[Photo: Ruth Paine and Marina Oswald, probably March 1963. Baby Chris Paine peers from behind]
In our last blog post, we analyzed the final letter written to the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC by Lee Harvey Oswald (hereafter LHO). We determined, along with Jim Garrison (1968) that LHO was deceiving the Soviet Embassy by claiming to be a Secretary of the FPCC. He was no such thing. This fact was already known to J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI ever since LHO had (oddly) first requested a visit from FBI at his New Orleans jail cell on Friday, August 9, 1963.
J. EDGAR HOOVER SPEAKS
Let’s briefly review J. Edgar Hoover’s testimony about LHO:
Mr. RANKIN. Now, in light of what happened. Mr. Hoover, I think the Commission would desire to have your comments or whatever you care to tell them, concerning the reasons why you did not furnish the information you had concerning Lee Harvey Oswald to the Secret Service prior to the time of the President's assassination.
Mr. HOOVER. …The difficulty he had at New Orleans. We were concerned there as to whether he was functioning officially for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee which was financed and supported by Castro and Castro's government. And if he was, where he obtained money and with whom he had dealt. He apparently had the leaflets printed himself on plain ordinary paper. There was no reason for us, then, to have any suspicion that he had any element of danger in him.
As Jim Garrison uncovered in 1968, the FPCC leaflets that LHO distributed in New Orleans in the summer of 1963 were not paid for by LHO, they were paid for by Guy Banister and his companions on the Radical Right. Neither LBJ nor J. Edgar Hoover could allow that fact to snowball into an international scandal. It was a national secret due to national security.
In any case, from Hoover’s perspective, LHO wasn’t connected directly with Fidel Castro (as Harry Dean was in early 1962). Hoover had a long list of genuine revolutionaries in the US, and LHO was not on that list – as far as Hoover was concerned.
That fact – that LHO was a phony Leftist, clearly exposes the situation that LHO was telling the Soviet Embassy a pile of lies. For example, on November 9, 1963, LHO told the Soviet Embassy that he had business with “Comrade Kostin” of the KGB at the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. He also implied that officials inside the Soviet Embassy knew all about it. The material evidence showed that all of this was untrue.
Marina testified that LHO planned to get into Cuba with that fake résumé which claimed that LHO was an activist Secretary of the FPCC. He had forced Marina to forge the name of Alek Hidell as one of his members, so she also knew from the start that this alleged FPCC branch was a fake. LHO had been planning to falsify his way into Cuba since at least August 1963. Let’s read from Marina’s first WC testimony on February 3, 1963.
Mr. RANKIN: From what you observed about his having the rifle on the back porch, in the dark, could you tell whether or not he was trying to practice with the telescopic lens?
Mrs. OSWALD: Yes. I asked him why. But this time he was preparing to go to Cuba.
Mr. RANKIN: That was his explanation for practicing with the rifle?
Mrs. OSWALD: Yes. He said that he would go to Cuba. I told him I was not going with him – that I would stay here.
Mr. RANKIN: On these occasions when he was practicing with the rifle, would they be three or four times a week in the evening, after the Fair Play for Cuba incident?
Mrs. OSWALD: Almost every evening. He very much wanted to go to Cuba and have the newspapers write that somebody had kidnaped an aircraft. And I asked him “For God sakes, don’t do such a thing.”
Mr. RANKIN: Did he describe that idea to you?
Mrs. OSWALD: Yes.
Mr. RANKIN: And when he told you of it, did he indicate that he wanted to be the one that would kidnap the airplane himself?
Mrs. OSWALD: Yes, he wanted to do that. And he asked me that I should help him with that. But I told him I would not touch that rifle. This sounds very amusing, but I am very much ashamed of it.
Marina dated this conversation with LHO in “August 1963”. Not only did LHO announce that he planned to get into Cuba, LHO also asked Marina to help him hijack an airplane to Cuba. Possibly this was intended as a Plan B, in case his fake FPCC résumé didn’t do the trick. Or perhaps LHO already had doubts about his fake FPCC résumé as early as August.
POLITICS OF THE AMATEUR LEFT
LHO was a self-styled Marxist reader – but he was never a genuine Marxist activist because he never joined any Marxist political Party. He had no personal friendships with anybody on the Radical Left, and his many letters to magazines on the Left were obviously amateur.
Also, LHO lied to the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC when he wrote to them that “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is not now interested in my activities in the progressive organization, Fair Play for Cuba Committee, of which I was the secretary in New Orleans…since I no longer reside in that state.” Just because a person moves to a new State in the US – that’s no reason for the FBI to close a case file – especially on a Secretary of the FPCC. So LHO didn’t care what he said to the Soviets – they were not important. LHO reached out to the ears of the FBI.
Ruth Paine got her first insight into LHO’s endless lies for the very first time on Sunday, November 10th, after she read LHO’s letter dated November 9th. Michael would see it first-hand on November 12th – just ten days before the JFK Assassination.
So let us move forward a mere ten days, to reflect on Michael, LHO, and the JFK Assassination.
JFK IS KILLED
Soon after JFK was shot in Dallas, Michael Paine quickly called Ruth from work to ensure that she was plugged in. Then he glued himself to the workplace radio like everybody else there. At first, Michael made no connection with LHO. At about 1pm, however, the radio news mentioned the TSBD, and Michael’s heart sunk. He openly exclaimed: “That’s where Lee works!” For the next half hour, his friend Frank Kristinik urged him to “report this to the FBI!”
Michael told Frank that if he called the FBI, the news would report it in minutes, and a hysterical mob would probably tear LHO apart. Besides, where is the material evidence? And where is the motive? Michael saw that killing JFK would have harmed all of the Left-wing causes that LHO had so often espoused. So, Michael concluded that LHO couldn’t be the assassin.
Now, LHO was capable of killing somebody in cold blood, because like any political fanatic he could be cold-blooded when it came to the Cause. Yet a dead JFK would have harmed all of LHO’s liberal causes, as Michael saw them. So, there was no motive, reasoned Michael.
Around 2 pm, when radio news finally named “Lee Harvey Oswald” as a suspect in the murder of Dallas Officer J.D. Tippit, Michael realized that by now the FBI was probably already at Ruth Paine’s house! So, Michael drove there as fast as he could.
DALLAS POLICE AND DEPUTIES
Before 3 pm Michael arrived at Ruth’s home, and several Dallas police and deputies were already there, sifting through all property in all rooms and the garage. Dallas Deputy Buddy Walthers stepped forward to interrogate Michael right away. Michael told Walthers that LHO continually advocated Marxism, but that he himself (Michael) didn’t advocate it. Buddy Walthers later described that conversation in that very sentence. Basically, so did Michael. We can justly conclude that their conversation was unremarkable.
At about 5PM, Ruth had arranged for babysitters for her children, and the rest of the household piled into a couple of police cars headed for the Dallas Police Station.
At the Dallas station, some FBI agents showed Michael a Backyard photograph of LHO holding his rifle, his pistol, and two Marxist magazines. They asked Michael if he could identify the place where Lee was standing when he made these photographs. Of course, said Michael, that was 214 W. Neeley Street. He remembered because that house had an unusually small clapboard that caught Michael’s attention when he’d visited the Oswalds back on April 4th.
OSWALD’S RIFLE IN MICHAEL’S HANDS
Now the WC attorneys closed in with a microscope. What about LHO’s rifle which Marina said had been stored in Ruth Paine’s garage wrapped in a blanket? How could Michael Paine avoid knowing about that rifle in his own garage? Here’s 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…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 problems with this testimony. Michael sputters and stutters here. “I knew he liked rifles because he spoke fondly of them in the Soviet Union.” The sentence was vague, which was unusual for Michael Paine, who usually spoke quite precisely. When did LHO speak fondly of rifles? We want to know. Because if it was on April 4, 1963, then Michael is telling us more about his first meeting with LHO, but in dribs and drabs.
Michael claims, “I didn’t see any rifle until the night of the 22nd,” that is, after JFK was assassinated. But that’s a crafty way of saying it, because seeing a rifle physically is different from seeing LHO’s rifle in LHO’s Backyard photograph. Yet in 1993 Michael told CBS News anchor Dan Rather and researcher Gus Russo that in early April 1963, six months before the assassination of JFK, Michael had seen Oswald’s Backyard photograph of himself holding his rifle, pistol, and two Marxist newspapers.
Notice how Michael wove around the details to portray himself at a far distance from LHO. I’m disturbed by this – it seems to me that Michael Paine held back facts from the WC attorneys despite his oath to tell “the whole truth.”
Michael Paine had to keep secret that he was a reluctant part of a local liberal conspiracy in Dallas to shoot General Walker back on April 10, 1963. One of the conspirators, Volkmar Schmidt, would tell PBS reporters in 1995 that he certainly did give LHO the idea that Walker was as bad as Hitler, although he himself was nonviolent. That was almost identical with the political position of George DM, who testified 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…
I count Michael Paine along with George DM, Volkmar Schmidt, Everett Glover, and their friends in Dallas who were too timid to take their strident opposition to General Walker to street protests, but not to timid to fill LHO’s amateur head with bizarre political concoctions.
WC TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL PAINE
From his WC testimony we saw that as October 1963 began, neither Michael nor Ruth had known that LHO had secretly sneaked his rifle into Ruth Paine’s garage. As weeks rolled on, Michael Paine would work in his garage, and even pick up LHO’s bundle a number of times, in order to move it out of his way. Michael testified that he guessed it was some sort of camping equipment – never a rifle.
Nevertheless, Michael Paine was connected more closely with LHO than he freely discussed. He began innocently enough – supporting Ruth’s efforts to help Marina Oswald obtain prenatal care at Parkland Hospital. Yet the cost was high – LHO would visit every weekend to see Marina and baby June, and eat and sleep there almost every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night – all free of charge.
Michael and Ruth discussed it – they could afford it, and they felt that LHO was safe. (Ruth never saw LHO strike Marina, or any of the black eyes about which the Dallas Russians had testified to the WC.) Ruth was so committed to Marina’s prenatal care that she agreed to support LHO every weekend in this way.
After a few weeks of this, Ruth wrote to her mother that LHO wasn’t such a bad guy after all. He was always kind and gentle with Marina while in her home. He played nicely with all the kids, and he did handy work around the house.
The WC attorneys changed gears. What about the humiliation of U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson in Dallas on October 24, 1963? Did LHO have anything to do with that?
Mr. LIEBELER: Did he tell you whether or not he was at the Stevenson meeting itself?
Mr. PAINE: …I didn’t ask him that.
Mr. LIEBELER: You have no recollection of his mentioning it at all?
Mr. PAINE: No, I don’t remember what – I think I assumed that he had.
Mr. LIEBELER: You assumed that he had been at the Stevenson affair?
Mr. PAINE: I think I assumed that.
Mr. LIEBELER: Do you have any basis for that assumption?
Mr. PAINE: There had been some discussion in the ACLU, some other people had gotten up and had spoken of that awful…previous night, that awful time, and I think he seemed to nod his assent…
Since he didn’t remember, we may propose that Michael Paine drove LHO to the rally downtown on Wednesday, October 23rd, at the Dallas Memorial Stadium, i.e., General Walker’s US Day rally.
GENERAL WALKER’S BOOBY-TRAP
No matter who drove him, we have plenty of eye-witness accounts of that rally. General Walker led perhaps 200 people to carefully plan the humiliation of Adlai Stevenson on the following night, Thursday, October 24th, at that very stadium. They would booby-trap it, hanging an enormous John Birch Society banner from the ceiling, rolled up, to unfurl at the most embarrassing moment.
Regardless of who drove him there, the broader question is about LHO observing those specific proceedings there, as described by journalists and historians of the era. The goal of the proceedings was to humiliate Adlai Stevenson tomorrow night. Anybody there, even LHO, could never have missed this.
However, Michael then testified that he had driven LHO to an ACLU meeting in downtown Dallas, the next night, Friday, October 25th. At that ACLU meeting, said Michael, LHO reported on the anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic remarks with regard to General Walker’s speech. Yet LHO never said a word about booby-trapping the auditorium, which was perhaps the main business of that rally.
Beyond the fact that Michael himself minimized the events of the 4th week of October, I ask how LHO could deceive Michael Paine so easily. Michael presumed that LHO told that Dallas ACLU gathering the truth about what happened at General Walker’s US Day rally. Yet it appears, on the contrary, that LHO withheld the key event of General Walker’s rally.
FBI EXPLODES ON THE SCENE
Everything exploded for the Oswalds and the Paines starting Friday, November 1, 1963, when FBI agent James Hosty came to Ruth Paine’s home and asked Ruth about LHO’s whereabouts. Ruth was stunned – Why did the FBI come around asking about LHO? Was there trouble? Ruth, a loyal American, fully cooperated with the FBI. In 20 minutes, she told Hosty everything she knew about LHO. She invited Hosty to drop by on weekends when LHO would be there.
That evening, Ruth told LHO about the FBI visit – and LHO became sullen. Hosty returned four days later and briefly met Ruth at her door, asking her, “Do you have LHO’s address yet?” Ruth was surprised (she told me), because she had already given Hosty the phone number to LHO’s rooming house – so how could the FBI fail to figure out LHO’s address based on his phone number? Hosty recalled their short discussion a bit differently – Ruth told him that LHO was an “irrational, Trotskyite Communist!” And that she was taking care of Marina, not LHO!
BACK TO THE SOVIET EMBASSY LETTER
The WC attorneys asked Michael if he was at Ruth Paine’s home on Saturday, November 9th. Michael knew he was there sometime that weekend because he remembered stepping over LHO on the living room floor watching TV that weekend and wondering how an alleged activist could be so lazy. Instead of what? Instead of LHO “keeping track of right-wing causes and left-wing causes.” So, Michael Paine let his opinion slip – that LHO’s duty was the same as his own duty. We’re led to view how Michael and LHO worked together to track right-wing groups in Dallas and report this to the ACLU.
What’s odd here is that Michael had the wrong idea about LHO (i.e., that LHO was an amateur Leftist). Michael also mistakenly believed that he and LHO were working together – with Michael in the lead, to explore political situation at closer range.
In any case, this was precisely the weekend when LHO would snap. He wrote two historical if irrational documents: (1) his Soviet Embassy Letter of November 9th especially criticizing FBI agent James Hosty; and (2) his threatening personal note to James Hosty, which Hosty would flush down the drain only ten days later.
We’ve covered LHO’s Soviet Embassy Letter dated November 9, 1963, in great detail. It is the final document that LHO ever wrote. This bizarre document is a genuine Rosetta Stone with which to interpret the local politics that led to the JFK Assassination in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
Ruth had always regarded LHO as honest – bitter yet retaining his pride and Stoic attitude. Ruth saw no reason to suspect that LHO was involved in anything secret until after two visits from the FBI in a single week. Then, this bizarre Soviet Embassy letter. Ruth’s world was shattered. LHO was a liar! Was he also dangerous? Ruth was consoled by the fact that the FBI was now close at hand.
HOW DANGEROUS WAS LHO, REALLY?
Michael briefly scanned the Soviet Embassy letter and kept cool. LHO was harmless. Let’s review.
Mr. LIEBELER: Now, on the basis of your knowledge of Oswald…did you form an opinion about him as to whether or not he would be likely to commit an act such as this…?
Mr. PAINE: It was a question we had to consider when we considered having Marina at our house. So, Ruth and I discussed that, whether he was a dangerous person. And he didn’t seem to be dangerous…For the most part, it was a cordial relationship…He was during this time…quite a reasonable person.
Michael had regarded LHO as bitter – but not violent. It was rational for a person raised in poverty to be bitter. So, LHO was not irrational or deranged. On the day of the killing of JFK, police asked Michael if he thought LHO shot JFK, and Michael said, no. He saw no motive. How could killing JFK help LHO’s causes? There was nothing to be gained, and LHO was a rational person – or so Michael reported on the night of the JFK Assassination.
Besides, testified Michael, what about the critics of the lone gunman theory? Wasn't it a single-shot rifle? Wasn't there a shot through the JFK limo windshield? Hadn't JFK been shot from the manhole in the gutter? Michael asked the WC to show him all of the material evidence. The WC denied Michael’s request, as the WC would deny every American’s request ever since.
At length, at the end of his weeks of interaction with the WC attorneys, Michael drew an opposite conclusion about LHO being a lone gunman. Michael said, “It didn’t quite make sense, but for the most part, I accept it, the common view that he did it.” At the end of the WC proceedings, very approximately, Michael Paine had accepted the WC conclusions. However, as he often repeated later, he could still see no strong motive. A lone gunman would have acted solely out of conceit and a hunger for fame or infamy. It’s such a weak motive – barely feasible.
ENVOI FOR GUS RUSSO:
I note here that Gus Russo in his book, Live By The Sword (1998) interviewed Michael Paine in the context of the politics of General Walker in Dallas. I am deeply grateful for that interview. Yet I cannot agree with Gus Russo’s core conclusion – that LHO was a lone gunman fighting on the side of Fidel Castro. (Educated opinion has been split perhaps 50/50 on this topic ever since Jim Garrison demonstrated that during this period, LHO was secretly working for Guy Banister – a Radical Rightist.)
I agree with Gus Russo that the Left/Right politics of America in 1963 were the ultimate cause of the JFK Assassination. I agree with Gus Russo that LBJ covered up the truth of the JFK Assassination in his genuine concern for national security – to prevent a nuclear war with Communism. Yet I disagree with Gus Russo regarding his ultimate acquiescence to the lone gunman theory.
Copyright © 2021 by Paul Trejo. All Rights Reserved.