I continue from notes of my interviews of Harry Dean over the past decade. We pick up the story in late October 1963. After talking with the FBI, Harry expected the Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon plot to attack JFK in November at the Dallas Trade Mart to fizzle. Harry had a front row seat.
WHILE WAITING FOR A FIZZLE IN OCTOBER 1963
As Halloween 1963 approached, Harry Dean was awaiting the day when JFK would visit Dallas. Either Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon would cancel their plot, or else they would foolishly attempt to carry out their plot at the Dallas Trade Mart, and they would all get arrested. In the latter case, Harry expected to be called as a witness in court. A witness, not a suspect, because of the information about the plot that he had volunteered to the Los Angeles FBI.
During these same days, Gabby was more irritable than usual. He was lost in thought – perhaps planning, perhaps worrying, but always puzzling. For example, perhaps the weekend before Halloween began, Gabby invited Harry to dinner – alone – at a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles. Millie was a little upset – she was accustomed to visiting the Gabaldon family at their home, with Harry and Gabby retiring to Gabby’s private office to talk about business. But Gabby insisted, so Millie relented, and Harry went downtown with Gabby for some tempura and sake on a Friday evening.
When Harry arrived at the restaurant, he saw Gabby waiting at a table, but Harry was surprised to see two lovely Japanese ladies – strangers – sitting with Gabby. Gabby introduced everyone and told Harry that both ladies were also airplane pilots. That was very unusual, so Harry wondered what was going on. The ladies greeted Harry politely in English, although in general they spoke only Japanese to each other and to Gabby. Harry was the odd man out.
When their waitress came to their table to take their order, Gabby spoke to her in Japanese, too. The four of them laughed together, speaking Japanese, and all three Japanese ladies teased Gabby in Japanese. Harry could tell that this pleased Gabby, so Harry smiled politely, although he didn’t understand a single word, and everybody knew it. Suddenly, Gabby handed the waitress a camera and asked her to take photographs of the party.
Harry was now uncomfortable – he didn’t know there’d be ladies at their table, and Millie might see these pictures and imagine the worst. Matters became more confusing when Gabby spoke to the waitress in
Japanese, and she suddenly focused only on Harry’s face from different angles. What was going on? Then she took photographs of Harry with one Japanese lady, and then with the other, and then with both.
Harry repeatedly asked Gabby what was going on, but Gabby never answered; he just kept speaking in Japanese to everybody else. Just as suddenly, the photographs were done, the waitress handed the camera back to Gabby, left the table, and then the two ladies arose, politely excused themselves and left the restaurant. Gabby and Harry were now alone.
Harry was really confused. He asked Gabby to explain what just happened. Why all these photographs? Why so many of Harry himself. Why photos with Harry and these ladies? Why did the ladies suddenly leave?
Gabby told Harry to calm down. Harry objected. He was concerned for his marriage, because if Millie ever saw one of those photographs, she might take the kids and move back with her mother (which she had done before).
Gabby calmly asked Harry to calm down and to remember their discussions about Harry being his co-pilot to Mexico City one day. Harry calmed down and remembered. Well, said Gabby, it’s going to happen tomorrow, Saturday, because Gabby had already made all the arrangements! Harry smiled meekly because it was clear that Gabby was in no mood for reality.
Harry was still worried about the photographs and concerned about Gabby’s evasions. Gabby had never done anything like this before. This wasn’t normal behavior for Gabby. Anyway, when Saturday rolled around, Harry deliberately stood him up. Served him right, Harry thought.
Later, Harry Dean will find a reason to look back upon this night and tremble. Yet for the time being, Gabby’s behavior was only a minor irritation.
THE JFK ASSASSINATION
On Friday, November 22, 1963, Harry was on a crew plastering walls at a Los Angeles home construction site. It was about time for their coffee break when suddenly the radio waves were filled with the news that JFK had been shot. At first Harry thought – wow, the American people are really pushing back! After JFK gets out of the hospital, he might reconsider his “soft on Communism” policies. Maybe the US will invade Cuba, depose Fidel, and the whole world could get back to normal! Harry wasn’t worried about JFK at first.
About an hour later, however, the radio news announced that JFK was dead. Now the mood all over America became somber as the majority of citizens went into mourning. Harry was stunned. Another hour later, the radio announced that Dallas police had arrested a suspected shooter – his name was Lee Harvey Oswald.
Lee Harvey Oswald? Lee Harvey Oswald?!
Now Harry felt weak and he had to sit down. His head began to spin. Everything that had happened in the past 12 weeks came rushing into his mind. Harry could hear echoes of the voices of resigned General Walker, saying, “Lee Harvey Oswald.” It seemed like a nightmare.
Soon LHO’s face and name were broadcast on every TV station, radio and newsstand in Los Angeles day and night. One could go into any coffee shop and would hear multiple conversations about LHO. Harry felt terrible that he himself might have been a party to a first-degree murder – and treason. Harry worried that his own associates might have deliberately murdered JFK, lying in wait.
If so, Harry was sure that his role would be exonerated because he’d warned FBI agent Wesley Grapp well in advance. Yet Grapp hadn’t believed Harry, and he regarded Walker, Rousselot, and Gabaldon as amateurs. Well, what if they weren’t? An FBI investigation was certainly in order, according to Harry Dean.
It was likely, thought Harry, that the Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon plot was no populist political ploy to embarrass JFK – it was a genuine crime. Harry – to the best of his knowledge – knew all the players in this crime. Harry believed that he was correct because of what he heard with his own ears.
Harry told himself repeatedly over 1963 that all the JBS and Minutemen name-calling was just a political strategy. The JBS called Liberals ‘communist sympathizers,’ he had believed, only to convince the public to quickly replace all Liberals in office with Conservatives. Harry always believed this.
Now, however, Harry could not shake the feeling that his friends were guilty of a great crime. He could not shake his guilt of association with that crime. Harry now feared his friends – they weren’t really Constitutional. Anybody who commits murder for political power has no rational limits.
What was going on? Were Walker, Rousselot, and Gabaldon trying to seize America by force like common dictators? Harry worried endlessly over this terrible situation. He could hardly sleep at night as he kept recalling all the events. Maybe JFK had so many enemies that anybody could have shot him. Besides, Harry heard with his own ears that Gabby designed his plot for the Dallas Trade Mart, not Dealey Plaza!
So, maybe somebody else killed JFK, not Walker-Rousselot-Gabby. That would be a big relief! But his doubts kept rising: why would any group also name LHO as their scapegoat? The odds were way too slim. The name of Lee Harvey Oswald was solid evidence that Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon sat in the center of this plot.
The Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon plot very specifically named LHO; it was a unique plot, an ultra-secret plot known only to a handful of people. Harry had been at its planning meeting. It didn’t matter that Harry had laughed at the plot 12 weeks ago. It didn’t matter that Harry had reported it in detail to the FBI. All that mattered today was the plot was carried out on the international stage – and Harry believed that he knew the assassins – his very own friends!
LEE HARVEY OSWALD IS MURDERED ON TV
Nobody in America expected the next shock. Only two days after the JFK Assassination, the world watched their televisions in horror as Jack Ruby used his 38-caliber Colt Cobra to murder a handcuffed LHO point blank. The world was stunned – but perhaps Harry Dean most of all. Harry remembered clearly that Walker had specifically named LHO as a defector and an officer in the FPCC, and that Walker intended to punish LHO severely for supporting Castro.
Could the killing of LHO be a part of Walker’s plan, too? Slow down. Hold your horses. Jack Ruby was a Dallas gangster, and Harry knew of no Ruby connections to Walker, Rousselot, Gabaldon, the JBS, or the Minutemen. Was Ruby telling the truth when said he did it to spare the feelings of Jackie Kennedy? Or that he did it as a spur of the moment impulse? Maybe there was no direct connection with the JFK plot that named LHO.
But maybe there was.
Harry could not shake his doubts and suspicions. The events that Harry witnessed in the past 12 weeks had plausible implications for the JFK Assassination and the silencing of LHO two days later. Harry knew the FBI had already pulled their Harry Dean file, and that he would hear from the FBI very soon. He was right; within the week, FBI agent Wesley Grapp called.
Grapp asked: “Harry, we need to review what you told me last month, so when are you free?”
Harry, eager to move on this, replied, “How about today?”
Grapp answered, “No, the FBI is swamped today. Here’s the plan; don’t call me; I’ll call you; just wait for me, Harry, OK?”
Harry replied, “Absolutely, Wes. You know where to find me.”
It was going to be a long wait.
WHILE WAITING FOR THE FBI
Like most adults in America, apparently, Harry gulped down every news article that he could find about JFK and LHO. He consumed news and rumors from NBC, CBS, ABC, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, Life, the National Enquirer – everything. Millie noticed Harry’s new obsession, but she had no solace because she had no clue what Harry was really going through.
Gabby and Loran had stopped calling Harry. Larry called Harry once; a ramble of complaints. Harry cut off connections with the JBS and the Minutemen. His world shrunk down to the size of his home and his job. His life now seemed like a surrealistic movie.
One ray of hope appeared in the media on Thursday, December 5, 1963, when newspapers reported that Marina Oswald had just yesterday told the FBI and Secret Service that LHO was the one who had tried to kill the resigned General Walker in his Dallas home back on April 10, 1963.
Marina Oswald had just named General Walker himself in connection with the JFK Assassination! Now the FBI would have to interview Walker directly – and maybe the FBI could dive deeper into Harry’s claims, and then figure everything out and bring Walker, Rousselot, and Gabaldon to justice. When the truth came out, Harry would be recognized as a whistle-blower. After that, he would avoid all radical politics forever, and all the chaos would finally be behind him.
In the meantime, somebody had to mourn JFK. Somebody had to mourn LHO – a scapegoat. Harry flew to Fort Worth, Texas to place flowers on LHO’s grave to express remorse. He planned to do it every year.
Harry waited for the FBI to dive into the case of General Walker – but it didn’t happen that way. As the daily news had spun Marina’s revelation, here was more evidence that LHO was a homicidal maniac. The news was now certain that LHO as a lone nut who would assassinate anybody – an ultra-liberal President or an ultra-conservative General.
This wasn’t the result that Harry had hoped for. It was almost the opposite of what Harry had hoped for. Harry had a strong opinion that LHO was innocent; LHO was not the perpetrator of the JFK Assassination. Harry knew who was. The FBI only had to look closer into the resigned General Walker, thought Harry.
The newly formed Warren Commission might also bring Walker into the limelight. Harry at one point expected to be called to testify before the Warren Commission, and he looked forward to telling his side of the story. The words that the resigned General Walker had spoken at Rousselot’s office only three months ago rang like a prophecy.
THE JANUARY 1964 FBI INTERVIEW
Finally, in January 1964, Wesley Grapp finally called on Harry through the aegis of the Los Angeles FBI. Grapp wished to carefully review Harry’s volunteer reports of October 1963 regarding Minutemen activity in Southern California. Grapp drove out to Harry’s wooded home in Rowland Heights and Harry entered his car. They drove away. Grapp needed to review the FBI report that Harry had volunteered back in October, to ensure that Harry had nothing further to add.
Grapp and Harry drove around to cover the locations that Harry had spoken about – verifying honesty, perhaps, and also to test whether Harry might change his story at all.
They visited the Los Angeles County JBS meeting places in El Monte, Pasadena, and Monterey Park. They visited Minutemen rally locations in Riverside County, like Temecula and Hemet. They drove by Gabby’s house and by the homes of all the JBS members that Harry had spoken about. They drove for hours and stopped a few times for coffee so that Grapp could organize his notes.
At the end of the tour, Harry Dean and Wesley Grapp had a conversation that went something like this:
Harry asked, “What do you think, Wes?”
Grapp replied, “I’ll be frank, Harry – the Bureau has other leads that we like better than yours. Many agents see Oswald as a Fidel-lover who killed JFK because of all the raids on Cuba. The Director leans this way, too. The facts suggest it. Some agents believe that Fidel wanted revenge on JFK for all the CIA attempts on his life. All we really have is an open and shut case that Lee Oswald was the shooter. It looks like he acted out of revenge for Fidel – yet regardless of the motive, Oswald did it.”
Wanting more of Grapp’s opinion, Harry asked: “What about Loran Hall or Larry Howard? Isn’t it possible that they were the shooters?”
Grapp replied, “There’s no evidence, Harry. The Bureau says the shots came from the 6th floor of the Book Depository. The Bureau says that we’ve accounted for everybody in the building. So, there’s no room for your guys. Anyway, Harry, I’ve already told you too much. Please keep all of this purely confidential.”
“Of course, Wes,” Harry agreed; and then he added, “but what about Mexico City?”
Grapp snapped back, “Mexico Schmexico! We have no evidence! Nobody at the Bureau believes that part of your story, Harry! My job today was to confirm that you didn’t deliberately lie last October. You passed the test; you stuck to your story, and that’s good – but I didn’t find anything today that would change anybody’s mind at the Bureau!”
“OK, Wes. Thanks for telling me,” said Harry, genuinely grateful.
Grapp concluded: “Sure, Harry. Anyway, if I need more from you, I’ll call you, OK? Contact me only if you and your family move away, OK?”
“OK,” said Harry.
Harry could plainly see that the FBI wasn’t listening to him. They wouldn’t dig any deeper into any Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon plot. Yet Harry felt convinced that he knew the JFK Assassins, and that he had to get his side of the story out in the open. So, Harry now pinned his hopes on Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and his new Commission. Maybe Earl Warren would dig deeper and expose the truth.
Although the FBI had rejected the story of Harry Dean, he couldn’t forget. Harry kept watching all the news and reading all the gossip about JFK and LHO month after month as the Warren Commission sped through 435 witnesses. Like many Americans, Harry was eager to read the Warren Report when it came out.
In our next post, we’ll explore what happened after Harry read the Warren Report.