Up close and personal with David Ferrie

Rick Bauer, a reader in Florida, writes to tell of his personal experience in 1965-66 with David Ferrie, the New Orleans pilot who has been the target of JFK conspiracy speculation for decades.

Dave Ferrie watermarked
Pilot in training Rick Bauer (left) with his trainer David Ferrie (photo credit: Rick Bauer)

“I am a graduate of Tulane University in 1966. In the fall of 1965 I commenced flight training paid for by the Department of Defense for students enrolled in various ROTC programs. I was a USN scholarship student at Tulane. My instructor was David Ferrie …. I knew Dave from Sept. 1965 until May of 1966. I passed my Private Pilot’s check ride on March 27, 1966.”

Bauer says he admired Ferrie.

“Dave was a terrific flight instructor. Quite honestly I was able to get over the initial hurdles in US Navy primary flight training because of his training and his spin/unusual attitude training followed me for my US Navy career and my 30 years with Delta Air Lines. I finished as an International captain flying to — believe it or not — Moscow, Russia.”

“Dave was both smarter than portrayed in the movie ‘JFK,'” Bauer went on. “And yes perhaps a little crazier. My classmates would agree with this.”

Joe Pesci as David Ferrie

Bauer says mainstream news organizations have never shown an interest what he and his fellow pilots knew of Ferrie.

“Six months ago I approached them about their willingness to speak with media about our experience regarding Dave,” he wrote. “I received no response from CNN or FOX.”

“Same thing happened in 1967 when Jim Garrison came out with his theory, and we called the FBI office. No one wanted to speak with us.

“Sounds something like, Do not confuse us with facts!”

Ferrie’s skin condition

Bauer added a bit of movie criticism to his email.

“By the way,” he wrote, “the wig that Joe Pesci wore in ‘JFK’ the movie was nowhere near accurate.”

“Dave had a skin condition that meant he had no hair,” Bauer went on. “That includes eye brows. He would paint his head and over his eyes with ‘spirit gum’ and then stick what looked like pubic hair shaved off and simply stuck this in place.”

“He always wore a ball cap. We knew he had a previous position as a commercial pilot and was fired on a morals charge but again we assumed underage females. The movie indicated younger boys I believe? I do not recall as much swearing despite his excitable nature.”

Ferrie’s trophy board

“First we saw absolutely no indication that Dave was homosexual,” Bauer wrote in his email. “Actually, this was not a surprise given his position at the time. That would have first been foolish and second, if bisexual, this was not uncommon in New Orleans. “

David Ferrie

“What we observed in his apartment was a ‘trophy’ board with a pubic hair from his various sexual partners which we assumed were female. Why? He also had Polaroids of him and a black maid or so he said. She probably never did any cleaning since his apartment, which was uptown not in the Quarter, was portrayed accurately in the movie.”

“Dave was always polite and respectful around women. He knew my future wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law well during my training since they drove me to the airport. He definitely had a temper and my classmates have clear memories of that trait. He made many negative statements about ‘professional’ military officers. Strange since we were all tracking for that. [He] said the reserves always won the wars”

Flights with Cubans
“He was actively engaged with Cubans. My USMC classmate recalls flights on the weekend to Picayune, Mississippi, in a DC-3 for their training.”

“The company that had the government contract was called ComAir and was operated by a retired USAF Lt.Col whom I never met. This sounds like CIA to those of us with a military background….,” Bauer wrote.

Involved in JFK’s assassination?

In early 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison investigated Ferrie as a suspect in an alleged conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.

Literary scholar Joan Mellen argues Garrison was right about Ferrie. She says Ferrie had known Oswald since they were in the same Civil Air Patrol group. In the summer of 1963, she says Ferrie accompanied Oswald to Clinton, Mississippi, along with Clay Shaw, the New Orleans businessman later indicted and acquitted for conspiring to kill JFK. Ferrie and Shaw, she concludes, help set up Oswald as a “patsy” for the assassination.

JFK researcher David Reitzes disagrees. He says Ferrie had no connection to JFK’s assassination. Reitzes impeaches the credibility of the Clinton witnesses, though he does not have a persuasive explanation for why so many people would have independently and erroneously placed Oswald there at that time.

When Ferrie died suddenly in February 1967, speculation about his role in Kennedy’s assassination, ran riot.

Final thoughts
Bauer sums up his recollections Ferrie with these words:

“I had close contact with Dave for three quarters of a year. He was employed indirectly by the Department of Defense, had clear connections with Cubans of some stripe … so I feel something is missing” from the way he has been portrayed.

Bauer thinks Ferrie’s service for the U.S. military after JFK’s assassination is significant.

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