Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Sequoia & the JFK Assassination

NARA Record Number: 124-10369-10008

MR. W. C. SULLIVAN February 12, 1965



On February 8, 1965, Mr. Leonard Niederlehner , Acting General Counsel, and James J. Kearney, Assistant General Counsel (Administration), Department of Defense, advised that at 1:15 p.m., on that date, an individual identifying himself as Sam Berzon called from Duluth, Minnesota, area code 218, telephone number 826-1677.

Berzon asked specifically for the General Counsel’s Office and was referred to Kearney. Berzon claimed to be a former classmate of Commander Ismay, the former Commander of the “Sequoia,” the yacht of the Secretary of the Navy. According to Berzon, Ismay called him on February 7, 1965, and sought his advice as to whom he should contact concerning information in Ismay’s possession that the former Secretary of the Navy Fred Korth and Bobby Baker had entertained party girls aboard the “Sequoia”; also information that Ismay allegedly has implicating Korth in the assassination of President Kennedy.

Berzon stated he was interviewed last summer by a Secret Service Agent C. A. Schaefer (phonetic) regarding Korth’s involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy.

Berson said that he had suggested that Ismay get in contact with the General Counsel ‘s Office at Defense first, and this was due to the purpose of Berzon’s call to get the General Counsel of Defense to talk to the General Counsel at Treasury.

Mr. Niederlehner identified Ismay as Lieutenant Commander Arthur P. Ismay, formerly Commanding Officer of the “Sequoia” and presently assigned to the Defense Language school, Washington D.C. He resides at the Capatol Park Twin Towers, telephone 732-4232. Niederleher stated that Defense has no plan to contact Berzon and does not propose to comply with his request. They believe Berzon may be a mental case based on his call but wanted to make this information available to the Bureau because of our possible interest from the standpoint of the Bobby Baker and Presidential assassination investigations.

Sam Berzon is in all probability identical with Samuel P. Berzon, who was the subject of an extortion case in our New York City office in which Elaine Gotskind was the victim during the period 1958-1960 of numerous nonspecific threats from Berzon who had rejected her as a suitor in favor of Raymond Reilly. An attorney familiar with Berzon’s threats described him as mentally ill and in need of psychiatric attention. A member of the New York City Police Department advised that Berzon is known to him as a person of obviously mental instability who has been carrying on a personal vendetta against Reilly, a former New York City police officer. Berzon has written the Bureau and other Government agencies making charges of collusion and malfeasance against New York City officials regarding explosions in New York City during October-November, 1960. His correspondence was not acknowledged because of his apparent mental instability.

Bureau files have no pertinent information on Ismay.


The story concerning Korth’s involvement in an assassination plot has been publicly voiced on a number of occasions by the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald and has no substantiation. In view of Berzon’s apparent mental instability, previous baselss allegations he has made, and the fact that his current allegations about party girls are not of substantive significance in our investigation of Baker, it is not believed we should become involved in this matter


If approved, Liaison will advise Niederlehner that the Bureau does not propose to undertake investigation of this matter. Niederlehner will be furnished background data concerning Berzon.

End of document.

Bill Kelly Notes: While Berzon's information is discredited by the NYPD, they fail to bother to question Ismay, even though they have his address and phone number.

Berzon's information however, does check out in a number of ways, especially in regards to Ismay, who was the Commander of the Sequoia at the pertinent period of time.

Captain Arthur Peter Ismay
Commander of Sequoia - July 1962 - June 1964.
Defense Language Institute - Washington D.C.
Married Mary C. Carns, daughter of Maj. Gen. Carns, US Army
Commander of Swift Boat Squadron one - Vietnam.
Asst. Special Warfare Officer Officer of Chief Naval Operatations
University of Rochester - Systems Analysis
After military service Ismay worked for Rockwell International (which merged with Collins Radio, of Richardson, Tx.)

The Defense Language Institute is of peculiar interest to those who study the assassinatoin of President Kennedy because Lee Harvey Oswald is said to have been affiliated with the school while he was in the Marines, shortly before he defected to USSR. In addition, two other subjects involved in the assassination - Richard Case Nagel and Ralph Meyers, were also students at the Defense Language Institute at Monterey.

The Commander of the DLI at the time was Col. James L. Collins, who went on to found the DC school where Ismay was stationed after leaving the "Sequoia."

Ismay's commander at the DC DLI would have been Colonel James L. Collins, Jr., who was born in El Paso into a family steeped in Army tradition. The North Dakota National Guardsmen went ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day, served in Vietnam and in Korea. "A linguist who was fluent in French, Italian, German and Spanish, he was a former commanding officer of the Army language school at Monterey, California, and from 1959 to 1962 was the first director of a coordinated Defense Language Institute in Washington. He also spoke some Russian and was an intelligence officer at times during his career." http://www.arlington...jlcollinsjr.htm

Then there's Colonel Samuel Stapleton, the former commander of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calf. who became director of the New Orleans Trade Mart in the 1980s.

It is also telling that after leaving the Navy Ismay would become a top Vice President to defense contractor Rockwell International, the company that merged with Collins Radio, another company with a number of suspicious connections to the assassination. (See: Collins Radio Connections)

While Berzon may have been a mental case, his information about Ismay was correct, as was his information about the parties held on the "Sequoia."

In fact, JFK's last birthday party was held on the "Sequoia," while docked at New York City, a few hours after Marilyn Monroe sang happy birthday Mister President at Madison Square Garden.

And it would seem that if JFK and Jackie had parties on the "Sequoia," that others did too, including RFK and Korth, the Secretary of the Navy who was permitted to resign when it was revealed that he used Navy stationary to do Continental Bank Business and had parties for bank officers aboard the boat.

One headline reads: "Letters Show He Proposed Cruise for Bank Clients"
- New York Times - Nov 10, 1963
Similarly, Mr. Korth's letters to prospective clients of his bank in Fort Worth, ... invitations to dinner and a cruise aboard the small Navy yacht Sequoia,...

RFK and Jackie: Six months after JFK's death, during a May 1964 dinner cruise on the presidential yacht the USS Sequoia, Bobby and Jackie "exchanged poignant glances" before disappearing below deck, leaving Ethel upstairs. "When they returned, they looked as chummy and relaxed as a pair of Cheshire cats," according to Schlesinger.

LBJ got the message, and apparently used the "Sequoia" for his business and pleasure as well.

So, while Berzon was branded a nut case, much of his information on Ismay, Korth and the use of the "Sequoia" for parties checks out, as well as his calling attention to the apparently random bombings in New York City in October and November 1960, which were never solved even though there were 600 NYPD cops assigned to the case.

1960: The Sunday Bomber sets off a series of bombs in New York City subways and ferries during Sundays and Holidays, killing one woman and injuring 51 other commuters.

1. Buckley, Thomas (November 7, 1960)."Bomb in IND Car Kills Woman and Hurts 18 at 125thSt. Stop".The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2008.
2. Hailey, Foster (October 13, 1960)."Bomb Injures 33 at Times Sq. Shuttle".The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2008.
3. "'Sunday Bomber' Hunted by 600 New York Cops".Jet. November 24, 1960.Retrieved October 19, 2009.
4. "Third Sunday Bomb Rips Staten Island Ferry Deck".The New York Times. October 24, 1960. Retrieved December 2, 2008.

Berzon was also in the army in Japan at he end of the war:

Capt. Samuel P. Berzon of Duluth was enlisted in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 305th Infantry, 77th Division of the Army from March 17, 1945 to Nov. 20, 1946. While stationed in Hokkaido, Japan, as a Rifleman in October, 1945, Berzon tells of this close call: “Our Regimental Commander was Col. Winthrop Rockefeller who later became Governor of Arkansas. We were told to proceed to a suspected Chinese slave labor camp high in the mountains of central Hokkaido. The Chinese were forced to work in a salt mine. It was unknown as to how many Japanese troops were still there. This would be the last patrol of World War II, but we never got there. During the course of our march with full field equipment along a dirt road, we paused and took a ten-minute break. I immediately dropped my equipment and headed for a nearby apple orchard filled with ripe, golden apples. I plucked two or three apples from the trees and relaxed along the roadside. My buddy said he was going over to the shin to shrine across the road with his camera to take pictures. I told him I would join him later after finishing my apples. Soon a jeep came roaring up with the Company First Sergeant and driver, he exclaimed to my buddy, ‘Soldier, what are you doing in there?’ He mumbled something about taking pictures. He was then placed under security and whisked off to Division Headquarters. He was given a General Court Martial and sentenced to a lengthy period with a chain gang on Okinawa. It was a close call. Thank God I was just eating an apple. We turned back to our units in the Sapporo area.”

But the clincher is Tom Scully's discovery that Berzon and Ismay were US Naval Academy classmates, who graduated in 1951, shortly before Ismay was assigned to Quantico.

So it is possible that Ismay called Berzon to ask his advice on how to deal with his knowledge of Korth and the assassination.

Greg Parker also I believe this is the Secret Service agent Berzon said interviewed him about Korth:

Further reinforcing the idea that Berzon was a reliable witness, rather than the mental case the NYPD, FBI and Defense Dept. lawyers made him out to be.

Also note the primary recipient of the memo is W.C. Sullivan, which in itself should tell you something.

Tom Scully also points out that Fred Korth, as a Fort Worth attorney, represented Oswald's stepfather in the divorce from his mother, and that John Connally had passed on the letter Oswald sent him from USSR to Korth after Korth replaced him as Navy Secretary.

The FBI docs that Tom posted from Mary Ferrell indicate that Oswald's mother called the FBI, and noted some deep background information on Fred Korth, including the fact that after 27 years of marriage he got a divorce on April 27, 1963, making it even more possible that he and Bobby Baker had Party Girls over on the Sequoia.

There is also mention of Oswald mentioning Korth sometime during the course of his interrogation, which I don't remember, but very well could have happened.


Fred Korth was born in Yorketown, Texas, in 1909. His older brother, Romeo Korth was instrumental in implementing rural electrification for South and Central Texas.

During the Second World War he served in the Air Transport Command. By 1945 he had reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel. After the war he worked as a lawyer in Forth Worth, Texas. He joined the Democratic Party and worked with John Connally in helping Lyndon B. Johnson in his 1948 election campaign.

In 1952 Harry S. Truman appointed Korth as Assistant Secretary of the Army. He worked under Frank Pace. Both men left office in 1953. Pace became chief executive of the General Dynamics Corporation in Texas. Korth returned to his law practice. He also became director of the Bell Aerospace Corporation. The chairman of the company, Lawrence Bell, was a fellow member of the Suite 8F Group. Korth also became president of the Continental National Bank of Fort Worth. This was one of General Dynamics bankers.

In the last few months of the administration of Dwight Eisenhower, the Air Force began to argue that it needed a successor to its F-105 tactical fighter. This became known as the TFX/F-111 project. In January, 1961, McNamara, changed the TFX from an Air Force program to a joint Air Force-Navy under-taking. On 1st October, the two services sent the aircraft industry the request for proposals on the TFX and the accompanying work statement, with instructions to submit the bids by 1st December, 1961. Three of the bids were submitted by individual companies: the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, the North American Aviation Corporation and the Boeing Company. The other three bids represented team efforts: Republic Aviation & Chance Vought; General Dynamics Corporation & Grumman Aircraft; and McDonnell Aircraft & Douglas Aircraft.

It soon became clear that Boeing was expected to get the contract. Its main competitor was the General Dynamics/Grumman bid. General Dynamics had been America’s leading military contractors during the early stages of the Cold War. For example, in 1958 it obtained $2,239,000,000 worth of government business. This was a higher figure than those obtained by its competitors, such as Lockheed, Boeing, McDonnell and North American. More than 80 percent of the firm’s business came from the government. However, the company lost $27 million in 1960 and $143 million in 1961. According to an article by Richard Austin Smith in Fortune Magazine, General Dynamics was close to bankruptcy. Smith claimed that “unless it gets the contract for the joint Navy-Air Force fighter (TFX)… the company was down the road to receivership”.

General Dynamics had several factors in its favour. The president of the company was Frank Pace, the Secretary of the Army (April, 1950-January, 1953). The Deputy Secretary of Defense in 1962 was Roswell Gilpatric, who before he took up the post, was chief counsel for General Dynamics. The Secretary of the Navy was John Connally, a politician from Texas, the state where General Dynamics had its main plant.

Connally left the job in January 1962 and John F. Kennedy now appointed Korth as Secretary of the Navy. According to author Seth Kantor, Korth only got the job after strong lobbying from Lyndon B. Johnson. A few weeks after taking the post, Korth overruled top Navy officers who had proposed that the X-22 contract be given to Douglas Aircraft Corporation. Instead he insisted the contract be granted to the more expensive bid of the Bell Corporation. This was a subsidiary of Bell Aerospace Corporation of Forth Worth, Texas. This created some controversy as Korth was a former director of the company.

Korth also became very involved in discussions about the TFX contract. Korth, was the former president of the Continental Bank, which had loaned General Dynamics considerable sums of money during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Korth later told the John McClellan committee that investigated the granting of the TFX contract to General Dynamics “that because of his peculiar position he had deliberately refrained from taking a directing hand in this decision (within the Navy) until the last possible moment.”

As I. F. Stone pointed out, it was “the last possible moment” which counted. “Three times the Pentagon’s Source Selection Board found that Boeing’s bid was better and cheaper than that of General Dynamics and three times the bids were sent back for fresh submissions by the two bidders and fresh reviews. On the fourth round, the military still held that Boeing was better but found at last that the General Dynamics bid was also acceptable.” Stone goes on to argue: “The only document the McClellan committee investigators were able to find in the Pentagon in favour of that award, according to their testimony, was a five-page memorandum signed by McNamara, Korth, and Eugene Zuckert, then Secretary of the Air Force.”

Robert McNamara justified his support for General Dynamics because “Boeing had from the very beginning consistently chosen more technically risky tradeoffs in an effort to achieve operational features which exceeded the required performance characteristics.”

The TFX program involved the building of 1,700 planes for the Navy and the Air Force. The contract was estimated to be worth over $6.5 billion, making it the largest contract for military planes in the nation’s history.

On 24th October, 1962, Seth Kantor reported in the Fort Worth Press that: “General Dynamics of Fort Worth will get the multibillion-dollar defence contract to build the supersonic TFX Air Force and Navy fighter plane, the Fort Worth Press learned today from top Government sources.”

This was confirmed the following month when the Pentagon announced that the TFX contract would be awarded to General Dynamics. Henry M. Jackson was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Government Operations Committee and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He learned that: “Boeing’s bid was substantially lower than its competitor’s. Reports indicated Boeing’s bid was $100 million lower on an initial development contract and that the cost difference might run as high as $400 million on the total $6.5 billion procurement.”

On 12th December, Lyndon B. Johnson visited Forth Worth to join in the festivities at the General Dynamics plant. Congressman James Wright, the Texas Democrat representing the Fort Worth district introduced Johnson as the “greatest Texan of them all”. He pointed out that Johnson had played an important role in obtaining the TFX contract. Wright added “you have to have friends and they have to stick with you through thick and thin even if you do have merit on your side.”

During the McClellan's Permanent Investigations Committee hearings into the contract, Senator Sam Ervin asked Robert McNamara “whether or not there was any connection whatever between your selection of General Dynamics, and the fact that the Vice President of the United States happens to be a resident of the state in which that company has one of its principal, if not its principal office.” At this point McNamara was close to tears and commented that: “Last night when I got home at midnight, after preparing for today’s hearing, my wife told me that my own 12-year-old son had asked how long it would take for his father to prove his honesty.”

McNamara rejected the idea that Lyndon B. Johnson was involved in the decision but evidence was to emerge that he did play an important role in the awarding of the TFX project to General Dynamics. For example, William Proxmire found some interesting information on the TFX project while investigating the role played by Richard Russell in the granting of the C-5A contract to Lockheed. The C-5A was built in Marietta, Georgia, the state that Russell represented. The Air Force Contract Selection Board originally selected Boeing that was located in the states of Washington and Kansas. However, Proxmire claimed that Russell was able to persuade the board to change its mind and give the C-5A contract to Lockhead.

Proxmire quotes Howard Atherton, the mayor of Marietta, as saying that “Russell was key to landing the contract”. Atherton added that Russell believed that Robert McNamara was going ahead with the C-5A in order to “give the plane to Boeing because Boeing got left out on the TFX fighter.” According to Atherton, Russell got the contract after talking to Lyndon Johnson. Atherton added, “without Russell, we wouldn’t have gotten the contract”.

On 26th June, 1963, Clark R. Mollenhoff managed to interview Robert McNamara about his role in awarding the TFX contract to General Dynamics. McNamara claimed that Johnson had applied to political pressure on him concerning the contract. He admitted that he knew all about Fred Korth’s business relationship with General Dynamics and Bell Aerospace. He also revealed he was aware of Roswell Gilpatric’s role “as a lawyer for General Dynamics just prior to coming into government, the role of Gilpatric’s law firm in continuing to represent General Dynamics, and the amount of money Gilpatric had received from the law firm since becoming Deputy Defense Secretary”. However, he was convinced that this did not influence the decision made by Fred Korth and Roswell Gilpatric.

John McClellan, chairman of the Permanent Investigations Committee, continued looking into the activities of Billie Sol Estes and Bobby Baker. During this investigation evidence emerged that Lyndon B. Johnson was also involved in political corruption. This included the award of a $7 billion contract for a fighter plane, the TFX, to General Dynamics, a company based in Texas. When it was discovered that the Continental National Bank of Fort Worth, was the principal money source for the General Dynamics plant. As a result of this revelation Korth resigned from office in October, 1963.

On 22nd November, 1963, a friend of Baker's, Don B. Reynolds told B. Everett Jordan and his Senate Rules Committee that he saw a suitcase full of money which Baker described as a "$100,000 payoff to Johnson for his role in securing the Fort Worth TFX contract".

John McClellan, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee investigating the TFX contract said that he wanted to interview Don B. Reynolds. However, for some reason the subcommittee did not resume its investigation until 1969, after Johnson had left office.

After resigning as Secretary of the Navy, Korth worked as a lawyer in Washington. In 1969 he was elected to the board of OKC Corporation in Dallas. Later that year Fred Korth's daughter Verita Korth, supposedly killed herself with a 20 gauge shotgun.

Fred Korth died in El Paso in September 1998. He is buried under a three century old Texas Live Oak tree on his ranch in Karnes County, Texas.


Mark A. O'Blazney said...

A GREAT piece! Thank you very much for this.

William Kelly said...

I thought I had updated this, but I have been in contact with Ishmay and believe him that he did not have knowledge of a Korth conspiracy.

Susan said...

Like Kathleen Connally, did verita Forth find out about her fathers connection with the Kennedy assassination?