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John Simkin

David Francis Powers and Kenneth O'Donnell

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David Francis Powers and Kenneth O'Donnell were both members of what became known as the Irish Mafia. O'Donnell met JFK via Robert Kennedy.

Powers met JFK when he helped deliver the working-class neighborhood of Charlestown during his campaign to win the 11th Congressional district seat in 1946. An interesting thing about Powers was that during the war he was a member of William Pawley/Tommy Concoran Flying Tigers in China. I am sure this is a coincidence but I thought it was an interesting point.

The most important thing about Powers and O'Donnell is what they did not tell the Warren Commission. Here is a passage from Tip O'Neill's Man of the House (1987 - page 178):

I was never one of the use people who had doubts or suspicions about the Warren Commission's report on the president's death. But five years after Jack died, I was having dinner with Kenny O'Donnell and a few other people at Jimmy's Harborside Restaurant in Boston, and we got to talking about the assassination.

I was surprised to hear O'Donnell say that he was sure he had heard two shots that came from behind the fence.

"That's not what you told the Warren Commission," I said.

"You're right," he replied. "I told the FBI what I had heard, but they said it couldn't have happened that way and that I must have been imagining things. So I testified the way they wanted me to. I just didn't want to stir up any more pain and trouble for the family."

"I can't believe it," I said. "I wouldn't have done that in a million years. I would have told the truth."

"Tip, you have to understand. The family-everybody wanted this thing behind them."

Dave Powers was with us at dinner that night, and his recollection of the shots was the same as O'Donnell's. Kenny O'Donnell is no longer alive, but during the writing of this book I checked with Dave Powers. As they say in the news business, he stands by his story.

And so there will always be some skepticism in my mind about the cause of Jack's death. I used to think that the only people who doubted the conclusions of the Warren Commission were crackpots. Now, however, I'm not so sure.

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From Ultimate Sacrifice by Lamar Waldron & Thom Hartmann:

We were shocked when Dave Powers, head of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston and a close aide to JFK, vividly described seeing the shots from the 'grassy knoll.' Powers said he and fellow JFK aide Kenneth O'Donnell clearly saw the shots, since they were in the limo right behind JFK. Powers said they felt they were 'riding into an ambush'--explaining for the first time why the driver of JFK's limo slowed after the first shot. Powers also described how he was pressured to change his story for the Warren Commission. We quickly found confirmation of Powers' account of the shots in the autobiography of former House Speaker Tip O'Neil (and later from the testimony of two Secret Service agents in the motorcade with Powers and O'Donnell.

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David Francis Powers and Kenneth O'Donnell were both members of what became known as the Irish Mafia.

What Irish Mafia? Boston?

Scott, "Irish Mafia" is NOT a term to connote ties to organized crime. It is a term descriptive of a tight crew of aides who were with JFK from the time he ran for Congress through his death who were of Irish American ancestry.

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In my view, the whole account rings true and is chilling.

1. Tip would have no plausible reason to make something like this up.

2. Even if he did, Messrs. Waldron and Hartmann elicited the same account from Powers.

3. Powers and O'Donnell were young at the time (51 and 39, respectively, I believe), in the limo directly behind the President, and both brought with them some military experience (US Air Force, if memory serves). It is reasonable to assume their powers of observation were keen and that they had at least some prior exposure to gunfire (in basic training if nowhere else).

4. Their response after the fact, although fairly subject to criticism, is PRECISELY what one would expect from these guys. "I just didn't want to stir up any more pain and trouble for the family." Indeed.

They were loyalists above all, in virtually a tribal relationship with the family (not called the "Irish Mafia" for nothing).

5. Powers' observation -- "Tip, you have to understand. The family-everybody wanted this thing behind them." -- is spot on, as some of you like to say. For reasons good, bad or indifferent (but often the subject of debate), the Kennedy family moved on from this almost 43 years ago, and has rarely, if ever, looked back.

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David Francis Powers and Kenneth O'Donnell were both members of what became known as the Irish Mafia.

What Irish Mafia? Boston?

The term Irish Mafia was first used by JFK in the 1960 presidential election to describe his aides, Dave Powers, Kenneth O’Donnell and Larry O’Brien. His reference was to the fact that they came from Irish families rather than their criminal background. It seems a strange term to use as JFK’s father, Joe Kennedy, had been referred to in the 1930s as being part of the Irish Mafia.

In The Dark Side of Camelot, Seymour Hersh suggests that Powers, O’Donnell and O’Brien were involved in supplying JFK with women. It seems that these women sometimes came in via Bobby Baker. This included women connected to the KGB. Hersh also quotes Paul Corbin as saying that O’Donnell was creaming off political contributions to JFK. However, Hersh points out that JFK did not seem concerned about this and suggests that O’Donnell was actually paying off someone who was blackmailing him just before he was assassinated. I think Hersh is right.

JFK had two other close advisors with Irish backgrounds: Grant Stockdale and Matthew McCloskey. They both served JFK as his US ambassador to Ireland. They were both forced to resign after allegations of corruption. Stockdale in 1962 because of his involvement with Bobby Baker and George Smathers in vending machines placed with companies as part of large government contracts in the arms industry.

McCloskey was also connected to Bobby Baker. This was revealed by Don B. Reynolds who told the Senate Rules Committee on the morning of the assassination of JFK, that McCloskey had given $25,000 to Baker in order to get the contract to build the District of Columbia Stadium. This was the same session where Reynolds told of seeing a suitcase full of money which Baker described as a "$100,000 payoff to Johnson for his role in securing the Fort Worth TFX contract".

According to Stockdale’s son, at the beginning of November, 1963, JFK asked his son to raise $50,000 for his personal use. Stockdale told friends that the money had something to do with Bobby Baker.

On 26th November, Grant Stockdale flew to Washington and talked with Robert and Edward Kennedy. On his return Stockdale told several of his friends that "the world was closing in." On 1st December, he spoke to his attorney, William Frates who later recalled: "He started talking. It didn't make much sense. He said something about 'those guys' trying to get him. Then about the assassination."

Stockdale died on 2nd December, 1963 when he fell (or was pushed) from his office on the thirteenth story of the Dupont Building in Miami. Stockdale did not leave a suicide note but his friend, George Smathers, claimed that he had become depressed as a result of the death of JFK.

These events suggests that there might have been other reasons why Powers and O’Donnell kept information about shots from the Grassy Knoll from the public in 1963. However, Powers and O’Donnell might have been telling the truth about carrying out the wishes of the Kennedy family by going along with the Warren Report. It is possible that David Talbot’s forthcoming book on the Kennedy assassination will help to explain why the family reacted in the way it did in the months following the killing of JFK.

It is also possible that this provides another link between the assassination of JFK and Watergate. Remember, the target of the burglars was Larry O’Brien’s office.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKpowersDF.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKodonnell.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKstockdale.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKmccloskey.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKobrien.htm

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While a lot of people think O'Neil broke the story of O'Donnell's and Powers' impression that the shots came from the front and assume that this differed from their statements to the Warren Commission, this was only true for O'Donnell. Both Powers and the Secret Service Agent on the outside of the car next to him, Paul Landis, initially felt the last shots came from the front, and said so from the get go. Powers' 5-18-64 affidavit, 7H472-474: “the first shot went off and it sounded to me as if it were a firecracker. I noticed then that the President moved quite far to his left after the shot from the extreme right hand side where he had been sitting. There was a second shot and Governor Connally disappeared from sight and then there was a third shot which took off the top of the President’s head and had the sickening sound of a grapefruit splattering against a wall…My first impression was that the shots came from the right and overhead, but I also had a fleeting impression that the noise appeared to come from the front in the area of the triple overpass.” (Tip O’Neill’s recollections in Man in the House, 1987) “Dave Powers was with us at dinner that night, and his recollection of the shots was the same as O’Donnell’s….during the writing of this book I checked with Powers…he stands by his story.”

I've spent the last two months studying the statements of the eyewitnesses. If the Warren Commission had done as much they would have been unable to come to the conclusions they came to. But at least they paid some attention. Today's lone-nut theorists are both completely at odds with the eyewitness testimony and completely ignorant that their theory is completely at odds with the eywitnesses.

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Mark,

Don't forget that there was another knoll, on the south side of the plaza. A shooter from the south knoll area or south end of the underpass would not only have perhaps the best shot from the front (with the target moving toward him), but it best fits the trajectory indicated by the fatal head shot: a bullet into the right temple (opening the flap on the side of the head) and out the right rear of the head, leaving a gaping exit wound.

A shot from behind the fence on the north knoll would seem to involve an unlikely deflection of the bullet inside JFK's head.

Ron

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Mark,

A shooter from the south end of the underpass would not be seen insofar as he would be shooting from behind and through the banister. The south end of the banister also slopes eastward, so that the shooter would not be seen by the people on the north end of the underpass. Also, everyone's attention would be on the president and the initial shots from behind, no one would be looking toward the underpass or south knoll.

A south shooter may also have worn a policeman's uniform, and may have indeed been seen. I can't think of any other logical explanation of why both policemen at the north end of the underpass say that a long noisy freight train was passing at the time of the shooting, with the train completely blocking the view east and south of the officer at the west banister. There was no passing train to block that officer's view of anything going at the south end of the underpass.

Ron

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Interesting passage from John H. Davis' The Kennedy Contract: The Mafia Plot to Assassinate the President (1993)

It was during the late seventies that every conceivable damaging revelation came out about the Kennedy brothers, yet the Kennedy family still opposed the 1976-79 House Select Committee on Assassinations' reinvestigation of the Kennedy murder. What more could they be hiding?

As it turned out, the new investigation discovered more information damaging to the Kennedy image. It found out that Jacqueline and Robert had been, from a strictly legal standpoint, unwitting accessories after the fact in the President's murder.

First, the Assassinations Committee determined that it was principally Jacqueline Kennedy and the so-called "Irish Mafia" trio of Dave Powers, Kenny O'Donnell, and Larry O'Brien who were responsible for removing Kennedy's body from Parkland Hospital to Air Force One and then to Bethesda Naval Hospital outside Washington. The move was illegal and resulted in the President receiving a wholly inadequate autopsy, a calamity that has stirred innumerable controversies over the past thirty years.

Furthermore, the Assassinations Committee determined that Jacqueline and Robert exerted undue influence on the autopsy surgeons at Bethesda Naval Hospital preventing the President from receiving a complete autopsy and even interfering with standard autopsy procedures regarding the tracking, or dissection of gunshot wounds.

Finally the committee determined that Robert Kennedy had actually caused crucial physical specimen evidence to disappear from the custody of the National Archives, namely slides of the President's wound-edge tissues and his formaldehyde preserved brain.

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Interesting passage from John H. Davis' The Kennedy Contract: The Mafia Plot to Assassinate the President (1993)

It was during the late seventies that every conceivable damaging revelation came out about the Kennedy brothers, yet the Kennedy family still opposed the 1976-79 House Select Committee on Assassinations' reinvestigation of the Kennedy murder. What more could they be hiding?

As it turned out, the new investigation discovered more information damaging to the Kennedy image. It found out that Jacqueline and Robert had been, from a strictly legal standpoint, unwitting accessories after the fact in the President's murder.

First, the Assassinations Committee determined that it was principally Jacqueline Kennedy and the so-called "Irish Mafia" trio of Dave Powers, Kenny O'Donnell, and Larry O'Brien who were responsible for removing Kennedy's body from Parkland Hospital to Air Force One and then to Bethesda Naval Hospital outside Washington. The move was illegal and resulted in the President receiving a wholly inadequate autopsy, a calamity that has stirred innumerable controversies over the past thirty years.

Furthermore, the Assassinations Committee determined that Jacqueline and Robert exerted undue influence on the autopsy surgeons at Bethesda Naval Hospital preventing the President from receiving a complete autopsy and even interfering with standard autopsy procedures regarding the tracking, or dissection of gunshot wounds.

Finally the committee determined that Robert Kennedy had actually caused crucial physical specimen evidence to disappear from the custody of the National Archives, namely slides of the President's wound-edge tissues and his formaldehyde preserved brain.

Yes, and to put some of this in context, it should be added that the public was unaware of the shockingly poor state of JFK's health, including Addison's Disease, which is potentially life threatening, and the President's self medication with painkillers, antianxiety agents, stimulants and sleeping pills, as well as hormones to keep him alive. I don't recall if any of these facts had emerged by the late 1970s, but they were certainly a deep dark secret in 1963. This may well account for some of RFK's autopsy management.

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Paul Landis, initially felt the last shots came from the front, and said so from the get go.

Who was the black man that Landis saw running on the grass toward the knoll steps? I don't know of any other eyewitness mention of this person. It couldn't be Hudson, because Hudson was on the steps and didn't run anywhere.

I did not notice anyone on the overpass, and I scanned the area to the right of and below the overpass where the terrain sloped towards the road on which we were traveling. The only person I recall seeing clearly was a Negro male in light green slacks and a beige colored shirt running from my left to right, up the slope, across a grassy section, along a sidewalk, towards some steps and what appeared to be a low stone wall. He was bent over while running and I started to point towards him, but I didn't notice anything in his hands and by this time we were going under the overpass at a very high rate of speed. I was looking back and saw a motorcycle policeman stopping along the curb approximately adjacent to where I saw the Negro running.

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I have just had this email. Does anyone know anything about it?

I have studied the role of Mr. Powers with JFK, and I believe there is information pertaining to his last will and testament, his estate and a copy of a 16mm or 8mm film that he took from his vantage point directly behind President Kennedy's limousine that is now beyond the reach of the general public. This film is owned by Mr. Powers' children I believe and it is never, according to his will, to be shown or removed from safe storage. I have read articles about the film in the Boston newspapers immediately after Mr. Powers' death, but any information about the film is now either an Internet legend or completely unimportant to the popular news media.

The importance of the film is that from Mr. Powers' position he is supposed to have photographed the grassy knoll area and the President's head movements and his head exploding when the bullets hit him. With the strange testimony of Mr. O'Donnell and Mr. Powers and RFK's reluctance to reopen the case until he ran for president tragically and TK's reluctance to do anything to resurrect the investigation, this film might shed the light needed. I am trying on my end rather poorly I might add. I hope this is informative to you.

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Mark Valenti wrote:

Don't forget - one key eyewitness said she saw a dog in the limo next to JFK. So not all eyewitnesses are credible.

This bit of misinformation is still being trotted out to discredit Jean Hill. Jackie was given a small stuffed animal, which was next to her in the limousine, and could easily have been mistaken for a small dog. I was once one of those who used this against Jean Hill, but I later found about the stuffed animal. It does not affect her credibility.

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Dave Powers' film has been shown and if I recall accurately is part of some documentaries. The version that has been publicly available is one where the film conveniently ends shortly before the Elm street turns. The explanation was that Dave Powers ran out of film. I have suspected that this statement is baloney.

I'm sure Gary Mack knows exactly what the official story regarding this film is, he may even have a copy at the 6th floor museum.

Apparently the film mentioned in the message you received is the full length Dave Powers film, which has never been shown to the general public, also it's existence has been denied by Mr. Powers and associates.

Edited by Antti Hynonen

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