David Ferrie was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on 28th March, 1918. a Roman Catholic, Ferrie attended St. Mary's Seminary, where he studied for the priesthood. Later he spent several years at the St. Charles Seminary in Carthagena, Ohio. He suffered from alopecia praecox, which left him with no body hair.
In 1944 Ferrie left the priesthood and after obtaining a pilot's license he began teaching aeronautics at Cleveland's Benedictine High School. Later he moved to New Orleans where he worked as a pilot for Eastern Air Lines until losing his job in Augst, 1961. He also worked as a pilot instructor for the Civil Air Patrol in Louisiana where he met Lee Harvey Oswald.
Ferrie had right-wing political views and was a strong opponent of Fidel Castro and his government in Cuba. In the early 1960s he was an associate of Guy Bannister and Carlos Bringuier. According to Judyth Baker Ferrie worked with Dr. Alton Ochsner and Dr. Mary Sherman in a CIA secret project to kill Castro. This involved creating the means to insure Castro developed cancer. In 1963 Ferrie and Guy Bannister began working for the lawyer G. Wray Gill and his client, Carlos Marcello. This involved attempts to block Marcello's deportation to Guatemala.
On the afternoon of 22nd November, 1963, Guy Bannister and Jack Martin went drinking together. On their return to Banister's office the two men got involved in a dispute about a missing file. Banister became so angry that he he drew his Magnum revolver and hit Martin with it several times. Martin was so badly injured that he had to be detained in the local Charily Hospital.
Over the next few days Martin told friends that Ferrie and Guy Bannister had been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. According to Martin, Ferrie was the getaway man whose job it was to fly the assassin out of Texas. He also claimed that Ferrie knew Lee Harvey Oswald from their days in the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol and had given him lessons on how to use a rifle with a telescopic sight.
Anthony Summers has pointed out: "David Ferrie, aide in Carlos Marcello's apparatus, and anti-Castro activist, attracted brief official attention less than forty-eight hours after the assassination. Just hours before Ruby killed Oswald, and while Ferrie was still away on his peculiar marathon around Texas, a disaffected member of Banister's staff called New Orleans authorities to say he suspected Ferrie of involvement in the President's murder. This was Jack Martin, a Banister investigator, and he voiced suspicion that Ferrie had been in contact with Oswald. Within hours of the assassination, Martin had been involved in a dispute with Banister - a confrontation that may have occurred when Banister caught Martin trying to examine confidential files. For whatever reason, Banister injured Martin by hitting him on the head with a revolver butt. It was the day after this, following a visit to the hospital, that Martin raised the alarm over Ferrie. A hue and cry began, but Ferrie - as we have seen - was away in Texas. His associates, questioned in his absence, proved uninformative. One did, however, relate a strange incident."
On 25th November, Jack Martin was contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He told them that he thought Ferrie had hypnotized Oswald into assassinating Kennedy. The FBI considered Martin's evidence unreliable and decided not to investigate Banister and Ferrie. This information eventually reached Jim Garrison, the district attorney of New Orleans. He interviewed Martin about these accusations. Martin claimed that during the summer of 1963 Ferrie and Guy Bannister were involved in something very sinister with a group of Cuban exiles.
In 1965 Garrison was told by Hale Bloggs, a Congressman from Louisiana and a former member of the Warren Commission, that he had serious doubts that Oswald was a lone-gunman. This encouraged Garrison to read the Warren Report and books on the assassination by Mark Lane, Edward Jay Epstein and Harold Weisberg.
In November 1966 Garrison told a journalist, David Chandler, that he had important information on the case. Chandler told Richard Billings and in January 1967, the Life Magazine reporter arranged a meeting with Garrison. Billings told Garrison that the top management at Life had concluded that Kennedy's assassination had been a conspiracy and that "his investigation was moving in the right direction". Billings suggested that he worked closely with Garrison. According to Garrison "The magazine would be able to provide me with technical assistance, and we could develop a mutual exchange of information".
Jim Garrison also recruited Bernardo de Torres, who had good connections with anti-Castro figures. William Turner, the author of Rearview Mirror: Looking Back at the FBI, the CIA and Other Tails (2001) has argued: "A veteran of the Bay of Pigs, De Torres showed up on Garrison's doorstep early in the probe, saying he was a private detective from Miami who wanted to help, and dropping the name of Miami DA Richard Gerstein, a friend of Garrison's, as an opener. In retrospect, Garrison remembered that every lead De Torres developed ended up in a box canyon." One of the jobs Garrison gave him was to find Eladio del Valle.
Garrison became suspicious of his motives and on 7th January, 1967, he ordered his staff "under no circumstances" to offer any information to De Torres. Four days later he wrote at the top of one of De Torres' memos: "His reliability is not established." Garrison was right to be suspicious as he later discovered he was working for the CIA. According to Gaeton Fonzi, De Torres's CIA handler was Paul Bethel. Another researcher, Larry Hancock, has argued that "It certainly appears that De Torres’ role in the Garrison investigation is suspicious, and it supports Otero’s remarks to HSCA investigators that De Torres had ‘penetrated’ Garrison’s investigation. It also shows that De Torres had an agenda of his own in addition to getting intelligence about Garrison’s investigation and investigators. That agenda involved once again shifting attention to Fidel Castro and a Cuban hit team rather than the activities of the Cuban exiles."
Jim Garrison eventually became convinced that a group of right-wing activists, including Ferrie, Guy Banister, Carlos Bringuier, Eladio del Valle and Clay Shaw were involved in a conspiracy with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill John F. Kennedy. Garrison claimed this was in retaliation for his attempts to obtain a peace settlement in both Cuba and Vietnam.
On 17th February, 1967, The New Orleans States-Item reported that Garrison was investigating the assassination of Kennedy. It also said that one of the suspects was David Ferrie. Five days later Ferrie's body was found in his New Orleans apartment. Although two suicide notes were found, the coroner did not immediately classify the death as a suicide, noting there were indications Ferrie may have suffered a brain hemorrhage.
Garrison immediately announced that Ferrie had been a part of the Kennedy conspiracy. "The apparent suicide of David Ferrie ends the life of a man who in my judgment was one of history's most important individuals. Evidence developed by our office had long since confirmed that he was involved in events culminating in the assassination of President Kennedy... We have not mentioned his name publicly up to this point. The unique nature of this case now leaves me no other course of action." Garrison added that he was making preparations to arrest Ferrie when they heard of his death. "Apparently, we waited too long."
Another suspect, Eladio del Valle, was found dead in a Miami parking lot twelve hours after Ferrie's was discovered in his room. Police reported that de Valle had been tortured, shot in the heart at point-blank range, and his skull split open with an axe. His murder has never been solved. Diego Gonzales Tendera, a close friend, later claimed de Valle was murdered because of his involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A senior member of the Cuban Secret Service, Fabian Escalante, agreed: "In 1962 Eladio Del Valle tried to infiltrate Cuba with a commando group of 22 men but their boat had an English key - a little island. In the middle of 1962. Of course, we knew this. I tell you about this, because one of our agents who was one of the people helping to bring this group to Cuba, was a man of very little education. They talked English on many occasions on this little island with Eladio Del Valle told this person, on many occasions, that Kennedy must be killed to solve the Cuban problem. After that we had another piece of information on Eladio Del Valle. This was offered to us by Tony Cuesta. He told us that Eladio Del Valle was one of the people involved in the assassination plot against Kennedy."
Some researchers, including Jim Garrison, believe Ferrie was murdered. However, Gus Russo disagrees: "David Ferrie has long been portrayed on paper and in film as an American grotesque: a raving hater of President Kennedy, who threatened to kill the President. He was said to be angry at JFK for failing to help the Cuban exiles restore liberty to their land. It seems certain he made a celebrated statement after the Bay of Pigs fiasco on which much of the portrait has been based. That incident occurred in July 1961, when Ferrie was addressing the New Orleans chapter of the Order of World Wars. Ferrie became so critical of Kennedy's handling of the Bay of Pigs invasion that he was asked to discontinue his remarks. But that was almost certainly taken out of context and misinterpreted."
In 2007 Edward Haslam published Dr. Mary's Monkey. Haslam argues that Alton Ochsner organized "one of the 159 covert research centers which the CIA had admitted to setting up." Haslam believes that Ochsner recruited Mary Sherman to run the research operation The basic project was set up March 23, 1962, using conventional facilities, which then expanded out of the loop for its final phases. Haslam believes that Sherman was involved in carrying out secret research into developing a vaccine to prevent an epidemic of soft-tissue cancers caused by polio vaccine contaminated with SV-40. This work included using a linear particle accelerator located in the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the Public Health Service Hospital in New Orleans. According to Haslam there was a second-lab working on this project. This was being run by David Ferrie on Louisiana Avenue Parkway. Dr. Sherman was murdered on 21st July, 1964.
Martin advised that in his occupation as a private investigator he has had occasion to develop considerable information about Ferrie and reported it to Richard E. Roby, Special Agent, Investigative Division, Office of Compliance and Security, Federal Aviation Agency, Washington, D.C., who must have a big file on Ferrie as they conducted a complete investigation of his activities in New Orleans several years ago. Martin advised that he called WWL-TV Station and furnished the station with background information about Ferrie, particularly his homosexual tendencies and the fact that he formerly operated the Civil Air Patrol. He also told them that Ferrie was an amateur hypnotist and that it was his idea that Ferrie may have hypnotized Lee Oswald and planted a post-hypnotic suggestion that he kill the President.
Martin stated that has visited in the home of David Ferrie and he saw a group of photographs of various Civil Air Patrol cadet groups and in this group he is sure he saw several years ago a photograph of Lee Oswald as a member of one of the classes. He stated he did not recall the group that Oswald was in or any other details. In addition he stated that Ferrie conducted military type drills with rifles, fatigue clothes and helmet liners of the Civil Air Patrol Cadets and he recalled that Ferrie claimed to have taught these cadets how to shoot. Martin stated that he observed in Ferrie's home a number of foreign made firearms and it is his opinion that Ferrie could have taught Oswald how to purchase a foreign made firearm or possibly have purchased the gun that was shown on television. He advised that he saw similar type weapons at Ferrie's home when he visited there two years ago.
Martin advised that Ferrie discussed with him the charges of crime against nature which resulted in the his arrest by Jefferson Parish authorities and he recalled that Ferrie had told him that one of the "kids that was a witness against him" had moved to Mississippi from New Orleans and subsequently joined the United States Marine Corps. He heard on television that Oswald had been in the Marine Corps therefore he surmised that Oswald was that "kid," that he was a witness against Ferrie in the crime against nature charge that had joined the Marine Corps. Martin explained that it might have been the same individual or a very close coincidence.
You had to see Dave Ferrie to believe him," says a New Orleans newsman, "and once you saw him you could never forget him." Ferrie was 48, completely hairless, and habitually wore glued-on eyebrows and had tufts of hair fastened at random on his head with spirit gum. He had a nasal voice, an antipathy to soap and a penchant for authoritative statements. He also had a long record of failure in a wildly disparate series of endeavors. Ferrie had been a teacher, an unsuccessful candidate for the priesthood, a pilot who had been discharged by Eastern Air Lines for homosexual activity, a "psychologist" with a "degree" from a diploma mill, a private investigator, a self-proclaimed cancer-cure researcher and an amateur hypnotist. In New Orleans he had become enmeshed with a group of anti-Castro Cubans and had been training teams of "guerrilla jungle fighters" for some future assault on Cuba. To muddy things further, some of his acquaintances insisted later that Ferrie often expressed admiration for Fidel Castro. In his spare time, Ferrie labored on a miniature submarine that he was trying to fashion out of an airplane fuel tank. "Like most of Dave's projects," said a friend, "it didn't work."
Garrison later was to describe this exotic loser as "one of history's most important individuals." But when Ferrie first surfaced in the Garrison probe on February 18, Ferrie simply identified himself as a reject from the Warren Commission investigation. He had been picked up by Garrison's men shortly after the Dallas tragedy in 1963, Ferrie declared, on a tip from an unstable New Orleans character (Jack Martin). Ferrie said he gave the FBI a "meticulous accounting" of his movements on the weekend of the assassination. Says a Washington source, "The FBI squeezed Ferrie dry, found nothing there, and discarded him." When Garrison opened his own investigation, three years later, he ran Ferrie through a new interrogation. Said Ferrie, "Supposedly I have been pegged as the getaway pilot." Ferrie denied any role in any plot, denied that he ever knew Lee Oswald and termed Garrison's project "an utter waste of time."
Four days after he made this statement, David Ferrie was found dead in his filthy, cluttered apartment at 3330 Louisiana Avenue Parkway. Although the New Orleans coroner flatly declared his death due to natural causes (massive brain hemorrhage from an artery failure), Garrison referred to it darkly as a suicide, hinted it might be murder and began issuing a series of provocative statements.
Martin was seated across my desk, his anxious gaze fixed on my every move. An on-again, off-again alcoholic, he was a thin man with deeply circled, worried eyes. Although he had been written off as a nonentity by many, I had long regarded him as a quick-witted and highly observant, if slightly disorganized, private detective. I had known him casually as far back as my days as an assistant D.A. and always had gotten along well with him.
"Jack," I said, "why don't you relax a little? You should know by now that you're among friends here."
He nodded nervously. He was seated in the roomy, upholstered chair across from my desk, but he looked most uncomfortable. I offered him some coffee. "You're not under cross-examination. Jack," I said "I just want a little help. Understand?"
"The police report says the reason Banister beat you was you had an argument over telephone bills." I pulled a copy of the police report from my desk drawer and shoved it across to him. "Here, take a look at it." He bent his head over and examined it as if he had never seen it before. I was sure that he had seen it many times, probably even had a copy at home.
After a moment he looked up without saying a word. His eyes told me he was deeply concerned about something.
"Now, does a simple argument over phone bills sound like a believable explanation to you?" I asked.
I waited. Then, dreamily, he shook his head slowly. "No," he admitted. "It involved more than that."
"How much more?"
Again I waited. He breathed deeply, sucking in the air.
"It started like it was going to be nothing at all," he began. "We'd both been drinking at Katzenjammer's - maybe more than usual, because of the assassination and all. Banister especially."
Pausing to chug down another cup of coffee, he made a real effort to collect his thoughts.
"Well, when we came back to the office. Banister started hitching about one thing and then another. He was in a mean mood. Then all of a sudden, he accused me of going through his private files. Now I never went through his private stuff ever - absolutely never. And that really ticked me off."
He hesitated for a long moment.
"Go on. Jack," I said gently.
"I guess I blew up," he continued, his face flushed with memories of injustice. "That's when I told him he'd better not talk to me like that. I told him I remembered the people I had seen around the office that summer. And that's when he hit me. Fast as a flash - pulled out that big Magnum and slammed me on the side of the head with it."
"Just because you remembered the people you'd seen at his office the past summer?" I asked.
"Yeah, that's all it took. He went bananas on that one."
"And just who were the people you'd seen in the office that summer?" I prodded softly.
"There was a bunch of them. It was like a circus. There were all those Cubans - coming in and going out, coming in and going out. They all looked alike to me."
Someone once commenced that whenever you really want to do something unseen, whenever you go to great pains to make sure that you are unobserved, there always turns out to be someone who was sitting under the oak tree. At the strange place that was Banister's office. Jack Martin, unnoticed in the middle of it all, was the one sitting under the oak tree.
He drew a long breath and then went on. "Then there were all these other characters. There was Dave Ferrie - you know about him by now."
"Was he there very often?" I asked.
"Often? He practically lived there."
Then Martin fell silent. I saw by the look in his eyes that he had come to a full stop.
I was not about to let my weekend visit to 544 Camp Street go down the drain that easily, so I gave him a hand. 'And Lee Harvey Oswald'" I added.
Jack swallowed, then nodded. It was almost as if he felt relief in finally having a burden lifted from him. "Yeah, he was there too. Sometimes he'd be meeting with Guy Banister with the door shut. Other times he'd be shooting the bull with Dave Ferrie. But he was there all right."
"What was Guy Banister doing while all this was going on?"
"Hell, he was the one running the circus."
"What about his private detective work?"
"Not much of that came in, but when it did, I handled it. That's why I was there."
"So, Jack," I said. "Just what was going on at Banister's office?"
He held up his hand. "I can't answer that," he said firmly. "I can't go into that stuff at all." Unexpectedly, he Stood up. "I think I'd better go," he said.
"Hold on. Jack. What's the problem with our going into what was happening at Banister's office?"
"What's the problem?" he said. "What's the problem?" he repeated, as if in disbelief. "The problem is that we're going to bring the god-damned federal government down on our backs. Do I need to spell it out? I could get killed - and so could you."
He turned around. "I'd better go," he mumbled. He wobbled as he headed for the door.
My involvement with the plans to assassinate John F. Kennedy commenced at the end of June, 1963. On July 1, I was contacted by (CIA head of Domestic Operations Officer) Tracy Barnes. He requested that I purchase four Mannlicher 7.35 mm surplus rifles. According to Barnes, the rifles were available in the Baltimore area from Sunny's Supply Stores. Upon my agreement to make the purchase, Barnes requested that I alter the forepiece of each rifle so that the rifles could be dismantled, hidden and reassembled quickly. I thought this last request odd until I was informed that the rifles were to be used for a clandestine operation.
One day later I received a second phone call. It was Eladio del Valle calling from, I assumed, Miami. He asked me to supply him with four transceivers which were not detectable by any communications equipment then available on the market. Although his request seemed impossible, I told him that I had an idea which might fulfill his requirement. I could provide him with sub-miniaturized units whose operation would be confined to a range of fifty or one hundred kilohertz. To operate any sizable distance, the units would require an antenna at least several feet in length. A wire taped to the user's leg would easily suffice for this purpose. The set-up would not be pretty, but I could assure him that no one would be monitoring these low frequencies.
Del Valle then requested that I deliver the transceivers and the rifles to David Ferrie. I was surprised by Ferrie's involvement in the transaction. Barnes, in our previous conversation, had neither informed me that the rifles were being made for Clay Shaw in New Orleans nor that David Ferrie would be the person responsible for picking them up once I had completed the required alterations. Del Valle explained to me that the rifles and communications equipment were for his Free Cuba Committee, and that Clay and Ferrie were assisting him in the operation. I assured him that the equipment would be ready on time as I would immediately order the Motorola-made special transceiver units. Motorola was manufacturing the units for railroad communications equipment; they were relatively easy to secure.
The radio transceivers for del Valle were more difficult to create than I had originally thought they'd be. An unusual amount of power was required for them to transmit over any significant distance. To solve this dilemma, I included an extra pack of four "D" type battery cells to be used for transmitting purposes only. The pack was plugged into the transceiver unit and could easily be carried in the user's pocket. Ironically, I later learned from del Valle that the transmission time was to be limited to five minutes, which meant my additional adjustments had been unnecessary.
David Ferrie has long been portrayed on paper and in film as an American grotesque: a raving hater of President Kennedy, who threatened to kill the President. He was said to be angry at JFK for failing to help the Cuban exiles restore liberty to their land. It seems certain he made a celebrated statement after the Bay of Pigs fiasco on which much of the portrait has been based. That incident occurred in July 1961, when Ferrie was addressing the New Orleans chapter of the Order of World Wars. Ferrie became so critical of Kennedy's handling of the Bay of Pigs invasion that he was asked to discontinue his remarks. But that was almost certainly taken out of context and misinterpreted.
A devout Catholic (who was, for a time, a seminarian), Ferrie voted for Kennedy in 1960 and was "elated" when he defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency that year. "Things are going to turn for the better now that a Catholic has been elected," a good friend would remember Ferrie saying. Another friend elaborated, "After all, he was an Irish Catholic too. He was an enthusiastic supporter (of Kennedy). Dave was a spokesman for the Kennedys . To him, the idea of a Catholic president was mind-boggling, He thought Kennedy was fabulous."
I walked over to 531 Lafayette Place. There was no inscription on the door denoting it as Banister's business, only a realtor's shingle and a sticker of the then-nascent Republican Party of Louisiana. The door opened to stairs leading to a second-floor space that was unoccupied. Diagonally across the space was a second set of stairs, which led down to a door on Camp Street. The number over the door read "594." 594 Camp Street was the return address Lee Harvey Oswald had stamped on the first batch of pro-Castro literature he handed out on the streets of the Crescent City in August 1963- Subsequent batches bore a post office box number, suggesting that the use of the street address had been a lapse. What was Oswald's connection to Banister?
When I reported the Camp Street discovery to Garrison, I recommended that we assign priority to interviewing Banister. Too late, he said, Banister had been found dead in bed in June 1964, his pearlhandled, monogrammed .357 Magnum revolver at his side. Although there was no autopsy, his demise was attributed to a heart attack. But Brooks, who had done some clipping and filing for Banister in 1962, had identified his deputy, Hugh F. Ward, as also belonging to the Minutemen as well as an outfit called the Anti-Communism League of the Caribbean, which was headed by Banister after he came to New Orleans in 1955. Brooks credited the ACLC with helping the CIA overthrow the leftist Arbenz government in Guatemala, opening the way for a succession of rightist strongmen. The ACLC continued to act as an intermediary between the CIA and right-wing insurgency movements in the Caribbean, including Cuba after Castro gained power. There was a chance that Ward would be willing to talk, but it turned out he was gone as well. On May 23, 1965, he was at the controls of a Piper Aztec chartered by former New Orleans mayor DeLessups Morrison when the craft, engines sputtering, crashed on a fog-shrouded hill near Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, killing all on board. That left Maurice Brooks Gatlin, Sr., an attorney associated with Banister, on Brooks's list of key Minutemen in Louisiana. According to Brooks, Gatlin served as legal counsel to the ACLC. In fact, Brooks had been a kind of protege of Gatlin. The attorney's passport was stamped with visas of countries around the world. In Brooks's estimation, he was a "transporter" for the CIA. On one occasion Gatlin bodaciously told Brooks, "I have pretty good connections. Stick with me-I'll give you a license to kill." Brooks became a firm believer in 1962 when Gatlin displayed a thick wad of bills, saying he had $ioo,ooo of CIA money earmarked for a French reactionary clique planning to assassinate General de Gaulle. Shortly thereafter Gatlin flew to Paris, and shortly after that came the Secret Army Organization's abortive ambush of the French president. But Gatlin as well was beyond Garrison's reach. In 1964 he fell or was pushed from the sixth floor of the Panama Hotel in Panama, dying instantly.
As I sat in Garrison's office discussing the fates of Banister, Ward and Gatlin, my mind flashed back to the previous November when Ramparts had run a story on the "mysterious deaths" theory of doughty Texas editor Penn Jones, Jr. With David Welsh, I had gone down to Midlothian, a dusty cotton market town south of Dallas, to meet with Jones on his front porch. He had compiled a list of an unlucky thirteen people who were witnesses to the assassination or somehow touched by it and had died violently or questionably inside of three years, which he saw as a highly excessive actuarial rate. One on the list was Tom Howard, Jack Ruby's initial attorney, who concocted the story that the mobster killed Oswald to spare Jacqueline Kennedy the ordeal of a trial (he died of a supposed heart attack). Another was Lee Bowers, who was sitting in a railroad tower behind the grassy knoll and spotted two strange men behind the picket fence on the knoll just as the presidential limousine passed and a flash and commotion ensued (he was involved in a one-car accident). A third was Earlene Roberts, the boarding house manager who stated that Oswald rushed into his room for a few minutes shortly after the shooting in Dealey Plaza, during which a Dallas police car stopped in front and honked twice as if to signal (she was struck by a presumed heart attack). The mysterious-deaths article so fascinated Walter Cronkite that he sent a film crew to Midlothian for a CBS News series on Jones. Although the theory caught on as "evidence" of a conspiracy, I was bemusedly skeptical.
But the untimely deaths of Banister, Ward and Gatlin gave me pause that there might in fact have been systematic elimination of people who knew too much. Two months earlier there had been a fourth curious mortality in this set: David William Ferric, an investigator for the ex-FBI official's private detective agency, Guy Banister & Associates. Garrison's interest in Ferric dated back to the morning after the assassination, when he summoned his staff to the office for a "brainstorming" session to explore the possibility that Oswald had accomplices in New Orleans.
Although it would not be known until after the Warren Report was published, on that same Saturday morning the Secret Service was checking out the return address of 544 Camp Street that the accused assassin had rubber-stamped on some of his handouts promoting a rump chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. The agents asked the building manager if Oswald "had occupied office space" but learned instead that "Cuban revolutionaries had been tenants until recently." They talked to an exile accountant who revealed that "those Cubans were members of organizations known as `Crusade to Free Cuba Committee' and `Cuban Revolutionary Council,"' which had been headed by Sergio Arcacha Smith, a former Batista diplomat. The agents reported that they had been unable to find any trace of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, evincing no curiosity over why pro-Castro literature would bear the address of anti-Castro groups.
On Monday, the Warren Report later disclosed, the FBI's Ernest C. Wall, Jr., a Spanish-speaking agent who liaisoned with the exile groups, called Guy Banister to inquire about Arcacha Smith. According to Wall's single-paragraph report, Banister responded that Arcacha Smith had been the head of the Cuban Revolutionary Council and "some time ago had told him on one occasion that he, Smith, had an office in the building located at 594 Camp Street." Nothing about Banister and the Cuban Revolutionary Council, created by the CIA as an umbrella group for the Bay of Pigs invasion, being under the same roof. As a limited hangout, it was a classic. The Warren Report dutifully stated that "investigation has indicated that neither the Fair Play for Cuba Committee nor Lee Oswald ever maintained an office at that address."
David Ferrie, aide in Carlos Marcello's apparatus, and anti-Castro activist, attracted brief official attention less than forty-eight hours after the assassination. Just hours before Ruby killed Oswald, and while Ferrie was still away on his peculiar marathon around Texas, a disaffected member of Banister's staff called New Orleans authorities to say he suspected Ferrie of involvement in the President's murder. This was Jack Martin, a Banister investigator, and he voiced suspicion that Ferrie had been in contact with Oswald. Within hours of the assassination, Martin had been involved in a dispute with Banister - a confrontation that may have occurred when Banister caught Martin trying to examine confidential files. For whatever reason, Banister injured Martin by hitting him on the head with a revolver butt. It was the day after this, following a visit to the hospital, that Martin raised the alarm over Ferrie. A hue and cry began, but Ferrie - as we have seen - was away in Texas. His associates, questioned in his absence, proved uninformative. One did, however, relate a strange incident.
He said that a lawyer had already been to Ferrie's home, promising to act on Ferrie's behalf as soon as he returned. The lawyer, said Ferrie's friend, had remarked that "when Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested by the Dallas police, Oswald was carrying a library card with Ferrie's name on it." The lawyer, G. Wray Gill, was one of Carlos Marcello's attorneys. Ferrie spoke with Gill by telephone, on the evening of the day Ruby killed Oswald, but did not immediately report to the authorities. When he finally did so next day, Ferrie turned up accompanied by the Marcello lawyer. He denied knowing anything about Oswald or the assassination. Martin, the informant who had started the chase after Ferrie, was dismissed as a crank with a grudge. He was indeed an odd character - a fact for which Ferrie may have been most grateful. As this story has shown, there was good reason to suspect him. A case in point is the reported concern by Marcello's lawyer about a library card.
Nothing in the record reflects the finding in Oswald's possession of any document relating to Ferrie. Yet the Secret Service did ask Ferrie whether he had loaned Oswald his library card. Ferrie denied it, but the statements of two witnesses suggest he was panic-stricken over just that. One of Oswald's former neighbors in New Orleans would later tell investigators that Ferrie visited her soon after his Texas trip - asking about Oswald's library card. Oswald's own landlady said the same - and added a disturbing factor. She recalled Ferrie turning up to ask about the card within hours of the assassination - before he set off on his trip. This bizarre episode, which may be of key significance, remains unexplained.
As you may recall, I was engaged in cancer research, and seemed to drop out of sight. Until now, I could not have mentioned what was going on in my life. Didn't you ever wonder what had happened to me? I, who had won national recognition for my magnesium project, and whose cancer research project gained Honors in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, plus a trip to Buffalo to work in the nation's oldest cancer laboratories, seemed to vanish.. However, between 1961 and 1963, I was trained to do special cancer research. I became involved in an anti-castro project in New Orleans. I can't even discuss the impact of this project, but suffice that by spring of 1963, I was working for Reily coffee company as a front (my boss was former FBI agent William Monaghan) while actually engaged in clandestine cancer research with 'Dr.' David W. Ferrie (supposedly committed suicide but was probably murdered during the Garrison investigation) and renowned medical specialist Dr. Mary Sherman (brutally murdered July 21, 1964 for her part in the scenario I am about to describe). You may recall that I took Russian (all fees paid) at Manatee (then Jr.) Community College. I spoke crude conversational Russian by 1963, when I was introduced in New Orleans to Lee Harvey Oswald. When I wore my hair and makeup the same as his wife, Marina, - for I was same height, weight, and spoke Russian, Lee Oswald and I could worked together. Lee was involved in an anti-Castro project whose sponsor, Dr. Ochsner, was possibly related to the CIA in fact, one of Ochsner's best friends was 'Wild Bill' Donovan, who founded the CIA and who was, like Ochsner, a President of the American cancer Society. The project included delivery of live biological weapons into Cuba, aimed to kill Castro. Not only was Oswald an innocent man, he was framed in Dallas. He was a patriot who, had he defended himself, would have led to our deaths. We had endured the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and the threat of communism spreading throughout Central and South America. I have been unable to speak about this for all these years, and indeed went into hiding after the events of Nov. 22-24, 1963. I am writing this to let light fall at last upon what must have seemed my many mysterious activities even in high school - such as meeting with Nobel Prize winners in St. Petersburg, and why I was never to become a doctor or research scientist. My book will come out next year, we believe, dealing with these events, and of my love affair with Lee.
Q: Who is David Ferrie?
A: If Oswald is an enigmatic character, and he is, David Ferrie is his soulmate. David Ferrie is a man, not well educated, but described as brilliant. Apparently a homosexual. An airline pilot for Eastern Airlines and a good pilot. A man who is very active in the anti-Castro Cuban movement. A man who is close to Carlos Marcello. He is also, significantly, a man who, in the 1950s, headed up a civil air patrol unit in which Lee Harvey Oswald apparently was a member.
Q: It appears that when Oswald went to Dallas, suddenly he's not with anybody. Maybe he did it alone?
A: Anybody who looks at this has to be candid enough to say that the evidence cuts in two directions. When he is in Dallas, he apparently is alone, or largely a loner.
He gets the job at the depository by happenstance. The Kennedy motorcade in front of the depository is by happenstance. It has none of the earmarks of a carefully planned assassination. His flight from the depository is by happenstance. His killing of Tippit is by happenstance. …
But then, you find David Ferrie, who is an investigator for Carlos Marcello, being a boyhood friend to Lee Harvey Oswald and with him that summer, and with Carlos Marcello at that very point in time. You have an immediate connection between a man who had the motive, opportunity and means to kill Kennedy and the man who killed Kennedy.
At the time of the assassination Ferrie was a forty-five year old New Orleans resident who was acquainted with some of the most notorious names linked to the assassination: Lee Oswald, Clay Shaw, Guy Banister, Jack Ruby, and Carlos Marcello. He possessed assorted talents and eccentricities. He was a pilot, and at one time a senior pilot with Eastern Airlines until he was fired for homosexual activity on the job. He was also a hypnotist, a serious researcher of the origins of cancer, amateur psychologist, and a victim of a strange disease, alopecia, which made all of his body void of hair. Anti-Castro, anti-Kennedy, and anti-Communist, Ferrie was also a bishop of the Orthodox Old Catholic Church of North America. His odd lifestyle was embellished with an equally bizarre appearance featuring a red toupee and false eyebrows. Investigator and author Harrison Livingstone met Ferrie and remembered him as "an intense and sinister, cynical, disgusting, disheveled individual who was excited at the prospect of preying upon the vulnerable, the helpless, and the innocent."
Ferrie wasn't always anti-Castro. In the fifties he flew guns to Castro's rebel forces as they fought Batista's army in the Sierra Maestra. In 1961 he flew bombing missions over Cuba and sometimes made daring landings to retrieve anti-Castro resistance fighters. When Castro announced his intentions to become a Communist, and aligned his political philosophy with Kruschev's Soviet Union, Ferrie turned against him.
Communism in Cuba, and Kennedy's seemingly inability to do anything about it, drove Ferrie to become vociferous in his speech against the president. He turned against Kennedy during the Bay of Pigs debacle. At this time Ferrie became a member of the anti-Castro Cuban Revolutionary Front, financed by New Orleans mafia boss, Carlos Marcello. In March 1962 Ferrie began work as a private investigator for G. Wray Gill,Marcello's New Orleans attorney. This arrangement continued through 1963. Eventually Ferrie worked extensively for Marcello and a New Orleans private investigator, Guy Banister, an ex-FBI agent, anti-Communist, who kept an office at 544 Camp Street in New Orleans, a location known as a hot-bed of sinister activities surrounding right-wing and anti-Castro organizations. He worked with Banister the same time he was employed with Gill. It was at 544 Camp Street that Lee Oswald kept company with Banister and Ferrie.
In March 1967 Garrison arrested New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw for conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy. At first Garrison called the assassination a crime organized by extremist elements of the anti-Castro community, and to prevent any misinterpretation, he specifically pointed out that his team had not found any evidence of involvement by the CIA itself. But in May 1967, all that changed.
Garrison upped the stakes by announcing on national television that Kennedy's death was a coup d'etat organized by elements inside the CIA, particularly in its Plans Division.' What followed was two years of heavy character assault on Garrison.
The heart of Garrison's case was that he had associated Clay Shaw with Lee Harvey Oswald during the summer of 1963. Garrison believed Shaw's contact with Oswald was part of a deliberate attempt to set up Oswald to take the blame for Kennedy's impending assassination. In particular, Garrison claimed that Shaw tried to help Oswald get a job at a mental hospital in Jackson, Louisiana, near the town of Clinton. According to Garrison, Shaw drove Oswald to Clinton so Oswald could register to vote in hopes of improving his chances of getting the job at the hospital.
As luck would have it, the Congress for Racial Equality was sponsoring a voter registration for black voters that day. When a black Cadillac drove into the center of the small Louisiana town, folks watched closely and curiously. Were these FBI agents? The press? Outside agitators? A young white man emerged from the back of the Cadillac and got in line to register. He made a memorable impression, since he was the only white person in the line and since he was not a resident of the area. Numerous eyewitnesses identified the person who got out of the Cadillac as Oswald, and, of course, the man had given his name to the registrar of voters as Lee Harvey Oswald.
The more difficult question: Who was driving the car? Witnesses said he looked like Clay Shaw, a white male in his fifties with wavy gray hair and a stern face. This described Shaw well enough, but it also described other people equally well. There was less difficulty identifying the other passenger in the car. His orange hair and painted-on eyebrows made seeing David Ferrie a truly unforgettable experience for anyone. Since it was already established that Ferrie knew Guy Banister and Oswald (all of whom were dead by '69), it was difficult for Garrison to prove that the man driving the car was actually Clay Shaw and not someone else, like Banister. Shaw, of course, claimed he never knew Oswald or Ferrie and had never been to Clinton. Garrison failed to prove the connection to the satisfaction of the jury. Shaw was acquitted.
Garrison counterattacked, claiming that Shaw had lied under oath and charged him with thirteen counts of perjury, confident that he would win the perjury conviction in the next trial. The federal government intervened, however, and dismissed the perjury charges; thus with the acquittal of Clay Shaw in 1969, Garrison was neutralized as a political force.
A decade later, the U.S. Congress's House Select Committee on Assassinations took a second look at the Clinton incident. On March 14, 1978, they took the testimony of Clinton town marshal John Manchester in Washington. Manchester said that he approached the black Cadillac from which Oswald had emerged that summer day in 1963 and, acting as the town's law enforcement officer, instructed the driver to identify himself and to produce his driver's license, The driver gave his name as "Clay Shaw from the International Trade Mart" and produced a driver's license which matched. For some reason, the HSCA took his testimony in "Executive Session" and kept this information secret from the American public for sixteen years.
We only know about it today because of documents released through the JFK Assassination Materials Act of 1992! With information of this magnitude continuing to come to light, it will be tomorrow's historians, and not yesterday's press, who will have to judge Jim Garrison and his assassination theory. To call him "discredited" is extremely premature, despite the numerous attempts to make him appear so. We may owe Garrison an apology before it's all over.
On page 298, Hancock writes that the Oswald as Lone Nut story was created after the fact as a damage control device and was not part of the plot. If that is true then why did Shaw and Ferrie try to get Oswald a position at a mental hospital in Jackson, Louisiana in the summer of 1963? When Garrison studied this incident he concluded its goal was to get Oswald into such a hospital under any circumstances. And then announce after the assassination that he had been there as a patient. Presto! You have the officially deranged sociopath the Warren Commission tries to portray. Also, on and dovetailing with this, multi-millionaire Jock Whitney did a curious thing on 11/22/63. He went to work as a copy editor at the New York Herald Tribune -- a paper that he owned. One of the things he did was to approve an editorial that suggested that very Lone Nut scenario. ( Probe Vol. 7 No. 1 p. 20) Right after making this unwarranted assumption, Hancock writes about how the plotters actually meant to portray the patsy: "The plotters were presenting Oswald as a paid Castro agent associating with Castro operatives." (Ibid) Two questions I have about this "presentation." First, who was paying him and how much? In other words, what happened to the money? Second, who were these pro-Castro operatives? I fail to see them in any study of Oswald. This seems to me to be, outside the fantasy world of Gus Russo, a vacuous and unsupportable concept.
I present a number of incidents which implied that Oswald was either a paid agent of Castro or a political follower who was acting to somehow protect the Cuban revolution and Castro. As an example, the infamous Pedro Charles letters clearly suggest Oswald was following orders, had been in Cuba, that the Chief was well pleased and he would be rewarded when he made it back there. Hoover was initially very interested in that view and was for holding out for a possible Cuban involvement in the FBI report – that can be seen in FBI internal communications. Martino had tried the same pitch directly to the FBI immediately after the assassination. Later, in 1966, Roselli tried to float the story of Castro operatives and a hit team sent into the U.S. by Castro.
My remarks about the Dallas attack requiring local intelligence was in regard to details of the motorcade, police assignments, security plans – and possibly even the identification of police who could be used for certain minor tasks. That sort of intelligence could only come from someone with a broad exposure to the force, including experience with officers considered “dirty” or open to supplying information for money or favors. Obviously, Jack Ruby was a perfect fit for such tasks.
The fact that the extensive problems with the medical evidence remained obscure does not alter the fundamental problems with the official autopsy conclusions. Problems so severe that the Justice Department had to covertly prepare one of the autopsy doctors as a “backup” witness and hold him in readiness in New Orleans during the Garrison medical testimony. The point is that there are glaring problems which argue against a smoothly planned cover-up integrated with a well- oiled conspiracy. It’s also important to remember that in the face of gag orders, security oaths, burned notes and missing reports, individuals such as David Lifton and Harold Weisberg had been fighting through the quagmire for decades before the revealing work of the ARRB.