Thursday, May 31, 2018

LBJ as the JFK Assassination Mastermind and Colossus


                                                               John Delane Williams

Phillip Nelson has recently authored two books on LBJ and the JFK assassination;  LBJ: Mastermind of the JFK Assassination [1] and LBJ: From Mastermind to "Colossus". [2] The titles simply promise more than Nelson delivers. Nelson doe a very good job of bringing together the works of others and ties them together well. However, LBJ was a poor candidate for the "mastermind" of the JFK assassination. That Lyndon Johnson was a scoundrel of the worst sorts was widely known, and Nelson went to great lengths to remind us of Johnson's nefarious activities. But does it add up to Johnson being the "mastermind" of the JFK assassination? In my opinion, Nelson makes a  better case for James Jesus Angleton as being the "mastermind" than for Lyndon Johnson.

The Hearings of the Senate Rules Committee

One  aspect of the reporting that Nelson got particularly garbled was in regard to the hearing held by the Senate Rules Committee regarding Lyndon Johnson's relationship to Bobby Baker. Hearings were taking place on November 22, 1963; Donald Reynolds was being questioned regarding the transaction of  selling Johnson a life insurance policy, with Bobby Baker serving as a middle man. [3] Nelson somehow completely got this muddled: "[Senator] Curtis was on the Senate Rules Committee chaired by [Senator John] Williams, which was in the process of secretly interviewing Don Reynolds as JFK was being assassinated." (p. 581) The one correct part of this statement is that Senator Curtis (R-NE) was indeed on the committee. The actual chair of the committee was B. Everett Jordan (D-NC). Senator John Williams, (R-DE) was not only not the Chair (The Democrats were in the majority of the Senate, with a Democrat chairman selected; the Democrats held a 6-3 advantage in the committee); Senator Williams wasn't even on the committee. It may seem to be parsing words, but the meeting on 11/22/1963 was a closed session, not a secret session. And the Don Reynolds  interview ended at 1 PM EST (12:00 Noon, Dallas time), so that the Reynolds interview ended a half hour before the assassination occurred.  On the same page (p. 581), Nelson first indicates that there were seven Democrats on the Senate Rules Committee (The committee's actual name was the Senate Rules and Administration Committee); just four lines later, Nelson stated (correctly) that there were six Democrat members on the committee. Fact checking does not seem to be Nelson's forte.

What would the Characteristics of a "Mastermind" be?

Nelson (p. xv, Introduction, Book One) lists five characteristics for the mastermind of the assassination:
        a. Who has the most to gain?
        b. Who has the least to lose?
        c.  Who has the means to do it?
        d. Who has the apparatus in place to cover it up?
        e. Who has the kind of narcissistic/sociopathic personality capable of rationalizing the     
            action as acceptable and necessary, together with the resolve and determination to see
             it through?

I would grant that these are necessary, but not sufficient, characteristics for the mastermind; I would posit three additional characteristics:
        f. Who has a sufficiently strong intellect to carefully plan the details of the action?
        g. Who is sufficiently grounded in their psychological functioning so as to gain the support
             of other necessary high level plotters?
        h. Specifically, who would be trusted by James Jesus Angleton, J. Edgar Hoover, General
            Curtis LeMay and the other Chiefs of Staff, the top Mafiosi, and the moneyed oilmen?

I'm afraid that LBJ fails miserably on the new criteria. In fact I don't think any one person would fill the bill, if for no other reason than the last criteria. But LBJ wouldn't even be considered. He lacked in particular, sufficient intellectual ability. The one thing Johnson learned how to do was find the weak spots of a person he wished to use, a skill honed by him from J. Edgar Hoover. But that skill wouldn't be of much use in planning the assassination. Johnson was probably among the least able in terms of his psychological functioning. His probable bipolar disorder [See Hershman, 4] would have rendered Lyndon unable to function as a leader of people who were his intellectual superiors with somewhat more stable psychological functioning. Their egos would have been on a par with LBJ's. And at the time of the planning of the assassination, Johnson was the Vice-President. An earlier Texan vice-president was James Nance Garner, who famously summed up the Vice-Presidency as "not worth a bucket of spit." [5] Lyndon was so little involved with his Vice-Presidential duties that he left D.C. in October for additional 'planning' of the short Texas visit by President Kennedy. In other words Johnson's presence at the capital was unnecessary.         

Nelson's Scenario for the Assassination

Nelson envisioned three teams in and around Dealey Plaza. Team 1 would be on the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building. Oswald would take a shot from the window with his Italian Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to implicate him as the assassin. Mac Wallace would be in charge of making the scene fit Oswald as the shooter. Wallace had reportedly been involved with several murders on behalf of LBJ, and his presence would help insure LBJ's cooperation in the aftermath of the assassination. If the plot unraveled, LBJ stood to be a big loser with Wallace's presence. In fact, there is strong evidence that Wallace was present, though that evidence was not brought forward until 1998 when a 6 point fingerprint match from a box on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) was reported by Walt Brown at a  press conference in Dallas. [6] Nelson acknowledged that some critics labeled these results as inconclusive. Apparently Nelson did not see a later article when a 34 point match was reported, until after he finished the first book. Nelson does address the 34 point match in his second book. Team 2 would be composed of three French/Corsicans who presumably were stationed near the overpass by the grassy knoll directly facing the flow of traffic. This team included Lucian Sarti, a Corsican drug trafficker and killer, and two unnamed members of the Marseilles mob, according to Christian David, who had turned down the contract to kill Kennedy. [7] The third Team would be furnished by the Mafia, stationed either at the Dal-Tex Building, the County Records Building, or both. If the shot that hit the curb and then ricocheted from the curb that hit James Tague had emanated from the second floor of the Dal-Tex Building, it would have been a near miss of the limousine. Also, if the plan was to have Oswald take one of the shots, apparently this part of the plan didn't work out. Oswald was seen approximately 90 seconds after the shots were fired at John Kennedy, in the second floor lunchroom, with an open bottle of cola; he was seen by Officer Marion Baker, a motorcycle driver who had been part of the protection for President Kennedy in the motorcade,  and by TSBD Superintendent Roy Truly. Oswald did not appear to be breathing hard. Further, he was not seen nor heard on the stairs directly after the assassination by three women employees. These three employees, along with a fourth woman, had been watching the Kennedy Motorcade from a fourth floor window in the TSBD. Two of the women, Victoria Adams and Sandra Styles, began walking down the stairs seconds after the assassination occurred. They neither heard anyone on the stairs during their descent from the fourth floor, nor did they see anyone else until they were departing the building, when they met a large black man, also a TSBD employee. Another of the women, Dorothy Ann Garner, situated herself by the stairs and elevator, where she would have seen anyone descending or ascending either the stairs or elevator. Only after the police arrived did any one go up or down the stairs or elevator. It appears that Oswald was telling the truth when he said he'd been in the lunchroom eating his lunch. It is unlikely that he had been on the sixth floor at the time of the assassination. [8]

Planning the Assassination

At least two (and probably three) plots for the assassination preceded Dallas, all in the month of November, 1963. First was the planned shooting of President Kennedy from a high point in Kennedy's route to and/or from the Army-Navy football game played in Chicago on November 2. Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden informed the Secret Service in Washington details of the plan, which included a patsy and a team of shooters. The trip to Chicago was cancelled. [9]  A plan to kill JFK in Tampa was planned for November 18. A patsy there, Gilberto Lopez, had a brother who was studying in Russia; Lopez, like Oswald, also was involved with the Fairplay for Cuba Committee. The Tampa attempt was cancelled when the organizers of the assassination learned that their plan had been found out. Lopez travelled to Dallas, was present at the assassination, and would return by way of Mexico City to his former home in Cuba. There is the possibility that an assassination was planned for Miami also, but was aborted. These aborted assassinations would seem to be CIA-Mafia plans. [10]

Clearly, LBJ was unlikely to have played a role in these aborted attempts, other than perhaps to hope one of them was successful. But Nelson has LBJ playing a major role in Dallas. Part of that role was security stripping. [11]  Presumably, Johnson might have had an inkling of the two aborted assassination attempts (or three, including Miami). Only after the failure in Tampa on November 18 would the Dallas attempt be fully in play. Fairness would suggest the central figure in the plot was James Jesus Angleton of the CIA. Angleton would have set up the patsy, perhaps served as a liaison to the Armed Services, and would have coordinated the Mafia's role (obtaining the assassination team led by Lucien Sarti, as well as a Mafia team, and put Jack Ruby in place to kill the patsy; the Mafia also would eliminate persons deemed dangerous to the plot after the assassination). The actual coordinator for Johnson was reported to be Cliff Carter, according to Billie Sol Estes. [12] Other than supplying Mac Wallace to be on the sixth floor to leave a trail for Oswald as patsy, and security stripping in the Dallas motorcade,  Johnson's real role would seem to have been in the next conspiracy, the cover-up of evidence. [13] The cover-up was Johnson's master stroke. But even in the cover-up, LBJ would need substantial help from the CIA, the military, the secret service, the FBI, and the Dallas police. It seems entirely unlikely that either the CIA or the military would follow plans delivered by LBJ. More to the point, the CIA and military insulated themselves from exposure; if the plot failed and was exposed, Johnson would likely be implicated by Mac Wallace being present on the sixth floor of the TSBD. The area around Dealey Plaza was teeming with Mafia, which could lead to their being implicated. I can't imagine J. Edgar Hoover paying much attention to a plan from LBJ. More likely, regarding the assassination, LBJ would have been involved on a "need to know" basis. Presumably, there was a contingency plan for an assassination in Dallas if the other attempts failed. His part of the plan likely was delivered to him through someone like Cliff Carter. The most important part of LBJ's involvement was to cover-up the conspiracy.

Nelson presumed LBJ had the guile to plan all of the important aspects in the assassination in Dallas.LBJ couldn't even get President Kennedy to allow a change in the seating arrangements; LBJ wanted Governor Connally and Senator Yarborough to change their seating in the two limousines. This was denied by President Kennedy. A reason that neither the CIA nor the military would likely listen to any of Johnson's ideas was that Johnson was a known loose cannon. Even as the planned assassination was unfolding, Johnson was unsure as to whether he might also be a target, in addition to President Kennedy. Nelson describes this in vivid detail (pp. 472-485). Johnson started ducking BEFORE any shots were fired, which tells us two things; LBJ knew when and where the shooting would take place; and Johnson's own insecurities had him fearing for his own life. Such a man could not be trusted with any information that might implicate any of the main plotters.

The scene that Nelson describes at the airport may well be accurate. Nelson claims that the reason for Johnson  being sworn in on the tarmac was to give others time to place the body of President Kennedy on Air Force Two (Vice-President Johnson's airplane) and the ornamental casket on Air Force One,  the plane in which Johnson insisted that he travel back to Washington. Time would also be needed to move Johnson's luggage to Air Force One. Johnson need not know why this was being done, only that it needed to be done.

What happened from that point on is well covered in Douglas Horne's Inside the AARB. [14]
The President's body was transported to the Bethesda Naval Base morgue in a body bag. A pre-autopsy surgery-mutilation of the President's body was performed by Dr. Humes, a military pathologist. Then the body was taken outside and placed in the ornate casket, and brought back in as if it had just been delivered. Military brass, who were not pathologists, directed the three military pathologists as to what they could and couldn't do; eventually the brass got the written autopsy report that seemed to suit their needs. This part of the cover-up is mainly in the hands of the military, with perhaps some help from the Secret Service. This, of course is the short version. Horne's five volumes provides riveting detail as to the criminality of the botched medical evidence.

The Colossus

While Nelson points out many of LBJ's transgressions, one area not addressed is Lyndon's fathering of children out of wedlock while being married to Lady Bird. The name Mary Margaret Wiley is in the name appendix with no page number, nor is she mentioned in the first book; she is addressed in the second book. It is surprising that Nelson is so circumspect in this area. Nelson acknowledges that LBJ brought Mary Margaret Wiley to Washington from Texas, and that she was a favorite mistress. She "suddenly" married one of LBJ's key aides, Jack Valenti. Apparently Valenti agreed to allow the affair to continue after the marriage. As would happen, Mary soon became pregnant and a daughter, Courtenay, was born. Nelson only intimates that LBJ may have been the father. [15] Another former mistress, Madeleine Brown, was not so circumspect. She indicated that, as an adult, Courtenay would often appear in public with Jack Valenti, her legal father. She was taller than Valenti, and Courtenay wore her hair in such a way that her large ears (like Lyndon's) showed prominently. In Madeleine's view, Courtenay was letting people know who her actual father was [16].

Madeleine had had a son with Lyndon, Steven Mark Brown, born on December 27, 1950. Madeleine and Lyndon first met at a celebration of Johnson's "winning" the 1948 Democratic U.S. Senate nomination over Coke Stevenson, the infamous Box 13 election where Johnson stole the nomination away from Stevenson. Three weeks later, LBJ and Madeleine Brown became lovers. While Lyndon was doting to Steven, it was clear that he would never acknowledge Steven as his son. Nelson said very little about Madeleine Brown, other than that she and LBJ had a son together. [17]

LBJ and his Jewish Connection

In contrast to giving the LBJ-Brown affair the short shrift, Nelson goes on for 25 pages about LBJ's Jewish connections. Nelson claims first to not be construed as being anti-Semitic, then tells us that LBJ's maternal grandmother was Jewish and that LBJ was very pro Zionist in regard to Israel. It should also be pointed out that so have been the majority of American congressmen and senators, as well as presidents, pretty much to the present. There is no indication that the American position has changed one iota on Israel's right to exist, nor the United States' obligation to provide significant monetary aid to Israel. As recently as March, 2015, Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the U.S. Congress, criticizing President Obama's negotiations regarding Iran's developing  nuclear capabilities.

The Attack on the USS Liberty

In fairness to Nelson, the "Jewish Connection" serves as a lead-in to the linchpin of the second book. Though long kept a secret, perhaps President Johnson's most heinous act as president was the destruction of the USS Liberty. On the fourth day of the six day war, June 8, 1967, Israel attacked the USS Liberty, which was in international waters near Israel and Egypt. Before the war supposedly began, Israel had eliminated the airplanes of the Egyptian military (which included at least 30 Soviet airplanes). In a sense, the six day war was practically over on the "first day". According to Nelson, the planning of this war was a joint effort of the United States and Israel. The United States (or rather, Lyndon Johnson) wanted to enter the war to eliminate President Nasser of Egypt. To accomplish this, the Israelis were supposed to sink a designated American ship and the blame assigned to Egypt, setting the stage for American entry into the war, according to Nelson. This scenario considered the possibility that the Soviet Union may enter the fray, thereby precipitating World War III. In such a case, Johnson and the military, according to Nelson presumably intended to use a first strike of  nuclear weapons against the Soviets were they to signal their entry into the war. The designated vessel, chosen probably by its name, was the USS Liberty. [18]

Two weeks prior to the six Day war, the USS Liberty, docked in the Ivory Coast, was ordered to proceed to the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Egypt at full speed (18 knots). At 8 AM Washington time on June 8, 1967, three Israeli Mirage jets (with their insignias painted over) began strafing the USS Liberty with 30mm cannons, rockets and napalm. The ship was also attacked by three torpedo boats, all with clear Israeli markings. The pilots of the jets would have seen the huge American flag, and before the shooting started, persons on the USS Liberty waved to the pilots, who waved back.

The next phase of the attack was the firing of torpedoes at the Liberty by three Israeli gunboats. The Liberty out- maneuvered four torpedoes, but the fifth left a 22 foot by 39 foot hole on the starboard side, which should have sunk the Liberty, but did not. Gunboats then circled the USS Liberty. Several sailors were ordered to abandon the ship into lifeboats, which were also attacked by the gunboats. Because the Liberty had not yet sunk, it would mean that survivors would be able to testify that they were attacked by the Israeli military, not Egyptian, delaying the entry of the U.S. into the war. Twice, rescue of persons on the Liberty was denied by persons in Washington (most likely Lyndon Baines Johnson, along with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara). In fact McNamara ordered planes that had been sent to rescue USS Liberty survivors to abort their mission and return to their base. President Johnson  reportedly made the comment, that he didn't give a damn if the ship sank, he would not embarrass his allies. [19]

It is inconceivable that McNamara's instruction was not given to him by the Commander in Chief (Johnson). Presumably, the hope was that the ship and its crew would all perish. The ship made it to Crete, where they were told to continue to Malta; perhaps it might sink on its way there. The ship made it to Malta on June 14, 1967. Of the original 294 crew members aboard, 34 had been killed in the attack, and at least 172 more were wounded. Fortunately, because the USS Liberty got to Malta after the end of the six day war, the U.S. was precluded from entering the war. The sailors aboard the USS Liberty were the heroes of this incident. A total news blackout was imposed. The crew members were warned, "You are never, repeat never, to discuss this with anyone, not even your wives. If you do, you will be court-martialed and end your lives in prison, or worse." [20]

The reporting of the USS Liberty attack by Israel is the highlight of the two books. The megalomania of the Commander in Chief is clearly evident. Nelson's reporting of the events is preceded by several books, but just as important, the many websites that have been created by survivors of the incident, in defiance of the warning they received in Malta. Doing a Google search of "USS Liberty" brings literally hundreds of sites. And perhaps to no one's surprise, there is a controversy not unlike the Warren Report. Those trying to "save appearances" [21] for President Lyndon Johnson, the American military, the American government, the Israeli military and the Israeli government maintain the lie that the attack was a simple mistake of misidentification by the Israeli military.  

 Some comments

Nelson has taken on a massive effort in getting  over 1200 pages among the two books published in short order. Toward the end of the second book, Nelson admits that his works were written from a prosecutorial approach, presenting the worst case scenario against Johnson. This affects his reportage on the USS Liberty as well. The approach used by Nelson is called "advocacy research". Advocacy research bolsters the case for a particular outcome, which typically is at best a partial truth. The book by Robert Allen [22] is a much more even (and much more in depth) consideration of the available information. The differences from Nelson's presentation are in the details, but they are important. Whatever the intentions of the United States was, the large presence of Soviet ships (at least 70) led to the U.S. speaking on the hot-line to Russia at the time of the Six Day War, and both sides were apprised of the other's concerns; a nuclear war with the Soviets was very likely off the table. Both the Soviets and LBJ would have liked the removal of Nasser. The Soviets were ready to unleash their military if Israel did not pull back from their offensive against Syria; the U.S. was also opposed to the Israeli invasion into Syria. The American planes that were called back from aiding the USS Liberty were prepared to attack whomever was attacking the USS Liberty. The attack by Israel was deemed to be deliberate, and they (e.g. Moshe Dayan) knew that the ship was American. The Israelis also knew the ship was a spy ship, collecting information from both the Egyptians and the Israelis. In the Israeli view, they could not be sure whether the Americans were sharing information with the Soviets or Egyptians, justifying the attack, at least to them. [23]    

With the caveats here presented, the second book has enough kernels of truth to render it worthy of reading. For those of us in the JFK research community who had never been aware of the USS Liberty's being needlessly sacrificed, Phillip Nelson has been of service for bringing this incident to our attention.

 Also worth considering is that, as a conspirator to the assassination, Lyndon Johnson would face the same charge as whomever were the masterminds. Several of Johnson's transgressions appear to have been treasonous, but with extraordinarily strong efforts to cover them up.

1. Nelson, P.F.(2011, 2013). LBJ: The Mastermind of the Assassination. New York: Skyhorse.
2.Nelson, P.F. (2014). LBJ: From Mastermind to "Colossus". New York: Skyhorse.
3. Williams, J.D. & Conway, D. (2001). The Don Reynolds Testimony and LBJ. Kennedy Assassination Chronicles. 7,1,10-28.
4. Hershman, D.J. (2002). Power Beyond Reason: The Mental Collapse of Lyndon Johnson. Fort
    Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.
5. Cox, P. (2014). John Nance Garner and the Vice-Presidency-In Search of the Proverbial Bucket. //
6. Brown, W. (1998). TSBD Evidence Places LBJ 'Hitman' in Sniper's Nest. Extra Edition of JFK Deep Politics/Deep Politics Quarterly, 3,3. A. Nathan Darby made a six point match of Mac Wallace's fingerprint to the previously unidentified fingerprint found in the sniper's nest at the TSBD. Later, a 34 point match confirmed Wallace's presence on the sixth floor of the Depository, reported in Brown, W. (2001). Malcolm Wallace Fingerprint: "It's Him!!" JFK/ Deep Politics Quarterly, 7,1,4-6. Among the critics of identifying Wallace from the fingerprint were Glen Sample and Mark Collom, who earlier wrote The Men on the Sixth Floor (1997). Garden Grove CA: Sample Graphics. Sample  & Collom had hypothesized that Wallace was present on the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository at the time of the assassination. It seemed strange that they would question a finding that gave evidence that their earlier assertion was likely true. 
7. Twyman, N. (1997). Bloody Treason. Rancho Santa Fe, CA: Laurel Publishing, p. 414.
8. Ernest, B. (2012, 2013). The Girl on the Stairs. Gretna, LA: Pelican. Also see Williams, J.D. (2014). The Girl on the Stairs- Was Oswald even on the Sixth Floor at the Time of the Assassination? JFK-E/Deep Politics Quarterly. 1, 2,3-16.    
9. Bolden, A. (2008). The Echo from Dealey Plaza. New York: Harmony Books. See also, Williams, J.D. (2008). Echo from Dealey Plaza: Abraham Bolden. The Dealey Plaza Echo, 13, 1,1-4.
10. Waldron, L. & Hartmann, T. (2005). Ultimate Sacrifice. New York: Carroll & Graff.
11. Palamara, V. (1993).  The Third Alternative-Survivor's Guilt: The Secret Service and the JFK Murder.  Pittsburgh: Author.
12. Estes, B.S. (2005). Billie Sol Estes: A Texas Legend. Granbury, TX: B.S. Productions., Also, see Williams, J.D. (2005). Estes Named Cliff Carter as the Master Strategist in the JFK Assassination. JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly,10,4,13-19.
13. Williams, J.D. (1999). Lyndon B. Johnson and the Assassination Conspiracies. JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, 4,2,25-28.
14. Horne, D.P. (2009). Inside the AARB: Vol. I-V. Amazon.
15. Nelson (2014). pp. 153-154.
16. Williams, J.D. & Severson, G. (2001). Interview with Madeleine Brown, November 17-18.
17. Brown, M.D. (1999). Texas in the Morning. The Love Story of Madeleine Brown and President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Baltimore: The Conservatory Press.
18. Nelson, (2014), pp. 375-408.
19. Bamford, J. (2001). Body of Secrets. New York: Doubleday, p. 226.
20. Nelson (2014). p. 390.
21.Barfield, O. (1965). Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. New York: Harcourt Brace & Jovanovich,
22. Allen, R.J. (2012). Beyond Treason. Create Space.(Available through This undoubtedly is one of the better presentations of the USS Liberty and its abandonment by President Johnson.
23. Allen, (2012), pp. 393-342. Another excellent source is Hounan, P. & Simpson, J. (2003). Operation Cyanide: Why the Bombing of the USS Liberty Nearly Caused World War III.   Chatham Kent, UK: Mackays of Chatham. A pro-Israeli view that emphasizes that the attack on the USS Liberty was simply a misidentification is Cristol, A.J. (2002). The Liberty Incident: The 1967 Israeli Attack on the Navy Spy Ship. Dulles,VA:  Brassey's Inc. (Books International).

Published in the Dealey Plaza Echo, (2015). 18, 2, 19-24.


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