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27 May 1972: The "second failed attempt" and Alfred Baldwin

Ashton Gray

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Relying on the painstakingly researched essay, Watergate First Break-In, as I did in the message about the "Ameritas Dinner," I've excerpted and reproduced below the section concerning a purported "second failed attempt" at a "first break-in" that is claimed to have taken place on the night of 27 May 1972.

One thing that's striking in this excerpted article (among a host of contradictions in testimony) is the absence of Alfred C. Baldwin. It's almost as though he doesn't exist. Yet the day before, 26 May 1972, he had driven six hours from Connecticut to D.C. to participate over that Memorial Day weekend--even though, according to his sworn testimony, he had no more motivation for making the drive than McCord telling him he "had to work" that weekend, without McCord having said what the nature of that "work" was supposed to be. If we are to accept this testimony without question (as Senator Weicker seemed determined to do), Mr. Baldwin didn't bother to ask why he had to come back to D.C. on a holiday weekend; he simply got into his car and drove there.

That is his record, though, and since he has been a recent participant in this forum, I'm hoping somewhat deperately that he can step in and salvage this train wreck of conflicting testimony given by his co-conspirators. I have some questions at the end of the article that I would very much appreciate his attention to and help with.

Here is the article:

  • Second break-in attempt, night of 27–28 May 1972
    Several of the co-conspirators have said that there was a failed second attempt at a first break-in on the night of Saturday, 27 May 1972, continuing into the early morning hours of Sunday, 28 May 1972. The two most detailed accounts come from the co-commanders, Liddy and Hunt, whose accounts not only contradict each other, but expose other contradictions and omissions.
    According to Hunt, on the evening of Saturday, 27 May 1972, he had Bernard Barker and Eugenio Martinez (a.k.a. Rolando) come to the room that Hunt and Liddy were staying in at the Watergate Hotel. Hunt says he had them set up the "lights and photography equipment," and simulate photographing documents while he watched them. He then briefed them again on the importance of photographing Democratic "account books, contributor lists, that sort of thing." They then packed the photography equipment and lights into a suitcase to carry with them in the new break-in attempt, along with a hatbox carrying a Polaroid camera and film.
    No such photography dry-run had been done prior to the previous night's Ameritas dinner.
    Both Hunt and Liddy say in their respective accounts that later on the evening of 27 May 1972, Barker, Martinez, Gonzales, and Frank Sturgis went to the garage-level entrance to the stairway, where McCord had "taped the locks," and there met up with McCord. Hunt and Liddy, though, give conflicting accounts about when during the night this is supposed to have occurred.
    Hunt has said that there was a "guard change at eight o'clock," after which McCord had taped the locks. He then states that "a little after ten o'clock" word came from McCord--in room 419 of the Howard Johnson's--that the DNC headquarters were empty, so the Cubans left then to meet McCord in the garage.
    In Liddy's account, the failed break-in attempt happened two hours later. According to Liddy, there was not a "guard change" at eight o'clock, but "a building inspection." According to Liddy, they all were waiting for hours after that for word that the DNC headquarters were empty, which didn't come until "too close to the midnight shift change and building inspection" for Liddy's comfort, so they "waited until that was accomplished and sent in the team."
    Hunt and Liddy do agree that the Cubans met up with McCord at the garage-level entrance and climbed six flights of stairs to the DNC headquarters, where Gonzalez attempted for some time without success to pick the lock on the main door.
    Gonzalez had been recruited for the job because he was a locksmith. On or about Tuesday, 23 May 1972, Gonzalez had been taken overtly up to the sixth floor of the Watergate by McCord to view the entrance to DNC headquarters, so Gonzalez had gotten to see the actual DNC lock four days before this second break-in attempt. Hunt states in his autobiography that on Wednesday, 24 May 1972, he had gone up "to the glass doors of DNC headquarters" and had "pressed a lump of plasteline against the door lock." With it, Hunt says he "made a plaster cast from which Virgilio Gonzalez was to be able to determine the kind of lock-picking devices he would need for the entry."
    Plasteline is a non-hardening clay. Pressing plasteline into a lock generally results in a lock filled with plasteline, not an impression of the key for the lock. If Hunt did end up with something from which a plaster cast could have been made--which would have required the intermediate step of a rubber mold--he would have had a plaster casting of the key needed to unlock the door.
    Given that Hunt says that he made the plasteline impression on Wednesday, 24 May 1972, the locksmith Virgilio Gonzalez would have had a model of the key to DNC headquarters for two days before the Ameritas dinner on the night of 26 May, and three days before the 27 May second attempt.
    Hunt and Liddy provide different accounts of how they learned of the lockpicking failure:
    Hunt says that he and Liddy had waited in their "command post" room at the Watergate Hotel (not room 419 of the Howard Johnson's), getting reports by walkie-talkie of the men's progress to DNC headquarters, then getting a report that Gonzalez was working on the lock. Hunt says that about an hour passed after that, when "Barker came on the air to report that Gonzalez was unable to pick the lock" because he "doesn't have the right tools." In Hunt's account, Liddy then ordered the men over walkie-talkie to leave the building and report back to the "command post."
    Liddy says that he and Hunt waited to "learn by radio" that the attempt had been successful, but that no radio report came. Instead, he says, the men merely showed back up at the "command post" in "about forty-five minutes," and that there, in person, Barker reported Gonzalez's failure to pick the lock. Liddy goes so far as to say that he was concerned enough about the lock having been damaged by Gonzalez that he took the risk of going up the elevator to the DNC headquarters himself and inspecting it while Hunt and the others waited in the "command post." Liddy says the lock had "marks of tampering," but they "weren't obvious," so he returned to the room.
    Liddy goes on to say that he "overrode Hunt's objections and ordered Gonzalez to return to Miami the following morning for the correct tools." Hunt says that he, not Liddy, "excoriated" Barker and Gonzalez, and told Barker that he "wanted Villo [Gonzalez] to return to Miami in the morning, pick up whatever tools he might need and return by nightfall."
    In congressional testimony, Hunt was asked if there had been a second unsuccessful break-in attempt after the Ameritas dinner. Hunt replied under oath:
    "I recall something about that, but it seems to me that was more in the nature of a familiarization tour, that McCord took not more than one or two of the men up there and walked them down [sic] to the sixth floor to show them the actual door. Then they simply got back into the elevator. It was simply a familiarizing with the operational problem of the two glass doors that opened into the Democratic National headquarters."
    Summary of second failed break-in attempt
    Other than the testimony of the co-conspirators, there is no evidence to support or verify any of the accounts of a second break-in attempt on the night of Saturday, 27 May 1972.

Setting aside as much as possible, with some effort, the inconsistencies in this disconsonant tale, I have these questions for Mr. Baldwin if he can help in any way:

  1. Were the activities on the night of 27 May 1972 simply a "familiarization tour" of glass doors--as E. Howard Hunt said in sworn testimony--or was it a full-blown failed attempt at breaking in, as both Hunt and Liddy claimed in their autobiographies?
  2. Where were you and what were you doing?
  3. How could McCord have reported from room 419 that "the DNC headquarters were empty," when room 419 didn't provide a view into the 6th-floor DNC headquarters across the street?
  4. Were you, Liddy, Hunt and McCord actually in D.C. at all, or were you in fact somewhere else entirely, doing something else entirely that night?

I look forward to any light you can shed, Mr. Baldwin.

Ashton Gray

Edited by Ashton Gray
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