Alton Ochsner

Alton Ochsner

Alton Ochsner, the son of German immigrants, was born Kimball, South Dakota, on 4th May, 1896. His uncle, A. J. Ochsner, was founder and president of the American College of Surgeons.

Ochsner studied at Washington University, St. Louis before moving to the University of Wisconsin Medical School. He then went to work with A. J. Ochsner in Chicago where he helped develop techniques for blood typing.

In 1927 Ochsner, with the help of his uncle, was appointed as Head of Surgery at Tulane Medical School in New Orleans.

In 1939 Alton Ochsner and Michael De Bakey published an article suggesting that there was a link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Along with William Donovan Ochsner was on the board of the American Cancer Society. Later he became president of the organization.

As a result of his research he established the Ochsner Clinic in 1942 and pioneered the "war against smoking." In 1952 Ochsner appointed Mary Sherman to take control of the cancer laboratory.In 1955 he published Smoking and Cancer: A Doctor's Report.

Ochsner was a passionate anti-communist and after becoming friends with Cordell Hull, was invited to look after Tomas Gabriel Duque, the former dictator of Panama. He also become friends with Anastasio Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua. Ochsner also treated Juan Peron, the dictator of Argentina.

The FBI maintained a file on Ochsner. This file was recently released under the Freedom of Information Act. It shows that Ochsner had a long relationship with various U.S. government agencies.

Ochsner also developed a close friendship with Clint Murchison who helped fund various right-wing organizations. Ochsner was also connected to Warren Commission member, Hale Boggs. According to one Louisiana State Representative, Ochsner was "the most aggressive seeker and recipient of so-called federal handouts in the Second District (Hale Boggs' district).

In 1961 Ochsner, with the financial help of Clint Murchison, established the Information Council of the Americas (INCA). Ed Butler was appointed as Executive Director of INCA. The main objective of the organization was to prevent communist revolutions in Latin America. Ochsner told the New Orleans States Item: "We must spread the warning of the creeping sickness of communism faster to Latin Americas, and to our own people, or Central and South America will be exposed to the same sickness as Cuba." (16th April, 1963)

Edgar and Edith Stern, owners of WDSU radio and television, were members of INCA. Eustis Reily of the Reily Coffee Company personally donated thousands of dollars to INCA. However, it was Patrick J. Frawley, a Californian industrialist and close friend of Richard Nixon, who was INCA's largest financial contributor. The organization used some of this money to make a film about Fidel Castro entitled, Hitler in Havana. The New York Times reviewed the film calling it a "tasteless affront to minimum journalistic standards."

One of Ochsner's friends described him as being "like a fundamentalist preacher in the sense that the fight against communism was the only subject that he would talk about, or even allow you to talk about, in his presence."

Edward Haslam argues in Dr. Mary's Monkey that "Ochsner's hospital was 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.

Ochsner was strongly opposed to the domestic and foreign policy of President John F. Kennedy. He wrote to Senator Allen Ellender: "I sincerely hope that the Civil Rights Bill can also be defeated, because if it was passed, it would certainly mean virtual dictatorship by the President and the Attorney General, a thing I am sure they both want."

Ochsner was also friends with Clay Shaw. Ochsner was president of the International House, whereas Shaw was director of the organization. Both men were also directors of the Foreign Policy Association of New Orleans and arranged for CIA Deputy Director to New Orleans to discuss the communist threat.

Ochsner sat on the National Institute of Health Board of Directors. A fellow director in the early 1960s was Jose Rivera. In 1963 Rivera was in New Orleans handing out research grants from NIH to the Tulane Medical School.

The records of the Mexican consulate office in New Orleans show that when Lee Harvey Oswald obtained his visa for his trip to Mexico, he did so at the same time as William Gaudet. As Edward Haslam points out in Dr. Mary's Monkey : "Gaudet.. is known to have worked for the CIA and edited an anti-Communist newsletter which Ochsner financed."

Adele Edisen has revealed that in April 1963, Jose Rivera, gave her the name of Lee Harvey Oswald and his New Orleans phone number three weeks before he moved to the city.

On 21st July, 1964, Mary Sherman was murdered. The following day, Ochsner wrote a letter to R. H. Crosby, his largest financial contributor saying "our Government, our schools, our press, and our churches have become infiltrated with Communism".

In 1967 Jim Garrison began investigating the activities of Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans. Ochsner told a friend that he feared Garrison would order his arrest and the seizure of INCA's corporate records. Ed Butler took these records to California where Patrick J. Frawley arranged for them to be hidden. Ronald Reagan, the governor of California refused all of Garrison's extradition requests. Frawley had previously helped fund Reagan's political campaigns in California.

Ochsner attacked the Garrison investigation as being unpatriotic because it eroded public confidence and threatened the stability of the American government. In his article, Social Origins of Anticommunism: The Information Council of the Americas (Louisiana History, Spring 1989) Arthur Carpenter claimed that Ochsner launched a propaganda campaign against Garrison. This included sending information to a friend who was the publisher of the Nashville Banner.

According to Carpenter, Ochsner also attempted to discredit Mark Lane, who was assisting the Garrison investigation. He told Felix Edward Hebert that Lane was "a professional propagandist of the lunatic left". Ochsner also instructed Herbert to tell Edwin E. Willis (Chairman of the House Committee) to dig up "whatever information you can" on Lane.

Felix Edward Hebert later sent Ochsner a report on Mark Lane extracted from confidential government files. This included "the files of the New York City Police, the FBI, and other security agencies." These files claimed that Lane was "a sadist and masochist, charged on numerous occasions with sodomy". Hebert also supplied Ochsner with a photograph that was supposed to be Lane engaged in a sadomasochistic act with a prostitute.

Alton Ochsner died on 6th September, 1981.

Primary Sources

(1) Edward Haslam, Dr. Mary's Monkey (2007)

On the American side, Ochsner accumulated many celebrities in his patient portfolio, from golf legend Ben Hogan to movie star Gary Cooper to the mega-wealthy Clint Murchison of the Texas oil family.

Murchison's involvement with Ochsner seems to me to have been as political as medical. Yes, he was a personal patient of Alton Ochsner and gave him a Cadillac as a "thank you" present, but he also donated $750,000 to the Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation as seed money for Ochsner's new hospital.

Meanwhile, Murchison purchased 30,000 acres of Louisiana swamp land and prepared it for a real estate development now known as New Orleans East, which covers about one-third of the land in the city of New Orleans. I have always heard that Murchison bought it from Lady Bird Johnson. When LBJ announced the construction of Interstate 10 through the middle of this newly drained tract of land, plus the construction of NASA's largest facility on the same site, property values rose as fast as any in American history. Murchison made a fortune.

Ochsner was personally active in Louisiana politics, He served as campaign manager for INCA board member Dave Treen's successful bid for the U.S. House of Representatives and Lt. Governor Jimmy

Fitzmorris' unsuccessful bid for Governor.

Ochsner was always very close to Congressman F. Edward Hebert, with whom he shared an ultra-right, hard-line, anti-Communist sentiment. On the other hand, Ochsner had an off and-on friendship with liberal Congressman Hale Boggs, whose photo appeared alongside Ochsner's on the back of INCA's phonograph album featuring the voice of Lee Harvey Oswald....

It is interesting to note the comments of Admiral Stansfield Turner, who testified to Congress as the Director of the CIA about the extent of the CIA's domestic activities. One of the Congressional questions was whether the CIA conducted its own medical research here inside the United States, and if so, how were they funding it? Turner said that the CIA had funded 159 medical facilities around the country for the purpose of conducting covert medical research. The funding was done in conjunction with Congress' Hill-Burton Fund. The CIA supplied seed money through blind third parties, and then the facility received matching funds as a Hill-Burton grant. When the facility was completed, the agency had access to a portion of the hospital's bed space for its purposes. It has been suggested to me that the Murchison donation might have been the seed money for the project, and that Congressman Hebert's influence on the CIA budget may have been the real force that provided the Hill-Burton funding. It is probable that Ochsner's hospital was one of the 159 covert research centers which the CIA has admitted to setting up.

The FBI maintained a file on Dr. Alton Ochsner which we now have access to through the Freedom of Information Act. It shows his long relationship with the U.S. military, the FBI and other U.S. government agencies.

(2) Dr. Alton Ochsner was interviewed by the New Orleans States Item about the activities of INCA (16th April, 1963)

As a surgeon, I know that in an emergency, sometimes you are forced to do things quickly or the patient will die... We must spread the warning of the creeping sickness of communism faster to Latin Americas, and to our own people, or Central and South America will be exposed to the same sickness as Cuba.