Monday, March 14, 2011

And Then Harvey Rode Into The Trailer Park

“Harvey enters the duller reaches of the world, as if to add color to it by bringing forth sinister premonitions of future doom.”

William Henry Timmer has a childhood experience that while not too unusual at the time, though it would later become that. One summer day 1953 in an oil boom town of Stanley, North Dakota, a new kid showed up in his neighborhood. Scruffy, riding a beat-up bike with no chain guard, he hailed from New York and regaled Timmer and the other boys with stories of street gangs and razor fights. They were all impressed with this older, big city kid who went by the name of Harvey. Harvey Oswald.

But Timmer noticed there wasn't something quite right with this kid. He was older than the other boys in the neighborhood. Timmer saw that he carried with him Marxist literature. One odd thing was Harvey didn’t want to be seen by adults. When Timmer told Harvey and the other kids about some rabbits they had in a hutch and invited them all over to view them in his grandmother’s yard, Harvey came along till he saw Timmer’s mother appear out of their trailer. He then wheeled his bicycle around and rode off without saying a word or staying to see the rabbits.

Later, William Timmer reports, Harvey told him he was going to kill the president of the United States one day. When Timmer related this to his mother she told him not to ever associate with the boy again. He did not. Nor did he know where this boy lived, only that he came to their trailer park from somewhere south. He never saw Harvey after that summer or in the following years before they moved to Arizona in 1957.

Shortly after the assassination, Timmer’s mother, Mrs. Leslie Cole, sent him some newspaper clippings of Lee Oswald following his arrest for the murders asking him if this is the boy he met in Stanley ten years earlier. Timmer identified the man in the pictures as Harvey and his mother preceded to write President Lyndon Johnson a letter describing how her son met Oswald ten years earlier. This letter was forwarded to the Secret Service and from there to the FBI.

Both William Timmer and his mother were interviewed about this incident by the FBI. As with many controversial witnesses, they were never called to testify to the Warren Commission about this encounter with Harvey (Lee?) Oswald. Why? Conflicting records and timelines.

(FBI Special Agent, James Hosty, in his book Assignment: Oswald, tells of meeting Marguerite Oswald and asking her if she and Lee ever lived in South Dakota. She laughed it off, denying ever having lived there. Odd that Hosty got the wrong state in questioning her. It also shows how fast the ND story flashed around as Hosty’s question was posed just five days after the assassination.)

New York City, 1953
Marguerite Oswald moved herself and Lee New York for the purpose of being closer to her son form her first marriage, John Pic. All existing records indicate that Marguerite Oswald was employed for most of 1953 a various department and hosiery stores in New York. Meanwhile, Lee Oswald’s school records have him enrolled in PS #117 and later, PS #44. It was #117 that he was largely truant from, and court proceedings were launched to place Lee Oswald in The Youth House, a home for delinquent boys. Subsequent events had Oswald evaluated for the first and only time by a psychiatrist and interviewed by a probation officer.

The year of 1953 was filled with discrepancies in records and witness testimony. John Armstrong in his book, Harvey and Lee, documents in exhaustive detail the conflicting witness testimony and the disappearance of records pertaining to this and many other phases of Lee Oswald’s life. Take for example, Louise Robertson, who states she was employed by Marguerite Oswald as a housekeeper for six weeks to take care of their one bedroom apartment. Never mind the strangeness of hiring a maid for small apartment when Marguerite is supposed to impoverished, but Mrs. Robertson claims her employment ended as a result of Marguerite and Lee moving out of New York in the summer of 1953. However, the FBI obtain employment records from the Lady Orva Hosiery store which has Marguerite Oswald employed there from May to December of 1953. So she and Lee can’t be living in ND during this time, contradicting not only William Timmer and his mother, but Louise Robertson’s account of the Oswald’s leaving in the summer of that year.

This mess expands even larger than what I can describe here as there all kinds of strange happenings with all of this. John Armstrong documents how all of the family court records regarding Oswald in New York were placed in the FBI’s custody in December of 1963 by Judge Florence Kelley, for the sole purpose of being relayed to the Warren Commission. The FBI claims they were but only copies of the originals were sent. Subsequent attempts by later investigations, such as the ARRB (Assassination Records and Review Board) in the 1990’s, were unable to determine where the originals. No detailed list of the files has been found to make sure everything in Judge Kelley’s order was sent. And apparently something is missing because there are no report cards or school pictures from Oswald’s school days in New York.

So, all of Oswald’s school records are copies of the files and not originals. This is a common occurrence in the case. In fact, Armstrong goes on to state that all the records that the FBI turned over to the Warren Commission, regarding everything with Lee Oswald’s life were copies–never originals. Safe to say, find a copy of John Armstrong’s book to read the seemingly endless details on this and a lot more, as this pattern extends throughout Lee Oswald’s life.

Back To North Dakota
I found William Timmer and his mother’s account of what happened in ND in 1953 to have a ring of truth to it, despite the contradictions. After all, they are describing an Oswald we already know, complete with Marxist reading material. They are not publicity hounds seeking fame, nor did they ever try to make any money off their experiences. Besides that, there are quite a number of people that knew Oswald that report he hated being called Lee and preferred being called Harvey instead. All events like this, from assassinations to huge disasters like 9-11 reveal weird incidents with murky undercurrents. Spooky Harvey showing up in a way-out place like a trailer park in North Dakota carries with it a creepy, dislocated feeling. At least to me. This older kid hanging out with younger boys, playing the role of the tough guy, mouthing off about disquieting threats, builds to a collective whole. Harvey enters the duller reaches of the world, as if to add color to it by bringing forth sinister premonitions of future doom.

All of this has the hint of the doppelganger playing with us again. Either by a tease or just some higher-up agency manufacturing phony files to lead future investigators astray. Though this Harvey interlude has a tinge of the supernatural to it. Or maybe not that. Just sort of a borderline mysterious event with dubious meaning. Such as a few years ago when clowns were spotted around the country in vans offering children candy, bidding them to enter. Apparently, they never got any takers and then vanished from the American landscape. Just like Harvey did on his junky bike.

As former CIA director Richard Helms once said, “No one will ever know who or what Lee Harvey Oswald represented.” Maybe not, but somebody, somewhere, knows. Maybe that is why Marguerite cackled at Agent Hosty’s inquiry about living in South Dakota. Hey, you boys are so out of the loop you can’t even get the state right.

Armstrong, John, Harvey and Lee; Hosty, James, Assignment: Oswald

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review: JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy by L. Fletcher Prouty

The hidden history of the Vietnam War

“We do not have precise answers as to why we gave U.S arms to Ho Chi Minh in 1945 and then a few years later provided Ho’s enemy, the French, with $3 billion of our arms. The situation is not supposed to be clear.”
L. Fletcher Prouty

The tile to L. Fletcher Prouty’s second and last book is a bit misleading. While Prouty does cover the JFK assassination and provides a good rationale for his murder by a gang of plotters, he spends a great deal of time in an area he knows very intimately–Vietnam. During his stellar career in the Air Force he was involved with clandestine operations there, going back to the early 1950’s when the French were still there and involved in a ground war with Ho Chi Minh’s army. Prouty provides the proper historical context the launched the war and why the Untied States got involved in the first place. And in Prouty’s view it started with the CIA’s involvement there. John Kennedy early on saw what the CIA was capable of doing behind his back with the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He saw the ramping up for war in Indochina and his attempts to thwart it by his signing of National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) #263 which would have gotten our forces out of Vietnam by 1965.

But Kennedy died, his successor Lyndon Johnson signed a NSAM of his own countermanding the order, and the rest is sad and tragic history.

The CIA and Vietnam
The final role towards the end of Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty’s military career was as liaison officer between the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon and the CIA. He covers this in great detail in his book, The Secret Team, an excellent look into how the military-industrial-intelligence establishment works within the confines of the National Security State. In that book, Prouty shows the barrier between intelligence and the military becomes so blurred it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. While The Secret Team may appear to be a dull read for some, but if you can pay attention long enough, the reader will be awarded with some amazing anecdotes and a glimpse of the behind the scenes maneuvering of intelligence operations.

The CIA under Allen Dulles went from being a “quiet arm of intelligence” for the president and expands instead into a covert action agency capable of overthrowing democratically elected governments and installing puppets that will be more friendly towards United States interests, mainly business. The Cold War against communism is the stated outward goal but there is a lot more going on out of sight which amounts to a high stake, deadly poker game.

One thing I found surprising was to learn is that the CIA was in control of all United State’s military operations in Vietnam from 1954 to 1965, when the Marines officially took over. You will not read that in most history books. You will not see that on any documentaries about the Vietnam War on TV. It’s part of the hidden history that every so often gets out. And our meddling there actually goes as far back to 1945 when the Japanese withdrew and the French, who had long been there using it as a colony moved back in to a people that thought their time for independence had come. Not exactly a view shared by the French and their business interests. From then to 1975, Indochina existed in a state of war in one form or another.

Of course, this all raises other questions. For example, when and how did the CIA get the authority, obviously not Constitutional, to conduct military operations using military personnel around the world as they saw fit? Col. Proudy tells us. The other secretive agency, the National Security Council didn’t want the military to have the responsibility of doing covert operations. So it was handed to the CIA in the NCS 10/2 Directive. However, they didn't have the men for combat operations so that gave birth to Special Forces, such as the Green Berets and the other outfits that followed.

Prouty tells us that Eisenhower was leery of this arrangement and he wrote the following note on the 10/2 Directive:

“At no time will the CIA be provided with more equipment, etc., than is absolutely necessary for the support of the operation directed and such support will always be limited to the requirements of that single operation.”

Well, that sounds reasonable even though Eisenhower might as well jotted down his desires to Santa Claus. Things went to hell by the time the Bay of Pigs invasion crashed and burned. And it’s gotten no better over time. It’s mirrored in the early combat operations conducted after the 9-11 attacks in Afghanistan which were operated by the CIA. The ongoing drone missile attacks are a further extension of that. It is now known they are running their own prisons in foreign countries. What is the legal and Constitutional basis for this? Because they can? Yes, of course–because they can. And Lord knows who are in this prisons and what treatment they are getting, or how many have died there, or what their faces look like.

Going back to Vietnam, Prouty views it as two-sided civil war. One side is the communists waging war against the non-communists. The second side is the forced relocation (from a Geneva peace accord) of the northern people, the Tonkinese Vietnamese, 1.1 million strong to south Vietnam. A different people with a different culture and religion (Catholic as opposed to the southerns that were Buddhist), they over whelmed the infrastructure of the south. Prouty sees this as one of the major causes for the war in Vietnam. From this, the Viet Kong guerrilla army emerges. And not because they start out being communists, but because they fear being pushed out by the Northerners and took up arms against them in order to survive. Into this cauldron is sent the young blood of this nation to be shredded. First with special forces and later the Marines.

L. Fletcher Prouty wants us to know it’s a war the CIA got us into. And John
Kennedy saw it coming by issuing NSAM #263 which Proudy says he helped coauthor.

The End Result
Despite being such a good chronicler of the entanglement of the Vietnam war
and John Kennedy’s behind the scenes struggles with power brokers, L. Fletcher Prouty stumbles a bit here and there. For example, he lists one of the ships involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion listed as the Zapata, but none where. Look at the declassified CIA memo HERE to see the ships involved. In another section I found odd was the account of Richard Nixon and where he was on the day of the assassination. It’s quite well documented that he was in Dallas the night before, for a Pepsi bottler’s convention, Nixon being the lead council, and flew out the day of, at 9:00 A.M. Yet Prouty insists that Nixon was in Dallas at the moment of the assassination which would put him there at past noon. It simply can’t be from everything that has been published on the case. True, Nixon does change his story many times in regarding to his actions on that day. So I was mystified as to why Prouty would get this wrong since he is generally spot-on with the other issues he deals with. Basically, I get the feeling he is more versed with the issues he dealt with personally in his military career, both as a participant and an observer. Never the less, it is odd he makes these sort of mistakes in his accounting as he seems spot on with everything else.

Though the book has “JFK” in the title and his picture on the cover, there is not much here in regards to his death or a conspiracy. You’ll read more about that in Oliver Stone’s forward (the director of JFK would model the Mr. X character after Prouty).

L. Fletcher Proudy comes off as the honest insider. Everything he says that he has experience with and first hand knowledge of, has a ring of truth to it. And you can be sure it’ll be something you never read anywhere else or thought of before.

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (November 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602397317
ISBN-13: 978-1602397316
Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches

The latest version of JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy has a new and additional forward by Jesse Ventura.

The Secret Team