Saturday, 04 June 2022 18:09

Fletcher Prouty vs. the ARRB

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Jim DiEugenio revisits the lost opportunity of Fletcher Prouty’s appearance before the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) by reviewing the initial formation and constitution of the board and then by examining the peculiar history of the board’s “112th Military Intelligence Project.”

As we know, prior to the opening of Oliver Stone’s film JFK, there was a deliberate attempt to sandbag the picture. This included efforts both inside and outside the critical community. On May 14, 1991—a full seven months before the premiere—Jon Margolis wrote a hatchet job on a film he had not seen for the Dallas Morning News. On May 19th, George Lardner in the Washington Post—supplied with a bootleg copy of a script by the late Harold Weisberg—did the same. Lardner included a blast at the film’s Vietnam withdrawal thesis. He wrote, “That there was no abrupt change in Vietnam policy after JFK’s death.” When Stone was allowed to reply to this, he and Lardner continued to argue over that withdrawal thesis. (Washington Post, June 2, 1991) The man who brought the Vietnam withdrawal concept to Stone was retired Air Force Colonel Fletcher Prouty. Prior to the film’s mid-December 1991 opening, the November issue of Esquire magazine published a long cover story on the film. It was written by the late journalist Robert Sam Anson.

In 1975, Anson had written a book on the assassination entitled, “They’ve Killed the President!” If any editor at Esquire had read it, they should have thought twice about giving Anson the assignment, because Anson’s book contains one of the worst smears in the literature on New Orleans DA Jim Garrison. And since Stone based his film on Garrison’s book, he was the protagonist of the picture.

Clearly, Anson had a dog in this fight. His article, “The Shooting of JFK,” accused Garrison of being “closely associated with organized crime” and also of leaving out of his book, On the Trail of the Assassins, his trial for bribery and income tax evasion. As Bill Davy pointed out, Garrison had no such mob association. (Let Justice Be Done, pp. 149–67) And Garrison had written about that trial, which resulted in his acquittal. (Garrison, pp. 254–72) But Anson had an agenda: Kennedy was likely killed by a conspiracy, but Stone and Garrison were not the people to tell us what really happened.

Anson described Prouty as a writer for “one of the raunchier porno magazines.” He then wrote that Prouty’s by-line and association with the Joint Chiefs of Staff changed often over time. Neither of these were accurate. And Prouty’s singular achievements—his penning of the classic book The Secret Team, the fact that his many essays contained a remarkable amount of new and valuable information—this was all cast aside by Esquire. Fulfilling his agenda, Anson dutifully played off historian John Newman against Prouty, with Newman as the white hatter in Stone’s consulting crew and Prouty as the black hat.

Anson’s article had some notoriety in the MSM. So when the film opened, Prouty had a bleeding 3 inch gash over his right eye. And since he was responsible for originating the film’s overarching thesis—namely that President Kennedy was leaving Vietnam when he was killed—he became a target. The fact that the MSM had completely missed the idea that the Vietnam War would not have happened if Kennedy had lived—that was something they did not want to face up to.


To fully understand the second stage of the issue at hand, one has to look back at Douglas Horne’s 5 volume series, Inside the Assassination Records Review Board. Horne included an important 15-page section in the first volume entitled “The Culture of the ARRB.” (Horne, pp. 9–24) This was an eye-opening, sometimes startling, section of that series.

Horne is at pains to describe a kind of ‘future shock’ upon his arriving in Washington to work for the ARRB. With the exception of Jack Tunheim, none of the five Board members were really familiar with the case. (Horne, p. 10) When Doug suggested a series of briefings to bring them up to speed, Chief Counsel Jeremy Gunn advised against it:

He said they had little interest in the evidentiary conflicts that characterized the JFK assassination and had demonstrated great impatience with him on more than one occasion when he had attempted to discuss the ambiguity in the medical evidence arena. Furthermore, Jeremy told me that none of the Board members believed there had been a conspiracy to kill President John F. Kennedy. (Horne, p. 10, italics in original)

And this is where Horne’s disclosures become even more interesting and they dovetail with the subject of this essay. Horne estimates that as much as 2/3 of the staff believed the Warren Commission was correct. This is remarkable, especially since the Board was operating in the wake of the national uproar created by Stone’s film. Most polls from that time period would have shown that upwards of 75% of the public believed Kennedy had been killed as a result of a conspiracy. In sum, concerning this question, the Board was not a representative cross section of the populace.

Horne writes there was strong prejudice, a kind of arrogance, toward any colleagues or independent researchers who questioned the Warren Commission’s verdict. (Horne, p. 11) He then extended this attitude to David Marwell, the staff director, which suggests that one reason the Board appointed Marwell may have been because he agreed with them. (Horne, p. 12) And the decisions on hiring—which Marwell had some control over—were also an echo of this thinking. (Horne, p. 13)

There can be little doubt about Marwell’s mindset. In a newspaper interview he did in 1994, he said he found Gerald Posner’s Case Closed a valuable book on Kennedy’s murder. But beyond that, Marwell was on cordial terms with Posner and with Commission advocates Max Holland and Gus Russo. (ibid) Horne writes that the majority of the staff felt the problem with the JFK case was Cold War secrecy, “not the evidence itself.” He characterizes this split between him and most of his colleagues like this:

The ongoing battle in our society over how to understand the Kennedy assassination, between the critical research community on the one hand, and the establishment’s historians and media organs on the other, was being played out in microcosm within the ARRB—and the deck was stacked in favor of the conservative views of the Board members and the Executive Director. (Horne, p. 14)

If the reader needed more evidence on this score, consider what Board member William Joyce told the LA Times on August 20, 1997: he said he thought the Commission did a “very good job.” Recall, this is after the Board secured the evidence that Gerald Ford, with a stroke of a pen, altered the Warren Report and moved up JFK’s back wound into his neck. The late Kermit Hall made similar statements around this time: namely that Oswald fired all the shots, there was no conspiracy. (Maryland Law Review, Vol. 56 No. 1) Board member Henry Graff told Penthouse Magazine, “I have found nothing to suggest there was anything but a single gunman. What put him up to it…I don’t think we’ll ever know.” (January, 1997)

To summarize this general attitude, on page one of the ARRB’s Final Report, these words appear in reference to Stone’s feature film: “While the movie was largely fictional…” No one who was objective, or in command of the facts of the JFK case, could write such a phrase. This is quite close to the type of boilerplate that the likes of Hugh Aynseworth or the late Vincent Bugliosi would bandy about. In my book The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, I do a scene-by-scene analysis of the first third of the film. In light of the documents the Review Board opened, in many instances Stone looks rather conservative in his composition of the picture. (DiEugenio, pp. 189–94) Therefore, whoever wrote that part of the report was either uninformed or rather biased. We can consider that comment a kind of parting shot by the Board at the screenwriters, Stone, and Zach Sklar.


As mentioned above, Horne observes that Marwell and the Board chose a staff that was largely neutral or sided with the Krazy Kid Oswald crowd. Upon going to work, Horne’s first direct supervisor was Tim Wray. Wray was the chief of the Military Records Team. He was a recently retired Army infantry colonel and was a veteran of the Pentagon. Horne said about Wray, “Tim was an open Warren Commission supporter.” (Horne E-mail, 4/23/22) Wray bragged to Horne about knowing “Goldberg over in the Pentagon,” the guy who actually wrote the Warren Report. (Arthur Goldberg is named on page v of the Warren Report as a staff member.)

According to Horne, “Tim used to needle me a lot about the psychology of JFK researchers and what he called their slipshod methodology, etc. I simply endured it (had to!) and ended up taking his job.” This last refers to Wray’s departure in 1997, which was not explained. Horne also includes the following revelation about Wray, “I tried to get him to read JFK and Vietnam, but he said he ‘couldn’t finish it’ and returned it to me with coffee stains all over the pages.”

The last disclosure is relevant to the main point of this essay. For this reason: it was initially Fletcher Prouty who had informed Oliver Stone about President Kennedy’s intent to withdraw from Vietnam. Prouty worked with and under General Victor Krulak. Krulak had been to Vietnam in September of 1963 and, as opposed to his trip partner, diplomat Joseph Mendenhall, he had given Kennedy a rather benign report about the progress of the war.

The next month, Kennedy was ready to enact his withdrawal plan. It had been prepared by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as far back as 1962. McNamara had given instructions to the overall commander in Vietnam, General Paul Harkins, to tell each department in Saigon to prepare withdrawal schedules. These schedules had been given to the Secretary at the May Sec/Def conference of 1963 in Hawaii. Krulak was supposed to be on the journey to Saigon with McNamara and Joint Chiefs Chairman Max Taylor that fall, but he was not. The McNamara/Taylor Report was prepared with electronic exchanges between Saigon and Washington. In Washington, Krulak prepared the final report under Bobby Kennedy’s supervision. (John Newman, JFK and Vietnam, 2017 edition, p. 408) That report was designed to serve as President Kennedy’s exit plan from Saigon. The pretext was that since the war was going alright, Americans could now depart.

Working under Krulak gave Colonel Prouty an unusual window into Kennedy’s plan to leave Vietnam and the Colonel wrote and spoke about this more than once after he left his position in the Pentagon. His writings and utterances on Indochina are both comprehensive and incisive to anyone who has read them. And thanks to Len Osanic, who runs the best Prouty web site there is, we have access to them. (See Len’s site at In fact, years before Newman published JFK and Vietnam, Prouty was aware of most of the salient points that John would address in that milestone book, for example: falsification of intelligence reports by the CIA, the importance of the McNamara/Taylor report, its relation to NSAM 263, etc.


As we have seen, Tim Wray had no time or use for any of this rather bracing information about Kennedy’s intent to leave Indochina. Somehow, the fact that Vietnam would not have happened if Kennedy had lived apparently did not interest him. What he really wanted to hone in on was the Prouty information about the 112th Unit at San Antonio being unable to provide further security for President Kennedy’s upcoming trip to Dallas. Looking at the ARRB documents collected on this subject by Malcolm Blunt, it appears that Wray recruited his colleague Chris Barger and chief counsel Jeremy Gunn to accompany him on this mission. (Horne assured this writer that Barger was not the instigator on this.)

In an ARRB memo secured by Blunt of February 28, 1997, the reader can see that the Board entitled this mission “The 112th Military Intelligence Project.” What is odd about this whole effort is that, although it was apparently designed to discredit Prouty, that was not actually the end result of the Board’s efforts. For example, investigator Dave Montague got in contact with former Lt. Stephen Weiss, who was with that detachment in 1963 but was now retired. He told Montague that Colonel Robert Jones had requested they get in contact with the Secret Service and offer them supplementary protection for President Kennedy in Dallas. Weiss was surprised that the Secret Service declined. He said the word was that a man, who’s name phonetically sounded like [Forrest] Sorrels, declined the offer. (ARRB memo, p. 1) Another person with that detachment, Ed Coyle, had been in on regular interagency group conferences, for example with the FBI and local police groups. He also thought that the 112th would be asked to supplement the Secret Service for Dallas. He was also surprised when the offer was declined. (ARRB memo, p. 2, this was written in handwritten notes of 7-19-96)

In other words, there were two independent sources who confirmed that the information conveyed by Prouty was accurate in its outlines, in other words, the 112th offered help in protecting the president and it was declined. The Board then tried to discredit Jones. Wray insisted he was not an Operations Officer but an Intelligence Officer and, therefore, somehow that put him out of the loop. He compared that position to someone who just figured out the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—in 1945, after their surrender.

I don’t think most people would agree with that characterization, because, for example, the HSCA termed Jones as an Operations Officer. In certain FBI documents, he was described as an Operations Officer on 11/22/63. (E-mail, Blunt to the late Ed Sherry, 1/19/07) The Secret Service also labeled him as such on 11/30/63. (Blunt to Sherry, 1/18/07) In an article that Larry Hancock and Anna Marie Kuhns Walko wrote for the Dealey Plaza Echo, they referred to him as that. (Vol. 5 No. 2, July 2001) Further, according to a handwritten note on the ARRB memo, Jones said he could prove this himself.

Another way in which Wray and the ARRB tried to impeach Prouty’s information was by writing that, except in very rare situations, military intelligence did not supplement the Secret Service. In the memo noted above, Wray gives credit to Dennis Quinn for that information, which brings us to another notable choice by the Board.

Quinn, a former lawyer for the Navy, also was of Wray’s persuasion. He opposed any Board inquiry into the medical evidence, saying it would muddy the record, not clarify it. Quinn supported the Warren Commission’s conclusions very strongly. Like Wray, he was dismissive and belittling of the critical community. He went as far as trying to get David Marwell to stop the ARRB investigation of the medical evidence. After Quinn attended the James Humes deposition, he left the medical review team, thereby leaving just Gunn and Horne on that inquiry. Quinn then left the ARRB in about a year. (E-mail from Horne of May 4, 2022)

The Hancock/Walko article tended to contradict the Wray/Quinn information about the Secret Service using the supplementary aid of military protection. Hancock and Walko wrote that prior to Dallas, there were such supplements in Miami, Tampa, and San Antonio. This writer cross checked that information with Secret Service expert Vince Palamara. He affirmed it was accurate. (E-mail communication with Vince, May 3, 2022) He sent me photos and other evidence from his site, which back up his case. But, in addition, Vince went further. He also sent evidence that there were military supplements to Secret Service protection for Kennedy in Pueblo, Colorado and San Diego, California that year. (Palamara e-mail of May 4, 2022.) Therefore, in its haste to nab Prouty, it appears that the ARRB was wrong in one of its initial assumptions. They simply did not do the proper study of the past motorcades and they did not consult the proper sources of information.


Fletcher Prouty was accustomed to alleged inquiries into the JFK case that were, let us say, not as rigorous or straightforward as they seemed. He had been through this with the Rockefeller Commission. That body had been appointed by President Gerald Ford. As revealed in Oliver Stone’s documentary JFK: Destiny Betrayed, when asked why he appointed such conservative mainstays to the commission— such as Lyman Lemnitzer and Ronald Reagan—Ford said it was to conceal some sensitive operations. When asked “Like what?”, he said “Like assassinations!” In keeping with that dictum, Ford appointed Commission lawyer David Belin as executive director for that inquiry. Prouty was called in as a witness by them. He was asked to go off the record at an interesting point in his interview by Commission lawyer Marvin Gray. They were discussing the issues of deniability and compartmentalization. (Interview of 5/15/75, p. 4) Toward the end, Prouty got into some utterly fascinating material about the Nhu brothers, Trujillo, and the U2,bits of which are still redacted to this day. But, to put it mildly, there was very little follow up. As he later revealed to Len Osanic, when Prouty then went into his pre-interview for the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), he felt the same disappointment. He was probably the only man in the building who would recognize who former CIA officer George Joannides was and why he was really there. He only did the pre-interview and that was it for him. He recognized what was going on under the surface.

Therefore, when he was called in for an ARRB interview, from the first couple of questions asked, he understood what they were up to. When he got home, he called Len Osanic, who was running a forerunner of his web site. He told Len about the experience. Fletcher said he could not believe the spin, so he decided to play along and participate in their game. (Osanic interview, May 5, 2022) For example, when asked if he had any notes of his information about the 112th, Prouty said no.

The fact is he did make notes and he kept them. Len Osanic has them on his site today. They are from one Bill McKinney who served with the 112th right after the JFK assassination. Bill said the controversy about the non-reinforcement in Dallas was still going on at that time and, again, this witness contravenes another ARRB assumption. (ARRB memo, p. 6) McKinney said that he did get training in protective services. He said this was attained at Fort Holabird in Maryland. McKinney said that the 112th’s offer of protection was refused point blank, even though people there knew that Dallas was dangerous.

Mr. McKinney now makes three witnesses that buttress Prouty’s statement about the denial of supplementary services, but there was actually a fourth. After Oliver Stone’s film was in circulation, a young woman called up Len Osanic. She said she was the daughter of one of the commanding officers of the 112th. She said that on the night of the assassination, she was at home. In the kitchen of their house, a heated discussion was going on. She recalled the term “stand down,” because it seemed odd to her. She had only heard the term “stand up.” Watching the film JFK and the mention of that term made her retroactively realize what the heated discussion was all about. (E-mail communication with Osanic of May 5, 2022. This woman was in a high position in the government, so she will remain anonymous.)

To put it mildly, the weight of the evidence contravenes what the ARRB Special Project about the 112th was about. In fact, with this new evidence, it is difficult to find anything that the ARRB Special Project was right about in this particular dispute over JFK and Fletcher Prouty. Their research seems to have been less than thorough. And those who have tossed about the Prouty/ARRB interview as a way of smearing both the Colonel and Stone’s film have been shown to have fallen for some rather incomplete and unfounded information. Let me add: this includes Jeremy Gunn who, the last time I talked to him in 2019, seemed to still be taking that whole misguided exercise seriously.

Fletcher Prouty was one of the few people inside the rings of power in Washington who dared to speak out about what he knew. He wrote a quite valuable book, The Secret Team. He and Dave Ratcliffe cooperated on a book of interviews, Understanding Special Operations, which is also quite valuable. (Click here for details) Finally, his series of essays that were published in the seventies and eighties are a formidable achievement in understanding how the shadow government operates. (Click here for details)

Such a figure did not deserve to have his reputation sullied by those who were allegedly pursuing the factual record about the murder of President Kennedy.

(The author would like to extend his thanks to Len Osanic, Malcolm Blunt, Doug Horne, and Vince Palamara for their help in the composition of this article. It would not exist in this form without them.)

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 June 2022 05:24
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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