Friday, November 19, 2010

                       FLASHBACK: A REVIEW    
                      John Delane Williams

     Flashback: The untold story of Lee Harvey Oswald , is a self-published book by Ron Lewis. [1] Lewis's writing style is uneven; at points, it gets repetitive. This book lends a dimension to understanding Oswald that gives a more personal view than many of the better known expositions of Oswald's life.  Perhaps the potential for this book is that it explores Oswald's world of New Orleans. More importantly, it portrays Oswald simultaneously with more virtures and faults than is typical. A possible difficulty is that it is, for the most part, a "he said he said" book. Insofar as Oswald shaded the truth with Lewis, the truth stays shaded. It does remain as a purported record of what Oswald said.
     In regard to the involvement of Lee Harvey Oswald in the JFK assassination, there seems to be three well delineated positions: Lee Harvey Oswald was:
1. The lone assassin of JFK, acting entirely on his own;
2. A willing participant in a conspiracy to assassinate JFK (or likely to have been a participant);
3. Had nothing to do with the assassination, or at most was an unwitting participant (the innocent "patsy").
     The first position is consistent with the Warren Commission findings and is defended recently by Posner [2] and Mailer. [3] The third position is the position of many independent assassination researchers including North [4] and Brown. [5] The second answer seems to be the excluded middle. The book by Lewis, who describes himself as the only friend LHO had in the last months of his life, places Oswald squarely into the second category, with several qualifications.
     Lewis was born in 1932 and lived his youthful years in Oregon.
At 17, Lewis was in the Air Force and charged with statutory rape. He was dishonorably discharged from the service and received three years probation. Failing to comply with the terms of probation, he was imprisoned at the state prison in Salem. While in prison, he joined a communist cell. (Though he never mentions this in regard to Oswald, who had lived in Soviet Russia). He drifted around after his release from prison, trying unsuccessfully to join the armed forces in Canada, then working alternatively in various restaurants or in the meat industry. After a failed marriage, he was working in the cattle business; his employer, the employer's wife and a girlfriend of the employer went on a check bouncing spree. Lewis was arrested, but skipped bail.
     He moved to Fort Worth, changed his name (to Kenneth Mason), and became fast friends with a variety of persons on the edge of society, including Karen Carlin, who was stripping occasionally (at that point) in Jack Ruby's Carousel Club. Lewis and a friend (Butch Stone) had been working as salesmen for a portrait studio and went to Jaggars-Chiles and Stovall to get business cards made. There, he met Lee Harvey Oswald in October, 1962. Lewis had purchased a 1958 black Chevrolet Impala, which he left with Stone, because he was behind in his payments. Lewis conjectured that Oswald was using this car on the night that he shot at General Walker; a car with a similiar description was seen by 14 year old Walter Kirk Coleman near the Walker residence at the time of the shooting. Since Coleman saw the occupant of the car and said it wasn't Oswald, [6,7]  it is not clear why Lewis made the conjecture that this was his car being driven by Oswald.
      It was in New Orleans that Oswald confided to Lewis that he shot at Walker.  Oswald was serving as a recruiter for Guy Banister, the former FBI agent who apparently was connected to the CIA. Oswald was handing out the Fair Play for Cuba pamphlets as a guise to meet and recruit young men for a variety of tasks, including causing racial unrest, and working in political campaigns, as well as building a file of possible subversives. Banister was as getting his orders from Clay Shaw. The demonstration that Oswald took part in, handing out leaflets in front of the Trade Mart, was ordered by Banister and Shaw. Oswald, according to Lewis, saw himself as a government agent. This life as an "007 spy" apparently appealed to Oswald. Oswald and Lewis would meet early  most mornings and hold their discussions.  Oswald also confided that he obtained gonorrhea in the line of duty, and didn't get reprimanded for it; it seems he was gathering information from Japanese prostitutes. Oswald told Lewis that his expression of left-wing views was only a front; he felt he was the master of his own destiny. It is Lewis's contention that the key to unravelling the conspiracy would be Banister's files, taken by the FBI the day after Banister died.
    There was an arms movement that involved Jack Ruby, Oswald, Ferrie, and apparently, Gerry Patrick Hemming, a soldier of fortune who claims to have been offered money on several occassions to assassinate Kennedy. [8,9,10] This arms movement occured just before the Clinton, LA voter drive. Oswald was fearful of the voter drive, thinking Banister was going to take advantage of Oswald's Russia connection in exposing the drive as communist inspired. Lewis and Oswald were to sell arms to CORE and have the FBI arrest CORE members. This plan did not go ahead, because there was felt to be too little racial tension.
    Oswald apparently had an orientation to violence that is seldom documented. There is the death of his friend, Martin Schrand at Cubi Point; Oswald thought he would be arrested for murder, but he was cleared by a Board of Inquiry. He had intended to shoot Senator Russell Long at a poltical rally, but Long didn't show up. Oswald intended to hijack an airliner and take it to Cuba.
    Accoring to Lewis, a part of the New Orleans conspiracy were Jack Ruby, Oswald, David Ferrie and Roscoe White. White was cast in the role as the (potential) actual shooter, and was to be shortly placed with the Dallas Police Department. White had been trained at the Lake Pontchartrain Secret Training Camp, under Frank Sturgis. White also tried his hand at being an Oswald impersonator on Lewis in New Orleans.
    Oswald wanted out of the conspiracy but felt the only person who could be trusted to be told was the president himself. Oswald mentioned the conspiracy to Jerry Herald, a photographer, on the night of November 22, alledgedly saying that his being used would come out at his trial. [11] Oswald seemed consigned to the fate that he had been drawn into the conspiracy. Oswald wanted no part of the plan. It was thought that a hit was on for late September in Washington. Then Oswald found out the plan was just a decoy to scare spies out of the group. One such person who came out of the woodwork was Richard Case Nagell [12] who deliberately shot up a bank in El Paso, Texas, and then waited until he could be arrested. Oswald was apparently aware that the action by Nagell was precipitated by the conspirators to scare out spys out of the network, according to Lewis (p. 173).
     Oswald reported to Lewis that he met with Maurice Bishop (David Atlee Phillips) in mid-September at the Southland Center in Dallas. Oswald apparently thought his destination, when leaving New Orleans, was Dallas instead of Mexico City.  He told Lewis (when he saw him on October 11) that he flew to Ottawa, Canada, possibly with David Atlee Phillips (or another high ranking CIA man) met with a Cuban (possibly Che Gueverra), and then flew back to Mexico City. During the first part of October, Oswald met frequently with Ruby, having the first scheduled meeting on October 5, presumably to discuss the assassination plans. Ruby (according to Lewis) had arranged for Oswald to stay at a boarding house run by Earlene Roberts. Roberts was likely known by Ruby; her sister, Bertha Cheek, had once talked with Ruby about investing in the Carousel Club and had visited Ruby at the Carousel Club on November 18, 1963. [13] Another possible Ruby- Roberts connection was thru John Carter, a boarder at Roberts' 1026 North Beckley boarding house. Carter worked as a painter with Hank Killam, husband of Wanda Joyce, a Ruby stripper. Killam died mysteriously March 17, 1964. [14] Oswald left Dallas for New Orleans on October 11 to make sure Lewis was not going to talk; Oswald talked about killing Lewis were it necessary. Oswald told Roberts that he would be staying in his room on Friday October 11. On Thursday night, he apparently  went out, crawling onto a tree, then catching a bus to New Orleans for the 12 hour trip. After seeing Lewis, he returned to Dallas, probably arriving early Saturday morning. This October 11 meeting was the last time Lewis saw Oswald. Oswald said that Ruby had secured a job for him at the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Oswald asked Lewis to fill out a change of address card for the post office. Lewis complied, except that he printed Oswald's name instead of signing it. Lewis thought this might have left one artifact of his relationship with Oswald ( p. 190, 206); but apparently the postal clerk copied the information, signing it himself and throwing Lewis's printing away.
    Lewis felt Oswald was a patsy, though one who was in on the initial planning. Lewis attributes Oswald's involvement as a part of playing out his fantasized role as a spy. Oswald told Lewis that he had a plan to warn Kennedy. (Perhaps that plan was executed with the November 16 telegram that was received in New Orleans and then suppressed. [15])
    Oswald told Lewis about an employee at Stephens' Chevrolet in New Orleans named Jack Lawrence, who was a Banister confederate. Lawrence moved to Dallas in October, working for the Downtown Lincoln-Mercury dealer. Lawrence reported to the FBI about the strange behavior of Oswald when trying out a car. Lawrence's car was found parked behind the picket fence by the grassy knoll shortly after the assassination; Lawrence was arrested and held for 24 hours. [16,17] Lawrence, by the way, denies having supplied references from the New Orleans dealership, having parked his car behind the picket fence, or that he was taken into custody by the police. [18]  Inkol [19] indicated that Lawrence contradicted himself nine times either in an interview with him or an interview with the FBI. Lawrence was alledged to be an associate of Jack Ruby by an unnammed NBC correspondent. [20]
    Lewis surmized that LHO left the Schoolbook Depository because Connally was hit, not because Kennedy was hit. Oswald had previously written to Connally, [21] and felt he might be discovered by the paper trail.  
   Lewis tells of one lie that Oswald told. Banister wanted Oswald to test out his markmanship with the Carcanno at the Lake Pontchartrain camp. Oswald said that he had buried his rifle and pistol under the bushes at his old Neely Street address, whereas he had both with him in New Orleans. This fabrication was repeated in Morrow's First Hand Knowledge, [22] suggesting Morrow had inside information from Banister's group. Morrow also knew of the trip to Canada.
   Lewis relates that Beverly Oliver told him in a casual conversation at the time of the filming of JFK that she witnessed a meeting involving Ruby, Oswald, David Ferrie and Jack Lawrence. She and a stripper named Jada [Janet Conforto] sat at a table with Ruby and Oswald in the Carousel Club. Oliver has had little to say publicly regarding these events, no doubt contributing to her longevity. Oliver mentions meeting Oswald on the same occasion as Jada met him at the Carousel Club; Jada dissappeared the day after telling a reporter that Ruby introduced her to Oswald at the Carousel Club. Oliver met Oswald there as well- but kept quiet about it for her own health. [23] 
    What was Lewis's motivation in writing the book? I doubt that it was for the money- the difficulty he experienced in getting it published must have left him with the realization that this was not going to become a best seller. Though he received probable local publicity, the experience with the filming of JFK probably yielded more of that. Until proven differently, we could take Lewis on his own word- to get the truth in the open.
   One major difficulty with the Lewis chronology is that there is little physical evidence of his relationship to Oswald; Lewis says that he destroyed anything that might tie him to Oswald immediately after the assassination. Lewis did have Marina Oswald Porter corraborate a chance meeting between the two of them in front of Oswald's office. Hemming and Oliver could shed additional light (though what Oliver has said so far is consistent with Lewis's story). What could be made of Lewis's story? As additional evidence is unveiled, some of his story can be tested.  In an overall sense, the story is believable- and it casts Oswald as a more believable person than other renderings have done. Other first person accounts such as Ray Brown [24] also place Oswald and Ruby together. Surely also Ruby's knowledge that the correct name for Oswald's one person organization in New Orleans was the "Fairplay for Cuba Committee", correcting Henry Wade, who claimed Oswald was a member of the "Free Cuba Movement or whatever" at the press conference at the Dallas Police Department that Ruby seruptitiously attended the day after the assassination, [25, 26] lies as evidence of a probable relationship between Ruby and Oswald.

1. Lewis, R. (1993). Flashback.
2. Posner, G. (1993). Case Closed. New York: Random House.
3. Mailer, N. (1995). Oswald's Tales. New York: Random House.
4. North, M. (1991). Act of Treason: The Role of J. Edgar Hoover in    the assassination of President Kennedy. New York: Carroll &         Graf.
5.  Brown, W. (1995). Treachery in Dallas. New York: Carroll &         Graf.
6.  Warren Commission Report. (1964). XXVI, 437-438.
7.  Lane, M. (1966). Rush to Judgement. New York: Holt, Rhinehart       & Winston, p. 384.
8.  Declasified: The Plot to Kill President Kennedy. (1988)
    New York: VidAmerica.
9.  Frewin, A. (1993). The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: An         Annotated Film, TV, and Videography, 1963-1992. Westport, CT:      Greenwood Press.
10. Lane, M. (1991). Plausible Denial. New York: Thunder Mouth         Press.
11. Kurtz, M. (1982). Crime of the Century. Knoxville, TN:              University of Tennessee Press.
12. Russell, D. (1991). The Man Who Knew too Much. New York:           Carroll & Graf.
13. Summers, A. (1980). Conspiracy. New York: McGraw-Hill.
14. Roberts, C. & Armstrong, J. (1995). JFK: The Dead Witnesses.       Tulsa, OK: Consolidated Press International.
15. Garrison, J. (1988). On the Trail of Assassins. New York:          Warner Books. See p. 257.
16. Shaw, J. G. with Harris, L. (1976). Cover-up. Cleburne, TX: the      authors.
17. Groden R. & Livingston, H. E. (1989). High Treason. New York:      The Conservatory Press.
18. Inkol, S. (1992). Jack Lawrence Responds. The Third Decade, 8,      #6, 1-17.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid.
21. Nightline: Was Oswald Shooting at Connally? (1988). New York:      ABC News.
22. Morrow, R. D. (1992). First hand Knowledge: How I Participated      in the CIA-MAFIA Murder of President Kennedy. New York: SPI        Books.
23. Oliver, B. (1993). Beverly Oliver responds: An open letter to      the research community. The Third Decade, 9,#5. 9-13.
24. Brown, R. with Lassiter, D. (1996). Broken Silence: The Truth      about Lee Harvey Oswald, LBJ, and the Assassination of JFK. New      York: Pinnacle Press.
25. NBC newsreel footage, November 23, 1963. New York: NBC News        Archives.
26. Four Days in November (1964). United Artists.

From The Fourth Decade: A Journal of Research on the John F. Kennedy Assassination. (1997). 4, 4, 14-17.

3 comments:

  1. I am also fascinated by Ron Lewis' account. After reading it multiple times to sketch out its timeline, I decided to contact Ron Lewis for dates and times (which are sometimes left vague in his book). In my reading of his book, Ron's relationship with Oswald was short and held many secrets, mainly on Oswald's side. The two were close only to the extent that Oswald needed to strengthen his relationship as a recruiter for Guy Banister. Banister sought to ensure that Oswald had 'dirt' on underlings he dealt with, to make them easier to control, evidently, and he clearly had dirt on Ron Lewis. The Banister/Oswald connection is the real pearl in Lewis' narrative, because this is the only account that suggests a plausible reason why Oswald was selected as a patsy - as seems plain to many researchers. Oswald had confessed to Banister and Ferrie that he tried to assassinate General Walker. This was big news in the extreme-right-wing as I found out independently; General Walker and Guy Banister were long-time friends who maintained a relationship within the extreme right wing group, the Minutemen. According to Ron Lewis, Oswald's confession about the Walker shooting became the 'dirt' that Banister held over Oswald. Banister used it as a 'stick' to blackmail Oswald, and he used the prize of assassinating Castro as a 'carrot.' That carrot is the other side of the pressure on Oswald that does much to explain his behavior. Banister tempted Oswald with the assignment to infiltrate Cuba and kill Castro. If successful, Oswald was promised a large cash reward, the parade of an American Hero, and so a chance at becoming a future US President. Only this can explain why Oswald told Marina he was going to become President one day. Torn between glory and disgrace, Oswald saw himself as a double-agent. His plan to infiltrate Cuba involved pretending to be a communist. This is why he had the only New Orleans branch of the 'Fair Play for Cuba Society' with a membership of one. This is also why he passed out leaflets - with HIRED assistants in front of a CAMERA (clearly not a communist pattern). (The fact that a camera was there for the drama of Oswald's double-agent heroics is, for me, strong evidence that Oswald was not in charge of the plan.) Another strong point of Ron Lewis' book is the believable narrative about Oswald's confession. Ron Lewis portrays Oswald as tight-lipped around strangers, but talkative and even arrogant around friends. Oswald confessed to Banister and Ferrie that he took shots at General Walker in an effort to impress them with his willingness to assassinate political leaders, in order to get the assignment to infiltrate Cuba to kill Castro. This confession was his biggest mistake. Oswald portrayed himself as a liberal to Ron Lewis, who was sympathetic to liberal causes. Insofar as Ron Lewis found out near the end of the summer of 1963 that Oswald was also an enemy of Castro, this shows the one-sided nature of their relationship. Ron still has the feeling that Oswald was more left-leaning than right-leaning. Yet the facts are clear to him, too, and he is left trying to figure out if Oswald was simply blackmailed into the plot to hit JFK, or whether he was trying to expose the plot, or some other relationship - like a truly right-wing extremist posing as a communist in order to entrap communists. This was, after all, the reason that Oswald set out to recruit Ron Lewis in the first place - to recruit recruiters to ensnare college kids for Guy Banister. In conclusion, I'll mention that I wrote a screenplay about FLASHBACK, with the agreement and assistance of Ron Lewis. I've sent pitch letters for this project to several Directors and Producers, including some of the participants of the movie 'JFK.' You may already know that Ron Lewis' story was also believed by Oliver Stone, who hired Ron as one of his consultants in the movie, 'JFK.' Best regards, --Paul Trejo, MA

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