As I said the other day, perhaps the best news coverage of the new JFK files comes from USA Today. But it could be better.
In this October 27 dispatch, Ray Locker uses the new JFK files to lay out the incredible story of George de Mohrenschildt. He was a geologist, a bon vivant, and a CIA informant who just happened–quite coincidentally, perhaps–to befriend a young man named Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas in the fall of 1962.
The only problem with Locker’s account is that it ends with de Mohrenschildt’s untimely death in 1977. Locker could have, and should have, reported the rest of the story.
Before he died, de Mohrenschildt wrote a memoir in which he recounted his friendship with Oswald.
De Mohrenschildt wrote because he felt guilty. He had testified to the Warren Commission in 1964 and given the impression he believed Oswald had killed President John F. Kennedy. He wanted his memoir to dispel that impression.
Locker reports that congressional investigators thought de Mohrenschildt was “an emotionally disturbed publicity seeker who doesn’t care what type publicity he receives.”
The manuscript, which languished for 30 years, doesn’t read that way to me. As edited and annotated by Michael Rinella of the University Press of Kansas, Lee Harvey Oswald as I Knew Him strikes me as the reflections of a thoughtful, troubled and literate man. The USA TODAY story should have at least noted its publication in 2014.
In my view, Lee Harvey Oswald as I Knew Him deals a blow to claim that Oswald was a fanatic, sociopath, a loner or a nut.
George and Lee
Between October 1962 and April 1963, de Mohrenschildt got to know Oswald quite well. He spent many hours with the 23-year-old ex-Marine, engaging him in philosophical and political discussions. He found Oswald to be an intelligent character with an admirable, if sometimes confused, spirit. He said Oswald did not have the steady nerves of a marksman.
De Mohrenschildt said he never heard Oswald express any animus toward JFK. Oswald regarded Kennedy as a conventional politician, save for his policies on civil rights which Oswald supported. He was impressed that Oswald, an unschooled Southern white man, went out of his way to speak up for African-Americans and their rights–a telling detail that is wholly missing from the official story that Oswald was a “lone nut” who shot a pro-civil rights president for no discernible reason.
De Mohrenschildt concluded that his young friend was what he said he was: “a patsy,” a fall guy for others who actually killed President Kennedy. He did not think his friend killed JFK, a rather significant omission of fact in USA Today’s otherwise well-reported piece.
So read Locker’s article, and then read Lee Harvey Oswald as I Knew Him, edited by Michael Rinella (University Press of Kansas).