OSWALD, BANNISTER FERRIE
Oswald in New Orleans,
Historian Dr. Michael L. Kurtz was a student at Louisiana State
University in New Orleans during the 1962-63 school year. In 1958,
LSU-NO, now the University of New Orleans, became one of the first
racially integrated universities in the South. One of the most vocal
opponents of that decision was W. Guy Banister. It is now common
knowledge that Banister recruited LSU-NO students to spy on fellow
students and faculty members, and Banister himself made frequent visits
to the campus to make his feelings known.
One day in May 1963, Michael Kurtz attended an informal meeting in an
unoccupied LSU-NO classroom where Guy Banister debated a number of
students on the issue of integration. Banister was introduced by an LSU
student named George Higganbothan. Kurtz knew of Banister; he'd seen
him on campus on perhaps a half-dozen occasions to this and would see
him a few times more. Guy Banister brought a young man to the meeting with him;
Banister introduced the young man as Lee Oswald. Banister debated
integration with the students, arguing for a return to full segregation
and criticizing the group for attending an integrated school. While
Banister tangled with the pro-integration collegiates, Oswald seemed to
fade into the background, and -- to the best of Kurtz' recollection --
said nothing. "If he did," Dr. Kurtz says, "I didn't hear him" (Author's
interview of October 5, 1998).
George Higgenbothan told Kurtz that Oswald and Banister made a second
visit to LSU, however, and the second time it was the alleged leftist
OSWALD who argued passionately against desegregation (Interview with
Michael L. Kurtz, December 2, 1998). Higgenbothan had told the Orleans
Parish DA's office in 1967 that he indeed had known Oswald (Garrison
Kurtz saw Banister and Oswald together once more, when he was working
that summer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, located across the street
from the Newman Building at 544 Camp Street and 531 Lafayette. One day in
July or August, Kurtz walked across the street to Mancuso's, the coffee
shop on the first floor of the Newman Building, to get a cup of coffee.
Guy Banister and Lee Harvey Oswald, just the two of them, were sitting at
a table together. Banister recognized Kurtz and waved, and Kurtz waved
After the assassination, Kurtz informed the FBI of Oswald's connection to
Banister. "They didn't seem too interested," he says. Kurtz wrote a book
about the assassination in 1978, Crime of the Century: The Kennedy
Assassination from a Historian's Perspective, in which he mentioned the
incident in passing. (The book was reissued in 1993 with some new
material; the Oswald-Banister incidents are discussed on pages xxxviii-xl
of the introduction.)
During our interview, Kurtz referenced the network of spies that Banister
riddled the campus with; he pointed out to me that George Higganbothan is
mentioned in Hinckle and Turner's book, which indeed he is: "George
Higganbothan, one of Banister's collegiate undercover agents, recalled
that when he kidded his boss about sharing a building with people
papering the streets with leftist literature, Banister snapped, "Cool it
-- one of them is mine" (Hinckle and Turner, Deadly Secrets, 234-35;
citing several 1967 interviews with George Higganbothan). The House
Select Committee on Assassinations confirmed that Banister investigated
students at LSU for the anti-Catsro Cuban Revolutionary Council, with
whom he shared an office for several years (10 HSCA 127).
Dr. Kurtz contacted the FBI with his knowledge and was brushed off. He
has never used this story for personal or financial gain. In the first
edition of Crime of the Century, the incident is mentioned only in
passing, and the 1993 edition enlarges upon the early description only
slightly, primarily in response to Oliver Stone's JFK, which cast
Banister as one of the assassination conspirators. Dr. Kurtz has no axe
to grind; he believes that Oswald's relationship with Banister is
certainly significant in relation to the dual myth of Oswald as a Marxist
or communist and a loner, but in the 1993 introduction to his book, Kurtz
states, "I myself saw Lee Harvey Oswald and Guy Banister together in New
Orleans, but I thought nothing of it at the time [of the assassination],
and I still do not. No one has produced the slightest scintilla of
evidence linking Banister to the assassination" (Kurtz, xiii). Kurtz'
description of his sightings of Oswald and Banister occupies about a half
page of text, and nowhere is there even a trace of hyperbole about it to
be found in the promotional copy; Guy Banister's name does not appear in
the back cover copy, and the LSU-NO event is accidentally omitted from
Kurtz has conducted a great amount of research on Oswald's summer in New Orleans
and some of his findings will be discussed below.
Who Was Guy Banister?
According to an autobiographical sketch, William Guy Banister was born in
a log cabin in Monroe, Louisiana, on March 7, 1901. He attended Louisiana
State University and Soule College in New Orleans. He was recruited as an
investigator by the Monroe Police Department, then became a patrolman on
December 2, 1929. Months later, the Monroe Police Superintendent asked
him to take a stenography course, after which he was brought on as
secretary to the Superintendent with sergeant's pay. He soon advanced to
the position of Chief of Detectives. On November 5, 1934, he was sworn in
as a Special Agent for the Justice Department's Division of
Investigation, which soon changed its name to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation. He was sent to Indianapolis, then in 1935 was transferred
to New York City. He worked around the northern US on special assignment for
about three years, working alongside Special Agent George Starr.
Starr was the FBI's top man in investigating subversives, meaning largely
leftist activity. Starr spoke fluent Russian; his father had been a horse
trainer for the Czar. Starr familiarized Banister with the activity of
the Communist Party, and notes that Starr is credited with developing the
FBI's anti-Communist investigations. Banister writes, "After I was
promoted to SAC [Special Agent in Charge], it was my duty to supervise
the work of Special Agents assigned to such activity. It was also my duty
to develop and supervise those people commonly called informers. To be
more specific, we might say that they were counterspies sent in to report
on the activities of the Party members. That was part of my duty
throughout the nearly 17 years I served as SAC" (FBI #62-103863-13;
Weberman Web site [www.weberman.com]).
In May 1938, Banister was promoted to Special Agent in Charge of a
Division at the FBI's Newark, New Jersey office. In August he was
transferred to Butte, Montana, where he was promoted to Special Agent in
Charge of the whole office. In October 1941, Banister was transferred to
Oklahoma City for two years, then returned to Butte, where, by his own
account, he remained SAC until September 1952 (Ibid.).
In September 1952, Banister was moved for a short time to Minneapolis,
then to Chicago in January 1954. At the end of that year he left the FBI
under somewhat mysterious circumstances and accepted a position in
January 1955 with the New Orleans Police Department. In New Orleans he
joined Maurice Gatlin's Anti-Communist Committee of the Americas. At the
invitation of Mayor DeLesseps Morrison, Banister stepped up to the
position of Assistant Superintendent of the NOPD. Morrison assigned him
to investigate police corruption. The reports of his performance are
mixed, and he was soon demoted, on June 27, 1956. The controversy that
erupted from his corruption probe could be taken as a sign of either
great failure or great success. Three days later Banister got in an
altercation with several police officers at a New Orleans nightclub, and
he was arrested when he pulled a gun. Banister offered to resign from the
NOPD the following day, but was instead suspended. He picked up his
corruption investigation upon his return, and by August 1956 had hinted
that as many as 150 NOPD officers might be indicted for malfeasance or
taking bribes. On March 1, 1957, Banister was accused of being drunk and
pulling a gun in a French Quarter bar (FBI #61-3176-A; Weberman). He was
again suspended, but appeared as a witness a few days later before a
grand jury investigating graft in the NOPD (Weberman).
In March 1957, Guy Banister testified before the Joint Legislative
Committee on Segregation of the Lousiana State Senate, which was
investigating the alleged influence of Communism upon racial unrest and
the civil rights movement. It was around this time that the First
District Americanism Committee of the American Legion issued a statement
"high in praise of Guy Banister for his work against Communism in New
Orleans." Banister delivered an illuminating sermon to the Joint
The great danger from the Communist Party [of America] lies in [the] fact
that its homeland is outside the borders of the United States . . . If
the Communist Party was not backed by the great empire -- the empire of
Russia -- and it's an empire, in spite of the fact that it is called the
Union of Soviet Republics [sic]. We know Russia, not only from reading
intelligence and counter-intelligence reports, which I would like to
avoid remembering as much as possible. . . . We know the nature of the
land and the people of the land. . . . She is a nation at war all the
time and for all times. The modern phase of Russia, commonly associated
with Peter the Great, really began in the late 15th century. Then there
intervened two and a half centuries of Mongol yoke. From her ancient
past, Russia seems to have inherited a state of mind and an institution,
the conviction that they are chosen to inherit the earth, and are hence
always in the right . . . Russia has always exploited to the fullest
every advantage she could secure from espionage and subversion . . .
Espionage is the second oldest governmental activity of man. The first is
law enforcement. You may adopt as a premise the dialectic of any of our
historians as the creation of the proto-social mechanism, but immediately
upon its coming into being, two problems were presented -- the
maintenance of internal order of law enforcement, and the protection from
the outside groups, which is espionage. The oldest military treatise we
have was published about 500 BC by Sun Tzu. [Note: Sun Tzu was the first
writer to detail the arts of intelligence and espionage.] We scream if
espionage is used against us for two reasons. We are not trained to think
in that manner and we have been sold on the idea that it is dirty
business. . . . [T]he use of spies is approved by Jehovah, and I don't
see how we can well object. The woman, Rahab, Joshua's 'cut-out agent' in
Jericho, lived in a house on the wall. That portion of the wall did not
fall, when the walls came tumbling down. Russia has made espionage, which
is the war between the wars, into a fine art. Lenin said one day that . .
. every Communist should be a spy. They believe in it. They are guided in
their actions by it. . . . Communists within the Party are expected to
spy on one another, and to report to higher authorities any serious
deviation from the established party line, or any breach of Communist
loyalty to the revolutionary goal. When the Communist Party seizes
control of a nation, it directs its espionage system against all who
oppose Communism. Freedom of the opposition ceases. In this sense it
becomes a police state. Opponents of Communism are tagged with various
labels such as spies, assassins, and wreckers, who must be destroyed. . .
. Communists . . . direct their espionage system against foreign nations
as a part of their effort to overthrow all non-Communist social orders,
so that a world-wide Communist society can be erected . . . Every member
of the Lousiana Communist Party, a component part of the Communist Party,
is a Soviet agent. The Communist Party [of America] is an agency of the
Soviet government. . . . We are vulnerable to sabotage by the use of
germs. A few highly trained men can knock out a great city like New
Orleans. . . . Some queer things have happened over here, and I am sure
no one is positive, but test runs have been made. We are particularly
vulnerable to smuggled atom bombs. . . . They can be triggered, set off
by a radio wave, or in several other manners. I know that it is possible
and comparatively easy to assemble one of them, and New Orleans is a key
city in the southland. . . . I recall one outbreak of 'hoof and mouth
disease' which occurred in dairy herds of Canada. Legally, it was not
possible to establish it was done -- planted there. But an intelligence
officer is never quite satisfied with a legal definition. And I have
talked to many men. You can't be certain. . . . We have the example of
the 'wheat stem rust' which hit Durham wheat in eastern Montana and
western Dakota [sic] . . . In that case I talked to the nation's leading
plant pathologists in the field. We don't know where the spores came from
(Records of the Joint Legislative Committee on Segregation of the
Louisiana State Senate; Weberman).
Banister's point was that what "germs" and "spores" are to animal and
plant life, integration is to the societal structure of the US. It was
part of a plot formulated by Stalin and the Communist Party to create
"dissension between the races" (Ibid.).
Banister was back to work at the NOPD on June 1, 1957, where he was
demoted to the Planning Department, refused the position, and was fired.
He made numerous public allegations of corruption in the NOPD, the DA's
office, and the Mayor's office. In 1958 he testified before a Special
Committee of the Arkansas State Legislature studying civil unrest; he
claimed that the Communists had provoked the rioting that followed in the
wake of the desegregation of Little Rock's public schools. Banister's
brother Ross told A. J. Weberman in 1993 that he suspected some of Guy's
difficulties with his superiors stemmed from "sort of secret detective
work" he was doing on his own, and as his problems increased, so did his
drinking. He left his wife Mary and had a series of minor strokes. Upon
leaving the NOPD, he opened up Guy Banister Associates, a private
detective agency that was, in reality, a front for Banister's brand of
counter-intelligence directed at suspected spies, subversives,
Communists, integrationists (see Communists), and assorted leftists. We
have documents showing that in August 1960, the CIA was considering using
Guy Banister Associates as a source of foreign intelligence and as a
"cover mechanism" for unspecified activities (Weberman).
Initially located in the Balter Building on St. Charles Avenue, Banister
opened up part of his office to Sergio Arcacha Smith, the New Orleans
delegate of the CIA-sponsored Cuban Revolutionary Council. For a short
time a former NOPD associate of Banister's, Joseph Oster, was involved
with Guy Banister Associates. Oster told A. J. Weberman in 1993, "There
was [sic] phone calls come in [sic] from the CIA Director at that time. I
wanted to say [Allen] Dulles, but that's not it. Yes, I heard the name
[E. Howard] Hunt [CIA liaison officer with the CRC, future Bay of Pigs
planner and convicted Watergate conspirator]. You see, all of the files,
even the ones we had, suddenly disappeared . . ." When Banister moved to
the Newman Building at the corner of Camp and Lafayette Streets in late
1959, the CRC moved with him. In 1978, Joseph Oster told House Select
Committee investigator L. J. Delsa that he left Banister's office when it
became clear that Banister wasn't interested in the actual private
investigations being run out of the office, which were only a front.
Oster said that Banister's real work revolved around the investigation of
subversives; he recalled the office working closely with the American
Security Council and Fidelafax, a private intelligence firm founded and
operated by ex-government agents. He noted that a good amount of
Banister's funds came in the form of checks from the Remington Rand
Corporation, long ago exposed as a major CIA front operation (HSCA
interview of January 17, 1978; Weberman). Following the first public
exposure of Jim Garrison's interest in Banister (by then deceased) in
relation to his JFK assassination probe, the CIA circulated an internal
memorandum stating that while Banister had been of interest to the CIA in
1960, consideration of his agency as a front mechanism was dropped
shortly thereafter due to unfavorable reports received from the field
(CIA Report of March 8, 1967; CIA #1338-1052).
According to the New Orleans States-Item, Guy Banister was a key man in
supplying arms for the ill-fated "Bay of Pigs" invasion of Cuba
(States-Item, April 25, 1967), an operation coordinated entirely by the
CIA, from whom Banister secretary and mistress Delphine Roberts remembers
Banister receiving a great amount of funds in the early '60s (Summers,
Dr. Philip Melanson writes, "It is now known that the Agency's
operational presence [in New Orleans] in 1963 was extensive. In order to
administer its array of Cuban exile groups and activities, as well as to
monitor international shipping in the port of New Orleans, the CIA
established a very large domestic station -- one of the key stations in
the country. A distinguished New Orleans attorney is believed to have
served as station chief in the early 1960s. His name has never been
publicly revealed; neither (to the author's knowledge) has he ever been
questioned by any official investigation" (Melanson, *Spy Saga,* 37).
Although he had officially retired from the FBI, Delphine Roberts says
Banister was still working in some capacity for the Bureau at 531
Lafayette Street (Summers, ). This is supported by a 1967 CIA document,
declassified in 1983, which named Banister as an "FBI Contact" (Hurt,
Reasonable Doubt, 290fn.); as well as a statement made by Jerry Milton
Brooks, a former Minuteman and a Banister employee in the '60s. Brooks
told Warren Hinckle and William Turner in 1969 that "Banister collected
information on the left from every imaginable right-wing source" and that
Brooks himself "regularly couriered this data over to the New Orleans FBI
office, which incorporated it into its files." Brooks also named Banister
as the Minutemen's Louisiana coordinator (*Hinckle and Turner,* Deadly
Who Was Delphine Roberts?
Delphine Points Roberts traced her lineage back to Jeb Stuart on her
mother's side, and was a member of the Daughters of the American
Revolution and the Daughters of the Confederacy. She told the House
Select Committee on Assassinations that she "became concerned about our
country when President Roosevelt and his Negro wife, Eleanor, got the US
into the United Nations, which has its charter based on the Communist
Manifesto" (NARA #180-10075-10292; Weberman).
She married and divorced twice; Roberts was the name of her second
husband. He was an active and virulent anti-communist and
anti-integrationist, and her demonstrations had been noted in several
nation news media as well as in Pravda. She ran in a 1962 primary for a
New Orleans City Councilman-at-Large position. Platform statements were
noted at the time by a law enforcement official. Delphine Roberts pledged
to work toward the preservation of the White race as well as the
separation of church and state; she was against such organizations as
CORE, NAACP, Save Our Schools, etc., "which have as their goals the
integration and mongrelization of the races"; she was anti-communist; she
was against the United Nations, "because by association with this
organization, the US is giving aid and comfort to the enemy," presumably
communist countries; she was opposed to the utilization of public
building space, rent free, by the League of Women Voters, which she
"considers to be a Communist organization"; she was opposed to the
integration of the New Orleans Police Department and Fire Department; she
was "opposed to the utilization of Federal aid," presumably for
communists, alleged communists, blacks, etc.; she was opposed to "the
integration of public facilities, such as parks, playgrounds, etc." as
well as public transportation and "sanitary facilities"; she was opposed
to fluoridation of water; she was opposed to urban renewal; she pledged
to work for a city ordinance prohibiting "communism or any left-wing
activities from taking place within the city limits of New Orleans"; and
she condemned The Diary of Anne Frank as a "filthy book, which students
should not be permitted to read" (Ibid.).
In 1962, Roberts was a speaker at the first meeting of the Catholic White
Layman's League. Discussing the trials of the anti-integrationist
protester. In April, she and two other women picketed St. Patrick's
Catholic Church one Sunday morning to protest the desegregation of
Catholic schools. In May, she and a number of women as well as five
children picketed outside the home of Archbishop Rummel; she carried a
sign that read, "Caroline Kennedy is segregated -- excommunicate her
father." She and others picketed for segregation outside the St. Rose of
Lime School on September 4. She told the HSCA that she had "joined the
New Orleans White Citizens Council and attended some PTA meetings trying
to prove the integration of our schools was a communist plot to destroy
our country." She noted she'd been excommunicated from the Catholic
Church. She had investigated the Black Muslims and other "anti-American"
groups for the Louisiana Sovereignty Commission. She corresponded with
Senator Eastland of the House Un-American Activities Committee and other
congressmen. She said she had exchanged several personal letters with J.
Edgar Hoover and several of his assistants (Ibid.).
In 1961 or early '62, she, her sister and her mother constructed a booth
on Canal Street draped with American and Confederate flags, which they
manned for several days, playing patriotic march tunes over a
loudspeaker, denouncing the United Nations, and admonishing citizens to
show more respect for their flag(s). Another party covered their
expenses, but she said she couldn't remember who. The police were called,
presumably by Canal Street merchants "who are all Jews." No one was
arrested, but the women were requested to set a date that they would
desist. It was on this occasion that she happened to meet W. Guy
Banister, who stopped by to admire her family's patriotic efforts. She
volunteered to join his "private investigation" office when she
discovered that "he was working for what she believed in." She did
secretarial work, and prided herself on her work with Banister's files,
which she stated had one of the "largest and most complete files of
communists and fellow travelers" in the US (Ibid.). She also became Guy
Banister's mistress until he died in 1964. Two weeks after the
assassination, Roberts told another Banister secretary, Mary Brengel,
that Oswald had been to the office (Ibid.).
In Case Closed, author Gerald Posner spends three pages attempting to
discredit Delphine Roberts, first by quoting her views on race and
religion (Posner, 140), then dismissing her story -- given under oath to
the House Select Committee of Assassinations and to journalist Anthony
Summers, among others -- as simply "unreliable" (Ibid., 141). In regard
to Anthony Summers, Posner quotes Roberts as saying, "I didn't tell him
all the truth." The remark, innocuous enough on its face -- she didn't
tell Summers the whole story; big surprise -- happens to lack a source
citation. Ms. Roberts' statement that every Japanese "should have been
wiped off the face of the earth" receives a citation ("Interview with
Delphine Roberts, March 17, 1992"). Her intriguing claim to "being one of
the very few, since the beginning of the world, who has ever read the
sacred scrolls that God himself wrote and gave to the ancient Hebrews for
placing in the Ark of the Covenant" receives a citation ("Ibid."). But "I
didn't tell him all the truth" does not rate even a footnote, as does,
say, Posner's confirmation that Roberts was indeed Guy Banister's
mistress. Then, without furnishing a direct quotation, Posner writes,
"She claims the only reason she told him the story she did was that
Summers, then shooting a television documentary, paid her money" (Ibid.).
He quotes Roberts as saying, "He did give us $500 eventually, and they
did take us to dinner. We did enjoy the dinner" (Ibid.). Again, no
citation. Then, without a direct quotation, he writes, "John Lanne, a
former Banister friend and attorney, acknowledges that Roberts refused to
speak to Summers unless she was paid" (Ibid.).
Perhaps to avoid a costly libel suit by an internationally respected
journalist, the self-described "Wall Street lawyer" includes -- in a
footnote -- a response from Summers: "Anthony Summers told the author
that he had met with Delphine Roberts at John Lanne's office. There,
Lanne, whom Summers 'thought to be fairly mad, certainly odd," pulled a
pistol from his desk, waved it in the air, and told Summers he could not
interview his client, Delphine. Summers drove Delphine home from that
meeting, and during the ride, 'she suddenly, more or less, broke up, put
her hands to her face, and said, "Mr. Summers, look, why should I bottle
this up?"' She then told him the story he wrote in his book. FOLLOWING
THAT DISCUSSION [emphasis added], Summers told Roberts that he wanted to
do an interview for television. He says that 'several days later, at the
urging of her daughter, Delphine, Jr., a big fat lady [Summers' words,
not Posner's], she agreed to do the interview, not for $500, but if I
rightly recall, for $250 to $300.' Summers says, 'Just so you know, the
general tariff I make is that I DO NOT PAY PEOPLE TO DO INTERVIEWS FOR
THE BOOK, EVER [emphasis added], but I do regard television interviews as
a different thing' (Interview with Anthony Summers, May 31, 1993)"
So according to Posner, who cites interviews in *Case Closed* that
several of his subjects say never occurred (two examples being JFK
autopsy pathologist J. Thornton Boswell and key assassination witness
James Tague), Delphine Roberts only talks for money. Yet she told
essentially the same story she told Summers to the Dallas *Morning News*
with no payment whatsoever, just as she testified under oath to the same
facts before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, who were also
not in the habit of paying witnesses. In 1982, Roberts affirmed to author
Henry Hurt not only that Summers' published account of her interview was
accurate (Hurt, Reasonable Doubt, 292), but also that her decision to
talk followed "an upsetting confrontation with her own lawyer" (Ibid.),
supporting Summers' recollection which was unpublished until 1993.
Posner brushes aside the supporting testimony of Delphine Roberts, Jr.,
as "equally untenable"* (Posner, 141), but he fails to mention that
virtually every statement of the two Roberts women is corroborated by
either Allen Campbell, Daniel Campbell, David Campbell, Jack Martin,
William George Gaudet, or Dr. Michael L. Kurtz.
*Posner mocks Delphine Roberts, Jr., for saying she met Marguerite Oswald
at 531 Lafayette Street, and that "she was lovely." Posner points out,
correctly, that Marguerite Oswald -- as far as we know -- did not step
foot in New Orleans during 1963 [Posner, 141]. While this one statement
alone hardly annihilates the younger Delphine's credibility, his author
humbly suggests, based on the hundreds of documented factual and
typographical errors in Posner's book, that it may be Mr. Posner who has
the story wrong, as the elder Delphine Roberts says she did meet MARINA
Oswald on one occasion. For hundreds of examples of Posner's errors, see
the Electronic Assassinations Newsletter at:
Banister had files on much more than left wing groups, however. A partial
index of his files received by the New Orleans DA's office in 1967 --
long after the files themselves has been dispersed -- reveals some of the
files maintained at 531 Lafayette Street:
American Central Intelligence Agency Ammunition and Arms
Anti-Soviet Underground B-70 Manned Bomber Force
Civil Rights Program of JFK Dismantling of Ballistic Missile
System Dismantling of Defense, US Fair Play for
Cuba Committee International Trade Mart Italy, US Bases Dismantled in
General Assembly of the United Nations Latin America Missile Bases
Dismantled -- Turkey* and Italy
(*It has been widely reported that, during the Cuban Missile Crisis of
1962, President Kennedy agreed to remove anti-Soviet ballistic missiles
from Turkey in exchange for Khrushchev's pledge to permanently keep
Soviet missiles out of Cuba.)
From his 531 Lafayette Street address, Banister published the Louisiana
Intelligence Digest, an anti-integrationist periodical which proclaimed
desegregation as a Communist plot -- a view privately espoused by one J.
Edgar Hoover -- and attacked President Kennedy for his "pinko" support of
civil rights (Hinckle and Turner, 231).
"Several times Oswald was seen entering Banister's second floor office.
One of Oswald's co-workers at the Reily Coffee Company saw Oswald and
Banister walking together on Camp Street. One person remembers seeing the
two at a White Citizens' Council meeting. Two people remember Oswald as
one of the participants in a discussion of the racial issue. The
discussion, which took place on the campus of Louisiana State University
in New Orleans, involved Oswald and Banister debating federal integration
policies with a number of students" (Michael L. Kurtz, "Crime of the
Century," 203; Author's interview of October 29, 1998).
"If Oswald was simply a pro-Castro Marxist, as the Warren Commission
claimed, it is curious that he would have spent so much time in the
company of Guy Banister. Banister's well-known extremist views, as well
as his close association with anti-Castro and anti-Communist elements
hardly make him the ideal companion for Lee Harvey Oswald. Yet, all known
accounts of Oswald and Banister together agree that the two men were
friendly and cordial with each other and expressed similar political and
social viewpoints" (Kurtz, 203).
Is it conceivable that Oswald could have been a right-winger posing as a
left-winger? Contrary to what the Warren Commission and Gerald Posner
would have us believe, a number of Oswald's New Orleans acquaintances
describe him as a right-winger. Yet his public activities - such as his
leafletting events allegedly on behalf of the Fair Play for Cuba
Committee and his appearances on WDSU radio's "Latin Listening Post" --
are uniformly that of a left-winger. Is it possible that Oswald had been
using his left-wing stance as a cover for other activities? That is
precisely what statements from a number of New Orleans witnesses - such
as Delphine Roberts, Delphine Roberts, Jr. (see Summers), and George
Higgenbothan (Hinckle & Turner, Deadly Secrets, 234-5) suggest.
Do we have any evidence that Oswald was capable of that kind of
deception? Indeed we do.
Oswald's Intourist guide Rimma Shirakova says that Oswald spoke not a
word of Russian upon his arrival in Russia in October 1959 (Norman
Mailer, Oswald's Tale, 43). Retired General Igor Ivanovich Guzman of the
KGB's Counter-intelligence directorate informs us that the KGB bugged
Oswald's residences and placed him under close surveillance to monitor
his conversations to see if he was faking his ignorance of Russian, as
knowledge of Russian would be a tip-off to a probable connection to US
intelligence. The alleged defector was very carefully watched to
determine if he spoke Russian upon his arrival, or if he took to the
language unusually easily later on. The KGB concluded he was not faking
(Ibid., 71). Oswald states in his own "Historic Diary" that he spoke no
Russian upon his arrival, and learned all he later knew by studying "two
self-teaching Russian language books" eight hours a day in his Moscow
hotel room while he awaited news of his citizenship status (Diary entry
of November 17 to December 30).
Yet it is a fact that Lee Harvey Oswald spoke excellent conversational
Russian no later than the summer of 1959, as evidenced by the statements
of Rosaleen Quinn, who had intensively studied Russian with a Berlitz
tutor for two years, and who found Oswald to speak Russian much more
fluently than she did (Epstein, 374-5). Even as far back as February 25,
1959, when Oswald was tested on his Russian by the Marines, he scored
just under fifty percent -- not bad for a supposed beginner, and already
enough to speak at least the handful of phrases the average tourist
memorizes before a trip to a foreign country. But Shirakova's
recollection couldn't be more specific: "He didn't seem to know a single
word in Russian" (Mailer, 43).
Oswald deceived not only every one of his acquaintances in the USSR but
also the KGB agents who were SPECIFICALLY listening in for signs that
he'd spoken Russian prior to his arrival in the Soviet Union. Why? If
Oswald were merely the pro-Communist, pro-Russian young man he claimed to
be, why would he not proudly display his proficiency with Mother Russia's
language at the earliest possible moment? Would he not be anxious to be
accepted by the Soviets -- both his acquaintances and the officials who
would decide whether or not he could remain in the USSR? And would he not
suspect that familiarity with their language could potentially facilitate
Oswald - whether through training or by instinct -- was capable of
sophisticated acts of deception. Just as he played the role of innocent
abroad in the Soviet Union, he spent the late spring and summer of 1963
in New Orleans playing the role of pro-Castro leafletter for media
consumption - and somehow there seemed always to be a member of the media
on-hand with a camera or tape recorder - while off-stage palling around
with some of New Orleans' most radical right-wing extremists and arguing
their brand of politics with college students at LSU and elsewhere.
"One feature of Oswald's five-month sojourn in New Orleans that has never
been revealed is the fact that he made several trips to Baton Rouge in
the summer of 1963. According to witnesses, Oswald accompanied a
prominent leader of the White Citizens' Council and of other
segregationist organizations to Baton Rouge six or eight times in July
and August. These witnesses met Oswald, who was introduced to them as
"Leon" Oswald. Oswald's companion, who was a personal friend of two of
these witnesses, stated that he was employing "Leon" to do construction
work for him. Oswald, however, was not dressed in work clothes; he was
wearing what appeared to be 'dressy clothes.' Furthermore, Oswald and his
companion engaged in discussions which included criticisms of American
foreign policy as being 'soft on Communism' and of United States
civil-rights programs. On their last visit to Baton Rouge, the two men
were accompanied by two 'Latins,' neither of whom said anything to them"
(Kurtz; based upon confidential interviews, "Lee Harvey Oswald in New
Acting on a tip from a New Orleans researcher who requests anonymity,
this author asked Dr. Kurtz if the "prominent leader of the White
Citizens' Council and of other segregationist organizations" that
accompanied Oswald to Baton Rouge numerous times was Kent Courtney, a
close personal friend and associate of Guy Banister's and publisher of
the ultra right-wing *Independent American.* Dr. Kurtz confirmed that it
was (Interview of December 2, 1998). Courtney once mentioned to an
associate that Oswald had applied for a position with the *Independent
American* (15 H 720-1), something he later denied.
Is Dr. Kurtz a credible source?
Dr. Michael L. Kurtz is a professor of history at the Southeastern
Louisiana University, Hammond. He is the author of Louisiana: A History,
and Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination from a Historian's
Perspective, as well as a former associate editor for Readings in
Louisiana History and a contributor to other scholarly historical
journals. He is a two-time winner of the Williams Prize in Louisiana
History, presented by The Historic New Orleans Collection and the
Louisiana Historical Association, for his 1981 article, "Organized Crime
in Louisiana History: Myth and Reality," and his 1990 book, Earl K. Long:
The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana, co-authored with Morgan D. Peoples.
The Tulane Connection
On January 6, 1961, Guy Banister drew up the charter for the Friends of
Democratic Cuba, a fund-raising arm of the CIA-backed Cuban Revolutionary
Front. Vice-President was onetime Oswald employer Gerard Tujague. The
Front was an attempt by the CIA to unify the many dozens of Cuban exile
groups springing up in Miami and New Orleans. The Friends of Democratic
Cuba soon merged with the Cuban Revolutionary Front while E. Howard Hunt
-- by his own account in his memoir, *Give Us This Day,* was the Front's
Chief Political Officer.
A CIA document states that the Friends of Democratic Cuba folded after
only one month (CIA #1338-1052; Weberman), which would mean that it was
up and running just long enough to send two men named "Joseph Moore" and
"Lee Oswald" to the Bolton Ford Dealership to look into buying a number
of trucks for shipment to Cuban rebels. (Lee Harvey Oswald was in the
USSR at that time; see Reitzes, "Constructing the Assassin, Part 2.") In
two documents juxtaposed in A. J. Weberman's Web site, we find the CIA
and FBI pointing fingers at each other of the issue of the late Guy
Banister: The CIA reported that two of Sergio Arcacha Smith's "regular
FBI contacts" were SA Warren de Brueys and "the deceased Guy Banister"
(CIA #1363-501; Banister had OFFICIALLY resigned from the FBI many years
before Arcacha Smith moved from Miami to New Orleans); while the FBI
reported that "Banister was also active in the [CIA-affiliated] Cuban
Revolutionary Front" (FBI #62-105198-5; 5 HSCA 129; Weberman). Weberman
notes that a great deal of CIA and FBI documents on Banister are still
heavily censored; an example is the FBI report that reads: "Banister
related that he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of
Democratic Cuba, which he describes as a charitable organization
chartered under Louisiana State law whose primary purpose is to lend
assistance to Cuban exiles. In response to inquiry, Banister stated that
he [CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED]. Banister stated that he did receive
[CENSORED] from [CENSORED]. His purpose would then be to furnish such
information to [CENSORED]. In addition to the above, Banister remarked
that [CENSORED] is hired by him as a part-time [CENSORED]. He explained
that [CENSORED] is interested in ascertaining the political sympathies of
Cuban and other students attending TULANE UNIVERSITY [emphasis added].
This is of interest to Banister in connection with his interest in the
Louisiana State organization known as the State Joint Legislative
Committee on Un-American Activities" (Weberman).
Banister -- along with those whose interests he served -- was interested
in infiltrating Tulane University just as he had Louisiana State
University. Do we know the name of any one of the individuals recruited
for this effort? Not necessarily; but we may have a clue.
The morning after Harvey Oswald's August 9, 1963, arrest in New Orleans
for creating a disturbance with Carlos Bringuier and others, Oswald was
interviewed by Lieutenant Francis L. Martello. Martello reported:
Oswald was asked how many members of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee
were in the New Orleans Chapter and he stated there were 35. I asked him
to identify the members of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New
Orleans and he refused to give names of the members or any identifying
data regarding them. Oswald was asked why he refused and he said that
this was a minority group holding unpopular views at this time and it
would not be beneficial to them if he gave their names. Oswald was asked
approximately how many people attended meetings of the New Orleans
Chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and he said approximately
five attended the meetings, which were held once a month. He was asked
where and he said at various places in the city. He was asked
specifically at what addresses or locations were the meetings held and he
stated that the meetings were held on Pine Street. He was asked at whose
residence the meetings were held and he refused to give any further
information. It should be noted at this time [that] during prior
investigation conducted, while I was a member of the Intelligence Unit
[of the NOPD], information was developed that Fair Play for Cuba
Committee literature was found in the 1000 block of Pine Street, New
Orleans, which was near the residence of Dr. Leonard Reissman, a
professor at TULANE UNIVERSITY [emphasis added]. This investigation was
conducted by me.
As I remember, Dr. Reissman was reported to be a member of the New
Orleans Council of Peaceful Alternatives, which is a 'ban the bomb' group
recently established in the city and had conducted meetings meetings and
two or three demonstrations in the city. Knowing that Dr. Reissman was
reportedly a member of the New Orleans Council of Peaceful Alternatives,
I thought there might be a tie between this organization and the Fair
Play for Cuba Committee.
When Oswald stated that meetings of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee had
been held on Pine Street, the name of Dr. Reissman came to mind. I asked
Oswald if he knew Dr. Reissman or if he held meetings at Dr. Reissman's
house. Oswald did not give me a direct answer to this question, however I
gathered from the expression on his face and what appeared to be an
immediate nervous reaction that there was possibly a connection between
Dr. Reissman and Oswald; this, however, is purely an assumption on my
part and I have nothing on which to base this. I also asked Oswald if he
knew a Dr. Forrest E. La Violette, a professor at Tulane University. I
asked him this question because I remembered that La Violette allegedly
had possession of Fair Play for Cuba literature during the year 1962. . .
. . . I asked him again about the members of the Fair Play for Cuba
Committee in New Orleans and why the information was such a big secret;
that if they had nothing to hide, he would give me the information.
Oswald said one of the members of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New
Orleans was named "John" and that this individual went to TULANE
UNIVERSITY [emphasis added]. He refused to give any more information
concerning the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (10 H 55-56).
Wesley J. Liebeler took Lt. Francis Martello's Warren Commission
Mr. LIEBELER. . . . [In the report] you indicate that Oswald had told you
that there were about 35 members of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee here
in New Orleans. Did you have any reason to question that statement?
Mr. MARTELLO. I didn't believe it was a true statement because of the
fact that there was very little activity, to my knowledge, of the Fair
Play for Cuba Committee in the city of New Orleans, and since it was such
a new organization, or which appeared to me to be a new organization in
the city, it didn't seem likely there would be 35 members in the
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you ever become aware of the existence of any other
member of the group in New Orleans --
Mr. MARTELLO. No, sir.
Mr. LIEBELER. Other than Oswald?
Mr. MARTELLO. No; other than information that had been developed that
there were some possible connections. However, there was no basis in fact
that any other person, to my knowledge, was a member of the Fair Play for
Cuba Committee. This particular man, Oswald, was the first person that I
have come in contact with that I knew for a fact stated he was a member
of the Fair Play for Cuba.
Mr. LIEBELER. He is not only the first person you came in contact with
who indicated he was a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, but he
is the only one that you ever saw or heard of in the city of New Orleans?
Is that correct?
Mr. MARTELLO. That is correct.
Mr. LIEBELER. . . . Your report refers to a professor at Tulane
University by the name of Dr. Leonard Reissman. Did the department, to
your knowledge, conduct any investigation of Dr. Reissman in an attempt
to associate him with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee or to determine
whether or not he was associated with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee
here in New Orleans?
Mr. MARTELLO. Not to my knowledge, sir.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you have any personal knowledge of the background of Dr.
Reissman, other than as set forth in your memorandum?
Mr. MARTELLO. No, sir.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you know what he teaches at Tulane University?
Mr. MARTELLO. No, sir; I do not.
Mr. LIEBELER. Further on in your report there is a reference to another
professor at Tulane by the name of La Violette, and you indicate on that
you had some recollection that this professor allegedly had possession of
Fair Play for Cuba [Committee] literature in 1962. Do you remember any of
the details of that?
Mr. MARTELLO. No, sir; I do not.
Mr. LIEBELER. Was there any investigation conducted of this particular
professor in an attempt to determine whether he was associated with
Oswald in any way?
Mr. MARTELLO. No, sir; there was not.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did Oswald indicate to you in any way that he himself knew
either of these two professors or any other professor at Tulane
University, or had ever had anything to do with them or with other
Mr. MARTELLO. He did not indicate by name, but there was a meeting place
on Pine Street, the 1000 block of Pine Street in New Orleans, where there
were meetings held.
Mr. LIEBELER. This is meetings of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee?
Mr. MARTELLO. No, sir. . . . Just meetings by other groups. There was no
indication of any names, but I had asked him if he held his meetings on
Pine Street, and he reflected -- only in gesture that there was some, or
there appeared to be some connection between the two, but it is mere
speculation on my part (10 H 58-60).
If, as Lt. Martello said, Fair Play for Cuba Committee literature was
found on the 1000 block of Pine Street, by Dr. Reissman's home, and -- as
we know -- there was no Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans, only
Oswald's fraudulent one-man "chapter," it is a logical conclusion that
this FPCC literature must have come -- directly or indirectly -- from Lee
Harvey Oswald or an associate.
One researcher who noticed the Tulane connection is Peter Dale Scott.
Scott notes that Martello's memorandum entered in the record during his
Warren Commission deposition -- and which was not written up at the time
of Oswald's August 10th interview with Martello, but rather prepared for
the Warren Commission in the spring of 1964 from Martello's August 10
notes -- differed slightly from the report that Martello dictated to the
Secret Service following the assassination (26 H 763). In this report he
emphasized that FPCC leaflets had been found near Sr. Reissman's home on
the 1000 block of Pine Street, and that Reissman frequently entertained a
Dr. James Dombrowski, noting that both men were "said to be active in the
integration movement." He observed that Reissman and Dombrowski's lawyer
were affiliated with the Quaker-associated liberal group, the New Orleans
Council for Peaceful Alternatives (NOCPA). Martello reportedly told the
Secret Service that an FPCC pamphlet "had blown out of Dr. Reissman's
car" (Ibid; Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, 262).
On November 23, 1962, anti-Castro operative and FBI informant Alexander
Rorke had given a lecture at Tulane University. At the end of Rorke's
lecture, he got into a heated argument with a Tulane professor, one
"Robert Reissman" (FBI #97-4623-179; Weberman). The relevant report
states, "On November 26, 1963, [CENSORED] New Orleans, [CENSORED
(Reissman)] advised that he had engaged in no activity in New Orleans in
furtherance of the aims of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, with the
possible exception of [CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED]" (Ibid.).
Scott notes that Oswald "also told his aunt [Lillian Murret] that he had
been to the Reissman home, and he told someone else that his FPCC
organization 'was affiliated with Tulane University' (10 H 68)." Scott
also observes that Carlos Bringuier, Oswald's DRE opponent in the street
fracas, had already targeted the NOCPA as pro-Communist and pro-Castro.
After the Kennedy assassination, the Louisiana Joint Legislative
Committee on Un-American Activities quickly issued a press release
linking Oswald and the FPCC to Dombrowski's organization, the pro-civil
rights, pro-integration Southern Conference Educational Fund. Scott adds
that his personal interviews of Dr. Reissman's widow have convinced him
that Oswald and Reissman had no contact whatsoever; in fact, in the
spring and summer of 1963, Dr. Reissman was on leave from Tulane
University to a research center at Stanford University of California.
Mrs. Reissman also said that her husband had no association with James
Dombrowski; it was she herself who infuriated local racists by arranging
an integrated birthday party of seven-year-olds at her daughter's school
Whether Oswald knew Reissman or not -- and whether or not he indicated to
Lt. Martello that he did -- he DID apparently tell his aunt, Lillian
Murret, that he did. She told the Secret Service that Oswald had
"mentioned that he knew, or was acquainted with, Dr. Reissman" (26 H 766;
Scott, 263). Interestingly, she went on to link Oswald and Reissman to
another professed integrationist (and Quaker), Ruth Paine: "It was her
impression that Oswald came into contact with Dr. Reissman through the
Russian woman [sic]. Mrs. Murret stated that one of the two [Oswald or
Ruth Paine; this could not be Marina because Marina spoke no English to
Mrs. Murret] told her that Dr. Reissman had a daughter who was studying
in Russia (26 H 766; Scott 263-64). Murret told the Warren Commission,
"He also said that Mrs. Paine knew a Tulane professor. . . . I remember
him saying that [Reissman] had a daughter that was attending the
university in Moscow, and they either went to his home or they came to
Lee's house" (8 H 147; Scott, 264).
Though Scott doesn't mention it, the Tulane professor Oswald was
referring to was Dr. H. Warner Kloepfer. Kloepfer did not have any known
direct association to Oswald or Ruth Paine, but an entry for him and his
wife, Ruth Kloepfer, was found in Oswald's address book following the
assassination. Mrs. Kloepfer, the clerk of the New Orleans Quaker
Meeting, had met Oswald in the summer of 1963 when Ruth Paine (a Quaker)
asked the Russian-speaking Mrs. Kloepfer to stop by the Oswalds'
apartment and make sure Marina was all right. The Kloepfers' daughter did
visit the Soviet Union in 1963. Dr. Warner Kloepfer was being monitored
by the CIA in 1963; a CIA Office of Security memorandum records his
affiliation with Tulane University and that he was on the mailing list of
the Southern Conference Educational Fund (CIA #646-277; Weberman).
Neither Dr. nor Mrs. Kloepfer were personally acquainted with Ruth Paine.
A former Louisiana State University student who did investigative work
for Banister on that campus told Peter Dale Scott that
anti-integrationist activists picketing the Fifth District Federal Court
in 1963 would regularly store their picket signs in Banister's office,
and that he himself had seen Oswald there at the time (Scott, 265). Scott
keeps the former LSU student's name confidential, but based on a footnote
referring the reader to a passage in Anthony Summer's Conspiracy, this
would appear to be one of the Campbell brothers, probably Daniel.
Helping Oswald pass out leaflets during the August 9th "demonstration"
was Charles Hall Steele, Jr., who we now know was an FBI informant in
1963. (Who wasn't?) "On December 2, 1963, [Secret Service] SA [Special
Agent] Counts and SAIC [Special Agent in Charge] Rice visited Tulane
University, New Orleans, and interviewed Mr. M. E. Lapham, Provost. He
was informed that Oswald reportedly told Charles H. Steele, Jr., that the
Fair Play for Cuba Committee circulars which they were passing out had
originated at Tulane University; and that we had been informed that
Oswald told an attorney [Andrews] that he received $25.00 a day to pass
out the literature. Dr. Lapham said that he had not seen any of the
circulars on the campus and knew of no one connected with the Fair Play
for Cuba Committee. He was requested to have a record check made for Clay
Bertrand and Alek James Hidell (Secret Service Report of December 4,
1963; 26 H ?).
"On December 3, 1963, Dr. Lapham advised by telephone that a careful
check had been made of all students, faculty members and employees of the
University, and no record was located on Clay Bertrand or Alek James
Hidell, or similar names. He said that he made inquiries of appropriate
officials and none had any information relative to [the] Fair Play for
Cuba Committee. Dr. Lapham was not informed that we had established a
connection between Oswald and Dr. Leonard Reissman, a professor at
Tulane, the latter reportedly being active in the New Orleans Council for
Peaceful Alternatives, also known as Ban the Bomb. Dr. Leonard Reissman .
. . is of record in the subversive files of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, New Orleans. ASAC Joseph Sylvester, FBI, has requested
that this office not interview Reissman because of their interest in him.
It is understood that the FBI office desires to interview him and that he
has been out of the city recently" (Ibid.).
Charles Steele, Jr., testified to the Warren Commission that Oswald had
indeed told him that the Fair Play for Cuba Committee was organized out
of Tulane University (cite). A Tulane student, Hugh Murray, told the FBI
that a pile of FPCC "Hands Off Cuba" handbills bearing Oswald's stamped
address had been left in the foyer of the Tulane University library (CD
75.699; Scott, Deep Politics, 373fn.). When anti-Castro Cubans Carlos
Quiroga (aka FBI Informant NO-5) and Richard Davis stopped by Oswald's
Magazine Street apartment, feigning interest in joining Oswald's FPCC
"chapter," Oswald claimed at one point to be a language student at Tulane
University (FBI #108-82555-50 OO; Scott, Deep Politics, 373fn.). Quiroga
was a former student at Louisiana State University who, according to a
CIA memo, had once been considered "a candidate for the Agency Student
Recruitment Program." However, there is no indication that he was ever
employed by the Agency in any capacity." On the contrary, both the CIA
and FBI investigated Quiroga as a possible Castro agent attempting to
infiltrate the anti-Castro Cuban Revolutionary Front (Weberman).
A. J. Weberman notes that Oswald had the telephone numbers UN6-0389 and
UN6-2741 ext. 276 in his address book. An FBI report states, "Mr. Edward
Rogge, Associate Dean, Tulane University, advised that telephone number
University 6-2741 was until December 19, 1963, the telephone number of
Tulane University as well as Newcomb College, a division of Tulane
University. He stated that extension 276 was a temporary number used
during the summer of 1963 for rooms 966, 974, and 976 of Monroe Hall, a
dormitory on the campus of Tulane. On January 21, 1964, Mrs. Nancy
McReynolds, Communications Coordinator at Tulane University, advised her
records show that extension 276 was installed on the ninth floor of
Monroe Hall after it was completed during the summer of 1963, but due to
the fact that air conditioning was not installed on that floor, it [the
floor] was not occupied during the summer. She said she often saw lights
on many other unoccupied floors [in] Monroe Hall in the evening during
the summer of 1963, so she assumed unauthorized persons were using the
extensions on these floors. She said the purpose of this would be to make
long distance calls without interruption and, if possible, without paying
for them. Mrs. McReynolds explained that the building is too large for
one person to watch, and therefore anyone could gain entrance to Monroe
Hall, and could have used extension 276 whether they lived in Monroe Hall
or somewhere else on campus" (FBI NO 100-16601; Weberman). It also would
make an ideal place to place and receive phone calls without leaving a
record of one's identity. Had Oswald placed a call to that number from a
payphone (he himself never owned a phone in New Orleans, nor at any time
in America), there would be no way of tracing the call to either party.
In August 1993, A. J. Weberman contacted a woman named Vereen Alexander
(mistakenly identified at his web site as "Alexander Vereen") who had
been a Tulane student in 1963. Vereen said, "I told the FBI on the night
of the assassination that I was fairly sure I had seen him [Oswald] at a
university beer party. I do not remember speaking with him. We had one of
the first underground newspapers opposing the Vietnam war. Then I married
a guy who went in the Air Force for three years. We were at a Top Secret
military base. That was why I went to the FBI. The others at the party
were afraid to come forward. I was a friend of Robert Hoffman"
(Weberman). Robert Hoffman was the host of the party where Oswald was
reportedly seen. Hoffman's name was given to the FBI by a friend of his,
Brian Amplost, who happened to see Oswald passing out leaflets in front
of the International Trade Mart (Ibid.).
In addition, a Tulane graduate student, Harold Gordon Alderman, had one
of Oswald's FPCC handbills tacked onto his door at the time of the
assassination. Alderman had been involved with the Fair Play for Cuba
Committee in another city previously, and denied ever having met Oswald
The last laugh in this issue may belong to Oswald. Hugh Murray, the New
Orleans activist who found FPCC literature at Tulane, reports that
despite all of Oswald's statements, the New Orleans Council for Peaceful
Alternatives did NOT hold meetings at Tulane University and Dr. Leonard
Reissman was NOT a member! (Hugh Murray, "Surveillance State Louisiana,"
*The Fourth Decade,* Vol. 1, No. 5). Leave it to the young man Sylvia
Meagher once labeled "the inscrutable Oswald" to pass false information
to the NOPD and FBI about an alleged New Orleans leftist.
Oswald and David Ferrie
A close associate of Guy Banister's was a New Orleans pilot, private
investigator, and rabid anti-Castroite named David William Ferrie. As a
teenager Oswald attended several meetings of the Civil Air Patrol at
Moisant Airport in New Orleans with his friend Ed Voebel while David
Ferrie was Squadron Commander. When Ferrie ran into some problems
stemming from accusations of improper behavior with his young charges,
the Captain started up a renegade chapter of the Civil Air Patrol at
Lakefront Airport based on a fraudulent charter. Voebel recalled that
Oswald that had attended only two or three meetings in New Orleans, four
at the most, then transferred to another unit that he said was more
convenient for him.
A New Orleans police officer reported that "Ferrie assumed control at
Moisant Airport at about the same time Oswald joined." Colin Hamer, now
an official of the New Orleans Public Library, told the House Select
Committee on Assassinations that he attended CAP meetings with Lee Harvey
Oswald and Captain David Ferrie in an Eastern Airlines hangar at Moisant
Airport. In 1993, Hamer told A. J. Weberman, "When I was in the Civil Air
Patrol, they (Ferrie and Oswald) were both in, but I don't remember if
they were in at the same time. I don't remember any relationship, or if
they knew each other or anything like that" (Weberman).
More definite testimony came from Jerry Paradis, now a corporate attorney
and a former New Orleans Lakefront Civil Air Patrol Unit Recruit
Instructor. Paradis told the HSCA, "I specifically remember Oswald. I can
remember him clearly, and Ferrie was heading the unit then. I'm not
saying they may have been together, I'm saying it's a certainty." One FBI
report states that Oswald attended sixteen meetings at the Lakefront
unit, as well as at least one party at David Ferrie's house.
Oswald bought himself a CAP uniform which he wore for a photograph in
July 1955; while he is wearing a cap in this picture, it appears his hair
may be shorter than the one and only extant photograph showing Oswald and
Ferrie together in the Civil Air Patrol (Groden, The Search for Lee
Harvey Oswald, pp.18-19; this photograph was obtained from an ex-CAP
member by researcher Gus Russo for the first time in 1993). A possibility
of further complexity exists, as the photo of Oswald in uniform is
definitely Lee Oswald, while it is the editor's belief that the group CAP
photograph depicts Ferrie with Harvey Oswald.
When Oswald's friend Ed Voebel was questioned on November 27, 1963, by
the New Orleans Police, he was asked "if he ever heard of the Eagle
Squadron. Voebel stated that he had not" (22 H 826-27; Harold Weisberg,
Oswald in New Orleans, 58).
"Eagle Squadron?" Weisberg asks. "How exciting. But there is nothing on
it in the testimony" (Weisberg, 59).
The House Select Committee, following the Garrison investigation by a
decade, had to dig a little deeper. The HSCA reports, "Ferrie also
started a group called the 'Falcon Squadron,' composed of Ferrie's
closest CAP associates. A group within this group, the 'Omnipotents,' was
allegedly started to train cadets in what to do in the event of a major
attack on the United States." We also are told that Ferrie "urged several
boys to join the armed forces . . . Many of Ferrie's cadets became
involved in Ferrie's wide spectrum of other activities" (HSCA report on
The HSCA did not specify exactly which other "activities" they had in
mind, but we might infer it relates to the report's fourth subsequent
paragraph: "Ferrie also became involved in other activities. In 1959, he
had found an outlet for his political fanaticism in the anti-Castro
movement. By early 1961, Ferrie and a young man whom Ferrie had first met
in the CAP, Layton Martens, were working with Sergio Arcacha Smith, head
of the Cuban Revolutionary Front delegation in New Orleans. (Ibid.)
"Ferrie soon became Smith's eager partner in counterrevolutionary
activities. He reportedly built two miniature submarines, which he
planned to use for an attack on Havana Harbor, obtained several rifles
and mortars for the proposed invasion, and was reportedly teaching Cubans
how to fly. Further, several of Ferrie's cadets claimed to have taken
trips to Cuba in Ferrie's airplane. (Ibid.)
Ferrie also was close to New Orleans Mob boss Carlos Marcello. When
Robert Kennedy had Marcello forcibly deported to Marcello's alleged
birthplace, Guatemala, in 1961, Border Patrol records show it was David
Ferrie who personally flew Marcello back to the US (Summers, p. 308).
Ferrie would do some work for Guy Banister's operation at the Newman
Building, the building whose address Lee Harvey Oswald would designate as
the office of his Fair Play for Cuba Committee chapter, and where
numerous witnesses would place Oswald himself during the summer of 1963.
There is no evidence, however, that Oswald was involved in Ferrie's
Falcon Squadron or Omnipotents, or in any extracurricular activities with
Ferrie during the summer of 1955. There is an interesting incident that
may indicate -- although it cannot be confirmed -- that Oswald and Ferrie
had a closer relationship in 1955 than previously believed.
Oswald had just turned sixteen in October 1955 and could not legally
enlist in the Marines as he wished until the age of seventeen. Marguerite
initially refused his requests to sign an affidavit declaring him to be
seventeen, but a somewhat overenthusiastic recruiter came to his aid.
Marguerite told the Warren Commission, "A recruiting officer from the
Marine Reserves in New Orleans, La., was in my home the next day . . .
with Lee, in uniform" (1 H 197). It seems that "with the influence of
this Marine officer" (1 H 200), Marguerite decided to sign that false
affidavit after all, although the ruse was unsuccessful. It is a shame
the Commission never sought to find this Marine Reserves officer and ask
him why he was so keen on recruiting under-age cadets.
Curiously, Marguerite also had the impression that it was this Marine
Reserves officer who "influenced this boy" to study Communist literature
(1 H 200). Of course, this could be wild conjecture, and the Warren
Commission didn't inquire about her reason for thinking this. In a rare
interview for the October 17, 1967, Look magazine, with Ferrie made
famous by the Garrison investigation, Lee's brother Robert Oswald said,
"I can't help wondering whether it might have been Ferrie who introduced
Lee to Communist ideas. I realize that I have nothing solid on which to
base such a speculation, except the timing."
The author would offer another bit of speculation: Could this "Marine
Reserves" officer actually have been Captain David Ferrie of the Civil
Regardless, Marguerite Oswald adds another interesting bit of
speculation. Marguerite appeared before the Warren Commission to proclaim
Lee Harvey Oswald's innocence in the assassination, and she also charged
-- without having any evidence at her disposal -- that Oswald had been an
agent of the United States government. Here she speculates about how this
might have come about:
Mrs. OSWALD. I have said that a Marine recruiting officer came to my
home, and that Lee then continued reading Robert's manual by heart, and
started reading communist literature. He is preparing himself to go into
the Marine service -- at age 17 -- this year before he actually joined
the service. I am saying he is already preparing himself.
Mr. RANKIN. To become an agent?
Mrs. OSWALD. Yes, I think with the influence of this recruiting officer.
Mr. RANKIN. You think the recruiting officer inspired him --
Mrs. OSWALD. Yes, sir, influenced this boy.
Mr. RANKIN. -- to read the communist literature?
Mrs. OSWALD. Yes, sir -- and Robert's Marine book.
Most intriguing is her slightly different statement to the FBI that
"while he was in the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian who was associated with
the Civil Air Patrol induced Oswald to join the United States Marines"
(CD 480A.3). A civilian associated with the Civil Air Patrol is precisely
what Ferrie was, and this description, if accurate, certainly narrows the
identity of the person down somewhat.
Unfortunately, it must be admitted that no theory of Marguerite Oswald's
necessarily deserves any more scrutiny than the cursory hearing the
Warren Commission gave her. She also accused Marina Oswald, Ruth Paine,
two Secret Service agents, an unknown high government official and others
of being a part of a conspiracy that killed Kennedy; most were implicated
in this plot by virtue of the rudeness to which Marguerite felt they had
subjected her in the days following the assassination. And, as far as can
be determined, she never once offered the slightest bit of pertinent or
substantive information in her three long days of tiresome testimony. She
was, as historian Walt Brown has noted, "arguably the Warren Commission's
worst nightmare" (The Warren Omission, 239).
"Oswald and Ferrie . . . frequented the Napoleon House bar, a popular
hangout for college students. There they often debated Kennedy's foreign
policy with the students. Accompanied by two 'Latins,' Ferrie and Oswald
were observed in Baton Rouge, where they openly denounced Kennedy's
foreign and domestic policies" (Kurtz, Crime of the Century, 203; from
"Twice they were seen conversing in Mancuso's Restaurant. They were seen
at a segregationist meeting in the late spring of that year. In August
they were seen at a party in the French Quarter. According to two people
who attended the party, Oswald and Ferrie discussed United States foreign
policy, especially with regard to Cuba. Both men expressed strong
disapproval of the failure to overthrow the Castro regime" (Kurtz, "Lee
Harvey Oswald in New Orleans," *Louisiana History,* Vol. 21, No, 1, 16).
"During the summer of 1963, Van Burns [a personal friend and colleague of
Kurtz'] worked at the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park in New Orleans.
One evening, while he attended his booth, Burns saw a friend of his
[whose name remains confidential], accompanied by two men, approach the
booth. The friend introduced him to Lee Harvey Oswald and David Ferrie.
After a few minutes of small talk, Oswald and Ferrie left and strolled
down the boardwalk together. The friend told Burns about Ferrie's having
flown him over the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Cuba and told him that
Ferrie had been involved in certain 'missions' to Cuba" (Kurtz, Crime of
the Century, xxxix-xl).
Oswald and Race
The only person Oswald seems to have seriously discussed the matter of
race with, as far as the record shows, was George De Mohrenschildt. The
Baron writes that Oswald told him "on many occasions," "It hurts me that
blacks do not have the same privileges and rights as white Americans" (De
Mohrenschildt, I Am a Patsy!, 127). "Kennedy's efforts to alleviate and
end segregation were also admired by Lee, who was sincerely and
profoundly committed to a complete integration of blacks [into white
society], and saw it in the future of the United States. 'I am willing to
fight for racial equality and would die fighting if necessary,' he told
me once," and Oswald also believed "fullheartedly" in improving the
educational opportunities for blacks (Ibid., 133). "America is a racist
society from its very origin," he told De Mohrenschildt. "[from] the
arrival of the pilgrims and elimination of the Indians. [The] United
States is [a] dishonest country because it's based on the spoliation of
its rightful owners. . . . What kind of country this is, if an Alabama
ignorant redneck calls a black professor from Dillard University a
'nigger!'" (Ibid., 156-57). When the Oswalds attended a party of
primarily Russian emigres (many of whom were in the oil industry) with
the De Mohrenschildts, Oswald was in an ornery mood, and taunted a group
of oil executives about their companies' hiring practices: "I bet you
that your companies do not employ any blacks or Mexicans in any
positions, not [necessarily] executive [positions], but [even] average
positions. . . . Naturally, abroad you act differently; you use natives
of all colors [to show] that American oil companies are so-o-o-o liberal"
(Ibid., 178). At the home of Admiral Henri Bruton*, Oswald again made an
appearance that was less than goodnatured, insulting the military and his
former commanders in particular. "We had a sergeant in the Marines who
was as racist as any German SS trooper," Oswald began, "but then his sex
habits --" De Mohrenschildt cut him off at this point, for better or
worse (Ibid., 193). The last time the two men saw each other, around
Easter 1963, they "spoke of the unfortunate rise of ultra-conservatism in
this country, of [the] racist movement in the South. Lee considered this
the most dangerous phenomenon for all peace-loving people. 'Economic
discrimination is bad, but you can remedy it,' he said, 'but racial
discrimination cannot be remedied because you cannot change the color of
your skin.' Of course, he greatly admired Dr. Martin Luther King and
agreed with his program. I just mention it [in passing] here, but he
frequently talked of Dr. King with real reverence" (Ibid., 198).
When Oswald was arraigned for creating a disturbance with Carlos
Bringuier and friends, Oswald sat on the "colored" side of the courtroom,
a choice Bringuier believed to be quite deliberate.
W. Guy Banister was a member of the Minutemen and John Birch Society, a
former FBI Bureau chief and NOPD officer with contacts in organized
crime, at the House Un-American Activities Committee and the CIA.
Banister employee Vernon Gerdes saw Banister meet with George Lincoln
Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, at 531 Lafayette (New
Orleans DA's Office Report of January 31, 1967). According to 531
Lafayette employee Jack S. Martin, Banister was a member of the American
Nazi Party, and subscribed to the party's newspaper, The Thunderbolt, as
well as their magazine, *Counterattack!* When George Lincoln Rockwell was
jailed for picketing the Holocaust-themed movie, Exodus, it was Guy
Banister who put up his bail (Sworn statement to New Orleans DA's Office,
February 20, 1968). Banister and Delphine Roberts were two of the most
virulent white supremacists and anti-communists in strongly conservative
New Orleans in 1963, with spies infiltrating local universities on the
CIA's tab. Banister associate David W. Ferrie was a rabid anti-communist
involved in Banister's gunrunning activities and had connections to New
Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello, the FBI and the CIA; in his spare time
he used hypnosis to seduce teenage boys, for which he was arrested on
more than occasion, and which cost him his job as an Eastern Airlines
pilot. These are the sort of people with whom the "pro-Castro,"
"pro-communist," civil rights advocate, Lee Harvey Oswald was palling
around with in the summer of 1963 in New Orleans. George Lincoln Rockwell
and American Nazi Party National Secretary Dan Burros each rated an entry
in Lee Harvey Oswald's address book.
The Warren Commission never said a word about it. The FBI and CIA said it
never happened. New Orleans DA Jim Garrison was the first to uncover it
in 1966. The HSCA in 1979 said it was a distinct possibility. Gerald
Posner, media-anointed expert on the assassination, said in 1993 it never
happened: "There is no credible evidence that Oswald ever had an office
at 544 Camp Street or, much less, that he knew Guy Banister (Posner, Case
Closed, 141). Posner never spoke to Dr. Michael L. Kurtz or Mary Brengel,
neither of whom are mentioned in his book. Posner interviewed Delphine
Roberts and her daughter, and dismisses them as nuts because of their
views on race. He never asks why Roberts -- who, as he himself notes,
still speaks "warmly" of Banister (Posner, 140) -- would tie a "known
communist" like Oswald to her deceased and rabidly anti-communist lover.
Posner also dismisses the Oswald handbills stamped with the address of
"544 Camp St" as a silly attempt by a left-winger to embarrass a
prominent right-winger (Ibid., 141-42). Leave it to poor Oswald to get
the right-winger's address wrong: Banister's street address was 531
Lafayette Street; 544 Camp Street was the side entrance. And if Oswald's
goal was to embarrass right-wingers, why did he put his own home address
or post office box number on the majority of the pamphlets he handed out?
In 1964, the FBI reported, "Mr. Guy W. [sic] Banister, a former Special
Agent in Charge of this Bureau, never contacted this Bureau after the
assassination to report that he was personally acquainted with Oswald. We
feel certain that had Mr. Banister had previous contact with Oswald
before the assassination [sic], he would have immediately contacted this
Bureau and reported such information" (Weberman). Banister never was
questioned by any official US agency about Lee Harvey Oswald.
"The best-known case [of Oswald's contacts with anti-Castro groups under
investigation] is Oswald's initial meeting of August 5, 1963, with the
DRE's Carlos Bringuier, only five days after the FBI had raided the
dynamite cache next to the DRE's secret training camp [at Lake
Pontchartrain, where several witnesses have placed Guy Banister, David
Ferrie, Richard Davis, Gerry Patrick Hemming, and Lee Harvey Oswald in
1963]. Bringuier, with good reason, took Oswald's offer to him 'to train
Cubans in guerrilla warfare' as proof that he was not a 'loner,' but
someone with knowledge of the DRE's secret links to both the arms cache
and the training camp (Peter Dale Scott, "Deep Politics and the Death of
"Bringuier's argument was indeed an almost unanswerable one. As he
pointed out to the Warren Commission, the presence of the training camp
'was not generally known. . . . I believe that that was the only time
here in New Orleans that there was something like that' (10 H 43-44;
Scott, Ibid.). Bringuier went on to suggest that Castro might have given
Oswald this privileged information. Back in August, however, Bringuier
had had the opposite reaction: 'I thought he might be an agent from the
FBI or CIA, trying to find out what we might be up to' (*Washington
Post,* November 23, 1963; cf. 10 H 35; Scott, Ibid.). Bringuier's logic
here is of major importance. Oswald had to be working for one side or the
other; he could not have been acting alone" (Scott, Ibid.).
"Not till years later did the rest of us learn how accurate was Oswald's
knowledge. Only in 1976 did the Church Committee reveal, from US
government sources, that 'underworld figures' were (as the FBI had known)
involved in the training camp along with the arms cache (Schweiker-Hart
Report, 12, 79; FBI Airtel 62-109060-4758, 5, 10, 13; Scott, Ibid.). Yet
Oswald talked as if he were investigating this involvement back in 1963.
According to one bystander at the first meeting, Oswald asked Bringuier
'was he connected with the Cosa Nostra' (10 H 77; Scott, Ibid.).
According to another witness, Oswald brought up the subject by saying
that he had 'recently visited something called the Casa Nostra' -- in
Florida, the source of the dynamite and trainees (10 H 84-85; WCD 75.533;
How did Oswald know about the exile training camp? Onetime HSCA staff
member Robert Tanenbaum may have given us a better answer than we ever
The Memory Hole
Robert Tanenbaum had been the original Deputy Chief of the House Select
Committee on Assassinations, appointed by the original Chief Counsel,
attorney Richard A, Sprague. Tanenbaum had studied law at the University
of California at Berkeley and went on to work for District Attorney Frank
Hogan in New York County. While there Tanenbaum served as Bureau Chief of
the Criminal Courts of the Felony Trial Bureau, and Deputy Chief then
Acting Chief of the Homicide Bureau, where he tried several hundred cases
to verdict. When Sprague -- who Tanenbaum had never met -- called him out
of the blue one day in 1976 and offered him the position of Deputy Chief
Counsel leading the Congressional investigations of the assassinations of
John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Tanenbaum didn't know a thing
about these events except what he'd read in the papers. He had only one
question -- he "wanted assurance from the Committee that whatever the
facts were we would be permitted to tell the American people. . . . The
focus was to deal with these cases as homicides." Sprague, a highly
successful and rigorous prosecutor himself, assured him that was the
case; he was mistaken.
Tanenbaum resigned soon after he'd watched Sprague forced out by
interests that clearly feared the result of a thorough and honest
investigation. "I wasn't going to participate any longer when I found out
that the Congress was not going to tell the truth," he told the
Assassination Records Review Board in 1996. "I didn't want to participate
in a historical fraud. . . . My daughter, when I was in Washington, was
three years old. She is now a junior at UCLA. And I did not want to look
at her years later and [have her know that I] put my rubber stamp on a
report that I knew was a fraud."
Board member Dr. Kermit Hall asked, ". . . about what other materials
might be where -- You didn't speak to the question of the film that you
were, that deals with anti-Castro Cubans. . . . So I wonder if you could
speak to that particular matter."
". . . As far as where the film is, again, I can only tell you that all
of the material, I assumed was . . ." He laughed bitterly. " . . . in the
same place. . . ."
"And that film had been obtained from the Georgetown University Library?"
Dr. Hall asked.
"That is my best recollection. . . . Investigators and researchers found
it in the Georgetown Library archives."
"And just for the record, the significance of this film if it were
recovered, would be . . . ?
". . . On the one hand it shows a lot of anti-Castro Cuban players with
CIA contract people in a military setting. There was some speculation,
somewhat unclear, as to the direct identities of some of these people.
And as I stand here now, I am not going to tell you exactly who they
were, but there were some of the major players in this whole case."
The film was an 8 mm "home movie" from the summer of 1963. It vanished
into thin air, while in the HSCA's custody, sometime after Tanenbaum's
departure. Here is Tanenbaum's description of what the film contained,
condensed from his novel based in part on his HSCA experiences,
*Corruption of Blood.* The plot of the novel is fictionalized; the
evidence discussed is not.
". . . The small square screen showed a shadowy landscape, some bushes
and trees, then a road. The film was black-and-white and grainy, or
perhaps the graininess was just an artifact of the ground-glass screen of
the editing machine. In any case, the film seemed to have been shot in
bad light, at dusk perhaps, or in moonlight.
"The camera panned across dark woods that seemed vaguely tropical --
palmettos, Spanish moss, and hanging vines -- past an open field, and
onto the road again. A line of two-and-a-half-ton military trucks
appeared, moving slowly, their headlights cut to thin slits. The trucks
stopped and soldiers leaped out and lined up on the road. They were
dressed in fatigues and soft caps. Most carried rifles, but there were
some with machine guns and mortar components, and . . . one with a folded
"The film now cut jerkily to maneuvers: the soldiers rushed across the
field and flung themselves down, while others provided covering fire. The
film was silent, but you could see the pinpoints of fire from the rifles
and the shimmering gouts of muzzle blast from the machine guns. It cut to
a mortar team firing, dropping the shells in odd silence down the tubes
and shielding their ears from the blasts. . . . they seemed well drilled.
". . . Now the camera was obviously in a vehicle of some kind, an open
vehicle because the camera could pan around 360 degrees. A jeep: the
well-known square hood flashed by and then the backs of the heads of two
men with military caps on. A white road sign loomed up and started to
whip by. . . . The road sign had the shape of Louisiana and a number."
This is by Lake Pontchartrain, near New Orleans. The jeep ride ended and
the camera cut to a group of five men standing around a jeep, talking, as
troops filed by in the background. There were two unidentified Cubans.
There was a "stocky guy with the round face" -- Antonio Veciana of the
CIA-backed anti-Castro squad, Alpha 66. There was a "tall, ugly guy" --
Guy Banister, head of the Anti-Communist League of the Caribbean,
resident of 544 Camp Street, New Orleans. There was a figure wearing
civilian clothes, "a tall man with dark hair, a prominent nose, and
deeply impressed wrinkles under his eyes . . . turning away from the lens
as the shot opened, as if more interested in some background object than
in the conversation the men were having; that, or he had a predisposition
to avoid being the subject of photography. Tanenbaum believes this man
was CIA officer David Atlee Phillips.
"In the treacly movements of slow motion, the camera's view moved to
another group of men standing by a truck. One of the men in the group
turned around and smiled at the camera. It was actually more of a smirk
than a smile, the famous smirk. . . . Lee Harvey Oswald." There were
several unidentified men.
". . . The screen brightened. It was full day. Some men were shooting
pistols at a crude outdoor firing range, firing at man-shaped targets
nailed to trees." Antonio Veciana appeared in civilian clothes now,
"holding an .45 and smiling. The view moved unsteadily at each soundless
explosion. Two men, grinning, held up a well-punctured target. A man in a
black T-shirt and ball cap sat at a table loading bullets into pistol
magazines. He looked up for an instant, frowned, spoke briefly, and
lowered his head again so that the bill of the cap obscured his face. He
resembled Oswald, but Tanenbaum thought it had "to be some time later
than in the first scenes, because his sideburns [had] grown longer. . . .
More shooting, men posing with weapons, then a close-up of a round-faced
man with a fright wig and patently phony, impossibly thick eyebrows. . .
David Ferrie . . . nobody else looked like Ferrie."
The film cut to a shot of the man who looked like Oswald in the ball cap
and black T-shirt. "The shot was taken from the rear and showed him
standing, aiming at a target twenty-five yards downrange and firing off
seven shots rapidly. . . . The camera moved in for a close-up of the head
of the target silhouette. It was shredded and flapping away from its
fiberboard backing. There was more target practice, then another twenty
seconds of paramilitary exercises. Then it ended."
Shortly before his death in 1990, longtime CIA hitman Colonel William
Bishop was asked by Dick Russell, in the presence of veteran researcher
J. Gary Shaw, if he'd ever met Lee Harvey Oswald. Bishop said he had not,
but offhandedly volunteered, "I did look into Oswald's background [in
1963]. I'd never met him, but I'd seen him in a training film in New
Orleans the past summer. He just happened to be in the group out there at
the Pontchartrain camp. Trying to get in with the anti-Cuban exiles"
(Russell, *The Man Who Knew Too Much,* 508).
New Orleans resident George Wilcox told historian Michael Kurtz that he
observed "Ferrie, Oswald, and numerous Cubans, all dressed in military
fatigues and carrying automatic rifles, conducting what appeared to be a
'military training maneuver.' This event took place near Bedico Creek, a
swampy inland body of water near Lake Pontchartrain, about fifty miles
north of New Orleans. This occurred in early September 1963, two months
after the final government raid on anti-Castro guerilla camps in the
United States" (Interview of September 9, 1979; Kurtz, Crime of the
Century, 203, 260 fn.).
On July 31, the Associated Press out of Mandeville, Louisiana, reported
that "FBI agents swooped down on a house in a resort section near here
today and seized more than a ton of dynamite and 20 bomb casings. An
informed source said the explosives were part of a cache to be used in an
attack on Cuba. But the FBI would only say that the materials were
'seized in connection with an investigation of an effort to carry out a
military operation from the United States against a country with which
the United States is at peace.' . . . The FBI declined to identify the
owner of the house or to say if any arrests had been made" (Washington
Post, August 1, 1963; Weisberg, Oswald in New Orleans, 67).
The house belonged to William Julius McLaney. Confiscated were 48 cases
of dynamite, the 20 firing caps, M-1 rifles, grenades, and 55 gallons of
napalm (Associated Press, March 4, 1967; New Orleans States-Item, March
4, 1967; Weisberg, Ibid., 68-69; Hinckle and Turner, Deadly Secrets,
225). William McLaney and his brother Mike had been casino owners in
Havana until their property was nationalized by Castro. (William McLaney
had also served time in Castro's prison.) The arms cache had been
transported to the Lake Pontchartrain house by Gerry Patrick Hemming and
future Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis along with members of the DRE.
Both men, particularly Hemming, were instrumental in running the nearby
paramilitary training camp for the CIA-backed Cuban exiles, which was
quietly shut down concurrent with the seizure of the arms cache. Two
arrests were made at that time in connection with the arms cache: Sam
Benton -- mobster Mike McLaney's go-between with the anti-Castro Cubans
-- and Richard Lauchli, co-founder of the Minutemen (Scott, Deep Politics
and the Death of JFK, 88-89, 120; Hinckle and Turner, 224-25). Benton was
also briefly associated in Cuban-related endeavors with the CIA until it
was determined that he "talked too much," and was promptly let loose
(Hinckle and Turner, 182). Mike McLaney was Lewis McWillie's employer in
Havana; McWillie was one of Jack Ruby's best friends (Hinckle and Turner,