John Garrett Underhill descended from Captain John Underhill, original commander of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia and also the primary perpetrator behind the Mystic Massacre of several hundred Pequot. His grandfather (on his mother’s side) was a former general who’d played a leading role in creating the National Rifle Association.
Underhill studied linguistics at Harvard and graduated in 1937. With his blue blood, he was a natural fit into military intel and quickly rose to chief editor of the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division. Following the war, he became the military correspondent for Life magazine, no doubt working hand-in-glove with the newly-formed CIA, staffed mostly with his wartime buddies from G2 and OSS. He acquired one of the world’s largest collections of Soviet small arms outside Russia.
Beginning in 1949, he became an informant for the CIA. Two years later, he co-wrote a 6,500 word essay, “The Tragedy of the US Army,” for Look magazine, published February 13, 1951. According to the Harvard Alumni Bulletin, he was “recalled to brown suit service after finishing a 6,500 word article.”
He served as Deputy Director for the Civil Defense of Washington, D.C., and worked on setting up “Operation Alert” in 1955, although days before it was held he claimed the exercise was “so inadequate it couldn’t cope with a brushfire threatening a doghouse in a backyard,” comments that led to his dismissal from the alert moments before it began.
Immediately following JFK’s assassination, Underhill drove to Charlene Fitzsimmon’s house on Long Island in a state of panic, and conveyed a sudden overwhelming desire to leave the country and disappear. He claimed Kennedy had been killed by the CIA’s executive action team, and some people who were profiteering off drugs from the Far East. He knew the people involved, and he knew they knew he knew, which is why he feared for his own life. “Oswald is a patsy,” he said. “They set him up. The bastards have done something outrageous. They’ve killed the President! I’ve been listening and hearing things. I couldn’t have believed they’d get away with it, but they did!”
In 1966, when Jim Garrison began his investigation of the crime, he’d heard about a CIA informant with important information, a detail noted in Garrison’s lengthy interview in Playboy magazine. Garrison was eager to get a deposition from this person of interest, but before he could locate Underhill, his corpse was discovered in bed, a bullet hole behind the left ear.
A memo from the CIA to the Justice Department later uncovered through FOIA noted that Underhill had a connection to Harold Isaacs, who knew Oswald’s cousin Marilyn Murret. The memo also stated Underhill was not an employee of the CIA, had “infrequent contact with the New York office” and “committed suicide on May 8, 1964.”
Although the area around Dealy Plaza was loaded with important witnesses who picked up fragmentary clues on who killed JFK, many of the most important ones were culled out and never interviewed by the Warren Commission. In hindsight it appears the more important an eyewitness testimony was, the more likely it would be flushed down a rabbit hole early in the game.
Several people claimed to have seen men acting strangely on the fifth and sixth floors of the Texas School Book Depository that tragic afternoon, and Richard Carr was one of the most important. He was interviewed by the FBI, although the report filed by the agents left out important details. This was not Carr’s fault, obviously, but evidence of FBI manipulation of the case. During his FBI interview Carr was told something along the lines of: “If you didn’t see Lee Harvey Oswald with a gun on the sixth floor, you didn’t see anything and better keep your mouth shut.” So Carr did exactly that until the Garrison investigation emerged several years later.
Although Garrison wisely tried to launch his investigation in secret, it was immediately exposed and denigrated by the media. Immense efforts were made to shut it down, and when that didn’t succeed they surrounded Garrison with spooks on all sides and snowed him under with useless leads to nowhere.
Although some honest journalists appeared early on the scene, there were eight or nine secret agents sowing disinfo for every honest researcher like Penn Jones. The center of gravity was quickly handed off to suspicious characters, two of whom were lawyers: Mark Lane (former army intelligence) and Mary Ferrell (attorney for Mobil). While the FBI and CIA were busy destroying and hiding evidence, fake researchers were snowing the case under with inconsequential details and rabbit holes.
One of the most effective items floated out was Nomenclature of an Assassination Cabal by William Torbitt, a pseudonym for a Texas lawyer with intelligence connections. Like most disinfo, it established its bona fides by revealing something real: the participation of a Swiss Corporation named Permidex in helping fund the assassination. From there, it went on to blame the FBI’s Division 5 working with NASA and others. Torbitt implicated many people, most of whom did not play any role in the event. Yet for decades, many researchers took it as unbridled truth, while in reality, it was designed to steer researchers away from the obvious culprit needing investigation: the CIA.
Carr’s original FBI report documented the two individuals he saw on the sixth floor during the shooting. As he moved closer to the scene, he saw three men flee in a Rambler station wagon, easily recognized by a unique mini-luggage rack. Carr began receiving death threats telling him to leave Texas. He moved to Montana, where Garrison tracked him down.
When Carr testified in New Orleans, many important details were added to the sketchy FBI statement. He managed to miraculously survive two murder attempts, one by gun and one by knife. When stabbed in Atlanta, he managed to kill one of his two assailants, a remarkable feat. He died in West Virginia on August 4, 1996, and was never located by the Congressional investigation, although they did make note of his contributions to the case.
The part I find fascinating is his description of the team on the sixth floor. One was a stocky Cuban or Spanish man, and the other a taller man with distinctive thick-framed glasses.
Over the decades, the secret of Permidex was finally uncovered. The company was a cut-out deployed by the Italian CIA officers. At the time of JFK assassination, the head of the CIA in Italy was William Harvey. Harvey was supposed to have been fired after his assassination plots against Castro were called off. Instead, James Angleton and Allen Dulles moved him to Rome, where he no doubt began assisting the secret plans to eliminate JFK.
JFK and RFK tried to get control over anti-Cuban operations and RFK got into a heated argument with Harvey in the White House, resulting in Harvey being removed. Ted Shackley, Harvey’s longtime cohort remained, however, with Ed Landsdale put in charge. In the fall of 1963, the White House created a new entity inside the CIA for the covert Cuban operations, naming it SAS. Because JFK had promised not to invade Cuba as part of his post-missile crisis agreement with the Soviets, anti-Cuban operations needed to be cloaked to insure deniability.
Six weeks before the assassination, documents about Lee Harvey Oswald began floating through the intelligence community. Strangely, the memos made no reference to Oswald’s recent altercations in New Orleans or his participation in pro-Castro organizations, only his defection to and return from the Soviet Union. In fact, they went further indicating that Oswald’s Soviet sojourn had matured his political views. Many signing off on this memo had to realize the information was fraudulent. The appearance of the suspicious Oswald memo may indicate the beginnings of a JFK assassination plot.
Two of the key players in this plot are Ted Shackley and David Morales, the two key individuals working under Harvey in Miami prior to his removal. It appears Harvey enlisted them along with his friend Johnny Roselli and others from the Chicago outfit, as well as at least one assassin from Europe, and I say this because Shackley went on to run Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, the biggest assassination program in the CIA’s sordid history, and from there became a major player in the international heroin trade.
Morales became a suspect in the RFK assassination before retiring in 1975. He returned to his native Arizona, and died of a heart attack in 1978. A Congressional investigator tracked Morales to Wilcox, Arizona shortly after his death, and talked to his friend Ruben Carbajal and a business associate of Morales’ named Bob Walton. Walton revealed Morales once went into a tirade about Kennedy at a bar after several drinks, and finished by saying “Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn’t we?” Carbajal, who had been present at this confession, corroborated it.
Here’s a rare photo of Richard Case Nagell coming to court in handcuffs. Nagell was a spook with a long history of mental instability and spent decades applying for disability before he finally got it. During the Korean War he got field-promoted to captain at the record-breaking age of 20, so you know he was considered competent.
Two months before Kennedy’s assassination, Nagell walked into a bank in El Paso, Texas, flourished a revolver and fired two shots into the wall. He then walked outside to his vehicle and waited for the police. When they arrived, Nagell invited them to inspect his trunk, which contained a Minolta spy camera and miniature darkroom kit, notebook with Fair Play for Cuba contacts, phone numbers of CIA officers in Los Angeles and names of KGB agents in Mexico. “I’d rather be arrested than commit murder and treason,” said Nagell to the police while being handcuffed.
Nagell was sentenced to ten years for attempted bank robbery and served five for a crime he never fully explained, but later said he thought it would be a simple misdemeanor and not taken so seriously. Nagell claimed to have mailed a letter to J. Edgar Hoover around this time outlining the plot against Kennedy, but received no reply. Nagell made a number of claims of holding evidence that never appeared.
Jim Garrison decided not to call Nagell to the witness stand during his famous trial of Clay Shaw in 1967. Garrison made the first legitimate attempt to bring forth justice but was blocked and stonewalled at every turn by the CIA. And he knew he was being led from all directions into rabbit holes salted with timebombs, and probably suspected Nagell might be one of those.
According to Nagell, after being approached by an East German spook, he was told to double down by his American handlers, so he became a triple agent, a very complex and psychologically-demanding position, but one offering a unique view on world events. While working as a pro-Marxist infiltrator in Mexico and New Orleans, Nagell stumbled into the Kennedy plot and was allegedly told by his Communist handlers to kill Oswald to prevent the assassination (many Communists looked upon Kennedy as a potential ally). The problem with this story is there were two previous attempts planned prior to Dallas.
Dick Russell wrote the book on Nagell (The Man Who Knew Too Much) and it really opened a lot of doors into the assassination for me. Russell was also the first to visit Win Scott’s family and get the story of Scott’s feud with James Angleton over the investigation. Scott was likely killed after he tried to leave the agency after collecting evidence Oswald was a secret agent and not a lone assassin.
If you search online, you can find a bunch of Nagell’s correspondence. He sometimes wrote to friends and to the media and also to Russell himself. Many of these letters are highly entertaining and show an obvious insider knowledge into the workings at the CIA headquarters in Langley.
Nagell died of a heart attack in Los Angeles on November 1st, 1995, and since he lived longer than any other whistleblower, and since nothing substantial ever emerged from any of his revelations, I think it’s safe to say at this point Nagell was a rabbit hole and not a true whistle-blower. But that’s how it goes in the wilderness of mirrors, where up is down, and left is right.
I hate to keep picking on Oliver Stone since he’s got one of the few shows on TV worth watching. I mean, TV is a real wasteland these days. I sometimes find myself watching the BBC channel because nothing better is on. Even Chef Ramsey is better than most American TV shows and the BBC often has better movies than its American counterparts. But back to Stone. His series on American history has been fun to watch, even if there’s little in it that I didn’t know before. But it’s the parts being left out that really amaze me.
The best example so far is Stone’s retelling of the JFK assassination, a subject he covered in depth in a previous feature film, where the evidence of CIA involvement was marshaled. Even though that film was built around a great American hero, Judge Jim Garrison, the courageous judge is not even mentioned once in the series? Huh? Even more astounding, Stone never mentions any details of the plot. We know today that Johnny Roselli bragged to many people about being one of the shooters and was paid $50,000 by his boss Sam Giancana, although Giancana later told his brother the money came from the Texas oil crowd (Hunt, Murchison) via the CIA. Why does Stone back off the facts and not go after the CIA on JFK?
Even more mysterious is how Stone handles 9/11, backing up the fiction that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind the event. There’s so much evidence of a coverup in 9/11 it would take several books to cover all the mysteries, but none of the evidence even enters the picture as Stone buys into the fiction that the event took the Pentagon by surprise. Just detailing the Pentagon strike and how that plane did a curlicue in order to hit an office near the ground floor where financial corruption was being investigated, when that pilot could have much easier just made a direct hit on the offices of the Joint Chiefs, which was a straight-line target that didn’t involve any expert maneuvers.
But there are some really good things in the show. Like the detailing of the Bush family relationship with the Nazis. And the fact Standard Oil and other Rockefeller companies did business with the Nazis throughout the war, and sometimes even seemed to be giving them preferential treatment over the allies when it came to crucial war supplies. The German Luftwaffe depended on fuel made only by Standard Oil throughout the war.
The series has been fun to watch, but it also seems pretty rushed, like they wrote a voice-over script in a few days and then slapped a bunch of royalty-free video clips around it, and then stuck in some Hollywood movie clips to provide some color against the grainy black and white newsreels. But the series could have been a lot more informative had Stone just lifted a few more rocks. For example, he mentions the Trilateral Commission set-up by the Rockefellers, but never mentions their earlier and probably more important power center: The Council on Foreign Relations, where the center of energy on political power in America can often be found.