[Photo: George De Mohrenschildt, ca. 1933]
Jim Garrison (1968) and his many imitators (e.g. Joan Mellen, 2012) published their suspicions that George De Mohrenschildt might have been a CIA officer and possibly the CIA “handler” of Lee Harvey Oswald. I disagree with this common misconception of George, and I’ll explain why.
About 15 years ago I dug deeply into the biography of George De Mohrenschildt (hereafter George DM) and I explored Bruce Campbell Adamson’s DVD which contains hundreds of pages of historical research on George DM. As a genealogist, Adamson systematically traced multiple levels of George DM’s connections among wealthy Euro-Americans.
Adamson did his best to fit George DM for the mold of a CIA agent, but after exploring his material at length, I found no solid evidence. (CIA secrecy by itself is never positive evidence; we must process the evidence we actually find.)
George DM and his brother volunteered information to Allied Intelligence during the last half of World War Two, but that doesn’t define a CIA officer. Lots of people volunteered lots of information to the CIA, but that didn’t make them official CIA agents. So, let’s take a closer look at the colorful life of George DM.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GEORGE DM
George DM was born in 1911 in Belorussia (White Russia) just east of Poland. His family was aristocratic, extremely wealthy, and owned miles of rich farmland. They valued education and reputedly spoke five languages. Sadly, in 1917, when George was six years old and his older brother Dimitri was 15 years old, their nation was conquered by the Communists, who quickly seized the aristocratic estate of George DM’s family.
George’s family fled to Poland with whatever money they could salvage. George and Dimitri never gave up hope that they would one day retrieve their ancestral estate. When George was 22, he and his brother pinned their hopes on the Nazi regime of 1933. Hitler had promised to topple the Communist regime, so George and Dimitri naively supported the Nazi regime in any way that they could in their blind hopes to regain their estate. When the Nazi regime finally invaded Belorussia in June 1941, Dimitri (now 39) and George (now 30) hoped for the best.
Instead they were stunned by the brutal manner in which the Nazi army treated White Russians. The Nazi regime was even worse than the Communists – this is what Dimitri and George saw with their own eyes. So, in 1941 they changed their allegiance again; this time to the Western Allies. Dimitri migrated to New York where he helped to create Radio Free Europe. George remained in England where he volunteered his translation ability to Allied Intelligence, translating French, German, Russian, and Polish documents into English, as needed.
At the end of World War Two, George was now 34, and he enjoyed the newfound freedom of Paris. Dimitri became a professor of Russian studies at Dartmouth College in the US. Eventually George also migrated to the US and met Dimitri’s new American friends, including the Bouvier family. George remarried a number of times, but by 1960, at 49, he had settled in Dallas with his fourth wife, Jeanne, a former Russian ballerina, and their children.
George DM never became as well-connected as Dimitri and had to settle for life in Dallas as a professor of Geology at the University of Texas. Although Jeanne had her own money, George strove to be the breadwinner for their comfortable lifestyle. So, George was always looking for ways to use his Geology skills in oil-rich Dallas to finally strike it rich.
Folks in the oil industry were George’s main companions in Dallas. Many of them had belonged to the Russian expatriate colony in Dallas/Fort Worth since the 1950’s. These Russian-speakers were mostly successful, middle-aged people, e.g. Igor and Natalie Voshinin, Declan and Katya Ford, Paul and Peter Gregory, John and Elena Hall, Frank and Valentina Ray, Max and Gali Clark, George Bouhe, Lydia Dymitruk, Samuel Ballen, Helen Leslie, Paul Raigorodsky, Anna Meller, Ilya Mamantov, and Dorothy Gravitis.
All of these people testified before the Warren Commission (hereafter WC). Let’s briefly review their activities from late 1962 through early 1963. I find nothing suspicious about them with regard to the JFK Assassination or the shooting at General Walker. They were all very conservative, friendly to the local police, and ready to call the FBI in Dallas if the need arose.
Largely led by Mr. Bouhe, they had pooled their money in the 1950’s to construct a Russian Orthodox Church in Fort Worth. They made a point to include all Russian expatriates to make a home for them in Dallas/Fort Worth. Many preferred speaking Russian as some of them still spoke broken English. Even the agnostic George and Jeanne joined the Church for the society. One Sunday George and Jeanne DM came to Church wearing their tennis shorts. This confirmed their local reputation as non-conformists.
George DM was an intellectual in Dallas, yet despite his earnest efforts he wasn’t a social leader. In 1961 George started the Bohemian Club in Dallas to arrange dinners and speakers for the entertainment of Dallas oil professionals. When George couldn’t schedule a speaker, he volunteered himself. Perhaps because he’d suffered so much in his life, and had just turned 50, he looked upon Americans in Dallas as soft – they never suffered like Europeans suffered. So, George’s sense of humor had become mean. At one of his speeches, knowing that one of his prominent guests was Jewish, George spoke positively about the Third Reich and Heinrich Himmler – just as a joke. That shocked many and sped the demise of the Bohemian Club.
George was an exhibitionist. He was proud of Jeanne’s athletic body and his own, and this partly explains why they came to Church in tennis shorts. It also partly explains why they made a spectacular, long and public walking marathon from Dallas to Mexico City, for months, filming all the way and enjoying the international publicity.
GEORGE MEETS LEE AND MARINA OSWALD
The Oswald saga is another example of George DM’s non-conformist exhibitionism. When Lee Harvey Oswald (hereafter LHO) and Marina Oswald moved into Fort Worth in June 1962, they were soon befriended by the local Russian expatriate colony in Dallas/Fort Worth. The colony adored Marina, a native of Belorussia who spoke an aristocratic Russian dialect learned from her grandmother. They also sympathized with Marina because LHO had no money, no job, no education, a negative Marine discharge, the stigma of defector, and no prospects.
LHO openly scorned the Russian expatriates for their middle-class lifestyle – for “selling out to capitalism.” So, most of the Russian expatriate colony wanted no part of LHO, whom they regarded as “the defector.” George DM was the only Russian expatriate in that time and place who made a special point to befriend the poverty-stricken LHO. Why? The evidence shows that George was mainly being non-conformist.
Following Bouhe’s lead, the Russian colony in Fort Worth overwhelmed Marina Oswald with nice clothes. Marina was grateful, but LHO was ungrateful for their help; he often belittled it and even expressed hostility. This did not stop the retired Bouhe, who would also flirt with Marina – as he was infatuated with her. He paid for Marina’s expensive, sorely needed dental work. He bought her a baby crib (because her baby’s crib was a suitcase).
All of this made LHO extremely jealous. He threatened Bouhe and then moved away from Fort Worth to Dallas – just to get away from the Russian expatriate colony that had loved Marina so much. The expatriates were sorry to lose Marina, but they were glad to see LHO go.
GEORGE’S NON-RUSSIAN FRIENDS IN DALLAS
George’s non-Russian associates in Dallas were mostly younger engineers in the oil industry, such as Volkmar Schmidt, Everett Glover, and Michael Paine. (The latter two also testified before the WC.)
As 1963 began, the Oswalds had no society because LHO had spurned the Russian expatriate colony, so, George DM spoke with Volkmar Schmidt (a Lutheran) and Everett Glover (a Unitarian) and offered to bring the poverty-stricken Oswalds to their next barbeque party as special guests for the entertainment of this crowd of professionals.
Glover planned the party, told his engineer friends to bring their spouses to see the ex-Marine who had defected to Russia and then returned to the US with a Russian bride. The ex-Marine would answer questions, and his wife, who spoke no English, would be there for those wishing to practice their Russian conversational skills.
Michael Paine caught a cold on the night of the party, but Ruth Paine was eager to practice speaking Russian, so she went alone. It was the evening of Friday, February 22, when Marina Oswald met Ruth Paine for the first time. This Dallas engineers’ party was a game-changer for many of those present, but we’ll focus on the members of that party and their WC testimony about it in a subsequent blog post.
For now, let’s return to the HSCA exhibit, CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt. It was dated April 5, 1963, it was explicitly addressed to George and signed by LHO himself. Handwriting experts confirmed that this was LHO’s handwriting. The photo was found among the possession of George and Jeanne DM.
But in his 1976 manuscript, George DM claims that he didn’t even know that he had it. His argument was that the date of the signature was “April 1963,” and that he was “thousands of miles away in Haiti” at that time. Actually, George and Jeanne moved to Haiti during May, not April. But he insisted – it was no mistake – it was a deliberate misdirection. Why would George lie about it? This is our main question now.
One of the most prominent, repeated themes in George DM’s manuscript of 1976 is his claim that both George and LHO would agree firmly on one point – that they hated and despised General Walker. They were both outraged by Walker’s extreme, ultra-rightist political theater.
In his public statements, Volkmar Schmidt admitted redirecting LHO’s rage over the Bay of Pigs to rage over General Walker. But Volkmar firmly denied that he suggested that LHO shoot Walker. In his own WC testimony, George DM also firmly denied that he suggested to LHO to shoot Walker. Let’s briefly review that testimony:
Mr. JENNER. You didn’t want him to shoot anybody?
Mr. De MOHRENSCHILDT. Anybody. I didn’t want him to shoot anybody. But if somebody has a gun with a telescopic lens you see, and knowing that he hates the man, it is a logical assumption you see.
Mr. JENNER. You knew at that time that he had a definite bitterness for General Walker?
Mr. De MOHRENSCHILDT. I definitely knew that, either from some conversations we had on General Walker, you know – this was the period of General Walker’s, you know, big showoff, you know.
George stumbles for words at the end, but the message is clear. George was certain that when it came to General Walker, LHO “hated the man.” Yet George denies that he himself had anything to do with encouraging LHO to kill Walker. Later we’ll address possible motives of LHO’s decision to shoot at General Walker. For now, let us say that Lee was finished with talking and wanted to get into action.
Our question now is about George’s 1976 claim that he and LHO were like intellectual equals who agreed firmly on US Civil Rights as the highest issue in the land. It’s a question because we have other evidence that in 1962-1963 George DM thought of LHO as strictly inferior. In his testimony before the WC, George called LHO a “semieducated hillbilly.” George added furthermore, “I never would believe that any government would be stupid enough to trust Lee with anything important.” That was no slip of the tongue – that was genuine disrespect.
George had more to say about LHO, as he told the WC: “His mind was of a man with exceedingly poor background, who read rather advanced books and did not even understand the words in them. He did not understand the words – he just used them. So how can you take seriously a person like that? You just laugh at him.”
In sharp contrast to those bold statements in 1964, George DM in 1976 moaned about LHO’s fate, and called him his dear friend. Twelve years after his WC testimony, George blamed WC attorney Albert Jenner for manipulating him into speaking so cruelly about LHO. George said, “Jenner played with me as if I were a baby,” so he blamed others for his words. What was the reason for his blatant reversal?
LHO liked George DM better than any other Russian expatriate in Dallas – and he happily accepted George DM’s personal charity. But after May 1963, when George moved to Haiti and LHO had settled in New Orleans, they never saw each other, spoke to each other, or wrote to each other again. They simply weren’t as close as George would later portray them in 1976.
THE BASIC PROBLEM
Here is the main point in this exploration of George DM: what is the exact degree of knowledge that George had about LHO’s plot to shoot Walker? We must ask because we must explain the existence of the many Backyard Photographs that the WC and the HSCA ultimately accumulated.
Dallas Police Officer Roscoe White gave his wife a copy of one. Dallas Homicide Detective Richard Stovall gave the HSCA copies they did not have – of two different poses. In 1995 Dan Rather interviewed Michael Paine who finally admitted that he had personally seen a Backyard Photograph on April 2, 1963 – only eight days before the Walker shooting.
Let us inquire – who failed to tell the Dallas Police about the Backyard Photographs after the news broke about the Walker shooting?
Marina Oswald was culpable, although the Law excuses a wife from testifying against her husband. Michael Paine admitted that he saw a Backyard Photograph at the Oswalds’ apartment on 4/2/1963, so, Michael was also culpable. Did Volkmar see a Backyard Photograph and fail to inform the Dallas Police after the Walker shooting? Did Everett Glover?
Most relevant to this blog post – was George DM lying about CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt, that is, did George actually receive it directly from the hand of LHO on April 5, 1963, the day that LHO addressed it to George, signed it and dated it? Because, if George actually received it on April 5, then he had a strong motive to lie about it.
Here’s why. If George had early knowledge of the Backyard Photograph, this would have made him a suspect in the Walker shooting. Even worse – just as the WC had made the Walker shooting into a ridiculous, non-sequitur proof that LHO had assassinated JFK, George DM would have also been smeared with this ridiculous so-called proof by mere association, and would have become a suspect in a JFK plot.
So, George DM, like Michael Paine, would have had a powerful motive to hold back the whole truth about the Backyard Photograph from the WC in 1964.
It’s more obvious in George’s case, however, because only three days after the Walker shooting, George and Jeanne visited the Oswalds late at night on Saturday, April 13, and found LHO’s rifle complete with scope inside their apartment. They surely suspected that LHO was Walker’s shooter. We know this because George’s famous joke about the rifle and Walker was a direct hit.
So, even if George really saw CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt for the first time in 1967, we must still blame George and Jeanne for failing to alert the Dallas Police about finding LHO’s rifle three days after the Walker shooting.
George’s crime in the case of the Walker shooting would have been “accessory after the fact.” That crime bore the same penalty as the shooting itself. And because LHO wasn’t arrested for the shooting, he was free to become mixed up in a bizarre Dallas plot to assassinate JFK. Insofar as Michael Paine and George DM were accessories in the Walker shooting, they would have been exposed to accusations of involvement in a JFK plot.
It seems to me that concealing this crime was what George DM tried to hide for the rest of his life. I will note here that a CIA agent would have never tried to conceal the truth about some bone-headed behavior of Lee Harvey Oswald.
I see nothing to suggest that George DM was a CIA agent. After helping Allied Intelligence during WW2, he and his brother Dimitri became college professors. George also wanted to be rich, and the Haiti oil exploration contract that he landed was his ticket to the equivalent of a million dollars in today’s money. But the JFK Assassination scuttled that contract, because George became world-famous as “Oswald’s best friend in Dallas.” George died in poverty.
It should be obvious that LHO was no CIA agent because of the desperate poverty in which LHO and Marina lived. Slum apartments, no car, no telephone – this is ample proof that LHO was never an officer in the CIA, because CIA officers always live better than that. Besides that, LHO was insubordinate, a maverick, and thus unsuitable for the CIA chain of command.
Actually, George DM and LHO both wanted public recognition. In New Orleans LHO was in the newspapers, on radio, even on TV, posturing as an “anti-Communist Marxist.” No CIA agent draws such attention to himself. That’s simply not how CIA agents behave.
It has now been 57 years since these events took place. Everett Glover died in 2001. Volkmar Schmidt died in 2012. Michael Paine died in 2018. None of the others in that clique are alive to tell the story (to the best of my knowledge).
For ten years I failed to contact Michael Paine. Ruth Paine kindly gave me an interview, yet what I mainly learned from her is what we continually learn from all of Ruth’s many interviews, namely, that Ruth was out of the loop! She was so busy taking care of her own children in addition to Marina and her two babies, June and Audrey – that she was clueless about guns or shootings until after the Dallas Police searched her garage.
We can only hope that Michael Paine left a memoir about those times. In my opinion, he had the closest look at the Walker shooting than anybody alive in 2018. In 1977, George topped the list, but in 2018 the top was Michael.
In the meantime – let’s reconsider CE 133A-de Mohrenschildt. It was addressed to George and it was signed and dated on the back by LHO on April 5, 1963, when George and Jeanne were not “thousands of miles away.” One can almost hear the siren call.