KAC WINTER '97
by TOM DeVRIES
I knew the strong nostalgic lure of a trip to sunny Dallas (from cold and cloudy Michigan) for the JFK Lancer Conference and November 22nd memorial ceremony on the grassy knoll was fiscally irresponsible. But John Armstrong's "Harvey and Lee" presentation was alone worth the cost of another excellent Lancer Conference. In July 1996, at The Fourth Decade Conference in Fredonia, New York, I was mesmerized by his "Marguerite's Addresses" and "Oswald's Possessions" presentations which featured excellent grass roots research and expert use of intriguing source material, suggesting two Lee Harvey Oswalds and two Marguerite Oswalds (one often referred to as "Margaret" in official documents), were creating "legends" and acting as agents provocateur. Someone should have figured this out long ago!
Like scientists laboring over a cure for cancer, JFK assassination researchers dream of unlocking key mysteries hidden thus far in the voluminous public record. Armstrong believes each one of us can do just that. His interest was first piqued by the fact that Marina Oswald told the Warren Commission that when she first met Oswald, she assumed he was from the provinces because he spoke Russian well with a Baltic accent. Armstrong now believes the anomaly of an apparent New Orleans high school drop-out speaking excellent Russian is best explained by a long and patient study of two different Lee Harvey Oswalds' school and employment records, their addresses, corresponding dates, and witness testimony.
Many documents and records which demonstrate two Lee Harvey Oswalds lived parallel and "directed" lives come from thirteen rolls of microfilm (about 100,000 pages, available to the public since 1977) which Armstrong purchased through The New York Times in 1993. Other important documents and testimony, from the Warren CommissionÕs twenty-six volumes, and from files released by the Assassination Records Review Board, confirm the two Oswalds scenario. Key Warren Commission testimony comes from Julian and Myrtle Evans, Clifton Shasteen, Leonard Hutchinson, Mrs. Whitworth and Gertrude Hunter, John Carro, and John Pic. Also, FBI documents strongly suggest (prove?) the FBI and certain Warren Commission members created a composite Lee Harvey Oswald from two different men with the same name.
Many witnesses and documents corroborate that one of these men in fact often introduced himself as "Harvey." Armstrong projected highlighted documents onto two large slide screens representing Harvey and Lee respectively. Video interviews with witnesses demonstrated that discrepancies in time, place, and physical characteristics, and overlapping school and employment records, indicate an intertwining web of activities by two different "Oswalds."
Palmer McBride, an important witness, briefly took the podium to speak of working with his friend Lee Harvey Oswald at Pfisterer's Dental Laboratory from the fall of 1957 through July of 1958. He's certain of these dates for many reasons. They attended a presentation of the Boris Gudenov Opera (October 10 or 12, 1957) and discussed Sputnik immediately after it occurred on October 4, 1957. Ignoring McBride, the Warren Commission moved the Pfisterer employment to 1956, because in the fall of 1957, its Lee Harvey Oswald was in Atsugi, Japan.
But McBride's testimony is just one of dozens of similar accounts. For example, Armstrong's interviews with William Henry Timmer, along with corroborating FBI documents, show that Timmer played often with Harvey Oswald in Stanley, North Dakota during the summer of 1953 when the Warren Commission's Oswald was in New York. Teacher Myra DaRouse described, in a video clip, many interactions with a 4'6" homeroom student named Harvey Oswald at Beauregard Jr. High during the 1953-4 school year when 5'4" Lee was in New York. Frank Kudlaty, highly respected assistant principal of Stripling Junior High in Forth Worth, gave Lee Harvey Oswald's 9th grade records to the FBI on the morning after the assassination. But the Warren Commission did not publish them and the FBI denies knowledge of them. Before the assassination, Robert Oswald twice told the press his brother attended Stripling, and countless fellow students remember Lee Harvey Oswald living across the street from the school at 2220 Thomas Place. The Warren Commission, however, ignored Stripling and stated that Oswald attended 9th grade at Beauregard Junior High in New Orleans during the 1954-5 school year. What's wrong with this picture? And there are many more anomalies.
Of course Armstrong is not the first to suggest two "Oswalds." But he's apparently searched the public record for important details more thoroughly than others and has presented documented time lines for Harvey and Lee. As one who feels he's supposed to be a bit of an expert on Oswald, I learned a lot. Armstrong discovered Oswald's W-2 forms from three different employers between 1955 and 1958 had tax ID numbers issued in January 1964, obviously forged by the FBI. The original forms put Oswald in times and places damaging to the Warren Commission's composite Lee Harvey Oswald scenario. Commission Attorney Albert Jenner wrote a memo to Lee Rankin, the Commission's General Counsel, stating records and data from Oswald's background require "material alteration and, in some cases, omission." Of notes written by Warren Commission staffers assigned to research the various sections of the Report, the only ones missing* from the National Archives are those of John Ely, assigned to research Oswald's background. It's also strange that Lee's and Marguerite's income tax records are still classified despite the JFK Records Act of 1992.
The significance of this "new" information (most of it has been available for years) cannot be overstated. Certain preconceptions about Oswald, his background and his family need to be abandoned by researchers, whereas many formerly mysterious pieces of the puzzle suddenly fit nicely.
Contradictory reports regarding Oswald's Russian language proficiency now make sense. Warren Commission testimony tells us Harvey probably did ride a city bus back down Elm Street, while Roger Craig saw look-alike Lee run from the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) to a Rambler station wagon which Harvey, during the interrogation sessions, claimed belonged to Ruth Paine. The November 22nd and 23rd FBI reports of all the Tippit murder witnesses described a man in a white shirt and light colored jacket (Lee), whereas Harvey, already sitting in the Texas Theater, was arrested in a brown shirt. I think I now understand what Michael Paine meant when he told Ruth in an FBI monitored phone call, "... we both know who's responsible." (Did Lee and accomplices help to frame Harvey?) It explains many (but probably not all) of the Oswald impersonations and the fact that thirty-two witnesses have stated either Lee Oswald drove a car or owned a driver's licence. The official version remains that he (Harvey) did not drive. And why did Harvey write from Russia requesting Marguerite send him a photo of himself with her?
After the assassination, Robert and Marina cooperated with authorities. Harvey wasn't Robert's brother or Marguerite's son, and Marina knew both Harvey and Lee and was too compromised to tell the truth. Meanwhile, obstreperous Marguerite possibly played a CIA role of fly catcher, identifying anyone who contacted her with knowledge of Harvey's intelligence connections.
However, despite an interesting precedent for an intelligence sponsored dual identity scenario (covered early in the presentation and script), some problematic questions remain. The height differences between the Junior High age Oswalds are dramatic. Harvey must have grown quickly to reach the 5'9" of the "historic Oswald," whereas Lee was probably 5'11". And did they actually look alike? Judging from John Pic's Warren Commission testimony and Jack White's "The Evolution of LHO" poster, some might think they actually looked quite different. White has suggested there are more than two different individuals represented in various Oswald photos and split-face composites. Shasteen's and Hutchinson's Warren Commission testimony indicates Lee drove the Paine's car and patronized Irving area businesses during weekdays in the name of "Lee Harvey Oswald" when Harvey was working at the TSBD. So what exactly was Marina's role and was she also doubled in some of the strange incidents where they were both apparently impersonated?
When asked some of these questions, Armstrong gives a simple answer: "I don't know --- yet." His research is far from over, and he encourages others to work with his leads. Unlike many researchers, he seems unthreatened by competition or by information which might contradict what he's learned so far.
A possible answer to the Oswald appearance anomalies is that the look-alike aspect was not as important as the gestalt of creating a single Oswald Legend on paper. (This still doesn't explain why Roger Craig thought he saw the same individual in Fritz's office.) It's certainly clear the two Marguerites did not look or behave alike. When this intelligence operation began around 1952, it must have been some sort of experiment. What's been made clear by other definitive research is the assassination plotters knew the CIA, FBI, and other powers that be, would scramble to hide LHO's identity.
Unfortunately, the length and depth of the "Harvey and Lee" information did not permit adequate time for clarification. Conference moderator, Debra Conway and Peter Dale Scott, the next speaker, graciously allowed Armstrong an extra 30 minutes (over the scheduled two hours forty minutes) to finish when the crowd began chanting, "let him finish!" Copies of the presentation's 40 page script, selling for $8.00 each by Lancer at the adjacent book store, caused a small stampede when announced toward the end of the presentation. (More are now available with the presentation video.) But unfortunately, it doesn't contain the more than 150 documents and there's often no attempt made to describe sources or answer important "who," "what," "when," 'why," "where," and "how" questions. However, the presentation video, available from Lancer for $40.00, answers many questions because the camera focuses mainly on the documents with Armstrong reading script and adding details on the video and vocal tracks.
There are many leads to follow, and of course speculation based on what this work indicates could run wild. Like Armstrong, many good researchers dislike speculation, particularly when it's not labeled as such. But most explorers, scientists, and researchers form hypotheses and make guesses when determining which roads to explore and how to go about it.
Perched on Zapruder's pedestal late that night with Dealey Plaza to myself, I had much on which to speculate. Do missing New York school records, records of truancy in New York, and the contradiction inherent in WC Ex.1413 (which documents Oswald attending school in both New Orleans and New York at the same time in 1953-4), possibly indicate a time when Harvey and/or Lee could have undergone "Intelligence" training or even MK Ultra indoctrination as Frank Camper has suggested in his book MK Ultra Secrets? Why did Marguerite's housekeeper in New York (how did she afford a housekeeper?) say that Marguerite told her she came to New York so Lee could have "mental tests at the Jacobi Hospital?" Was Russian-speaking Harvey born in a Soviet bloc country and picked up around age six by U.S. Intelligence at the end of World War II? Why did Lee's half-brother John Pic continually refuse to identify photos of fourteen year old Harvey to the Warren Commission? Why did, according to an FBI report, a fearful woman with a foreign accent call a relative of J.D. Tippit to explain she knew Oswald's father and uncle, both Hungarian refugees, who lived in New York and disseminated communist propaganda? Could they have been acting as FBI infiltrators or agents provocateur? To what extent was "Lee" involved in framing "Harvey?" A photo of the TSBD's west sixth floor window taken immediately after the assassination appears to show a man in a white T-shirt with a hairline that looks very similar to that of the #23 photo on White's "LHO" poster. Was this the man Roger Craig saw leaving the Depository in the Rambler? Was Lee the white-shirted man who killed Tippit and left a wallet at the scene to frame Harvey?
As Dwight Eisenhower said in 1960, "Intelligence-gathering activities...have a special and secret character...These activities have their own rules and methods of concealment which seek to mislead and obscure..." Many witnesses and documents make clear the Warren Commission was forced to create a composite Lee Harvey Oswald from two different men. Unfortunately, that means little to what Harold Weisberg has labeled our "Seig Heil" major media. I'm continually astounded by their lack of honest interest in that basic and all-important question: "Who Was LHO?"
My trip to Dallas changed the way I view much information about Lee Harvey Oswald and the JFK assassination. If there was a two-Oswald deception, it must have been orchestrated by the experts: one of our intelligence agencies. The fact that the assassination conspiracy was successful and continues to be denied in our official history, is extremely sad and frustrating. Researchers should work on new and old information with intellectual honesty, and with as much determination, fortitude, and resolve as that which the conspirators and cover-up artists displayed 34 years ago.
Thomas Jay DeVries <email@example.com>
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