In considering Col. Burris’ trip to Dallas in terms of a national security context (and to help those interested in considering his possible service as an intelligence back channel) my previous post deserves some further background. The following information is from a number of sources including FOIA released documents; anybody can dig it out and by this time there may be more available for interested researchers. I’d love to see someone really dig further into it..
First, in terms of Col. Burris career, he was from Texas and was attending San Antonio college in 1937 when he left to attend West Point. After graduation in 1942 and commissioning as a Lt., he went into active service and served two combat tours with bomber groups in England and France. In 1946 Major Burris married Barbara Jester, the daughter of Texas Governor Jester. From 1945-1946 Burris served as Headquarters Commandant at the Continental Air Command – apparently on a very fast track within the service. In 1949 he served on a UN staff mission to Mexico and then became Congressional Liaison to the Secretary of he Air Force, by 1950 becoming an aide to the Secretary of the Air Force, working in the Pentagon. By 1953 he is Executive Officer for the Secreatary of the Air Force and the following year becomes Air Attache at the US Embassy in Switzerland…..clearly his career is staff/political/headquarters oriented rather than operational.
By 1957 Burris becomes International Liason Officer and for three years takes assignments on special missions to Hungary, Poland and the Soviet Union. This is at the height of the cold war and its hard to imagine such a position not having some intelligence connections. In 1960 he leaves the position of International Liason Officer for the Air Force and goes on a series of special misisons to Hungary, Poland and the Soviet Union – while also serving as briefing officer for LBJ. In February 1961 he is selected by Johnson as his military aide and international affairs officer. A study of his reports and memos show that the has a tremendous access to top secret information and prepares a series of briefing papers for Johnson ranging from from the Communist Party in the US to affairs in the Congo.
In 1963 Burris is reassigned to the Directorate of Plans at the Pentagon and (the records are sketchy) may well have worked on the TFX fighter project, the Air Force Dyna Soar space plane project and the SST supersonic airliner project. However, Burris remains involved with Johnson in regard to international affairs throughout 1963 and seems to be wearing two hats – at one point he becomes irritated about being reassigned to an office at the Pentagon and losing his regular White House office access. He also travels a good deal in 1967 with trips to Seattle, LA and Phoenix as well as to Europe including Copenhagen, Paris, Weisbaden and Bern.
In 1964 Burris retires as a Col. (with the same rank he had held for 25 years, something rather unique in the services where spending too much time in one grade can mean being “riffed”) and Johnson writes him a thank you note for his services, but there is no thought to a position in Johnson’s administration. A letter from Johnson to Burris seems to express his thanks for work that Burris eventually did on the Johnson inaugural. And Burris continued to be in touch with White House staff such as Jenkins and Cliff Carter and makes recommendations for various posts for his friends and acquaintances. By 1968, Burris appears to have become a DC lobbyist for McDonnell/Douglas.
According to newsaper reports, in 1968 Burrs and his wife build a multi-million dollar Heritage Gardens estate outside Washington D.C. At the time it covered 149 acres by the Potomic and was estimated to cost $15 million dollars.
So….if I led anyone to believe that Col. Burris was a simple political appointee by LBJ, absolutely not. Burris connections were definitely upper echelon at the Pentagon and within the Air Force but very much that of a political officer with foreign affairs expertise. As noted previously he may well have been used to feed select information to Johnson and to generate information as well (if anybody thinks he various agencies and military services are not monitoring each other…think again).
Individuals who have written about Burris include Newman, Russo and Morrow…I’ll provide a bit of further information about what they have to say as well as on Col. Burris activities in the oil industry but again, consider the above background in regard to a Texas trip by Col. Burris on November 21. The one and only time Burris had ever flown to do anything directly with Johnson and while he was in reality wearing two hats with his AF Directorate of Plans job. Was the trip really about international affairs…doubtful. Was it about preparing Johnson to defend himself if JFK hit him up about the TFX scandal again? Was it some backchannel info about policy changes in Vietnam? Or…you get to fill in the blank…..