Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Case Study No.14 - Wes Wise

WES WISE


Wes was a former TV reporter and mayor of Dallas (who drove a Volkswagon Bug), who was given one of the most important leads in the Tippit murder. Wise was told about a man who resembled Oswald who at the time of Tippit’s murder was driving around Oak Cliff in a 1957 Plymouth, with a Texas license tag that was traced to Carl Mather – a close friend and former neighbor of Tippit. Mather’s alibi was that he was at work at Collins Radio – a major defense contractor who provided the radios for Air Force One, Two and SAC bombers, and also provided the cover for the CIA raider ship the Rex. The Rex was exposed by a New York Times page one story on November 1, 1963, after some Pathfinder commandos were captured after they attempted to infiltrate Cuba with high powered rifles – “that weren’t going to be used to hunt rabbits.” I recorded a two hour plus audio interview with Wes Wise as he drove me around the assassination hot spots in Dallas.

Wes Wise Tour of Dallas Assassination Hot Spots – Warts and All –


The Assassins Tour of Dallas

On November 22, 1963 Dallas TV and radio news reporter Wes Wise waited in vain for President John F. Kennedy to arrive at the Dallas Trade Mart. There was to be a luncheon with special guests, where gifts would be given to the Kennedys for them and their children, but Kennedy never made lunch, having been ambushed and gunned down in Dealey Plaza.

Two days later Wes Wise was assigned to film the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald as he was being transferred to the Dallas County jail, just across the street from where Kennedy was murdered. But Oswald too, was a no show. Jack Ruby shot and killed him in the basement garage of Dallas City Hall.

Thwarted on two assignments during the most excruciating weekend in his life, Wise kept an interest in the case from the time he was pounding the streets as a beat reporters through his promotion to TV anchor and later as mayor of Dallas. And he’s still on the beat, videotape recording oral histories of assassination witnesses for the Dallas County Historical Society, which now has offices in the former Texas School Book Depository (TSBD), the alleged assassin’s lair.

The day after the assassination Wise was assigned to trace Oswald’s movements from the TSBD to the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff where he was captured. It was an assignment he is still, in a sense, pursing. Of all the reporters in Dallas who covered the assassination, it was Wes Wise who set of a small spark on the fuse of a time bomb that’s yet to explode – the evidential outcome of one reporter’s small but significant clue to the crime of the century. A clue that is still being run down nearly 30, now fifty years later.

I first read about Wes Wise in the published reports of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). It was listed under the heading “Oswald-Tippit Associates,” and labeled “The Wise Allegation,’ although Wes Wise never made any allegations. He just followed his reporter’s instincts, which led him into a labyrinth of intrigue involving a fleeing suspect and a ’57 Plymouth. Wise either came up with a fantastic coincidence, or a clue that could lead to the unraveling of the conspiracy and the eventual solving of the crime.

So when I was in Dallas I called Wes Wise on the telephone and took him up on his offer to give me a tour of the town.

We began at the once and forever Texas School Book Depository, which now houses the Sixth Floor Museum that overlooks Dealey Plaza, the scene of the crime.

THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY – DEALEY PLAZA

People come here from all over the world to see the place where John F. Kennedy was murdered. At any time of the day or night you will find people walking around, pointing up to the sixth floor corner window of the TSBD and walking behind the picket fence on the Grassy Knoll. It is a daily ritual that is acted out over and over, every day and every night.

People realize that something significant happened here, and Dealey Plaza acts as a vortex of our political and social culture, drawing pilgrims to the place where it happened. Dealey Plaza is an American political Mecca. Some pull a plank off the wooden picket fence – a relic to take home with them.

“It’s the number one tourist attraction in Dallas, and may be the most popular in Texas, as I don’t think the Alamo even surpasses it as far as public interest,” says Wise, as we sit in his car on Elm Street, sort of a dead end alley that runs in front of the TSBD. An historical marker on the side of the building tells the story. You can see the scar on the bronze plaque where it was amended, on a more recent date, to qualify Lee Harvey Oswald as the “alleged” assassin. Things just don’t seem as definitive as they once did.

“I remember Eddie Barker, the KLRD (now KDFW) news director saying this corner will never be the same again,” reflects Wise, “and I kind of agree with him, but didn’t realize quite how much so.”

A hot dog vendor is set up next to the curb; a young man hawks a newspaper, “The Dealey Plaza Times,” catering to the tourists.

“The assassination of this man had such a tremendous impact on us,” Wise continues. “At the ten year mark people said that would be the end, and we could all forget about it. But here we are now, nearly 30 years later, and if anything, there is much more interest in all of this.”

The Sixth Floor exhibit, a multi-media museum, attracts bus loads of school children, and travelers can’t pass through downtown Dallas without paying a pit stop homage to Dealey Plaza.

Although it is controversial for not including conspiracy theories, and only parroting the official version of events, Wise says “The exhibit captures the impact the assassination had on us, as well as the Kennedy mystique, and much of that sort of history.”

The new generation just learning about the assassination of JFK might know the place, the time and the date – 12:30 pm, Friday, November 22, 1963, Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas, but to really understand the significance of JFK’s murder you have to put it into an historical context. “I think the background of Dallas at the time is important, and the Sixth Floor exhibit is fair with it, although it doesn’t show Dallas, warts and all,” reflects Wise, who proceeds to drive east on Elm a few blocks before he pulls over to the corner of the Greyhound Bus station.

THE GREYHOUND BUS STATION

The way most people figured it is that Oswald left the TSBD shortly after the assassination, within minutes, and walked about seven blocks east from Dealey Plaza. No one knows where he was going, but then he takes a bus heading back towards Dealey Plaza. Where he was going, if anywhere, is a mystery.

“To get some perspective,” Wise explained, “the School Book Depository is two blocks west and two blocks north.”

Sitting at the curb facing the northeast, the direction Oswald headed immediately after the assassination, I observed, further on down the street, a large skyscraper with the words “Southland” on it, asked Wise about it and jotted the name down in my notes. 

Later that very day I met with former Congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi, and asked him in which building lobby in Dallas did Antonio Vechina meet with his CIA case officer “Maurice Bishop” and find him meeting with Oswald?  Fonzi said, “The Southland Building,” thus presenting another possible destination for the fleeing Oswald, though one that he apparently had a change of mind about before getting there.

Oswald got on a bus heading back towards the scene of the crime, and got off at this location. “Now this area was just packed with people who were standing along the sidewalks, it was about eight or ten people deep, a very friendly, pro-Kennedy crowd. When the bus got caught in a traffic jam, he got off right here near this corner, or just beyond it.”

The bus driver later identified Oswald, as did another passenger, Mrs. Bledsoe, Oswald’s former landlady. He took a bus transfer ticket and got off the buss, and within minutes, the bus was boarded and searched by policeman.

Oswald then got in a cab. The cab driver said that Oswald flagged him down, then offered the cab to a little old lady, hardly the actions of an assassin fleeing the scene of a crime.

“He apparently did several things that were uncharacteristic of a person who was uptight or upset,” notes Wise.

The cab took Oswald back through Dealey Plaza, which at the time was the most confusing and chaotic place on earth. Once a memorial to a local publisher, it suddenly became the most important dateline in the world.

Wise pulls over to the curb across the street from the TSBD.

“On the day after the assassination I talked my way up to the 6thfloor with a camera and filmed the scene,” Wise recalls. “Going up to the 6th floor was really an eerie experience at the time because it was dark, dank and dusty, and people were still going around investigating the evidence.”

“Taking my way up there was typical of the way it was then, compared to the way it is now,” Wise explains. Now tourists must get passed two uniformed security guards and a metal detector to visit the Sixth Floor Museum. If the president only had as much protection.

“I had been on TV for years, prime time, as sports anchor, and since most policemen are sports fans, practically anyplace I went in Dallas they just motioned me in. So when I went up there, a federal agent stopped me. I had a camera in my hand, and this guy there says, “Hey, this is Wes Wise, he’s been here for years,” and so they let me go up to the 6th floor and take pictures. Other newsmen got up there, but not at the same time I did.”

Back on the street, Wise said that he called in to his office on the 2 way radio to say he was going out to Oak Cliff to where the cab driver took Oswald on the previous day. “I was in a marked KLRD News car and parked adjacent to the curb just across the street from the Depository. My assignment, from KRLD news director Eddie Barker, was to trace Oswald’s steps as closely as we knew, his movements after the assassination, as best we could.”

“As I was putting up the microphone of the radio I sort of caught a glimpse of this guy out of the corner of my eye. I could see a man in a suit and hat, and it was exactly the same suit and hat he had on the next day. It was Jack Ruby. And he says, ‘Oh, wasn’t this awful, Wes? Jackie is going to have to come back and testify while those poor kids…I can’t imagine it.’”

Wise described to him how he had been stationed at the Trade Mart, waiting for Kennedy’s arrival, and what a sad scene that was when people learned what had happened. “I told him about these saddles from Neiman-Marcus that were gifts for Carolyn and John John, gifts that they never received. And when I told this to Jack, visible tears came to his eyes.”

“Let me tell you what,” Wise says emphatically, “in Dallas, and I’m sure all over the country, but especially here, people were messing up (and crying openly), and sometimes, more than messing up, male and female, kids and adults, almost constantly during those three days. It was a tremendous emotional experience. Of course, for a newsman, it was unusual because you can’t let emotions get away with you, and we were working 15 hours a day. But when you stopped, and you went back home and you were alone with your wife, boy it was the most draining experience in the world.”

“I talked to Ruby for ten to twelve minutes, and I’ve often wished I had that microphone on and recorded that conversation I had with Ruby, but of course, he was such a nuisance, my impulse was, “Oh, Jack, come on, you know I’ve got work to do.”

Pulling around the corner onto Houston Street we pass the County Jail, on the left , where Wise waited for Oswald to arrive, and on the other side of the street, a statute of George Dealey, the founder of the Dallas Morning News. As you come up past a park and the Union train station, the Dallas Morning News building is across the street. Ruby was here at the time of the assassination, possibly sitting in an advertising office with a window overlooking Dealey Plaza.

“The name of Dealey is synonymous with the Dallas Morning News,” says Wise, who stops in front of the building. On the side, carved in huge letters, it reads: “Build the news upon the rock of truth and righteousness. Conduct it always upon the lines of fairness and integrity. Acknowledge the right of the people to get from newspapers both sides of every important question.”

Then Wise drives a mile over the Trinity River across the Jefferson Street Viaduct to Oak Cliff.

“Oak Cliff is unbelievable,” Wise says. “Dallas is a big city, I’m talking about spread out, area wise, and population wise it’s the 8th largest city in the country. But when you consider how big Dallas is, it’s amazing how you have all of this concentrated action going on in such a small area. There’s Oswald’s apartment, the scene of the Tippit shooting, Oswald’s old Neeley Street apartment, where the famous pictures were take in the backyard with Oswald and the rifle.”

Then there’s the Dobb’s House restaurant, where both Oswald and Tippit had breakfast at the counter at the same time on Thursday morning, and Austin’s barbeque, where Tippit moonlighted as a bouncer for one of Ruby’s partners, and the Hallandale street house where the Cubans lived, and Red Bird airport, for small, private planes, and the Texas Theater where Oswald was captured. Oak Cliff is a virtual hornet’s nest of assassination hot spots.

“And what I always thought was fascinating and still mysterious to me to this day,” Wise says, “is the proximity of Ruby’s apartment.”

“Let’s put it this way,” he says. “The direction that Oswald was going was in the general direction of Ruby’s apartment. And I have no reason to believe Oswald was in cahoots with Ruby. I just think it’s an amazing coincidence for a city of this size. Well, he wasn’t on his way to the movies.”

The cab took Oswald into Oak Cliff, five blocks past his rooming house that he walked back to. Now people surmise he did this to throw off the police or the cab driver, if anybody was tailing him or trying to trace him, and it also gave him the opportunity to approach his place from a different direction and case it out, to see if there was any activity there before he arrived.

OAK CLIFF

“Oak Cliff is still part of Dallas,” notes Wise. “The area is more run down today than it was then. It’s really depressed looking today. It would still be considered lower income then, but it has some very lovely and expensive homes too. It’s as convenient as anyplace to get downtown, and to work, but Oswald hadn’t been working at the TSBD very long, and got the room before he got the job.”

“To me, the proximity of all these places in this huge city boggles my mind today, because for all of that to be confined in such a small location is amazing. The reason I know what I know is because I was here as a reporter, I’ve followed it since then, and I’m still interested in it as a former newsman. I’m asked about it all the time. It is still a fascinating thing to me.”

OSWALD’S ROOMING HOUSE – 1026 N. BECKLEY STREET

“Now here’s the rooming – 1026 North Beckley. This is the first time I’ve ever been here when there hasn’t been a sign out front saying there’s a room for rent. The rooming house cleaning lady said a police car (with two policemen in it) stopped out front while Oswald was in there changing. It honked its horn and then took off. Well I have never figured that one out,” says Wise.

The cleaning lady saw Oswald standing at the bus stop out front apparently waiting for a bus that would have taken him back to center city. Instead,  the Warren Commission surmised that Oswald began walking away from center city.

Riding down Beckley about six blocks from Oswald’s rooming house, Wise turns down 10th Street. “Now another thing is, they say Oswald didn’t drive, so that puts a mystery thing on this. Mrs. Ruth Paine had given him some driving lessons, and I think Mrs. Paine is sort of a mystery women in this whole thing. I interviewed her and Mrs. Tippitt.”

That Mrs. Paine was teaching Oswald to drive around that time is an important point that comes in play. There is still much dispute over whether Oswald could have covered as much ground as he did, between the time of the assassination and when he was captured at the Texas Theater. All of this took place within an hour following the assassination. “And that’s why my discovery is so pertinent to all of this,” Wise surmises.

“Now I’m going over to 10th an Patton streets where Tippit was killed. This sis not the exact route that Oswald took, because he probably took a short cut.”

10th & PATTON STREETS – OAK CLIFF

“Now again, the neighborhood has always been like this, quite residential, but its probably more run down today,” says Wise. “This is the corner of Tenth and Patton. The shooting took place here, by this tree, where Tippit pulled over. He called Oswald over, then got out of the car, which I understand is bad police practice for some reason, and Oswald shot him. Somebody heard him say, ‘Poor damn cop,’ or ‘Poor dumb cop.’”

Wise also came up with another witness to the Tippit shooting years later. Jack Tatum was driving a half a block away and saw the shooting in his rear view mirror. He saw Tippit fall to the ground and the gunman shoot him again when he was on the ground. Tatum then thought, “My God, what’s going on in this city?” He took off and never told anybody, until years later.

“The proximity of al this to Ruby’s apartment is something I don’t think has gotten much attention,” Wise says, emphasizing the point. “Oswald was going in the general direction of Ruby’s apartment because there’s no way to get there in a straight line. See how close it is? It’s kind of remarkable.”

It’s about five or six blocks from the boarding house to where Tippit is shot and six more blocks to Ruby’s apartment, just across the Thornton Freeway.

 After Tippit was shot, the Warren Report claims that Oswald switched directions again.

“The Warren Commission claims that Oswald walked out of this alley, took off his jacket and left it under a car at the side of the building that is just across the street from the Hughes Funeral Home, where Tippit was laid out. There were so many police cars speeding along this street that a funeral procession had to be delayed for 20 minutes until the action died down.”

At the Hughes Funeral Home, we turn right onto Jefferson. “This is the main street of Oak Cliff,” Wise explains. “Now we’ve gone a long ways here – ten or twelve blocks. The other distance, between the rooming house and the Tippit murder scene was only five or six blocks, but now we’ve gone ten or twelve blocks. And he was walking. Now you have to put it into the context of the fact that radios were blaring out the fact that the suspect was in Oak Cliff.”

Oswald was mistakenly identified as being in the library (on the north side of Jefferson), where he was known to spend time, and a Church, which were both quickly surrounded by police.

Along a row of stores is the vestibule of what then was a shoe store where Oswald supposedly ducked in when a police car went by. The shoe store clerk thought that suspicious and watched this man go into the theater without buying a ticket. The ticket girl was standing out on the curb watching all of the police cars go by.

Also along here is the Top Ten record shop where Tippit ran in and made a quick call on the pay phone shortly before he was killed. It has never been established who he was calling.

TEXAS THEATER  

Pulling up to the curb Wise says, “Here’s the Texas Theater and the box office, which he walked passed without buying a ticket. The theater looks pretty much the same, although it was redone to accommodate Oliver Stone.”

“A World War II double feature was in progress, there were some kids in the balcony who were playing hooky from school, and fewer than a dozen patrons in the audience. At about 1:45 the ticket booth girl called the police to say that a man had entered the theater without buying a ticket, and within a few minutes no fewer than 15 police officers, two FBI agents and an assistant district attorney arrived at the theater. Some officers went to the stage with Johnny Brewer, the shoe salesman who saw a man acting suspiciously in the vestibule of his store. The houselights went up, but the film kept playing.”

“Brewer pointed out a man in the back of the theater as the officers came down the isle. Oswald was confronted, he stood up and got into a scuffle with officer McDonald, who wrestled a gun away from Oswald and punched him. ‘I’m not resisting arrest, I am not resisting arrest,’ Oswald screamed as he was dragged from the theater. Another patron was taken into a police car at the rear of the theater.”

“’I think we have our man on both counts,’ one of the arresting officers said as they pout Oswald into a patrol car.”

From the Texas Theater they took Oswald to Dallas City Hall for questioning in regards to the Tippit murder.

CAROUSEL CLUB – 1313 ½ COMMERCE STREET

On the way to City Hall you pass 1313 ½ Commerce Street, where Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club was once located, just across the street from the historic Adolphis Hotel. The area that used to be the Carousel Club is now a relatively new Bell Telephone building and a small park called Bell Plaza.

“There was a liquor store on the corner here at Commerce and Akard Streets and the Carousel Club was on the second floor,” Wise recalls. “I would take people out to dinner at the Pyramid Room at the Fairmount Hotel, one of the best places to eat, and then I’d take them to the Carousel Club. It’s just my nature to do this. I would take them from one end of the social spectrum to the other, and people would get a kick out of that.”

“You would go up these sleazy looking stairs. Most people would think you would have to knock twice and ask for Joe, but it wasn’t quite like that. You walked in and there was a type of box office where you paid an admission, a nominal fee, today it would be $4 or $5, then it was only $1 or $2. At the time, Ruby wouldn’t charge those of us in the press a cover. That was back in the days when it was perfectly acceptable for the press to get free admittance to a place like that. But I always bought my own drinks.”

“Dallas is a funny city and has a lot of peculiarities,” says Wise, “and I’m very proud of it, both as a former reporter and mayor. As a reporter I was the sports anchor on TV, but I went out and did a lot of hard news too, both because I wanted to and because I could also do camera work and radio. So I cold phone in a description for the radio and take a few pictures for the TV. And at a lot of those types of hard news events I’d see Jack Ruby on the site. He was one of those guys who was always there.”

“Nobody was really close to Jack Ruby, but of those of us who did know him, it was very difficult for us to imagine him in any sophisticated conspiratorial type of thing. He wasn’t that smart, he just wasn’t that bright. People come back and say that’s the guy you would get to be a patsy or scapegoat, and that’s true. I don’t deny that, but it’s difficult for us to take that.”

“Certainly the Carousel Club wasn’t the place to go, but it was a place to go especially if you were in town for a convention. You’re in town and you say, ‘What the hell, let’s go over there to that sleazy looking place.’”

DALLAS CITY HALL – DALLAS POLICE JAIL

Just down the street and around the corner from the site of the Carousel Club is the old City Hall and Dallas Police Jail.

“The old jail was on the top floor,” Wise explains. “It’s a very little, dinky place. It’s a holding tank until they can move prisoners to the county jail.”

That’s what they were doing when Ruby jumped out of the shadows and killed Oswald. They were just building the new City Hall when Wise was in office, and this is where he served as mayor from 1971 until 1976.

“I have heard some of the things that indicate Ruby may have entered through the ramp that I used to go to work everyday, or he might have gone up these steps and then down. He knew City Hall quite well, probably better than I did at the time. There is a debate as to how he got in there, but its all conjecture.”

“I think you have to have a picture of what it was like back then. First of all, there was no thing as real security back in those days. Today you have to sign in, get visitors passes and walk through metal detectors. Back then security was not like that. In addition, you had the Good Old Boys system between members of the press and the police. But we got quite a lot of good news tips that way too.”

“The most popular theory is that there was a cop out here at the top of the ramp who could have been directing traffic when Ruby slipped down the ramp. I was waiting for Oswald at the County jail, but if I had been here, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all to see Ruby. I’d have said, ‘Hi Jack,’ and he would have said, ‘Hi Wes,’ and I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. So the cop may have even recognized him and said, ‘Go ahead Jack, you’re harmless.’”

“Down the ramp there’s the doors and elevator where Oswald emerged. A car horn beeped, camera lights were on, flash bulbs lit up the scene, crowded with cops and newsmen. And Ruby jumped out of the crowd and shot Oswald in the stomach.”

EL CHINO RESTAURANT – OAK CLIFF

People may focus on President Kennedy when they think about the events of that weekend, but actually three people were killed – Kennedy, J.D. Tippit and Lee Harvey Oswald. The key to any one of those murders also unlocks the mystery of the other two.

A week to ten day after the assassination, just as things were starting to calm down, and people were getting back to their routines, TV sports anchor Wes Wise was supposed to give a talk on sports at the El Chino restaurant in Oak Cliff. The lunch and talk had been arranged weeks before, shortly after Kennedy’s visit was first announced.

“This was the El Chino restaurant,” says Wise. “It’s still a Mexican restaurant, but has a different name today. I was to give a speech on sports, but the whole town was still taking about the assassination, and they didn’t want me to talk about sports. It had been well known that I had interviewed Mrs. Paine and Mrs. Tippit and that I had the story where I traced all of Oswald’s steps, and it was pretty well known that I had talked to Ruby at the depository on the day after the assassination, so the audience, instead of talking sports, wanted my insights into the assassination.”

According to Wise, when the question and answer session began, a guy puts up his hand and says, “We have a mechanic over here at my garage, who says that he saw Lee Harvey Oswald sitting in a parked car right here in this parking lot, during that period of time right after the assassination, when radio stations were all saying that the suspect’s in Oak Cliff.”

Although Wise said he wanted to talk to him, the man noted the mechanic was a bit reluctant to talk.

As Wise puts it, “This is where my being a sports announcer was very beneficial to me in the coverage of this story, because people recognize me. So I went over there to this garage next door and met Mr. W. T. White, a nice little old man in coveralls, a regular mechanic type looking guy.”

“White said that he and his wife were watching TV on the night of the assassination when they brought Lee Harvey Oswald out at the police station. White said to his wife, ‘That’s the man I saw in the car over in the parking lot this afternoon.’”

“The car, he said, as parked against the far wall of the parking lot, behind a billboard. The car, facing Davis Street, was a ’57 Plymouth.”

“Now (he later) got the color wrong, but he got the model and the license plate number, which is an important part of the story.”

[BK Notes: The Red Ford first appears in an FBI document of an interview with White, a mechanic who would certainly know the difference between a Plymouth and a Ford. The FBI used the red Ford as an excuse to not interview Carl Mather - something they never did.] 

“You definitely identified him as Oswald?” Wise asked. “There’s no doubt at all. I said that to my wife, that’s the man I saw in the parking lot of the El Chino restaurant,” White responded.

White then showed Wise exactly where the car was parked and where he was standing when he walked over towards the car to watch the police cars going by at a pretty high rate of speed. He thought the guy looked suspicious, as if he were hiding or something. White said he walked closer and got a good look at him, but when the guy made some sort of motion in the car, he turned around and walked back towards the garage. He then took down the license plate number, and you can see the license plate number on my car clearly.”  

Incredulous, Wise asked White, “You took down the license number of the car? And he said, “Yea, I have it right here.”

“He reached into his shirt pocket and took out a piece of paper with the license number on it and I thought, ‘God, what have I fallen into?’”

White was still reluctant, and said, “Look, I don’t want to get into any trouble. We don’t know what this thing is all about.”

Wise said he had to use his best salesmanship. “Mr White, we’re talking about the President of the United States being assassinated here, and even for just patriotic reasons, I think you ought to let me know that number. And I’ll get together with our contacts in the FBI, and if anything comes out of this, you won’t be involved. But I can’t promise you that if something does come of it, you won’t be questioned, because I’m sure they will.”

So White handed Wise the piece of paper with the license number on it, and Wise copied the number and gave it to the FBI.

Considering the possibility it could develop into a big story, Wise told the FBI, “I said to them, ‘Look, we realize that if this turns out to be a big story, it’s everybody’s story. But we want first crack at it because we are giving you the information.’”

And the FBI agreed to that and said they would check into it. They found that a ’57 Plymouth with Texas plate number #PP 4537 was owned by one Carl Amos Mather, of 4309 Colgate Street, Garland, Texas.

According to Wise, “The FBI went out and checked it out, and what was really amazing to me was the car is right there in the driveway – a ’57 Plymouth. The mechanic may have gotten he color wrong, but he got the year, make and model right. Mr. White was an old man and might have been color blind or something.”

“They knock on the door and Mrs. Mather comes out. They ask Mrs. Mather where her husband was at the time of the assassination. She said he was working at Collins Radio, in nearby Richardson, Texas. The car, on the afternoon of Friday, November 22, at the time of the assassination, she believed, was in the Collins Radio parking lot. But later that afternoon, by 2 pm, it was at the Tippit residence. They were very close friends of J.D. Tippit, and his wife had called and said that her husband had been shot and killed, and would they please come over.”

“Now, to me, that coincidence is just mind boggling.”

“When the FBI came back to us, they played down all of this. They played it Down, Down. We asked them if they looked into it closely, but let’s put it this way – we would have thought that they would have looked into it more closely, and much more deeply than they did. The Warren Commission didn’t even interview me on this, although the House Select Committee on Assassinations did interview me, and quite extensively. They were extremely interested in it.”

When Mather sat down to dinner with Wes Wise and two CBS News editors, he was too nervous to eat. They asked him questions and tried to figure out what they too considered to be an amazing coincidence – the accused assassin of the President and a policeman, being seen in a car that belonged to a good friend of the policeman within an hour of the murder.  

Mather was interviewed by the Wise, the FBI, HSCA investigators, CBS News and researcher Larry Harris, but no one could get anything substantial out of him.

The HSCA investigator, Jack Moriarty, was an experienced big city homicide detective, but was faithful to the security oath he signed while working for the HSCA. He did say however, that he was just following the leads wherever they went, then submitted reports to Washington. The HSCA investigation he said, was tightly compartmentalized, so he didn’t know what the other investigators were doing in New Orleans or Miami. Only the committee’s chief counsel, “G. Robert Blakey knew the whole picture,” he said.

The HSCA issued a subpoena for Mather to testify under oath, giving him immunity from prosecution, but they never acted on it.  

The late Larry Harris knew more about the Tippit murder than anyone, even getting a job as a mailman just to get the neighborhood better. When Harris talked to him Mather said, “Look, I’ve talked with the FBI, to the police and the House Select Committee investigators, and I’ve told them everything. I just can’t explain it.”

According to Wise, “we tried to draw Mather out¸ but couldn’t do it. All Mather would say was, ‘put yourself in my shoes. I just can’t explain it.’”

But no one bothered to check out Mather’s alibi and go out and look more closely at Collins Radio Company of Richardson, Texas, a hornet’s nest of suspicious activity.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Case Studies No. 12 and 13 Cummins Catherwood and James Bond

Case Studies No.12 and 13 - Cummins Catherwood and James Bond

I first heard of Cummins Catherwood in a Philadelphia Magazine article on the many Philadelphia connections to the assassination of President Kennedy on a mid-1970s anniversary. Most JFK assassination researchers know that Gaeton Fonzi got his start writing for Philadelphia Magazine, but this particular article was written by Mike Malowe, and included an interview with Ruth Paine, who lived in Philadelphia at the time.

According to the story, Catherwood had a foundation that was suspiciously associated with the CIA, but at first, I couldn’t figure out how the Catherwood Fund was associated with Ruth Paine or the assassination.

Then I read in “The Invisible Government,” by Thomas Ross and David Wise, a footnote that included the Cahterwood Fund as one of the many foundations used by the CIA to dispense covert intelligence operational funds.

So the next time I visited the clipping morgue at the now defunct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, I checked out what they had on Cummins Catherwood and found a thick envelope of newspaper articles that referred to Catherwood.

Among them was an article that described him establishing the Catherwood Fund the same year the CIA was established and how he used the fund to build a boat – the schooner Vigilant, which he used for scientific expeditions that he wrote off as a tax expense. Another article concerned an expedition Catherwood took on the Vigilant to remote Caribbean islands and included four scientists – including James Bond, “whose main interest is birds.”

At first I thought it was a joke, and that one of the scientists used the alias of the world’s most famous spy as a prank, but then I looked at the date line of the article – 1948, years before Fleming wrote his book about James Bond – 007.

That night I visited a friend – Bill Vidka – the news director of the popular rock music radio station WMMR. As we sat around his living room playing records and drinking wine, I told him about reading Catherwood’s CIA affiliation, the Vigilant trip to the Caribbean and James Bond being aboard.

Vitka recalled having read that Ian Fleming took the name for his 007 hero from an American ornithologist – and when I got a copy of John Pearson’s official biography “The Life of Ian Fleming,” it contained the key reference that Fleming took the name for 007 from the author of the book “Birds of the West Indies,” a field guide by James Bond. It was a book Fleming kept on the breakfast table of his Jamaican retreat he called “Goldeneye,” where he wrote all of his 007 novels. Fleming said he chose the name because it sounded boring enough, but there is much more to the story.

So Ian Fleming took the name for his 007 spy from the author of the “Birds of the West Indies” book who sailed around the Caribbean with CIA bagman and covert operational bursar Cummings Catherwood.

I then read the Bulletin clipping file on James Bond and found that his wife Mary Wickham Bond had written a book on the subject – “How 007 Got His Name,” and obtained a copy of that book and Bond’s own “Birds of the West Indies.”

When I located him I took my copy of his book to his Chestnut Hill apartment, knocked on the door and was greeted by Mrs. Bond and asked if I could get Mr. Bond to sign my book.

She smiled and said, “Jimmy, there’s a young man here to see you.” Jimmy? I thought. Of course he is very American and not a British James.

I got to know James Bond pretty well, visiting him a half dozen times. When I asked him about Catherwood, he looked a little suspicious, and said he was a typical millionaire. From Mrs. Bond’s book I learned that Bond had been to Haiti during World War II and came across a German living in the mountains, and reported that to the FBI, but they seemed more suspicious of Bond being in Haiti than the German.

Bond was also at the Bay of Pigs a few months before the invasion in April of 1961, and from a bus driver, learned that there were many new roads leading to the swampy area, and I thought of this again when I saw British troops being briefed by a bird watcher about the local terrain of the Faulklands before they invaded those British island that had been taken over by Argentines. The CIA was probably negligent if they hadn’t queried Bond before the Bay of Pigs invasion.

In the end I came to realize that the real James Bond was a really good guy.

The same couldn’t be said for Catherwood.

Reading his clipping file I could tell what activities he was engaged in that were at the behest of the CIA. 

Catherwood and his wife went behind the Iron Curtain and visited the Soviet Union around the same time as Oswald was there.

Then there was the Catherwood Foundation’s sponsorship of the Cuban Aide Relief (CAR), that supported anti-Castro Cuban refugees – specifically professionals who had also opposed Batista. I believe that Julio Fernandez, (Case Study #1) the newspaper publisher who was relocated to Martinsburg, Pa. was one of those the CAR assisted.

According to the newspaper reports, Catherwood also supported the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia – a parish that Oswald’s wife was affiliated with in Dallas, and where she had her daughter baptized.

Catherwood also financially backed Catholic Cuban Welfare that established medical clinics for Cuban refugees in Miami, New Orleans and Dallas, the operation that Father Walter Machann was affiliated with when he associated with Silvia Odio and John Martino.

So Cummins Catherwood – the CIA’s bagman, was in the thick of things. 

JFKcountercoup: Catherwood Fund

JFKcountercoup: Cuban Aid Relief

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Case Study No. 11 - Henry Pleasants

Case Study No. 11 - HENRY PLEASANTS

Once Cummings Catherwood turned me on to James Bond, and I found Ian Fleming’s characterization of Catherwood in one of  his 007 stories, I kept re-reading Fleming’s work and came across another Philadelphia character among Fleming’s work in Henry Pleasants.

When 007 visits Harlem in one of the books – “Live and Let Die,” his CIA sidekick Felix Leiter tells Bond that he once used the cover of a music critic and wrote about classical music and jazz, which I found very similar to the description of Henry Pleasants as he was described in David Wise and Thomas Ross’ book “The Invisible Government.”

Former classical music critic for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and husband of Virginia Pleasants a Cello player for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Pleasants enlisted in the OSS during the war and served as a translator and debriefer. His most famous debriefing was that of former Nazi General Reinhard Gehlen, who would become chief of the West German Intelligence Service, at the behest of Allen Dulles and the CIA.

Like Cummings Catherwood and James Bond, Pleasants was also character Ian Fleming made fun of by casting him as Felix Leiter, 007’s recurring CIA sidekick.

Felix Leiter himself plays into the JFK story, as the last name is taken from a real person named Leiter whose wife was a Georgeown neighbor and friend of then Senator John Kennedy.

When Ian Fleming visited DC he knew and visited Mrs. Leiter. They were driving around the neighborhood when they came across Kennedy. Mrs. Leiter introduced Kennedy and Fleming, and Kennedy recognized the author of the James Bond novels.

Jackie was a voracious reader, and later became a book publisher, and she turned her husband and CIA director Allen Dulles on to the Fleming books.

And later when a magazine asked JFK's secretary Mrs. Lincoln for a list of President Kennedy’s favorite books, she added one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books to the list of primarily boring academic titles in order to make it appear he enjoyed more popular titles as well.

Either Mrs. Leiter or her husband’s family also owned the land on which the new CIA Headquarters was built in McLean, Virginia.

At dinner that night in Georgetown the subject of Fidel Castro came up and Kennedy asked Fleming what James Bond would do about Castro. “Ridicule him,” Fleming responded.

The next day CIA director Allen Dulles was himself informed of the dinner party by someone who was at the table and got a laugh out of it.

In 1990, when I was in London on my way back from Berlin where I was when the wall came down, I looked up Henry Pleasants in the London phone directory and called him from a pay phone. Mrs. Virginia Pleasants answered and said Henry was in Vienna at a music festival.

I explained to her that I was from the Philadelphia area, and wanted to interview Henry if that was possible. She said he would be in New York to give a lecture that I arranged to attend and met him in his hotel room the next day.

He was a bit surprised at the references to him in Fleming’s books – and after thinking about it for awhile he said that his wife played the cello in a chamber orchestra with Ian Fleming’s sister, and that was probably how he knew about Pleasants.

Pleasants also acknowledged debriefing Gehlen, but wouldn’t talk about it, saying that it was probably still classified info.

And indeed I is, as the late Carl Oglesby filed an FOIA request for the CIA and Army’s records on Gehlen, a civil suit that DC attorney Jim Lesar has kept going long after Oglesby’s death.


.          Carl Oglesby v DOD re: Nazi Gen. R. Gehlen - Lesar and AARC have continued this case since the death of Oglesby, and David Talbot writes extensively about Gehlen in his book The Devil's Chessboard.

       CARL OGLESBY, APPELLANT v. THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, ET AL., APPELLEES No. 94-5408 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUITb316 U.S. App. D.C. 372; 79 F.3d 1172; 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 5326 February 27, 1996, Argued PRIOR HISTORY: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 87cv03349). 


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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Case Study No. 10 - Richard Bullock - With Oswald at Atsugi




Bullock, Richard "Dick" A., - 80, of Somers Point, NJ went home to be with his beloved wife, and his Lord on Monday, April 8, 2019, surrounded by his loving family. Born in Atlantic City, NJ he was the son of the late Bart and Hazel (Orth) Bullock. Dick was a graduate of Atlantic City High School, class of 1956. 

Following high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After tours in Hawaii and Japan, Dick returned to the Atlantic City area and became an electrician for local Union 351 from which he retired. There, he met and married Paula and enjoyed 54 happy years of marriage together. Dick and Paula devoted their lives to each other, raising a family together and later in life, doting on 3 granddaughters, who were their pride and joy. 

Dick had many hobbies throughout his life including playing the piano, fishing, boating, playing golf, dancing, and most of all spending quality time with friends and family. Birthdays and special events were celebrated with gusto, whether it be for a 1-year-old child or a 90-year-old great-grandparent. He was the life of the party and never missed an opportunity to dance with the love of his life, Paula. It was not unusual for Dick and Paula to be the last ones on the dance floor at closing time. During the summer months, his home and pool were open to everyone and was the gathering place for family and friends all season long. His irrepressible smile, zest for life, and effervescent personality made everyone feel comfortable, welcomed, and at ease in his presence. Dick was an enthusiastic member of Elks Lodge #2563, Marine Corp League Garden State Detachment #1273, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Northfield, VFW Post #2189, life member of AMVETS Post 911, Bones Fraternity Atlantic City High School, and Special Olympics. 

He was always generous with his time and money, and never hesitated to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it. He volunteered at the LPGA golf tournament for many years and donated his time to numerous charities. The Marine Toys for Tots was a favorite charity he participated in with his Marine buddies. It gave him such joy to sort and deliver the toys and to spread holiday cheer to less fortunate children. Another favorite charity was his Elks Lodge where he participated in fundraising events as well as being with good friends doing good work. As an Eagle Scout, he was a fine example of leadership to young and old alike. He enjoyed being a Chaplain, pianist, buyer, electrician, and bartender for various charities. He also helped organize the annual flag burning event held each year on Flag Day at the Elks. 

Dick will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by his son, Dan (Erika) Bullock; granddaughters, Madelyn, Samantha, Jacqueline; and sister, Paula (Frank) Finnerty. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Paula Jean Bullock; and brother, Daniel B. A. Bullock. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend Dick's Life Celebration Funeral Service on Saturday, April 20, 2019, at 11:00 am at Jeffries and Keates funeral home, 228 Infield Ave., Northfield, NJ. A visitation will be held at Jeffries and Keates on Friday night from 6:00-8: 00 pm and on Saturday at 9:00 am until the time of service. Burial will be at Atlantic City Cemetery on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at 10:00 am. Donations may be made in Dick's memory to Toys for Tots at https://atlanticnj.toysfortots.org. To pay respects, leave condolences, or share your fondest memory of Dick please visit www.jeffriesandkeates.com. Services have been entrusted to Jeffries and Keates Funeral Home 609-646-3400.

BK NOTES: I met Dick at an Elks Lodge barbeque and thanked him for his service in the USMC. When he mentioned being stationed at Atsugi I asked if he knew Oswald and he said of course he did. They used to throw the football around in the skivies while off duty. One thing Bullock said was Oswald spent more time in the Communications Shack than at the radar.

Here's the story I wrote in 2003  for the Ocean City Gazzette where I was working at the time.

With Oswald at Atsugi.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP ELK OF THE YEAR WAS OSWALD’S BUNKMATE


 By William Kelly

Richard Bullock, the 2003 Elk of the Year of the Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey Lodge has a unique claim to fame – he was once a marine corps bunkmate of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President Kennedy. And he has some questions about Oswald’s identity, as he doesn’t believe the guy Jack Ruby killed in Dallas is the same person he knew as “Ozzie” in Marine Air Control Squadron One in Japan.

Born in 1938 on November 10th, the same day the U.S. Marine Corps was founded at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Bullock, like Oswald, tried to enlist before he was 17 but was turned away, only to officially sign up on November 28, 1955. As he later learned, Bullock followed Oswald around to the same duty stations, only a few months behind him – Kessler AFB in Beloxi, Miss., then Jacksonville, Florida for aviation training, El Toro in California before Atsugi, Japan, where he served from November, 1956 until February, 1958.

 For a number of months his time at Atsugi overlapped with that of Lee Harvey Oswald, who Bullock said, “I knew him as L. Oswald, or `Ozzie,’ and he knew me from the name on my shirt: R. Bullock, but he called me `Dickie.’ We didn’t know each other’s real names, just what was on the uniform.”

Atsugi is not your normal military post. As a former Kamakazi pilot training center with deep underground bunkers, all of the major intelligence agencies maintained stations there from the end of World War II. Atsugi airbase was also the home of the U2 spy plane, which Bullock monitored on radar.

“I was a radar operator – MOS#6741, which is radar operator, but from what I recall Ozzie was a radio electronics operator. He was not in the radar section as much as he was in the radio communications end of our system.”

Asked if Oswald had access to information on the U2, which he could have passed on to the Soviets once he defected, Bullock said, “I can’t answer that. I didn’t know a thing about it other than watching what they did when it landed. And I didn’t know what his job with the U2 was other than visually watching it when it landed. People would run out on the runway and catch the wings, because it hadno wheels, just a wheel at the center and they had to hold it from tipping But that’s all we ever seen. If he knew more about it than I did, well I don’t know that. Like I say, he was at a different end of things than I was.”

They did share the same Atsugi bunkhouse though. “That was Marine Air Control Squadron One – MACS1 we called it, 75 men in our unit. I was there for 30 months, an extended tour…Oswald operated out of a tent that supplied all the power – the Communications Coordinates Operations Center, and I don’t know what else he did.  I worked out of radar operations. I did plotting, communications with the aircraft, we did different jobs, rotating shifts every hour.”

Atsugi , Bullock explained, is the name of the base that’s flanked by two towns – Sagomeoska on the Navy side and Yoma (spelled phonetically) on the Marine Corps side. Bullock doesn’t recall the Queen Bee nightclub that Oswald is said to have frequented, or the incidents where Oswald was reprimanded.
“I do know that when we went on liberty, he went his way and we went our way. He was a loner,” said Bullock, “but to be honest with you I don’t know where he went. The rumor had it that he had a `national’ women, and a `national’ to me in those days meant a Japanese women.”

Besides serving together at Atsugi, Bullock and Oswald were both involved in a major operations in the Philippines, where they landed in LSTs at Subic Bay.

As a person, Bullock recalls that Oswald, “was always smiling, always happy,” but he didn’t recognize Oswald when he watched him being killed by Jack Ruby in the Dallas Police department and on national television on November 24, 1963.

“He was NOT the guy I saw in the picture on TV shot by Jack Ruby,” Bullock says emphatically. Looking at a color mug shot of Lee Harvey Oswald taken shortly after he was taken into custody by the police, Bullock said, “It looks nothing like him. That’s not the man I knew.”

Bullock described the “Ozzie” he knew in the marines as being two or three inches taller, 40 pounds heavier, and a young man wore thick glasses.

Since Bullock didn’t know him as Lee Harvey Oswald, or recognize him on television, he didn’t put two-and-two together until he was contacted by Readers Digest editor Henry Hurt, who tracked him down through military records. Hurt wanted to know if Bullock had any photos of Oswald. “Sure I had photos,” 

Bullock said, “pictures of me and Ozzie sitting around in our skivvies on a Sunday afternoon, throwing a football around, and stuff like that. But it was all lost in a divorce when I moved.” Nor has Bullock been questioned by the FBI or any government investigators.

While Bullock didn’t recognize any of the names of the marines who also knew Oswald at Atsugi, he said, “I’ve looked in the various veterans magazines for reunions of any MAC squads, but I haven’t seen any. The guys I was close to have already passed away, and I never had a reunion with any of them.”

Not aware of the books written about individuals impersonating Oswald, such as Professor Richard Popkin’s “The Second Oswald,” or the idea that there were actually two Lee Harvey Oswalds, a theory advanced in  John Armstrong’s new book “Harvey & Lee,” Bullock expressed surprise. “You mean I’m not fantasizing?!”

Armstrong’s How the CIA Framed Oswald,” mentions Dick Bullock in a footnote to the profusely documented text that claims that two men – Harvey and Lee, were reared and trained from an early age and their identities merged over a period of years leading up to the assassination, much like Leon Trotski’s assassin Raymond Mercader was fashioned by the KGB. 

 Dick Bullock doesn’t know what it all means. The way he looks at it, when you live with a guy, work beside him for weeks and months at a time, you get to know him, and the guy Jack Ruby killed in Dallas wasn’t the “Ozzie” he knew in the marines.

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