Monday, 05 July 2021 20:00

Lee Harvey Oswald’s Cold War

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Jim DiEugenio reviews Greg Parker’s unusual, provocative, and insightful two-volume work entitled Lee Harvey Oswald’s Cold War and traces the Cold War timeline and progression through the early life of Lee Harvey Oswald prior to his “defection” to the Soviet Union in October, 1959.

Greg Parker’s Lee Harvey Oswald’s Cold War is quite appropriately titled. There have been many biographies of Oswald, some of them good, some adequate, and some downright poor. The dividing line, both temporally and in content, was Philip Melanson’s Spy Saga. Released in 1990, Spy Saga was the first work to make a book length case that Oswald was intimately tied up with the world of American intelligence—and most likely not in a casual way. Phil also did important work on the Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy cases. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2006. But when he appeared before the Assassination Records Review Board, he made a rather pithy and self-deprecating comment. He said he hoped when their mission was complete, the new database on Oswald would make Spy Saga look like a Cliff Notes pamphlet.

There is no doubt that Melanson’s prognostication came true. For example, the declassified notes of HSCA researcher Betsy Wolf create an epiphany concerning the relationship between the CIA and Oswald before his defection to Russia. (Click here and go to Section 2) In his book, Parker has not gotten to that point yet. (This review is of the compilation Volumes 1 and 2.)

Several books on Oswald track his character through the progress of the Cold War. But, quite naturally, the Soviet/American conflict is always in the background. The unusual thing about Parker’s book is that there really is no background. His volume blends so much of the Cold War into the story that background and foreground are almost indistinguishable. That is why I stated that the title is all too appropriate.

To underline this point: the volume opens in a most unusual manner. Many books on the case, and some biographies of Oswald, discuss the overthrows of Arbenz in Guatemala, Mossadegh in Iran, and the killing of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, not to mention the many attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. This book begins with an assassination in Bogota, Colombia. It discusses the murder of Jorge Elicier Gaitan, who, quite frankly, I had never heard of before. (Parker, pp. 4ff) I sure as heck will not forget him now.

Gaitan was a mayor of Bogota, a member of congress, Minister of Education, and Minister of Labor, Health, and Social Welfare. He was a lawyer who gradually shifted over to politics, especially after seeing the influence of the United Fruit company in his country, particularly after what is called the Cienega, or Santa Marta, massacre. (Parker, pp. 5–8) This event was more or less covered up for decades until Gabriel Garcia Marquez made it famous in his book One Hundred Years of Solitude. What enraged Gaitan about the event was that the American press and State Department tried to paint the massive machine gunning as a natural reaction to a communist plot. It was no such thing. United Fruit demanded the government intervene to halt a strike, since their policy was no negotiations. In fact, United Fruit’s influence may have extended up to having Frank Kellogg, the American Secretary of State, threaten to invade if United Fruit was not protected.

Gaitan used this event to vault himself into the political arena. He was so effective as a speaker and organizer that he created a kind of rump group to the Liberal Party called the National Leftist Revolutionary Union, or UNIR. Gaitan was a combination Socialist and Populist. Land reform was very important to him. In 1946, he ran for president and lost, mainly because the Liberals ran two candidates, himself and Gabriel Turbay. As Parker makes clear, its odd how Turbay died a year later. (Parker, p. 26) And Gaitan was assassinated a year after that—on the verge of taking over the Liberal Party.

Before reviewing Gaitan’s murder, the author discusses just how influential the American government was in Latin America. United Fruit’s law firm was the formidable Sullivan and Cromwell, which employed a young John Foster Dulles. Foster Dulles was a kind of roving ambassador for the company in that area. (Parker, p. 9) America was very powerful in Colombia due to the scheme used by Phillipe Bunau Varilla, William Nelson Cromwell, and Teddy Roosevelt to pretty much create the new country to the north in order to finish the Panama Canal. (Parker, pp. 10–13)

Before the creation of the CIA, the FBI had domain in Latin America through its Special Intelligence Service or SIS. But by 1946, the SIS was on the way out due to the creation of the CIG, the Central Intelligence Group, and the CIA in the following year. Birch O’Neal was an SIS agent who joined the new group. He soon became one of James Angleton’s chief—and most secretive—assistants. (Parker, p. 20) Preceding both the SIS and CIA was the Office of Naval Intelligence. Founded in 1882, by 1929 it had widened its scope from just spying on the advancements of the navies of other nations. (Parker, p. 3)

On April 9, 1948, Gaitan emerged from his office at about 1 PM. He was shot at four times with one bullet missing. The man apprehended for the crime was Juan Ros Sierra. He was immediately taken to a pharmacy by two policemen. But when they called for reinforcements, no one answered the phone at the station. When asked who put him up to the assassination the defendant only said, “Powerful things that I can’t tell you! Oh Virgin of Carmen! Save Me!” (Parker, p. 29)

In a startling coincidence, both Gabriel Marquez and Fidel Castro were in direct proximity to the scene of the crime. Marquez later said that he saw a tall, well-dressed man urging the mob to break the police line and extract revenge by killing the suspect. Once this was successful, that man drove away in a new car. (ibid) What happened after must have clearly influenced Castro in his revolutionary career. It came to be called El Bogotazo: ten hours of violence, mayhem, and chaos that left four thousand dead and a large section of the city in ruins. (Parker, p. 30) In turn, that ignited La Violencia, a ten-year civil war that took the lives of about 200,000 people. This reveals not just how much Gaitan was a symbol of hope to the masses, but also how they collectively felt that the—now dead—accused was not working alone. (Parker, p. 30)

They were correct. A man named John Espirito later made a confession to this effect. He said that the murder was timed for the meeting of the Latin American leftist group which Castro was there to attend. Although Espirito clearly implied that Roa performed the shooting, Parker disagrees. Roa was in the habit of performing mind control exercises that would place him in a trance state in front of a mirror. He then imagined someone emerging from the mirror. The author writes that it actually was a man and he was part of the set up. He corresponds to someone at the scene who had a trench coat draped over his arm. Parker writes that this was the main assassin and that Roa only fired the last shot, the one that missed. (Parker, p. 54)

The chapter ends with a postulation: was this the CIA’s first assassination plot? If so, it certainly resembles the RFK scenario, not just in its intricacies, but because it stopped a liberal leader from taking power and produced years of chaos. In the American case, it prolonged the Vietnam War.


The Gaitan murder happened closely after the official opening of the Cold War, which is usually timed with George Kennan’s long telegram from Moscow. The author then jumps forward a few years to Korea. He focuses on two types of specialized warfare that emerged during the conflict. The first was what had been apparently used with Roa: mind control. The second was germ warfare. The United States coveted Japan’s so called “Devil Doctor,” Ishii Shiro and his infamous Unit 731. He was perhaps the most advanced microbiologist of his day and performed thousands of experiments on human guinea pigs, including American POW’s. Douglas MacArthur made sure he was not prosecuted and so he ended up at Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Parker, pp. 78–80) In other words, what happened with Operation Paper Clip in Europe also occurred in Asia, except in this instance it was not rocketry, but biological science. It was left to the Russians to expose Ishii for what he was and how he had experimented on American prisoners. This is how America developed the science for bacteria weapons in Korea and then, according to Parker, lied about its usage. (Parker, pp. 83–86) One way they did so was by saying the Chinese had brainwashed the men who said they did it.

All of this clearly amped up domestic Cold War tensions. Ruth Paine started to attend Quaker meetings in 1947, but did not actually join the church until 1951. The author describes a kind of factionalism within the Quaker movement that gained traction over the forties and fifties. The Hicksites, a very pure and spiritual sect inside the church who had been strongly anti-slavery, now gave way to a more conservative evangelical strain. (Parker, pp. 94–95). This struggle was exemplified by a meeting of the Friends at Earlham College which Ruth attended. Earlham was a hotbed of this early kind of conservative evangelical movement. A future graduate of Earlham was Von Edwin Peacock. By the time of the FBI inquiry into Oswald’s alleged visit to Mexico City, Peacock was acting Director of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The AFSC ran the Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City. A local Quaker said he saw Kennedy’s alleged assassin at that place while he was in Mexico City in 1963. (Parker, p. 96)

What makes this interesting is that the latest work on this aspect indicates that Oswald was not in Mexico City. But yet, one of the things that Ruth Paine did complemented what the AFSC group did for the Warren Commission. She supplied articles that were allegedly returned to Dallas by Oswald from Mexico City. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, second edition, p. 203)

In an interesting piece of discovery, the book states that Marguerite Oswald once worked at a naval base in Algiers, Louisiana as a switchboard operator. (Parker, p. 104) This was during World War II, when Oswald was perhaps 2 years old. Parker believes this job involved some kind of research project through Pittsburgh Paint and Glass at that base. It was at this time, late 1941 or early 1942, that she met Edwin Ekdahl, an electrical engineer. Ekdahl would become her third husband and the step father to Lee since the child’s real father had died before he was born in October, 1939. Parker believes that Marguerite met Ekdahl while at the base and that the company he worked for, Ebasco, a division of GE, was also involved in that research project. (Parker, p. 106) You will not find this information in the Warren Commission report or that by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

The two eventually married in 1945 and moved to Fort Worth, where Ekdahl was now working. The couple stayed together until 1948. Parker notes more oddities about Lee’s enrollment in 2 elementary schools: Ekdahl is listed as his father, but in the blank for mother, no one is listed. (Parker, pp. 117–18). Although the wife thought the husband was having an affair, it was the husband who filed for divorce first. The attorney he hired was Fred Korth, who had an office in close proximity to his own. (Parker, pp. 110, 118) Korth was a lawyer and a banker. He would eventually become Secretary of the Navy in 1962, succeeding John Connally. Both men served at Vice President Johnson’s request. Parker points out something about Korth here that may be more than just passing interest. Though Korth handled Ekdahl’s end of the divorce, the Warren Commission could not find any evidence that Ekdahl had legally divorced his first wife, Rasmina. What makes that even more odd is that Rasmina and Edwin ended up being buried together. (p. 119)


The scene now moves to New York City. As many have noted, it has never been entirely clear as to why Marguerite decided to move to the Big Apple. The ostensible reason is that her first son, John Pic, and his wife lived there. With Robert Oswald, Lee’s older brother, in the service, Marguerite said she did not want Lee to be alone while she was at work. (Warren Report, p. 675) But, as the author points out, Ekdahl was now living in New York and may have helped get Lee into Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School. (Parker, p. 128) And third, there is the mysterious issue of Lee’s “mental tests” that were likely done at Yeshiva University. This was discovered through an FBI interview with a house cleaner for Marguerite, Mrs. Louise Robertson.

The living arrangement did not last long. Parker does a nice job in exposing the Warren Commission version of how it ended. In their attempt to show that somehow the 13 year old Oswald was already a sociopath, they wrote that Oswald threatened Pic’s wife with a knife and smacked his mother while this was going on. (Warren Report, p. 676) By going through the original sources, the author shows how the Commission completely distorted the whole affair. He shows that when first interviewed about it with the FBI, Pic said no one had ever informed him any such threatening incident. But by the time he testified before the Commission, his memory had been completely refreshed. Except for one telling point—he had to take out his notes to keep the details straight. (Parker, pp. 131–33) What likely happened is that Pic’s wife did not care for her mother-in-law and her son. And she completely exaggerated what had happened in order to get them out. The FBI and the Commission then did what they usually did. With Oswald having no attorney, they were allowed to turn the incident into something it wasn’t—as long as it was exaggerated to Oswald’s detriment.

Parker does an equally adroit analysis with the famous Youth House report by Renatus Hartogs. Oswald was truant from his schooling and was referred to a kind of halfway house for three weeks in the spring of 1953. There he was examined by Dr. Hartogs. To this day, if one views the Wikipedia entry on Oswald, one will read about Oswald threatening Pic’s wife with a knife—which most likely did not occur. But also, various newspapers in 1963, like the New York Times and Charleston News and Courier, had written stories based on alleged reports Hartogs had made about Oswald back in 1953. According to those reports Hartogs had written that Oswald had “schizophrenic tendencies” and that Oswald was “potentially dangerous” and should be committed. (Parker, pp. 170, 179)

Evidently, from reading the newspapers, Hartogs came to think that this was what he had written. And he never bothered to cross check this with his original reports. But Wesley Liebeler had the reports when he examined the doctor on April 16, 1964. It turned out that Hartogs made no such comment about having Oswald committed. He thought Oswald should be placed on probation. He also never wrote that he thought Oswald was capable of a possible violent outburst. As Liebeler also pointed out, there was no reference to Oswald as “incipient schizophrenic” or “potentially dangerous” in his report. Finally, there was no evidence that Oswald was suffering from either delusions or hallucinations. (Parker, pp. 174–78)

Incredibly, in 1968, Hartogs was still claiming he had predicted Oswald was potentially dangerous. A few years later, he was successfully sued by one of his patients for sexual molestation. (Click here for details)  Some witness.


Marguerite moved back to New Orleans in 1954. Although the HSCA tried to say that Uncle Dutz Murret served as a kind of surrogate father for Lee, that is in contradiction to what the man said to the Commission. He told them he did not take much interest in or pay much attention to the lad. (Parker, pp. 194–95) The author concludes that the only real father figure Oswald had was Ekdahl and he passed away in 1953.

Another myth proposed by the HSCA regarding Oswald was that somehow Beauregard Junior High School had the reputation of being a spawning ground for future criminals. Yet again, this was contradicted by someone who should know, namely Marguerite’s sister, Lillian Murret, who lived in New Orleans her entire life. The reason that Marguerite used Lillian’s address was in order to register Lee for Beauregard, since “it had a good reputation as a good school.” Family friend Myrtle Evans said the same, that it was a good school and Marguerite had used Lillian’s address to get him in for that specific reason. (Parker, pp. 200–01)

In 1955, Lee completed a personal history in class which said his career choices were the military and undecided. Two weeks later, his brother Robert Oswald returned from active duty. Two weeks after that, Oswald joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) with his friend Ed Voebel. As his mother tried to tell the Commission: Was it not odd that at the same time Lee was reading the Marine Corp Manual, he was also studying Karl Marx? (Parker, p. 216)

In its original design, the CAP was designed to be, among other things, a kind of Loyalty Police. The author sources this to a NY Daily News story from 1948. To support this belief, he writes that the story was quickly withdrawn and then denied. But that story got a reaction from other papers who said that the CAP was “Fascism wrapped in the American flag.” (Parker, p. 221)

From here, we shift to oil tycoon Harold Byrd and how he figured in both the creation of the CAP and the purchase of what would become the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD). Byrd was one of the founders of the group back in 1941. He then became commander of the Texas wing and then a Colonel in the patrol before he went off to the Department of War in 1943. He eventually ended up as Vice Chair and then Chair of the national organization in 1959. (Parker, p. 222) Byrd bought the building which became the TSBD in 1939 for a fire sale figure of $35,000. He go it since he had been a part of the original loan, which had been defaulted on for about ten times that price.

Appropriately, the author now goes into the relationship between CAP leader David Ferrie and Oswald. For all his faults, which are well known, the author writes that Ferrie had the reputation of being a good trainer in the Cleveland CAP, which is where he was born. (Parker, p. 224) He describes how Ferrie was booted out of the CAP in New Orleans and then started his own renegade group. He focuses on the secret group that Ferrie had created inside his unit. Sometimes this was called the Omnipotents, at times it was given the longer rubric: Internal Mobile Security Unit. The members of this inner group were given special training and special assignments: like getting a passport so one could emigrate to Cuba through South America. (Parker, p. 227) This indicates the degree of control that Ferrie had over his cadets.

In the fall of 1955, someone forged a letter in Marguerite’s name which stated that Oswald was leaving school for San Diego. Oswald attempted to drop out. But Marguerite fouled it up by enclosing his real birth certificate in a duffel bag. (Parker, p. 233) In fact, as is mentioned in passing, someone dressed and posing as a Marine recruiter showed up at the Oswald home to try and convince her to let him join, even though he was underage. In Bill Davy’s discussion of this episode, he suggested this may have been Ferrie. (Let Justice be Done, p. 6) As Parker notes once more, the Commission gravely distorted this episode by writing that Oswald was able to convince his mother to make a false statement about his age.


One of the highlights of the book is the discussion of Oswald’s employment at Gerald F. Tujague, Inc. The author brings in an aspect about this brief employment that I was not aware of. The founder of the company was A. E. Hegewisch and it was his name that was used in its original title. It was a freight forwarding business and it began in 1923. As a vociferous anti-communist, Hegewisch was plugged into the New Orleans higher circles. In fact, he was the second president of International House. (Parker, p. 236) It’s pretty easy to figure out why. He knew the CIA approved Dr. Alton Ochsner, CIA agent Clay Shaw, and CIA asset William Gaudet. He was also an early president of an Agency front, the Cordell Hull Foundation. That foundation originated in Nashville—Hull was born in Tennessee—but it moved to New Orleans in 1954 and was housed inside the International House. Ochsner took over the presidency in 1956.

In 1953, Hegewisch turned over the company to five of his employees. This included Mr. Tujague, who became president, thus the name change. (Parker, p. 237) It appears that, as with Hegewisch, the Agency stayed in the background of the picture, because, later, Tujague was one of the founders of Friends of Democratic Cuba, which we know was associated with Ochsner and Shaw’s colleague, Guy Banister and also with the CIA associated Sergio Arcacha Smith. The author’s hypothesis is that Oswald was employed there in 1955, most likely through his acquaintance with Ferrie. His performance as a runner was a test of “Lee’s ability to deliver ‘goods’ and messages around the ports to the various networks of agents, informants and assets.” (Parker, p. 237) As Jim Garrison once noted, this is why New Orleans was so important to the CIA and FBI, because of its centrality as a portal to and from Latin America.

After a bit over two months, Oswald went to JR Michels, Inc., which was located in the same building. His job there was “running Export Declaration forms to the Customs Office for authentication.” (Parker, p. 238) It required that a file with picture be kept of Lee at the Customs office. It was reportedly destroyed around 1958. As Joan Mellen later observed, that destruction was not solitary. Her research assistant Peter Vea later discovered that Oswald had meetings at Customs in 1963, yet those files were never recovered by the ARRB. (Mellen at Cyril Wecht’s Duquesne Conference of 2003)

The author postulates that these temporary positions were more of less a dress rehearsal for Oswald’s ultimate enlistment, this time at a legal age. And he mentions programs like REDSOX, and REDCAP, and an ONI program which were supposedly designed for infiltration and false defectors. (Parker, pp. 230, 257) Parker notes that when Oswald wrote a letter to the Young Socialist League it was before he signed the Loyalty Certificate for Personnel of the Armed Forces. And that organization was listed on the certificate as being subversive. In the letter, he was asking to not just join, but perhaps start his own branch. There was no ambiguity about that. (Parker, p. 263) Yet this violation triggered no action against Oswald, even though an FBI check was done. Was this perhaps because, according to Ferrie’s friend Van Burns, Ferrie would meet with Oswald before his defection in 1959? Therefore, was everything cleared in advance?

As we all know, in the Marines, Oswald was sent to Atsugi air base in Japan, one of the homes of the U2. An utterly fascinating revelation in the book is about Ruth Paine, more specifically about her sister Sylvia Hoke. It turns out that she was part of the FICON project, the precursor to the U2. In other words, Hoke was working under the guise of a civilian for the Air Force when, in fact, she was really employed by the CIA. She worked on that project through the auspices of George Washington University. (Parker, pp. 266–267). Is this why Ruth denied any knowledge of her sister’s employment when Jim Garrison questioned her before the New Orleans grand jury?

Another provocative issue the author brings up is Oswald’s meeting with Rosaleen Quinn while in the service. Quinn worked for Pan Am Airlines, but she was taking a Berlitz class in Russian because she wanted to join the State Department. What is new here is that Pan Am had a close association with the CIA, “more specifically between the CIA and members of the flight crews.” (Parker, p. 276) But not just the CIA. Employees were participating with “State Department operations involved behind the scene mission in dangerous locations.” Parker is clearly postulating that the so called “Quinn date” was really another test, this time for Oswald’s ultimate mission to Moscow. If so, he passed, since Quinn said he spoke Russian better than she did. To amplify that opinion, the author notes that Quinn met with Oswald’s radar commander afterwards, John Donovan.

Parker closes his book with the Albert Schweitzer College episode. Stephen Frichtman was the famous minister at the Unitarian church in Los Angeles. This was in easy driving distance to Santa Ana, where Oswald was stationed. Frichtman’s name was found in Oswald’s undercover cohort Richard Case Nagell’s notebook. (Parker, p. 287) The point being that Albert Schweitzer did very little advertising. And a person who was familiar with the college told the late George Michael Evica that recruitment was usually done through personal contact. The highest entry class was about 30 people and sometimes the place was near empty. As Evica found out, Hans Casparis and his wife—who were running the place—were both academic frauds. So in preparation for travel abroad, why and how did Oswald list this place on his passport itinerary and how did he find the application form? Parker seems to imply it was with the help of Frichtman and/or Kerry Thornley, his supposed friend at the base.

Parker has written an unusual, provocative, and insightful work. I have some disagreements, but considering the overall quality, they are really too mild to bring up. He and Seamus Coogan and Frankie Vegas (real name) are all significant contributors to the case from down under (i.e. Australia and New Zealand). Parker has had some serious health problems of late. Let us wish him well. I would really like to see the concluding volumes of this intriguing series.

Last modified on Monday, 05 July 2021 21:26
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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