A Few Words from an "Amateur Sleuth"
By David Perry
From: THE FOURTH DECADE, November 1996
Near the end of February 1996 I obtained a copy of a new book on the Kennedy assassination. The book Oswald Talked - The New Evidence in the JFK Assassination by Ray and Mary LaFontaine, published by Pelican Press of Gretna, Louisiana had been long in coming. A three plus year old copy of the New York Times Book Calendar shows the publication with the title The New Evidence in the JFK Assassination was scheduled for release in November, 1993. I remember contacting Frank McGuire, Sales Representative, of Pelican in June of 1994. At that time, I asked if there was a new delivery date. Frank explained production had been delayed several times due to unspecified "problems with the manuscript." Over the next year and a half I made a total of five calls receiving essentially the same negative response from Pelican staff.
At any rate, I now have a copy and find I'm somewhat dissatisfied. Long ago I heard the book was based on the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald had discussed his role in the assassination with fellow Dallas jail prisoner, John Elrod. The Elrod story, a five to ten minute 1994 investigative report for the tabloid television show Hard Copy, is now expanded into this 397 page book.* My interest in and disappointment with the publication, however, lay in another direction.
Over the years I learned, based upon discussions with Mary, that the LaFontaines amassed additional information on the Roscoe White story. I expected to discover something beyond what was already known. For those new to this episode, on Monday August 6, 1 990 the now defunct JFK Assassination Information Center of Dallas, with the support of a Midland, Texas corporation named Matsu, held a press conference. At the meeting a twenty-nine year old Midland man, Ricky Don White, presented "information" that his father, deceased Dallas police officer Roscoe Anthony White, was the "grassy knoll" assassin. Fortunately I succeeded in obtaining an invitation to conference. At the events' conclusion I spoke briefly with Ricky about the story. I came away intrigued and a little puzzled by his comments. Shortly thereafter I embarked on an odyssey of investigation.
Although I had been researching the assassination for almost fifteen years I decided I needed help. I wanted some knowledgeable person who could interpret my findings and act as a "sounding board." Fortuitously, I soon met with researcher Gary Mack and from that point on we worked as a team. In the intervening years we interviewed over forty witnesses, spent endless hours in the Dallas Public Library, reviewed Dallas Police, as well as, County and City records and among other things accumulated massive telephone and photocopy bills.
By August 1991 I had gathered enough information to form the opinion the Roscoe White story was an elaborate deception. In November 1991 The Third Decade published some of my findings in an article Who Speaks for Roscoe White? Even though The Third Decade had a limited subscription base I still managed to get inquiries from interested researchers and the general public. Some of this attention was no doubt related to Oliver Stone's mention of my report in his JFK – The Book of the Film. Based in part on documentation I provided, Stone
wrote "In what appears to be nothing more than a publicity-seeking hoax, a Texas group that included White's son and widow presented 'evidence' in 1990 that White was the real assassin behind the picket fence."
Chapter 11 of the LaFontaine book is called White Lies. Someone seeing the title would probably conclude Ray and Mary think something is fishy about the Roscoe White story. In reading the chapter there can be no doubt the authors have documented some of the story's inconsistencies. Unfortunately, they never seem to commit. Conclusions about the relationship between Oswald and White, if any, are left up to the reader. In my opinion this is probably the result of Mary's early belief that the story was factual. Back in November, 1990 I had several telephone conversations with her. She was very excited because she "had discovered an arrest sheet signed by Roscoe White prior to October 1963." This would mean White was somehow involved in Dallas Police Department work prior to his actual employment date of October 7, 1963. I opined it nothing more than some sort of citizen's arrest. I asked for a copy but was rebuffed. She didn't want to discuss the details because she and Ray were "trying to make a documentary."
More insight can be gained into the LaFontaine's faith in the White story from the Texas Attorney General's file on the case. In August, 1993 I decided to write the Attorney General and seek access to their file under the Texas Open Records Act. The Attorney General's response was positive so Gary and I drove to Austin, Texas on December 2, 1993. What we discovered in Folio 21454, which is available to the public, is most revealing.
There is a letter from the LaFontaine's attorney, James Barber, dated November 8, 1990. Mr. Barber addresses this letter to Ned Butler one of the Texas Attorney General's White case investigators. In part the letter speaks of ". . . the new information that my clients, Ray and Mary LaFontaine, may be able to provide about the Kennedy assassination, through their connections with Ricky White."
Later in the same note Barber informs Butler, "I am simply writing to reiterate our willingness to present Mr. (Ricky) White for an interview by the A.G.'s office, and he has additional information, including documentary evidence, which I think you would find very informative in your investigation."
Also included in Folio 21454 is a January 14, 1991 letter to Ned Butler signed by Mary LaFontaine showing purported links, some now refuted, between White and the assassination. "I am also confirming my suggestion that a case can be made for a conspiracy to murder Lee Harvey Oswald." A few paragraphs later Mary indicates, "I should add that to this date Desperado Productions (Ray and Mary's film company with offices in Las Colinas, Texas) has not received a dime for any part of its investigation of the Kennedy Assassination; we have expended many thousands of dollars in the investigation."
Ray LaFontaine wrote Jim Garrison in October of 1990. "Desperado Productions has only one contract regarding the assassination story, and that is with our executive producer, the Val Verde Corporation, and its president."
Months later Gary Mack learned through Gary Baily, then President of Matsu Corporation, that Matsu and the corporation mentioned by Ray LaFontaine, Val Verde, were formed to make money from the Roscoe White story. There is a January 25, 1989 agreement between Matsu's President at the time, Tim Collier, Ricky White, Andy Austin Burke, Geneva Ruth White Galley and Roscoe Anthony White, Jr. The group formed a partnership of sorts "for the express
purpose of creating (emphasis mine) a story centering around and about the life of Roscoe Anthony White." Even more revealing is the language found in Article #1 of the contract, "The Matsu Corporation shall have creative control over creation of the story. (emphasis mine)" In my view there is too much talk about creativity for what purports to be such a well documented incident. At any rate, it would appear the LaFontaines were working with Val Verde while the JFK Center was laboring with Matsu both attempting to develop a story about Roscoe White's life.
So what has all this to do with Oswald Talked - The New Evidence in the JFK Assassination? In checking the index I discovered both Gary and I are mentioned on page 334. The quotation is as follows:
"In August-September 1957 Roscoe, also a Marine, took the same boat to Japan as Lee Harvey Oswald. Contrary to the claims of amateur sleuths Gary Mack and David Perry of Dallas, the connections between the two did not end there. In November of the same year, both White and Oswald ended up in Subic Bay, the Philippines, and, later, off the coast of Indonesia as part of a secret CIA invasion force planned for that island nation. Roscoe White wrote of the matter to his wife Geneva, in letters that survive, complete with their naval-vessel postmarks. Oswald talked with Priscilla McMillan about the incident, as she testified to Warren investigators. The ‘maneuvers’ were protracted; the Marines did not return to their original assignments for several months. Did White, Oswald, both, or neither become trained intelligence assets during this clandestine action?"
Through innuendo the LaFontaines attempt to link the two Marines but remain bashful when it comes to presenting hard documentation. Based on some unsubstantiated tidbits the reader is left to decide if Oswald and White became trained intelligence assets during some unnamed clandestine action.
Let's review the paragraph line by line:
"In August-September 1957 Roscoe, also a Marine, took the same boat to Japan as Lee Harvey Oswald."
This is absolutely correct. Both left San Diego, California on August 21, 1957 aboard the U.S.S. Bexar. They arrived and disembarked at Yokosuka, Japan on September 12, 1957. However, the LaFontaines can't take credit for this revelation. The JFK Assassination Information Center provided that intelligence along with photocopies of the Oswald and White embarkation slips during the press conference on August 6, 1990. Also, neither the JFK Center nor the LaFontaines bothered to mention how many troops were on board the U. S. S. Bexar. On November 29, 1990 I had a telephone conversation with Edward Epstein, author of Legend -The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald. He indicated during his research of the trip for the book he discovered the Bexar "held hundreds and hundreds of servicemen." It was not, as several researchers have attempted to portray, an intimate cruise involving a few Marines including Oswald and White.
". . . amateur sleuths Gary Mack and David Perry of Dallas. . . "
Here the LaFontaines are partially correct. For over twenty eight years I've been a professional sleuth investigating and settling property-casualty claims for several large insurance companies. However, for the last twenty years my hobby has been investigating the Kennedy assassination. Of course this has certain positive aspects. Since I don't earn a living off of the assassination
there is no need for me to be sensational. I don't have to deal with tabloid press or television "reporters." I don't find it necessary to publish a book or appear as a speaker at conspiracy symposia. I'm rather free with my documentation and will supply just about anything I have for the price of the photocopies plus postage. I try to approach supposed assassination "facts" from an innocent until proven guilty and will it stand up in a court of law viewpoint, just what many researchers claim the Warren Commission failed to do.
Since Gary Mack is the archivist for the Sixth Floor Museum at Dallas' Dealey Plaza, I find reference to him as an amateur sleuth somewhat ludicrous.
It would seem the LaFontaines consider investigations and findings made by amateurs somehow don't quite measure up to or have the validity as those made by "professionals." There are few individuals that started down this dusty research road as full time professionals. The LaFontaines should remember real or imagined social status within any research area (i.e. law, medicine or the Kennedy assassination) has little to do with investigative, inductive or deductive ability.
"In November of the same year, both White and Oswald ended up in Subic Bay, the Philippines.
Here again we have a statement that is, on the surface, correct but with the added implication that White and Oswald met. The truth of the matter is somewhat different. On November 20, 1957 Oswald and his unit left Yokosuka, Japan and headed for the northern end of the Philippine archipelago for a training exercise known as Operation Strongback. Less than a week later they broke camp and were back at sea. Unfortunately, one of the Marines had taken a diseased monkey on board. The monkey was destroyed and thrown over the side. The ship, U.S.S. Terrell County, then cruised to Subic Bay and sat in the bay in quarantine for almost a week. Next the ship, with Oswald on board, headed for the South China Sea and to Subic Bay after Christmas.
During this same period military records show White was in training at the automotive mechanics school of the 3D Marine Division at Subic Bay.
We have less than a seven day window of opportunity (November 30 to December 5, 1957) for Oswald and White to meet as claimed by the LaFontaines. Ray and Mary need to provide evidence Oswald was able to get off his quarantined ship in order to conduct a meeting with another raw recruit stationed on land many miles away.
". . . and, later, off the coast of Indonesia as part of a secret CIA invasion force planned for that island nation."
A most intriguing claim but the LaFontaines never bother to give the actual or approximate dates Oswald and White were immersed in the "secret CIA invasion force . . ." As discussed earlier and verified by the military records of both soldiers the event couldn't take place in November, 1957. In early December, Oswald and his unit on board the Terrell County were in the South China Sea as part of an exercise involving the Seventh Fleet. This operation was certainly not secret as it involved at least thirty ships. During this period White continued his training as an automotive mechanic finally receiving his certification on May 2, 1958.
Within a few weeks of the Ricky White press conference rumors began to circulate that the JFK Assassination Information Center had proof Roscoe White entered Indonesia as part of a CIA "hit" team. The target was then Indonesian President Achmed Sukarno.
Over the Labor Day weekend, September 1 and 2, 1990, the JFK Center conducted a closed "seminar" to discuss aspects of the still developing White story. Both Gary and I were invited. During a question and answer session, Center co-founder J. Gary Shaw, in referencing the above mentioned event, indicated the Sukarno project was known as Operation Tulungan.
In May of 1993, after several requests under The Freedom of Information Act, the Department of the Navy sent me twenty five pages of information on Operation Tulungan. Most of it consisted of reprints of articles appearing in the Navy's TRIAD magazine.
So what was Tulungan? The following from TRIAD:
"Exercise Tulungan provided that a guerrilla aggressor force from Lusob infiltrate into Tahimik, a Southeast Asian country which appeals to SEATO for assistance."
Tulungan, which took place from March 2 to early April, 1962 over four years after the Seventh Fleet's maneuvers mentioned earlier, was nothing more than a training exercise involving two fictitious countries. The country of Tahimik asks SEATO's help in repelling the aggressive Lusob. From the maps provided by The Department of the Navy the exercise took place on the west coast of the Philippine Island of Mindoro.
An embarkation slip dated 24 Sep 62 signed by Captain C.A. McClusky (USMC) indicates White "Arrived at the Island of Mindoro, Philippine Islands on 26 Mar 62 and participated in Operation Tulungan from 26 Mar 62 to 1 Apr 62. 3 Apr 62 re-embarked on board USS CARTER HALL LSD 3 at Mindoro, Philippine Islands and departed therefrom 3 Apr 62." White did take part in Tulungan but it was not the secret operation the JFK Center claimed it to be.
While Operation Tulungan was in progress Oswald was living in Minsk, Russia with his wife and newborn daughter.
"Roscoe White wrote of the matter to his wife Geneva, in letters that survive, complete with their naval-vessel postmarks.7
Oswald talked with Priscilla McMillan about the incident, as she testified to Warren investigators.8"
Note this section has footnotes. One would expect the footnotes to verify that White and Oswald did in fact meet at some point in time and that both were somehow involved, ". . .as part of a secret CIA invasion force planned for that island nation (Indonesia)."
7 "Military travel records and letters show that Oswald and White traveled on the same ship to Japan in August-September 1957, and that White was stationed at Subic Bay, Philippines. (Oswald's travel to the Philippines, where he was stationed at Subic Bay at the same time as White, is not in question though not specified on the travel record.) White's correspondence with Geneva (his wife) shows him to have been 'stationed in the Philippines for a while' and sent (as part of a secret Marine/CIA action) 'to Indonesia.' Postmarks on White's envelopes
indicate that he was on a ship heading toward Indonesia at the time of the secret operation."
I don't know about you but I do question that Oswald was actually stationed at Subic Bay particularly when the authors admit there is no proof. They acknowledge that Oswald's stationing at Subic Bay is "...not specified on the travel record." Being on board a ship in the harbor is not being "at station."
Why haven't the LaFontaines included - and sent (as part of a secret Marine/CIA action) - in quotation marks? It would suggest this is NOT part of White's letter to his wife. Why are the dates of the postmarks and ship's name not given? It would be interesting to see if the postmarks are from the U.S.S. Carter Hall.
Incidentally, I would like to know how one determines the direction a ship from reading the postmark. I can't conceive of any soldier on "a secret Marine/CIA action" being allowed to send letters to his wife. I can't believe anyone on board would be allowed to send anything.
The easy solution would be to allow the research community to see the letters, postmarks and related material.
8 It was at Subic Bay, Oswald reportedly told Priscilla McMillan in Moscow (November 16, 1959), that "he learned to sympathize with local Communists and conceived a hatred for U.S. 'militarist imperialism' for the exploiting the Filipino natives" (Marina & Lee, 83-84; WCXX 277-85). See also Epstein, Legend, 72-73.
In order to follow the action one must check the references. The Oswald quote actually appears on pages 77 - 78 of Marina & Lee. Warren Volume XX pages 277-285 are photocopies of McMillan's handwritten notes taken during her interview with Oswald.
The notes are difficult to read but no mention is made by Oswald of his being on land during the period necessary to complete a conspiratorial scenario. One should also wonder how, during this brief period, he could get off his ship, meet and discuss tactics with the mission commander or commanders, train with his CIA "team" which included White, embark on the secret action, participate in a failed mission (Sukarno died years later on June 21,1970), return and develop hatred for U.S. "militarist imperialism." Additionally, why would a radar operator and vehicle mechanic trainee be called upon for such hazardous duty? If both were working "under cover" where during the initial period of their enlistment did they receive training in weapons and tactics?
McMillan correctly states Oswald "was sent on maneuvers to the Philippines." But incorrectly comments, "It remained at Subic Bay." Epstein discusses in detail the movement of Oswald's unit during the same period and shows the group on the Philippine northern archipelago. Review page 74 of Legend and you'll discover Oswald's group came ashore at Cubi Point just before the New Year. Oswald could have developed his hatred for U.S. 'militarist imperialism' at this time. However, this invalidates the Marine/CIA action scenario.
Those of us with an interest in events surrounding the assassination should be as agreeable to challenge "facts" presented by pro-conspiracy advocates as we would documentation from representatives of the anti-conspiracy group. I don't wish to belabor the point but there are many more undocumented allegations. I will limit the discussion of one additional item:
On Page 334
"Roscoe White, in the meantime, remained in the Marine Corps. He was a superb marksman, and frequently wrote of his duties on the rifle range. One of these included developing a specialty in `surveying target sites."'
In September of 1960 White was assigned to the Target Acquisition Department, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. On September 23, 1960 he received a Certificate of Proficiency for completing the department's Artillery Ballistic Meteorology Course. The certificate was signed by the base Commandant and two other officers.
I feel it appears more sinister, more conspiratorial, and more insidious to claim White spent time "surveying target sites" rather than in unbiased fashion describing his actual duties which consisted of releasing weather balloons so artillery batteries could compensate for wind conditions?
* The Texas Attorney General's file on the Elrod case (Folio 21454) reveals on Friday, January 8, 1993 Ray LaFontaine Faxed two pages of news clippings including one dated November 19, 1963. The clipping recounts the arrest of Lawrence Miller and Donnell Whitter on a stolen weapons charge. Included with the file are what appears to be Ned Butler's notes concerning information he might have obtained from one of the LaFontaines. The notes reference John Franklin Elrod and indicate "Elrod says (presumably referring to Miller and Whitter) they got money from Ruby." Curiously I found little evidence supporting the allegation Elrod was in the same holding area as Oswald or that Oswald spoke at all. The only evidence is a handwritten note:
"8.11.64 - Went to S.U. to tell about encounter in jail - Shelby Co. Tenn."
Copyright © 1996 David B. Perry