[Photo: Michael Paine at Dallas Police Headquarters.]
One of the most interesting challenges posed to Michael Paine by the attorneys of the Warren Commission (hereafter WC) was to explain how Lee Harvey Oswald (hereafter LHO) could store his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle there in Paine’s garage for nearly two months, without Michael being aware of it.
The first explanation is that Michael Paine was separated from Ruth, who lived at that address. Still, Michael Paine visited his small children several times weekly, and he still used the family garage. Here’s a snippet from his WC testimony:
Mr. LIEBELER: Now, did you ever have occasion to go into the garage for any reason, toward the end of September after your wife had returned?
Mr. PAINE: Yes…I still had a number of things there, and my tools were there.
Mr. LIEBELER: And you used the tools from time to time?
Mr. PAINE: Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER: How often would you visit your wife during the period that you were separated particularly during the period of September-October? (1963)
Mr. PAINE: Well, as I say it was 2 nights a week, 2 evenings a week was a regular thing, and I would frequently come around weekends. The garage had been my shop, with my tools that I occasionally used, and I would stop by on weekends, on Sunday anyways, Friday for sure, Sunday maybe; more generally on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
So, the question remains open. How could Michael be unaware that LHO kept his rifle in the Paine garage since Michael entered this garage so many times weekly?
Before we tackle that knotty problem, however, let’s finish tracing the March 1964 testimony of Michael Paine to the WC. We had previously arrived at October 1963 – the second time that Michael came into close contact with LHO.
Here’s the situation as of October 1963. Michael Paine had not seen the Oswalds since April 1963 – over six months previous, because the Oswalds had been living in New Orleans all that time. Ruth knew that Marina Oswald was pregnant, and by September 1963, Marina was now eight months pregnant, while LHO had lost his third job in the past year. Marina had received no prenatal attention and had no health insurance.
Ruth Paine asked LHO if it would be all right if Marina could move into her own home in Irving, Texas (near Dallas) to have the help of another woman who could speak Russian. Marina could then register at Parkland Hospital in Dallas to have her baby there. LHO quickly agreed. So, Ruth drove Marina and baby June from New Orleans to Texas on September 23, 1963.
As Ruth drove away, LHO told Ruth that he was going to Houston to seek work there. Marina lived with Ruth for about one week before Lee called up on October 4, 1963 to announce that he was now in Dallas, having failed to find work. (As Marina later testified, LHO never went to Houston as he claimed, but secretly to Mexico City – not to seek work but to pursue a political agenda – which also fizzled for him.)
Getting back to Michael – whatever conversations Michael had with LHO in April had been interrupted until the first weekend in October 1963. Michael’s conversations with LHO resumed because LHO would visit Marina at Ruth Paine’s house on weekends and sleep overnight on Fridays and Saturdays. As he testified, Michael Paine would also visit his small children at Ruth’s home on weekends.
This is important –nearly every weekend starting in October 1963 until the weekend of the JFK assassination, Michael Paine had a direct contact with LHO. Actually, Michael and spoke often, as we will hear from Michael himself. For example, Michael wanted to know how much LHO was earning at TSBD, because he knew that his own mother-in-law was coming to live with Ruth in only four more months, and the Oswalds needed to be out of the house by then.
Although LHO never mentioned the FBI to Michael, still Michael knew that LHO despised the FBI by his reactions after James Hosty had come to Ruth’s house. Michael also saw that LHO never spent a nickel of his own money – LHO never gave Ruth any money for anything – including all the meals that he ate at Ruth’s place during those weekends. Michael knew what LHO had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Ruth’s home. Nor did LHO give Marina any money during this period.
Also, since some of Michael’s mail still came to his Irving address, the Paines would need to sort out their mail from Lee Oswald’s. That’s how Michael knew that LHO received The Daily Worker newspaper and The Militant newspaper through the mail. Michael and LHO would have discussions about these periodicals. For example:
Mr. LIEBELER: Did you ever have any discussion with Oswald about these periodicals?
Mr. PAINE: Yes. He gave me the Worker to look at in our conversation. He told me if you knew how to ‘read it between the lines’ then you could see what they wanted you to do…
Mr. LIEBELER: Did you ask him what he meant by that remark?
Mr. PAINE: No; I didn’t. I thought to myself, here is a person who is isolated, if this is the way he gets his communications from headquarters. I sort of smiled to myself when he said this.
Mr. LIEBELER: Why?
Mr. PAINE: What it said about him. It suggested to me that he wanted to be a part of a group that had objectives – an activist of some sort. And he wasn’t aware of the basics – how to belong…
In addition to this, Michael Paine and LHO would go to various political meetings together in downtown Dallas. Two dates come to mind. The first date was the US Day rally on Wednesday, October 23rd, organized by General Walker downtown at the Dallas Memorial Stadium. Since this was not a weekend, Michael had to dive to LHO’s rooming house in Oak Cliff to give LHO a ride to that rally. Michael claimed that he himself did not attend that rally because he attended a separate meeting in downtown Dallas led by the John Birch Society (JBS).
Michael was not a member of the JBS, but he was savvy enough to know that General Walker was a member. Obviously on that night, both LHO and Michael were researching General Walker and the extremist Right Wing in Dallas – not looking to join them. As history shows, the very next night, Thursday, October 24, 1963, at the very same stadium, Adlai Stevenson was humiliated in Dallas by Walker’s whipped up crowd.
The second date that comes to mind is Friday, October 25, 1963, when LHO and Michael attended an ACLU meeting in downtown Dallas. This was a weekend meeting, so LHO was at Ruth Paine’s house, and Michael Paine drove LHO from Ruth’s home to the ACLU event, and then back to Ruth’s home at the end. In any case, during that ACLU lecture, LHO raised his hand to report to those gathered various alarming things that he heard General Walker say two nights before. Also, during the social hour afterwards, LHO mingled enthusiastically and spoke with others about the good job that JFK was doing on Civil Rights. LHO also said more:
Mr. PAINE: …Another time at the ACLU…Lee thought [a person] was a Communist, because of how he received Lee’s words about Castro. I thought that was a feeble explanation of a Communist. How isolated, I thought, if that is the way he has to find his fellow travelers.
Mr. LIEBELER: When he made this remark about the person at the ACLU meeting being a Communist – was it a desire to meet this person, or in the pejorative sense?
Mr. PAINE: I had the impression that he hoped to meet him again.
LHO had said words supporting Castro at that event, and one other person there agreed. Yet LHO wanted Michael to explain the agreement – was this a sign that the other person was a Communist? This showed just how isolated LHO really was from genuine activists. Clearly, LHO was not a member of any political group, concluded Michael. LHO was at best a rank beginner in politics.
Also, Michael testified that LHO spoke to him about George and Jeanne De Mohrenschildt. Michael held back all details, yet as we’ve seen, that topic ran deep.
NOVEMBER 1963 – THE NOTORIOUS FBI:
November began with bad news for LHO. Dallas FBI agent James Hosty visited Ruth Paine on Friday, November 1, 1963, asking questions about LHO’s whereabouts. Hosty claimed that he was there for a routine check on Marina Oswald, who was a foreign national. Ruth said that Marina was napping with her children at present, as she had just had a baby the week before. Hosty said but he wouldn’t disturb her now; he just wanted to know where LHO was living and working.
Ruth was a conservative citizen who honored authority, and this was the FBI. So, Ruth told Hosty everything she knew. LHO didn’t live there; he had his own room in Dallas somewhere in Oak Cliff. She didn’t know the exact address. Ruth also told Hosty that LHO was working at the Texas School Book Depository, and she used her telephone book to get the address for Hosty.
Ruth told Hosty that he was welcome to return on the weekend, because LHO would stay at her house on weekends, and Hosty could speak with LHO himself. That’s all Hosty wanted to know for that visit, and he said he would return in a few days to speak with Marina. He asked Ruth kindly to let Marina know.
After Marina awoke from her afternoon nap, Ruth told Marina that the FBI had come asking about LHO, so she told the FBI everything that she knew. She expected Marina to be approve of that, but Marina reacted badly, telling Ruth to mind her own business. That evening, after young Wesley Buell drove LHO to Ruth Paine’s home after work, Ruth told LHO everything about the FBI visit. LHO was displeased, and he ordered Marina to get the name, phone number, and vehicle license plate number of this FBI agent next time Hosty came to visit! Here’s what Michael Paine remembered:
Mr. LIEBELER: His feeling about the FBI?
Mr. PAINE: I talked with Ruth about his abuse of the FBI there. Ruth told me that the FBI had visited her twice, and Marina told Lee, who resented it.
Hosty and his agent trainee came to visit Marina Oswald on Tuesday, November 5, 1963. Hosty initially spoke with Ruth. Ruth called back to Marina who was still in the bedroom with her babies, and Ruth spoke with Hosty and his trainee at the door. In a few minutes Marina came out of the bedroom to speak with Hosty with Ruth as interpreter. What Marina didn’t say, however, was that she had just sneaked out of the side window, wrote down the license number of Hosty’s FBI car, and then sneaked back in the side window. Now Marina approached the front door where Hosty and Ruth were conversing.
Hosty asked Ruth to tell Marina that he was not there to harm or harass Marina. He said that the FBI does not do that – the FBI protects people. Marina seemed to calm down at these words. Hosty then wrote down his name and phone number on a slip of paper and handed it to Ruth Paine, saying that they could call him anytime. Then he left. When LHO called Marina for his evening status report, Marina gave him the news – she had Hosty’s name, phone, and car license number, as instructed.
When LHO arrived on at Ruth’s on Friday, November 8, 1963, he quickly copied Hosty’s contact data into his personal phone book. As it happened, that weekend was a long Veterans day weekend, because Monday was Veterans Day. LHO behaved oddly. On Saturday, November 9th, He asked to borrow Ruth’s typewriter and he spent hours typing a letter, not letting anybody see what he was writing. Then he left his handwritten draft on Ruth’s typing table when he finished.
The draft lay on her table overnight. Finally, early the next morning, Ruth could no longer stand the mystery. She sped to her typing table and read what LHO wrote. It angered her. The letter was addressed to the Russian Embassy in Washington DC, and it criticized the FBI. Ruth respected the FBI. She decided to hand copy the letter and give her copy to the FBI the next time they came. All three versions of the letter are filed at NARA. The typed version is Commission Exhibit #15 – the last letter that LHO ever wrote, dated November 9th (postmarked November 12th) 1963. Here is the URL for those who need a reminder:
The very next Tuesday, when Michael came for dinner, Ruth showed him Oswald’s original note, and exclaimed that she was quite upset. The WC asked Michael about it:
Mr. LIEBELER: What did she say about Oswald and the FBI?
Mr. PAINE: She read this note which he had left on her desk about a day or so. He had written a rough draft in English which he left on her desk after he typed it. She copied the note, to show to the FBI. I read Lee’s original. I didn’t really absorb it, but he did write “the notorious FBI.” Ruth said it was all a lie – and she never heard him lie before. She believed he never went to Mexico as he said in this note.
I believe that Ruth told Michael the truth that morning. She was disoriented because no matter how rude LHO had been to her in the past – he never lied to her (to the best of her knowledge). Of course, he lied to her – and often if we count lies of omission. LHO’s description of his Mexico City weekend was by extension, another Big Lie, according to Ruth. How could LHO transform into such a liar?
After hand copying the letter, Ruth put it back precisely where she found it. Yet all through the next day and night, the letter remained on her typing table. Evidently LHO had forgotten about it. So, Ruth just slipped it into the typing table drawer. It was now hers.
On the following Tuesday, November 13th, Michael came for dinner with his family, and Ruth insisted on showing him Oswald’s letter and explained why she was so upset about it. The WC asked Michael about it:
Mr. LIEBELER: Let’s go back to this letter, when did Ruth first show you this letter, and I take it you are referring to a draft of a letter from Oswald to the Russian Embassy?
Mr. PAINE: I didn’t know who it was written to.
Mr. LIEBELER: But the letter referred to the notorious FBI?
Mr. PAINE: Yes; I didn’t think it was the Russian Embassy. I thought it was a friend to whom he was bragging about going down to the Cuban Consulate in Mexico, and they had not given him a visa. I thought it began, “Dear Lisa,” but later Ruth told me it had said, “Dear Sirs.”
Michael Paine testified that he himself wasn’t disturbed by the letter because he didn’t read it closely. The problem was that LHO had sloppy handwriting. Michael thought that greeting began, “Dear Lisa,” and he immediately presumed that LHO had a girlfriend and was boasting to her about a fictitious trip to Mexico.
Michael quickly returned the letter to Ruth and told her to mind her own business. The WC asked Michael about the episode:
Mr. LIEBELER: Did you have a discussion with her about this subject of Mexico?
Mr. PAINE: She thought it was a fiction. I was simply bored with it. So, we did not talk about it at the time. She took the letter and put it in an envelope; sort of irked that I didn’t look at it carefully.
Mr. LIEBELER: Did she tell you about any talks she had with Marina about Lee in Mexico?
Mr. PAINE: Ruth didn’t know about Mexico until after the JFK Assassination. So, Ruth later said she was irked that Marina had known and deceived her!
This letter would turn out to be a Rosetta Stone for LHO’s involvement with Guy Banister and his Fake FPCC in New Orleans. But at this point, Ruth and Michael Paine did not understand the significance of this letter that they held in their hands.
NOVEMBER 22, 1963
Fast forward ten days to the JFK assassination drama on November 22, 1963, following is our summary of what Michael Paine testified before the WC authorities.
At about 12:30 Michael Paine was eating lunch in a bowling alley with his co-worker Dave when their waitress told them that JFK had been shot. Michael thought it was a joke, so he went to listen to somebody’s transistor radio – and it was no joke. Michael and Dave hurried back to work where they had a normal radio.
At that time, they had heard only that JFK had been shot; there was no connection with LHO. Nor was there any news about the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD). Michael called Ruth immediately to ensure that she was watching and listening to the news.
At about 1 PM however, the radio news mentioned the TSBD, and Michael’s heart sunk. He mentioned to his co-worker Frank: “That’s where Lee works!” For the next half hour, Frank urged Michael to “report this to the FBI!”
Michael thought hard about it, but he decided against it. He told Frank that a hysterical mob would descend upon LHO if he reported that, and there was no hard evidence that LHO was the assassin. Frank finally accepted this explanation.
Michael did, of course, ponder the possibility that LHO was the assassin, but he didn’t see how killing JFK would help any Left-Wing causes that LHO said concerned him. So, Michael decided that it was unlikely that LHO was the assassin. Was LHO capable of such a thing? Michael testified that he saw no compassion in LHO. If killing JFK would have helped his causes, then yes, Michael thought that LHO was capable of killing JFK.
At around 2PM, the news named LHO as a suspect in the murder of Dallas Officer J.D. Tippit. Michael immediately connected LHO with the JFK Assassination at that point. LHO worked at the TSBD and was now arrested for a murder. Michael remembered what Frank had been urging him to do – call the FBI.
But by now Michael was certain that the FBI would soon descend upon Marina Oswald and Ruth Paine, so he decided to drive to Ruth’s home as fast as possible.
At about 3PM Michael arrived at Ruth Paine’s home in Irving, Texas. The Dallas Police investigators were already there, going through all property in all rooms, especially the garage. Michael spoke at length with Dallas Deputy Buddy Walthers about LHO. He told Walthers that LHO continually vouched for Marxism, but he (Michael) didn’t vouch for it.
At about 5PM, Ruth had already arranged for babysitters for her children, and the rest of her household piled into a Dallas Police car headed for the Police Station. Michael Paine followed in his own car. There at the Dallas Police Station, some FBI agents showed Michael a so-called Backyard Photograph of LHO holding a rifle and a pistol and two Marxist magazines. They asked Michael if he could identify the place where Lee was standing when he was holding this rifle. Yes, answered Michael, he could.
Michael quickly identified the place as 214 W. Neeley Street, because the house had an unusually small clapboard that caught Michael’s attention when he had visited the Oswalds back on April 4th. Aha! Now the WC attorneys began to concentrate intently on LHO’s rifle which Marina said had been stored at Ruth Paine’s garage. How is it possible that Michael Paine didn’t know about it? Here’s a part of that March 1964 testimony.
Mr. LIEBELER: I am going to unwrap the package with the rifle which was wrapped in the blanket, and I want to ask you if you had ever seen this rifle, CE 139, before?
Mr. PAINE: Not before the JFK Assassination. The first time I saw the rifle – I didn’t realize that he had a rifle…I knew he liked rifles because he spoke fondly of them in the Soviet Union although he regretted that he couldn’t own a rifle. I supposed that he still didn’t have one. So, I didn’t see any rifle until the night of the 22nd when Marina was shown a rifle in an adjoining cubicle – glass between us.
I see some problems with Michael Paine’s testimony here. After saying categorically that he “didn’t realize” that LHO had a rifle, he backpedaled a bit to explain that he might have guessed it. He claims, “I didn’t see any rifle until the night of the 22nd” meaning November 22, 1963. Michael possibly never laid eyes on the physical rifle, yet in 1993 Michael told CBS News anchor Dan Rather that he saw Oswald’s Backyard Photograph of LHO holding his rifle on April 4, 1963, when he drove to the Oswald’s Neely Street address to give them a ride to Ruth Paine’s home. (Well, maybe it was somebody else’s rifle, Michael probably rationalized.)
So we see that Michael Paine withheld facts from the WC attorneys despite his oath to tell “the whole truth.” Why? What was he hiding? We won’t propose here – as General Walker would – that Michael Paine was part of Communist conspiracy to assassinate JFK. Instead, we’ll propose that Michael Paine had been a reluctant part of a Liberal conspiracy to shoot General Walker back on April 10, 1963.
Volkmar Schmidt in would tell PBS reporters in 1995 that he certainly didn’t tell LHO to shoot Walker, but he did give LHO the idea that Walker was as bad as Hitler. That was virtually the position of George DeMohrenschildt (DM), who testified to the WC in April 1964 as follows:
Mr. De MOHRENSCHILDT. …I didn’t want him to shoot Walker. I don’t go to that extent you see.
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…
We will count Michael Paine along with Everett Glover, George DM, Volkmar Schmidt and other Dallas Liberals who were too timid to broadcast their stealthy opposition to General Walker. Yet we’re still not finished reviewing the WC testimony of Michael Paine. He was recalled twice by the WC attorneys.