For more than 55 years, a widespread rumor survived that George De Mohrenschildt (hereafter DM) was a CIA agent and perhaps the CIA “handler” of Lee Harvey Oswald (hereafter LHO). In future posts we’ll deal with these melodramatic rumors – but for now we have a special background to review.
We’ll begin with a five-minute video of George and Jeanne DM in 1964 (courtesy YouTube) in which they repeat their WC stories about accidentally finding LHO’s rifle at the Oswald apartment on April 13, 1963:
Next, let’s return to George’s 1976 manuscript and Jeanne DM’s testimony to the US House Select Committee on Assassinations (hereafter HSCA) in early 1977. George committed suicide on March 29, 1977, and three days later, Jeanne delivered George’s 1976 manuscript to the HSCA along with a special photograph which will be our focus today. Here’s an excerpt from George’s manuscript:
Another possible reason [for Lee shooting at Walker] is the inscription of Lee’s photograph, which we received posthumously, and Marina’s inscription on it.
George wants to explain why LHO shot at the resigned General Edwin Walker on April 10, 1963. George’s term, “Lee’s photograph,” refers to another ‘Backyard Photograph,’ never seen by the Warren Commission (hereafter WC). It looked like the famous photo that Life Magazine had published on February 21, 1964, but there was an “inscription” on it, which George ascribed to Marina Oswald.
The WC had two poses of LHO with his weapons in his backyard, namely Commission Exhibits (CE) 133A and 133B. Oddly, Marina repeatedly testified that she took one and only one photograph of one and only one pose of LHO (with their cheap Imperial Reflex camera). I believe her. The WC attorneys didn’t because they held in their hands two different poses. So, they pressured Marina to “admit” that she had taken both photographs. They just wouldn’t take no for an answer, and they browbeat her relentlessly until she tentatively changed her mind.
The WC attorneys didn’t want to look deeper – but in 1979 the HSCA attorneys had accumulated seven different ‘Backyard Photographs’ in three different poses. Here is the HSCA list:
CE 133A LHO with palms at stomach (Life Magazine, 2/21/1964)
CE 133B LHO with elbows in his sides, hands outward
CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt Like CE 133A, sharper, more back, signed and dated
CE 133A-Stovall Like CE 133A, but cropped
CE 133C-Dees LHO with forearms aligned at sides, wrists forward
CE 133C-Stovall Like CE 133C-Dees, but cropped
CE 134 Like CE 133A, but enlarged
It’s relevant that Marguerite Oswald told the WC she saw a fourth pose (which she destroyed) showing LHO holding his rifle over his head with both hands. That’s four poses in eight versions.
Now we can see why Marina’s claim to taking only one photo is a problem. Even if she “accidentally” took two poses of LHO and his weapons, then who took the other two poses?
It remains possible that some photography buff had used sophisticated photographic equipment to forge the other versions of the Backyard Photograph. It’s also possible that LHO was the photography buff, and the sophisticated equipment belonged to Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall, the printing company where LHO worked from October 11, 1962 until April 1, 1963. (Maybe LHO was fired because he was abusing company equipment to make just these photographs; we can ask this because the dates do coincide.)
All of that is interesting – but let’s focus on George DM’s 1976 manuscript, and on CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt, the photograph that Jeanne DM handed over to the HSCA. George weaves a story of “accidentally” discovering the photo.
BACKGROUND OF THE DISCOVERY
Before George DM and Jeanne moved to Haiti in May 1963, they stored most of their furniture and bulky possessions at a Dallas facility called “Southwestern Warehouses.” For the next three years, George led a geological crew in Haiti to seek oil and other natural resources there. But it was a bumpy three years, because in April 1964, the WC sent George a subpoena to testify as “the man in Dallas who knew Oswald the best.”
The stigma took an increasingly heavy toll on George’s career. By mid-1966, George’s exploration contract was terminated, and George and Jeanne moved back to the US. For a few months they bounced around, but by early 1967 they returned to Dallas.
THE DAY OF DISCOVERY
Let’s read the account from his own pen, peppered by some of our own observations:
In February of 1967 we finally found a suitable place to settle down. Before that we moved from one place to another and visited our children in California and Mexico. The place called conveniently “La Citadelle” was exactly fitting to us, and was ample enough to accommodate all the furniture which had been stored in the warehouse since the beginning of 1963... (George De Mohrenschildt, 1976, I Am A Patsy! I Am A Patsy!)
George doesn’t give us the exact date – it was sometime in February 1967. The context is simply that George and Jeanne chose to recover some of their furniture and bulky possessions from their unit at “Southwestern Warehouses.” George continued:
Four years storage at the Southwestern Warehouses began to exhaust us financially. I thought of abandoning the whole junk and leave it to the warehouse – it’s good sometimes to start anew. But there were books... And so we went to the warehouse with an old, faithful friend, always ready to help and to pick up some old junk for himself, and, before our furniture was taken out, we began looking through the accumulation of various and sundry items that could be eliminated.
George distracts us with irrelevant details as he withholds the date of this event, as well as the name of his “old, faithful friend.” George continues:
I was less interested in this task, so I chatted with my friend, a good guy who had followed us on many of our trips, while Jeanne was finishing the selection of things to take and to discard.
George distracts us with more irrelevant detail – this nameless friend had followed George and Jeanne on many of their trips. Now George is ready to spring his melodrama:
Suddenly, she rushed out of the warehouse with a crazy look on her face, shouting excitedly: “Look, look, what I found!”
She dragged me to the pile of open crates, and I saw inside a slightly familiar-looking green box. “What the hell is this?”
“This is the box with the records I gave Marina before our departure!” she shouted.
“How did they get there? We left them such a long time ago?” I asked.
“I haven’t the slightest idea, I considered them lost.” Jeanne was stumbling for words. This was so weird. “I had used them myself to learn English when I came to this country. They served me well. Then I loaned them to Marina long before our departure for Haiti,” she said.
This is a lot of commotion and emotion over a box of English record albums that she thought she’d lost. George is building up to Jeanne’s discovery of CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt inside that box of English record albums, but he takes it slow. He adds more irrelevant details:
“Remember how punctually honest Lee was,” I said. “He would not keep any of our belongings. But how the hell did they into this warehouse? Possibly he remembered where we were storing our furniture; or maybe he gave the package to Glover to whom we had loaned some of our furniture and who finally added it to the rest of stored boxes at the Southwest Warehouse?”
In this paragraph George tries to explain how CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt came into his possession, inside his storage room which had been locked for four years, when neither George nor Jeanne ever saw that photo before in their lives. There can be no easy answer. George ponders it: LHO himself must have delivered Jeanne’s “lost” English records to the storage room – but LHO didn’t have the key. So, LHO himself must have contacted Dr. Everett Glover, who did have a key. That’s the best that George could guess.
Yet Everett Glover had already told the WC in March 1964 what happened (if we can indeed believe Glover’s hemming and hawing). Michael Paine brought that record player to Glover’s house around the time that Ruth Paine drove Marina Oswald to New Orleans (May 10, 1963). George DM didn’t know this, because after the JFK Assassination, even Everett Glover had cut George DM out of his life. George recalls this.
This remains a mystery to this day, because we lost track of Glover, a good guy who got so frightened of his very slight acquaintanceship with the “President’s assassin” that he moved out somewhere without leaving an address. (ibid.)
I find much to doubt in George’s story. I find it more likely that George knew very well that he possessed CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt since he received it directly from LHO on April 5, 1963. George struggles to convince us that he and Jeanne never saw it before in their lives – which is why they failed to hand it over to the WC in 1964. He tap dances around this:
My wife began taking the albums out of the box and as she opened to see if the records were not broken, she shrieked almost hysterically. “Look, there is a picture of Lee Oswald here!”
He claims that they found CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt inside a record sleeve. To dramatize their surprise further, George cites the many conspiracy theories since 1964 that challenged the Backyard Photograph published on the Life Magazine cover of February 21, 1964. Many called the photo a deliberate fake intended to frame an innocent LHO for the JFK Assassination. George claims that he, too, had “always wondered” if the photo was a fake.
But now, George exclaims, he finally had proof that the Life Magazine photo was genuine, because now, in February 1967, he had his very own copy – signed on the back! (Or perhaps George always knew that the photo was genuine.) George continues:
We stood literally frozen stiff, Lee staring at us in his martial pose, the famous rifle in his hands, like in a Marine parade. It was a gift for us from beyond his grave.
“What did he mean by leaving this picture to us?” I wondered aloud. “He was not a vain kind of a person.”
Then Jeanne shouted excitedly again: “look there is an inscription here. It read: “To my dear friend George from Lee.” And the date followed – April 1963, at the time when we were thousands of miles away in Haiti.
George distracts us with melodrama: “a gift from beyond the grave.” But if we compare these claims with George and Jeanne DM’s sworn testimony to the WC in 1964, we find that this 1976 story sharply contradicts it! Note his words: “And the date followed, April 1963, at the time when we were thousands of miles away in Haiti.”
That was obviously untrue.
The specific date of LHO’s signature was April 5, 1963, and George and Jeanne were still in Dallas on that date. Actually, George and Jeanne testified that they visited the Oswald’s Neely Street apartment the night before Easter Sunday – April 14th, 1963 – more than week later.
They also told the WC that he and Jeanne left for Haiti “at the end of May 1963.” There are nearly two months between early April and the end of May – and during all that time, George and Jeanne were still inside the good, old USA. They had plenty of time to receive the signed photo directly from LHO.
Why would George lie about it? Again, the context is the resigned General Walker. George didn’t want his readers to know something about his involvement with LHO’s Backyard Photograph as it pertained to General Walker. George continues:
Then I slowly turned the photograph and there was another epitaph, seemingly in Marina’s handwriting, in Russian. In translation it reads; “This is the hunter of fascists! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
There was a second inscription. George supposed that it might have been added by Marina as an insult: “This is the hunter of fascists! Ha! Ha! Ha!” George presents the expression as ambiguous – its positive aspect is US anti-fascism during World War II – and its negative aspect is its laughter at this particular poser. Yet in his very next sentence, George no longer supposes – he actively accuses Marina of writing that insult! George wrote:
The confirmation that Lee considered me his best friend flattered me, but Marina’s message expressed a chilling scorn for her husband.
George calls it “Marina’s message.” He has suddenly presumed that Marina was to blame for writing the insult. But he faces two legal problems here: (1) Marina testified to the HSCA that she didn’t write it; and (2) HSCA handwriting experts confirmed it wasn’t her handwriting
We’ll return to George’s attacks on Marina Oswald later. George is aiming for another point entirely, which appears in the very next sentence:
Anyway, if he was a hunter of fascists, and we agree with such a description, who was she, making fun of him?
There’s the point in this section. We saw in our previous blog post how George portrayed himself as a loyal anti-fascist and he also portrayed LHO as a loyal anti-fascist. Fascists are the real enemy, while George and LHO remained on the anti-fascist side.
George and Jeanne showed CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt only to their closest friends for nearly ten years. Some reacted with disgust. Others praised LHO as an anti-fascist hero who would have never assassinated “the most liberal and race conscious President in the history of the United States.” That was George’s firm position in his 1976 manuscript.
But even that point was secondary for George’s 1976 manuscript. He had a deeper secret.
THE De MOHRENSCHILDT PHOTO IN 1977
On March 29, 1977, George committed suicide. On April 1, 1977, Jeanne DM handed over to the HSCA George’s manuscript (1976) as well as the only Backyard Photograph signed by LHO himself, CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt (1963). Let’s examine his inscription:
To my friend George from Lee Oswald 5/IV/63
Impartial experts confirmed that the handwriting is LHO’s. Also, the date is Russian style, as “5/IV/63” stands for April 5, 1963. That day is interesting because it’s five days after LHO was fired from his job at Jaggars-Styles-Stovall and it’s five days before LHO took a pot-shot at General Walker.
We might presume that LHO gave this signed photograph to George on the day that it was signed. But it was material evidence in the JFK Assassination – so why did George and Jeanne withhold it? In 1976 George tried to explain it. Neither he nor Jeanne knew anything about this photograph because they were “thousands of miles away” when LHO signed and dated that photograph.
George’s explanation fails because they were in Dallas for weeks after April 5, and they were in the US for nearly two months after.
Yet even if George’s explanation turned out to be true – nobody could wash off the crucial stain – the photo’s signature, date, and dedication, implicates George DM in the General Walker shooting. George remained in denial of this plain implication.
Yet, if George wished so urgently to hide his implication – then why didn’t George simply burn CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt, as Marguerite Oswald had burned the Backyard Photograph that came into her hands? That would quickly erase any of George’s secrets linked to that photo.
The sad answer is that George hoped to make money from it. We can surmise this from George’s own words. Soon after February 1967, George decided to contact Life Magazine with his story about finding CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt. Here’s what George wrote:
We did not show the photograph to any authorities. To them Lee Harvey Oswald’s case was closed, and we did not want any further involvement…
But I did write a letter to a friend, one of the editors of LIFE Magazine, explaining that I had a message from Lee Harvey Oswald…I added to my letter a short resumé of the facts – how this picture came into our possession.
Immediately I received a call from my friend saying that LIFE had a team working on Oswald’s case, a team of investigators, because the Magazine had doubts about the Warren Commission’s conclusions.
The next day a reporter assigned to the assassination case called me and we talked for a long time…Like ourselves, he saw Marina’s inscription and gave it the same meaning as we did.
He said, “We shall use it as a main feature of our special edition if and when we know something definite about Oswald’s involvement or of his innocence.”