Don’t worry, Bill will be returning with the third part of his series on Mexico City spy games.  In the interim I’m just going to put up a few thoughts that give me pause, sharing the pain I suppose. I’ve posted it on the other blog, for The Awful Grace of God, just so those readers can share it as well..

After looking in considerable depth at the three major political assassinations of the 1960’s and then spending a good deal of time studying covert operations in general, it strikes me that we may sometimes overreach ourselves in assuming that the details of what actually happened in Dallas, Memphis or LA reflect the actual “plan”.

Why is that a problem?  Because we often spend a huge amount of time attempting to derive the nature of a related conspiracy, and beyond that its sponsors, from the known history of the incident.

And in all three cities and all three attacks it gets even worse when the actions of those charged with the crime appear to be almost coincidental – not to mention showing no forethought at all for escaping after the attack.  In Memphis the murder shot was taken during a three minute window of time, and might never have happened even then if MLK had not gone back into his room for a jacket and/or had proceeded directly down the stairs from his motel room.  At the Ambassador hotel, RFK could have gone any of three directions after his speech and if he had chosen to go any way except the way he had come onto the stage, there would have been no shooting.

But do we really know that, or do we just assume it?

Of course its possible to build complex scenarios involving the manipulation of all aspects of the situation – the bad guys have inside informants, they can manipulate details of the targets movements, multiple participants are on hand to stage manage the whole thing and it all comes off to perfection.  But then these same masterminds pass up the opportunity to leave their patsies dead at the scene of the crime, or to even establish any sort of obvious motives so that everybody doesn’t suspect a conspiracy. Surely really good planners with inside operatives could have ensured Ray’s effects would have contained something firmly suggesting a motive, surely a dirty cop could have taken him down during an apparent escape?

In regard to Dallas, we have a source who tells us that even there, the plan fell apart within half an hour or so, despite the success of the shooting.  There were leaks to an informant after Memphis, suggesting the things didn’t go as planned there and the people on the scene had to rush a diversion into place using CB broadcasts to divert attention from Ray’s escape.

I’m offering no conclusions, but I think its worth considering if we have taken too much for granted in assuming that what happened, even when it looks arguably sloppy and virtually unplanned was what really was to happen?   Is it brilliantly designed that way or did certain things come unglued, as in Dallas?

…I see no reason that this sort of thought should not pain you as much as it does me…


About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

9 responses »

  1. John MacDonald says:

    I’ve always thought that in Dallas there were at least two major missteps:
    1.) Tippit’s activities that morning and his sudden departure from the gas station just before his murder has always led me to think that something major went wrong and he was sacrificed to keep things under control.
    2.) Oswald should not have had to return to has apt to get his pistol. He would have taken it with him if he anticipated needing it. I think he knew things had gone “wrong” (not as he was led to believe they would happen) and he fled to follow a back-up plan at the Texas Theatre.

    I think you are right tjhat we could learn a lot from the more obvious missteps in these events.

    Finally, Does anyone know whether he ever received a phone call on that payphone on the second floor? Were the phone records for that phone (or for all of the BD) ever compiled?

    • John, I certainly agree with both points….it appears to me that things “went off the rails” shortly after the
      police encounter in the building and whatever plan there was to bird-dog or maneuver Oswald started to fall
      apart then. Tippett’s behavior from the gas station on suggests Oswald was no longer predictable. And Oswald’s
      getting himself dropped off away from his apartment is another indication that he had become suspicious of
      what was going on. Martino commented that by the point at which Oswald encountered Tippett and Tippett was
      shot, there was really no chance of recovering the plan. From that point on those involved were just trying to
      catch up with events.

      As to the telephone, Jerry Dealey is our resident expert on that subject and I will ask him but as far as I know
      none of the phones in the building were checked – it did not fit the Oswald/lone nut scenario.

      • John MacDonald says:

        A final thought on Tippet: He carried a clean DPD shirt in his back seat. Had he picked up LHO near his rooming house for a ride to Redbird Airport, the shirt for LHO would have instantly made them two police officers above suspicion, and they likely would have met the small aircraft revving it’s engines for several hours at RedBird. With Tippet out of play, he went to the Texas Theater for a back-up contact

      • And its a good thought John. Honestly the reason I don’t cover the Tippett aspect in SWHT is simply can’t come to closure myself. Tippett’s behavior, as recorded by some very diligent researchers, clearly shows (to me) that Tippett was somehow entangled with Oswald. The simplest scenario is the one that you propose. And it would fit Martino’s remarks that it was the Tippett shooting which aborted the full plan. An alternative would be that Tippett was simply one of throw or three “shadows” in place to monitor Oswald’s movement and perhaps take him out if it appeared he was going out of play – clearly no one would have questioned Tippett shooting an armed Oswald. To me this is indicative of a very well structured and organized plan, with backups, exfiltration, the sort of thing I would expect form covert operations professionals who have planned and practiced such things before. Definitely not an ad hoc exercise or pick up game. But even very good plans can go awry in action – which seems to have happened in stages as Oswald heard too much too quickly and became way to suspicious.

  2. John MacDonald says:

    Larry, the event which I neglected to mention, but which I think clearly shows the Tippit / Oswald link, is the incident in the diner several days before the assassination in which Oswald made quite a show of ranting about his eggs. Tippit was there at the same
    counter and “shot Oswald a look”. This sounds to me like an old intelligence ploy that

    accomplished two things: 1.) it allowed Tippit to get a clear look at Oswald from several feet away and here his voice clearly, and 2.) gave Oswald an opportunty to insert a phrase into his rant which which he had been instructed to say, and which had some meaning to Tippit, i.e. go with Plan A not Plan b, etc. It may be that Oswald had no idea why he was instructed to do this, and may never have met Tippit. If he had, there are far less public ways to meet and plot, etc.All of the above suggests to me that there were compartmentalized “need to know” groups (with different controls) assigned to key elements of the plan and and that none of them knew the whole story, thus players could be manipulated as needed in real time. So yes, I think that neither Oswald or Tippit were known to each other efore the diner meeting. Both Tippit and Oswald were thrown a curve ball that day and neither understood what was happening – but others who pulled the strings did. Just a thought.

    Are there nany researchers / books / sources that focus on Tippit, his life, connections, and preassassination activities that might shed some light on this?

  3. John MacDonald says:

    Also, what do you think of Dale Myers work on Tippit…is there anything new or of of value in his book? Didn’t Penn Jones do some early writing on Tippit (for Ramparts)? Does his “Forgieve My Grief” deal with any of this? Copies are quite expensive so I don’t want to buy if it is outdated. I’mlooking for sources I might have missed.

    • John, its been sometime since I read Meyer’s book on Tippett, my recollection was that there several issues that he developed including the matter of the mystery billfold that I thought were very suggestive – but he really did not carry on beyond just laying out the facts – of course his work fundamentally was to conclude that Oswald did shoot Tippett and not to explore
      ancillary issues that might have related to Oswald and a conspiracy.

      I don’t know of anything more recent in print although there were a series of great articles on Tippett’s strange behavior – at the gas station, stopping and quick searching a car and at the record shop making the telephone call…and some Lancer presentations by the author. It will be a bit before I can find my files on that but I’ll add the name and source if I can, too me they were very suggestive that Tippett was being moved from his planned role as a “shadow” to a more active intercept role when things came apart and Oswald went off on his own from downtown. One thing that does seem clear is that when Tippett pulled his revolver (as was standard with him since being wounded making an arrest)it would have taken precedent over any prior arrangements and Oswald very well have responded thinking he was going to be shot on the spot.

  4. James Stubbs says:

    The Tippit business is like a hangnail.. Every time I think I got it, I don’t got it. It seems as if Oswald would have been closely monitored at the TSBD if he was an unwitting participant. If he was being set up, and was supposed to do certain things after the shooting, I can’t conceive of someone letting him go do what he was supposed to do with out being on him like a glove. If he was unwitting, it wouldn’t take him long to figure out he was in danger of getting jammed up. Yet, he went to the Texas Theater where Martino said that Oswald was supposed to go. If he was suspicious about getting set up, why keep the rendezvous at the theater? As for shooting Tippit, I’m not convinced he did that. Apparently, there was a print recovered from Tippit’s cruiser. DPD was mum on that. The whole billfold thing reeks. The movement of Oswald from the theater to DPD, and the officers’ stories about handling his wallet and ID’ing him also reek. O’Toole and his use of the PSE on that issue was interesting. I don’t believe a neighborhood canvas was done post shooting. The discovery of that white jacket behinf the Texaco station is a grabber. None of the DPD officers involved wanted anything to do with the discovery of that jacket. They obfuscated all over the place on something that was simple. After reading a lot on that shooting, my only solid feeling is that DPD did NOT want that looked into closely, so they didn’t.

    • Jim, for me the Tippett thing is much like the question of exactly who shot from what location. I’d love to know but in reality both simply divert me from the crucial question of the murder of the President and the nature of the conspiracy. Not to say that I haven’t killed a lot of brain cells obsessing on both.

      As to Oswald, some recent discussions have made me realize that in one sense it didn’t matter what Oswald did, he could have been in the street waving at the President. As long as a rifle and matching hulls were found on the sixth floor, he would have ultimately been the “pointer” in the investigation – if inside and out of sight he becomes the shooter, if visible he becomes the conspirator – hey kid, its your rifle, who did you give it two, who were the other commies in this with you. I do think it was more complex than that but the rifle was really the key in framing him. Martino’s remarks imply he was to be picked up, if so I doubt nothing other than a body would have been recovered and in that case you remain with a conspiracy. Of course the obvious witness observation and true evidence suggest multiple shooters so the powers that be have their choice – its a commie conspiracy or a lone nut, which causes us less grief.

      Whether Oswald was on his way to the theater or to Ruby’s apartment will also remain a question, he ended up at the theater because after the Tippett encounter he was out of options, he had to get off the street. One of the reasons it drives us nuts is whatever did happen was not in the plan, meaning we have little clue as to what the plans involving Oswald and even Tippett truly were, we simply know bits and pieces of what made it into the official record.

      As to Tippett, when all is said and done I do believe that he was on “overwatch”, tracking Oswald and that most important thing about him is probably his recruitment by Jack Ruby….but that’s just where I’ve decided to let it lie so it doesn’t continue to annoy me…

      — Larry

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