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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