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  • Matt Crumpton

Ep 33: Oswald in the Marines (Part 2)

Updated: Apr 23

In the last episode, we covered Oswald’s time in the Marines, from his enlistment and initial training in San Diego, Camp Pendleton, Jacksonville and Biloxi, to his deployment overseas in Japan. He may have served in Taiwan (and had a minor melt down there) as well, but we don’t know for sure because the Department of Defense and the HSCA say that Oswald never even went to Taiwan.


In this episode, we continue looking at Oswald’s military service, with a focus on his return to California. We’ll also try to figure out why Oswald applied to a tiny obscure college in the Swiss Alps that had links to the Central Intelligence Agency.


Santa Ana


According to his Marine Corps records, Lee Harvey Oswald had requested, and was granted, an extension of his overseas tour in Japan. But, on June 30, 1958, immediately after his second incident of being court-martialed – when Oswald spoke provoking words to a non-commissioned officer - the extension of his overseas tour of duty was cancelled.[1]


Oswald arrived in San Francisco in early November and then had a month of leave. After that, he reported to Marine Air Control Squadron No. 9 – or MACS 9.[2]  The Warren Report says that MACS 9 was at El Toro, California. But, CE 1961, the document the commission relied on to show the dates when Oswald served at each respective location, describes the base as QUOTE “MACS 9, El Toro (Santa Ana)”.[3]


This probably doesn’t make a difference, but it’s worth pointing out because there were two separate bases: one in El Toro and one in Santa Ana. The Marine Corps Air Station was in El Toro and housed 5,000 to 7,000 marines. The El Toro base was known as MACS 3.[4] The Lighter than Air Facility was located near Santa Ana, and housed less than 700 marines. It was referred to as MACS 9.[5] So, the Warren Report should have just said that Oswald was at MACS 9 in Santa Ana. The inclusion of El Toro is confusing and is not correct.


When Oswald was at Santa Ana, his job duties consisted of mostly janitorial work, which was the result of him having been court-martialed twice.[6] He also made coffee and had to mow the lawn.[7] While at Santa Ana, Oswald was an enigma to his peers.


Mack Osborne, who bunked with Oswald told the FBI that Oswald said he hit a man with a bottle and fought a guard while he was in the brig in Atsugi.[8] (Both of these statements appear to be lies from Oswald.) Nelson Delgado was also Oswald’s bunk mate. He said that Oswald liked classical music and opera.[9] Delgado said he never heard Oswald discuss his past, whether it was his personal life or in the marines.[10] Another marine who met Oswald at Santa Ana was Kerry Thornley, who worked with Oswald from about April through June of 1959.[11] He and Oswald both shared an interest in reading and were both atheists. Thornley said that Oswald had QUOTE “a definite tendency toward irrationality at times, an emotional instability.”[12] We’ll hear from Kerry Thornley later.


Oswald Not at Santa Ana in 1959?


The Warren Report says that Oswald was discharged in September of 1959, with his last base being Santa Ana. But, according to a December 1, 1963, FBI report, Major William Gorsky, the assistant Provost Marshall at the El Toro base, says that Oswald was discharged from the El Toro base in March of 1959, after he was arrested by the police in Santa Ana for hitchhiking.[13]


The underlying documents to support Gorsky’s claim have disappeared.[14] So, we don’t have any information to vet this FBI report. We know that Oswald was serving at Santa Ana – not El Toro – in March of 1959. So, the idea that he would be discharged from El Toro doesn’t fit the record. But, I don’t see how we can simply sweep the Gorsky FBI report under the rug. Did the Assistant Provost Marshall at the El Toro base just make up a false story about Oswald getting arrested for hitchhiking – or is something else going on?


On top of the Gorsky FBI report, there is one more potential piece of evidence to show that Oswald may not have been in Santa Ana for most of 1959. A man named Valentine Ashworth wrote a letter to Jim Garrison in 1967, saying that he knew Oswald and spent time with him before Oswald went to Russia. Ashworth, who claimed that he was a captain in the Cuban Raider Command, said that he met Oswald in New Orleans and ended up being his roommate there. He also claims that he traveled with Oswald to Columbus, Ohio, where he and Oswald attempted to join the Cuban exile army. Ashworth said that he met Clay Shaw on that trip to Columbus.[15]


Now, Ashworth was in jail at the time that he wrote the letter to Garrison. He wanted Garrison to get him out of jail and to help him get out of the country in exchange for testifying. So, Ashworth definitely had an angle. We have to take his statement with a grain of salt. But, a letter was written by Ashworth’s cellmate to the New Orleans FBI in October of 1967, where the cellmate listed accusations and statements by Ashworth that were consistent with what he told Jim Garrison. But, in the same letter, the cellmate raised concerns about Ashworth’s mental health.[16]


Valentine Ashworth was either crazy, as some of the documents say, or he was trying to manipulate Garrison into getting him out of jail, or he was telling the truth.


David Bucknell


David Bucknell also served with Oswald in Santa Ana. He wasn’t interviewed by the FBI or the Warren Commission. But, he told author Mark Lane a few things about Oswald that are sure to get your attention.


One day, while Bucknell and Oswald were having some drinks at a tavern near the base, Oswald opened up to Bucknell about his time in Japan. He shared a story about when he was alone at fancy bar, called the Queen Bee, and was approached by a beautiful Japanese woman who had questions for Oswald about his work on the U2 spy plane based out of Atsugi.[17] Oswald reported this interaction to his superior officer.


Shortly after that, Oswald was introduced to a man in civilian clothes, identified to him as a “security intelligence operator,” who told Oswald that he could do his country a great service by providing false information to the Japanese woman who was asking him questions. Oswald agreed to participate. He told Bucknell that he was given spending money so he could go to the Queen Bee and was encouraged to enter in to a sexual relationship with the woman who was asking him questions.[18]


As we discussed in the last episode, Oswald was treated for gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, on numerous occasions while he was in Japan. Zack Stout, one of the marines who was with Oswald in Atsugi, told the House Select Committee on Assassinations that Oswald would often visit the Queen Bee and seemed to be with the same Japanese girl every night.[19] Despite Oswald’s dalliances with this woman likely giving him gonnorhea, the marine corps medical records state that the disease was contracted QUOTE “in the line of duty” and it was QUOTE “Not due to [Oswald’s] own misconduct.”[20]


The meaning of this notation on Oswald’s medical records that he contracted gonnorhea “in the line of duty”due to no fault of his own is disputed. Author Edward Epstein, said that he was told that the marines always write “in the line of duty” for any disease or injury.[21] I didn’t serve in the Marines in Japan in the 1950s. So, I don’t know if that’s true or not. But, a plain reading of the phrase “not due to his own misconduct” implies that – however Oswald got gonnorhea – it was done in furtherance of his military duties and he didn’t get in trouble for it.


Aside from the gonnorhea diagnosis, another reason to entertain David Bucknell’s story about what Oswald told him, is that the Queen Bee was too expensive for most enlisted men. It didn’t make sense that Oswald would be able to afford going there on a regular basis. This idea that Oswald was given money by the CIA or the military for the purpose of spreading disinformation to his Japanese girlfriend sounds wild. But, we also know that Oswald probably wouldn’t have been able to afford the Queen Bee without some help.


The things that Bucknell told Mark Lane about Oswald’s time in Japan are just Bucknell’s recollections of what Oswald said told to Mark Lane. In the vernacular of the rules of evidence, we call this hearsay. But, Bucknell also told Lane about experiences that he had with Oswald in Santa Ana that suggest that Oswald may have had intelligence connections while he was in the Marines.


Bucknell said that, in 1959, Oswald, Bucknell, and others, were ordered to meet with a civilian to discuss participating in an intelligence operation against Communists in Cuba. Oswald was selected and agreed to participate. He told Bucknell that the person who served as his contact for intelligence operations at Santa Ana was the same person he had worked with in Atsugi.[22] Oswald also shared with Bucknell, that he QUOTE “was [going] to be discharged from the Marine Corps very soon and that he would surface in the Soviet Union.” He said he was being sent there on assignment by American intelligence and would return to the United States as a hero in 1961.[23]


If what Bucknell says is true, it is some of the most important testimony we’ve heard so far. On the other hand, let’s not forget the source of the claim. It doesn’t have the same credibility level as under oath testimony, but, it’s coming from someone who was there with Oswald, even if it was published in Hustler Magazine.


Albert Schweitzer College


One of the most overlooked moves that Oswald made while in the Marines was his application to Albert Schweitzer College in Churwalden, Switzerland. Oswald applied to Albert Schweitzer on March 19, 1959.[24]On June 19, after receiving an acceptance letter from the school, Oswald sent in $25 as a deposit to hold his seat.[25]


In May, Oswald received a list of students who would also be attending Albert Schweitzer.[26] Despite Oswald telling his friend, Nelson Delgado that he was planning to attend college in Switzerland, Oswald never had any further communications with Albert Schweitzer College after sending the deposit. He never even visited Switzerland.


Later, when Oswald applied for a passport, just before he was discharged from the Marines, Oswald listed the reason for travel as “to attend the College of A Schweitzer in Chur Switzerland, and the University of Turku in Finland.”[27]


Vincent Bugliosi raised what I thought was a good point on Oswald’s application to Albert Schweitzer. He said QUOTE “…[Oswald’s] intention to attend the staid Albert Schweitzer College is jarring to say the least, and cannot be taken at face value. On the other hand, it is equally hard to see, if it were all a ruse, what the purpose of that ruse would be.”[28] I agree that this application can’t be taken at face value. But, as you will see, there are reasons for Oswald to apply to a college somewhere in Europe.


One possible answer for why Oswald would apply to a college overseas is that the Marines were required to serve three years of inactive duty after being discharged. Travel abroad was not allowed during that three year period without a valid reason. Going to college abroad was considered a valid reason and was an exception to the rule. This meant that Oswald could leave the country during his three years of inactive service – instead of having to wait another three years if he said he was going to college somewhere overseas.[29]


But, that’s why Oswald would apply to any college overseas. After all, it didn’t matter where he was going to college for him to be able to get around the “3 years of no travel during inactive duty” rule. It could have been anywhere in Europe. The real question is, why on earth did he apply to Albert Schweitzer College. There had to be other European schools with cheaper application fees, if his only intention was to have a decoy school to justify getting around the 3 years of inactive service rule.


The village of Churwalden, nestled in the dramatic mountains of the Swiss Alps, was the home of Albert Schweitzer College. There was no bus or railway service to the village. The college opened its doors to students in the Fall of 1954. In the 1958-59 school year, which is when Oswald applied, a total of only thirtystudents were in the graduating class from Albert Schweitzer College. And none of whom were from Switzerland.[30]


So, where did this mysterious college come from? The school was started by the International Association for Religious Freedom and its fundraising arm, the Friends of Albert Schweitzer College, Inc – a New York corporation that had three directors, one of them being Percival Brundage. Brundage wasn’t just a director. He was the President of Friends of Albert Schweitzer College from 1953 to 1958.[31]


So who was Percival Brundage? Brundage served in the bureau of the Budget for the Eisenhower administration from 1954 until 1960 and was the director of the Budget from 1956 to 1958. But multiple credible reports have shown that Brundage had other ties that weren’t visible at surface level.


In 1979, the New York Times wrote QUOTE “In 1973, [Percival] Brundage and another former government official were said by sources in the charter airline industry to have acted for the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960 purchase by the CIA of Southern Air Transport of Miami. The agency apparently used the airline in paramilitary missions in the Congo, Caribbean, and Indochina.”[32]


A Newsweek article on May 19, 1975 said that Brundage was linked to four CIA front companies: Double-Chek Corp (which was used to recruit pilots for covert missions against Cuba), the Robert R McMullin Company (which provided cover for CIA personnel in Stockholm, Mexico City, and Singapore), Zenith Technical Enterprises (which organized and funded Operation Mongoose), and Southern Air Transport[33](an airline used by the CIA during Iran-Contra, which would go on to be sold to Jeffrey Epstein Financer, Leslie Wexner).[34]


So the New York Times and Newsweek say that the president of Albert Schweitzer College worked with the CIA. The mysterious CIA ties of Percival Brundage begs the question of whether Albert Schweitzer College was being used for intelligence purposes.


I keep coming back to the subject of “how could Oswald have possibly known about Albert Schweitzer College” and why did he choose that particular school to send his application to? It’s also clear that Oswald would have had a very hard time affording school, since the tuition at Albert Schweitzer was $2,800 per year, and Oswald didn’t have anywhere near that in savings.[35]


Now, we don’t have any hard evidence of exactly what the CIA was doing at the College, if they were activelydoing anything. But, the associations of Percival Brundage make it clear that Albert Schweitzer College had a man running its finance operation who was repeatedly used as an asset for US intelligence. And for some reason, this is the school that Oswald chose to apply to – apparently as a cover for defecting to the Soviet Union.


The real question remains why did Oswald pick Albert Schweitzer College – which had been around for less than 5 years and only had 30 students -  as the decoy school that would allow him to travel internationally? It ispossible that Oswald came across one of the few newspaper ads that Albert Schweitzer College ran. We have a copy of one of their ads in the National Archives, but we don’t know what cities or papers it was run in or when it was run.[36]


Now, I don’t care if you are certain that Oswald fired three shots and was an absolute communist, you have to admit that Oswald choosing such an unknown college, whose chief fundraiser had indisputable CIA ties – makes it look like Oswald may have been told to apply to Albert Schweitzer College – by someone else.


NEXT TIME ON SOLVING JFK: We look at Oswald’s discharge from the military and try to find out exactly when Oswald started following Communism and learning the Russian language.


[2] Warren Report at 684.

[3] CE 1961

[4] John Armstrong, Harvey & Lee, at 206.

[5] Id.

[6] Posner at 32.

[8] FBI Interview of Mack Osborne by SA Joseph Pfiester, 11/27/63, Commission Document 6, p 143.

[9] FBI Interview of Nelson Delgado by SA James Marley, 12/10/63.  

[10] Armstrong at 221.

[12] Posner at 29.

[13] FBI Interview of William Gorsky by SA Sam Shoemaker, December 1, 1963

[16] Id.

[17] The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, How the CIA Set Up Oswald, by Mark Lane, Hustler Magazine, October, 1978, , at 6

[18] Id.

[19] Zack Stout, House Select Committee on Assassinations, Interview Notes, 6/1/78 -  

[20] Chronological Record of Medical Care, Dated September 16, 1958, available at Harvey and Lee CD-Rom, Folder 58-19.

[21] Mark Lane, Hustler, at 7.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Warren Report at 688.

[25] Id.

[26] Armstrong at 236.

[27] Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, at 568.

[28] Id. at 566.

[29] Gerald Posner at 32.

[30] Armstrong at 228.

[31] Id.

[32] New York Times, July 17, 1979

[33] See Armstrong at 229.

[35] Armstrong at 229, CD-ROM 59-09.

[36] Id.

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