(Photo: Harry Dean in Communist Cuba – June 1960, courtesy, Harry Dean).
We have covered Harry’s period of spying on Fidel Castro’s FPCC in Chicago in 1960, reporting this voluntarily to the Chicago FBI. We have covered Harry’s quitting of all politics in Chicago in 1961 and moving to Southern California. Then, in 1962, Harry joined the John Birch Society (hereafter JBS) in Southern California. Now let’s follow Harry’s JBS activities as he listened to speaker after speaker hosted by the JBS.
RIGHT-WING SPEAKER – LORAN HALL
In 1962, in JBS meetings in Pasadena, Harry heard dozens of speakers. Harry was particularly moved by speaker Loran Hall, a US Army veteran who traveled to Cuba and became involved in the Revolución de Cuba in 1958. There Loran met Camilo San Fuego, a lieutenant under Fidel Castro, and quickly became a captain under Fidel Castro and helped to win the fight against Batista.
Loran recalled that immediately after the victory of the Revolución de Cuba in 1959, Fidel’s rebels ran amok in Cuba, taking anything and anybody that they wanted with unrestrained violence. Loran saw foreigners from Eastern Europe arriving to help Fidel consolidate control. Loran saw countless kangaroo courts ending with a firing squad.
San Fuego told Loran that Fidel Castro had been a devoted Communist since 1945, and that he himself always disagreed with Fidel’s direction. So, San Fuego started his own movement, called La Sambra (the Shadow), to cleanse Cuba of Communists, and he invited Loran Hall to join. Loran joined. One day, as they were recruiting and training at local farms, Loran was arrested as a ‘counter-revolutionary’ and thrown into prison where he was severely maltreated.
San Fuego helped Loran to escape and fly back to the US under a false name. When Loran arrived, the CIA and FBI immediately debriefed him, and pressured Loran Hall to remain loyal to White House policies on Cuba. This was about the time when Loran became suspicious that Washington DC was really run by Communists, and they had deliberately manipulated Cuba to fall into Communist hands. This was the generic, radical right-wing belief of the year.
Back in the US, Loran Hall spoke frequently before the JBS to raise funds for Cuba raid paramilitary groups such as La Sambra, and Interpen and other Cuba raid groups then training outside New Orleans and Miami.
Harry personally identified with Loran Hall because they had both served Fidel Castro and then they had both turned against Fidel Castro. (Thanks to Harry Dean, one variation of Loran’s motivational speeches is now available on YouTube, at this URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6daWtQYlydQ )
RIGHT-WING SPEAKER – GUY GABALDON
Guy (Gabby) Gabaldon was one of Harry’s favorite Birchers. A native of East Lost Angeles, Gabby learned some Japanese on the street, and he used this in Saipan during World War 2 when he single-handedly convinced over a thousand Japanese soldiers to surrender to him personally – all without violence! For this he was awarded the Silver Star (later upgraded to the Navy Cross). He was featured on the TV show, This Is Your Life. YouTube features this brief summary of Gabby’s Saipan adventure:
Gabby’s life story became a feature film, namely, Hell to Eternity (1961), starring Jeffrey Hunter and David Janssen. (Harry still loves this movie.)
Gabby retold how he first clashed with JFK and RFK in 1961. Bursting with pride over his successful movie promotion tours, Gabby was shocked by local L.A. news footage of anti-Castro Cubans in Los Angeles, who wanted revenge for the Bay of Pigs. The next day, he drove out to speak (in Spanish) with these Cubans when suddenly a TV crew drove up to interview them. Gabby volunteered to act as interpreter. As that TV interview drew to a close, Gabby passionately called for a thousand volunteers to come to Los Angeles to follow him to Cuba to personally teach Fidel Castro a lesson!
The next day Gabby was flooded with letters from local US military veterans who offered to volunteer. One of the first volunteers was Larry Howard, a Chicano ex-Marine from East Los Angeles who loved the film, Hell to Eternity, and he vowed to follow Gabby anywhere.
Gabby hired a secretary to help him keep track of more than a thousand applicants – veterans from every branch of the US Military; artillery, demolition, translation, intelligence – freedom fighters with every skill. One freedom fighter was Loran Hall himself – fresh from a Cuban jail cell. Soon Gabby assembled a small, informal army to fight Fidel Castro.
Loran Hall and Larry Howard teamed up as Gabby’s champions. Yet, in only a few more days, the FBI contacted Gabby with a message from RFK to “cease and desist,” ordering Gabby to disband his volunteer army. Gabby was furious. The only reason that RFK would do such a thing was that he must be a Communist!
Soon, Gabby would join the JBS as a fixture. The Pasadena JBS adopted Guy Gabaldon as their local hero. Harry Dean was extremely impressed by Guy Gabaldon.
RIGHT-WING SPEAKER – EX-GENERAL WALKER
The speeches of ex-General Walker were perhaps the most moving of all. Walker was once a dupe of Ike in 1957 when he led Federal Troops in support of the Supreme Court decision to racially integrate Little Rock High School in Arkansas. Walker commanded those Troops for nearly two years. By late 1959, however, Walker “learned” from the JBS that Ike was a Communist, so he submitted his resignation from the US Army. Instead, Ike gave Walker a command over ten thousand troops in Augsburg, Germany, guarding the Berlin Wall. Walker took the job.
Once in Germany, Walker set up a Troop education program (Pro-Blue) on the model of a JBS cell, to instruct his ten thousand troops that FDR, Truman, Ike, and JFK were the realCommunists! After 17 months of this nonsense, the Pentagon under JFK removed Walker from his post, and reassigned him to a desk job. Walker then submitted his resignation a second time in late 1961 – and this time the US President accepted it.
Walker immediately began his own political speaking career in Dallas, slamming JFK and RFK to adoring crowds. Walker convinced his audiences that without his Pro-Blue program, the US military couldn’t even define the Cold War enemy. That played in favor of the Communists – and that was the plot. Walker’s dismissal was proof of the plot.
All that made sense to Walker – and to the members of the JBS. The JBS concluded that the Communists were the ones who were really in charge of America – so powerful that they controlled the Pentagon. Walker echoed Robert Welch – we were at war! We were already infiltrated! We were losing!
The JBS compared General Walker with General MacArthur who had been fired by President Harry Truman – another Communist dupe. This was treason! There can be no co-existence on the battlefield! Walker agreed with Loran Hall – Washington DC actually helped Fidel Castro attain a Communist dictatorship in Cuba! Walker agreed with Guy Gabaldon – RFK showed his Communist stripes by shutting down all Cuba raider groups.
The stage was set. Harry Dean was now secure in his new Rightist orientation.
HARRY DEAN, GUY GABALDON AND LORAN HALL IN THE SUMMER OF 1962
By the middle of 1962 Harry had a whole new lease on life. He was a committed member of the JBS. He subscribed to their Members Monthly Bulletin and he endeavored to read every issue. He attended every JBS speech and public gathering that he could. He heard all the top speakers and he made many friends in his many activities with the JBS in Southern California.
Further, Harry continued to volunteer information to the Los Angeles FBI about any suspicious Cuban activity that he saw in Los Angeles. He became a local officer in the local Republican Party before moving to rural San Gabriel Valley in the summer of 1962. Harry had arguably redeemed himself as a US patriot, even after the Cuban confusion of 1960.
Settling into Rowland Heights (an unincorporated area East of La Puente) Harry learned that his house was close to the El Monte home of Guy Gabaldon. Harry introduced himself to his new neighbor, and Gabaldon invited Harry to call him Gabby, as his friends called him.
Gabby was friendly, open, and he told Harry a lot about himself right away, e.g. he hoped to become a Republican Congressman in his district, running mainly on his Anticommunist views, on his Navy Cross Medal, his TV appearances and the movie, Hell to Eternity (1961). They became pals.
Gabby and his wife June often invited Harry and Millie to their house for dinner. Millie and June both had East European backgrounds and they got along well, talking in the kitchen about family and children after dinner, as Harry and Gabby spoke about his Saipan memorabilia and memories. Harry and Gabby also talked seriously about the threat of Communism taking over the USA.
Soon Harry admitted to Gabby that, just like Loran Hall, he had experiences with Castro and Cuba. Harry confessed that he’d been a former Fidel supporter, a member of the 26th of July Movement and a Secretary of the FPCC. Harry told Gabby that he sought revenge against Fidel for terrorizing him personally, and for making his family life impossible in Chicago.
Next it was Gabby’s turn to share a secret.
Gabby confessed that after RFK had shut down his volunteer army of Cuba raiders in 1961, Gabby started an organization in Mexico City named: Drive Against Communism (DAC). DAC would support any raid on Cuba that presented itself. Gabby said that Loran Hall and Larry Howard had become his close, personal friends, tirelessly raising funds for endless raids on Communist Cuba.
After that, Gabby invited Harry to his home when Loran and Larry were there. They showed Harry their secret operation. They would go around the Los Angeles basin, visiting JBS members to solicit funds and supplies for Cuba raid groups training in Florida and Louisiana. They stoked rumors of a new Bay of Pigs operation.
They collected lots of supplies – military and medical – and they stored them in Gabby’s garage. When his garage became full, they would load up a trailer of these paramilitary supplies, and Loran and Larry would haul them to New Orleans to donate half of them, and then to Miami to donate the other half.
They invited Harry to help. Harry, being able-bodied and familiar with military equipment, helped them load their trailer for their regular cross-country trips. Harry reveled in the brotherhood of his new companions – these honorable men. Then in August 1962 his son York was born. Again, Harry felt on top of the world – he was inside again.
TROUBLE FOR GENERAL WALKER – SEPTEMBER 1962
September 1962 was a strange month. Harry and Gabby had heard rumors that Fidel Castro was building nuclear missile sites in Cuba. This was deeply distressing to all members of the JBS. But, to confuse matters, a Black American, US Air Force veteran James Meredith, applied to attend the all-white Mississippi State University, “Ole Miss.” Meredith, to many, was a pawn of the NAACP to make trouble. Yet the State Supreme Court ruled for the NAACP to force Ole Miss to admit Meredith.
Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett promised his State that a Black American would never set foot upon his all-white University. Barnett received wildly cheering crowds, but since the US President had to enforce the Law as written, JFK announced in September 1962 that he would, if necessary, send Federal troops into Mississippi the way that President Eisenhower had sent Federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.
Although this was mildly interest to some JBS members – it was all-important for ex-General Walker, because Walker was the very General that Ike had assigned to use Federal Troops to racially integrate Little Rock High School! Yet a favorite slogan of the JBS was, “Impeach Earl Warren,” whose Supreme Court Brown Decision to racially integrate all US public schools was suspected of being a Communist plot to weaken America.
Although the JBS joined segregationists here, the JBS argued that it was really about States Rights; not about race. According to the JBS, the Communists financed the Civil Rights movement, the NAACP and the Brown Decision, in order to divide and conquer America. For ex-General Walker here was his chance to redeem himself from his Little Rock legacy.
So, on Wednesday, September 26, 1962 Walker rushed to publish his “Open Letter to President Kennedy.” As we saw weeks ago, that letter mentioned Cuba eight times and Mississippi only once. He called the Joint Chiefs “our highest military tribunal” while addressing US President!
He claimed that State Department actions were “completely incompatible with military judgment,” suggesting that the US Military should be making the decisions, not civilians. He insulted JFK by calling America, “the laughingstock of the world!” When finally writing about JFK’s plans for Ole Miss, Walker said they were “in purpose with the enthronement and escalation of Moscow’s Cuba.” This was a public accusation of treason.
Yet that was only the beginning. That same evening, from radio station KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana, Walker broadcasted the following call to action:
Mississippi: It is time to move! We have talked, listened, and been pushed around far too much by the anti-Christ Supreme Court! Rise to a stand beside Governor Ross Barnett at Jackson Mississippi! Now is the time to be heard! Thousands strong from every State in the Union! Rally to the cause of freedom! The Battle Cry of the Republic! Barnett yes! Castro no! Bring your flag, your tent and your skillet! It’s now or never!
That impressive call to arms inspired JBS youths and other militants from all over America to drive to Jackson Mississippi. Walker added his personal confession:
The time is when the President of the United States commits or uses any troops, Federal or State, in Mississippi. The last time in such a situation I was on the wrong side. That was in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957-1958. This time – out of uniform – I am on the right side! I will be there!
The American Press flocked to interview General Walker. The Associated Press and the New York Times asked Walker if he expected his volunteers to bring arms. Walker replied, “That’s up to them!” When citizens called Walker telephone hotline in Dallas, they heard this recorded message:
“Patriots will gather at Jackson, Mississippi by Sunday in order to arrive in Oxford by Monday morning…Someone stood at Concord!”
That was an obvious reference to the American Revolution of 1776 which started in Concord with its “shot heard around the world.”
On Friday, September 28, 1962, CBS television showed a 30-minute special program, entitled, The US vs. Mississippi, which described the crisis as an example of “Federal authority versus the sovereignty claimed by the State government.”
Dallas TV station KRLD interviewed Walker live. Asked about his plans in Mississippi, Walker replied that he planned to monitor the actions of Washington, DC, to enforce racial integration by forcing Meredith into Ole Miss – which was Unconstitutional, he claimed.
Asked if he expected any court action against him, Walker replied, “certainly not.” Asked what he would do if Meredith tried to enter Ole Miss on Monday, Walker responded that if Federal troops are used, he expects thousands of protesters from all over the USA to be there to support Governor Barnett.
On Saturday, September 29, 1962, Walker and Robert Alan Surrey took a private plane from Dallas to Jackson, Mississippi. In the afternoon Walker held a Press conference at the Sun-n-Sand Motel there. He read a prepared statement using familiar Bircher language:
Rally to the cause of freedom in righteous indignation, violent vocal protest and bitter silence under the flag of Mississippi! We call for a national protest against the conspiracy from within!
Walker said that he expected a mass of protesters to arrive in Oxford on Sunday. Asked if he advocated violence, Walker replied:
Any violence or bloodshed in Mississippi…would only be initiated by the Federal government.
Early morning on Sunday 30 September 1962 Walker surveyed the Ole Miss campus, which was all quiet. That afternoon he held another press conference to offer his final justification for his actions, saying:
It all began with the 14th Amendment in 1868, which reversed the Dred Scott vs. Sandford ruling of 1857 which held that blacks could not be US citizens…Its Due Process clause and Equal Protection clauses were the basis for the Supreme Court’s miserable Brown vs. Board of Education Decision of 1954 that started all the trouble at Little Rock and Ole Miss…But the 14th Amendment does not call for racial integration! It is a matter of Constitutional interpretation…I call for support for Governor Barnett, and for patience in waiting for the thousands of protestors on their way to Oxford as I speak.
That weekend was burned into the memory of each Bircher who observed it. All weekend long Harry, Gabby, Loran and Larry shared whatever news they heard, and they agreed that anybody who opposed ex-General Walker had to be a Communist.
Harry Dean never had a racist bone in his body. But this wasn’t about racism to Harry – it was about States Rights – just as Walker had proclaimed. Communists wanted to weaken America by dividing it – while the JBS wanted to strengthen America by unifying it under one flag. Barnett yes! Castro no! Gabby was especially vocal. It really appeared to them that the US Civil Rights movement was being controlled by Moscow.
That night at Ole Miss the protests turned into riots where hundreds were wounded and two were killed. That was JFK’s fault, said the JBS, not Walker’s. Even worse, on the morning of Monday, October 1, 1962, JFK and RFK had General Walker arrested and thrown into an insane asylum for a ninety-day evaluation!
Not a jail cell, but an insane asylum! This was how the Russian Communists treated their citizens – lock up all political opposition in insane asylums! Maybe electroshock treatment! Maybe a secret lobotomy! Naturally, red-blooded Americans would never stand for it, so, in less than five days Walker was released.
The JBS remained dissatisfied, however, because JFK would still prosecute Walker with the following charges:
(1) Assaulting, resisting, or impeding US marshals
(2) Conspiring to prevent discharge of duties
(3) Inciting, assisting, and engaging in insurrection against the authority of the USA
(4) Conspiring to oppose by force the execution of any law of the United States.
Hogwash! This was about America versus the Communists! The JBS in one voice defended ex-General Walker as completely innocent of all charges! They expected vindication! Harry went along with the JBS on this matter – in for a penny. . . He didn’t realize that the JBS was on a collision course with a US President.
In our next post we’ll continue our biography of Harry Dean with his decision to join the Minutemen in Southern California.