[Photo: Guy Gabaldon, WW2 Hero, c. 1963 as Harry Dean knew him in El Monte, California]
I continue from notes of my interviews of Harry Dean over the past decade. To orient this narrative, let’s review the history of Harry Dean in 1963. As the year began, Harry was a member of the JBS and Minutemen in Southern California, and he had befriended three radical right-wing activists there, namely, Guy (Gabby) Gabaldon, Loran Hall, and Larry Howard.
Harry thought of Larry Howard as the friendly one; a regular guy dedicated to Anticommunism. Loran Hall was more aloof, with illusions of leadership in the international war against global Communism in 1963 – specifically against its main leaders, Fidel Castro and JFK. As for Gabby, he got Harry invited to a very elite Minutemen meeting at the local JBS headquarters. The speaker was the resigned General Walker.
Walker had specifically named Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO) as a despicable communist in New Orleans whom he had targeted for harsh punishment. Gabby himself, reports Harry, took on the task of seizing covert control over LHO to secretly lead LHO into Walker’s web of punishment. Gabaldon asked Harry, Loran and Larry for their help, and they all agreed. Let’s flash back to Harry’s account of early 1963 to set the stage for late 1963.
GABBY, LORAN, LARRY, AND HARRY IN EARLY 1963
Starting early in 1963, Harry Dean would often meet with Gabby at his comfortable El Monte home. Sometimes they’d be joined by Loran Hall and Larry Howard, where their main activity would be a regular donation drive for Cuban Exiles and their US supporters.
Unknown to his three friends, Harry also had a secret agreement with the Los Angeles FBI to volunteer information about the Minutemen – just in case he saw something suspicious. In Harry’s opinion, this donation drive was patriotic and above any suspicion. He would not report it.
Loran and Larry drove Gabby’s two-ton truck around Los Angeles to collect material donations from professionals (mainly JBS members) and bring them to Gabby’s garage. Doctors and dentists would often donate medical supplies. Well-heeled lawyers and businessmen would donate vehicles, weapons, ammunition, or cash.
When Gabby’s garage was full, Harry would help Loran and Larry load up Gabby’s farm-trailer for a coast to coast delivery tour. They would stop in Miami to supply raider groups like Alpha 66, Interpen, and La Sambra. Then they would stop in New Orleans to supply raider groups like JURE, DRE and CRC. Then they would stop in Mexico City to supply DACA (Drive Against Communist Aggression) which was Gabby’s group.
All of these groups claimed to have US Government approval and Harry believed all the claims. One wealthy JBS member donated a small airplane. Gabby used it to fly from El Monte to his DACA office in Mexico City and back, weekly, and would take ranking JBS supporters with him. Harry was pleased with all of this activity.
LORAN AND LARRY MEET LHO
It was perhaps August 1963 when Gabby took Harry aside to share some good news from the JBS communications group, RID (Research Intelligence Division) about New Orleans. Faithfully following Gabby’s orders, Larry and Loran had successfully contacted LHO at Guy Banister’s paramilitary training camp near Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana.
Loran and Larry had evidently impressed LHO with their history as freedom fighters who had fought in Cuba alongside Gerry Patrick Hemming, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro. They were now against Fidel Castro. They made friends with LHO who at this point was working with radical rightist, Guy Banister to create a Fake FPCC office in New Orleans.
Loran and Larry, as guided by their friend, Gerry Patrick Hemming in New Orleans, found that Guy Banister, David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, Fred Crisman, Jack S. Martin, and Carlos Bringuier had worked closely with LHO in this FPCC scam. Evidently, the purpose of this fake FPCC office was to supply LHO with a theater for pretending to be a genuine officer of the FPCC. They went to a lot of trouble, over many months, to foster this illusion.
First, they got LHO arrested by the New Orleans police for disturbing the peace on behalf of the FPCC. They ensured that the FBI also logged this arrest. Next, they ensured that this arrest was given extra publicity in the local newspapers. Next, they put LHO on a local radio station to publicly broadcast his Marxism along with his FPCC advocacy. Next, they got LHO on TV, boldly defining himself as a Marxist for everyone to see. All these events were given extra publicity in the local newspapers. LHO would collect these newspaper clippings. (We have material evidence of all of this.)
Why would Guy Banister fake an FPCC office and an FPCC officer? For one thing, Banister had a long-time wish to infiltrate the FPCC. Beyond that, however, LHO could use all of these newspaper clippings to forge a convincing resumé. Perhaps LHO could take that resumé to Mexico City’s Cuban Embassy to get an instant visa to enter Cuba and await further orders. That was apparently part of Banister’s plan because that’s just what LHO tried to do.
This plausible plan folded neatly into Gabby’s plan. Gabby’s next orders to Loran and Larry were to drive LHO to Mexico City in late September to meet Gabby there. In Mexico City, Gabby planned to manipulate LHO to do anything Gabby wanted. As Harry heard it, Gabby would offer LHO a phony mission with phony secrets and give him some money – all to keep LHO cooperating. All Gabby wanted LHO to do was to lay low in Dallas through November 1963, waiting for further instructions. That was the whole plan. Evidently, LHO bought this.
Harry was glad for the update. None of the members of Gabby’s team knew what any of the other members knew – if anything. But this news was suspicious – and Harry had agreed to volunteer this sort of information to the FBI.
Gabby worried continually about leaks. Harry had to reassured Gabby often during those weeks. For example, on their last trip to Phoenix Loran and Larry had picked up a fellow fighter named Billy Seymour. Gabby complained: could he trust Seymour? What would Larry or Loran tell him after a few beers? So, Gabby told Loran to telephone their status to him twice a day.
As the team told Harry as it occurred, the final week of September unfolded pretty much as planned. Gabby had flown to Mexico City, hired a temporary staff, decorated his offices to look American and waited for Loran and Larry to deliver LHO.
Loran and Larry knew that LHO planned to go to Mexico City for Guy Banister. So, Loran and Larry told LHO that they were just now headed to Mexico City in their car, and they could arrive in 24 hours or so. They offered LHO a free ride, and he took their offer. It was perhaps 7 am, Wednesday, September 25, when LHO took a bus from his apartment on Magazine Street to downtown New Orleans to climb into Loran and Larry’s car. They began their road trip.
THE DETOUR TO MEET SYLVIA ODIO
On the way, however, Loran wondered if LHO was certain that his fake FPCC credentials would be enough to get into Cuba. What if LHO had a sponsor inside Havana to vouch for him? Loran knew some Cuban Exiles in Dallas, and over the telephone, one of them had told Loran about a beautiful and wealthy Exile, namely Sylvia Odio, a member of JURE, who lived in his same apartment complex. Sylvia was also active in collecting donations of armaments for Cuban Exile paramilitary forces. Perhaps Sylvia might have enough underground connections to vouch for LHO from inside Havana.
That sounded like a great idea, so on the way to Mexico City from New Orleans via Texas, Loran took a brief detour, northwest to Dallas, instead of southwest towards Houston. According to Harry Dean, these three characters, Loran Hall (alias Lorenzo, a Cuban-American) and Larry Howard (alias Alonzo, a Mexican-American) and Lee Harvey Oswald arrived at the doorstep of Sylvia Odio – it might have been 8:30 pm on Wednesday, September 25.
The Warren Commission (WC) testimony of Sylvia Odio is instructive here. Let’s examine it from the perspective of Harry Dean.
Loran rang the doorbell. Sylvia’s younger sister Annie opened the door to peek out, and then called Sylvia. Sylvia stood at the door and did not let them enter.
Loran spoke in Spanish, and introduced himself and Larry by their ‘war names.’ He introduced LHO as ‘Leon.’ Loran claimed that they were members of JURE. But Sylvia knew most people in JURE and didn’t recognize them. Nor were they the type – so scruffy. Loran asked if they could come in, and Sylvia briskly replied, “No; what do you want?”
Sylvia told the WC that she vaguely remembered their war names as ‘Leopoldo’ and ‘Angelo.’ (Well, she got the first and last letters right, claims Harry, since their war names were really ‘Lorenzo’ and “Alonzo’.) ‘Leopoldo’ was the tall one, she recalled, who did most of the talking. ‘Angelo’ was on the heavier side, with thick black hair, and said nothing. Leon was quiet, except for a few short words in Spanish, like “Hola.”
Then Loran said, “We’re very good friends of your father.” This was surprising – Sylvia’s father had been wasting away in a Cuban jail cell for years. Also, her father was an academic with no scruffy friends. Yet, Loran knew many details about her father’s places and activities, and this was spooky. (Most likely, Loran got the information from his Cuban Exile friends.)
Then, Loran introduced LHO, saying, “I want you to meet this American, Leon Oswald. He’s quite interested in the Cuban cause.” Sylvia remembered the name clearly because Loran said it twice. Loran praised ‘Leon’ profusely.
Then, Loran produced a letter written in Spanish that began: “We represent the revolutionary council and we’re taking donations buy armaments to overthrow Castro.” Loran asked Sylvia to please translate this letter into English and send it to her American contacts. Yet Sylvia had been recently asked by others in JURE to do the same thing. She asked him, “Who are you with?”
Loran answered, “We just came from New Orleans and have been trying to get this organized there on our own.” That answer wasn’t good enough. Sylvia handed the letter back to Loran and said, “No.” Sylvia then asked ‘Leon’ in English: “Have you ever been to Cuba?” LHO replied, “No, I’ve never been to Cuba.” She asked, “Are you interested in our movement?” He replied, “Yes.” That was about it.
Sylvia then said, “Please excuse me, I have to leave. But I will write to my father and tell him you have come to visit me.” Loran asked, “Is he still in the Isle of Pines?” This again stung Sylvia because that’s just where her father was. ‘Leopoldo’ somehow had detailed information about her father and was dropping names, but that only made her more suspicious. She would definitely write to her father as soon as possible.
Loran, Larry and LHO then returned to their car to drive away. They didn’t say where they were going. ‘Leopoldo’ was at the wheel.
On the road to Mexico City, the original destination, Loran Hall kept thinking about the way that matters ended with Sylvia Odio. Loran didn’t give up -- he called Sylvia the next day from a pay phone, and he flattered her, calling her ‘pretty’ and so forth. She was unimpressed. Then Loran said, “What did you think of the American?” Sylvia said, “I didn’t think anything.”
Loran continued: “Our idea is to introduce Leon to the underground in Cuba, because he’s great – he’s kind of nuts!” Sylvia didn’t know what to make of that remark. Was ‘Leon’ capable of everything crass? That was a strange way to recommend somebody.
Loran continued: “Leon said that you Cubans don’t have any guts, because you should have killed JFK after the Bay of Pigs! And it’s so easy to do! JFK is the one holding back the freedom of Cuba!” Sylvia only became annoyed by such talk.
Loran summed up, “We’re leaving on a long trip, but we’d like very much to see you the next time we’re back in Dallas. Leon is a great asset.” Sylvia hoped that she would never see them again. She mailed her letter to her father, but she knew it would take weeks to get a reply from a Cuban jail.
HARRY’S TAKE ON IT
Harry Dean is certain, due to his personal relationships with Loran Hall, Larry Howard, and Gabby Gabaldon, that Loran and Larry truly were the drivers of LHO that day. Therefore, Sylvia Odio told the WC the truth (as far as she could remember it) about seeing LHO at her doorstep during the final week of September 1963.
Gabby had given Loran and Larry direct orders to drive LHO to Mexico City that very week. Loran, Larry and LHO were together that week. Sylvia’s descriptions of Loran and Larry were spot on, Harry observes. As for their war names, Loran’s was really ‘Lorenzo,’ and Larry’s was really ‘Alonzo,’ but Sylvia came close, and admitted that her memory was vague on that score.
In any event, Sylvia Odio was out of the picture for the rest of the week. They were back on the road to Mexico City, so that by about noon the next day they crossed the Mexican border. (We have official Mexican records to this effect; and no credible Mexican records that LHO was ever on any bus in Mexico.)
By early morning, Friday, September 27, 1963, they were finally settled in Mexico City itself, and LHO went forth on his own to tackle the various Consulates and Embassies there, to win a quick visa to Havana. It wasn’t to be. All of the clerks there basically laughed LHO out of their offices. LHO tried again and again, demanding to see new clerks. Yet, LHO’s credentials were obviously fake, and so LHO was obviously a provocateur. After several failed attempts, including LHO’s anger, crying openly, and producing a pistol before the clerks – LHO finally quit. (This is also well-documented by those officials.)
According to Harry Dean, this was the point where Loran and Larry would guide the defeated LHO to the impressive offices of Gabby Gabaldon. Gabby would exploit LHO’s immature penchant for spy games, by convincing LHO that he would be working undercover for a secret US organization. Gabby gave LHO some money to encourage LHO to play along. All Gabby asked was that LHO remain in Dallas through November – in careful secrecy – and to wait patiently for further instructions. LHO allegedly agreed.
Gabby’s job was done. Rousselot’s money was well-spent. Harry was astounded at the clockwork precision of Gabby’s planning and execution. Harry, however, saw a new duty to volunteer this new information to the FBI.
FRESH REPORTS FOR THE FBI
During the first days of October 1963, just as LHO was settling in a rooming house in Dallas, Harry called Los Angeles FBI agent Wesley Grapp to volunteer some information that might be important. Grapp drove out to Harry’s secluded home in Rowland Heights and sat down with Harry Dean.
Harry told Grapp about the Minutemen, the JBS, Rousselot, Gabby, Walker, Loran Hall, Larry Howard – everyone. Harry volunteered the most detail that he could. Harry reconstructed the basics of his conversation with Grapp something like this:
“What exactly is being planned, Harry?” asked Grapp.
Harry just blurted it all out: “A team of Minutemen is planning to kill JFK at the Trade Mart in Dallas in November. Congressman Rousselot is evidently the paymaster, and possibly above him are JBS Founder, Robert Welch, and the resigned General Walker. They recruited Guy Gabaldon, a famous Marine hero who has two soldiers, Loran Hall and Larry Howard.”
Grapp interrupted, “Let me stop you here, Harry. The Dallas Trade Mart, Harry? Are you serious? Do you know how many Secret Service men will be there when JFK is there? Hundreds!”
Harry hesitated – yet to be sure that he didn’t leave anything out, he moved on. “As I understand it, Loran and Larry met this Communist named Lee Oswald in New Orleans and drove him to Mexico City to meet Gabby – that’s what everybody calls Gabaldon. Anyway, Gabby gave Oswald a good story and lots of cash to obey orders. I’m sure about the cash. Congressman Rousselot gave $10,000 to Gabaldon only last month. I saw it myself.”
Grapp chuckled. “Only $10,000?”
Harry kept unloading. “Well, Oswald is going to be the fall guy. They definitely said they’ll have lots of shooters at the Trade Mart, probably Minutemen, who are willing to sacrifice everything for their nation.”
Grapp interrupted again, “That’s suicide, Harry! Nobody sticks their neck out that far. It’s a fish story!”
Harry now relaxed. “Well, they probably have a better plan than that, Wes. They’re going to blame it on this Communist, somehow. Then America will blame Cuba and then finish the whole nightmare!”
Grapp remained calm, “Harry, listen to yourself – you’re reaching.”
“I am?” Harry was relieved to hear this. Maybe all his worry was over nothing. Maybe it was nothing but big talk by guys trying to outdo each other.
Grapp added, “We’re flooded by these kinds of reports these days, Harry. I can spot a pipe-dream a mile away.”
“You can?” Harry was so relieved that he couldn’t decide whether to laugh or collapse. It was as if a 200-pound weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
Grapp added, “Take a step back and listen to the nonsense. A Communist is going to drive to Mexico City on a secret mission with the John Birch Society? Who’s kidding who, Harry?”
Harry smiled sheepishly and said, “I guess I never really believed it!”
Grapp got up to leave: “It’s just baloney, Harry. Have a drink forget the whole thing. Trust the Secret Service; nothing gets past those guys!”
What a huge relief for Harry. He had done his duty by telling the FBI everything, and the FBI judged it fairly. The whole thing was a cloak-and-dagger make-believe fantasy by some small-time players.
Best of all, none of Harry’s friends would be busted. Nobody would excommunicate Harry. Nobody would know that Harry had a deal with the FBI. Harry was in a good mood again. Harry even looked forward to watching the Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon plan fizzle like fizzy soda. Go ahead and play cops and robbers, boys! It will be fun!
In our next post we’ll explore how the Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon plan rolled out as Harry observed from his front row seat.