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  • Matt Crumpton

Ep 39: Oswald Back in Dallas (Part 1)

Updated: Jun 4

We’re currently in Season 2 of Solving JFK. Season 1 of the podcast looked at the question of whether the Warren Report was correct that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to kill President Kennedy and Officer JD Tippit. Right now, in Season 2, we are going deep on Lee Harvey Oswald’s background, including his childhood, his service in the marines, and his time in the Soviet Union. Now that we have the Lee Harvey Oswald background that most people are not familiar with out of the way. The rest of this season will be focused on more well-known parts of the case.


In this episode, we cover the Oswald’s arrival in America, Lee’s potential debriefing by the CIA, his multiple run ins with the FBI, and Oswald’s mysterious new friend – George De Mohrenschildt.


In America


On May 22, the Oswald family left Minsk for Moscow. They stayed in Moscow for 8 days before traveling West via train through Minsk, Poland, and Germany before catching a steamship in Rotterdam to New York, where they eventually arrived on June 13.


Oswald was not arrested when he made it back to the States. Instead, he was welcomed in Hoboken, New Jersey by Spas T. Raikin, who was the Secretary General of American Friends of Anti-Bolshevik nations, an anti-communist organization with intelligence ties.[1] The Oswalds had $63 to their name when they landed in America. Raikin got them a hotel near Times Square through the New York Department of Welfare. And Robert Oswald wired them $200 so the family could fly home to Fort Worth the next day.[2]


If Oswald was a genuine Marxist, it does seem strange that the head of an anti-communist organization would be the one greeting him. On the other hand, Raikin was a member of the Traveler’s Aide Society, which had been contacted by the State Department to help the Oswalds. Raikin says that he was chosen to assist them because he was a native Russian speaker and they were under the impression that Marina spoke only Russian.[3]


While it is true that the group that Raikin was associated with – the American Friends of Anti-Bolshevik nations had intelligence ties, that doesn’t mean that Raikin himself was an intelligence asset. For his part, Raikin told a local newspaper quote:


“If I worked for the CIA, I’d have a government pension. There are many myths that have been associated with my contact with Lee Harvey Oswald. The biggest myth is that I had been an agent of the CIA. This is the most untrue myth that was created by writers. My obligation was to meet him, assist him through customs. Once I delivered him to the office, my job was finished with him. He was passed to another worker, and I had no more contact with him.”[4]


The only clear intelligence connection I was able to find for Spas Raikin is a declassified letter written to him from Allen Dulles’ assistant, which thanked Raikin for sending three letters as well as reports about the American Friends of Anti-Bolshevik Nations on June 30, 1959. So, it’s true that Raikin wrote at least once to Allen Dulles, which was acknowledged.[5] This is one more of those instances in the case that lacks hard proof of any shenanigans, but has just enough innuendo to leave the door open.


I tend to take Spas T. Raikin at his word that he didn’t have a special CIA mission to pick up the Oswalds because that makes sense given all of the facts. But, not everyone is sending materials and getting responses from the director of the CIA. So, I understand why people look at him skeptically.


Was Oswald Debriefed By the CIA Upon Returning?


The official position of the CIA is that they did not debrief Lee Harvey Oswald when he returned to the United States because Oswald was a marine, and it would have been the Navy’s job to interview Oswald. But, the reality was that Oswald had been dishonorably discharged and was now a civilian returning from Russia. Even if the interview was basic and routine, we would expect the CIA to have reached out to Oswald. But, the CIA says that it never did.[6]


On the other hand, in 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations interviewed CIA officer, Donald Deneselya, who said that he received a field report from the New York City field office about a Marine defector who worked at a radio plant in Minsk and recently returned to the United States with his family. Deneselya’s job at the CIA was to monitor technical and industrial progress in the USSR, such as the radio and television factory where Oswald worked in Minsk.[7] So, it makes sense that Deneselya would have seen this routine debriefing report.


Of course, this document that Deneselya claims to have seen which would prove Oswald was debriefed by the CIA is nowhere to be found. All we have is HSCA testimony of Donald Deneselya. But, former CIA director, Richard Helms, told PBS Frontline in their 1993 documentary that Oswald was never debriefed by the CIA.


On the day Helms did his interview for the PBS documentary, historian and author John Newman was present on the set and had an interesting exchange with Helms in between filming. Newman asked Helms, QUOTE “Mr. Director, what would be so bad about the CIA debriefing Oswald? Is that not your job? Doesn’t it therefore look bad when you say you did not?”[8] Helms then thought it over and asked the cameraman to start rolling again because he wanted to change his answer to be that the agency did debrief Oswald. The PBS crew did not take Helms up on the offer and his original answer that there was no debriefing stayed in the film.[9] But, the fact that Helms would have changed his position on a dime if given the chance is jarring.


The FBI All Over Oswald


While it’s unclear if the CIA debriefed Oswald, we know that the FBI did. This isn’t surprising since on May 5, FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover sent a memo about Lee Harvey Oswald to the special agent in charge in Dallas that said QUOTE “You should be alert for subject's return to the United States and immediately upon his arrival you should thoroughly interview him to determine whether he was recruited by Soviet Intelligence or made any deals with Soviets in order to obtain permission to return to the United States.”[10] Even J. Edgar Hoover was skeptical of the speed with which the Oswald’s got out of the USSR.


The FBI called Robert Oswald’s house the first week Lee was back and asked him to meet with them at the Fort Worth office. On June 26, 1962, Oswald sat for a two hour long interview so that the FBI Agents could gather the information requested by Director Hoover.[11] Oswald told the agents that he had not renounced his citizenship and that he was not recruited by Soviet Intelligence. He said he made the trip there because he QUOTE “wanted to see the country.”[12]


The FBI interviewed Oswald again about two weeks later on July 6.[13] Then, on July 19, FBI agent, James Hosty, opened a file on Marina Oswald as a potential Soviet sleeper agent. Hosty told the Assassination Records Review Board that the FBI was more interested in Marina as a KGB sleeper agent than they were in Lee.[14]


On August 16, FBI agents John Fain and Arnold Brown met with Oswald for the third time. They were waiting in a car outside of his apartment and asked Oswald to get in when he arrived home from his welding job. After speaking with him, the agents believed that Oswald was arrogant, but didn’t think he was violent.[15]


So, on August 30, 1962, Agent Fain closed the FBI file on Lee Harvey Oswald. For the next seven months there are no interviews of Lee Oswald, his neighbors, or his employers. The file on Marina, on the other hand, remained open on “pending inac tive” status. On September 7, FBI director Hoover sent Agent Fain’s report on Oswald to the CIA with a note that said “For your information, I am enclosing communications which may be of interest to you.”[16]


Before the HSCA, the Church Committee was investigating the activities of American intelligence agencies. Ex-FBI agent, Carver Gayton said in a sworn affidavit to the Church Committee that James Hosty told him that Oswald was a potential security informant for an older FBI agent who had deactivated Oswald’s file as an informant just before he retired.[17] It appears that Gayton is referring to Agent Fain, who closed Oswald’s file before he retired in the fall of 1962.[18] Gayton said in that FBI agent James Hosty told him that Hosty was trying to re-activate Oswald as a potential FBI informant. Gayton also said that Hosty said he had listed Oswald as a potential informant, but was not successful in reaching Oswald to discuss the possibility of him being an informant.[19]


The White Russians

On June 14, 1962, Robert Oswald picked up Marina, Lee and baby June at Love Field in Dallas. The trio moved in with Robert, his wife Vada, and their 3 year old daughter and infant son. After about a month, Robert asked Lee, Marina, and baby June to move out because Robert’s 2 bedroom one bath house was too crowded.


The Oswald family then moved in with Lee’s mom, Marguerite Oswald, at Apartment #101 at the Rotary Apartments in Fort Worth.[20] That didn’t last very long. On August 10, 1962, Marina, Lee, and June moved out of Marguerite’s Ft Worth apartment (they were always arguing with Marguerite) and into a bungalow at 2703 Mercedes Street in Fort Worth.[21]


Soon after that, Lee began looking for work at the Texas Employment Commission, ultimately landing a position at Leslie Welding. While Oswald was at the Employment Commission, he mentioned that he would like to find some people who spoke Russian because his wife could only speak Russian. Annie Smith of the Employment Commission gave Oswald the contact information for Peter Paul Gregory, a native Russian who was a petroleum engineer and taught Russian language at the public library.


Oswald had collected scraps of paper and some pages of a diary that he wanted to have typed up as his memoirs on his time in Russia. This is apparently not Oswald’s Historic Diary. It’s a different set of documents. Oswald paid Gregory to have a total of 10 pages typed.[22] 


In late August, Peter Gregory, invited the Oswalds to his home for dinner, where he introduced them to George Bouhe - one of the pillars of the Dallas White Russian community. As a reminder, the White Russians were a group of people from Russia who fled their homeland after the Bolshevik revolution led to a communist regime. So, the White Russians were stridently anti-communist and anti-Marxist.[23]


Many in the White Russian community were provided with assistance from the Tolstoy Foundation, a resettlement organization for Russian refugees. The Tolstoy Foundation was funded by the CIA. We don’t know how many people in the Dallas White Russian community  were connected to the Tolstoy Foundation.[24] Incidentally, the Russian Orthodox Church in Dallas also received CIA funds.[25] Given that the CIA provided these funds, it’s fair to ask if the CIA got something back in return for their investment.


George de Mohrenschildt Meets Oswald


In mid-September, Lee Harvey Oswald met George de Mohrenschildt – an enigmatic and important character in the JFK Assassination whose intentions are much debated.


De Mohrenschildt and his friend, Col. Lawrence Orlof, drove to Fort Worth and showed up at Oswald’s apartment on Mercedes Street without notice. When Marina answered the door, he gave the name “George Bouhe” as a reference. (Bouhe was the White Russian elder Marina and Lee had recently met at Peter Gregory’s house.) Marina then invited de Mohrenschildt and Orlof inside. When Oswald was home from work he spoke with the men – at first in English and then in Russian.[26] After the visit, De Mohrenschildt invited Marina, Lee, and baby June to come to his house to meet his wife, Jeanne.


So, who was George de Mohrenschildt? And why did he decide to befriend Lee Harvey Oswald?


De Mohrenschildt was born in Russia. His father was the governor of Minsk before the 1917 Russian Revolution. His dad was also director of the oil interests of the Russian nobility. This is how De Mohrenschildt got the nickname – the Baron.[27] He came to America in 1938, settling in Long Island where he met and befriended Jackie Kennedy’s mother.[28]


After working for some oil companies, De Mohrenschildt earned a Master’s degree in petroleum geology from the University of Texas in 1944. After that, he worked for oil companies in Venezuela and Colorado, before forming numerous oil partnerships, at first in Wyoming and Texas, and later in Haiti, Togoland, Nigeria, Ghana, Mexico and Cuba.[29]


De Mohrenschildt’s work across the globe led him to be asked to go to Yugoslavia on behalf of United States Governmental entity – the International Cooperation Administration. The ICA sent him to Yugoslavia to observe the development of oil resources there.[30]


In 1957, when De Mohrenschildt returned to Dallas from Yugoslavia, he was interviewed by J. Walton Moore, from the CIA’s Dallas office. One of Moore’s job duties was to contact people who had traveled abroad so that he could ask them what they had seen. De Mohrenschildt submitted multiple written reports to Moore on Yugoslavia.[31] Moore later contacted him on several other occasions after De Mohrenschildt had traveled abroad.[32] After that, Moore occasionally came over to the de Mohrenschildt house for dinner.[33]  


In 1961, George and his wife Jeanne began a 1200 mile walking trip from Eagle Pass, Texas through Mexico, and on to Panama. On April 17, the day of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, de Mohrenschildt happened to be in Guatemala City at the same time as the Americans and Cuban Exiles were in the middle of launching the strikes. De Mohrenschildt told the Warren Commission that it was a coincidence that he was at the American base for the Bay of Pigs invasion on the day it happened.[34] When George and Jeanne returned to Dallas, they put on a public showing of home movies they made while they were walking across Latin America. J. Walton Moore of the CIA was in attendance to see the films.[35]


So, George De Mohrenschildt was an aristocratic international oilman with Russian roots and CIA connections. But that doesn’t explain why he would go and befriend the Oswalds. So why did he? What made him stop by Mercedes Street that day?


Why Befriend Oswald?


De Mohrenschildt told the Warren Commission that he did not remember who gave him the address for the Oswalds in Fort Worth. He thought it may have been George Bouhe or his lawyer, Max Clark. But, he wasn’t sure.[36]


He also told the Warren Commission that he asked J. Walton Moore in 1962 if it was all right to know Oswald because he was worried that the Oswald’s may be soviet spies given how easy it was for Marina to leave the Soviet Union compared to other people he knew. De Mohrenschildt said that the CIA man, Moore, told him QUOTE “Oswald is a harmless lunatic.”[37] Moore later denied ever speaking to De Mohrenschildt about Oswald in any way.[38]


On the other hand, De Mohrenschildt told author Edward Epstein that an associate of Moore’s contacted him, gave him Oswald’s address, and suggested that he should meet Oswald. In exchange, De Mohrenschildt asked for the State Department to help him with an oil exploration contract in Haiti, which he did, in fact, end up receiving. De Mohrenschildt told Edward Epstein, QUOTE “I would never have contacted Oswald in a million years if [J. Walton] Moore [of the CIA] had not sanctioned it.”[39]


The HSCA looked into this question of what was the real extend of de Mohrenschildt’s CIA ties with J. Walton Moore. They found that Moore had written a memo on April 13, 1977 to rebut a local Dallas television report saying that Oswald was employed by the CIA and knew J. Walton Moore. In that memo, Moore said he had only spoken to George de Mohrenschildt twice in his life – in 1958 to discuss mainland China, and in 1961 when the de Mohrenschildt’s showed a film of their Latin American walking tour.[40] However, the HSCA was able to see the rest of De Mohrenschildt’s CIA file, which provided proof that Moore wasn’t telling the truth about his interactions with De Mohrenschildt.


In a May 1, 1964 memo, Moore wrote that he knew De Mohrenschildt since 1957 and confirmed that he did request information from him when he returned from Yugoslavia. That same memo from Moore says that he saw de Mohrenschildt several times in 1958 and 1959. When the HSCA interviewed Moore he admitted that, contrary to his 1977 memo, he did have periodic contact with de Mohrenschildt over the years.[41]


So, we have a another factual dispute. There’s the Warren Commission testimony where de Mohrenschildt says, “I asked the guy I know at CIA if it was ok to hang out with Oswald and he said fine,” and then there is what de Mohrenschildt told Edward Epstein where he says “the CIA guy told me to go meet Oswald and I did it in exchange for an oil contract in Haiti.”


The HSCA summarized why this question is so important:


“Speculation [has] continued about Oswald’s relationship to de Mohrenschildt because of the contrast of the backgrounds of the two men. De Mohrenschildt was described as sophisticated and well-educated, moving easily in the social and professional circles of oil men and the so called White Russian community, many of whom were avowed right wingers. Oswald’s lowly background did not include much education or influence and he was shunned by the same Dallas Russian community that embraced de Mohrenschildt.”[42]


To recap, we have a wealthy, sophisticated, CIA connected, 51 year old international oil man who is Russian nobility and hangs out with right wing Russians, going out of his way to befriend a 23 year old avowed Marxist, attempted defector, who has no money or prospects. There are no examples that I could find of De Mohrenschildt having similar charity cases. It would be plausible that he was just helping the Oswalds out of altruism if this was something De Mohrenschildt did frequently. But, it wasn’t. Oswald seems to be a one off bizarre friendship for him.


Other CIA Contacts for GDM


J. Walton Moore wasn’t the only CIA contact that de Mohrenschildt had. Going back to 1953, George’s brother, Dimitri Von Mohrenschildt worked for Radio Free Europe, the CIA sponsored propaganda arm that broadcasted anti-communist programming into Eastern Europe. Dimitri was also the editor of a monthly journal called Russian Review, which was subsidized by the CIA in the 1950s and 60s. Allen Dulles, who would go on to be the director of the CIA and the most active Warren Commissioner, submitted multiple articles that Dimitri Von Mohrenschildt published in Russian Review. The other editor who worked with Dimitri on Russian Reviewwas William Chamberlain, who would go on to become very close friends with Allen Dulles, exchanging over 50 letters with him.  


In addition to this loose connection to Allen Dulles, declassified CIA files show a direct connection to Dulles. In 1954, a young oil lawyer named Herbert Itkin obtained a meeting in Philadelphia with then-CIA director, Allen Dulles, to provide information about what he thought was anti-American activity within the international law firm where Itkin worked. Dulles got Itkin’s phone number and address, and a few month later, Itkin was contacted by a man named Phillip Harbin, who identified himself as “from that man in Philadelphia.”[43] Now, there is an internal CIA memo from March 18, 1969 that says that Itkin completely made the story up.[44] But, on the other hand, during the HSCA hearings, we learned that CIA officer William Guadet knew George de Mohrenschildt as Phillip Harbin.


Maybe it’s nothing that Allen Dulles published articles in De Mohrenschildt’s brother’s publication, or that Dulles was close friends with De Mohrenschhildt’s brother’s co-editor. Or that there’s a declassified CIA memo that says Allen Dulles specifically referred an oil lawyer to who we later learned was George de Mohrenschildt. It’s important to keep an open mind and to not get carried away by mere connections. Still, if what the documents say is true, it appears that George de Mohrenschildt had a close relationship with the local CIA office in Dallas, and also had  connections at the very top of the agency. 


Next time on Solving JFK:  We look at Oswald’s life in Dallas with the White Russians, including Marina and Lee’s introduction to someone who would become key part of their lives - Ruth Paine.


[2] John Armstrong, Harvey and Lee at 395.

[3] Gerald Posner, Case Closed at 74-75.

[6] James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed at 150.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Armstrong at 390.

[11] Posner at 79.

[12] Armstrong at 400.

[13] Id.

[14] Armstrong at 403.

[15] Posner at 82.

[16] Armstrong 406-407.

[17] Affidavit of Carver Gayton to Church Committee

[18] Armstrong at 406-07

[19] Gayton Affidavit.

[20] Armstrong at 400.

[21] Posner at 82.

[22] Posner at 78.

[25] Phillip Melanson, Spy Saga, at 79.

[26] Armstrong at 409.

[27] DiEugenio at 152.

[28] Id.

[29] Armstrong at 407.

[30] Id. at 408.

[31] Id. at 409.

[32] Posner at 86-87.

[33] DiEugenio at 194, Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles, at 564.

[34] Warren Commission Testimony of George De Mohrenschildt

[35] HSCA Vol 12, p54-55

[37] Posner at 87.

[39] Edward Epstien, The Assassinaton Chronicles, at 558-59.

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1 Comment

izraul hidashi
izraul hidashi
Apr 08

Yeah, the C.I.A. say's a lot of things. They also said they weren't involved in drug trafficking. Apparently, they looked into the allegations of their own drug trafficking and found nothing. LOL Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. They're all about lying and deception.

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