Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Joan Mellen’s “Our Man in Haiti” - Notes

Joan Mellen’s “Our Man in Haiti” – George DeMohrenschildt and the CIA in the Nightmare Republic (Trine Day, 2012)

By William E. Kelly

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy we can expect a slew of books on the subject and Joan Mellen’s “Our Man in Haiti” is one of the first out of the gate. This book is not about the assassination of President Kennedy, but it does add some interesting pieces to the puzzle of Dealey Plaza – the Haitian intrigues of the accused assassin’s “babysitter” George DeMohrenschildt, who many believe assisted in setting up Lee Harvey Oswald as the patsy to take the fall for the murder of the president.

Nor is this book about “our man” in Haiti in the sense that Win Scott was, as in Jeff Morely’s book “Our man in Mexico” or Graham Green’s comic spoof “Our Man in Havana,” as Mellen herself attests – “our man in Haiti” in this story could be DeMohrenschildt, Haitian banker Clem Charles or even the greaser I. Irving Davidson, all featured characters in what also turns out to be a somewhat sad and frustrating spoof on everyone.

While most of the action takes place in Haiti from the time of the assassination up until the strange death of DeMohrenschildt in 1978, it does often refer to the crutch of the matter - the earlier association in Texas between the regal, distinguished and shifty baron George DeMohrenschildt and the repatriated ex-Marine defector Lee Harvey Oswald.

When Oswald first arrived home from behind the Iron Curtain he was befriended by the charismatic baron DeMohrenschildt, who recounts his relationship with Oswald in the unpublished manuscript “I’m a Patsy,” [HSCA Vol. X, http: Mary Ferrell HSCA Appendix Volumes see - HSCA Appendix Volumes ].

As noted by Mellen, DeMohrenschildt sought out Oswald and in the company of Col. Lawrence Orlov, a equally mysterious character who subsequently seems to just disappear. DeMohrenschildt then became a mentor to Oswald and introduced him into a unique network of friends, who provided him with places to stay, jobs, gifts and even took care of his family’s dental needs.

Then, shortly before DeMohrenschildt moved on to Haiti, he indiscreetly “passes” the responsibility for caring for the Oswalds off on to Ruth and Michael Paine, who assume the same “babysitter” and patron role as DeMohrenschildt previously played leading up to the assassination.

Since I am of the belief that Oswald didn’t shoot anyone on November 22, 1963, and was framed as a patsy as he himself claimed, he therefore plays the distracting role of the “rabbit,” who leads investigators astray while the real assassins slip by unnoticed.

If Oswald actually did shoot the President, DeMohrenschildt would have been a primary “person of interest” and suspected as a collaborator or facilitator in the crime, but as Mellen accurately describes him, DeMohrenschildt is one of those who helped frame the patsy for the crime of the century.

While the identity of the real Sixth Floor Sniper would lead directly to the sponsors of the Dealey Plaza operation, Oswald and the detractors, including DeMohrenschildt, also lead to them, but in a more roundabout way, a trail marked with many detours and dead end alleys, which is one of the reasons why Oswald was designated as the principle patsy in the first place. 

No one had more influence over Oswald than DeMohrenschildt, as his son-in-law (Gary Taylor) told the Warren Commission, but putting a trace on the shifty and smooth operator is not an easy thing to do. Since he had so many secret and powerful associations, it’s difficult to know which intelligence agency was running him at any given time, if any were. George was associated with the Polish, German, Mexican and French intelligence services during World War II, and applied for a job with the OSS, while his brother Dimitri was more influential. Having served in OSS, as did their father, said to have been recruited by Allen Dulles, Dimitri helped found the CIA’s Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, edited the Russian Review, was a professor at Dartmouth and worked at the Hoover Institute at Stanford at the time of the assassination. .

[BK Notes: In the late 70s, during the HSCA investigation, I too focused on DeMohrenschildt, put together a time line of his life and wrote out everything I could learn about him, an essay that I still have, typed out on a typewriter, and will check to see if it is worth posting.]

Before George DeMohrenschildt met up with Oswald, and set him on the path to Dealey Plaza, DeMohrenschildt had worked for a number of major players - mainly Colorado, Texas and Louisiana oil men, and had three rich and influential wives, all of whom are colorful characters in Mellen’s book.

[BKN: One of the more colorful is John Mecom, whose son goes on to buy the New Orleans Saints football team. Mecom sent DeMohrenschildt to Yugoslavia, where he had also been sent by the US government. According to Mellen, (p. 43) Mecom’s “private foundation would later be exposed as a CIA proprietary front…”  (p. 48) “…Mecom had incorporated the San Jacinto Fund, a conduit for CIA money…William A. Smith, a director and trustee of the San Jacinto Fund. This fund in turn sponsored the National Student Association (NSA),…among CIA defenders in its financing of the NSA was General Philip H. Bethune, an eminence at the Dallas Council on World Affairs…” Mellen also says that Mecom flew DeMohrenschildt to Iran to meet with the Shah and make the pitch for an oil deal. Mae Brussell made note that in 1957, while Oswald was working for Leon Trujaque and DeMohrenschildt was working for Mecom,  Trujaque and Mecom both sat on the board of directors of a New Orleans bank. What that means I don’t know, other than both would work for men who were business associates five years before they met.]

In 1957 DeMohrenschildt went to Yugoslavia on behalf of the US government International Cooperation Administration (ICA, aka CIA), but was asked to leave the country, accused of drawing secret military fortifications, just as he came to the attention of authorities in 1941 for photographing and drawing the Coast Guard facility at Corpus Christi, Texas.

Back home DeMorhrenschildt was interviewed by J. Walton Moore, the head of the Dallas Domestic Contacts Division of the CIA, which routinely debriefed American businessmen when they returned from abroad.

But DeMohrenschildt filed ten separate reports with Moore, and later said that he and Moore had a special meeting about Oswald and Moore gave his okay and encouraged his association with Oswald, a point later denied by Moore. Moore was a friend and handball partner with Col. Lawrence Orlov, who accompanied DeMohrenschildt when he first sought out Oswald.

Although not mentioned by Mellen, Moore was also a OSS agent who served in China with Charles Ford, the Princeton grad who later took a leave from the CIA’s Office of Training to be RFK’s liaison with the mobsters involved in the JMWAVE plots against Castro.

Although Gaeton Fonzi and Dick Russell came close, Bill O’Reilly, when he was a young and hungry TV reporter in Texas in the mid-1970s, almost got the elusive interview with DeMohrenschildt’s CIA contact J. Walton Moore, but came away without a cigar. [See: David Talbot review of O’Reilly’s book “Killing Kennedy”: Bill O’Reilly wimps out - ].

[BK Notes: I thought there might be more evidence of a closer association between Oswald and J. Walton Moore. Since both Oswald and Moore had acknowledged viewing DeMohrenschildt’s film – home movie of his 1961 walking tour of Central America, I had wondered whether they saw the same screening at one of the home parties when DeMohrenschildt showed the film. If so, that would at least place them in the same room together. But Mellen answers that speculation with a firm no, having determined that Oswald saw the film As Mellen writes (p. 124), while at home engaged in a questionable business deal with Dabney A. Austin on October 27, 1962, “an unexpected visitor knocked on the door. It was Lee Harvey Oswald. Together the group watched deMohrenschildt’s home movie of his walking tour of Central America.”

One of the first FOIA letters I sent in the late 1970s was to the NARA asking about DeMohrenschildt’s walking tour movie and received a response from Marion Johnson saying that the film was not among the records at the NARA. I also think it significant that the film includes parts filmed in Guatemala where DeMohrenschildt and his wife stumbled on the CIA’s anti-Castro Cuban training base getting ready for the ill fated Bay of Pigs.]

After taking care of the material needs of Oswald and his family for about a year, DeMohrenschildt introduced them to Ruth and Michael Paine, who then fulfilled the Oswald’s needs previously taken care of by DeMohrenschildt, while he took off for a new mission in Haiti.

What was George DeMohrenschildt up to in Haiti while his squire Oswald was getting tangled up in the assassination of the president in Dallas? It was pretty much the same game – as Mellen demonstrates, with DeMohrenschildt apparently involved in an attempt to take over the presidency of Haiti in a coup that could have also included assassination. While Oswald is generally recognized as a pawn that was put into position to checkmate the president at Dealey Plaza, DeMohrenschildt was a more powerful and maneuverable rook or bishop in the same game, though an equally dispensable one.   

According to Mellen George DeMohrenschildt was “a tall, comely man, who spoke with a pronounced accent that to some sounded German. There was nothing straightforward about him…He was a handsome man who used his sexuality as a weapon to dominate and degrade people…an easy man to discard when his usefulness expired. His life illustrates how CIA treated its assets and contacts when their activities rendered them inconvenient.”

While Mellen and others keep saying Oswald, and DeMohrenschildt were being run by the CIA, from my readings of the same material, at some point the CIA didn’t want to have anything to do with him, and both Oswald and DeMohrenschildt could have just as easily been operating, knowingly or wittingly with Army Intelligence or the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), as both were heavily involved in these nefarious affairs, as the recently released government records attest.

Besides meeting with CIA officers, DeMohrenschildt and his Haitian banker and sidekick Clem Charles also meet with Dorothe Matlack, Assistant Director of the Office of the Domestic Exploitation Section, Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence.

[BK Notes: Isn’t this the same outfit in the Pentagon that the Army Reserve Colonel from Dallas who ran the Havana Hilton reported to? – Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence. Yes, I checked it out and Col Frank M. “Brandy” Brandstetter, in his book, acknowledges reporting to, according to my notes, “Col. William Rose at the Pentagon office of the Assistant Chief of Staff-Intellignce. Rose arranged for Brandy to be assigned for training on weekend duties to the 488th Strategic Intelligence Team in Dallas. Brandy also contributed to a study of the capability of the Soviet oil fields, working with oil engineer Col. Jack Crichton, MI and U.S.Army (Ret.) ]

Mellen is the first to point out the significance of 66th Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and 902 MIG – “90 Duce,” the mysterious and secret units that kept track of all these nefarious activities.

Smack in the middle of things is our old friend US Army Colonel Sam Goodhue Kail, an office associate of Matlack who we know from his days as the Military attaché in the American embassy in Havana (June 3, 1958 - Jan. 4, 1961) when he worked closely with such Dealey Plaza luminaries as David Morales, Antonio Veciana and David Atlee Phillips.

[BK Notes: As an Addendum – after the main text and regular footnotes, there’s a bonus, added addition on the subject of “H.L Hunt & Sons and CIA – a three part – fifty page long supplement concerning H.L. Hunt’s connections to the assassination and the machinations of his security assistant Paul Rothermel, concluding that the CIA had it in for the Hunts because they wouldn’t let the CIA use his companies and used Rothermel to try to pin the Dealey Plaza operation on the Hunts.]

In the course of her work Mellen also utilized the tenacious research of Bruce Adamson, whose chronology and dozen books on George DeMohrenschildt certainly makes him an authority on the man, and had access to the cryptic files of the late J. Harrison, a former Texas policeman and JFK assassination researcher. Mellen also draws extensively on the official files and records released under the JFK act, although many of the government’s records on DeMohrenschildt and his associates remain sealed for reasons of “national security.”

[BK Notes – J. Harrison’s files are now in the possession of Walt Brown in North Jersey, who lives not far from Mellen near Princeton. He gave Mellen access to Harrison’s files.]

Mellen also interviewed a few important characters who are still alive, especially Joseph F. Dryer, though few others live to tell their tales.

[BK Notes – T. Scully seems to have a file on Dryer and wants to ask him a few questions – see Ed Form.]

What I didn’t understand at first is why she left out some important well-known details, and figured, just as she wrote a follow up biography on Jim Garrison after “Farewell to Justice,” there was another book in the works.

[BK Notes: Among the items not mentioned and conspicuously left out of Mellen’s narrative are – 1) the details of Adml. Chester Bruton and Collins Radio; 2) the fact that DeMohrenschildt’s second wife Dr. Dee Dee Sharples was a trustee of Temple U., where Mellen teaches; 3) Dimitri DeMohrenschildt’s association with the Hoover Institute; 4) the notation “Hunter of Fascists” written on the backyard photo of Oswald found among DeMohrenschildt’s possessions….among others.]

And indeed there is, as I have since learned there are two more books on the way, all three of which utilize some of the same sources and general material, but focus on different geographical locations. Also in production is a book on the Texas Mafia, and a third - “The Great Game in Cuba,” which rounds out the trilogy and uses “the Cuban Revolution, as a backdrop to examine the CIA’s inner workings during the fifties and sixties.”

And it is a “Great Game,” but one that is unforgiving for everyone who plays, and the stakes now, after fifty years, are high. While it should all come to a conclusive end by the 50th anniversary with the release of the remaining files, the CIA insists on keeping the ball in play until 2017, the termination date set by the JFK Act. While every researcher rummaging through the nation’s attic at the Archives has come across the blank file pages marked CLASSIFIED – and “Withheld in Full,” we don’t need the remaining sealed files to figure out what happened.]

Besides Joan Mellen’s books, David Lifton, Russ Baker, Bill Simpich and Greg Parker are among a number of serious and responsible researchers who are also diving into these subjects, trying to make sense of it, and preparing books that should be published in the coming year, giving us an even better picture of what happened.

Thanks to Kris Milligan for having the courage to publish this and other important works. And special thanks to Joan Mellen and the other researchers for helping to outline a roadmap of the JFK assassination game board and the intelligence webs that operated on it, so we can follow the patsy and the patsy’s mentor back into the guts of the intelligence network responsible for the assassination of the President. There you will find the ones who got away with murder.

Now we just have to get down to the nitty-gritty, fill out the map’s side roads, back alleys and gutters and shine some light in to the murky darkness to see whose there.

You go first, I got your back.

William Kelly 

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