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Oswald's language abilities and evidence related to his Soviet soujourn (1959-63)


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23 hours ago, Bill Simpich said:

James, here is my question to you:  In your opinion, how was Oswald being "coached" prior to his arrival to the USSR?

 

Bill,

To be precise, my usage of the word “coaching” in counterintelligence of the mid-twentieth century is that Oswald had "handlers" who were training him and providing him with explicit instructions for his assignments, as well as manipulating him for purposes he may not have understood.  One example of the coaching may be seen in how Oswald’s activities were directed in the summer of 1963.  Jim Garrison discovered the address of 544 Camp Street stamped on one of Oswald's Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) flyers, which led him to the address of Guy Banister's office in New Orleans.  Garrison began to connect the dots between Oswald, Banister, Ferrie, and Shaw, concluding that Oswald was being "sheepdipped" by the CIA in such activities as distributing the flyers, engaging in a street scuffle, and appearing on the radio.  And if the CIA was controlling Oswald in 1963, it is likely that the CIA was behind the phony defection of Oswald to the USSR in 1959.

There is also evidence of Oswald being coached prior to his arrival in the USSR, and here are five examples:

(1)  There are moments when the young Oswald dramatically expresses his sympathy for communism at the height of the Cold War.  In New Orleans, Oswald proudly showed off to a friend his copies of Marx's Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto.  He brazenly argued with the father of a friend, opposing democracy while singing the praises of communism.  For this, he was booted out of the house of the friend.  Oswald and a friend attended a special performance of Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov in New Orleans.  How many kids in middle school would sit through a three-hour Russian opera?  All of these experiences would leave vivid imprints on those who witnessed Oswald’s behavior, and their memories would be invaluable at the time of the phony defection.

(2)  Oswald was a high school dropout, not even completing his freshman year.  Prior to that time, there are gaps in his elementary education that are worthy of study by JFK researchers.  David Josephs has prepared a meticulous timeline of Oswald's life that is helpful in identifying the instances when Oswald was out of school and may have been receiving private tutoring and the opportunity to keep in practice with his Russian language skills.  Researcher John Armstrong came across an eyewitness who recalled hearing young Oswald and a woman in an apartment conversing in a foreign language.  John did not include that account in his book because he was unable to corroborate it with any other eyewitness.  There are nonetheless tantalizing moments when apparent coaching experiences were occurring.  Later, there are more gaps in the biographical record during the period of Oswald's Marine training.  In one instance, there is evidence that he showed up on the campus of Antioch College in Ohio.  What was he doing there?  The gaps are well worth exploring by researchers.

(3)  The times when young Oswald moved around while growing up are a telltale sign that he and Marguerite were being shuffled around on a chessboard.  In his book The Interloper, Peter Savodnik, who has, in my estimation, done nearly catastrophic damage in his interpretation of Oswald's stay in the Soviet Union, at least writes a useful opening to his book:

"He [Oswald] was, in a way, homeless--without a stable backdrop of buildings or even people.  By the age of seventeen, he had moved twenty times.  Almost all of these moves happened because of his mother, Marguerite." (p. 3)

A close study of Marguerite Oswald reveals that she too was being coached in the moves and the remuneration she likely received.  As a widow, Marguerite had placed all three of her sons in orphanages at some point in time.  But, by the mid-1940s, her fortunes inexplicably were reversed, and she was buying and selling properties in the Fort Worth area.  A couple of the residences were in extremely remote areas.  Her little boy kept changing schools, which was the whole idea to confuse the KGB in the event that the Soviets investigated Oswald's past during the Minsk years.  

(4)  The shadowy figure of Edwin Ekdahl is a possible link to the long-term project of placing an American operative in the Soviet Union who was fluent in Russian.  The short-lived marriage of Ekdahl and Marguerite has puzzled researchers.  The Warren Commission concluded that Ekdahl bonded with the youngest son.  But what was Ekdahl's line of work and what were the circumstances of his marriage to the much younger Marguerite?  How deep were his ties to the East Coast Establishment?  Did Ekdahl have any connection to American intelligence?  I know that Greg Parker, who has an excellent knowledge of Oswald's life, has taken an interest in Ekdahl.  Any discoveries made by Greg would be a significant contribution.

(5)  While stationed in Santa Ana, California as a Marine, Oswald blatantly called attention to himself as a Slavophile, playing records of Russian classical music, reading Russian publications, and earning the nickname of Oswaldovitch.  This posturing was clearly the result of coaching at the critical moment when Oswald was about to leave the Marines and travel to the Soviet Union.  Around this time, Oswald was administered an army examination in Russian language proficiency, answering over half the questions correctly.  Why on earth would a nondescript Marine private be required to take a Russian language exam?  I have written about the exam in my article.  Oswald’s boosterism of everything Russian and the taking of the exam are clear indications of him being directed in ways far beyond the regular duties of a Marine.

While the documentary record of Oswald's life was sanitized at the time the Warren Commission convened, the five examples above nonetheless offer evidence and raise questions about how, when, and where Oswald was being trained and directed in preparation for his "defection" to the USSR.  Students of the JFK case will typically make a beeline for Dealey Plaza in Dallas to make sense of the assassination.  But by shifting our focus to other areas, such as Fort Worth and New Orleans, new areas of investigation present themselves with great potential for learning more about Oswald’s ties to the American intelligence network.

Edited by James Norwood
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On 6/12/2020 at 1:06 PM, Steve Thomas said:

Somehow, I just can't reconcile the smiling, happy person in the pictures below being the surly, uncommunicative, anti-social person encountered by Billy Joe Lord, and Oswald's foreman in the Minsk factory. Something just doesn't feel right.

Likewise, the “dangle to attractive Japanese women” that Bill mentions in his opening post just doesn’t line-up, for me, with the Dallas Police Department LHO. I don’t think that Bill wanted an H&L debate here, (they pop-up everywhere and ruin the focus of many a thread), but Bill’s opening post reminded me of someone walking over glass or coals without getting cut or burned (by raising the H&L question).

 

Cheers, Michael

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6 hours ago, James Norwood said:

(5)  While stationed in Santa Ana, California as a Marine, Oswald blatantly called attention to himself as a Slavophile, playing records of Russian classical music, reading Russian publications, and earning the nickname of Oswaldovitch.  This posturing was clearly the result of coaching at the critical moment when Oswald was about to leave the Marines and travel to the Soviet Union.  Around this time, Oswald was administered an army examination in Russian language proficiency, answering over half the questions correctly.  Why on earth would a nondescript Marine private be required to take a Russian language exam?  I have written about the exam in my article.  Oswald’s boosterism of everything Russian and the taking of the exam are clear indications of him being directed in ways far beyond the regular duties of a Marine.

Dr. Norwood knows a great deal more about Oswald's Russian language skills than he has presented here, and so I'd just like to add a few more details.

According to the 1964 testimony of Lt. Col. Allison G. Folsom, Lee Harvey Oswald answered four more questions right than wrong in a Russian language exam administered to him while he was still in the Marines.  The overall score was rated “poor,” which is the same rating he was given in a series of tests including English reading and vocabulary.

Before ever setting foot in the Soviet Union, Oswald scored as well in a Russian-language exam as he did in tests of his English.  Are we to believe this was merely because he was “motivated” to teach himself Russian?

A few years ago, a professional English/German foreign language instructor named Mathias Baumann posted on this forum about Oswald’s remarkable command of the Russian language. Here’s what Mathias wrote:

I'm not yet convinced of the two Oswalds theory, but I think the question how Oswald learned Russian so quickly does merit some serious consideration.

First of all I asked myself: How difficult was the test Oswald took? So I did some googling on U.S. Military language tests and I found this bit of information:

"People wishing to work as military language analysts are required to maintain at least L2/R2 proficiency." Source: https://www.german-way.com/levels-of-language-proficiency-my-life-in-germany/

L2/R2 is the level of an advanced beginner, which I think roughly equates to the A2 level of the Common European Framework (CEF). You need to take on average 80 to 120 individual (one-on-one) lessons (a lesson being 45 minutes) or 400 lessons of a group course to reach this level in the German language (provided that you already know the Roman Alphabet). These numbers do not include the time you need for homework, mind you.

And Russian is even more difficult than German. It's considered a level 3 language (German is level 2): https://www.thebalance.com/defense-language-aptitude-battery-3332702 So considering Oswald was of average intelligence I estimate he would've needed at least somewhere between 100 to 200 lessons of instruction plus about the same amount of time to prepare for the lessons in order to pass the Marine Corps test. And that is a low and optimistic estimate.

But maybe Oswald was highly intelligent and able to learn foreign languages more quickly than others? I took a look at his school career.

It turns out he was rather intelligent:

Lee scored an IQ of 118 on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. According to Sokolow, this indicated a "present intellectual functioning in the upper range of bright normal intelligence." 67 Sokolow said that although Lee was "presumably disinterested in school subjects he operates on a much higher than average level." 68 On the Monroe Silent Reading Test, Lee's score indicated no retardation in reading speed and comprehension; he had better than average ability in arithmetical reasoning for his age group. 69

Source: https://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/warren-commission-report/chapter-7.html#newyork

But I found no evidence that he ever learned a foreign language at school, so I presume he was unfamiliar with the necessary techniques. On the other hand Nelson Delgado is supposed to have taught Oswald Spanish, which might indicate that Oswald learned languages quickly. But the important point here is that he had an instructor - Delgado.

Language is all about communication, so without an interlocutor it is very hard to learn a language, because actual practice is an integral part of the whole process. So my conclusion is that Oswald would not have passed the test without intensive regular instruction.

This link is also very interesting: http://www.dliflc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Generic-Fam-Guide-MC-CBu-updated.pdf

The target level of foreign language tests in the US military is L5/R5. So if Oswald got about 50 percent of the questions right, that means he reached level L2/R2. And without instruction that is EXTREMELY difficult, especially considering the difficulty of Russian. I'm sure he received extensive training.

Here's an image of a Russian language newspaper printed in San Francisco that is probably similar to the one Oswald reportedly read in the Marine corps while stationed in California.  Can you imagine teaching yourself to read, write, and speak this language without any formal instruction?

russzh.jpg 

It seems to me there are only two possible explanations for Oswald's Russian-language ability before he ever travelled to Russia.  The first is that he had extensive training in Russian--suggesting he was being trained as a spy for the Russian assignment coming up--or second, that he learned Russian as a youngster, which is what John Armstrong, James Norwood, and quite a few others believe, including me.

Edited by Jim Hargrove
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This is a response to John Butler's two questions - how did Oswald know how to go through Finland to obtain an instant visa into the Soviet Union?  And why did Oswald take a freighter to Europe?

The following passage from my book State Secret addresses both questions, and illustrates Webster's roles as an asset and a dangle.  It also sheds light on why Oswald's activities should be examined in the context of Webster's defection.  My next post will address Oswald's roles as an asset, a dangle, and a wannabe spy.

From State Secret, Chapter 1:

On September 4, Oswald filled out a passport application saying that he was leaving the US on 9/21/59 by boat. He would be gone for four months to attend school at the Albert Schweitzer College and elsewhere. He indicated that he would begin his tour in Cuba, travel through Europe all the way to Finland, and then cross into Russia. Actually, Oswald was not scheduled to attend Albert Schweitzer College until April 1960.

Oswald's statement about Cuba, Finland and Russia was a red flag for the counterintelligence agents that routinely review passport applications.

Right before Webster’s disappearance, he was told by the Soviets that they would accept him as a citizen if he would teach them how to make the Rand spray gun demonstrated at the American Exhibition. When he agreed to show them, the Soviets agreed to provide him with citizenship. One of Jim Angleton’s deputies testified that Webster was regarded as a loss because of Soviet interest in Webster's knowledge about the "specifications of a nozzle that prepared plastic in a particular fashion".

During this summer, Webster had been enjoying the attentions of a Russian woman named Vera. Webster had been suffering with marital problems back in the United States. Jim Rand believed that the Soviets were using Vera to convince Webster to stay "in order to gain his knowledge of (the) plastics and synthetics industry".

Webster knew a lot about the technology that the Soviets wanted for their military and space programs, in order to fabricate their missiles and engines. All signs are that the US wanted the inside baseball on the state of development of Soviet missiles and military hardware - Webster learned during his stay that "Soviet plastics technologies on a commercial and application basis are about ten years behind those of the US."

This letter between two FBI counterintelligence chiefs is revealing: "Subject does not have access to any classified data, but the Rand Development Corporation has expressed interest in his welfare because of his peculiar knowledge of the plastics and fiberglass industry. The U.S. is ahead of the Russians in the plastic and fiberglass field, and, therefore, the Soviets would have a logical interest in the subject's remaining in the Soviet Union. We also know that the Soviets have requested information concerning fiberglass and plastics through our double agents."

Webster’s “peculiar knowledge” was not going to make up a ten year disadvantage between the US and the USSR in this field. However, as we will see, Webster became an invaluable source to US intelligence on the state of Soviet technology in these fields.

Webster disappeared after he got his 20 day travel visa

While Webster negotiated with the Soviets, Lee Harvey Oswald received a dependency discharge based on his claim that he was going to take care of his mother, who was supposedly injured months earlier by a falling candy box, and arrived in Fort Worth on September 12, 1959. He would still have to put in some reserve duty before his discharge was final.

After visiting his mother for three days, he abruptly left her and arrived in New Orleans by the 16th. Her story was that Lee was going to resume work at an import-export business.

Right after Webster got a 20 day visa for travel around the USSR, he disappeared on the 10th with Vera instead of leaving the USSR on the 14th as planned. Air Force intelligence described his trip as a 20 day Intourist tour of Kiev, a tourism agency firmly in the hands of the KGB.

During Webster’s disappearance, Oswald traveled from New Orleans to Europe by freighter

On September 16th, rather than return to the world of import-export, Oswald used his knowledge of that world to chart an unusual course by taking a slow boat to Europe. Oswald obtained a ticket to go to Le Havre, France by freighter for the next day. Although he wrote that he intended to leave on the 21st, he actually left on the 17th.

Oswald skipped his planned trip to Cuba. Was it because Webster had disappeared? For a man on a slow boat, Oswald was in some kind of hurry. No one can prove that Oswald was working as an intelligence agent, or if he was being manipulated in some way. However, the evidence indicates that it was one or the other. Oswald’s trip was not a coincidence.

What we do know is that in the eyes of intelligence, it was far better for Oswald to take a slow boat then to fly by plane. Throughout the summer of 1959, CIA officer “William Costille” and KGB officer Gregory Golub – under their cover as embassy consuls – were going out to Helsinki nightclubs for a few drinks, some flirtation with their female companions, and testing each other and their dates as possible defection targets. They would muse about ways to make it easier for Americans to obtain an instant visa to cross the border and enter the Soviet Union.[ 3 ]

It was too early for Oswald to enter the Soviet Union. Webster's whereabouts were unknown. Nor was it known whether Costille had been successful in lining up an instant visa for Americans.

On September 30, just as his visa was about to expire, Webster wrote the American embassy and told them that he was staying in the USSR. On October 6, a diplomat at the American embassy sent a memo to the State Department, tipping them off that Webster was defecting. The memo included a handwritten memo sizing up Webster, possibly from a photograph, describing him as "hgt 10.5, light, looks 165". The State Department memo quickly reached the top echelon at the FBI.

When Webster surfaced, Oswald jumped off the boat and got an instant visa to the USSR

Oswald cut short his trip once Webster turned up. Oswald disembarked in France on October 8. Oswald did not stop by the Albert Schweitzer school. Oswald was now on the move.

On October 8, a memo from the CIA’s Soviet Union division revealed that all components involved with the Webster affair were swearing up and down that he was not their agent. All signs are that Webster’s movements were being choreographed by Air Force intelligence, whether Webster knew it or not.

By October 11, Rand flew to the USSR to visit Webster, who was in the hospital for reasons that are still unclear. Jim Rand could not get any information, and was so frustrated that he referred to the American consul Richard Snyder as a "jerk".

Oswald sped to Helsinki and arrived during the weekend of October 10. Oswald stayed at the Klaus Korki and Torni hotels, places that the CIA referred to as the local “pink hotels” - apparently because socialist travelers were attracted to them. The impecunious Oswald lined up his stay through an expensive Intourist package, even though his passport application said that he would not be using any such service. The KGB was watching Oswald.

Shortly before Oswald’s arrival, we see memos with the indicators REDCAP and sometimes including LCIMPROVE. REDCAP was used for monitoring the activities of Soviet officials and installations outside of the USSR, and also as a defector inducement program. David Murphy, chief of the USSR division, described REDCAP as a "defector inducement program" in his book Battleground Berlin. LCIMPROVE was used for counterintelligence operations directed at the USSR.

A REDCAP memo recounts how CIA consul William Costille gave his counterpart Gregory Golub two tickets to see Leonard Bernstein in an upcoming concert.[ 4 ] This was in appreciation for Golub’s recent assurance in a REDCAP/LCIMPROVE memo that any American who came to Helsinki with their papers in order would be granted a visa “in a matter of minutes” by the Soviets.[ 5 ] When a couple of Americans sought instant visas on Costille’s advice, Golub called Costille and told him that “he would give them their visas as soon as they made advance Intourist reservations. When they did this, Golub immediately gave them the visas.” A few days later, Costille gave Golub the Bernstein tickets. Golub had lunch with Costille on the 13th to say thank you.

Oswald applied for his visa on the 13th and received his visa in record time by the 14th, obtained in one day rather than the customary wait of a week or more in Helsinki. Helsinki was considered to be the quickest place in the world for a foreigner to receive a Soviet visa. He then boarded a train, arriving in Moscow on October 16.

 

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1 hour ago, Jim Hargrove said:

Before ever setting foot in the Soviet Union, Oswald scored as well in a Russian-language exam as he did in tests of his English.  Are we to believe this was merely because he was “motivated” to teach himself Russian?

Jim,

Thank you for posting the detailed background and analysis of the Russian language exam administered to Oswald.  This helps to provide the context for understanding his degree of competency in speaking Russian on the eve of the Russian sojourn.  In the Oswald biography, it seems inevitable at some point to come to terms with the question of how, when, and where he achieved an unusual level of proficiency in the Russian language at such a young age and with no evidence of formal classroom instruction.

In my interchanges with Bill sprinkled through this thread, we have discussed many facets of the matter of the Russian sojourn, reaching agreement that Oswald was an asset of the United States government during the mission to the Soviet Union.  He and I differ on the matter of emphasis.  It is my position that Oswald was a major asset for one essential reason:  his fluency in the Russian language. 

If universally accepted, this point alone would change the history books and the way we think about the JFK assassination.

Edited by James Norwood
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Let's stay with the coaching discussion for a moment - James offered a few examples of coaching above - I do the same here.  I think it is very useful for all of us thinking hard about Oswald's role in the USSR.   I may have to step back for a couple days with other commitments - but please think hard about this evidence below, I think it reveals a lot about the motivations of the agencies, as well as Oswald himself. 

I have several examples right off the bat of how I believe Oswald was coached:

1.  As stated in my previous post, someone diverted LHO to Helsinki, where he was able to obtain an instant visa to get inside the USSR - consul William Costille had just opened that door up weeks earlier, and LHO was one of the first Americans - if not the first American - to use it.  This kind of instant visa to the USSR was absolutely unheard of - and for Oswald to lead the way is incredible.  It looks like the Americans wanted him to have a dramatic entry.  They wanted to shake the Sovs up.

2.  On 10/31/59, at his first trip to the American embassy, Oswald  handed State Dept consul Richard Snyder a carefully written handwritten document  (but undated) stating that he was requesting for his American citizenship to be revoked, and that it was being "made only after the longest and most serious considerations."

On 11/3/59, at his second visit to the embassy,  Oswald  handed Snyder another handwritten document stating that he had the legal right to renounce his citizenship - I do not believe he came up with that on his own - he needed coaching on that.   (WC Exhibit 912)

I love Snyder's response to the WC - he agreed he didn't have any legal right to refuse - he said that the office was closed on 10/31 - a Saturday - and added he didn't have a secretary to type up the renunciation!

3.  In Snyder's original written 11/3/59 report on the Oswald visit - Snyder wrote that Oswald told him that "he had been forewarned" that Snyder would try to talk him out of renouncing his citizenship.   

I just pawed through Snyder's testimony on Oswald's warning to the WC - I don't see anything in Snyder's testimony about "somebody forewarning Oswald" - and none of those Warren Commission lawyers asked him any questions about it, either.  They knew that Oswald's statement - true or not - was radioactive.

It appears Snyder watered down his written statement down from "Oswald had been forewarned" to "Oswald was well aware" that Snyder might try to talk him out of it.  Snyder then parsed the second phrase:  "Either he said 'I am well aware' or 'I have been told exactly the thing that you will ask me, and I am not interested, so let's get down to business' - words to that effect."   Everyone avoided Door #2.

McVickar made a similar claim the day after the assassination that LHO was tutored by persons unknown - but Snyder's is more significant, because Snyder said it back in 1959, not in 1963.  

4.  I believe LHO was trained to indicate to Snyder that he was going to commit a "disloyal act" involving military information to the Soviets, but not of a highly classified nature - along the same lines as Robert Webster.  Webster defected, but he did not give up any important secrets, and was able to come back home.   From the beginning, LHO wanted to be able to come back home - and left the door open a crack.

LHO told Snyder that he was going to tell the Soviets what he knew about aviation electronics.  As a result of Oswald's actions,  the US could obtain CI information literally from the questions that the Soviets were asking Oswald.   CI information on the Soviet Union was the kind of thing that military intelligence could never get enough of - and ONI was the most likely agency to handle LHO in this setting.

Webster was coaxed to defect by means of a honey trap - the Air Force dangled him in front of the Soviets because he was a plastics & fiberglass technician - he knew rocketry and Air Force technical intelligence wanted to know if the Soviets were ahead or behind of them.  (For more, see State Secret, Chapter 1)  It turned out the Sovs were a dozen years behind.   Webster was no agent - he was manipulated into place - so was Oswald.

Similarly, Oswald was an aviation electronics operator - he knew radar and a lot more.  My current belief (still mulling all this over) is that ONI dangled Oswald in front of the Soviets because he knew electronics and might have U-2 information - which would entice the Soviets to question him.  Like in the Webster case, the CI forces within ONI (and other agencies) would learn a lot by learning what the Soviets were interested in.

Edward Freers at the State Dept. wrote an 11/2/59 memo about the 10/31/59 LHO visit that Snyder initialed (on front page) - Freers wrote that Oswald said he had "voluntarily stated to unnamed Soviet officials that as a Soviet citizen he would make known to them such information concerning the Marine Corps and his specialty as he possessed. He intimated that he might know something of special interest."   

Note that Freers did not quote Oswald as saying that he was going to provide classified information - such a statement could lock the door on him and prevent him from returning to the USA.

Snyder's statement in 1963 echoed Freers in 1959 - as an electronics specialist, Oswald "intended (to) make all his specialized knowledge  available to the Soviet government, in effect declaring intention to commit a disloyal act.  I believe he did not claim to possess knowledge or information of highly classified nature."

5.  Oswald walked a tightrope to threaten to renounce his US citizenship, and made sure that he went right up to the edge of losing his citizenship, but he didn't lose it like Robert Webster did.  That took coaching.

Webster got burned by his military handlers - so did Oswald.

Snyder and the State Dept went to elaborate lengths not to accept Oswald's attempt to renounce his citizenship.  On the other hand, the military went to extraordinary lengths to characterize his actions as a renunciation of his citizenship.  The ensuing paper war scared everyone away from trying to understand this battle - to this day.  Still looking it over, but I think this fight between the State Dept. and the military about whether Oswald should lose his citizenship may have been totally contrived.  

In the middle of that paper war - Hoover wrote a memo to the Office of Security of the State Department - the Office of Security is known as SY -saying he was concerned that an imposter was using Oswald's birth certificate.  Only this week did I realize that the only agency copied on this critical memo was ONI.  Not CIA - not FBI. 

Why is Hoover only communicating with ONI and the State Dept. spooks at SY about Oswald?  Does Hoover know something about the Oswald operation that we don't?

When ONI reported the defection of Oswald - the copy that hit the file has the predominant scrawl of "SY" - the State Dept. security office again.  I always assumed that State Dept. was reacting to Oswald's defection - now, I think that ONI and SY - despite all the carping back and forth - were in harmony.  They were in on it, together.

When the smoke between the military and the State Dept. cleared, Oswald maintained his citizenship, and was not charged with a crime.  But his discharge was downgraded by the military from an honorable discharge to an undesirable discharge. 

Oswald now had to lie on all of his employment forms to get a job, he couldn't get decent benefits - the government had its hooks in him.  He was not a free agent - he was not a free man - he was a patsy, all right.  He had trusted these people to have his back, and he got nothing out of it but a Soviet wife and a baby.

He fought it up to the top ranks of the military - on July 1963 his petition to restore his honorable discharge was denied, by Sec. of Navy Fred Korth, a Texan attorney by trade.  Korth had been the attorney for Lee's stepfather Edwin Ekdahl, who was the only father figure that Lee ever had.  Lee was able to leave the orphanage and join Ekdahl and Marguerite, while his two brothers were now able to attend military school in Mississippi.  

Ekdahl had worked in research at Texas Electric and had done very well financially.  It looks like Lee modeled himself after Ekdahl when he joined the Navy in 1956 and successfully completed electronics school in Jacksonville and Biloxi.

Korth knew everything about the Oswald family.  He represented Oswald's stepfather Ekdahl at jury trial - no attorney gets involved in a jury trial without knowing everything about the opponents and their family, particularly in a divorce trial.  Korth and got positive findings against Marguerite from the jury.  She was plunged into poverty again, from 1948 on.  

What Korth and the military did to Oswald in 1962-63 is not the way to award an agent.  I believe they and their buddies kept Oswald under their thumb, forced by poverty to scrape from day to day for the next year after his return from the Soviet Union.  By July, 1963, after serving as an asset in what looks to me like an ONI-State Dept (with some piggy-backing by the CIA) Oswald had got the xxxx end of the stick.

 

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On 6/12/2020 at 12:06 PM, Steve Thomas said:

I've been mulling something over, so I'll just throw it out there.

I'll say up front that I don't have anything to back this up, so if if you jump all over me, you'll probably win; but...

What if Oswald's defection was a Russian operation, and not an American one?

That would explain his knowledge of and ease in entering the Soviet Union by way of Finland, and how he he knew that the only way to get back to Russia in 1963 was by way of Cuba. It would also explain the Soviet's willingness to allow him to return to the U.S. with a new Soviet wife.

This idea is not as far fetched as I originally thought.

The HSCA undertook a study of defectors and published their results in Volume XII beginning on page 435.

https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=84#relPageId=439&tab=page

Of the dozen or so defection cases they reviewed, at least two involved American servicemen. They had this to say:

HSCA vol. XII p. 442

https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=84#relPageId=446&tab=page

 

Page 442

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Page 448

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513th Military Intelligence Group?

Blackmailed by whom?

 

An Eric Scheinkopf did an analysis of the HSCA;s Defector Study and as far as the Soviets utilizing the defectors for propaganda purposes,:

https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=205090&search=defectors#relPageId=7&tab=page

Page 7

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A likely scenario for me is that Oswald was approached by the Russians while he was in Japan.

He informed his superiors about this approach, and ONI decided to play along and allow the Russians to think they had succeeded.

Was Oswald sent to Language School after his return from Japan?

And was his language proficiency test administered after his return from Japan?

Was he being prepped?

Steve Thomas

Edited by Steve Thomas
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Mr. Simpich, et al,

one of the points you (we) are looking at is how did Oswald find his way so easily into the USSR via Helsinki. I have an idea that the diversion was accomplished on the Lykes steamship. There was a military man, Lt. colonel Frank Church along for the ride. His affidavit supplies no info that would lead one to suspect he may have been on assignment.
But there are a few other interesting connections to Lykes. David Boylan posted, on the thread about whether people agree with Newman about David Phillips and Alpha 66, some interesting documents at the top of page 3 of that thread. I read one of them closely, an HSCA interview with Army Intelligence Lt. Colonel Milford Paul Hubbard on the subject of Maurice Bishop and Veciana. Hubbard worked for Detachment A of Army Intelligence ACSI from Aug. ‘62 - Dec. ‘63, assigned to link up with the 2nd Front of Escambray and it’s leader Luis Guitterez Menoyo. From my reading of this on Wiki the 2nd front had by this time become part of Alpha 66. Hubbard, when questioned if he knew anyone that looked like the Bishop sketch drawn from Veciana’s memory, says it looks, other than the jaw line, like a source of his in Puerto Rico named Owen Darnell, who he identifies as a beached captain representative of Lykes Steamship. I found the reference to Lykes curious. I should also mention here that I had started a thread called Interesting interview with a Cuban Exile because near the end of that interview the Exile in question mentions Menoyo, and says that Menoyo, through an intermediary, was buying arms from Otto Skorzeny!  I don’t know it this is significant, but in the Hubbard interview he talks about arms deals with a well known, even today, arms dealer out of Belgium called Fabrique Nationale, saying that he personally knew Fabrique’s rep in Latin America named William Burns, a former Finance Minister for Castro, a man with dual Cuban English citizenship. Suddenly he mentions Haiti and Duvalier, saying that he, Hubbard, went with Burns to Haiti under cover as Burns’ arms demonstrator. At this point in the interview, page 15-16, he mentions Owen Darnell. It implies that Burns also used Darnell as his weapons demonstrator. 
One more curious connection with Lykes - Colonel George Whitmeyer, who as we remember rode with Colonel Lumpkin in the motorcade. Steve Thomas dug up Whitmeyer’s connections with a Harold Byrd and the Civil Air Patrol! And, very curiously, Whitmeyer’s wife worked for Lykes Steamship. 
it looks possible to me that Lykes Steamship was a witting asset of Army Intelligence. 

Edited by Paul Brancato
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Bill,

It seems to me that if it was Oswald's idea to defect, it would have been because he had a sincere interest in living in a communist country. He would have had no interest in helping the U.S. in their anti-communist operations.

Therefore, since we have established that a U.S. intelligence agency manipulated or directed Oswald in the way he conducted his defection, it must have been the intelligence agency's plan for Oswald to defect, not Oswald's.

That being the case, I don't know how the agency's involvement with Oswald can be fairly characterized as being mere manipulation, as you have stated. Oswald's whole life was dramatically changed for three years because of the agency's instructions.

It seems clear to me that Oswald was acting as an agent for the United States. Maybe not at a "James Bond" level, but as an agent nevertheless. Let's call it an entry-level position.

 

6 hours ago, Bill Simpich said:

What Korth and the military did to Oswald in 1962-63 is not the way to award an agent.  I believe they and their buddies kept Oswald under their thumb, forced by poverty to scrape from day to day for the next year after his return from the Soviet Union.  By July, 1963, after serving as an asset in what looks to me like an ONI-State Dept (with some piggy-backing by the CIA) Oswald had got the xxxx end of the stick.

 

I can't think of a single motive for the intelligence agency to keep Oswald "under their thumbs." What harm could Oswald do by becoming financially successful?

I think it is far more likely that Oswald was working under deep cover and that his military discharge was downgraded to dishonorable because of his apparent acts of disloyalty. Oswald maintained cover by doing what he could himself in getting the dishonorable status reversed.

 

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Sandy,

The more data points we have, the closer we come to being able to make a reasonable factual finding, as opposed to reasonable speculation.

I remain reluctant to go past my analysis that he was a wannabe agent (as well as an asset & a dangle) without more solid evidence.

An example of the problem we still face is that reasonable people like you and others believe he sincerely wanted to live in a communist country.  I don't.  He came from a military family, and I believe he was a liberal, and I believe he wanted to check out the USSR, but I do not believe he wanted to live there for good.

Where my thinking is at - at this point, subject to change - is that I agree with Steve, the Soviets may have reached out to him in Japan, and he came back to finish the deal.   

I think we may be looking at a military fake defector program like the possible Navy Code 30 program Donald Moneir talked about - get a copy of Gary Hill's The Other Oswald about Robert Webster, or either of my books, for more background - I will be posting on this in the next couple chapters of the Legend series.

Webster was dangled to the Soviets by the Air Force, offering advances in rocketry.  Oswald was dangled to the Soviets, offering tips on US electronics capabilities and the U-2. 

Who did the dangling of Oswald?  My first vote is ONI - second vote is Air Force, third vote is Marine Intelligence.  CIA is further down the list.

The State Dept was critical in building the legend, helping Oswald on his tightrope walk on two different subjects. 

1.  Oswald couldn't threaten to offer something "too classified" - he might face criminal charges - he kept it vague, saying he had "something of interest".

2.  Oswald waved around his citizen renunciation papers on two separate occasions - Oct 31 - Nov. 3- signed and very specific -- begging the State Dept to simply accept his renunciation, but he knew that they wouldn't accept them.  Snyder kept saying, "I need my secretary to type up a more formal renunciation document, and I need Oswald to come in and sign that.  No preparation of a more formal  was ever done, and Oswald never signed this imaginary "final version".

When Hoover was concerned that Oswald was being impersonated - he wrote the State Dept intelligence unit, and he copied ONI.  Why didn't he copy CIA, or other military intelligence agencies.  To me, this is highly significant.  I believe Hoover knew that Oswald was their guy.

Webster was left in the gutter - a broken man in many ways, and without his citizenship.  Should we call Webster an agent?  How?   Dangle, yes.  Asset, yes.  Victim of a honey trap scheme, not an agent.

Oswald wasn't much better off.  If he was an agent - as opposed to a manipulated young man - why didn't they take better care of him.  This is abusive conduct by his handlers.  If he had dedicated two years of his life to his country as an agent, he would not have been worried about criminal charges and he would not have his honor, his income and his future dragged in the dirt.  He would have known that he had a wall of protection around him. 

Instead, he had to beg the State Dept to lend him a few hundred bucks.   People point to how fast he paid it back.  Somebody did him a favor, but that's not a very big favor.  

Should we call Oswald an agent?  How?  Dangle, yes.  Asset, yes. Victim of his own adventuring?  Look at the last year of his life - with Fred Korth, of all people, going thumbs down on his fate.

 

 

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11 minutes ago, Bill Simpich said:

 He would have known that he had a wall of protection around him.

 

Bill,

Who was it that Oswald was talking to when he said something like, "At all times I was under the protection of..." and then he stopped himself and re-phrased his answer.

The radio program in New Orleans?

Steve Thomas

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28 minutes ago, Steve Thomas said:

Bill,

Who was it that Oswald was talking to when he said something like, "At all times I was under the protection of..." and then he stopped himself and re-phrased his answer.

The radio program in New Orleans?

Steve Thomas

I'm not Bill but yes, that was during the debate with Carlos Bringuier, and Ed Butler.

Edited by Daniel Rice
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Yes, it was the radio debate with Ed Butler and Carlos Bringuier. - Bill Stuckey and Bill Slatter are the commentators on Conversation Carte Blanche.

I love how Oswald gets Butler to change the question from "are you a communist" to "are you a Marxist", and Oswald says "yes", Butler takes the bait and asks "what's the difference?"  Oswald says:

"The difference is primarily the the difference between a country like Guinea, Ghana, Yugoslavia, China or Russia.  Very, very great differences.  Differences we appreciate by giving aid, let's say, to Yugoslavia in the sum of a hundred million or so dollars a year.

"...Many parties, many countries are based on Marxism.  Many countries such as Great Britain display very socialistic aspects or characteristics.  I might point to the socialized medicine of Britain."

If I was a fight commentator - I would now have LHO ahead on points.  The commentator calls time out!  

When they return,  Stuckey asks if he had a government subsidy.

Here is the audiotape translation:  "I worked in Russia.  I was under the protection of the - of the - that is to say, I was not under the protection of the American government but, that is, I was at all times considered an American citizen.  I did not lose my American citizenship."

Here is the Warren Commission version:  "I worked in Russia. I was not under the protection of the, that is to say, I was not under the protection of the American government, but as I was at all times considered an American citizen I did not lose my American citizenship."

The crucial sentence is doctored in several places to reduce the sting of Oswald's Freudian slip - admitting that he was under the protection of the American government.

The next Q & A is similarly doctored:

Here's the audiotaped version:

Q:  "Did you say you wanted to (lose your American citizenship) at one time, though?  What happened?

A:  "Well, it's a long drawn out situation in which permission to live in the Soviet Union granted to a foreign resident is very rarely given."

In the Warren Commission version, the "very" in "very rarely granted" is deleted from the transcript.  

There's more subtle differences - and someone else could probably find still more.

I don't see any reason to assume that these alterations in the Warren Commission transcript are accidental.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Bill,

I'm sure you put a lot time and effort into answering my two questions.  I'm sorry, but I'm so thick headed that I didn't catch what you were saying. 

First off why would Oswald's taking a boat from New Orleans be linked to Robert Webster taking a 20 day vacation?  One could speculate that Webster, who has an experience similar to Oswald's, be linked to a defector program sponsored by US government agencies.  I don't see how you can go further than that.   

The only connection I can see between the two is Marina Prusakova.  Maybe she is the go between in setting up an espionage network.  Oswald is in Minsk being monitored by 30 agents and his home is bugged.  He was probably monitored extensively at work.  I don't see how he could be connected to Webster until much later when Marina shows up.

On ‎6‎/‎13‎/‎2020 at 5:06 PM, Bill Simpich said:

Helsinki was considered to be the quickest place in the world for a foreigner to receive a Soviet visa. He then boarded a train, arriving in Moscow on October 16.

How would Oswald know this?  Someone would have had to tell him of this somewhere prior to leaving the service.  Who knew this kind of stuff amongst his compatriots and other people he knew? 

Oswald landed in France in Le Havre.  Then he goes to England and catches a flight to Helsinki.  Actually, if I am recalling correctly this is a somewhat mysterious event.  How did he get to Helsinki?  By which kind of transportation. 

How did he know to go from France to England to Finland?  Couldn't he have taken some means from France to Finland.  Coaching? IMO, it's more like a scripted instruction.

 Maybe you can make a case that Oswald got this information in Japan from the Russian Colonel, the Japanese professor, or Richard Nagell.  Maybe he got it from Gary Hemming when they had a discussion at the gate of his post.  Maybe he called the Russian Embassy and received that kind of information?

I believe, like everything else in his military career, he was told to go there and he went.  Oswald was a patriot.  If you look at Oswald's military career he was trained in aircraft maintenance and repair.  He was trained in electronics and radar control.  He spent a lot of time at radar bases in Japan, the Philippines, and US.  He was sent to many secret US bases, other than Santa Ana/El Toro.  These had to do with U2s and atomic energy.  OBTW, these were the two biggest operations at Atsugi, Japan.  They also did MKUltra stuff there.  Atsugi was the top CIA base in Japan and the orient.  

5 hours ago, Sandy Larsen said:

It seems clear to me that Oswald was acting as an agent for the United States. Maybe not at a "James Bond" level, but as an agent nevertheless. Let's call it an entry-level position.

and,   

5 hours ago, Sandy Larsen said:

I think it is far more likely that Oswald was working under deep cover and that his military discharge was downgraded to dishonorable because of his apparent acts of disloyalty. Oswald maintained cover by doing what he could himself in getting the dishonorable status reversed.

I think Sandy Larsen has the best answer on this I have read so far.

OBTW,

Oswald is in Le Havre, France on Oct. 8, 1959.  His doppleganger is on a MATS flight to Germany in roughly the same time period according to the Steenbarger interview.

Edited by John Butler
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This is a response to John Butler's two questions - how did Oswald know how to go through Finland to obtain an instant visa into the Soviet Union?  And why did Oswald take a freighter to Europe?

The following passage from my book State Secret addresses both questions, and illustrates Webster's roles as an asset and a dangle.  It also sheds light on why Oswald's activities should be examined in the context of Webster's defection.  My next post will address Oswald's roles as an asset, a dangle, and a wannabe spy.

From State Secret, Chapter 1:

On September 4, Oswald filled out a passport application saying that he was leaving the US on 9/21/59 by boat. He would be gone for four months to attend school at the Albert Schweitzer College and elsewhere. He indicated that he would begin his tour in Cuba, travel through Europe all the way to Finland, and then cross into Russia. Actually, Oswald was not scheduled to attend Albert Schweitzer College until April 1960.

Oswald's statement about Cuba, Finland and Russia was a red flag for the counterintelligence agents that routinely review passport applications.

Right before Webster’s disappearance, he was told by the Soviets that they would accept him as a citizen if he would teach them how to make the Rand spray gun demonstrated at the American Exhibition. When he agreed to show them, the Soviets agreed to provide him with citizenship. One of Jim Angleton’s deputies testified that Webster was regarded as a loss because of Soviet interest in Webster's knowledge about the "specifications of a nozzle that prepared plastic in a particular fashion".

During this summer, Webster had been enjoying the attentions of a Russian woman named Vera. Webster had been suffering with marital problems back in the United States. Jim Rand believed that the Soviets were using Vera to convince Webster to stay "in order to gain his knowledge of (the) plastics and synthetics industry".

Webster knew a lot about the technology that the Soviets wanted for their military and space programs, in order to fabricate their missiles and engines. All signs are that the US wanted the inside baseball on the state of development of Soviet missiles and military hardware - Webster learned during his stay that "Soviet plastics technologies on a commercial and application basis are about ten years behind those of the US."

This letter between two FBI counterintelligence chiefs is revealing: "Subject does not have access to any classified data, but the Rand Development Corporation has expressed interest in his welfare because of his peculiar knowledge of the plastics and fiberglass industry. The U.S. is ahead of the Russians in the plastic and fiberglass field, and, therefore, the Soviets would have a logical interest in the subject's remaining in the Soviet Union. We also know that the Soviets have requested information concerning fiberglass and plastics through our double agents."

Webster’s “peculiar knowledge” was not going to make up a ten year disadvantage between the US and the USSR in this field. However, as we will see, Webster became an invaluable source to US intelligence on the state of Soviet technology in these fields.

Webster disappeared after he got his 20 day travel visa

While Webster negotiated with the Soviets, Lee Harvey Oswald received a dependency discharge based on his claim that he was going to take care of his mother, who was supposedly injured months earlier by a falling candy box, and arrived in Fort Worth on September 12, 1959. He would still have to put in some reserve duty before his discharge was final.

After visiting his mother for three days, he abruptly left her and arrived in New Orleans by the 16th. Her story was that Lee was going to resume work at an import-export business.

Right after Webster got a 20 day visa for travel around the USSR, he disappeared on the 10th with Vera instead of leaving the USSR on the 14th as planned. Air Force intelligence described his trip as a 20 day Intourist tour of Kiev, a tourism agency firmly in the hands of the KGB.

During Webster’s disappearance, Oswald traveled from New Orleans to Europe by freighter

On September 16th, rather than return to the world of import-export, Oswald used his knowledge of that world to chart an unusual course by taking a slow boat to Europe. Oswald obtained a ticket to go to Le Havre, France by freighter for the next day. Although he wrote that he intended to leave on the 21st, he actually left on the 17th.

Oswald skipped his planned trip to Cuba. Was it because Webster had disappeared? For a man on a slow boat, Oswald was in some kind of hurry. No one can prove that Oswald was working as an intelligence agent, or if he was being manipulated in some way. However, the evidence indicates that it was one or the other. Oswald’s trip was not a coincidence.

What we do know is that in the eyes of intelligence, it was far better for Oswald to take a slow boat then to fly by plane. Throughout the summer of 1959, CIA officer “William Costille” and KGB officer Gregory Golub – under their cover as embassy consuls – were going out to Helsinki nightclubs for a few drinks, some flirtation with their female companions, and testing each other and their dates as possible defection targets. They would muse about ways to make it easier for Americans to obtain an instant visa to cross the border and enter the Soviet Union.[ 3 ]

It was too early for Oswald to enter the Soviet Union. Webster's whereabouts were unknown. Nor was it known whether Costille had been successful in lining up an instant visa for Americans.

On September 30, just as his visa was about to expire, Webster wrote the American embassy and told them that he was staying in the USSR. On October 6, a diplomat at the American embassy sent a memo to the State Department, tipping them off that Webster was defecting. The memo included a handwritten memo sizing up Webster, possibly from a photograph, describing him as "hgt 10.5, light, looks 165". The State Department memo quickly reached the top echelon at the FBI.

When Webster surfaced, Oswald jumped off the boat and got an instant visa to the USSR

Oswald cut short his trip once Webster turned up. Oswald disembarked in France on October 8. Oswald did not stop by the Albert Schweitzer school. Oswald was now on the move.

On October 8, a memo from the CIA’s Soviet Union division revealed that all components involved with the Webster affair were swearing up and down that he was not their agent. All signs are that Webster’s movements were being choreographed by Air Force intelligence, whether Webster knew it or not.

By October 11, Rand flew to the USSR to visit Webster, who was in the hospital for reasons that are still unclear. Jim Rand could not get any information, and was so frustrated that he referred to the American consul Richard Snyder as a "jerk".

Oswald sped to Helsinki and arrived during the weekend of October 10. Oswald stayed at the Klaus Korki and Torni hotels, places that the CIA referred to as the local “pink hotels” - apparently because socialist travelers were attracted to them. The impecunious Oswald lined up his stay through an expensive Intourist package, even though his passport application said that he would not be using any such service. The KGB was watching Oswald.

Shortly before Oswald’s arrival, we see memos with the indicators REDCAP and sometimes including LCIMPROVE. REDCAP was used for monitoring the activities of Soviet officials and installations outside of the USSR, and also as a defector inducement program. David Murphy, chief of the USSR division, described REDCAP as a "defector inducement program" in his book Battleground Berlin. LCIMPROVE was used for counterintelligence operations directed at the USSR.

A REDCAP memo recounts how CIA consul William Costille gave his counterpart Gregory Golub two tickets to see Leonard Bernstein in an upcoming concert.[ 4 ] This was in appreciation for Golub’s recent assurance in a REDCAP/LCIMPROVE memo that any American who came to Helsinki with their papers in order would be granted a visa “in a matter of minutes” by the Soviets.[ 5 ] When a couple of Americans sought instant visas on Costille’s advice, Golub called Costille and told him that “he would give them their visas as soon as they made advance Intourist reservations. When they did this, Golub immediately gave them the visas.” A few days later, Costille gave Golub the Bernstein tickets. Golub had lunch with Costille on the 13th to say thank you.

Oswald applied for his visa on the 13th and received his visa in record time by the 14th, obtained in one day rather than the customary wait of a week or more in Helsinki. Helsinki was considered to be the quickest place in the world for a foreigner to receive a Soviet visa. He then boarded a train, arriving in Moscow on October 16.

 

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