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General News    H4'ed 11/22/11

THE JFK CASE: The Twelve Who Built The Oswald Legend (Part 6: White Russians Keep An Eye On Oswald In Dallas)

Message Bill Simpich

After Oswald returned home from the USSR, George de Mohrenschildt became Legend Maker #9

The Dallas-Fort Worth community of Soviet and Eastern European emigres - referred to as "White Russians" - took Oswald and his family under their wing upon their arrival from the USSR in May 1962.  Consider the importance of White Russian defectors as spies.  A re-defector like Lee Harvey Oswald was even more exotic.  The ability of a defector to report what is happening behind enemy lines is the ultimate counterintelligence prize.

The White Russian community settled on using George de Mohrenschildt as Oswald's mentor, one of the few liberals in the community who enjoyed spending time with the man.  This chapter will focus on de Mohrenschildt's intelligence connections with Radio Free Europe, key RFE officials Allen Dulles and Cord Meyer, and CI chief James Angleton.

Max Clark, an attorney and former industrial security supervisor at General Dynamics, was a mentor for de Mohrenschildt and this community.   Clark was part of a network of security personnel that put the squeeze on the Kennedy Administration that year to get General Dynamics' TFX project in Fort Worth approved over their Boeing competitors  At the time, this deal to churn out the F-111 fighters was one of the largest military contracts in history. 

General Dynamics F-111
General Dynamics F-111
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The White Russian community harbored an underground anti-Soviet movement known as the NTS.  

The Dallas White Russian community was tightly aligned with an anti-Soviet movement known by its Russian initials of "NTS" (National Alliance of Russian Solidarists). NTS was founded in 1930 by "second generation" White Russian emigres.  At that time, most of them were living in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.    Yugoslavia is where Mr. and Mrs. Igor Voshinin met and married in early 1940 - they moved to Dallas, were active in NTS, and knew Oswald.  During this era, "Solidarism" was a quasi-fascist ideology that saw corporations as an ideal and Benito Mussolini as a model of leadership.

In the 1940s, NTS was thoroughly enmeshed with Hitler's war effort.  After Germany attacked the USSR during World War II, NTS was allowed to set up a Berlin headquarters and encouraged to proselytize in Soviet territories under German control among both POWs and civilians.  When the tides of war shifted, NTS swung back into alliance with the Americans.

After World War II, the CIA included NTS within the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty organization.  Radio Free Europe focused on the East European Soviet satellites, while Radio Liberty focused on the USSR itself.   A House report described Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Liberty as "the best known CIA proprietaries" These were pet projects of International Organizations chief Cord Meyer, who headed these radios from 1954 to 1971.  Meyer consulted directly and frequently to CIA director Allen Dulles before making any controversial decisions. As described earlier in this series, CI chief Jim Angleton and Cord Meyer were the best of friends.   Meyer described Angleton as his hero.  They were also Legend Makers #1 and #2 for Lee Harvey Oswald, as they had very special relationships with the people who either befriended or studied Oswald.

After meeting with Meyer, Radio Liberty decreed that anyone adhering to NTS' "organizational discipline" would not be allowed to work at RL.   NTS infiltrated and dominated groups that challenged its supremacy. NTS members tried to sabotage the installations and intimidate the exile staffs.  Meyer saw it as part of his responsibility to "try to provide the radio with the counter-intelligence protection against this continuing intimidation...it was a never ending task".

During the 1950s, the famed anti-war Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin (the inspiration for the Rev. Scott Sloan in Doonesbury) joined the CIA.   Coffin worked with the NTS to smuggle their spies into the USSR by parachute in a program known as REDSOX.   Most of them were killed.   Coffin looked back on the experience:   "It was a fundamentally bad idea...we were quite naive about the use of American power."

At its peak, NTS had about 100,000 members and its headquarters near Berlin in Frankfurt.   In 1958,Soviet consul Gregoriy Golub confided that it was "a great step in his career" when he was successful in halting NTS' campaign of writing harassing letters to the Soviet personnel in Helsinki.

William Blum, the author of Killing Hope, says that CIA decided that the NTS provided the best analysis about the Soviet Union, and became their main financial backer:  "From North Africa to Scandinavia, the CIA network confronted Soviet seamen, tourists, officials, athletes, even Soviet soldiers in East Germany, to present them with the Truth as seen by the "Free World," as well as to pry information from them, to induce them to defect, or to recruit them as spies."  By 1963, the State Department was helping NTS send broadcasts to Soviet troops in far-flung places such as the Dominican Republic.  Although the NTS' power waned over time, the Soviet Communist Party admitted its fear of the NTS and other groups working with Western security agencies as late as 1990.

The intelligence background of George de Mohrenschildt and his role in the Dallas-Fort Worth White Russian community

The CIA-funded NTS network greeted the Oswald family upon their arrival to Fort Worth.    Lee Oswald, however, was a little bit too weird for this community to embrace.  It took another outsider -- the eccentric baron George de Mohrenschildt -- to bring Lee towards the fold as Legend Maker #9 

De Mohrenschildt's father was Russian, of German and Swedish descent, and was a marshal of nobility of the Minsk province.   Similarly, his Russian mother was of Polish and Hungarian descent.   T he Bolsheviks ran the family off their Russian home, and they were forced to move to Poland and consolidate their land holdings.  One story is that de Mohrenschildt's father was killed by the Bolsheviks; another story is that his father was arrested but escaped.  De Mohrenschildt observed that "most of the colony in Dallas is more emotionally involved in Russian affairs then we are, because they are closer to them.   All of them have been relatively recently in Soviet Russia -- while my wife has never been in Soviet Russia in her whole life, and I was 5 or 6 when I left it.   So to me it does not mean very much."

De Mohrenschildt had an extremely deep background with the intelligence community, going back for more than twenty years. His handler appears to have been Thomas Schreyer, identified as "the acting chief" of the Cord Meyer's International Organizations Division back in 1956.  This means that Schreyer worked very closely with Cord Meyer.   In April 1963, the Domestic Operations Division asked for traces on de Mohrenschildt, with Schreyer's name provided as the source for any follow-up.

The CIA admitted before the assassination that de Mohrenschildt was "of interest" to them.   CIA Dallas resident agent J. Walton Moore stayed in touch with de Mohrenschildt, which will be discussed later in this series.  Covert action chief Richard Helms acknowledged that de Mohrenschildt and his wife provided useful foreign intelligence in 1957.     His brother Dimitri von Mohrenschildt, described by the CIA as being "employed in a confidential capacity by the U.S. government," is said to have been one of the founders of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.   A lengthy CIA-created list entitled "Companies and People Known to be Associated with de Mohrenschildt" includes only one political group:   "Dallas Committee Radio Free Europe."    De Mohenschildt's wife in Philadelphia, Phyllis Washington, also worked for Radio Free Europe in the early fifties.

The Radio Free Europe connection is an important link between Cord Meyer and George de Mohrenschildt.   George couldn't get OSS credentials during World War II because of security disapproval.  He was subjected to five separate investigations by intelligence during the 1940s and 50s.  Officers like Meyer and Schreyer, however, understood the nature of his relationship with people such as the Jacqueline Bouvier family and the White Russian community.  A CIA memo notes that George knew the families of the Kennedys and the Oswalds better than anyone else.

One of George's contacts exposes his hidden CIA connections. In 1954, a young oil lawyer named Herbert Itkin wrangled a meeting in Philadelphia with Allen Dulles, the first chief of Radio Free Europe and future CIA chief.   Dulles set him up with a meeting with de Mohrenschildt, who told Itkin he was "from that man in Philadelphia" and that his name was Philip Harbin. William Gaudet verified at an HSCA deposition that he knew George under his alias as Philip Harbin.  De Mohrenschildt's beloved and soon-to-be new wife, Jeanne, was from Harbin, China.   Angleton testified that Dulles was a very close friend of his own family.  Angleton had both an Itkin file and a "Mike/Portio/Haiti" file (Itkin's code name was Portio).  Itkin claimed he met "Harbin" in 1954, while CIA general counsel Larry Houston claimed that he could not find any Itkin files prior to 1964 after thousands of hours of search.  This was probably because Angleton's personal Itkin and Portio files were kept apart from the CIA records system, and were only discovered after Angleton was fired in 1974.   All indications are that de Mohrenschildt was provided to Dulles by Angleton.

Working under the Harbin alias, de Mohrenschildt worked with Itkin in oil matters as a nonpaid, voluntary agent between 1954 to 1960, before Itkin moved on to work with another agent.  Itkin's skills enabled US Attorney Bob Morgenthau to win convictions against New York political boss Carmine DeSapio and city commissioner James Marcus.   Morgenthau's office described Itkin as "probably the most important informer the FBI ever had outside the espionage field.   He never lied to us.   His information was always accurate."

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Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney and an antiwar activist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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