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The Harry Dean Story (Part 1)

In 2013, Harry Dean and I published an eBook, entitled, “Harry Dean’s Confessions”. It sold very few copies and came under extreme criticism from hostile elements at John Simkin’s “Education Forum” whose names I will not dignify by naming here. These elements (who are still active) chose to attack the claims by Harry Dean – whom I defend – with virtually a solid year of virtually daily attacks – so that little other work was possible beyond disproving their hostile declamations.

Harry and I agreed to pull the book from circulation because of the endless bother. Nevertheless – I continue to stand by Harry's central claims --and I regard Harry Dean as one of the great heroes of the JFK Assassination controversy. I choose to recognize Harry Dean again on this web site. I’m honored to regard him as a friend.

One of the main criticisms against Harry Dean by professional academics and researchers, is that Harry Dean has no college degree – nor even a high school diploma. All that is true – Harry always admitted it. But let's start at the very beginning.

BIOGRAPHY OF HARRY DEAN

Harry James Dean was born in 1927 in Ontario, Canada. His mother was Canadian, and his father was an American. The Depression had hit Ontario hard, as did the fierce attacks of Hitler on the UK. Canadian sentiment was against Americans in the early 1940’s, so that Harry’s family was often isolated. Harry admitted to me that he didn’t complete primary school, and at fourteen he quit school to work full time to help support his family.

Based on these fundamental facts, it is utterly obvious that Harry Dean was never an FBI agent (as ordinarily defined) nor a CIA agent (as ordinarily defined). Those US Government jobs are simply unavailable to primary-school dropouts.

Nevertheless, Harry Dean in his youth was a classicist, an avid reader, and during the course of his interesting political life, Harry Dean did – as evidence shows – volunteer important information about Communist Cuba to the FBI and the CIA for many months. FBI records attest to this. (CIA records on Harry are unavailable, but in the context of 1961-1962 politics regarding Cuba, Harry’s claim to have also given them data remains reasonable.)

Critics accuse Harry – basically – of lacking the education to understand the complex labyrinth of FBI operations, including FBI technical vocabulary. That’s very true – Harry never claimed to have that level of training. When Harry spoke of his cooperation with informal FBI requests for street information about Communist Cuba, Harry often presumed that this might be described as an “informant” or an “agent” at some level. (It’s not unreasonable, since those terms have wider meanings that FBI protocols.)

Well, snort the critics, Harry is disqualified. For Harry to confuse his months of gathering information about Communist Cuba for the FBI as the role of “informant” is nothing short of perjury, they shout in chorus! A genuine FBI informer is “paid,” and Harry was never “paid!”

Well – that's basically true, but still unclear. As former FBI agent Wesley Swearingen wrote, it was common (though not officially allowed) for FBI agents to pay for street information “off the record.” Pocket money, but still payment. Harry told me that he would get small cash considerations for gas money and so forth, here and there. Yet Harry repeatedly told me – he was never, ever an official, “paid informant” of the FBI.

If Harry ever mistakenly used those terms to US officials, it was only because Harry was intellectually unclear about the technical meaning of those terms at the time. That’s all.

Still, the FBI actually did pursue Harry for several months for sensitive information. The drama included encouraging Harry to travel to Communist Cuba to meet Fidel Castro to collect information for the FBI (which he bravely did). Yet Harry also admits that he has no written record of this FBI interaction, and that the fat FBI file on Harry Dean is almost entirely biased and insulting – criticizing Harry over years and over multiple US States.

Harry and I believe that the FBI has not released all of the information that they have regarding Harry's unofficial activities with them. The FBI has also permitted countless FBI documents pertaining to the JFK Assassination to remain withheld from NARA for over 55 years. This gives credence to Harry’s claim – because ultimately his personal drama will extend to the personnel of Dallas, Texas during November 1963.

Still, here are a few FBI documents about Harry Dean readily available, circulating on the Internet, which provide at least some documentary substance to Harry’s story:

Jun 28, 1961 – Handwritten letter – From Harry Dean to President Kennedy

Jul 30, 1961 – Senate Report No. 96465 – From Senate Subcommittee, Part 2, pp. 84-85

Nov 19, 1963 – Typed letter – From Harry Dean to J. Edgar Hoover

Dec 02, 1963 – FBI File: 62-109068-3 – From SAC, Los Angeles to Director, FBI

Dec 12, 1963 – FBI File: 62-109068-2 – From Director, FBI to SAC, Los Angeles

Jan 28, 1964 – FBI File: 62-109068-3x – From SAC, Los Angeles to Director, FBI

Mar 06, 1964 – FBI File: 62-109068-3x1 – From SAC, Los Angeles to Director, FBI

Apr 03, 1964 – US Senate Memorandum – From Senator James Eastland to Harry Dean

Dec 18, 1964 – FBI File: 62-109068-3x2 – From SAC, Los Angeles to Director, FBI

Jan 06, 1965 – FBI file: 62-109068-5 – From SAC, Los Angeles to Director, FBI

Jan 07, 1965 – FBI file: 62-109068-4 – From SAC, Los Angeles to Director, FBI

Oct 22, 1965 – FBI file: 62-109068-13 – From SAC, Los Angeles to Director, FBI

Jun 15, 1965 – FBI TTY: 62-109068-7 – From Director, FBI to SAC Los Angeles

Jun 30, 1965 – FBI file: 62-109068-12 – From SAC, Los Angeles to Director, FBI

Nov 29, 1966 – FBI file: 62-109060-4296 – From A. Rosen to Mr. DeLoach

May 03, 1967 – FBI file: 62-109060-5186 – From SAC, Chicago to Director, FBI

May 26, 1967 – FBI file: 62-109060-5340 – From J. Edgar Hoover to Director, CIA

INTRODUCTION TO HARRY DEAN

Many readers of JFK Conspiracy books since 1975 read about Harry Dean in several books, including these ten:

  1. The Men Behind the Guns (1975) by W.R. Morris

  2. The Taking of America 1-2-3 (1979) by Richard E. Sprague

  3. Alias Oswald (1985) by W.R. Morris and R.B. Cutler

  4. Crosstrails (1990) by Harry Dean

  5. The Secret Papers of Harry Dean (1994) not by Harry; probably by W.R. Morris

  6. The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald (1995) by Robert Groden

  7. Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination (2003) by Michal Benson

  8. A Farewell to Justice (2005) by Joan Mellen

  9. Reclaiming History (2007) by Vince Bugliosi

  10. On the Trail of the JFK Assassins (2010) by Dick Russell

Despite all these sources, the story about Harry Dean is almost always misrepresented. These lies began with Harry’s brief and failed relationship with a fiction writer named W.R. Morris. He promised Harry that he would tell Harry’s story, so Harry signed a contract with him. When Morris showed himself to be a sensationalist, only out for cash, Harry dropped him like a hot potato.

Yet Morris kept writing about Harry! Morris published bogus biographies of Harry, for example, The Men Behind the Guns (1975). This was the first time that Harry Dean was portrayed as both an FBI agent and a CIA agent. (Morris also connected Harry with somebody named Eladio del Valle, whom Harry had never heard of before.)

Ten years later, W.R. Morris was still making money on Harry’s name. Morris came out with a new book, Alias Oswald (1985) and evidently hired an actor to pretend to be Harry Dean as he went on tour to promote the book!

In 1990, Harry Dean wrote his own book entitled, Crosstrails, to tell his story in his own words. (Although this book has genuine historical value – I admit its style is simple – like my own father’s – who never attended high school.) Get the book if you can (available only from Harry Dean personally) but don’t expect St. Augustine’s Confessions.

In 1995, a friend of Harry Dean told Harry that he had seen Harry’s “secret papers.” Bemused, Harry exclaimed that he had no idea what his friend was talking about. Then his friend showed him a recent book, Secret Papers of Harry Dean (1994), signed by Harry Dean. Harry laughed out loud because he had never seen that book before in his life, yet it claimed Harry was the author! W.R. Morris was still making money on Harry’s name!

By the year 2013, John Simkin’s JFK web site, Spartacus, was still in thrall to the W.R. Morris fictional version of Harry Dean’s story. That’s how influential W.R. Morris had become.

Since the fabrications by Morris about Harry Dean are still widely accepted, I want to set the record straight again. W.R. Morris published that Harry had been both an FBI agent and a CIA agent, and that he worked for the FBI to infiltrate the John Birch Society. But that’s completely backward!

Harry admits openly that he was really a true blue, dedicated member of the John Birch Society as well as of the Southern California Minutemen from 1962 through 1963, completely on his own free will.

What makes Harry Dean’s story so complicated is that even though he’s always been a nationalist, he was also involved in the Cuban revolution of 1958-1960, working for Fidel Castro, and was even a Secretary for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee during that time.

Yes, it’s complicated, but that’s why it’s worthwhile to get into the details. Because, as we’ll see, Harry Dean’s political life would lead him to interaction with the resigned General Edwin Walker.

MILITARY EXPERIENCE OF HARRY DEAN

In early 1942, as the US entered WW2 on the British side, Harry’s dad and older brother Bill moved to Detroit to find work. Harry was fourteen and quickly got a job as a deck hand on the Great Lakes. In late 1943 Harry asked his dad to write a letter allowing him to join the US Coast Guard Merchant Marines. His dad did that, and because Harry was already an experienced deck hand, he got the job.

That duty was WW2 related, since the regular crew went to war, and Michigan was a strategic materials port, so they urgently needed the help. Also, German submarines were known to drop off spies around the Great Lakes, and this was an issue. Over the years reports came out that nearly 3,000 Merchant Marine vessels were sunk by German submarines with more than 8,000 Michigan Merchant Marine deaths.

Harry spent the rest of WW2 in the Merchant Marines, on guard duty at Ambassador Bridge – now an accepted US citizen. As WW2 came to an end, America invited the eighteen-year-old Harry Dean to enlist in the US Air Force. He’d always wanted to fly. Yet though Harry won some recognition in 1946, he was never selected for pilot. Right before the time for his company to ship off to Germany, Harry was the victim in a terrible runway accident – hospitalized for several months. By the time Harry regained his strength he was honorably discharged in 1947.

CHICAGO – 1947 to 1958

When Harry returned to civilian life in Chicago, Illinois in 1947, his brother Bill got him a job at Curtis Publishing Company as a rack-jobber. This was his first white-collar job in a big city, and he was delighted to wear a suit and tie in the big city by his 20th birthday.

In eight more years, 1955, Harry met Millie, his future wife. He took flying lessons. He flew over Canada in nostalgia and gloried in his American freedom – on top of the world. Their first son, Eric, was born in 1958, so Harry was now a father – a 31-year-old stately gentleman. As it happened, in April 1958, Harry watched a political march in downtown Chicago by the Revolución de Cuba – a plea for help against the brutal repression of Fulgencio Batista. Harry – like thousands of Americans – regarded Castro as an honorable freedom-fighter, and they did all they could to help Castro in those days.

One of the speakers at that rally was Jose Freire, who proclaimed that the US Mafia was a supporter of Batista, and that Havana was a criminal haven, where gambling and prostitution were common – but also pedophilia, hard narcotics and murder-for-hire were quickly available along with every other sort of crime imaginable.

American companies enjoyed a free hand in the Utilities and Major Businesses in Havana and they openly supported Batista. Perhaps a majority of Cubans resented Americans for this, and they believed that without the American Mafia, Batista could never have risen to power or stand on his own against his critics (who would often vanish at night).

By 1958, the Cuban underground rebellion was so large that Fidel Castro, Raoul Castro and Che Guevara were already famous. Fidelistas were now asking for public support in downtown Chicago – pleading for help at an emotional level. (Certainly, no Marxism was mentioned.) Harry was genuinely moved.

That week, as he watched CBS News on TV, he saw Harry Reasoner in Cuba interviewing American tourists there, asking them about the Fidelistas. It was national news, and Harry made a fateful decision – he was about to become a significant player in the Cold War propaganda machine, entirely by accident. There was no political theory here – just raw emotion.

Harry contacted the Chicago office of the “Revolucion de Cuba” in Chicago, and he volunteered to help their fund-raising department. Harry was good at it. He helped organize rallies and he offered advice on plain-speaking English phrases to help their speech makers. Harry helped the Fidelistas raise funds to send to Cuba. Harry became friends with Joaquín Freire, an historian and a good speaker. Freire admitted that with Harry’s help he drew larger crowds and raised more funds.

Harry loved it. He was good at this, and he enjoyed the prospect of “helping people” in a moral cause – so he justified the long hours and nights away from his family in his organization of Freire’s many speaking engagements.

By the end of 1958 the Fidelistas were making tremendous headway, and Harry cheered with delight as 1959 opened with Fulgencio Batista fleeing from Cuba. Fidel Castro and his men marched into Cuba, cheered like liberators, and their Chicago office celebrated all night long. Harry felt like a true American hero. Millie was happy, too – she was pregnant again.

The Fidelistas officially honored all members of their Chicago fund-raising department, by naming them all as founding members of their 26th of July Movement. Harry felt this moment as a personal, humanitarian victory – his genuine moral duty as a red-blooded American citizen.

As for any accusations that Castro was a Communist, Harry tuned them all out. Harry read the news stories that US Government agencies had secretly supported Castro, and that was real to Harry. Harry and Millie watched the TV show, Meet the Press in April 1959, interviewing Fidel Castro, asking if he was a Communist, or had Communists in his new government. Fidel flatly said no, and that was good enough for Harry.

For the remainder of 1959, Jose Freire and Harry Dean successfully presented speeches beyond Chicago and raised even more funds for Fidel. Harry was proud of himself as an American citizen.

FIDEL CASTRO TURNS RED – 1960

Things looked bright as 1960 opened. On Sunday, January 5, 1960, on the Ed Sullivan Show, Ed Sullivan traveled to Cuba to personally interview Fidel Castro. Harry watched as Ed asked Fidel, ‘How will you change things?’ Fidel responded, ‘By ensuring that no further dictators rule in Cuba.’ Then Ed Sullivan told Fidel that he was in the real American tradition of George Washington, and added that, “we like you and we want you to like us.” Harry almost cried tears of joy.

All of this positive experience hit a brick wall in February 1960, when news emerged that Fidel Castro had made a sugar deal with the USSR. What?! By March 1960, President Eisenhower began to speak of a Trade Embargo on Cuba. In April 1960, Fidel Castro bought a huge shipment of oil from the USSR.

Harry’s mind spun in confusion. “This is insanity!” he exclaimed to Millie. He wandered around half-shocked. Harry searched his mind – how could he personally fix things? He hoped that he could use his membership in the 26th of July Movement as leverage to change Fidel’s mind.

That same April 1960, the New York organization, Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) emerged as Castro’s favored US support organization. Fidel officially informed all members of the 26th of July Movement to transfer their memberships into the FPCC and report to new officers immediately. Many old members just quit – even Jose Freire talked about quitting! But Harry held on, hoping that he could personally fix things.

In May 1960, Fidel formalized Cuban relations with the USSR, and President Eisenhower announced that any American citizen supporting Castro was to be regarded as an unregistered agent of a foreign government! That really stung Harry. How could he have disappointed his own President? So, Harry decided to write to J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. Soon the FBI invited Harry to tell his story.

Harry had only wanted to support a patriotic American charity. What should he do? The FBI agents seemed bored, as if they’d heard similar stories all too often. There was more, informed Harry -- all members of the 26th of July Movement were invited to Cuba in June for personal recognition and decoration.

Now the FBI sat up – “Stay in places!” said one agent. He asked Harry to pretend as though he’d never met the FBI – and to journey to Cuba as requested. Harry could make up for his blunder by bringing back information to the FBI. Names and faces – even some photographs as able – and read the Cuban public mood. After that, the FBI would expect regular reports about the FPCC office in Chicago. All "off the record," of course.

Harry agreed. His life had now become one giant pressure cooker.

We’ll return to Harry’s biography our next post.

Regards,

--Paul

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