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Phil Ochs in Dealey Plaza?!?

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Article edited from William E. Kelly Jr., from 2013 in JFKcountercoup.


                  Phil Ochs, the folk singer in Dealey Plaza?



When he graduated [from Staunton Military Academy, Va.] Ochs returned to Columbus (Ohio) and enrolled in the Ohio State University…to study journalism and developed an interest in politics, with a particular interest in the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

Jim Glover taught Ochs how to play guitar, and they debated politics…Ochs and Glover formed a duet called ‘The Singing Socialists,’  later renamed ‘The Sundowners,’ but the duo broke up before their first professional performance and Glover went to New York City to become a folksinger.

Phil Ochs, after graduating from an elite Virginia military academy, served as a sergeant in the Air Force ROTC at Ohio State University, where he spied on campus radicals and was encouraged to infiltrate student protest groups. He may have switched ideological sides but appears to have maintained his association with the US military intelligence officers that he worked with in college. They must have taken note of the fact that one of their ROTC cadets was playing guitar, writing protest songs and articles and fermenting unrest, which was becoming something of a popular campus pastime and cultural phenomenon, one they certainly would have wanted to keep tabs on.

According to Jim Glover,  Phil was into the investigation of the plot before Dallas. He came over to my apt when (my wife) Jean was gone to tell me that there was a plot to kill President Kennedy. He asked me if I knew anything and that he was going to the FPCC to find out more. Phil said he was working for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in order to find out more about the plot and I said I would let him know if I heard anything ... I kinda remember we were supposed to meet somebody in a subway station but they never showed so I never met the Fair Play for Cuba guys, but many years ago I called VT Lee of the Veterans for Peace and he told me ‘Oh yes Phil was working with us.   .”   V.T. Lee was also Oswald’s correspondence contact at the New York FPCC.

“When Phil went to Dallas he said he went there with one of the Gambino boys... one his age.  Phil did not say who told him to go to Dallas and it probably saved our lives because I would have talked. All my life I got in trouble because I talked, so they used me for that. Phil did say he was working for ‘National Security Domestic Division’ of ‘something like the CIA’ and that FBI Hoover was the bad guy. Soon after those two men identifying themselves as FBI came over and asked me if I knew where Phil was...Of course I thought they really knew, but I lied and didn't even tell them about the Kennedy plot to protect Phil.”

“It was a few months after Dallas that Phil showed up at our new apt at Leroy St.  Next, he said he was in Dallas as a ‘national security observer,’ a new role to me but it made sense. About his Dallas trip he only told me once and that was that he was standing on the street and when JFK was shot, he went towards the scene and saw the commotion. I don't remember him saying he was standing in the street keeping watch on Elm and Houston when the Limo passed but a few weeks ago I found him there, a bit blurry but it is in (the film) ‘The First Shot’. Phil did say he thought it was a Para-Military operation.”

“I asked him if he could prove he was there and he said he was being filmed standing by the garage door of the Dal/Tex building. He also went over toward the crowd and saw a lady crying. Phil told me it was a paramilitary squad that did it…Soon after I told his story during a solo set at the Gaslight and Phil found out he said ‘Are you trying to get me killed?!’  So, after that I was more cautious about talking...but I never was quiet. Phil told me that he was warned - he did not tell me who, he was warned that if he talked, they would say that he was crazy.”

Jim Glover says that Ochs flew home from Dallas late that afternoon, and believes that Ochs wrote the song, “One Way Ticket Home” about that flight.

Ochs’ FBI file, over 400 pages, indicates that they took Ochs seriously, and considered him a threat, though there seems to be no indication that the FBI knew of his continuing association with the Air Force Intelligence or Air Force Reserves Intelligence. The question that is especially important - did Phil Ochs maintain his association with the US Air Force intelligence officers who ran the undercover ROTC operations against student radicals when he was in college, and who were they?  Who ran Phil Ochs when he was “working undercover” as an infiltration agent?   If not the FBI, was it military intelligence or the CIA?

In 1975 Ochs began to “freak people out by claiming he was really a CIA agent named John Train and that ‘Phil Ochs’ had to be killed.”  Dave McGowan wrote that shortly after his successful “War is Over” rally in 1975 Ochs, “began compiling curious lists, with entries that clearly were references to US biological warfare research: ‘shellfish toxin, Fort Dietrich, cobra venom, Chantilly Racetrack, hollow silver dollars, New York Cornell Hospital …” and as John Train, McGowan noted, “proclaimed himself to be a CIA operative and presented himself as a belligerent, right-wing thug.”   He would be dead within a year.

“It is suggested that Ochs/Train may have indeed been a spy with two personalities – personalities that are at complete odds with one another but personalities that don’t know the other exists. It is important to note that the Ochs family spent time at military bases in his early life and…while Ochs considered himself a leftist, man of the people, he loved American Western films, and the idea of a strong America. He seemed a man torn in two diametrically opposite directions.”

As one internet account reports: “Ochs was founder of the Yippee party, sang with protesters, and appeared as a witness for the trail of the Chicago Seven. His lyrics were considered so inflammatory that he was banned from the air-waves. The FBI did not refrain from amassing a huge file on him, and the feeling that he was never alone unnerved him. He wrote "take everything I own, take the tap from my phone, and leave my life alone, My life alone! He was tarred as a communist and a threat to national security. His friends said Ochs was convinced he would be assassinated. He was driven to drink by the radio black-listing his music and the ongoing surveillance and harassments and his nerve gave out. He lived in a perpetual state of paranoia. His vocal cords were crushed by thugs. He developed a right- wing pseudo personality called John Train who he wrote about. He also made reference to his Pseudo personality in song fragments in an album never recorded.”  “In mid-1975, Ochs took on the identity of John Butler Train. He told people that Train had murdered Ochs, and that he, John Butler Train, had replaced him. Train was convinced that someone was trying to kill him, so he carried a weapon at all times: a hammer, a knife, or a lead pipe. Ochs's friends tried to help him. His brother Michael attempted to have him committed to a psychiatric hospital. Friends pleaded with him to get help voluntarily. They feared for his safety, because he was getting into fights with bar patrons. Unable to pay his rent, he began living on the streets. After several months, the Train persona faded and Ochs returned, but his talk of suicide disturbed his friends and family. They hoped it was a passing phase, but Ochs was determined.”  Brother Michael Ochs: Basically, Phil was a manic depressive. And the manic binge he went on, probably out of desperation, frustration, etc., he went too far, and he never got back. He became, as we do, we get depressed afterwards, and he couldn’t see the next mountain due to the valley he was stuck in. And we tried to get him help. And he finally went to a shrink, but then, a week later, he killed himself.  One of his biographers explains Ochs's motivation: “By Phil's thinking, he had died a long time ago: he had died politically in Chicago in 1968 in the violence of the Democratic National Convention; he had died professionally in Africa a few years later, when he had been strangled and felt that he could no longer sing; he had died spiritually when Chile had been overthrown and his friend Victor Jara had been brutally murdered; and, finally, he had died psychologically at the hands of John Train.”

In his book “Family of Secrets” Russ Baker details how, in New York in late April 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald’s “best friend” George deMohrenschildt, met with Thomas Devine, as CIA operative code named WUBRINY/1, at the offices of John Train, whose investment banking firm oversaw CIA propriety companies. When Devine ostensibly “retired” from the CIA in 1953 he formed the Zapata Oil company with George H.W. Bush, and when they sold it, Bush went into politics while Devine joined the investment firm of Train, Cabot and Associates, whose primary partner was John Train.  Train is described by Baker as “a long-time enthusiast of foreign intrigues,” who worked for three presidents.  On April 25, 1963, at three thirty in the afternoon, a CIA operative code named WUBRINY/1 held a meeting in the library of the Kinckerbocker Club, one of New York’s most exclusive men’s clubs, on East Sixty-Second Street, just off Fifth Avenue.  Members of this club included David Rockefeller and John Hay Whitney, publisher of the New York Herald Tribute.  There were two others present. One was C. Frank Stone III, chief of operations for the European section of the CIA’s clandestine wing. The other was M. Clemard Joseph Charles, the general manager of the Banque Commerciale D’ Haiti.  This ‘contact report’ was declassified in 1998 but went unnoticed at the time. The purpose of the 1963 meeting, it said, was to prepare for the impending arrival from Dallas of George de Mohrenschildt, who was described as a business contact of Haitian banker…’Mr. Charles.’  According to Baker, de Mohrenschildt arrived the next afternoon, at the New York offices of the investment banking firm of Train, Cabot, inside an entity code-named SALINE.  This was in fact the covering organization for operation WUBRINY, and WUBRINY’s chief agent and operator, WUBRINY/1 - who was none other than Thomas Devine.

So the real John Train was an investment banker who ran CIA propriety companies, was a co-founder of the Paris Review, and in April of 1963, (when Oswald was shooting at Gen Walker and Ochs was infiltrating the FPCC), Train was associated with both G. W. Bush’s business partner at Zapata - Thomas Devine as well as Oswald’s good friend George deMohrenschildt.

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9 hours ago, Michael Clark said:


Thanks Michael.  I was sure there would be something on the Forum on this weird story, I put 'Phil Ochs' in the search box before posting but nothing came up.

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