Editor's Note: An article in a recent issue of Fair Play defended the use of secondary sources in JFK research. While Mr. Griggs takes an opposing point of view, the following was written before the other article appeared, and should not be considered a rebuttal.

* * *

Kill that Myth!

by Ian Griggs

Ian Griggs explodes a few of the myths which have grown
up around the Kennedy assassination and urges all
researchers to use primary sources whenever possible

In a case as complex and baffling as the Kennedy assassination, it is inevitable that some facts will become obscured, altered, misinterpreted or just lost over the years. As I have stressed on many occasions, it is essential for the serious researcher to go back to primary sources whenever possible. It is all too easy to blandly accept something as fact simply because it appears in an eminent author's book. Even researchers and authors as reliable and thorough as Anthony Summers or Joachim Joesten are not immune and it is possible that they could make an honest error just as easily as Joe Soap or Dolly Golightly. The problem comes when one such lauded researcher does commit an unintentional inexactitude and it appears in print. In later years, researchers referring to their work will have that unconscious faith that 'if he says that, then it must be right!' Well, in the words of George Gershwin 'It ain't necessarily so!'

Having mentioned the names of two of the most prominent and respected authors in this field, perhaps it will be appropriate to use one of them as my first example.

The myth of the Roman numerals
Go to page 241 of Anthony Summers' Conspiracy (published by Victor Gollancz Ltd, UK, 1980 and by McGraw-Hill, USA, 1980) [Editor's note: see p. 166 in latest edition, published as Not In Your Lifetime]. The author is discussing the inscriptions on the back of the 'backyard photograph' found by George de Mohrenschildt on his return from abroad. The inscription is dated '5/IV/63' - the style and order used by Europeans to write a date. The first Arabic numeral indicates the 5th day of the month, the Roman IV indicates April (the fourth month) and the 63 is obviously the year. Summers states: 'A researcher's check of the dozens of letters and documents written by Oswald has produced not one example of a date written like the one on the back of the photograph.'

Note that he does not qualify this statement by saying 'in my opinion' or 'as far as can be ascertained'. No; the inference is clearly that no such example exists anywhere. That is the myth; written and published by Anthony Summers in 1978 and accepted without question by researchers ever since.

Now I would ask you to go to Warren Commission Exhibit 321. This is a postcard written by Lee Harvey Oswald (in Minsk) to brother Robert (in Fort Worth) on which the date is written as 10/V/62. In it the message refers to Lee's daughter June being 'almost 3 months old now' and since she was born on 15th February 1962, we have confirmation that the date on the postcard (10/V/62) is 10th May 1962.

By the same token, we can interpret the date on the de Mohrenschildt 'backyard photograph' (5/IV/63) as 5th April 1963 - a date incidentally, just five days before the attempt on the life of General Edwin A Walker.

Obviously, the 'researcher's check' mentioned by Summers was either incomplete or sloppy. Furthermore, since the alleged results of that 'researcher's check' had been described as negative by someone of Summers' status, subsequent researchers had never bothered to check. We had to wait until that task was undertaken by a certain British researcher (Melanie Swift) in 1995 and the CE 321 postcard was found exactly where it had been since the publication of the Warren Commission 26 Volumes just ten months after the assassination.

The myth of the Oswald 'Coke' bottle
It now seems almost an unchallenged part of Lee Harvey Oswald folklore that he was holding a bottle of Coca-Cola when confronted by DPD Patrolman Marrion Baker and Building Operations Supervisor Roy Truly on the second floor of the TSBD shortly after the shots in Dealey Plaza. Indeed, there have been published comments and discussions claiming that this was somewhat odd since Oswald preferred Dr Pepper to Coca-Cola.

If those researchers who have written that Oswald was holding a bottle of Coca-Cola when challenged by Baker had taken the trouble to go back to the primary sources they would have learnt that this is yet another myth.

Consider the following brief exchange during Baker's Warren Commission testimony as he describes that meeting:

MR BELIN: "Was he carrying anything in his hands?"
MR BAKER: "He had nothing at that time." (3H 251)

Roy Truly confirms this in his own testimony:

MR BELIN: "Could you see whether of not Lee Harvey Oswald had anything in either hand?"
MR TRULY: "I noticed nothing in either hand."
MR BELIN: "Did you see both of his hands?"
MR TRULY: "I am sure I did, I could be wrong, but I am almost sure I did." (3H 225)

We have some added confusion here in Marrion Baker's FBI statement of 23rd September 1964 (CE 3076). This was apparently written down at Baker's dictation and includes the words 'I saw a man standing in the lunch room drinking a coke.' Those last three words, however, have been crossed through and initialled by Baker.

Lee Harvey Oswald, as far as I am aware, was never asked any similar question and there were no other eyewitnesses to this.

The origin of this widely-believed myth may come from the testimony of Mrs Robert A Reid, a TSBD Clerical Supervisor who occupied an office on the second floor. In her testimony, she describes that she ate an early and hurried lunch in the second floor lunchroom at around noon and then went downstairs to street level where she watched the passing motorcade. She does not describe what she saw but she mentions hearing three shots. She stated that she thought 'they came from our building' but then ran into the building to 'get out of this line of shots.' She ran up the front stairs to her second floor office.

MR BELIN: "And then what did you do?"
MRS REID: "Well, I kept walking and I looked up and Oswald was coming in the back door of the office. I met him by the time I passed my desk several feet and I told him: 'Oh, the President has been shot, but maybe they didn't hit him.' ..... He had gotten a coke and was holding it in his hands ..... The only time I had seen him in the office was to come and get change and he already had his coke in his hand ..... " (3H 274).

Mrs Reid's journey on foot from the front of the TSBD to her office had subsequently been timed by stopwatch at approximately two minutes, showing that she encountered Oswald after his meeting with Baker and Truly. (3H 275). Later in her testimony, she stated that the coke bottle he was holding was full. (3H 278).

The myth of Oswald and the dry cleaners
At around 1.25pm - 1.30pm on 22nd November, a zipper jacket was found under a parked car on the parking lot behind the Texaco Service Station at the junction of West Jefferson Boulevard and Crawford, Oak Cliff. Although it was claimed in the Warren Report (p 175) that DPD Captain W. R. Westbrook was responsible for this find, he denied it, stating only that he had been present at the time and that it had been found by another DPD officer.

This is not the place to discuss the vexing question of whether or not that jacket had even been owned by Lee Harvey Oswald. However, that problem did become the origin of another myth in the case. Page 117 of CE 2003 details certain items released to the FBI by the DPD on 28th November 1963 and includes this jacket. The description of the jacket indicates that it bears 'laundry mark 30, and 030 in collar' and 'Laundry tag B-9738 on bottom of jacket'.

Obviously, if the investigators could trace the source(s) of those laundry marks and tie them to Oswald, their case against him would be considerably strengthened.

Canadian researcher Gary Murr, in his unpublished manuscript "The Murder of Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit" (1971), quotes Archives CD 868, CD 1066 I and Archives CD 993, CD 1245. Here it is stated that by 21st April 1964, the FBI had contacted all 424 dry-cleaning establishments in the Dallas-Fort Worth area but had been unable to trace either laundry mark. The FBI then extended that search to include 293 laundry and dry-cleaning establishments in the Greater New Orleans area, once again with negative results. They also ascertained that none of Oswald's clothes bore similar marks.

When questioned by Warren Commission Assistant Counsel Albert Jenner, Ruth Paine agreed that neither she nor Marina Oswald 'ever sent any laundry out for cleaning or washing.' (9H 343).

In an FBI report of an interview of Marina Oswald on 1st April 1964, we read the following: 'She said she cannot recall that Oswald ever sent either of these jackets to any laundry or cleaners anywhere.' (CE 1843).

The inference here is very clear - that Lee Harvey Oswald never used a laundry or dry cleaning facility - and it was left at that.

The testimony of Mrs Gladys Johnson, Oswald's landlady at 1026 North Beckley, should have put researchers on the right trail. In supplying background information on Oswald's activities and lifestyle to Assistant Counsel David Belin, she stated: ' ....I suppose he'd go out and eat or maybe to the washateria or somewhere like that.' (10H 306). This was never followed up by Belin.

Perhaps the deciding piece of information, however, has been staring researchers in the face for years. For this, I am again indebted to British researcher Melanie Swift.

CE 3000 is an FBI report of an interview with Leslie Lawson, the owner and manager of Gray's Cleaners, 1209 Eldorado, Oak Cliff on 5th December 1963. Although not stated in the interview notes, that location is only a hundred yards from Oswald's rooming house. Lawson stated that 'he has seen Lee Harvey Oswald on one particular occasion that he can recall and possibly on other occasions which he could not specifically recall.' Mr Lawson then said that approximately a month earlier, Lee Harvey Oswald had entered his cleaning establishment and handed in a tie, white shirt and black pair of trousers for cleaning. Two days later, when Oswald called to collect these items, he had been charged $1.25 and had complained about being charged 25 cents for the cleaning of his tie.

Lawson also stated that he had seen Oswald on several occasions at Sleight's Speed Wash, 1101 North Beckley. This establishment had, in fact, changed its name to Reno's Speed Wash in August 1963. A former Reno's employee, Joseph Johnson, was interviewed by the FBI on 28th July 1964 and stated that on the evening of 20th or 21st November 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was 'washing laundry at Reno's Speed Wash.' Oswald, he said, remained there, reading magazines, until midnight. (CE 3001)

Those examples, I contend, are sufficient to show that the myth of Oswald never using any kind of laundry or dry-cleaning establishment, is now disproved.

The myth of the J. D. Tippit photograph
In his book How Kennedy Was Killed (published by Peter Dawnay, Ltd., U.K., 1968), the early Warren Commission critic Joachim Joesten states that J.D. Tippit 'bore a remarkable facial resemblance to Oswald.' Joesten then goes on to explain that the Dallas police, being aware of this, 'did not promptly make available to the press any pictures of Tippit and that his widow also kept the family album under lock and key.' (page 131).

Joesten does not stop there. He continues: 'Indeed, there is nothing in the annals of the contemporary press to match this unique pictorial anonymity of a world celebrity' and then states that there is 'no picture of the great man!' Remember, he is referring not to JFK here, but to Patrolman J.D. Tippit. Powerful stuff.

He eventually divulges that 'the first, and only, Tippit picture was released in connection with the Warren Report ....' (page 132). I presume that he is referring here to the well-known Tippit portrait which appears in the Warren Commission 26 Volumes as Carlin (Bruce Ray) Exhibit No. 1. This was, in fact, the photograph which appeared on Tippit's DPD Identity Card - despite the fact that Tippit is wearing a very highly-patterned open-necked shirt which would have been more appropriate to an extra on Hawaii Five-0 than to a DPD Patrolman (copy of ID card in author's collection). Furthermore, it is hardly 'the first, and only' such picture as there is another photograph of Tippit immediately below it, Carlin (Bruce Ray) Exhibit No. 2.

It is unfortunate that Joesten did not go to the trouble of checking the facts before he went into print so positively and vehemently on this point. Had he done so, he would very probably have come across the Hugh Aynesworth story on page 5, section 4 of the Dallas Morning News of 23rd November 1963.

That same photograph appears alongside Aynesworth's story above the caption "J.D. Tippit ...He always gave everything he had."

Far from being deliberately suppressed by the authorities for a year, the likeness of J.D. Tippit was published in one of the Dallas newspapers less than 24 hours after his death. Furthermore, since that was Tippit's official DPD photograph, it does not need a genius to work out where it originated.

There is obviously a double-edge at work here. Not only has Joachim Joesten fallen into the trap of not checking his material, but any subsequent researcher, relying blindly on Joesten's very positive statement, has also got it completely wrong.

I have cited only four examples of myths which have been perpetuated in the third of a century since the Kennedy and Tippit murders. I know of others and there are undoubtedly many more, some probably still undiscovered. There is, therefore, only one conclusion to this article.

If you consider yourself to be a competent and honest researcher, act like one and go back to primary sources whenever you can.



Return to Main Page

* * *