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The Harry Dean Story (Part 5)

[Photo: General Edwin Walker in 1957 at Little Rock Central High School, Arkansas, where he faithfully executed the orders of President Eisenhower to enforce the US Supreme Court Brown Decision.] The following narrative is taken from my notes of personal interviews with Harry Dean over the past decade. To the best of my ability, these are Harry’s memoirs – accounts he’s already shared with the world since January 1965 – though writers for decades have scrambled his message. (The dates below are approximate, yet I find them useful to keep the narrative moving.)

Friday, August 30, 1963 with Guy Gabaldon

In August 1963, Harry Dean was feeling great in beautiful Southern California as he and Millie went out to dinner with their many friends and visited their lovely homes. Although Harry had promised the FBI to volunteer information about any suspicious activity among the Minutemen, Harry saw nothing suspicious at all. It was mostly training routines and orientation speeches, and that’s all he had to report to the FBI.

Then, on Friday, August 30, 1963, as Harry was enjoying a few beers with Gabby, Loran Hall and Larry Howard at Gabby’s house, Gabby decided to let Harry know a secret about an event in Mexico City in 1962. Gabby had volunteered for the Mexican Presidential Guard (the Dorados) to monitor the Mexico City crowd during planned parades of JFK from June 29 through July 1, 1962. Gabby admitted that he had often fantasized about eliminating JFK during those parades.

When a sudden change in JFK’s Mexico City schedule conflicted with Gabby’s plans, Gabby dropped the fantasy. Unfortunately, Gabby also told some of his pals among the Dorados, and word got around, so that Dorados Captain Juan Aronda basically expelled him. Gabby concluded that the Mexican Government in 1962 was already four-fifths Communist, anyway.

Harry was unsettled by this revelation. Should he report this to the FBI? Why did Gabby reveal this story? Well, after all, no harm was done; and it could just be another fish tale. Besides, it happened in Mexico City in 1962. Maybe there was nothing to report to the FBI after all. So, Harry just laughed it off and forgot about it.

Then Gabby confided another secret. He had told some JBS folks like Dave Robbins, John Rousselot, and General Walker about Harry’s personal history in the 26th of July Movement and as a Secretary for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) and even his meeting with Fidel Castro. This had raised a few eyebrows, yet Gabby vouched for Harry Dean – a trusted JBS member inside the secret Minutemen, who wanted revenge against Fidel Castro. Harry now wondered how his future reception in the JBS might be affected.

Saturday, August 31, 1963 with Guy Gabaldon

The next day, Gabby invited Harry and Millie to join his family for dinner because he wanted Harry to see the changes to his office at home; besides, Gabby had something special to tell Harry. So, Millie and Harry drove through Rowland Heights through beautiful downtown El Monte to arrive at Gabby’s home. Gabby greeted them at the door. June and their eldest son, Guy Junior were inside. Millie and June began talking in the kitchen, Guy Junior went outside while Gabby and Harry went to see Gabby’s home office.

Gabby’s WW2 medals were hanging on his wall with his Navy Cross in the center. On the opposite wall were photographs from Saipan in 1942 as well as the movie poster from, Hell to Eternity. Harry admired them all. But no redecorations. Harry sat on the guest chair and listened politely. The following conversation is from my notes of Harry’s recollection:

Gabby lit a cigarette and began frankly. “We agree that Kennedy is the whole reason that Castro is still in power, don’t we?”

Of course, we do, Gabby. That’s a given.”

“We can’t let Castro get away with double-crossing us like he did. He pretended to be on our side to get our help, then he switched over to the Communist side to get Moscow’s help. He’s got to pay for that, right?”

“That’s right, Gabby.”

“We also agree that JFK is a traitor, right? I mean, he’s out there supporting the Communists in every move they make, and undermining patriotic Americans at home, right?

“That sure sounds like a traitor to me,” said Harry

“We’re at war here, Harry. We not only have foreign enemies; we also have real enemies right here in our own country. Are you with me?”

“Of course,” Harry replied.

“So, then you’ll agree that it’s the duty of all patriots to destroy our national enemies, right? Just like the Founding Fathers, who were willing to sacrifice everything for America, right?”

Yes, 100%.” Now Gabby began what seemed be a prepared speech.

“Then I know that your thoughts are like mine today, as you realize that at any cost, we must get rid of JFK as soon as possible. So, here it is. We finally have a real opportunity to destroy the Communist menace at home. It’s now within our grasp; all of it – Castro, JFK and world Communism.”

“OK,” said Harry, eagerly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“This comes from the highest levels, Harry. I’ve been entrusted with a mission, and I need your help. It’s now or never. Do or die.”

“I’m all ears,” said Harry.

“All right. Now – the JBS in New Orleans reported about some guy, Lee Harvey Oswald, an American defector to Russia who recently moved to New Orleans and started a new chapter of your old enemy, the FPCC there. He’s even been on TV there. Do you know about him?”

Harry replied, "No, I never heard of him; I don’t follow the news as closely as you do.”

“We have film of Oswald on the streets handing out FPCC handbills right under the noses of Cuban Exiles and Bay of Pigs survivors. Oswald was in jail, in the newspapers, on radio and TV, pushing the FPCC as hard as he could.”

Harry agreed, “Well, I can say from first-hand experience that the FPCC is dangerous. They’re Fidel Castro’s eyes and ears in the USA. As a former FPCC Secretary in Chicago, I know that they carry guns and that they’ll use them. So, we’ve got to be careful.”

Gabby exclaimed, "Yes! We need to stop Oswald and the FPCC! So, now we have a plan: General Walker wants this Communist traitor to take a hit inside some pretty heavy action coming up. He wants our group to put Oswald under tight control and make him stand exactly where we want at exactly the right time.”

Harry understood Gabby’s phrase, “our group,” to mean Harry, Loran, Larry, and Rousselot. Gabby wanted his team’s support as he managed this personal, deadly game of cat and mouse. Harry quickly agreed. Count me in! It’s only right to make a Communist take a hit with some good old-fashioned payback!”

Gabby lit another cigarette and continued: “Good, because I’m almost at my main point. Remember I told you a few days ago about my dreams of shooting JFK in Mexico City?”

“Yes,” Harry said with a straight face, although he suddenly realized that the conversation had just taken a very dark turn.

“Well, we’re going to try again in Dallas when he’s there in November.”

Harry kept a poker face although he felt like he had just been shocked by 50 volts. Harry was now through the looking glass; it was weird but mesmerizing. Up to now, “finishing JFK” could have meant humiliation, impeachment, election defeat – but Gabby was now using words of actual violence. Harry kept silent and just listened.

“We think the politicians will have lunch with JFK at the Trade Mart in Dallas, and that’s where we’ll set everything up. Total commitment; no mercenaries; high quality; ready to sacrifice everything for America.”

Harry kept his poker face. This was something he had to tell the FBI as soon as possible. It was a clear plot against JFK, and Gabby claiming that he was relaying this from people above his head. Harry supposed by the dead serious look on Gabby’s face, that he wasn’t joking, he wasn’t drunk, and he wasn’t testing Harry.

“Here’s where you come in, Harry. I need you to be my eyes and ears here in Los Angeles while I’m in Mexico City on business.”

Harry sighed some relief. He wouldn’t be asked to travel to Dallas for this suicide fantasy at the Trade Mart. So, he led Gabby on. “Of course, Gabby. I’m happy to. Just say the word.”

“Good, I knew I could count on you, Harry. The road will be rough. We’re going to meet with Walker and Rousselot at JBS headquarters tomorrow, and I need you there.”

“Sure, Gabby. No problem,” said Harry, still in shock and smiling in Gabby’s face while planning the exact words he was going to report to FBI Agent Wesley Grapp as soon as possible.

They left Gabby’s room and rejoined their wives. What a peaceful world their families lived in. The wives had been laughing and sharing stories about children and relatives in the Old Country of Eastern Europe. They served Gabby and Harry some drinks with that old-fashioned charm. Soon they were joined by two of Gabby’s adult children and they all toasted friendship.

As they watched the California sunset, Harry now struggled to see Gabby as an ally who saw eye to eye on the topics of defeating Castro, destroying the FPCC and getting JFK out of office. Gabby had crossed the line of reason tonight with his talk about a plot against JFK in Dallas in November.

There was little chance that Harry’s friendship with Gabby would survive his next report to the FBI. It was more likely that Gabby, Walker and Rousselot would be busted by the FBI and that would end Harry’s happy life in Southern California. Yet Harry was determined to see it through to the bitter end.

Sunday, September 1, 1963 with General Walker

The next evening, at about 5:30 pm, Harry drove Gabby to an exclusive meeting at the local JBS headquarters. Only the elite would be there, and Harry would enter with Guy Gabaldon, the WW2 war hero. Harry and Gabby turned into the north parking lot. As they exited their car, they saw the resigned General Walker and two associates chatting and walking towards Congressman Rousselot’s office. Gabby and Harry followed them up to the office.

Rousselot was seated at his desk as the five walked in. Rousselot stood up to make the introductions, but Harry still can’t remember the names of Walker’s two associates. With no further small talk Walker immediately took command of the meeting and in a solemn voice said something like this:

"Gentlemen, as you know I am no longer General Walker, but Mr. Walker, and I join each of you as another soldier sworn to action to save our sacred nation from the Communist aiding policies of the current Administration. These policies support and encourage Castro’s agents to publicly recruit members for Castro’s underground inside our borders. A case in point is the FPCC, a Communist front in New York City that funnels money, volunteers, and information directly to Fidel Castro. Now then – Lee Harvey Oswald, a former US Marine, a defector to Soviet Russia, and now a self-confessed Marxist is our prime FPCC example today. He has been in the New Orleans streets, jails, newspapers, radio, and TV, promoting the FPCC with everything he’s got. Our people are watching him down there, and we’re making plans to fix his wagon. Mr. Gabaldon, our great Pied Piper of Saipan, joins us today to arrange the details that will both silence this pest and strike a decisive blow upon the spineless policies of the present Administration. Gentlemen, it is now within our reach to decide the ultimate outcome of this historic fight. I know you’ll all do your utmost and give all you can to support this mission."

That was the main thrust of Walker’s brief address to this select gathering. Those present all nodded their heads in approval at every sentence. Harry had already heard this from Gabby the night before, so this speech came as no surprise – Lee Harvey Oswald, the flamboyant FPCC officer, would become a patsy. That was the message.

Harry told himself that this plot by these renegade JBS and Minutemen fanatics was merely absurd, ridiculous, and laughable. Harry was sure that if these clowns went ahead with this stupid plot at the Dallas Trade Mart, that the US Secret Service would pick each one off within minutes. So, they were really foolish – almost suicidal. Still, Harry knew that this was the sort of thing that the FBI would want to hear about.

Harry was deeply saddened by the entire week. He had again exposed himself and thus his family to real danger from the world of extremist politics. He had to hand over these fanatics (his former friends) to the FBI. After that, he would likely be seen as a “traitor” to all right-wingers in Southern California. Would he have to move his family again?

Yet Harry was also ambivalent. He agreed with the urgency of saving the US from Communism. He willingly took an oath to this principle, pledging his life before the battle. The had also pledged the fate of this traitor, Lee Harvey Oswald, to the cause. Harry didn’t mind the plot this far – Oswald had to learn his lesson. So, Harry added his own two cents, roughly like this:

Well, I can vouch from personal experience that the FPCC is highly valued by Fidel Castro. The FPCC began as a Communist front and it remains one today. It must be destroyed for the good of America – but remember that FPCC members are armed and dangerous; so, beware!

All those present nodded in agreement with Harry. Gabby gave Harry a sincere look of patriotic pride. Harry didn’t lie – although he held back the fact that was going to tell the FBI. Anyway, one of those present exclaimed:

“I love it! We’ll make a damn Communist take the blame for erasing a damn Communist!

Put in that way, it’s no wonder that everybody laughed. Aside from the congratulations the meeting was over. Everybody went away except Harry, Gabby and Rousselot. Harry sensed that he was the low man on the totem pole, so he remained silent and only listened. Here’s Harry’s recollection of the conversation:

“Gabby, we’re depending on you here. We’ve pinned our hopes on you.”

Gabby replied, “OK, John: but I need more resources. I’m only one man, and I have only so much money. I’m giving all I can, but I need more.”

Rousselot didn’t flinch. “How much do you need?”

Gabby got right to the point: “I need $10,000 in cash.” Harry was surprised but kept silent. (NOTE: Asking for $10,000 in 1963 was like asking for $100,000 today.)

Rousselot responded: “I’ll see what I can do. I’ll visit some big donors this week. See you next Saturday, same time.”

Harry drove Gabby home and they spoke only a little. Gabby was deep in thought about his burning personal commitment.

Harry had heard many friends in the JBS and Minutemen condemn JFK, but it was all talk. Cussing the President is a time-honored American tradition. That fact enabled Harry to keep a straight face all night long. Privately, however, Harry worried deeply – he knew that he had to tell the FBI.

Saturday, September 7, 1963 with Gabaldon and Rousselot

During the week, Congressman Rousselot fetched $10,000 for Gabby in order to frame Lee Harvey Oswald for their lethal plot.

During the week, Harry Dean contacted Los Angeles FBI agent, Wesley Grapp, and told him everything he heard. Grapp was unimpressed. People let off steam all the time about how they would bring down the President. Anyway, Harry kept his promise to the FBI, and then returned to his daily routine.

That next Saturday, Harry again drove Gabby to Rousselot’s office in San Marino. On the drive they spoke only a little. Gabby was deep in his thoughts, but he had one warning: "Harry, you must never mention a word about this to anybody – not even to Loran, Larry, Rousselot, or anybody else in the JBS or Minutemen!" Harry crossed his fingers while he agreed – because he had already spilled the beans to FBI agent Wesley Grapp.

Gabby emphasized his point: “I’ll handle Larry and Loran, and I don’t want any loose lips around here. Got that? The only one permitted to speak about this mission is me and me alone. Nobody is allowed one word about this mission without me personally present. Understand?” Naturally, Harry understood – those were standard military regulations.

When they arrived at Rousselot’s office, Harry stayed in the car as Gabby went up to meet Rousselot. A few minutes later, Gabby returned with a big smile. Harry asked, Did you get it all?” Gabby, clearly pleased with himself, confirmed: “Yes!

In our next post we’ll trace a crucial coast-to-coast trip of Loran Hall and Larry Howard in September 1963 – from the memoirs of Harry Dean.

Regards,

--Paul

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