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A few excerpts of Jim Garrison's book On The Trail Of The Assassins

Sheridan Square Press, 1988 - hard cover, 1st edition


pages 98 & 99

   A great deal of confusion surrounded this second-rate Italian rifle because there was compelling evidence that it was not the weapon found in the assassin's lair shortly after the assassination. Officer Seymour Weitzman, part of the Dallas police search team, later described the discovery of the rifle on the afternoon of November 22. He stated that it had been so well hidden under boxes of books that the officers stumbled over it many times before they found it. Officer Weitzman, who had an engineering degree and also operated a sporting goods store, was recognized as an authority on weapons. Consequently, Dallas Homicide Chief Will Fritz, who was on the scene, asked him the make of the rifle. Weitzman identified it as a 7.65 Mauser, a highly accurate German-made weapon. Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig was also there and later recalled the word "Mauser" inscribed in the metal of the gun. And Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone executed a sworn affidavit in which he described the rifle as a Mauser. As late as midnight of November 22, Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade told the media that the weapon found was a Mauser.
   There is, of course, a significant difference between a first-class Mauser and a cheap mail-order Mannlicher-Carcano. It should have been simple to know which weapon had been found. However, to complicate the issue, three empty cartridges from a Mannlicher-Carcano were found in the same room as the Mauser. They were near the easternmost sixth-floor window, close together and almost parallel to each other. Although this arrangement made them easy to find, it defied what any experienced user of rifles knows: that when a rifle is fired, the cartridge is flung violently away. A neat distribution pattern of cartridges like the one found on the sixth floor of the Depository is virtually impossible. It strongly suggested to me that the cartridges were never fired from the assassin's lair but were planted near the window, presumably having been fired earlier elsewhere, so that bullet fragments found in the President's limousine could be described as having come from the Carcano.
   There were other problems with the story that the Mannlicher-Carcano had been the murder weapon. For instance, no ammunition clip was ever found. The clip is the device that feeds the cartridges into the rifle's firing chamber. Without such a clip, the cartridges have to be loaded by hand, making fast shooting such as Oswald was alleged to have done impossible. The Warren Commission skirted this problem by never confronting that fact.
   Complicating the matter even further, the Mannlicher-Carcano triumphantly produced as the "assassin's rifle" was found to have a badly misaligned sight. So badly was the sight out of line with the barrel that an adjustment was necessary before government riflemen could complete their test firing. Even so, no rifle expert was ever able to duplicate the feat the government attributed to Lee Oswald.
   Despite these problems, when the smoke cleared and all the law enforcement authorities in Dallas had their stories duly in order, the official position was that the rifle found on the sixth floor of the Depository was the Mannlicher-Carcano, which allegedly was linked to Oswald under an alias, and not the Mauser, which disappeared forever shortly after it reached the hands of Captain Fritz.
   But even this revision of the official story did not explain the third rifle. A film taken by Dallas Cinema Associates, an independent film company, showed a scene of the Book Depository shortly after the assassination. Police officers on the fire escape were bringing down a rifle from the roof above the sixth floor with the tender care you might give an infant. When the policemen reached the ground, a high-ranking officer held the rifle high for everyone to see. The camera zoomed in for a close-up. Beneath the picture was the legend, "The Assassin's Rifle." When I saw the film, I noted that this rifle had no sight mounted on it. Thus it could not have been either the Carcano or the vanished Mauser, both of which had sights.
   I was not surprised to find that this third rifle, like the Mauser, had disappeared. But its existence confirmed my hypothesis that Lee Oswald could not have killed John Kennedy as the American public had been told. Setting aside the evidence of two other weapons on the scene, the incredibly accurate shooting of an incredibly inaccurate rifle within an impossible time frame was merely the beginning of the feat we were asked to believe Oswald had accomplished.


pages 114 - 116

   About this time, in early 1967, we had an unexpected lucky break. Dick Billings, an editor from Life magazine, arrived at the office. He was a slender man with a quick mind and delightful wit. After talking with me at some length, he informed me confidentially that the top management at Life had concluded that President Kennedy's assassination had been a conspiracy and that my investigation was moving in the right direction. Inasmuch as Life was conducting its own investigation, Billings suggested that we work together. The magazine would be able to provide me with technical assistance, and we could develop a mutual exchange of information.
   The offer came at a good time. I had been wanting to increase my stakeout coverage of David Ferrie's home but did not have the personnel to spare, particularly an expert photographer. We had succeeded in establishing a friendly relationship with the couple who lived directly across the street from Ferrie on Louisiana Avenue Parkway. Like him, they lived on the second floor of a duplex and also had a screened porch in the front. I described this situation to the Life editor, and within days a top-flight photographer arrived in town. We promptly installed him at his observation post on the second-floor porch across the street.
   Meanwhile, out at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, Lou Ivon had located a former airplane mechanic of Ferrie's named Jimmy Johnson and had persuaded him to go back to work for Ferrie but to keep contact with our office. This airport stakeout on Ferrie produced an early dividend. Ferrie told Johnson that a package would be arriving for him shortly. A white compact sports car would be parked squarely in front of the airport administration building, with the windows up but with the door unlocked. Ferrie asked Johnson to check every ten or fifteen minutes to see whether such a car had arrived. When it did, he said, Johnson was to reach under the front seat where he would find taped to the bottom of the seat a brown package, which he was to bring to Ferrie.
   The car arrived, and Johnson followed the instructions. When Johnson brought the package into the administration building, Ferrie took it to the bathroom to examine the contents. He came out full of excitement and announced that he was going to buy a brand new car.
   This cash apparently coming to Ferrie from a mysterious source only made more intriguing another fact that Jim Alcock had uncovered. By serving a subpoena on Ferrie's bank, Alcock found that Ferrie had deposited more than $7,000 in cash to his account in the weeks immediately preceding Kennedy's assassination.
   One other lead about Ferrie yielded some provocative information. Ferrie, once a pilot for Eastern Airlines, had been investigated by a private detective agency. I obtained a copy of its report. The investigators had maintained a stakeout near his residence and found that Ferrie was visited frequently by a man named Dante Marachini.
   A simple check of the phone book revealed that Dante Marachini resided at 1309 Dauphine Street. This was extremely interesting to me because right next door was the home of Clay Shaw. I wondered who else might be living next door to Shaw. Reaching for the red book (which lists individuals by address) I found that also living at 1309 Dauphine Street was a man named James Lewallen. I recalled from earlier research that James Lewallen had once shared an apartment with David Ferrie in the vicinity of Kenner, a New Orleans suburb.
   Now I found myself looking at two unfamiliar names, Marachini and Lewallen, both of whom had in the past been associated with Ferrie and both of whom now lived next door to Clay Shaw. That was something to think about.
   Some time later, I came across the name of Dante Marachini again. I had wanted to talk to individuals at the Reily Coffee Company who had worked with Lee Oswald or at a level immediately above him, so I sent Frank Klein over to the company to get their names and respective positions.
   He returned rather quickly. "They're all gone," he said. "Anyone who ever had any connection with Lee Oswald left the Reily Company within a few weeks after Oswald did." He laid a sheet of paper in front of me. "Here are the names and the new jobs."
   I glanced down at the list. One name jumped out at me immediately: Dante Marachini. He had begun work at the Reily Coffee Company on exactly the same day as Oswald. Several weeks after Oswald's departure, Marachini also left the coffee company and began life anew at the Chrysler Aerospace Division at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), on the eastern side of New Orleans.
   I then noticed that Alfred Claude, who hired Oswald for Reily, had also gone to work for the Chrysler Aerospace Division.
   Then I saw that John Branyon, who had worked with Oswald at the coffee company, had left for a job at NASA.
   At just about the same time, Emmett Barbee, Oswald's immediate boss at Reily, left the coffee company and also inaugurated a new career with NASA.
   After seeing what happened to all of these men associated with Oswald at the coffee company and after seeing Marachini's name again, my curiosity about 1309 Dauphine Street returned. I called Lou Ivon in and asked him to find out if James Lewallen, David Ferrie's former apartment mate who now resided at 1309 Dauphine Street, had been as fortunate as some of the workers at Reily had been. It took Ivon a couple of days, but he came back with a now fairly predictable piece of information: Lewallen had gone to work for Boeing out at NASA. Lou and I kicked this interesting situation around a bit, and then we both became curious about what had happened to Melvin Coffee, who had accompanied David Ferrie to Texas on the eve of the assassination.
   Ivon was back the next day. Melvin Coffee had been hired by the Aerospace Operation at Cape Canaveral.
   Perhaps it was mere coincidence that all these men associated with David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, and Lee Oswald ended up working for NASA, but I doubted it. I knew by now that when a group of individuals gravitated toward one another for no apparent reason, or a group of individuals inexplicably headed in the same direction as if drawn by a magnetic field, or coincidence piled on coincidence too many times, as often as not the shadowy outlines of a covert intelligence operation were somehow becoming visible.


pages 283 - 287

   The government's cover-up and ratification of the assassination have been aided by a flood of disinformation appearing in the major media. Dissemination of disinformation is the last element necessary for a successful coup d'etat, and it also happens to be one of the specialties of the C.I.A. For many years the Agency secretly had on its payroll journalists ostensibly working for the major media but in fact disseminating propaganda for consumption by the American people. It has also subsidized the publication of more than 1,000 books. As Richard Barnet, the co-director of the Institute for Policy Studies, put it:

The stock in trade of the intelligence underworld is deceit. Its purpose is to create contrived realities, to make things appear other than they are for the purpose of manipulation and subversion. More than two hundred agents ... pose as businessmen abroad. The C.I.A. has admitted that it has had more than thirty journalists on its payroll since World War II. "Proprietary" corporations Air America and other agency fronts, fake foundations, student organizations, church organizations, and so forth are all part of the false-bottom world that has ended up confusing the American people as much as it has confounded foreign governments.

   For 25 years the American people have been bombarded by propaganda pointing insistently to a variety of irrelevant "false sponsors" as the supposed instigators of the Kennedy assassination. (False sponsor is a term used in covert intelligence actions which describes the individual or organization to be publicly blamed after the action, thus diverting attention away from the intelligence community.) Americans have been so thoroughly brainwashed by such disinformation, paid for by their own taxes, that many of them today are only able to sigh mournfully to one another that they "probably never will know the truth."
   Meanwhile, an unending stream of news service releases, newspaper articles, television "documentaries," magazine features, and books repetitively reinforce this bewilderment and continue to point the public's attention in the wrong direction. The incredible accumulation of false sponsors laid upon the American people includes Lee Harvey Oswald, the K.G.B., Howard Hughes, Texas oil barons, organized crime, and Fidel Castro.
   The original false sponsor was the scapegoat himself, Lee Harvey Oswald. Nominated for the role by the intelligence community, he was formally endorsed by the Warren Commission and others at the highest levels of the United States government. However, over time it became increasingly apparent that the lone assassin fairy tale had fallen apart, and most of its supporters simply fell silent.
   Consequently, I was surprised to find recently that Time magazine, long an ardent supporter of the lone assassin explanation, continues to be loyal to the original false sponsor, Lee Oswald. One must acknowledge a certain magnificence in the total dedication here, the sustained lack of thought through 25 years. In its August 1, 1988, review of the novel Libra by Don DeLillo, which although fictional is an interesting and provocative treatment of both Kennedy's assassination and his alleged assassin, Time finds fault with the book's argument that "the plot to kill the President was even wider and more sinister than previously imagined." There is a simpler possibility, the magazine window, watched the President ride by, and shot him dead."
   When I read that brief, neat disposition of one of history's most complicated and significant events, I realized that there is not much one can say to a publication which obviously has all the answers.
   One of the most intriguing false sponsors is Fidel Castro. Frequently over the years particularly when I was making speeches at universities I would encounter people who enthusiastically agreed with me that it was not possible for Oswald to have killed Kennedy unaided. However, they then would add that they believed that Fidel Castro had engineered the assassination. I would answer by examining the logic of this proposition.
   First I would point out that at a critical time during the C.I.A.'s attempted invasion of Cuba in 1961, the acting chief of the Agency beseeched the President to provide jet fighter plane support from nearby U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. Kennedy refused, and the invasion failed catastrophically. Next I would explain that during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, Kennedy refused to bomb or invade Cuba, as a number of his military and intelligence advisers urged him to do. Finally, I would remind the audience that one of the factors helping to resolve the missile crisis was Kennedy's personal assurance to the Soviet Union that the U.S. would make no further attempts to invade Cuba, a decision which deeply disturbed the operational elements of the C.I.A., which had been training anti-Castro Cubans at guerrilla camps in Florida and Louisiana for precisely that objective. At this point it usually was sufficient for me to ask but one question: "Do you truly believe that Fidel Castro would have liked to see Kennedy removed as President, that he would have preferred to have Lyndon Johnson in power?"
   One could pose many more questions to those who advocate the idea of Castro as an engineer of Kennedy's murder. Could Cuban communists really have established the necessary operational base and penetration of key police elements in Dallas, one of the most conservative cities in the United States? Would these communists have received the extensive cooperation from Dallas officials, the F.B.I., and the C.I.A. that the actual assassins evidently received? And are we really to believe that Fidel Castro had Lee Oswald hand out his inflammatory leaflets in New Orleans and later ordered the same fellow to go to Dallas and kill President Kennedy? Are we to suppose that Castro would have had only one man working for him? Fortunately, perhaps because of the very insanity of such a proposition, the false sponsorship of Castro has faded.
   I was aware, of course, of the brief vogue of the "Southwest oil billionaires" as backers of the assassination. However, this was never in vogue with me, not even briefly, because it simply did not fit my initial and unchanging belief that the critical connections were to the intelligence community. True, George de Mohrenschildt was in the oil business and was a member of the Petroleum Club in Dallas. But in my talks with de Mohrenschildt it became clear to me that he was used not by the Southwest oil billionaires but by the intelligence community. His duties were limited to escort supervision of Oswald, at the conclusion of which he was dispatched to his "government-oriented" business in Haiti while the final arrangements were made establishing Oswald as the scapegoat for the assassination. (See Chapter 4.)
   The visit of "Jim Braden" (Eugene Hale Brading) to the offices of the Hunt family, of Texas petroleum fame, a few days before the assassination appears to have been a one-shot deception gambit. (See Chapter 16.) The same kind of one-time visit to the Hunt offices was made, also just before the assassination, by Jack Ruby who was no more in the oil business than "Braden" was. The intention of these decoy moves was to fuel speculation that the Texas oil business might have sponsored the assassination.
   Such brief decoy visits reminded me of the "mis-direction" move with which every major professional football team commences a number of its running plays. Upon receiving the ball, the runner takes a half step to his left and, while the opposing defense is off and running in the wrong direction, then heads off to his right at full speed. The professional football players, however, are only amateurs when it comes to mis-direction. The real pros work in the operations directorate of the Central Intelligence Agency.
   Of course, the primary and most lasting false sponsor has been organized crime, the Mafia, the mob. Many of the books ostensibly criticizing the government's official explanation of the assassination seem designed simply to leave readers with the firm conviction that the mob murdered John Kennedy. As with any powerful myth, there are some elements of truth to it. The C.I.A. has worked with the Mafia over the years, and there is certainly evidence that many mob figures hated President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy. And mob-related individuals do figure in the scenario.

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