On November 22, 2013 I had my own flash back of my experiences with President Kennedy. My first encounter was on his inaugural day on January of 1961 in Washington, D.C. It was a very cold day that day, and it was raining and sleeting as I was part of the Staunton Military Academy’s Drill team that represented the state of Arizona, (requested by Senator Barry Goldwater, who himself was a graduate of SMA, a military prep school in Staunton, Virginia). We were bussed up from Staunton, in the Shenandoah Valley, early in the morning. The name of our Drill team was the Howie Rifles and we were a crack drill team that earned many honors in the military prep school circuit of Virginia. It was named after Major Howie the World War II, hero of St. Lo, France (after the landing in Normandy when the allies had to secure a path to the interior of France to break the German lines that strangled all paths to Paris). Major Howie died when his Army battalion secured St Lo and broke the German lines. As we marched, I felt so excited that we were part of the history, and part of a new America. My classmates and my generation (the first Baby Boomers) were on our way to college with a new vision that was provided by JFK, as the USA had been saved from the Axis and cultural imprisonment.
My second encounter with Kennedy was in 1962 in Mexico City during the Fourth of July celebration at the American School in Mexico City, an annual celebration held by the American community of Mexico City. Jackie and he were on a state visit to Mexico and had been invited to join US citizens to celebrate American Independence Day. I was attending Tulane University in New Orleans and was on summer break. Jackie and Jack received the highest honor and reception along Reforma Avenue (since the arrival of Empress Carlotta who with her husband, Emperor Maximilian of the Royal House of the Hapsburgs to become the first European Emperor of Mexico). Jackie was a polyglot and spoke perfect Spanish and French. She was young and beautiful and tremendous hope for the future. She was loved by the Mexican people.
In the spring of 1963 President Kennedy was taking a Political tour the South and came through New Orleans. He came through the Garden District that includes the Tulane University campus, and I got a chance to wave and to see him
Charles de Gaulle, the president of France, had just been through New Orleans. The politics of the hemisphere had many issues. The Cuban Missile crises; De Gaulle’s trip to New Orleans where he commented on “Vive Le Quebec Libre." There was much comment on the direction of the country on the issues of Civil Rights and the Monroe Doctrine. Vietnam was in play and was requiring US military support, and the U2 incident had recently happened. Under President Eisenhower the USA had emerged from World War two as a superpower, and the adversary was the Soviet Union, politically and economically Communist. US foreign policy globally was anti Communist and pro open markets. As a political science major at Tulane, our Political Science professor Dr. Henry Mason, kept us active in discussing the issues.
So in three years I became part of the new challenge of America. “Ask not what America can do for you, but what you can do for America."
On November 22 in the morning, it was classes as usual and I had one class at 2 PM. At noon we broke for lunch. After the 12:30 the shooting news reached campus student center, right away we rushed back to the dorm to see and listen to the news. Uncle Walter Cronkite was on and said the President was dead. There was not a dry eye on our dorm floor where the television was. It was crushing news for us. After 1:40 PM my roommate and I walked to our political science class chaired by Professor Mason. Everyone was buzzing and he came in and cancelled the class. As a junior I can say we knew other classmates fairly well and a population made up mostly of Southerners, Northerners and this included the young ladies from our sister college Newcomb. We were frozen to the television set until the day that Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby.
At that point it the assassination became a New Orleans thing, because LHO was “from” New Orleans. It seemed strange to the professors and New Orleans newspapers that LHO was shot so soon, and we thought it was to shut him up as it was perceived here in New Orleans. The country focused on LBJ, Texas, and wresting the power away from the Kennedys who were progressives and soft on communism. After LBJ accelerated the war with US troops in Vietnam and kept the Soviets in Cuba and protected the Caribbean countries from Communism.
The LBJ Civil Rights direction and the appointment of the Warren Commission made the assassination fade away from the front page. In the New Orleans papers there was a lot information on LHO and Clay Shaw, and David Ferrie. There were links to the Mafia that had interests in pre-Castro Cuba; Santo Traficante, and Carlos Marcelo. It was not until I saw the movie JFK by Oliver Stone did I came back to wonder why was New Orleans excluded, but many cognoscenti ignored that. After the release of the Warren Commission declaring that LHO was the lone shooter, I focused on my career and there seemed no one of any political power that was holding the inquiry of the JFK death for clarity and transparency. More than 50 percent of people today think it is a conspiracy. Mark Lane wrote A Rush to Judgment, which brought forth issues, but no one in the national government wanted to set the record straight. Many different points of view of the assassination have been written. Most people just think the conspiracy authors are trying to make a buck.
Over the years most of my contemporaries remember what they were doing that moment of the assassination. Today they just accept the Warren Commission status quo as an incident in American History. Younger generations like X generation study it but cannot feel the frustration of the early Baby Boomers. Was it that simple? One loony gunman who hit the jackpot on November 22 to have the President of the USA ride in front of him in a building where he worked? And shot three times; and two days later Jack Ruby a known a minor underworld gangster in Dallas, stepped in -- two days later to save the country from a long trial.
I was brought up in military school and taught to trust the government. It would never lie. Even when Eisenhower was confronted with the U2 downing in Russia, he spoke the truth –- West Point's logo motto says: 'Truth, Honor, and Country.' Over the years I changed my mind and then I said yes, our country would lie to its citizens. Even today in contemporary America it is apparent that the country will lie and cover it up and/or vet the truth.
In July 2013 I realized that the 50th anniversary of the assassination was coming up, and so I dug into the library and Internet to see what theories were there that have been written in the last few years. When I returned to New Orleans there were two fascinating books that struck me and a website.
Pre-2013 I felt I was in favor of the 80 perecent lone assassin theory, rather than the 20 percent for more than one gunman. I have always felt that the assassination was a mixture of New Orleans intrigue. But when I returned in 2012 after retiring I crawled back into the conspiracy thoughts over the last fifty years.
Dr. Mary's Monkey and Lee and Me and The Men that Killed JFK and, on the web Jeff Morley’s site 'JFK Fact.' Since the anniversary has come and gone and no one has stepped up to plate and corrected history, I now believe it is percent certain about the conspiracy theory rather than the 20 percent lone gunman one. The Third Bullet was fun reading an out of the box accounting of the assassination.
What sticks out to me is that the Warren Commission had as one of its members Allen Dulles, who was by Kennedy after the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs as the head of the CIA. Yet Dulles was appointed by LBJ to sit on the Commission. The CIA refused to turn documents over that related to persons of interest in the assassination. LBJ never demanded an accounting of that. Justice Warren who headed the Commission let CIA off and did not exert his power.
It is known by the cognoscenti that the CIA under Helms who followed Dulles that certain CIA files were buried and it would take too much manpower to get results. Some one who can connect the dots between the various operatives of the CIA and ultimately the executive in the government should release those CIA papers. It has the appearance of a cover-up, but it is ignored by all. Why would they cover them up?
The CIA is on record to release the seven files it has in 2017. Why would LBJ lie? Why does the CIA have to conceal those files?
(Ron Alonzo, who writes as Don Merlot, is a Chevalier of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin; A Professionnel de la Table of the Chaine des Rôtisseurs ; and a CFSP level I of the NAFEM Certified Food Service Professional. He is a graduate of Staunton Military Academy; Tulane University in politcal sciences, and the American Institute for Foreign Trade).