16: Easter of 1963
I Am a Patsy! by George de Mohrenschildt
In April 1963 we were at last ready to leave to New York first and then to Haiti. I could begin to work on my long–awaited contract, which was officially finalized, signed by the President François Duvalier and published in the Haitian Congressional Record. All our light belongings were packed, furniture ready to be sent to the warehouse.
During the commotion before departure we saw little of [the] Oswalds and we knew that they were living practically like hermits, nobody visited or invited them, except maybe the Paines. On April thirteenth, if I remember correctly, we sat exhausted in the evening. “This is a big holiday,” said Jeanne. “And the Oswalds are alone. Even Marina is abandoned by the conservative refugees as she had gone back to her ‘Marxist’ husband.”
I agreed with Jeanne and commiserated with Marina. Being left alone was a penalty for her because she preferred Lee not withstanding all the fights and the beatings.
The Oswalds at Neely Street
Jeanne had previously bought a huge toy rabbit, practically June’s size — a fluffy thing for the poor child. Oswald’s new apartment was on Neely Street, a few blocks away from the old place on Elsbeth Street. This was our first visit to their new abode which was infinitely better than the previous one. They had the second floor here, all to themselves. Huge trees shaded the structure and in the back yard the climbing roses hung up on the trellises. The house itself was a white frame of the usual type of southern structure.
We rang the bell. The lights were off as it was obviously late for our sedentary friends. Although it was about 10 p.m. we had to keep ringing a long time. Finally the front window opened. “Who is there?” Asked Lee’s familiar voice.
“Jeanne and George, open up, we have something for June,” I answered cheerfully. Lee came down, opened the front door and then led us up a dark staircase.
Now Marina was up also and the apartment was lit up. It was clean and spacious but almost void of furniture. “Isn’t this a nice place?” confided Marina in Russian. “So much better than the old hole–in–the–wall.”
We agreed and congratulated them on finding such a good place.
She was cheerful and Lee was smiling also, which hadn’t often happened of late. He was happy that they were left alone by the émigrés and even by the rare Americans they knew. Lee’s feelings for the émigrés could be compared to those of pro–Castro Cubans towards all the refugees crowding the streets of Miami.
Lee appeared satisfied with his job and proud of being able to provide a better place for his family. This was the first time we did not see any conflict between him and his wife. Of course, what follows will prove that all was not honey in the Oswald family.
Marina served soft drinks and began discussing some domestic affairs with Jeanne. Lee and I walked to the balcony and began to chat. He was very curious about my project in Haiti but so far neither one of us were sure it would materialize. Now it was a fait accompli. Lee envied my profession and a chance I would have to help an undeveloped country and the poor people there. Incidentally he knew Haiti from his readings — he was aware the oldest, independent, Black Republic in the world. He had learned that Haiti had helped United States during the War of Independence, a fact not known to many Americans of his age and background. He also had heard about United States’ intervention in Haiti after World War I — actually at the end of the war — and of the long American occupation of that country. He even learned which part of the Espagnola Island the Republic of Haiti occupied and her size.
“You are very lucky going there, it will be an exciting experience,” he said. And this opinion was valuable and encouraging to me because most of my friends and acquaintances had a very dim view of my whole project and thought it would be dangerous and a waste of time. It turned out to be one of the most useful and pleasant experiences of our lives. But most of these advisers knew little about Haiti — and I man well educated, prominent people. To them it was an insane, tropical, Black Republic — rather a ferocious dictatorship. Some had predicted the worst disasters if we lived there.
Then we talked pleasantly of his job, of June who was growing nicely and we also spoke of the unfortunate rise of ultra–conservatism in this country, of racist movement in the South. Lee considered this the most dangerous phenomenon for all peace–loving people. “Economic discrimination is bad, but you can remedy it,” he said, “but racial discrimination cannot be remedied because you cannot change the color of your skin.” Of course, he greatly admired Dr. Martin Luther King and agreed with his program. I just mention it here, but he frequently talked of Dr. King with a real reverence.
Lee Harvey Oswald’s Rifle
In the meantime Marina was showing Jeanne her bedroom, kitchen and the living–room. There she opened a large closet, next to the balcony, and began showing Jeanne her wardrobe, which was considerable. On the bottom of the closet was a rifle standing completely openly.
“Look! Look!” called Jeanne excitedly. “There is a rifle there.”
We came in and I looked curiously. Indeed there was a military rifle there of a type unknown to me, something dangling in front.
“What is that thing dangling?” Asked Jeanne.
“A telescopic sight,” I answered.
Jeanne never saw a telescopic sight before and probably did not understand what it was. But I did, I had graduated from a military school.
“Why do you have this rifle here?” Jeanne asked Lee.
“Lee bought it,” answered Marina instead, “devil knows why. We need all the money we have for food and lodging and he buys this damn rifle.”
“But what does he do with a military rifle?” asked Jeanne again.
“He likes shooting at the leaves.”
“But when does he have time to shoot at the leaves and the place?” asked Jeanne curiously.
“He shoots at the leaves in the park, whenever we go there.”
This did not make much sense to us, but liking target shooting ourselves we did not consider this a crazy occupation.
All this time Lee stood next to me curiously silent.
Shooting at General Edwin Walker
“Did you take a pot shot at General Walker, Lee?” I popped a question spontaneously. And then I guffawed, “Ha! Ha!” thinking this is a pretty good joke.
Lee’s reaction was strange. I often tried to reconstruct it. He did not say anything. He just stood there motionless.
It was naturally a very foolish joke because there was an attempt a few days before at General Edwin Walker, a rather notorious character who was asked to resign his post in Germany by General Eisenhower, if I remember correctly. Anyway he was an ultra–rightist who had tried to run for governor of Texas. And he got surprising number of votes, some 200,000 on a political platform somewhat to the right of Hitler’s.
This joke just popped out because General Walker lived fairly close to us, on Turtle Creek. Everyone knew his house with a huge American flag in front, sometimes replaced by a Confederate flag — and much later by South Vietnamese and Rhodesian flags.
As I said, Lee’s facial expression remained calm. He became just a little paler. This was the last time I was him and yet I cannot say with precision what his reaction was. I think he mumbled something unintelligibly and I did not ask. For sure he was embarrassed, possibly stunned. And Marina was definitely shocked.
Neither Jeanne nor I laughed much at my Walker joke. And certainly not Marina nor Lee. Only later we realized how stunning and unexpected this joke was to them. It hit the nail on the head.
Marina testified at Warren Commission that I KNEW that Lee shot at General Walker and she also testified under oath that Lee did shoot at General Walker and had missed him narrowly.
I do not blame General Walker, we called him jokingly General Foker, whom I never had the pleasure of meeting for calling me a dangerous radical I stupidly laughed at a bullet which might have killed him.…
This joke cost me a lot of money by hurting badly many of my business contacts.
Marina testified also that Lee indeed considered General Walker a fascist and tried to kill as the most dangerous man for this country. Marina’s testimonies turned out to be contradictory and vague but there is another thing which makes me believe that Lee possibly tried to shoot General Walker. A man, whose name I do not recall, a Jewish man, whom Lee met at the Ford’s Christmas party, described General Walker as the most dangerous man in the United States, a potential neo–facist leader. I noticed that Lee kept on asking why. And the other fellow explained clearly his reasons. Lee might have been influenced by this statement.
Another possible reason is the inscription of Lee’s photograph, which we received posthumously and Marina’s inscription on it. I shall talk about it later.
This innocuous remark of mine influenced our lives, but we heard later from Albert Jenner, counsel of the Warren Commission, that Marina’s testimony was even more damaging to me. She supposedly remembered by saying: “Lee, why did you miss him?“
That I naturally did not say and Marina was so vague in her recollections that even the Warren committee did not take her seriously.
Actually I think Marina believed that I knew somehow of Lee’s shooting at General Walker and that’s why she was so afraid that evening that I might tell the police or FBI about it. Lee, on the other hand, never considered me capable of treason and then he KNEW of course that I was completely unaware of his attempt.
Lee was a little scared of my extra–sensory perception — which I still have with my students — Had I known anything about it, I would have persuaded him not to try any such crazy foolishness.
Lee often commented with amazement that I could guess his thoughts. And I do believe in [the] existence of ESP, especially among people attuned to each other. I happens to me constantly that I guess who is on the line when the phone rings. I know when somebody close to me writes me a letter or wants to get in touch with me. It even happened that I thought suddenly of a well–known person — but barely known to me — turn on the TV and there he would be. This happened I remember with Captain Rickenbacker whom I know slightly but admired a great deal. We were sitting in a living–room with friends in New Orleans and I said suddenly: “turn on the radio, Captain Rickenbacker is going to speak.” And he did.
Anyway this evening of Easter of 1963 ended in an amicable manner. We walked in the small garden and Marina gathered a gorgeous bouquet of yellow roses and gave it to Jeanne in appreciation of the rabbit she had brought for the child. The Oswalds were also happy that I did not mention any more the rifle or the Walker joke, instead of making an issue out of it.
It was our last meeting and a friendly one. We said that June looked less now than [sic] Chrushcheff, she was growing up. She did not have such a a bald head, her eyes got bigger and she was less chunky.
Lee himself mentioned it, caressing the child: “look, she is much better–looking now than our great Russian leader.”
“I hope she keeps his amusing and friendly personality,” said Jeanne.
He is gone now, God bless his Bible–quoting soul and his earthy personality. His sudden bursts of anger and beating of the table with his shoe, are all gone and belong to history. Millions of Russians miss him.
After this Easter visit things began to move so fast for us that we could not see the Oswalds and we did not even talk to them on the phone.