John Armstrong’s “Harvey and Lee”
John Armstrong’s massive Harvey and Lee is an impressive work, and every JFK assassination researcher owes Armstrong a debt of gratitude for his countless hours of research, which included extensive travelling in order to personally interview witnesses, many of them never interviewed before.
According to the late Jack White, John Armstrong sunk some $100,000 of his own money into the self-publication of his book. Despite the fact that Armstrong expended such time and resources on his investigation, he quickly became a divisive figure in the critical community, with many “respectable” researchers belittling and ridiculing his efforts.
I still don’t buy wholeheartedly into Armstrong’s “theory,” which is that two look-a-likes, one of them Russian-born “Harvey” and the other good old southern boy “Lee,” were part of an intricate intelligence operation, which began when they both were youngsters. But the evidence Armstrong assembled regarding the discrepancies in the physical appearance and personal demeanor of Lee Harvey Oswald, not to mention the differing recollections regarding his mother Marguerite, are impossible to ignore.
I took voluminous notes during the reading of Harvey and Lee, which I often do. What follows is some of the most important information I gleaned from this indispensable book.
Palmer McBride claimed to have worked with Lee Harvey Oswald at Pfisterer Dental Laboratory in New Orleans, from October 1957 to May 1958. Marine Corps records show that Oswald was in Japan during this time period. FBI agents arrived at Pfisterer Dental Laboratory on the morning of November 23, 1963, and confiscated all of Oswald’s employment records, and they were subsequently destroyed. Palmer McBride recalled that Oswald was obsessed with politics, didn’t drink, always talked about communism and said he wanted to kill Eisenhower. They were close friends, and went on dates together.
Armstrong spoke to many of Oswald’s fellow Marines, who remembered quite a different person, the “Lee” who was, according to Armstrong, involved in later setting up “Harvey” as the patsy for the Kennedy assassination. Zack Stout and others who served with Oswald at Atsugi, Japan, claimed they never saw him speak or study Russian. These Marines remembered “Lee” as a drinker, who never discussed politics and frequently engaged in fights.The Marines who served with “Harvey” recalled the constant political chatter from the tea-totaling Marxist who never fought.
Basically, there were two sets of witnesses who remembered Lee Harvey Oswald. The ones who served with “Harvey,” the historical Oswald we know and love, were the ones questioned by the authorities. The ones who served with “Lee” were mostly ignored, and John Armstrong has included their collective testimony in his Harvey and Lee. It is simply impossible to accept that one individual could have been both a heavy drinker and a tea- totaler, a willing scrapper and someone who never engaged in fisticuffs, an out-spoken Marxist and someone who never discussed politics.
The Warren Commission would conclude about the young Lee Harvey Oswald, “There were few children of his age in the neighborhood, and he appears to be by himself after school most of the time.” Classmates of Oswald’s at Ridglea West Elementary School remembered him very differently, however; as a robust, athletic “leader” who got into lots of fights and was “the tallest, the dominant member of our group in elementary school,” to quote Richard Garrett, who was in his fifth grade class.
The young Oswald showed no signs of violent or disturbing behavior, according to numerous friends, neighbors and teachers that Armstrong interviewed. On the other hand, Lee’s brother Robert Oswald, wrote in his book Lee, that Oswald lived in a fantasy world, being especially obsessed by the t.v. show I Led Three Lives. While Robert wrote, “When I left home to join the Marines, he was still watching the reruns” of his favorite show, John Armstrong checked and found that I Led Three Lives didn’t premiere until September, 1953- over a year after Robert left for the Marines on July 15, 1952. Robert would also falsely claim that Lee’s favorite show as an adult was The Fugitive. Again Robert had problems with the historical timeline; he also told interviewers that he hadn’t seen or spoken to Lee since Thanksgiving Day, 1962. The Fugitive didn’t begin airing on television until September 17, 1963.
Oswald’s original New York school records disappeared while in the custody of FBI agent John Malone. His original psychiatric records also disappeared while in FBI custody. New York PS #44 health records listed Oswald as being 5’4, while Dr. Milton Kurian described the boy he interviewed as very short, only about 4’6. Warren Commission records have Oswald attending both PS #44 in New York and Beauregard Junior High in New Orleans during the fall of 1953.
The 1953 Bronx Zoo photo of a skinny, smaller Oswald is markedly different than the taller, husky Oswald that appeared in a 6th grade photo in Fort Worth the year before. Armstrong showed the zoo photo to Oswald’s Ridglea classmates, and they basically said, “Who’s that?” Oswald’s half-brother John Pic immediately identified Lee in the Fort Worth picture, but told the Warren Commission, after looking at the Bronx Zoo photo, “Sir from that photo I could not recognize that is Lee Harvey Oswald.” Robert Oswald, on the other hand, supported the official narrative at every turn, and while he supposedly took the zoo photo in 1953, oddly wrote “1952” on the back of the picture.
John Armstrong contacted John Pic at his Florida home in 1995. When he asked about all the discrepancies in Lee’s appearance, which Pic himself had remarked upon to the Warren Commission, Pic replied, “I gave my testimony to the Warren Commission in 1964. I’ll stand by that testimony and have nothing further to say.”
Going even deeper down this rabbit hole, photos taken of Marguerite Oswald as late as 1957 show a tall, slender, good-looking woman. This attractive lady is the mother of Oswald that many of those Armstrong talked to remembered. As early as 1954, a photo of Oswald’s alleged mother revealed the overweight, short, elderly looking woman presented to the world after the assassination. This is the woman Palmer McBride identified from that 1954 photo, whom he met in 1957.
Marguerite and Lee lived with Myrtle and Julian Evans in New Orleans. They described young Lee as loud and demanding, with a “Foghorn” voice. On page 679 of the Warren Report, it is stated, “Lee is remembered by those who knew him in New Orleans as a quiet, solitary boy with few friends.” Beauregard teacher Myra DaRouse knew Oswald well as a student in her homeroom, and described him as very quiet and small. A year later, in 1955, Dolly Shoe owner Maury Goodman claimed that young employee Oswald spoke so softly that he had to put his ear close to him in order to hear what he was saying. The Evans’ knew the real Marguerite- the slender, good-looking one, for many years. Mrytle and Julian both described her as “beautiful.”
Oswald’s best friend in New Orleans was Edward Voebel. Voebel took the famous photo of Oswald with a missing tooth, sitting in the back of a classroom, later published by Life magazine. Voebel told the Warren Commission that the woman he’d seen represented as Oswald’s mother in the media was far different than he recalled. “I didn’t recognize her. She was a lot thinner….” In May, 1971, Voebel suddenly became ill and was taken to the New Orleans Ochsner Clinic, allegedly because of “insecticide poisons.” After phoning his family to tell them he felt much better and was ready to go home, Voebel suddenly died of a “blood clot.” Dr. Alvin Ochsner was affiliated with the CIA’s Information Council of the Americas. Voebel’s death certificate inexplicably states that he died at Foundation Hospital in Metairie, Louisiana. In 1978, Voebel’s father told the HSCA that he felt his son had died under mysterious circumstances.
Myrtle Evans told the Warren Commission, regarding her friend Marguerite Oswald: “she looked so old and haggard, and I said that couldn’t be Margie.” Myra DaRouse, who knew Oswald very well, claimed that this boy was not the Oswald she knew. Meanwhile, brother Robert had Lee attending Stripling Junior High School, something not in the official narrative. The principal of Stripling, Ricardo Galindo, told Armstrong that it was “common knowledge” that Oswald attended Stripling. There were no records found tying Oswald to Stripling. Former assistant principal of Stripling Frank Kudlaty volunteered to Armstrong that he’d given Oswald’s school records to the FBI, who came to the school and took them on the day after the assassination. Kudlaty also reported that when he looked at Oswald’s records, he found no copies or transcripts from previous schools, which he thought was very unusual.
Marguerite Oswald was given a book of documents and a typewritten chronology before she testified before the Warren Commission, which she frequently (and oddly) referred to. This background information on the history of Lee Harvey Oswald was provided by New York Times reporter Jack Longelt. Not only is it exceedingly strange for a mother to need notes to recite her own child’s history, but I could find absolutely no further information about the enigmatic reporter Jack Longelt.
Leander D’Avy, doorman of the Court of Two Sisters restaurant in New Orleans, claimed that in June 1962, a young man came in and asked if Clay Bertrand worked at the restaurant. Night manager Gene Davis heard this, told D’Avy he wanted to talk to the young man. D’Avy subsequently overheard Davis tell a waitress that this man had been behind the Iron Curtain. D’Avy claimed this young man had lived in an apartment over the restaurant at the time, and later again in November 1963. At both times, Oswald was officially living in Dallas. Davis, interestingly enough, was an active FBI informant. D’Avy would also claim to have seen this “Oswald” in the same bar with Clay Bertrand/Shaw.
Of all who knew him in Russia, only Marina would claim Lee spoke Russian. Oswald was close to the Ziger family in Russia, none of whom spoke English except for the father, Alejandro. In 1998, Armstrong traveled to Buenos Aires to interview his daughter Ana Evelina Ziger, who told him Oswald had no willingness to learn and speak Russian.
Augusta, Georgia Dixie Cab driver Lynn Davis Curry claimed that he picked up a passenger in November 1962, who introduced himself as Lee Oswald. He revealed that he’d been in the Marines, had married a Russian girl, supported Fidel Castro and was traveling to New Orleans. As he left the cab, Oswald insisted that he write his name down and said he would be hearing more about him in the future.
Armstrong demonstrates, better than I’ve seen anywhere else, just how absurd Marina Oswald’s wildly conflicting, ever-changing testimony was. Her comments regarding the backyard photos, and her allegations about Oswald shooting Walker, were especially ridiculous. The HSCA was so perturbed by Marina’s constant changes in testimony that they created a 29 page memo titled “Marina Oswald Porter’s Statements of a Contradictory Nature.” To cite just one example, while Marina claimed to have found and destroyed an additional backyard photo of Oswald, this one with the rifle raised over his head triumphantly, she told the HSCA that she didn’t remember such a photo.She would later tell researcher William Law that Oswald was holding “something else” when she took the backyard photos.
Armstrong does a nice job documenting all of the problems with Ruth Paine as well. Ruth discovered many items incriminating Oswald, after the Dallas Police had thoroughly searched her home. One of them was a long note in Russian, purported to be detailed instructions from Lee to Marina on what to do after his shooting attempt at General Walker. Marina initially said she knew nothing about it, but changed her story the very next day. Armstrong also raises a very logical question: why didn’t alleged Kennedy fan Ruth Paine make plans to see him when he visited Forth Worth and Dallas?
Then there was Ruth Paine’s curious greeting to Dallas officers who came to search her home after the assassination, that “we’ve been expecting you.” Detective Gus Rose certainly found Ruth’s “expectations” strange, and after witnessing Michael Paine arrive at the Paines after the police had, heard him say “something to the effect, ‘Ruth it’s me. Just as soon as I heard where it happened I knew you’d be needing some help.’” Rose pointed out, “At this time there still hadn’t been mention of Oswald on the television but, uh, I didn’t know how to take that.”
I’ve read so many books on the JFK assassination that I stopped counting them long ago. I thought I knew almost everything about this case, but I discovered a lot of new information in Harvey and Lee. According to the flight plan filed by David Ferrie, for instance, an individual named “Hidell” was one of the passengers who flew with him from New Orleans to Garland, Texas on April 6, 1963.
Armstrong details the case of Roy Frankhauser, who was an undercover agent scheduled to testify before the Warren Commission, until his appearance was quashed by the Executive Department on grounds of “national security.” Frankhauser had identified both Ruth and Michael Paine as fellow undercover agents and charged that Ruth Paine had been assigned the role of Oswald’s “baby sitter.”
Laura Kittrell, of the Texas Employment Commission, on her own noticed differences between the Lee Harvey Oswald she’d interviewed earlier and the alleged Teamster who showed up at her office on about October 17, 1963, at a time when Oswald was working at the TSBD. Kittrell very astutely concluded that this was “A fellow who was pretending to be the man whose wife has just had a baby, and who has been coached upon how to answer certain questions….” Kittrell noted numerous differences in behavior and bearing between the two men. She was so moved by her encounters that she wrote a 90 page manuscript about them. Kittrell tried repeatedly to contact the authorities about her meetings with two different Oswalds, but there was no interest on their part. She sent two letters to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy about the subject as well.
One anecdote I’d forgotten was the fact Oswald checked out the book The Shark and the Sardines by Juan Jose Arevalo, from the Dallas Public Library on November 6, 1963, and it was listed as overdue at the time of the assassination. Some anonymous soul returned this book to the library in 1964. Another was the fact Louisiana State Police Lt. Francis Fruge asked the HSCA in 1978 if they’d obtained the diagrams of the Dealey Plaza sewer system in Sergio Aracha’s apartment. Fruge stated that he thought it was Will Fritz who first told him about these diagrams. The HSCA never attempted to locate them.
James Alfred Markham, Helen Markham’s 20 year old son, had several curiously under reported encounters with a fake Oswald. A few weeks before the assassination, he met someone named “Ozzie” while getting a ride with a friend. He saw “Ozzie” again a couple of days later while fishing, and chatted with him. A few days after that, while visiting his brother’s apartment, Markham encountered “Ozzie” again, who was sitting in a car with three other males. The next day, Markham saw “Ozzie” yet again, at the Texas Theater no less. This time, “Ozzie” left some truly incendiary remarks on the record, as he asked Markham if he would like to help him “stun the nation,” and discussed killing President Kennedy during his upcoming trip to Dallas. Markham laughed it off as a joke, but would later recognize the man accused of being JFK’s assassin as “Ozzie.” On each occasion Markham encountered “Ozzie,” Oswald was documented as working at the TSBD.
On November 21, 1963, Helen McIntosh, friend of an SMU professor who lived in the apartment next to Jack Ruby, claimed that a man she later identified as Oswald knocked at their door and asked for Jack Ruby. At around 2:15 a.m. on November 22, 1963, B & B Restaurant head waitress Mary Lawrence reported that a man she identified as Oswald entered the restaurant and told her and the night cashier that he was waiting for Jack Ruby, whom Lawrence had known for nearly a decade. A short while later, Ruby entered the place and the two men talked for over half an hour. Lee Harvey Oswald, of course, was reportedly in bed with his wife at the Paines’ home at the time. On December 3, 1963, Mary Lawrence received one of those all too frequent threatening phone calls, and an unidentified man warned her, “If you don’t want to die, you better get out of town.” Lawrence bravely stuck by her story when she talked to the Dallas Police, and insisted she was certain it was Oswald and Ruby she’d seen together.
On November 27, 1963, supposed non-driver Lee Harvey Oswald’s driver’s license appeared at the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin, Texas. Aletha Frair claimed that she and numerous other employees had seen the license, which became the buzz around the workplace. She was certain that it was in the name of Lee Harvey Oswald. Fellow employee Lee Bozarth declared that she knew the license was there, as well as a file on Oswald, and that it was given to a federal agency in early December, 1963. In 1978, HSCA investigator Gary Sanders contacted the TDPS about Oswald’s license, and after a brief, curt conversation with a Mrs. Seay, concluded, “It is very obvious to me that if there are any records at the DPS pertaining to Lee Harvey Oswald they are not going to release them.”
In another incident I’d never heard of, Ruby’s stripper “Jada,” aka Jeanette Conforto, struck pedestrian Charles Burnes with her Cadillac at approximately noon on November 22, 1963. Jada seemed to be in an inordinate rush, and oddly cursed hysterically at Burnes afterwards. When she was questioned shortly thereafter, Jada tellingly stated that the Carousel Club would not be open that evening, and that she was in a hurry to get to New Orleans.
Mechanic T.E. White saw a man he later identified as Oswald in a red Ford Falcon, first speeding and then seemingly hiding out in a restaurant parking lot, during the time Oswald was being arrested at the Texas Theater. White wrote the license tag down, and it was traced to Carl Mather, who happened to be Officer J.D. Tippit’s best friend. Mather worked for Collins Radio, and one of his jobs was servicing the communications equipment aboard Air Force Two, LBJ’s plane. Another employee of Collins Radio, Kenneth Porter, quit his job and left his wife after the assassination, later marrying Marina Oswald. Before Mather agreed to be interviewed by the HSCA in 1978, he demanded a grant of immunity. His testimony is still classified.
The FBI alone had amassed a file relating to Oswald which contained over one hundred reports, during the time period of 1960 leading up to the assassination. Why did FBI special agent Milton Kaack review Oswald’s birth records in New Orleans, on October 24, 1963? Hoover himself sent reports on Oswald to the CIA just two weeks before the assassination, informing them that they “may be of interest to you.”
Richard Case Nagell walked into an El Paso, Texas bank on September 20, 1963, fired two shots into the ceiling, then went outside and waited in his car to be arrested. Nagell would claim to be a double agent who was trying to stop the assassination of JFK. He mentioned Oswald by name, and claimed to have sent a registered letter to J. Edgar Hoover warning him of the plot. The AARB sent a registered letter to Nagell on October 31, 1995, anxious to talk to him. He died of a heart attack the following day. Most tellingly, when Nagell was arrested by El Paso police, again two months before the assassination, he was carrying a DOD ID card on him, with Oswald’s name and photograph on it.
What about the little noted 30 minute telephone call Oswald made at 8 p.m. on November 23? This was prior to his aborted attempted to contact the Raleigh, North Carolina number, to someone named John Hurt. During this 30 minute call to an unknown person, DPD officer J.L. Popplewell stood nearby, and two unidentified men were eavesdropping on the call in the next room, according to the DPD telephone operators. There are no telephone logs that recorded the number Oswald called. Who listened in to this call, which is highly significant in a historical sense? Why doesn’t anyone know who Oswald spoke to?
Echoing the claims of so many other witnesses, Dallas Police Lt. Donald Archer told the HSCA that he noticed numerous discrepancies when he was asked by Captain Nichols to sign his Warren Commission deposition. He made corrections and it was returned to the Commission. When it was subsequently returned to him, Archer noted even more errors. He again corrected the “mistakes” and it was returned to the Commission. The third time, again there were discrepancies, but Archer was ordered to sign the deposition. When he started making the corrections again, in pen, he was instructed by a Warren Commission staffer to make them in pencil.
Marina Oswald received $132,350 within a few months of signing a contract with Onajet Productions, also known as Tex-Italia Films and Cinema International Productions (which rented a small office with Samuel Goldwyn Studios, but never produced a single film), for worldwide movie and television rights to her story. This was shortly before Marina first testified before the Warren Commission. Commission staff member Fredda Scobey was concerned about Marina’s inconsistent testimony, writing to Senator Richard Russell that, “Marina directly lied on at least two occasions” and suggested she be cross-examined. Chief Justice Earl Warren refused to consider the matter, telling Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin not to pursue it. Despite this, Rankin wrote in a lengthy memo that “Marina’s testimony is so full of confusion and contradiction that without the catalytic element of cross-examination it reads like a nightmare.” Marina would insist on being granted immunity before agreeing to testify to the HSCA.
There is much more I could write, but I hope this gives readers a sense of the important information John Armstrong unearthed in his lengthy, detailed work. I know the book is expensive, and not in many libraries, but it is well worth every researcher’s time to read it, study it, and appreciate Harvey and Lee.