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  • Matt Crumpton

Ep 49: Oswald In New Orleans (Part 4)

So far, from what we’ve covered of Lee Harvey Oswald’s time in New Orleans during the Summer of 1963, we know that he worked at Reily Coffee Company, lived with his pregnant wife Marina, and daughter June on Magazine Street, and renewed his passport to get one without any restrictions on it. 

 

In the last episode, we examined whether the apparently pro-Castro Oswald worked for, or had a personal relationship with, Guy Banister – an ardent anti-communist who worked closely with Cuban Exiles? The way that you answer that question has a big impact on your view of the case. If Oswald did not know or work for Guy Banister, then that supports the idea that his pro-Castro activism was genuine. On the other hand, if Oswald did have a personal relationship with Banister, it potentially supports the notion that Oswald’s pro-Castro behavior may have been part of an intelligence operation.

 

In this episode, we focus on Oswald’s Fair Play for Cuba Committee activities in New Orleans. How did he get started? Why did he get arrested? And what’s the story behind Oswald being featured on a New Orleans radio station in support of Fair Play for Cuba?

 

Preparing for Action

 

Shortly before Oswald left Dallas for New Orleans, in mid-April of 1963, he passed out Fair Play for Cuba Committee materials in Dallas. Oswald wrote an undated letter to the New York FPCC office that said QUOTE:

 

“I stood yesterday for the first time in my life, with a placard around my neck, passing out Fair Play for Cuba pamphlets, etc. I only had 15 or so. In 40 minutes they were all gone. I was cursed as well as praised by some.”[1] 

 

Oswald then requested 40 or 50 more pamphlets from the organization. This letter from Oswald to the FPCC was first intercepted on behalf of the FBI by Dallas Postal Inspector and FBI informant, Harry Holmes, who learned of the letter because he was reading Oswald’s outgoing mail.[2] This incident apparently really happened because Oswald was also spotted handing the flyers out by Dallas police officer W.R. Finigan.[3]

 

On May 21st,  Oswald received a letter from VT Lee of the New York FPCC with a copy of the current FPCC literature.[4] Oswald responded to Lee on May 26th, by requesting membership, a FPCC charter, and a photograph of Fidel Castro that was suitable for framing.

 

On May 29, the FPCC granted Oswald permission to start a new branch in New Orleans, but cautioned Oswald that QUOTE “It would be hard to conceive of a chapter with as few members as [is] soon to exist in the New Orleans area. I have just gone through our files and find that Louisiana seems somewhat restricted for Fair Play activities.”[5] In other words, the FPCC main office was telling Oswald, “Good luck buddy! New Orleans is not a nice place to hand out pro-Castro materials.”

 

Oswald didn’t wait for permission before taking action. On May 29, the same day the New York FPCC letter was mailed – but before Oswald received the letter in the mail -  he placed order for one thousand copies of a 6X9 FPCC handbill to be printed by Jones Printing Company in New Orleans.

 

The order was placed by a man who said his name was “Osborne” and who provided a handwritten rough draft of the flyer. This man picked up the 1000 FPCC flyers and paid for them. But, neither the print shop secretary, Myra Silver, nor the owner, Douglas Jones, was able to identify him as Lee Harvey Oswald. Jones said the man was QUOTE “a husky type person on the order of a laborer.”[6]

 

While neither Silver nor Jones could identify this man as Oswald, the location of the Jones Print shop – which was across the street from the Reily Coffee Company, makes it clear that the person who placed the order and paid for it was either Oswald or someone who wanted to make it look like it was Oswald.[7]

 

During the first week of June, a handbill for Fair Play for Cuba was found posted on a wall at Tulane University. The handbill listed A.J. Hiddell as the contact for the New Orleans FPCC.[8] But, the address on the Tulane flyers was wrong. It said PO Box 30016 when Oswald actually had PO Box 30061.[9]  These Tulane flyers mark the first public use of the name Hidell, apparently by Oswald.[10]

 

Around June 15th, a young man was seen handing out Fair Play for Cuba flyers at the Dumaine Street Wharf in New Orleans. This man approached Patrolman Girod Ray, who asked him to stop handing out the flyers without the permission of the Board of Commissioners. The FPCC activist eventually left and Ray then reported these flyers to the FBI. After the assassination, Ray told the FBI that Lee Harvey Oswald was the man that he saw handing out flyers at the Dumaine Street Wharf. The Dumaine Street flyers, for what its worth, did not have anyone’s name listed or any mailing address.[11]

 

Dean Andrews

 

Attorney Dean Andrews first met Oswald in late May of 1963 when he came to Andrews office to see about getting his dishonorable discharge from the Marines cleared up. Andrews said he could help Oswald and requested a $20 retainer, which Oswald never paid.[12] Oswald continued to follow up with Andrews about the discharge, visiting him between three and five times. He said Oswald also asked him about how to get citizenship for his wife. Andrews directed him to the immigration forms he would need and told him he could apply for Marina’s citizenship without a lawyer.[13]

 

Sometime around July 10, 1963, Dean Andrews walked outside of his office on Canal Street and saw Oswald handing out FPCC flyers. Andrews asked Oswald, QUOTE “why he was handing out this junk.” Oswald told Andrews that he was being paid $25 per day to pass out leaflets.[14] Andrews then reminded Oswald that he owed his law office $25. That was the last time Dean Andrews said he saw Lee Harvey Oswald.

 

Oswald earned $1.50 per hour at Reily Coffee company, which comes out to $12 per day for an 8 hour work day. If he was getting $25 per day to hand out flyers like Dean Andrews says, then this was double the pay Oswald was getting at Reily Coffee. If what Andrews told the Warren Commission is true, then the question is who was paying Oswald to hand out these leaflets, and for what purpose? 

 

Oswald Meets Bringuier

 

On August 5, 1963, Oswald walked into a Cuban general goods store called Casa Roca. The store was owned by Carlos Bringuier, a 29 year old Cuban lawyer who was living in exile in New Orleans.[15] Bringuier was the New Orleans delegate for the anti-Castro Cuban Revolutionary Student Directorate, also known as the DRE.[16] Bringuier reported on DRE activities to the local CIA office in New Orleans.[17]

 

When Oswald entered the Casa Roca store, he approached Bringuier and asked him QUOTE “is this the Cuban exiles headquarters?”[18] Bringuier said QUOTE “He started to agree with my point of view and showed real interest in the fight against Castro. He told me that he was against Castro and was against Communism.”[19] Oswald also told him that he was in the Marines and could help train Cubans to fight Castro or that he himself would fight Castro if needed. Oswald returned the next day and left his Marine Corps training manual as a showing of good faith.[20]

 

Three days later, on August 9th, one of Bringuier’s associates let him know that Oswald, the Marine veteran who said he wanted to support the fight against Castro, was handing out leaflets on Canal Street in support of Castro. Bringuier and other Cuban exiles confronted Oswald as he was handing out the leaflets. Bringuier called Oswald a traitor, to which he replied “Ok, Carlos, if you want to hit me, hit me.”[21] One of Bringuier’s friends, Celso Hernandez, took the leaflets out of Oswald’s hands and threw them up in the air. Shortly after that, Police arrived and arrested Bringuier and 2 other Cuban exiles (who were all able to leave on bail) and Oswald, who stayed in jail overnight.[22] 

 

Oswald’s Arrest

 

On Saturday morning after his night in jail, New Orleans police Lieutenant Francis Martello, spoke to Oswald when he arrived at the police station. Oswald falsely told Martello that the FPCC in New Orleans had 35 members and met regularly.[23] After Martello was finished interviewing him, Oswald asked Martello to call the FBI and handed him a piece of paper with the number for the FBI.[24]

 

Martello did as Oswald requested and he called the FBI, which resulted in agent John Quigley going to the New Orleans police station to speak with Oswald.[25] Before Quigley left the FBI office for the police station, he asked FBI clerk William Walter to find out if Oswald was an FBI informant. According to what Walter told the HSCA, Agent Quigley QUOTE “asked me to check the indexes and determine whether or not there was any file or files on [Lee Harvey Oswald] in the New Orleans office. I recall searching the indexes and finding a card that showed more than one file number, which would indicate that we had more than one case.”[26] Walter continued, “From looking at the file numbers, they fell in the category of security type, informant type files.”[27]

 

According to what Agent Quigley told the Warren Commission, he thought Oswald was making self-serving statements to defend why he was handing out Fair Play for Cuba materials.[28] Oswald told Quigley that he was distributing the FPCC leaflets QUOTE “because of a patriotic duty as a patriotic American citizen.”

 

The Corliss Lamont Pamphlets

 

But more important than what Oswald said to Agent Quigley is what Oswald gave him, which was a pamphlet Oswald had been handing out called “The Crime Against Cuba,” a 39 page document which was first written by activist Corliss Lamont after the Bay of Pigs invasion.[29] The version Oswald had was a first edition copy. If Oswald was handing these pamphlets out, he had to get them from somewhere. There was no home printer or word processor available during 1963. So, that means Oswald either paid for and ordered the pamphlets, or that someone else gave him the pamphlets. Unlike the leaflets that were ordered by Osborne to the print shop across the street from where Oswald worked, we have no evidence that Oswald ordered the 39 page Corliss Lamont pamphlets.

 

And even if Oswald wanted to order the pamphlets, he would not have been able to do that because this pamphlet, “The Crime Against Cuba” was a first edition, which was available in June of 1961 when Oswald was still in the Soviet Union.[30] By December of 1961, the pamphlet was on its 4th edition. So, any pamphlets that Oswald would have ordered, would have to be 4th edition. This effectively proves that Oswald was given the pamphlets by someone else.

 

Here's where the plot thickens: on July 29, 1961, the Central Intelligence Agency sent an order to Basic Pamphlets print shop in New York and ordered 45 copies of the first edition of The Crime Against Cuba, which were sent to the CIA Mailroom Library in Washington, DC. This seems too crazy to believe but the receipt for this order has been declassified.[31]  This does not prove that the CIA provided the pamphlet to Oswald. But, it does show that the CIA certainly had the ability to provide the pamphlet to Oswald. And in the absence of any other reasonable explanation for how Oswald obtained a 1st edition version of the pamphlet in 1963, getting it from the CIA seems like the most reasonable candidate.

 

The pamphlet that Oswald gave to FBI Agent Quigley also had the address 544 Camp Street stamped on it. As we discussed last episode, that’s the second floor entrance to the building where Guy Banister worked – and where at least six witnesses say Banister allowed Oswald to use an empty office.

 

Jesse Core, who worked at the International Trade Mart, got one of the first edition Corliss Lamont pamphlets from Oswald when he was handing them out on the street. Core worked for Clay Shaw at the Trade Mart and was an FBI Informant.[32] On August 19th, Core mailed the pamphlet to the New Orleans FBI. On the front of the pamphlet Core wrote QUOTE “Note inside back cover.” The inside back cover of the pamphlet is where the 544 Camp Street Stamp was located.

 

This correspondence from an FBI informant to the FBI, which advised the Bureau to take note of the back cover, appears to be a warning that Oswald could be linked back to 544 Camp Street because of the stamp. What other reason could there plausibly be for Core to write “Note inside back cover?”

 

After the assassination, the special agent in charge of the New Orleans FBI office, Harry Maynor, wrote a memo to FBI HQ. A declassified draft version of this memo shows handwritten notes, which were scratched out, but are still visible. One of the notes that was scratched out said “Several Fair Play for Cuba pamphlets contained address 544 Camp Street.”[33] If the 544 Camp Street information is not incriminating to the Oswald as lone nut narrative, why then is Harry Maynor scratching out his note about it and why is Jesse Core bringing it to the attention of the FBI?

 

Charles Steele

 

On August 12, Oswald plead guilty and was fined ten dollars for disturbing the peace. Shortly after that Oswald went to the New Orleans States-Item newspaper and asked reporter David Chandler to write a story about his arrest and involvement with the FPCC. Chandler told Oswald he would not write a story because he was not sympathetic to Oswald’s pro-Castro viewpoint.[34]

 

Four days later, on August 16, Oswald approached 19 year old Charles Steele outside of the Louisiana Employment Service and offered him two dollars for fifteen to twenty minutes of work distributing leaflets. Years later, Steele spoke to the HSCA about the incident. But, he refused to tell HSCA investigators if he was aware of Oswald before he handed out flyers with him or whether he ever saw Oswald again.[35] Declassified FBI files revealed that Steele was an FBI informant, known as T-14.[36]

 

This situation raises a few questions: What are the chances that Oswald picks a guy from the employment office to help him hand out flyers, and that guy ends up being an FBI informant? How could Oswald afford to pay someone to help him hand out flyers if he was living solely on paltry unemployment checks? And what benefit would Oswald get from someone handing out flyers for just fifteen or twenty minutes?

 

As mentioned earlier, Jesse Core was the FBI informant who sent the pamphlet to the FBI noting the 544 camp street address. While Oswald and Steele handed out the leaflets in front of the International Trade Mart, Jesse Core called the WDSU television station and asked them to send a cameraman to film Oswald and Steele handing out these flyers.[37]

 

Oswald on TV and Radio

 

After handing out the FPCC flyers with Steele, Oswald was invited to be interviewed on WDSU TV and radio stations. Bill Stuckey was the host of a show called Latin Listening Post. Stuckey learned from his friend Carlos Bringuier about the altercation that Bringuier had with Oswald. Bringuier also let Stuckey know where Oswald lived.[38] On August 17, Stuckey knocked on Oswald’s door at 8am and invited Oswald to be on his radio show that night. Oswald agreed and gave Stuckey a 37 minute interview, which the station would not allow to be played in its entirety, but which was cut up into smaller clips and played on Stuckey’s Latin Listening Post show. Believe it or not, Bill Stuckey was also an FBI Informant. He immediately sent the 37 minute audio interview with Oswald to the FBI.[39]

 

On August 21st, Oswald was invited to appear on a live radio discussion on WDSU – as opposed to the taped interview he had already given. The show was called Conversation Carte Blanche. The guests were Carlos Bringuier and Bill Stuckey (both of whom were FBI informants), as well as Oswald and Ed Butler. Butler worked closely with the CIA as the director of the Information Council of the Americas (known as INCA), which was an anti-communist propaganda group. Butler also collaborated with Guy Banister, Sergio Arcacha Smith, and CIA agent William Gaudet. Guadet said that Ed Butler was the one who arranged for Oswald to be on Conversation Carte Blanche.[40] 

 

During this radio show, Oswald apparently makes a small mis-statement about his time in the Soviet Union, which he then corrects. Here’s the clip:

 

“I worked in Russia. I was under the protection of the, uh, of the uh, that is to say I was not under the protection of the American government but was at all times considered an American citizen.”[41]

 

When I first heard this statement, I thought, this is nothing. Oswald simply mis-spoke and corrected himself. Whether the statement that Oswald was under the protection of the American government is true or not, we don’t know. But, it’s clear that Oswald retracted the statement and said he was not under the protection of the American government in Russia. So, no big deal, right?

 

When a transcript of this interview was included in the Warren Report volumes as Stuckey Exhibit 3, the transcript added the word “not” to Oswald’s statement, so that it read “I was not under the protection of the …, uh, of the uh, that is to say I was not under the protection of the American government…”[42]

 

Since he corrected it, you really can’t say that Oswald admitted to being under the protection of the American government. On the other hand, I cannot think of an explanation for why the transcriber went out of their way to insert a word that wasn’t there and make it look like Oswald never misspoke. One would think that if all of this talk of Oswald being an agent was really nonsense, the government would let his misstatement speak for itself. But, this tampering with the record suggests that someone was working hard to make sure that Oswald’s words were not construed to be saying he was under the protection of the American government. It’s either that, OR, this is one more unexplainable coincidence.

 

Is Everyone Intelligence?

 

As we mentioned already, Jesse Core, who worked for Clay Shaw at the International Trade Mart was an FBI informant; so was Carlos Bringuier, the anti-Castro Cuban exile whom Oswald approached. So was Charles Steele, the guy Oswald paid to help him hand out flyers in front of the cameras.

 

The other two Cubans who were with Bringuier and Oswald when they were arrested were Miguel Cruz (no relation to Ted), and Celso Hernandes. Cruz was FBI informant T2 and Hernandes was a CIA asset.[43] The WDSU cameraman who filmed Oswald handing out the leaflets in front of the International Trade Mart, Orvie Aucoin, was an FBI informant.[44] Bill Stuckey, the radio host, was an FBI informant.

 

Look, I understand that there are a lot of FBI informants and CIA assets. And, just because someone may have one of those titles, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing something nefarious. There could be innocent explanations. But, when we have pretty much everyone involved with Oswald’s arrest and subsequent filming of him handing out flyers and then going on the radio and TV being tied to the FBI or CIA in one way or another, it gives the appearance that Oswald handing the pamphlets out was merely a charade designed to capture video of Oswald that made him look like a pro-Castro sympathizer.

 

But, the reality is that, immediately after the assassination of President Kennedy, the films of Oswald defending Cuba on TV and him handing out the FPCC flyers were distributed around the world and weaponized to convict him in the court of public opinion. Those films, together with Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union made it appear that Oswald was a Pro-Castro Communist, which would partially serve as Oswald’s alleged motive for killing President Kennedy.

 

The question we are trying to answer is whether Oswald’s motives were straight forward, or whether he was working on behalf of someone else. Between the amount of intelligence connected people surrounding Oswald, the shady editing of the transcript for Oswald’s appearance on the radio, Oswald’s use of 544 Camp Street, Oswald telling Dean Andrews he was being paid, Oswald paying someone else to help him, and Oswald’s inexplicable possession of the 1st edition Crime Against Cuba pamphlet, we have to strongly consider the idea that Oswald was being set up and was working with others – as opposed to being a pro-Castro lone nut.

 

NEXT TIME ON SOLVING JFK: We continue to analyze Lee Harvey Oswald’s time in New Orleans, with a focus on whether Oswald traveled to the rural Louisiana towns of Clinton and Jackson with David Ferrie and Clay Shaw.


[2] Commission Document 11, Report of SA James Hosty, 9/10/63.

[3] CE 1409.

[4] Warren Report, Vincent T Lee, Exhibit 3A.

[5] Warren Report, Vincent T Lee, Exhibit 3.

[9] CE 1413.

[10] Armstrong at 546.

[12] Warren Commission Testimony of Dean Andrews, 11H 326.

[13] Id.

[14] Id. at 328.

[15] Gerald Posner, Case Closed at 150.

[16] Id.

[17] Armstrong at 562.

[18] Posner at 150.

[19] Id. at 151.

[20] Id.

[21] Armstrong at 564.

[22] Posner at 152.

[23] CE 1942.

[24] Posner at 154; DiEugenio at 159.

[29] Armstrong at 567.

[32] Commission Document 6, p177-178.

[33] John Newman, Oswald and the CIA, at 310.  

[34] Commission Document 194, p 13, FBI Interview of David Chandler by SA Richard Logan, 12/17/63.

[37] Commission Document 205, p 583, FBI Interview of John Corporan by SA Nathan Brown, 12/3/63.

[40] Armstrong at 574.

[43] Armstrong at 576.

[44] Armstrong at 575.

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