[Photo: George De Mohrenschildt, ca. 1973, and Volkmar Schmidt ca. 1993]
At least seven Warren Commission (hereafter WC) witnesses were interrogated regarding some aspect of the Walker shooting of April 10, 1963, namely: Marina Oswald; George De Mohrenschildt (hereafter DM); Jeanne DM; Michael Paine; Ruth Paine; Robert Alan Surrey; and General Walker. The testimony of each tends to agree significantly with the others.
Six WC witnesses were interrogated about the young oil engineers’ party at Everett Glover’s house on February 22, 1963, namely: Everett Glover; Marina Oswald; George DM; Jeanne DM; Michal Paine; and Ruth Paine. The testimony of each tends to disagree with the others. Volkmar Schmidt wasn’t a WC witness, but his evidence also disagreed with the others. Why do we get so many different stories about that party?
The following is our summary of the most reliable evidence.
After his acquittal by a Mississippi Grand Jury in late January 1963, the resigned General Edwin Walker (hereafter General Walker) ,was immediately condemned by many Liberals who were still convinced that Walker had invited thousands of protesters to come to the University of Mississippi in late September 1962, to protest the registration of James Meredith as the first Black American student there.
General Walker hit the ground running, and he sped from house arrest to publicizing his plan for a political speaking tour, coast to coast, lambasting the Kennedy Administration as “Communist.” This was the Zeitgeist of the times; the Zeitgeist of Everett’s February 22, 1963 party for his colleagues of young oil engineers in Dallas.
In February 1963, George DM was an oil geology professor in Dallas and a staunch Liberal. Everett was an oil geologist and a friend of George DM since 1959. Everett shared his apartment with Volkmar Schmidt, who was a friend of George DM since 1961, and also an outspoken Liberal. We may surmise that George, Everett, and Volkmar were all Liberals who despised the racism of General Walker.
It’s also likely that the young engineers in Dallas who attended the parties of these intellectuals were mostly Liberals by Dallas standards too. That is, in Dallas a “Liberal” was anybody that wasn’t a member of the John Birch Society. George DM, who was now a 52-year-old professor at the University of Texas, probably had some standing with them. Evidently Everett’s February 22, 1963 party was conceived when George proposed to drive LHO and Marina to Everett’s as a novelty for their friends – as political entertainment.
Another of Everett’s long-time friends in Dallas, Michael Paine, was also a local expert on Communism. Michael and his Russian-speaking wife, Ruth, were also invited to meet the unusual Oswalds and to ask LHO questions about Russia. (Marina couldn’t speak English, and most of the guests couldn’t speak Russian, but Ruth would enjoy speaking with Marina.)
Anyway, after a viewing of George and Jeanne’s hum-drum home movie, the young, successful, English-speaking guests interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO) about Russia. Michael Paine couldn’t attend, but Volkmar stepped up to challenge LHO after LHO expressed rage over the Bay of Pigs. Volkmar spent two hours with LHO. The other guests watched fascinated as Volkmar used psychological techniques to transfer LHO’s hostility over the Bay of Pigs to hostility over General Walker.
That seems to be the general summary of the February 22nd party.
A SECOND ENGINEER’S PARTY
What we never learned from any of the WC witnesses, however, was that there was at least one other party involving the Oswalds and the Paines at Everett’s home. Let’s return to William (Bill) Kelly’s 1995 phone interview of Volkmar Schmidt. (Read the entire interview at your leisure, online at this URL):
To summarize briefly – Volkmar told Bill Kelly that he saw LHO only once in his life. Yet he was confused about the details of that one party. He said it occurred at somebody else’s home when that party actually occurred at his own home. Also, Volkmar told Bill Kelly that he himself had planned another party for LHO. He even said he “put some money down” for this party. But his employer flew him to Libya on a business trip, and so he couldn’t attend, although the party went forward anyway. Let’s review that:
KELLY: You talked with him at length that night?
SCHMIDT: Yes, I spent about two solid hours with him.
KELLY: What was your impression of him?
SCHMIDT: The same impression as my colleagues had, who all met them because I had arranged a party after that for them to meet Lee Harvey Oswald and his family. I was gone on a lengthily business trip then. A very disturbed man. A man desperate, spiritually, totally desperate. That’s why I talked with him, to try to get him back to sanity…
KELLY: When you organized the party for the Paines to meet the Oswalds, you were on a business trip?
SCHMIDT: A whole bunch of people came there, but I was on a trip to Libya and overseas. But I put some money down and arranged it and did my best.
Volkmar says the second party went forward, and “a whole bunch of people came there.” But Volkmar didn’t tell Kelly the date of that second party. The Oswalds came, as Volkmar says that his colleagues met and evaluated LHO at this second party. LHO didn’t have a car, so presumably George DM once again drove the Oswalds to Everett’s apartment for this party.
Kelly asked about this party as a “party for the Paines to meet the Oswalds.” Yet this was how Everett described his February 22, 1963 party. So, it suggests at least two parties for the Paines, as well as many young oil engineers in Dallas to “meet the Oswalds.”
Also, Volkmar said, “a whole bunch of people came there” to the party that he himself had planned. Everett had named a few of those who came to the February 22nd party, while Volkmar named none of those who came to the second. Even though Volkmar couldn’t come, the guests came anyway – very likely including the Oswalds, the Paines, Jeanne DM and George DM, as before. The date of the party would probably have been around March 1963, when the DM’s were still in town, and when LHO still had a job at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall.
Let’s survey the chronology again. Everett had invited his friend Michael Paine to his February 22nd party. Michael had a reputation among his friends as one of the local Dallas experts on Marxism. Michael’s friends knew that his father had been a wealthy Trotskyite in Los Angeles, and young Michael had grown up attending Marxist seminars. His questions to LHO would have been interesting. Sadly, Michael caught a cold and didn’t make it.
At that party, LHO loved being the center of attention as the guests questioned him about Russia, Marxism, why he defected and why he returned. Ruth Paine was not impressed with LHO, but she loved spending these hours with Marina Oswald, the baby, and Jeanne DM in a back room, speaking Russian. Volkmar interviewed LHO for two hours that night – so Ruth most likely heard that Volkmar had grilled LHO for two solid hours.
Yet from Kelly’s interview we learn that Volkmar planned and even “put money down” on another party for these young Dallas engineers, as Kelly put it, to enable “the Paines to meet the Oswalds.” But Ruth Paine had already met them at the first party. Based on these facts, it seems that Volkmar had planned that second party specifically for Michael Paine to meet LHO.
We get an impression that Michael’s reputation preceded him, and that these young Dallas engineers looked forward to observing Michael’s questioning of LHO. Michael was no Marxist – he was a rich capitalist who looked down on Marxists, so it would have been entertaining to see a showdown between Michael and LHO the infamous ex-Marine who had defected to the USSR and then returned to Texas with a Russian bride.
Yet nobody supplied further details about that second party. Volkmar Schmidt was the only eyewitness to even mention it; Everett Glover didn’t. Marina Oswald didn’t. George DM didn’t. Jeanne DM didn’t. Ruth Paine didn’t. Michael Paine didn’t. A whole flank of our evidence about a possible anti-Walker plot in Dallas is missing.
We had hoped to read more about it in Kelly’s interview, but Volkmar changed the topic.
As for Jeanne DM, she spent most of the February 22nd dinner party in a back room with Marina, the baby, and Ruth Paine. When asked about that party, Jeanne said that the main purpose was to show the DM home movies of 1960. Everett did show those home movies, but that was fairly short, while this dinner party lasted late into the evening.
I find it suspicious that Jeanne DM pretended to know so little about everything that happened at that party, since George DM was one of the party planners. Of the twenty questions that attorney Jenner asked Jeanne about that party, she replied ten times, “I don’t remember” or “I forgot.” Of the party goers, she could remember only Everett, her husband, the Oswalds, and Ruth Paine. She seems to have blocked out the rest of the events and guests.
As for Everett Glover, he himself said words to the effect of, “I don’t remember,” more than 20 times in his WC testimony. He told the WC that he couldn’t remember most of the details of that first party, and he couldn’t remember any other parties. Everett disappeared from Dallas society after the JFK Assassination, and he broke all ties with George DM and Michael Paine – two of his closest associates. He seems to have blocked out the rest of that party.
THE SNIPER’S RIFLE
The dates when LHO hated and despised General Walker are important because they quantify LHO’s social interaction with these young Dallas engineers. Volkmar says that at Everett’s first party, LHO had directed his rage toward the Bay of Pigs (as we might expect from a Marine or ex-Marine). Volkmar then successfully “transferred” that rage to General Walker. 22nd. Less than three weeks later, on March 12th, LHO ordered a rifle over US Mail using the pseudonym, Alek J. Hidell.
Why didn’t George rush to the authorities at the very least when he and Jeanne found LHO’s rifle with a scope? The best explanation seems to be that that George, Everett, and Volkmar all played unwitting roles in the Walker shooting! They kept pressuring LHO to despise Walker as they had despised Walker, until LHO finally cracked.
They didn’t want LHO to shoot anybody – but they needled LHO about General Walker shortly after Walker was acquitted of all charges regarding the Ole Miss racial riots. As for George, he actually lived down the street from General Walker, so this racist was always in his face.
Sadly, LHO was a loose cannon who seems to have been unusually suggestable among wealthy friends like George, Volkmar, Everett and Michael. However – if George had told the police about his suspicions of LHO over the Walker shooting, LHO might have told the police about George’s “General Fokker” joke, and about Volkmar’s two-hour processing to make LHO despise General Walker.
Volkmar might have lost his job and sent back to Germany. George was all packed up and ready to go to Haiti for his lucrative oil-exploration contract which he had been planning for months before he ever met LHO – and the police might have restrained him. Everett might have lost his job, too – all for being accomplices in the Walker shooting.
Here’s what George wrote in 1976:
…General Edwin Walker, a rather notorious character…was an ultra-rightist who had tried to run for governor of Texas. He got surprising number of votes: some 200,000 on a political platform somewhat to the right of Hitler’s.” (George DM, 1976, I Am A Patsy!)
That was George’s mindset back in early 1962, when Walker was running for the office of Texas Governor. George was plainly anti-Walker and he compared Walker with Adolf Hitler as late as 1976. Yet the details of these multiple gatherings of young Dallas engineers in 1963, and how they might have played a significant role in LHO’s decision to try to kill General Walker at his Dallas home have gone missing from US history. We can only hope for a way to recover them.
VOLKMAR AND GEORGE DM
Let’s establish how close Volkmar was to George (DM) probably since he moved to Dallas in 1961. As a newcomer and a professional in Dallas, Volkmar quickly contacted as many public figures and professors in his field. He likely befriended George in 1961, as they had somewhat similar careers, similar European experiences, and similar politics.
KELLY: Now DeMohrenschildt…You knew him up until he died?
SCHMIDT: Up until his death, and I could have probably avoided his suicide because he wrote a very moving, desperate letter to me, asking if he could come and stay with us in my basement…but his wife, Jeanne and her dogs would have been a vexation to my wife.
Their relationship was so close that when George DM became depressed and desperate in 1977, he turned to Volkmar for help. George DM had lost his lucrative oil exploration contract in Haiti in November 1966 because he would proclaim at company parties that LHO was a “patsy.” Well, lots of Europeans in Haiti had a similar opinion – but George was a louder problem, because he had been “Oswald’s best friend”.
Losing this contract led to a dwindling spiral down into poverty. Ten years later, Jeanne decided to leave George and go to live with their children.
When George wrote to Volkmar for help he didn’t ask for money – but to literally move into Volkmar’s basement. Volkmar wanted to help George, but he had to think of his own family – and the DM family was not mentally stable in his opinion. So, Volkmar said no. We know his grim fate.
GEORGE AND THE CIA
After that line of questioning, Kelly asked Volkmar about Government Intelligence agencies:
KELLY: He (DeMohrenschildt) had these affiliations with intelligence agencies, which leaves open the possibility that the JFK Assassination was a covert operation… Do you think that’s possible?
KELLY: Why not?
SCHMIDT: He was a bit of a nut…he was also a very spread-out person. He was totally irresponsible, the playboy…He was too disorganized to be a truly efficient conspirator...
Here we see Volkmar declaring that George couldn’t have been a secret agent of the CIA with regard to any alleged JFK Assassination conspiracy, because George was too much of a “totally irresponsible, disorganized, playboy.” Even though we saw in George’s earlier years, in the context of World War II, that George and his brother Dimitri were informants for Allied Intelligence, an informant isn’t an official Intelligence agent. An Intelligence agent must be serious, responsible, and organized. George, by his own admission, had an unruly and dark sense of humor.
GEORGE AND THE BACKYARD PHOTOGRAPH
What then, was George’s real relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald and the JFK Assassination? Let’s turn again to ask Volkmar Schmidt.
KELLY: It’s a shame that it’s been 30 years and we’re just beginning to look at the files.
SCHMIDT: One thing is that the DeMohrenschildts were terribly afraid of all kinds of things…and were afraid to talk about it. They also said that Oswald didn’t do it, but I think it could have been that they had the key in their hand. When they saw this nut giving them a picture with, “the Nazi killer.” It was totally irresponsible for George DeMohrenschildt not to make a noise about it. He told me about it.
I wish Kelly would have lingered on this superb line of questioning. As we saw, George possessed one of LHO’s infamous Backyard Photographs, signed and dated by LHO on April 5, 1963, and addressed personally to George. Five days later, LHO would try to kill General Walker. Nine days later George and Jeanne would discover LHO’s sniper rifle and never see the Oswalds again for the rest of their lives. When Volkmar said George and Jeanne had “the key in their hand,” he spoke of that Backyard Photograph. George himself confessed to Volkmar that it was “totally irresponsible” to withhold this photo from the authorities.
But when would it have been irresponsible to withhold this photo? Certainly not as late as 1967. Volkmar failed to tell us the date of that conversation with George. We can figure as follows. George claimed in his final memoirs that he never saw that Backyard Photograph until February 1967. He claimed that “somebody” had “somehow” and “secretly” put it into his Dallas storehouse where it remained for four solid years, until he and Jeanne found it.
That story sounds bogus – so let’s add another wrinkle. George bemoaned to Volkmar that he regretted his failure to do his civic duty and take the photo to the authorities. But it makes no sense for George to say that in 1967 when LHO had been dead for four years. Nobody cared about it then; TIME Magazine had already published a version of that photo!
George’s regret makes more sense if the date was 1963. That would explain why Volkmar would say that George and Jeanne DM had “the key in their hand”. The key for what exactly? For Volkmar it was the key to decide the JFK killer – whether “Oswald didn’t do it” or he did. The hostile stance of LHO with his weapons in hand – this was hard evidence for Volkmar, reminding him of LHO’s rage over the Bay of Pigs.
Also, George’s possession of this photograph in early 1963 would be a clear proof that the photo wasn’t a forgery. Any photographic trickery used in creating the four known poses of the Backyard Photograph can be explained by the fact that LHO worked at JCS printers at the time, and they had very sophisticated photography equipment.
Why didn’t George hand over the photo to the WC when they asked for all evidence on LHO? Because, the WC would have rightly asked George, “Why didn’t you give this to the Dallas authorities on the morning after the Walker shooting? This line of questioning could have jeopardized the careers of George, Volkmar, Everett, and perhaps Michael Paine, by linking them to a Walker plot – and by proxy, to a JFK plot. George wouldn’t go there.
We rightly question whether George DM left us only an elaborate fiction in 1977 to prove that until February 1967, he was ignorant about this famous Backyard Photograph, addressed to him, and signed and dated by LHO himself. A fiction would best explain why his story was so full of holes. Notice that the HSCA in 1979 also found holes in it, within their section, Chronology of George De Mohrenschildt and the Oswald Rifle:
(26) On April 1, 1977, the committee also received from Jeanne De Mohrenschildt a copy of the manuscript of the book, “I Am A Patsy, I Am A Patsy,” which George De Mohrenschildt was writing…about his relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald…He wrote that he and his wife had stumbled upon the gun photo in February 1967 in boxes of their belongings that they had placed in storage in early 1963 before their departure for Haiti in May 1963. De Mohrenschildt speculated in the manuscript that Oswald had in a sense left them a “gift from the grave,” placing the photograph where it could later be discovered by De Mohrenschildt. He explained that the photo was among English practice records that he and his wife had loaned to Marina Oswald, and that “somehow” the Oswalds had managed to return those records, including the photograph, to the De Mohrenschildts’ possessions.
(28) The circumstances of: (a) the De Mohrenschildts’ learning that Oswald owned a rifle; (b) De Mohrenschildt’s comment [joke] to Oswald about the Walker shooting; and (c) the circumstances of the “discovery” of the gun photograph in De Mohrenschildts’ possessions, may indicate knowledge that the De Mohrenschildts had about the violent turn that Oswald’s political inclinations had taken. These have not been fully explored.
The HSCA ran out of funds before they could fully explore all the available data. Our point, however, is that we aren’t the first to criticize George’s 1976 explanation for failing to come forward earlier with his copy of the Backyard Photograph.
VOLKMAR BLAMED GEORGE
Volkmar Schmidt believed in the WC’s “lone shooter” version of LHO. Volkmar suggested that if LHO had been arrested for shooting at General Walker back in April 1963, then LHO would have been surrounded by the Washington DC Secret Service and FBI during November 22, 1963. In this way Volkmar assigns to George DM at least this much guilt for the JFK Assassination.
Yet as we saw in our last blog post, Volkmar “completely exonerated” himself with regard to LHO part in the Walker shooting – even though Volkmar himself had spent two hours with LHO to align General Walker with the Third Reich.
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