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Ratcliffe: It's now Monday, May 8th, and we're here again with Fletcher Prouty today to discuss the Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963, including examination of the types of power groups, or power-group base, that seems to have its hand in all this and how this was a very seminal event for post-World War II directions in United States Government policies and agendas.
I'd like to begin with an open-ended question, positing: Knowing what you know now, if you were put in the position of being in charge of investigating Kennedy's assassination the day after he was murdered, when almost everyone in any way involved was still alive, and you had subpoena power, etc., what witnesses would you call and what leads would you pursue?
Prouty: That certainly is a fundamental question. Of course we all realize that a trial for the act of murder, in the United States, by law, by tradition, is the function of state governments. What should have been done immediately was to have the State of Texas begin to solve that murder, without any delay in court.
The body of President Kennedy should not have been moved from Texas. The autopsy should have been completed by the same people that were there when he was brought into the hospital. The police should have been the same police that were on duty when the President was moving through town. The very next day those policemen -- all of them -- should have been convened in a meeting so that everything they knew would be put down and recorded immediately including the long conversations that had been had with Lee Harvey Oswald the night that he was picked up. Because most of us will recall that he was not picked up on the charge of having shot the President. He was picked up on a collateral charge of having something to do with the death of a policeman named Tippett.
It's rather interesting to note that some newspapers printed the story that Officer Tippett had been sent to arrest Oswald -- and note that was immediate printing -- that was before the cover story came in. Later papers went along with the cover story that Oswald for some reason got in an argument with Tippett and shot him. That had nothing to do with the original factual reports at the time.
First of all, if any of us were on the spot and were charged with solving that murder, we'd have done the same thing you do with any murder: we'd have policemen and detectives on the spot and immediately begin to ask the questions that would solve this murder which was clearly the result of the actions of several people, highly trained, and with a lot of other people in the area taking part in the business of this whole assassination. The cover-up is actually a larger operation than the shooting.
If this work had been done that way, the possibility is that there would have been no mystery, from the time of the autopsy right in the Parkland Hospital. Because it was clear that the President had been hit in the back (that's a wound produced by a shot from the back); that he had been hit in the throat (a wound by a shot from the front); that he had been hit in the forehead (that's a wound created by another shot from the side-front); that the back of his head had been completely blown off (that's made by a weapon that fired a bullet through his head and blowing off the back of his head); and that there was a bullet that hit a man named Tague who was a block and a half down the street. In other words, a low-trajectory bullet, not one from the sixth floor going down to hit the pavement -- this one went a block and a half beyond the president's car (520 feet) and hit the curb, threw a fragment of the bullet, or curb, up that hit Mr. Tague in the face -- and photographers took pictures of him with blood running down his face -- that's another bullet.
So there's four bullets right there. That minimum number of shots disproves the entire Warren Commission Report. Police would have handled that information immediately. They would have gone to the places where those shots originated from, and begin to solve the crime the same as any other crime.
There are reports of them locating a British 303 rifle, of a German Mauser rifle, and of this Italian Carcano rifle, from this same period of time -- within hours. Any police department would have resolved that immediately by finding the rifle that had been fired, by matching it to the bullets, and discarding the other bullets. If the normal police activity that takes place in any small town in the country had been put into motion within moments of that crime, it would have been solved before midnight. And, we remember, Oswald was not even charged with the death of Kennedy until after midnight. So even that aspect of it is illusory. And then they interviewed Oswald all during that night and claimed that they never took any notes at all. That's fabulous. They couldn't have done that in a police service -- unless the policemen were part of the conspiracy -- then you say to the police: "You're part of the conspiracy -- because why didn't you take notes?" You could have stopped that thing immediately. And, with the body there to match it to all this evidence, there would have been none of these things about "all the bullets from a single man up in . . . "
Now, as soon as you throw out the "Lone Assassin" scenario (and it has taken the press in this world 30 years to throw out the idea that Oswald was "the lone assassin") -- The House Committee Study (in the late seventies) came up with the idea that they are convinced, because they found more bullet -- more rifle-firing-sounds on the sound tapes than three, that they think there was a conspiracy.
The newspapers haven't even picked that up. If you read a newspaper today, whether printed in San Francisco or Singapore, it says: "President Kennedy was killed by a lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald." That is evidence of one of the most powerful cover-up situations ever created: that for 30 years they can force the media of the world -- to speak like parrots with respect to the death of Kennedy -- that he was killed by a lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. They will not print anything else -- although 99% of the people of this world believe that the President was killed otherwise. It's fascinating to think about how solid and how powerful this cover-up arrangement is.
Then when you begin to add to that the fact that the plan to kill a President can only mean one thing: that the people who made that plan intended to control the United States of America. Then you begin to see that they have the power to kill the President, and to create the cover-up, and of course to take over the Presidency for the objectives that they had. Those things begin to clarify who did it, how they did it, why they did it. That's what you do with any crime. So, if I had been in charge of the investigation of the President's death in Dallas for the next 24 hours afterwards, I think within 6 or 8 hours we'd have solved the crime. There would have been none of this "lone assassin" business.
Now, the important point about having people realize that there was not a lone assassin is the next step: that, if there was a group, and if they conspired to kill the President, then they had an objective. A lone assassin doesn't have to have an objective. He can be a nut -- somebody who just fired the gun and he's a nut. That's what they try to make us believe. But the minute you say there were people who planned to kill the President, whether it was Castro and his people, whether it was Khrushchev and his people, whether it was the Mafia and their people, or some other hate group, they had an objective. At least we are maturing in our thinking about Kennedy's death; by now we can say "the Mafia did it", or "Castro did it" -- at least we are pointing the finger to groups that have an objective. I think within the next three or four years they will finally begin to come around to what this objective was. And we may become mature enough in this country by 40 years after Kennedy's death to begin to lay down exactly what happened at the time he was killed: that an extremely powerful group within the United States government set up the objective of killing Kennedy in order to control the progress of the government in the direction they wanted for the next eight-ten-twelve-years. There's no question about it, looking back.In that current scenario there are various groups that have at times been identified as the initiators of this murder. Stories have been put out positing Castro wanted to kill him, or the Mob, all of whom seem derelict in the ability -- which was not of Castro or Khrushchev or the Mob's capabilities -- to engineer events like getting the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to head up a commission to cover it up, or the complicity of the Dallas police department, or whoever else -- the authorities either locally or federally -- who played key roles in the post assassination alteration of stories and evidence to conform to a lone nut scenario.
Prouty: That's what I'm saying: when we finally mature ourselves enough to realize that the President was not killed by a lone assassin (who had no real motive) -- the minute we move ourselves into saying that some organization did it (whether it's Castro, Khrushchev, Mafia, whatever), immediately we are saying there was a motive. Now the motive is that of a group, and their objective was the control of the government of the United States.
He had made a speech at the UN, saying that he was not going to have NASA arrange the shot to the moon by itself, but he was going to merge our space agency in with the Russian space agency in a cooperative attempt to go to the moon. He thought that would be internationally palatable, it would help ease the pressures of the Cold War, and would really make progress for the world, as well as putting a man on the moon. That upset the tens of thousands of people who worked for NASA, and their industrial supporters throughout the industry, and a lot of other people who only believed in anticommunism and in the Cold War. But Kennedy had done that, within 90 days before his death.
Another event that a lot of other people have not noticed, because it's a little more intricate, is that at the time Kennedy became President one of the biggest aircraft procurement projects ever designed was on the boards. The Eisenhower administration had not settled it and they handed it over to the Kennedy administration, assuming of course that they thought Nixon was going to be elected and he would solve the problem. It was called the TFX Fighter Program. With that much money (upwards of $6-7 billion dollars I believe, which in those days was an enormous amount of money), there was enormous pressure on the selection of this TFX fighter.
Kennedy's selection process involved a consortium with the General Dynamics Company of California versus the proposals from the Boeing Company. In this process, the Kennedy administration drastically changed the method of weapons procurement that had existed since World War II. One of the active participants in this was Arthur Goldberg, the Secretary of Labor (a very politically astute gentleman), who saw that the Kennedy election over Nixon was by a very, very narrow margin. What Goldberg proposed was that, if the companies bidding for the aircraft owned properties and factories in areas where Kennedy needed the vote, then the one with the most factories in the most needed areas should be given the contract, simply so that that money would flow in areas that would be politically expedient to Kennedy's reelection in 1964.
A lot of people were violently opposed to that procurement plan. Within the Pentagon, for example, Secretary McNamara set up a series of offices where, posted on the walls were Department of Labor county-divided maps of the whole United States -- county by county, state by state. McNamara's staff would draw the colored markers on there -- for every element of the General Dynamics proposal, they'd set a color up for the counties that General Dynamics covered, and for each Boeing proposal, they would do likewise.
By the time they got to make the decision on the aircraft late in 1962, they decided to purchase the General Dynamics plane versus, you might say, the more popular (at least within the military-industry complex) Boeing proposal. The final McNamara decision to give that contract to General Dynamics staggered the industry, and it's a very powerful industry to have in opposition.
In addition to that, and at the same time, Mr. McNamara's Deputy Secretary of Defense, Roswell Gilpatrick, was traveling around the country speaking at bankers' conventions and other important meetings, saying that from now on the Kennedy administration was going to see that procurement money was more wisely used and that the old power groups of the Eisenhower days were ended. Although that was a rather quiet series of events with respect to news, it was a most important area of opposition to the Kennedy administration. It was a very important area. So this is a second pressure point that eventually added up to the decision to do away with JFK.
In Vietnam, warfare was growing, but in 1962 and 1963 the Vietnam War was not a big issue. It was a small operation. The trouble in Laos was more important, the trouble in the Congo was more important. Vietnam wasn't the whole thing. We did more in anti-Castro work, you might say, than we did in Vietnam. So that, by hind-sight we think the Vietnam War in '63 was a major issue but it wasn't. By the summer of '63, Kennedy had properly analyzed that if the people of South Vietnam wanted to set up their own country and run their own country, they were going to have to fight for their own country the same as our people did in the Revolutionary War against the British. It was the Americans that fought the British and did it themselves. And he thought that Vietnamization was the way to do it. We would provide the support and we would help them.
With that in mind, he set up the procedures to produce what became NSAM 263, of Oct 1963, in which he announced his Vietnam policy -- we do not say "his Vietnam War policy," because with NSAM 263 JFK was emphasizing that he was not going to support the idea of a Vietnam War.
He did announce publicly that, before the end of the year, he would bring 1000 troops home for Christmas, and by the end of 1965 he would have all U.S. personnel out of Vietnam. The use of the word "personnel" rather than "military" was intended. All personnel included -- quite pointedly -- the CIA people.
I worked on that NSAM #263 with my boss Gen. V. H. Krulak and others of his staff, and we have no question about the source and emphatic significance of the words of that paper because we had been instructed by the White House to see that this was clear: that 1000 men would be home by Christmas and all American personnel by the end of 1965. Krulak got those words directly, and in person, from the White House.
With this document on the record we all knew that Kennedy was not going to put American military in Vietnam at any time. That hit the news like a bolt of lightning. Many of us believe that inevitably, this was the major pressure point on the way to the "High Cabal's" (to use Winston Churchill's term) decision to assassinate JFK and to take over the reins of Government of the USA.
So there were those pressures. There were pressures in the education system. And there was sufficient pressure to see that certain groups would like to remove Kennedy, because by the end of '63, it was becoming clear that he would win the next election in 1964 and have another four years in office, that Bobby was right behind him, that Teddy was right behind Bobby, and on and on -- a Kennedy Dynasty. There was a Kennedy regime being set up. I think that is the essence of the pressure that caused his death. Because it is that kind of pressure that could very easily weld itself together into an assassination program, where the assassination was being laid on in a professional manner as they are done in coup d'états around the world, where the hit men are professionals, they are covered by the local police and removed from the scene, and they're gone, and then nobody knows who did it and they never find out about it. That's the way Kennedy was killed and those are the reasons for which he was killed.
Ratcliffe: In looking back at the actual execution of the murder -- the planning and execution -- what role, if any, do you feel the following government agencies (or individuals within those agencies) played. I want to just run down a list here. Start with the FBI.
Prouty: I'll just say first that no agency played a role as an agency. What happens in such things as this -- in fact, we had a term for it, we called it the "Gold Key Club." A certain small group coalesces and they are given an order to do something and it's not by agency. As a comparison: there was a program that had been constituted, I think in '62, called Mongoose. The objective of Mongoose was to remove Castro from office in Cuba. The people that were assigned to Mongoose (under the direction of General Lansdale), were from various agencies and various countries working together. Some others who were not from any agencies -- they were hired employees from other specialties and other businesses that are competent in this business of establishing coup d'états and things like that.
So it's not correct to say that the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Defense, the State Department, had a role in this. To over-simplify, their people are bureaucrats. It could very well be (and I'm quite sure it was) that people from those agencies might have been called upon for certain special functions, but that isn't how these jobs are done.
Ratcliffe: So there wouldn't be much point in looking at it by agency as far as being able to identify anyone that you felt, "Oh, yes, that person must have had this to do with it or that to do with it -- "
Prouty: Not that way specifically. Those things are done. I have worked on assassinations in other countries, or the removal from office of people from other countries, and it was not done agency by agency. It was done on the basis of a very clever group arrangement which would get the job done by people who are very proficient in that type of business -- and totally unknown, or "faceless."I would like to look at a few instances, though, of examining just what evidence did go down -- particularly in terms of something like the Secret Service. Now, you served in some function during Eisenhower's term related to helping with Secret Service security for the President?
Prouty: The Secret Service is well-trained, and it has manuals that direct how they operate, for what is called Protection of the President. It's a small organization. In general practice the Secret Service is augmented, when necessary, with specially trained units from the U.S. military. Something we have noticed in connection with the assassination of President Kennedy was that certain of these Secret Service units and military units that should have been deployed along the streets in Dallas, that should have closed windows in Dallas, that should have welded manhole covers in the streets, that should have designed a route through the city that was safe, that these units were not there. They had not been assigned to Dallas.
For instance: they have a rule that says, if the automobile carrying the President cannot travel 44 miles an hour you have to go on another route. I argued with them one day just kind of jokingly, why 44?, why not 45?, why not? And they said: We have learned that, at 44 miles an hour, a gunman has great difficulty following the target and hitting the target, so that's simply a "best case" mathematical minimum level. What it meant was, if you had to go through the city at 30 miles an hour or at 15 miles an hour, you must take additional precautions. Well, they didn't even take those essential precautions that are required when the President was moving at about 6 miles an hour.
In the days before they went to Dallas (the Presidential Party had been touring in Texas), calls were made to certain military units and to certain Secret Service units, saying, "You won't be needed in Dallas." Maybe they were used in San Antonio, maybe they were used in Houston or Ft. Worth. To the military unit they said "We don't need you in Dallas." The assumption of that commander was that somebody else's military unit -- there are a lot of these units -- would be used. They never dreamed that it meant the city would be left open -- as it was. As you know from the record, there were no Secret Service and no military men with this special training in the Dealey Plaza area. The evidence of it is in the photographs.
One of the first steps the Secret Service would take in a place like the Dealey Plaza area where high buildings look down over the road is they would order all the windows to be closed and sealed. Put a seal on it that says to anyone working in the building: "Do Not open this window." Then you say, yes, but how are you going to control maybe hundreds of people? It's not hard. You put a man on the roof with a radio. You put others in strategic positions with sniper's rifles. You put another man down in the middle of the plaza on the grass, looking up, and he's got a radio. If he sees a window open, he broadcasts immediately: "third floor, fourth window over." The snipers cover the window and one of the team on the roof runs down there, sees why the window's up -- some secretary opened the window to see the President go by -- and he says: "Close that window!" And it's closed. You have radios. It can be done. It's not a big job. In fact, it's done every day. I went to Mexico City with a team sent to protect the President (President Eisenhower, in Mexico City), and you'd think, "my word, we can't get the President through here safely", but we did. There's no problem, if you do the job.
What happened to the Secret Service was not that the Secret Service didn't do their job. They weren't asked to be there to do the job. They were told: "Your unit isn't needed, you can go home", and then they didn't tell anybody else to do it. Very, very clever planning because it would make it seem as though the Secret Service didn't do their job but it wasn't their fault. Or that the Army -- I have talked to the Army people involved, and they didn't know that there wasn't going to be the other Army unit there. They thought that if their unit isn't needed, the other one will be there. It's very hard for those trained people not to do their jobs. It's like, if you go out in the woods with a hunting dog, and all of a sudden the dog sees a pheasant and he starts running and you say "No." But the dog's trained to go for it, he wants to go for the pheasant -- you have a hard job stopping him, this is his job. Well, this type of thing happened in Dallas in all of these things.
Then, added to this, there were false Secret Service there. Many, many witnesses who were on the ground in Dallas said something like, "I was taking pictures and a man who showed me the credentials of Secret Service took my camera and removed the film. He identified himself as Secret Service."
Or, others said that they met people there who identified themselves as police. In fact, there were pictures of policemen in the Dealey Plaza area, ostensibly Dallas policemen, but they're in stage uniforms -- they're not in police uniforms. Their insignia don't match Dallas police, their shoes are different from Dallas police, they're carrying shotguns -- something Dallas police don't carry, and so on.
Who put those teams together? And who put them in Dallas at Dealey Plaza at this time? What arrangements were made ahead of the President's murder that had all those actors there before the President was even shot? That's how you answer the problem of who killed the President, how he was killed, and why he was killed. What pressure groups were built up that could put a team of hundreds of people to work on this, and then cover their activity for 30 years?
I haven't even mentioned how other trained people, for instance, operated at the autopsy room -- so that when the doctors, trying to save the life of the President, wrote down that they saw the whole back of the President's head gone from the gunshot wound, that they operated on a cut in his throat that was an entry wound, then, by the time they had the autopsy in the Bethesda Naval Hospital (eight or ten hours later), they reported wounds of entry in different places. They had completely shifted the autopsy around. Who arranged all that? Who arranged that entire cover story?
Mr. Zapruder, who took the film of the act of the assassination -- just happened to be there with a movie camera -- he happened to taking pictures of the President's car as it went by; somebody located him that night, and the Life Magazine people paid him -- I don't know, $50,000? -- some big amount of money -- for his film. Then, when the Life Magazine published extracts from his film, they reversed certain of the film slides to make it appear that the President's head went forward, when it really went backward. And so, who set up that cover story?
You see, the whole thing is shot through with cover stories. That shows an enormous power center behind the killing of the President -- certainly not Lee Harvey Oswald, or Castro, or the Mafia, or some other nebulous group. This was an inside, powerful group that scheduled all these events so that they would come together with, not only the murder of the President, but the takeover of the U.S. government.
Ratcliffe: In some of your articles (which are compiled in the book, JFK, The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy) you write about this situation of the security being so lax in Dealey Plaza, and no one being on the buildings, and none of the windows being closed, and all of the airtight procedures that the Secret Service had developed as an agency since they had been formed after McKinley's assassination -- none of those procedures were followed that day.
Also Jim Garrison's new book, On the Trail of the Assassins, lays out evidence of the parade-route map on the front page of the Dallas Morning News -- that morning, November 22nd -- showing the parade going straight down Main Street, never indicating any turn onto Houston or then another turn onto Elm. In this context, the top-level Secret Service people would not even be aware of this last-minute change -- because, as of that morning, newspapers were still indicating the parade route would go straight down Main Street. What is your sense of how the Secret Service was fooled. Or, who was somehow involved in this monumental setting up of the ambush site by rerouting the last-minute change in the parade route to accommodate this absolutely essential place to get the car to go slow enough to get a shot in?
Prouty: That's a very important detail that Jim Garrison has pointed out. Because, the Secret Service, along with its military assistants, studies the route that the President will travel over in any city -- not just Dallas, any city -- for at least 90 days ahead of time. They study all the idiosyncrasies of that bit of the city: where people could be hidden on a roof, what angle of fire they'd have from certain windows, what speed the car would be traveling at certain corners. And of course they try to reduce corners. They try to go perfectly straight and that's what the map in the paper showed, a straight route right through the city.
It is not Secret Service policy to change a route at the last minute. They've done too much work. If something comes up that causes them to want to change a route at the last minute, they're more apt to change the President's trip entirely -- not even have him stop there. They did that just before the trip to Dallas. It was either a trip to Chicago or a trip to Miami where they had some problem, and the public was told that President Kennedy was suffering from a severe cold and could not make the trip. Well, the Secret Service isn't going to put him in a position where he's doing something counter to their own best regulations. And they have very thorough regulations; they can keep the President alive.
So the fact that the parade route was changed and apparently changed even after the Dallas News had been told what the route was and after they printed a major map -- what was it, about five-six columns of the front page? It was an enormous map on the front page of the paper. And then the route was changed in spite of that. This simply underscores the evidence that elements within the structure of the government, at a very high level, were able to get such things as that route changed. Despite the fact that they had told, for instance, the Dallas News, very shortly before the parade, that he was going to be on another route.
The important point is that, if the Dallas News knew that, the Dallas police knew that, the Dallas sheriff's office knew that, the Secret Service knew that, the military people working on the visit knew that -- everybody else knew that the route went one way -- and then all of a sudden when he made this drastic change around the triangle there and the car slowed to four or five miles an hour, it was a shock to all of these people there. But what is really amazing is you don't hear any of these people talking about that. And maybe hundreds of them were on duty that day and found that their jobs were totally ignored as the car went off on its own somewhere else, and yet there's been no word from them. They've been covered up totally. You see, it works both ways. The place was left vacant of its normal guard, of its normal observation and all that sort of thing; and then the men who were there and saw this happen have been kept from speaking about that ever since it happened. I don't know the witness of any man, from the Secret Service or any other place, who has tried to explain why that change was made. They just leave it hanging in the air like that as though, "Well, it's something we can't account for." It's part of the crime, just like everything else. And Garrison was right to point that out.
Ratcliffe: There are other discrepancies as well. There must have been a lot of people who did perceive a different parade route being defined on the spot that morning, because of course there was a great throng of people right at the corner of Houston and Elm, Zapruder was up on the pergola --
Prouty: But the streets were very close. It was a small triangle and the fact -- as you notice in some of the pictures taken that people who had been on Main street were walking across the grass over to the other street. Really it was not that kind of a problem, from the viewer's point of view. What it was is, it put the President at a very slow speed, making corners that he should not have been making, and right under the guns (and I say guns on purpose) that had been placed there to kill him. It was an absolute ambush if ever I saw one, a real Wild-West ambush.You showed me the AP photograph you had the other day of some of the tramps that were picked up. And there were no recorded arrests besides that of Lee Harvey Oswald that day, when in fact, at least in this case, there were four or five photographs of three different people being led from the railroad yards, through Dealey Plaza, over to the Sheriff's Office. And yet there is no record of anyone else being arrested. But these people appeared to be being taken in. Although, as you said, some of the officers in those photographs are wearing stage uniforms, the emblems don't match, etc. In one photograph particularly, there's a person who is walking away from the camera -- it's the only person in the photograph you can't see the face of -- and one of the tramps in the front that he's just passed has a sort of smirk on his face. Could you comment about your interpretation of who that is in that photograph?
Prouty: The photographic evidence of that day, taken as a whole, is absolutely amazing. I believe it has been said that there's something between five or six thousand pictures taken including single slides from movie cameras and the rest. What various researchers have done is to take all these photographs and place them in a time frame, so you can see people standing in one place -- and later here's the same person over there -- and begin to identify some of these people and their movements.
So we have worked very hard on looking carefully at who is in these pictures. Well, there are several of them that are really outstanding. And one of the most amazing is this group of these three men who the news stories said had been removed from a boxcar in a rail yard right in back of Dealey Plaza and were being led from that boxcar by police directly in front of the School Book Depository building to the Sheriff's Office, and that's the end of it. The trail ends. They weren't booked. There's no record of them at all.
Let's look at the pictures. The pictures do show three men that researchers have called "tramps." They're dressed in brand-new clothes; they've got new shoes on; they have new clothes on, they are not tramps. The police that are leading them (one in front and one in back) are in what we call "stage costume police uniform" because they are not Dallas police costume -- police uniforms. These "police" did not even put hand-cuffs on these "murderers." Their insignia do not match. One of them has -- very clearly -- a hearing device in his ear. Their shotguns are not police shotguns, police don't carry shotguns. Furthermore, the Dallas police don't lead prisoners into the Sheriff's Office. The police and the Sheriff's Office work together, but their jobs are entirely different and taking prisoners to the Sheriff's Office is the last place the police would take any prisoners. So, all that part of it is very questionable, and theatrical.
When researchers had arrived at that point, one of them came to me one day and said: "Look. Of all the pictures we've studied, this little episode of these men being marched across in front of the school depository building where Oswald was supposed to have been, and across the street in Dealey Plaza where the President's car had just gone, into the Sheriff's Office: there's something wrong about these pictures."
So we looked at them very carefully. And in the very first picture, in addition to the two policemen and the three "tramps" as they're called, is another man. And he's walking in the other direction so that his side and his back is more or less to the photographer rather than face forward. There's something incongruous about it. How is it possible that anyone in Dealey Plaza at that moment would appear so relaxed? And here these men are probably being marched across there five minutes after the President was killed -- everybody was running around, people were excited, sirens were blowing -- and here's this man in a business suit just casually walking along. He doesn't even turn, he's not looking at anybody. Just walking and he happens to pass by these men as they're being marched along. At the very least he would be looking at these prisoners or looking at the policemen. Anybody would, especially at that time. This man is looking at nobody.
So we studied him a little while. As I looked at it -- this occurred in '66 or '67 -- I recognized immediately that the studiously unconcerned man is General Lansdale. Now, Lansdale is a very interesting figure in the Kennedy era. And I have known Lansdale. I worked with him off and on from about 1952 to 1963, sometimes in the same office in the Pentagon. He retired from the Air Force on October 31, 1963. That was less than one month before JFK's death. Well of course the picture could have been a hundred other people and I could be wrong. But I knew him very well.
Then I looked at the tramps themselves. And there's this strange little eye-catch between this man and the first tramp coming by. In other words, the first tramp, instead of being seriously concerned about the fact that he may be charged with the murder of the President, he's smiling. And the second tramp has a sort of a quizzical little look, and you can tell that he has looked at this man walking by, and he has the same kind of approach, as though he's just been reassured, everything's all right. The third man happens to be in back from the camera's point of view and you don't see him at all. But that little bit of expression is saying an awful lot at that moment. The police themselves have expressions that indicate more that, as if they were saying to somebody, "Say, Boss, am I doin' all right?", that kind of thing. In other words, was Lansdale walking down right in front of the school book depository building to reassure those people? Maybe his employees? Or somebody that's working for him? What's the significance of that? It's all in the pictures.
That happens to be my own interpretation. The men who had brought the pictures to me hadn't the slightest idea who it was. I decided at that moment that what was needed next was a lot of research. So I got some very clear copies of those professional pictures (these pictures were taken by a professional news cameraman). I got a clear picture. I started mailing the picture to acquaintances of mine and acquaintances of Lansdale, who knew him, without stating any of my thoughts. I simply would send the picture and say, "Can you tell me what this looks like to you? This was taken shortly after the death of the President, and I wonder if this picture calls anything to mind to you." You'd be amazed to find that from senior people, in the government (such as Lansdale was or such as I was at the time), I got immediate confirmation: "that's Ed Lansdale."
Well now, I don't know why he was in Dallas. I can't go into that. His own records, on file, show that he was in Ft. Worth just before the Kennedy visit. But it's astounding that this man, who was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, after General Graves Erskine retired; who was the man who had more or less single-handedly set up Diem as President of South Vietnam; who, again almost single-handedly had set up President Magsaysay as President of The Philippines; who was considered probably the most significant person in the U.S. military/U.S. government on the subject of counterinsurgency, civic action, Special Forces, Green Beret troops -- he had written the books that the Green Berets used in their courses down at Fort Bragg; what could have been his role at that time?
I had a very personal interest in that because, only a month or two before JFK's death, Lansdale had met me in the halls of the Pentagon and said that he had arranged for me to go as a military escort officer with a VIP party to the South Pole. Of course I didn't mind going, it was a paid vacation to the South Pole. But it had nothing in particular to do with my work, work I'd been doing for nine years in the Pentagon. There was no special reason why I should go, the work at the South Pole had nothing to do with special operations or covert activities. It was a perfectly above-board job. As a result of that meeting, I left for the South Pole on November 10th, 1963. I was in New Zealand on the way back from the South Pole when I heard about President Kennedy's death.
Why Lansdale asked me to go to the South Pole I have no idea. Or, was there some connection between this role that he may have been playing in Dallas and the fact that he would just as soon I be out of town? I reflected on that, especially when I began to realize that almost all of Kennedy's Cabinet had been out of town, that some 45 officials with the Cabinet were also out of town, in Honolulu and on their way to Tokyo. They were actually on their way to Tokyo when the President was killed. And over the years I have made a study of how many people, central to the inner workings of the secret government of this country, had been moved out of Washington at that time. It's a very, very interesting subject. I wish I could answer it. I don't know how to answer it. I'm sure the picture is Lansdale; others are sure it's Lansdale, and I have to leave it there.This experience you had in New Zealand is very interesting to me in terms of the influence and scope of the kinds of stories that were flooding out of (I think it was) British AP as well others in the hours immediately after the assassination. Why don't you talk more about how you got the newspaper at the time and looking back on it now, how the paper's content doesn't make sense.
Prouty: This is an interesting aspect of the President's murder, and I'd like to know more about what was printed in overseas papers. But I was in New Zealand (specifically Christchurch) at the time the President was killed. I was with a U.S. Congressman and we were having breakfast at 7:30 A.M. Of course it was shocking news; but limited over the radio. They only announced that he had been killed and he'd been killed in Dallas. And that's all we knew for several hours.
Then the Christchurch newspaper came out. This was Saturday morning November 23, 1963 in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was an Extra. They were hawking it down the streets, and of course I ran out and grabbed the first copy I could get -- which I still have.
It's very interesting because news that's printed immediately like that is more apt to come right from the true, eye-witness record than to have been massaged a little bit the way the weekly magazines had it, or even some of our own newspapers where they had access to things -- their own telephones and all. And of course I understand completely that world news today is in real time, there's no shortage of information. But the problem of researching and digging things out of files takes a certain amount of time. So this first paper on the street is really a most important statement of the way things were handled with respect to news immediately after -- or even before -- the President was killed.
So we read the paper, the Congressman and I -- there's a big picture of Kennedy in the paper, obviously -- and a story about Kennedy and his 1000 Days in Washington and the significance of those events. The other half of the paper is devoted to what reporters right on the scene had sent out from Dallas. One report, either attributed to a reporter from Reuters or British AP, said that he heard " three bursts of automatic weapons fire."
Now, these experienced reporters, who have credentials to travel in Presidential processions like that, are highly qualified men. Many have been war correspondents and many have been in situations where they certainly know the difference between a single-shot rifle going bing-bing-bing over six seconds, or automatic-weapons fire where they're going brrrrrrrrrr like that, and they know something happened. So those few lines, where the paper printed that the President was killed by bursts of automatic weapons fire, say quite a bit. Later the Warren Commission tried to tell us that a lone gunman fired three separate shots over 6.8 seconds. That's the first point we noticed that had been corrupted by their "investigation."
Then we read a little further down the column, and they began to talk about Lee Harvey Oswald. Now remember, on that date Lee Harvey Oswald was a nondescript American, ex-Marine, 23-24 years old. Of course, police have files on people and the newspapers have files, and with a little bit of research they can put these things together, and you can expect you'd get some information. But, what they printed about Oswald was very elaborate: that he had gone to Russia, he'd worked in Russia, he had defected to Russia, married a Russian wife, had come back and gone to work in Dallas, had worked with a Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans. It's almost like a book written five years later. There's enough information about Oswald to fill pages. Furthermore, there's a picture of Oswald, well-dressed in a business suit, whereas, when he was picked up on the streets of Dallas after the Presidents death, he had on some T-shirt or something. Just dressed average with a polo shirt or something like that on, but not a business suit with a necktie and all.
Of course I had no reason not to believe what I read in that first paper. These things I've studied since then. But even so you wonder, now where did the paper get that information so immediately, and such complete information? But the headline was even more important. It said: "This is the man alleged to have shot the President." Well now, the police in Dallas had picked up Oswald in a theater on the grounds that he may have been the killer of a Dallas policeman named Tippett. It was nearly one o'clock the next morning before the Dallas police had finally issued the charges against Oswald long after the paper had been printed.
Who had written that scenario? Who wrote that script? Who had packaged all that information and distributed it, all over the world (if it got to Christchurch, New Zealand, it must have been everywhere else)? Who had handled all that type of information prior to the President's death?
Even this business of the "pre-arranged" news releases begins to tell you that a big organization -- big enough to have planted this information ahead of the President's death -- was involved in the murder of the President. We've talked about the Honolulu conference and that the Cabinet members were there. The speeches some of those Cabinet members were supposed to have made in Japan were actually printed in American newspapers on the day they were supposed to have made the speeches, even though they never went to Japan. Now that's not always too surprising because speeches are mailed out ahead of time. But it is surprising to think that, with the intervening death of the President, that something wasn't done immediately to recall that kind of thing.
So much news was already written ahead of the time of the murder to say that Oswald killed the President and that he did it with three shots. Still, events like the statement of automatic-weapon fire nullify some of that; this is the clash between the reporter on the spot or the man who just got this big pre-arranged release coming over the wires that said Oswald was the killer of the President. I suppose if somebody got newspapers from 100 different cities around the world, you'd be able to corroborate this even better, because the information fed to them was all work done prior to the shooting. Somebody had decided Oswald was going to be the patsy. And that's what the newspaper's were saying. Here's his picture, right in the Christchurch, New Zealand, paper -- right along in the same issue with the picture of President Kennedy. Where did they get it, before the police had charged him with the crime? Not so much "where", as "why Oswald?"
Ratcliffe: What is significant to me is that you said you got that paper by midday on Saturday, your time -- put it at about 4:30 in the afternoon on Friday, November 22nd, Central Daylight Time -- which was at least eight hours before Oswald was charged officially with the murder of the President.
Prouty: To put the times in perspective: JFK was killed in Dallas at about 12:30 in the afternoon. That corresponded to 7:30 in the morning in Christchurch, New Zealand. I got the paper before noon, which was, we'll say 7:30 to noon -- that would mean, in Dallas, about 4:30 in the afternoon. Oswald hadn't even been charged by the police with the murder -- with the shooting of the President -- by 4:30 in the afternoon. How did the papers get the information to say that, before that time? Then the rest of the things that are in the paper also are equally unfounded. the paper was saying what the police were going to say some eight hours later. It had to have been a set-up job to put that information in the papers -- and such a lot of information -- I'm only quoting a few things. The articles that I'm talking about were on the front page. They also had follow-on in the back pages of the paper. It was filled with facts about Oswald that most people didn't know for days and days in the rest of the country.
Prouty: Directly from Dallas. Yes. Yes. And did you realize that the same "three bursts of automatic weapons fire" is what CBS used when they broke into all of the network programs with the first news of the assassination? The very same words. Why haven't we heard an explanation of that message and its source?
So there are intervening procedures there. But again, we understand that news can originate anywhere in the world in real-time. That's not the problem. The issue is the content, how the content could have been collated and put together immediately. If anybody wants to study this in a rather interesting parallel, read the newspapers immediately after the allegation that President Reagan was shot by Hinckley right on the streets of Washington, and you'll see that it took hours and hours for information to fall out of the papers with regard to Hinckley and his background. Whereas the information that came out about Oswald was out right away, in minutes. It doesn't make sense.
Ratcliffe: To be able to lay things like this down and have the planted stories ready to go before the actual events themselves transpired, certainly indicates some level of tremendously powerful influences or interests operating behind the scenes -- powerful, in fact, mostly because of their invisibility. Because it's so hard to pin them down, to point at any group or interest that could be a likely candidate for a lot of this type of organization, planning, and real-time dissemination of false stories and whatever else -- to produce the stories that then became "the truth."
- See "Kennedy Asks Joint Moon Flight By U.S. and Soviet as Peace Step; Urges New Accords in U.N. Speech," and "Washington is Surprised By President's Proposal", New York Times, Sept. 21, 1963, p.1
- See "Appendix D" on page 333 for a copy of the March 15, 1985 response to Fletcher Prouty from Victor Krulak (Commandante of the Marine Corps and Prouty's superior in the Office of SACSA) with Krulak's assertion, "That is indeed a picture of Ed Lansdale."
- For an extensive analysis of the on-going cover-story and some of the techniques employed to discredit sources like Fletcher Prouty, see Appendix F, on page 341.