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I have managed to get a copy of William Proxmire's book, Report from Wasteland: America's Military-Industrial Complex. It includes details of how the Suite 8F Group worked (although he does not mention the group by name). Proxmire clearly explains the importance of the chairmen of the key Senate committees. Interestingly, he does not report on the role played by LBJ in this (as Majority Leader he decided on who became chairmen of these committees). In fact, the book only mentions LBJ twice. Like most figures of this period, Proxmire appeared to be frightened of LBJ. There is a good section in the book on the TFX scandal:

Roswell L. Gilpatric, who served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1964. (He was) a member of the law firm of Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, when he became deputy to McNamara in 1961, he and his firm had represented General Dynamics in the period 1958-61. Gilpatric's fees had exceeded $100,000. Although he left his firm, he continued to receive some $20,000 a year in severance pay while at the Pentagon. In the meantime, Cravath, Swaine, and Moore continued to represent General Dynamics.

Like Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatric had been a part of the military-industrial-law firm complex for years. He had served as Under Secretary of the Air Force in 1951-53 and as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the nonprofit Aerospace Corporation that President Eisenhower established to conduct studies on major missile systems.

The storm and furor over Gilpatric's relationships were raised during the TFX investigation. It was shown that he had taken a direct part in the negotiations over the highly controversial contract, which went to General Dynamics. He was involved in discussions on the contract. He signed the letter turning down Senator McClellan's request that the formal signing with General Dynamics be delayed.

Fred Korth, Secretary of the Navy in 1962, is another case in point. He had a past close relationship with the Defense Department and with the defense contractors and played a questionable part in the TFX controversy as well.

His official Pentagon biography states that he rose from a second lieutenant to lieutenant-colonel in the Air Transport Command during World War II. After private law practice in Fort Worth, in 1951 he became Department Counselor, Department of the Army. In 1952, he was made an Assistant Secretary of the Army. He returned to Fort Worth where he was elected executive vice president and director of the Continental National Bank and, later, became its president. He was a director of the Bell Aerospace Corporation and active in the Navy League of the United States.

Korth succeeded John B. Connally, Jr., another Texan from Fort Worth, as Secretary of the Navy. When Korth was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, he stated that he had resigned as president of the Fort Worth Continental National Bank. But he retained his stock valued at $160,000 in the bank and told the Committee he intended to return to the bank when he left public office. Only a few months before he was appointed, Korth had approved a $400,000 loan from his old bank to the General Dynamics Corporation. The Convair plant of General Dynamics was in Fort Worth. Although $400,000 may not appear to be a large sum for the largest defense contractor in the country to borrow, it was, nonetheless, two-thirds of the $600,000 loan limit allowed the small Continental National Bank.

As Secretary of the Navy, Korth made the decision about the TFX. The Pentagon's Source Selection Board had recommended that the contract go to Boeing. Korth overruled the Board and recommended General Dynamics. Along with Secretary McNamara and Air Force Secretary Eugene Zuckert, Navy Secretary Korth signed the five-page memorandum of justification.

The question of a conflict of interest was raised directly with the justice Department by Senator John J. Williams, of Delaware. In fairness to both Korth and Gilpatric, the Justice Department wrote that in their opinion there was no law violation in either Korth's or Gilpatric's role in the TFX contract.

Later, Korth was so indiscreet as to write letters promoting the business of the Continental National Bank on Navy Department stationery. He resigned shortly after this matter was drawn to the attention of Attorney General Robert Kennedy by Senator McClellan.

It seems that Proxmire did not have the full story. The information was going in the opposite direction. Burkett Van Kirk, chief counsel for the Republican minority on the Senate Rules Committee later told Seymour Hersh that Senator John Williams of Delaware was being fed information by Robert Kennedy about the involvement of Lyndon Johnson, Fred Korth, Bobby Baker, etc. in a series of scandals. Williams, the Senate’s leading investigator of corruption, passed this information to the three Republicans (John Sherman Cooper, Hugh Scott and Carl Curtis) on the ten-member Rules Committee. However, outnumbered, they were unable to carry out a full investigation into Johnson and Baker. Van Kirk claimed that Robert Kennedy supplied this information because he wanted “to get rid of Johnson.” This story is confirmed by Carl Curtis (Forty Years Against the Tide).

There is only one explanation for Robert Kennedy's behaviour: John Kennedy had decided to ditch LBJ as his vice president. That meant he would lose Texas and therefore could now remove the oil depletion allowance. Combine this with the fact that JFK was considering withdrawing from Vietnam and you have a series of motives why LBJ and his friends from Texas had to remove him from office in November, 1963. Especially when you consider that Don B. Reynolds testified in a secret session of the Senate Rules Committee on the day JFK was assassinated. As Victor Lasky pointed out, Reynolds “spoke of the time Bobby Baker opened a satchel full of paper money which he said was a $100,000 payoff for Johnson for pushing through a $7billion TFX plane contract.”

Another interesting point is that after resigning Fred Korth became director of the Bell Aerospace Corporation. The company had been established by Lawrence D. Bell, a key member of the Suite 8F Group. In fact, Bell built the plant in Fort Worth, Texas at the request of LBJ. The Bell Aerospace Corporation went on to become the leading beneficiary of the Vietnam War. By 1969, Bell was selling nearly $600 million worth of helicopters to the U. S. military every year.

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I am currently reading Clark R. Mollenhoff’s Despoilers of Democracy. It is the best account I have read on the scandals surrounding Lyndon Johnson at the time of the assassination. It is especially good on providing information on Fred Korth, LBJ’s pal who replaced his other pal, John Connally, as Secretary of the Navy.

Mollenhoff’s interviewed all the main figures in the TFX scandal and attended all the sessions of John McClellan’s Senate Committee that investigated the granting of the contract to General Dynamics.

Mollenhoff points out that as well as being General Dynamics’ banker before becoming Secretary of the Navy, Korth was also a director of the Bell Corporation. Soon after taking the post, Korth granted the X-22 contract to Bell. This was in spite of the recommendation of the Navy Board that the contract should go to the Douglas Aircraft Corporation. Within weeks of taking office he was also overruling the unanimous recommendation by the Navy Board that the TFX contract should go to Boeing.

At the time the X-22 and TFX contracts were given to Bell and General Dynamics, both corporations were on the verge of bankruptcy. They were saved not only by these contracts but by the Vietnam War.

Mollenhoff points out that McClellan’s Senate Committee never issued its report on the TFX scandal. In fact, it stopped meeting after the assassination of JFK. Officially, it was because the report would have condemned JFK as well as Johnson, Korth, Gilpatric, and McNamara.

The main question concerns why JFK and McNamara went along with the X-22 and TFX decisions. If JFK had stepped in he would have had to have sacked both McNamara and Gilpatric. It also explains how LBJ was able to force McNamara into going along with sending combat troops to Vietnam. It was a common tactic of LBJ to involve as many politicians as possible in his various scams. Once they were implicated in these corrupt activities, they became under his control.

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I have been doing some more research into Fred Korth. He was born in Yorketown, Texas, in 1909. His older brother, Romeo Korth was instrumental in implementing rural electrification for South and Central Texas.

During the Second World War he served in the Air Transport Command. By 1945 he had reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel. I would be very interested to find out where he was stationed. I wonder if he was based in China with people like Tommy Corcoran, Paul Heliwell, Phil Graham, etc.

After the war he worked as a lawyer in Forth Worth, Texas. As Alan Kent pointed out: "Korth was one of the ambitious young Texans who were swept up into Lyndon Johnson's ambit during Johnson's 30's and 40's search for loyal homegrown talent. Caro's portrait of the collective angst of some of this group during a pivotal time for Johnson ( the vote of the State Executive Committee of the Texas Democrat party which would decide whether Johnson's fraudulant win over Coke Stevenson would be certified by the party) is telling: "Standing in the ballroom that evening were Jake Pickle and Raymond Buck and Fred Korth and John Connally, men who had, some of them many years before, tied their fortunes to Lyndon Johnson's star. These men would remember their feelings until they died. 'I was leaning up against a pillar in the back listening and trying to make tabulations but my heart was pounding so much that I could hardly write,' Pickle recalls. 'Because I knew what was involved.' (Means of Ascent, p.345)"

Despite being a longtime friend of LBJ, Korth, except for the brief passage above, he is not mentioned in Robert Caro's 3 volumes of his life.

In 1952 Harry S. Truman appointed Korth as Assistant Secretary of the Army. This seems to be a major jump in his career. I expect LBJ was behind this appointment. The Secretary of the Army at the time was Frank Pace. In an oral history of the Truman presidency Pace gives the impression he did not know Korth before he was appointed. This is clearly not true as Pace was also in the Air Transport Command. Again, it would be interesting to know where Pace was stationed.

Both Pace and Korth left office in 1953. Pace became chief executive of the General Dynamics Corporation in Texas. Korth returned to his law practice. He also became director of the Bell Aerospace Corporation. The chairman of the company, Lawrence Bell, was a fellow member of the Suite 8F Group. Korth also became president of the Continental National Bank of Fort Worth. This was one of General Dynamics bankers.

John F. Kennedy appointed Korth as Secretary of the Navy in January, 1962 (replacing his old friend John Connally - another strange coincidence). According to author Seth Kantor, Korth only got the job after strong lobbying from LBJ. A few weeks after taking the post, Korth overruled top Navy officers who had proposed that the X-22 contract be given to Douglas Aircraft Corporation. Instead he insisted the contract be granted to the more expensive bid of the Bell Corporation. This was a subsidiary of Bell Aerospace Corporation of Forth Worth, Texas. This created some controversy as Korth was a former director of the company.

Korth also became very involved in discussions about the TFX contract. Korth, was the former president of the Continental Bank, which had loaned General Dynamics considerable sums of money during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Korth later told the John McClellan committee that investigated the granting of the TFX contract to General Dynamics “that because of his peculiar position he had deliberately refrained from taking a directing hand in this decision (within the Navy) until the last possible moment.”

As I. F. Stone pointed out, it was “the last possible moment” which counted. “Three times the Pentagon’s Source Selection Board found that Boeing’s bid was better and cheaper than that of General Dynamics and three times the bids were sent back for fresh submissions by the two bidders and fresh reviews. On the fourth round, the military still held that Boeing was better but found at last that the General Dynamics bid was also acceptable.” Stone goes on to argue: “The only document the McClellan committee investigators were able to find in the Pentagon in favour of that award, according to their testimony, was a five-page memorandum signed by McNamara, Korth, and Eugene Zuckert, then Secretary of the Air Force.”

Korth was forced to resign at the end of October, 1963. I have been unable to find out what work he did after leaving office.

Fred Korth died in El Paso, Texas in September 1998. He is buried under a three century old Texas Live Oak tree on his ranch in Karnes County, Texas.

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Korth was forced to resign at the end of October, 1963. I have been unable to find out what work he did after leaving office. (John Simkin)

I don't have a great deal but by 1965, he was practising law in Washington. In 1969 he was elected to the board of OKC Corp. in Dallas.

Also in 1969, his daughter allegedly committed suicide with a self-inflicted shotgun blast. This was a little strange as it is very rare for a woman to take her life like this.

FWIW.

Fred Korth (Left) and Wright Morrow below.

James

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Also in 1969, his daughter allegedly committed suicide with a self-inflicted shotgun blast. This was a little strange as it is very rare for a woman to take her life like this.

That is true. Even more gruesome, she did it while on the telephone with her husband - he had to hear it.

I don't have a great deal but by 1965, he was practising law in Washington. In 1969 he was elected to the board of OKC Corp. in Dallas.

He practiced law in DC until his death. He also served on the board of directors for the Post Trust until his death.

I wonder if he was based in China with people like Tommy Corcoran, Paul Heliwell, Phil Graham, etc.

He was not based in China. I do not believe that he was posted overseas at all during the war.

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This was a little strange as it is very rare for a woman to take her life like this.

Not considering the fact that she grew up around shotguns on the family ranch and was an experienced bird shooter. It was simply the tool available and familiar. Nothing strange at all.

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I am currently reading Clark R. Mollenhoff's Despoilers of Democracy. It is the best account I have read on the scandals surrounding Lyndon Johnson at the time of the assassination. It is especially good on providing information on Fred Korth, LBJ's pal who replaced his other pal, John Connally, as Secretary of the Navy.

Mollenhoff's interviewed all the main figures in the TFX scandal and attended all the sessions of John McClellan's Senate Committee that investigated the granting of the contract to General Dynamics.

Mollenhoff points out that as well as being General Dynamics' banker before becoming Secretary of the Navy, Korth was also a director of the Bell Corporation. Soon after taking the post, Korth granted the X-22 contract to Bell. This was in spite of the recommendation of the Navy Board that the contract should go to the Douglas Aircraft Corporation. Within weeks of taking office he was also overruling the unanimous recommendation by the Navy Board that the TFX contract should go to Boeing.

At the time the X-22 and TFX contracts were given to Bell and General Dynamics, both corporations were on the verge of bankruptcy. They were saved not only by these contracts but by the Vietnam War.

Mollenhoff points out that McClellan's Senate Committee never issued its report on the TFX scandal. In fact, it stopped meeting after the assassination of JFK. Officially, it was because the report would have condemned JFK as well as Johnson, Korth, Gilpatric, and McNamara.

The main question concerns why JFK and McNamara went along with the X-22 and TFX decisions. If JFK had stepped in he would have had to have sacked both McNamara and Gilpatric. It also explains how LBJ was able to force McNamara into going along with sending combat troops to Vietnam. It was a common tactic of LBJ to involve as many politicians as possible in his various scams. Once they were implicated in these corrupt activities, they became under his control.

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I have an interesting story about Korth, who was from Texas. His first wife told me he was a delight until the fall of 1963 when Korth became silent and sullen, troubled by something. He moved out of their house in early Nov. 1963 and would not speak to her again. She was convinced that there was not another woman involved. What did Korth know that made his leave his wife? Was this to protect her?

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I have an interesting story about Korth, who was from Texas. His first wife told me he was a delight until the fall of 1963 when Korth became silent and sullen, troubled by something. He moved out of their house in early Nov. 1963 and would not speak to her again. She was convinced that there was not another woman involved. What did Korth know that made his leave his wife? Was this to protect her?

I've exchanged some emails with the former Capt. of the Sequoia who says that Korth did have some parties aboard for big wigs, and also took his family - his wife and kids on holiday cruises on the Potomac.

BK

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Bumping this enlightening thread.

If Johnson hadn't been sworn in as President on 11,22,1963...he and his career and his partners in crime band of brothers would have all been toast.

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