. Volume 9 HSCA Hearings, pp. 101-102.
13. Articles of Incorporation, Friends of Democratic Cuba, HSCA Record Number: 1801007610242, Agency File Number:009039. Article IV specifies that: "The president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer shall be elected annually by the board of Directors, and shall serve for terms of one year each or until their successors as duly elected and qualified," thus, Tujaque serving at the pleasure of Banister who was a Director, could have advised and discussed with Banister the use of Oswald's name in the truck transaction.
Current Notes from Steve Bochan (used by permission)
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 1997
> Steve Bochan wrote:
Chris is correct when he says that this so-called Bolton Ford incident was known prior to Garrison's investigation. It was, and the thing that is fascinating for me is that there are indeed tracks that go directly back to Banister, but more importantly, to Tujague, a former employer of Oswald -- our Lee Harvey Oswald -- no one else. Tujague and Banister are listed as members of the board of the Friends of Democratic Cuba, the group which was interested in purchasing these trucks.
This is from the HSCA, Vol X:
This is a strong *DIRECT* link to our Lee Harvey Oswald and at least one associate of Banister's during his teen years in New Orleans.
My "theory" has always been that Banister knew of Oswald through David Ferrie, and certainly Banister associate Tujague knew Oswald personally since he had employed him in earlier years. When they read about his defection, it probably went into Banister's file since he was tracking that sort of home grown stuff in New Orleans. Even though they may have lost track of him by the time he defected, that doesn't mean his name was forgotten. Indeed, almost immediately after his ONI file moves to the New Orleans area, the so-called Bolton Ford incident occurs and his name resurfaces. Have you checked this out in Newman's book yet?
I believe there was an embargo on shipping trucks, etc. to Cuba, and perhaps as a precaution, they used the name "Oswald" to avoid getting caught. Who knows? The point is that the people behind the Friends of Democratic Cuba *knew* the real Lee Harvey Oswald. It appears that this lead was not followed-up on thoroughly by the FBI.
But just how unusual do you think it was for a teenage kid in New Orleans in the 1950s to work for an employer who had ties to the anti-Communist right, who later used that teenage kid's name in an anti-Castro effort after that same kid defects to the Commies?
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