Monday, 01 September 2008 15:21

George Michael Evica, A Certain Arrogance

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Much of [his] material [on the Paines] is taken from the extraordinary work done on the couple by Carol Hewett, Barbara La Monica, and Steve Jones. As the author notes, this work is so potent that it was attacked by a big gun of the GOP, Thomas Mallon in his pathetic whitewash of a book, Mrs. Paine's Garage, writes Jim DiEugenio.

A Certain Arrogance is the last published work by the late George Michael Evica. We mentioned the book in the Evica obituary on this site. There have been very few reviews or notices of A Certain Arrogance. But since the book deals with an interesting subject – and personages – I think it merits some discussion.

The overall subject of the work is the use of religious institutions by American intelligence agencies for purposes of infiltration, surveillance, and subversion. It is a subject that interested others in the assassination field e.g. Jim Garrison. In looking through the late District Attorney's files, I saw that he had clipped certain articles on the subject. The book studies the efforts of the American government in this area especially during and after World War II. The prime focus is on the towering figures of the Dulles brothers: CIA Director Allen, and Secretary of State John Foster. As Evica notes, the brothers – especially Allen – had a history of using liberal Protestant groups to achieve these kinds of aims. Some of the denominations Evica names as targets are the Quakers, Unitarians and other liberal Christian groups. (p. 85) One of the families that Allen Dulles exploited in this regard was the Field family: Herbert and his son Noel. The author states that Herbert Field's Quaker-based network of World War I would become an integral keystone of Allen Dulles' OSS spy operations during the Second World War. (p. 93) And it was Herbert's son Noel who helped run it for Dulles. There were also Unitarians incorporated into the spy apparatus like Varian Fry and Robert Dexter. (pgs 98-99)

Evica then points out the interesting paradox that the use of these liberal religious organizations allowed Allen Dulles an ideological mask over his operatives. Toward the end of their careers, Fry and Noel Field were accused of being communists. Yet until the end, Fry was associated with "several right-wing anti-Communist organizations closely tied to the CIA." (p. 100) Noel Field began his government career as a State Department employee. He was a Quaker who later befriended the radical Unitarian, Stephen Frichtman, who constructed the Unitarian Service Committee in 1940. (p. 105) This committee later became part of a large umbrella group called Refugee Relief Trustees. The man supervising the Unitarian aspect of this umbrella group was Percival Brundage.

Noel Field began his espionage career by aiding anti-Fascists trying to get out of Spain during the advent of Franco's rule. Dulles used Field to work leftists resisting the Nazis. Then, by 1943, when it became obvious that the Allies would win the war, he began using him to strengthen church groups against communists. John Foster Dulles, for example, was a leading member of the American Council of the Churches of Christ. And he used the body "both as a stabilizing factor for ... the German people, and as a stronghold against Bolshevism." (p. 114) The body used by Allen Dulles was the World Council of Churches. At a meeting of the group in 1945, German theologian Martin Niemoeller told Dulles's girlfriend and employee Mary Bancroft about this effort. (p. 116) This religious-intelligence union eventually became so extensive that by 1960 all liberal Protestant or Quaker/Unitarian welfare agencies were placed under suspicion by the KGB. ( ibid)

Furthering just how secretive and extensive this nexus was is the fact that the curator of Allen Dulles' personal papers from the time he was fired by JFK until his death was Garner Ranney. (This would include the former CIA Director's time on the Warren Commission.) Then, after Dulles died, Ranney was one of a three-person team that governed the release of his papers through Princeton University. Ranney did the same kind of work for the Episcopalian church of Maryland. Evica notes that many of these files dealing with Field and the Unitarians have been sanitized. And the CIA cleared the boxes of cables and letters between Dulles and Field from the Unitarian Service Committee files stored at Harvard. And in fact, a writer who did a book on that Committee wrote to Evica that she had no doubt there were intelligence files on several of the upper level officers like Dexter and possibly Frederick May Eliot of the American Unitarian Association. (p. 134)

All of the above serves as (rather lengthy) background in the book for what will be the main focus of the first and last parts. That would be Lee Harvey Oswald and his association with Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland, and his later association in Dallas with Ruth and Michael Paine, who were first Quakers and then joined a Unitarian church in Dallas. (p. 246)

As mentioned elsewhere on this site, Oswald's association with Albert Schweitzer College is one of the most fascinating releases made by the Assassination Records Review Board. After a struggle with the FBI for a year, in December of 1995 the ARRB finally released a set of five documents concerning their search for Oswald in Switzerland – a place where he was never supposed to have been. This search was provoked by a request made long ago by Oswald's mother to the FBI. She told agent John Fain that she had mailed her son a series of letters in Russia in late 1959. Some enclosed money orders. She got no reply. She was worried he might be lost. She alerted the Bureau to the fact that she had received a letter from an official of Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland. A man named Hans Casparis told her that Lee had been expected there in April of 1960. Casparis also said that Lee had sent them a deposit registering for the spring, 1960 session.

J. Edgar Hoover then began a search for Mr.Casparis and this college. This search occasioned the famous June 3, 1960 memo by FBI Director Hoover saying that there may be an imposter using Oswald's birth certificate. The FBI representatives in Paris had no idea where the place was, so they got in contact with the Swiss Police. It took them two months to locate the school. (See Probe Vol. 3 No. 3) So the obvious question is: How did Oswald know about this college? It is a question the Warren Commission never came close to answering. But Albert Schweitzer College fits into Evica's framework since it was founded by the Unitarian Church in 1953, as the Cold War was ratcheting up. Shortly after Kennedy's murder, in 1964, the college was closed down. The FBI visited the institution twice: once in 1960, and again in 1963. As Evica notes, this may be why most of the papers on Oswald from Albert Schweitzer are gone. (The author notes that the files on the college at its Providence headquarters, where most American applicant forms were sent, were also spirited away in December of 1963.)

Consider the facts above. Here you have an institution so obscure that the FBI in Paris never heard of it. So obscure that the Swiss Police took two months to locate it. An institution that actually closed down within months of JFK's murder – yet Oswald only applied there; he never attended. In fact, from what we know, he never set foot in the place. Why did they then close shop, after eleven years, approximately when the Warren Report was issued? Especially since that report mentions Albert Schweitzer only briefly and in passing? (Referring to his passport application in Santa Ana California, here is the entirety of that mention: "His application stated that he planned to leave the United States on September 21 to attend the Albert Schweitzer College ... ." (See Warren Report, p. 689) This is stunning in and of itself of course. Since, in any serious investigation, the mystery of how Oswald found out about Schweitzer would have been of some importance. Not to mention why he applied there, and why he did not show up. For as Evica notes, the college did not advertise in the Christian Register from 1948-59. (p. 65)

Evica's book tries to do at least some of the work the Warren Commission chose not to do. For instance, when he left the Marines, on his trip to Europe in 1959, Oswald mentioned attending a school in Switzerland on two occasions. (Evica, p. 17) But he did not. He proceeded to Russia. Yet the Swiss Police found out that he wrote Schweitzer from Moscow confirming that he still planned on attending the fall semester of 1959. ( Ibid, p. 18) What makes this episode even more interesting of course is that in this exact time frame Oswald is getting his so-called "hardship discharge" even though a) His mother had no real hardship, and b) There is no evidence he helped her through anything. Interestingly, he told his brother Robert that he was leaving for Europe from New Orleans where he planned to work for an export firm. When he got to New Orleans he booked passage on a freighter from an agency at Clay Shaw's International Trade Mart. (Of course, CIA agent Shaw's cover was that business.) In fact, on a form he filled out there Oswald listed his occupation as "shipping export agent". (p. 17) Further, he listed his stay abroad as being for only a couple of months. Yet, if he was attending Schweitzer it would have to have been at least a four-month stay.

One reason that the Commission ignored most of this may be that it did not want to draw attention to the holes in the paper trail. As I have noted above, some of it is missing – swept up in the wake of the FBI investigation. But even in what was left, Evica points out some tantalizing inconsistencies. For instance, Oswald sent a deposit to the school even though there is not a written record of his official acceptance. (p. 34) Yet, as the author notes, this was the official procedure as outlined by the college secretary, Erika Weibel: you were accepted first, then you sent the deposit. Further, there is no letter of introduction from Oswald to the college. In other words, there is no indication of how or why Oswald became interested in attending with his request for an application form. (p. 32) When Oswald did apply, he used the wrong form. He submitted an application form for the summer session, not the regular fall term. This short form was mailed before March 4, 1959. Yet the date on the form is March 19th. He also sent the longer, correct form on March 4th. But as Evica notes, since the college wrote Oswald that it got his incorrect form no later than March 28th " the college could not have sent out the longer, correct form to him any earlier than March 28th, 1959." (p. 33) So who got Oswald the longer, correct form before the college sent it out? And who told him that he sent out the wrong form in the first place? ( This is all reminiscent of Guy Banister correcting Oswald when he put his office address on his Fair Play for Cuba literature in New Orleans.)

Well, it may be one of the denizens from Banister's office. Evica could not find any evidence that Oswald attended any Unitarian churches prior to applying to the Swiss school. But a close friend of Oswald's in the Marines did attend. Interestingly, it was the Warren Commission's prime witness attesting to Oswald's communist leanings: Kerry Thornley. At the time he knew Oswald in the Marines, Thornley testified that he "had been going to the First Unitarian Church in Los Angeles." (p. 21) This particular church is the subject of a sixty-page FBI report at the National Archives. But when Thornley was then asked if Oswald had any connection to that church, he replied that he did not. (Ibid)

The man who wrote Oswald's mother, Hans Casparis, is also an interesting character. He is one of the founders of the college, and in 1959-60 he was billed as the director. In his correspondence with Oswald, Casparis changed the opening date of the spring trimester three times. But Evica could find "no record in the available Albert Schweitzer College documents at Harvard Divinity School Library supporting this schedule modification." ( p. 37) Evica also found a student who said the pushed back start date never took place. And that Oswald's name never appeared on any student roster. (Ibid) Need I add that almost all the records for the Friends of Albert Schweitzer College at Harvard for the 1959-60 term are missing? (p. 289)

All these questions about Oswald, the college, and its sudden disappearance are accentuated by the questions about Hans Casparis. Casparis wrote that he had graduated from three universities and lectured at the University of Zurich. But when Evica contacted that university they said he had never lectured there. The universities he said he had graduated from were Zurich, Basel and the Univeristy of Chicago. But Evica discovered that he held no reported diplomas or degress from these three universities. (p. 78) So from Evica's research, here you had a man who billed himself as a professor of a college who did not receive a degree from any of the academic institutions he said he attended. And this was supposed to be one of the "founders" of Albert Schweitzer.

Almost all of the material on Oswald and Albert Schweitzer is at the beginning of the book. And for me this was the best part of the volume. Evica was not a skilled or supple writer, but when he bit into a particular issue he persevered and saw it through to the end as he saw it. No one has taken the Albert Schweitzer story as far as he has. The second reason this demonstration is valuable is it shows once again that if you press on almost any aspect of the Oswald saga, questions, inconsistencies, paradoxes in abundance come to the forefront. How many Marines in 1959 applied for a Unitarian college abroad, sent their deposit forward, and then never showed up, deciding to defect to Russia instead? But that is about par for the course with Lee Harvey Oswald. Third, the appearance of Thornley and Shaw's ITM reminded me of a talk I had with former House Select Committee investigator L. J. Delsa. Along with Bob Buras, Delsa manned the New Orleans beat for the HSCA. He told me that one of David Ferrie's purposes as a Civil Air Patrol captain was the recruitment of young men for future military-intelligence functions.

As alluded to above, the long middle section of the book, ranging approximately from pages 85-219, basically chronicles how the American government used and abused religious institutions for subversive ends. This part of the volume could have used compression. In my view, about half of this part of the book could have been cut with very little of any substance lost. Evica was a friend and colleague of Peter Dale Scott, and some of the sub-headings and his approach here reminds me of Scott at his worst. For example, here are a couple of sub-headings: "The Killian/Brundage/Bissell/Rockefeller Space Program", "The CIA, the Catherwood Foundation, the Young Family, the Philippines, and Ed Lansdale". Like Scott, Evica does not use the rubric Chapter, but Essay. Essay Seven is titled "Percival Brundage, The Bureau of the Budget, James R. Killian Jr., Lyndon Baines Johsnon and the Unitarian Matrix." And as with Scott, much of the material is just excess baggage. The connections are just too wide to be material or relevant. Especially in these days that are post ARRB.

But towards the end, the relevance picks up. First, Evica presents interesting facts about Percival Brundage who was involved with Albert Schweitzer College. Brundage was a major Unitarian Church officer from 1942-54, when it was cooperating with both the OSS and CIA. But even more interesting he was a signatory to the incorporation papers of Southern Air Transport. In fact, he became one of the registered stockholders in the company. (p. 223) As many people know, this was a notorious CIA proprietary company that did major air supply missions for the Company in both Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. It originated with Paul Heliwell's purchase of Claire Chennault's Civil Air Transport for the CIA. Civil Air Transport was then broken down into smaller units, one of them being Southern Air Transport. SAT specialized in the Caribbean area. When the Certificate of Incorporation of the Friends of Albert Schweitzer College was filed in New York, Brundage was one of the three directors named. He served as president of the body from 1953-58. So here you had a man who played an importnat part in Allen Dulles' religious spy apparatus, and who was a major stockholder in a notorious CIA shell company, and he just just happens to end up the president of Albert Schweitzer College and a chief member of its American support team.

Then at the end, Evica ties the loop together by profiling the background on the Paines and how they fit into this milieu. As Evica notes, much of this material is taken from the extraordinary work done on the couple by Carol Hewett, Barbara La Monica, and Steve Jones. (Much of which was published in Probe. Evica makes good use of it, but inexplicably he leaves out some of the more important evidentiary aspects relating to the Warren Commission inquiry. This includes things like the mystery of the Minox camera and the origin of the rifle allegedly ordered by Oswald.) As the author notes, this work is so potent that it was attacked by a big gun of the GOP, Thomas Mallon in his pathetic whitewash of a book, Mrs. Paine's Garage.

Evica uses much of Hewett, La Monica, and Jones's excellent work and even supplements it with other authors. He makes other good points, like the exquisite timing of the separation of Ruth and Michael Paine, which made it so convenient for Marina to move in with Ruth before the assassination. How CIA contact George DeMohrenschildt introduced Oswald to the Paines and the White Russian community of Dallas-Fort Worth. And at one of the very first meetings of Oswald with this group, Lee talked to Volkmar Schmidt for three hours. And according to Schmidt, through Edward Epstein, "Oswald violently attacked President Kennedy's foreign policy ... Schmidt baited Oswald with a negative analysis of right-wing General Edwin A. Walker and an impending American fascism." (p. 237) Why Oswald would want to talk to Schmidt, who was a neo-Nazi fascist, is puzzling. But Schmidt concluded that "Oswald was completely alienated, self-destructive, and suicidal." This vignette encapsules what the Warren Commission would do with Oswald several months later: pin the shooting of Walker and murder of Kennedy on him, and paint him as a sociopath. I suppose it is just a coincidence that, at this time, Schmidt was living with Michael Paine. (ibid)

Evica closes the book with a couple who emerged as character witnesses for the Paines during the Warren Commission inquiry: Frederick and Nancy Osborn. The Osborn family, including his father Frederick Sr., was significantly involved in the American eugenics movement whose intention was to "create a superior Nordic race." (p. 251) Frederick Sr. also worked with Allen Dulles in the organization of the National Committee for a Free Europe. (p. 254) The funding for this group eventually came from Frank Wisner's Office of Policy Coordination in the CIA. (p. 255) These were the connections of the friends of the kindly Quaker couple who befriended Lee and Marina.

Mr. Mallon, are you paying attention?

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 22:40
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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