Tag: LBJ

Newman JFK Vietnam March 29, 2019, marked the forty-six anniversary of the departure of the last remaining United States troops in South Vietnam.  Two years after their departure,on April 30, 1975, Siagon fell to North Vietnamese forces as Hanoi tightened its grip around the country.  By the time the war ended, fifty-eight thousand American soldiers had lost their lives in Vietnam.  North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong losses were estimated to be well over one million.  Civilian deaths were even higher in number but despite the large numbers of casualties, North Vietnam refused to surrender and was determined to achieve reunification.  The withdrawal of American troops was a sobering reality and cold hard truth:  the American effort in Southeast Asia had not succeeded.   To this day, there are many people who still wonder how and why the United States became entangled in Vietnam.   The defeat of French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 should have served as a reminder that military might is not always a guarantee of success.  In January, 1960, President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) took office and from the beginning of his administration until his death, the issue of Vietnam continued to fester like an open sore. Kennedy died before he could implement any further plans regarding Vietnam and took many secrets with him to his grave.  But declassified documents and political memoirs shed much light on what was really happening in his administration as it grappled to combat the growing Viet Cong menace.

Author John M. Newman is currently in the middle of a multi-volume set regarding Kennedy’s murder. I have reviewed three of them so far and eagerly await the publication of the next volume.  The books are incredible and the amount of information Newman provides is nothing short of staggering.  But as we see here, he a long time player in the game and in 1992, this masterpiece was released.  If you have seen the film ‘JFK’ by Oliver Stone, you will recall the scene where Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) meets the character who calls himself “X” (Donald Sutherland).   What many viewers may not know is that Newman helped Stone create those scenes.  His research served as the basis for the dialogue between the two as X enlightens Garrison to many dark secrets surrounding Kennedy’s plans on Vietnam.  The scenes are moving but do not come close to telling the entire story.  This book however, does that and more and should be on the bookshelf of any reader who has an interest in the Vietnam War and in particular, its origins.

Newman takes us back to 1961 as the Kennedy Administration is recovering in the wake of the Bay of Pigs debacle.  The seeds of distrust had been sown and when the Joint Chiefs of Staff began to press him on Laos, Kennedy was wise to the game.  But the generals had a backup plan and if Kennedy would not go into Laos, then Vietnam was next on the list.  However, the generals had a tough road ahead and knew that the young president would not give in easily to their demands.  As a result a pattern of deception developed and before long Kennedy and his own administration were at odds over American foreign policy in Saigon.   The depth of that deception will surely surprise many and still has me shaking my head in disbelief.   I had been aware of many facts in the book but Newman brings even more to light.

The book is exhaustively researched and the information contained within it will cause shock and anger.  But what I liked the most about the book is while Newman makes the case for what Kennedy was thinking about Vietnam at the time of his death, he is also frank about where Kennedy made mistakes that helped contribute to an already precarious situation.  In all fairness to Kennedy, he never had the opportunity to defend himself regarding his decisions on Vietnam.  But the paper trial he left behind, shows definitive actions he took and intended to take as he grappled with South Vietnam and a cabinet that had split down the middle.

The key to understanding how the deception started is to understand how intelligence was being gathered in Southeast Asia.  Newman breaks down the various divisions in military command and the role of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  Kennedy’s advisors are also on the hook and the actions of several of them add even more shock value to an already incredibly eye-opening account.  The realization that members of  his administration were deeply divided and at odds with each other, hovers like a dark cloud over the story as the crisis in South Vietnam unfolds.  All of the members of his administration are now deceased and we can only wonder as to why they committed some of the actions that they did.

No book about Vietnam would be complete without a discussion of Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu.  Both played a critical role in the development of the war and Newman provides a thorough explanation as to why the brothers were important to American success in Vietnam and where they went terribly wrong. The coup that resulted in their deaths, changed the course of history and gave the war a new face.  A few weeks after their assassinations, Kennedy himself was assassinated.  And although there is no proven link between the two events, actions of several figures in high positions in the time period between the two murders are quite suspicious and will surely cause readers to take notice.

As I read through the book, I paid particular attention to the National Security Action Memos (NSAMs) signed by Kennedy regarding his policy on Vietnam.  They speak volumes and should paint a clearer picture of the forces he was up against.   National Security Actions Memos 55, 56, 57 and 111 are pivotal for they directly addressed many of the pressing issues Kennedy was facing at home and abroad.  The author discusses each so that the reader can easily understand the many nefarious elements that had been influencing foreign policy in some of the most scrupulous of ways.  I

Seasoned readers might be wondering where Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973) fits into the story.  His role is covered here and the suspicious actions on his part are paid close attention to.  The war escalated greatly under his administration but we can only wonder how much Johnson knew and Kennedy did not.  Newman does not discuss any Kennedy assassination theories or give any attention to any suggestions of LBJ being complicit in the crime.  But what he does show is that the vice president certainly had an agenda of his own and it would be shown after the events in Dallas.  National Security Action Memo 263 is one of the book’s most critical moments and readers should pay extremely close attention to this part of the story that highlights the stark differences between the late and sitting presidents and their views on the raging conflict in South Vietnam.

A common question I have heard from Vietnam veterans and others who lived through the war is why were Americans being sent 13,000 miles away from home to fight a war against a country many of them had never heard of?   It is a critical question and I believe that Newman has many of the answers they seek.  By no means is the book a complete account of the war. In fact, I believe a better overall account of the entire conflict would the best-selling ” The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War“.   The authors there discussed Kennedy’s administration but concluded that they could not say for sure what Kennedy would have done regarding Vietnam due to his assassination in Dallas.  Newman takes it further and I believe that he clears up much of the mystery surrounding Kennedy’s record on Southeast Asia.

Many years have passed since the Vietnam War ended but for millions of veterans, the wounds and dark memories remain.  Some were sent to Vietnam not yet twenty years of age to a foreign country in which death was prevalent.  They watched their friends die in gruesome manners and were exposed to the horrors of war in a conflict that did not seem to have an endgame.  North Vietnam and the Viet Cong showed Washington that it would not be an “easy” war.  Hanoi was determined to succeed in unifying the country and no amount of United States pressure or troops would change that mission.  In the end, Hanoi did succeed and America was left to wonder what went wrong.   As we move forward as a nation, let us not forget the tragedy of Vietnam which serves as an example of the dangers of misguided and intentionally deceitful foreign policy that changes nations and history.  Newman absolutely nailed the subject in this incredible book that will surely satisfy anyone who decides to open it up.

ASIN: B01N7YNXQ6

Vietnam War

1The lone gunman theory remains the official position taken the United States Government with regards to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963).  The alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) was convicted in the court of public opinion before standing trial in a Dallas courtroom. His assailant, Jack Ruby (1911-1967) permanently silenced Oswald forever and prevented Americans from knowing more about the former Marine that had once lived in the Soviet Union.   The big question surrounding Kennedy’s death is who did it?  The crime is similar to a black hole, puzzling even the most hardened researchers.  The late Jim Marrs (1943-2017) once said that we know who killed Kennedy, we just have to look at the evidence.  Author John M. Newman has joined the group of assassination researchers and has produced this first volume in what will be a multi-volume set about the deadly events in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

In this first volume, Newman sets the tone for what will soon follow. In comparison to other books about the murder, this volume is not focused on Kennedy’s death.  In fact, the murder is only mentioned a handful of times.  The story that is presented here is of the revolution in Cuba, Fidel Castro (1926-2016) and Washington’s fears of  Soviet expansion.  As Fulgencio Batista (1971-1973) struggled to maintain control of Cuba,  the CIA was closely watching the events taking place in the streets of Havana.  Students, revolutionary groups and activists formed a nexus of opposition to Batista’s corrupt regime.  At first it might seem counterproductive to write about the Cuban Revolution if the book is about Kennedy’s murder.  But what is important to keep in mind is that Newman is slowly setting the stage for what would eventually happen in Dallas.   It is generally accepted by researchers that Kennedy’s death was by no means the actions of just one person.  In fact, the list of those who opposed the young president was long and for a good explanation of how many forces were conspiring against Kennedy, I strongly recommend Col. John Hughes Wilson’s JFK: An American Coup D’etat: The Truth Behind the Kennedy Assassination, which provides a clear picture of the looming threat to the occupant in the White House.

I strongly believe that to understand Kennedy’s murder, it is necessary to understand exactly what was happening in Cuba and how it played out during Kennedy’s presidency.   Newman’s focus is not on the mission in the jungles of Cuba by bearded revolutionaries.   His goal here is to uncover the actions of the CIA and finally reveal the characters involved and what purpose they played as Castro took power and led Cuba down the communist path.   Acronyms and code names become the norm but if we pay close attention, we come to realize that many of the figures are discussed in other books. However, there are two who stand out here and deserve special mention.  Newman goes into the complicated and mysterious stories of Catherine Taeffe and June Cobb (1927-2015).  The latter has been written about before and her story is still puzzling to this day.   Thousands of pages of records have been released giving us a better picture Cobb’s association with the CIA and Newman ties all of if together here providing a thorough back story as to who she really was.  Taeffe is yet another figure who has eluded scrutiny in many books but it is here that her importance to Washington becomes clear.  And by the time Newman is finished, the reader will surely realize that there was far more taking place in Washington with regards to Cuba than most Americans could have ever imagined.  To be even more frank, things in Cuba had heated up and it is truly a miracle that an all out invasion of the island never materialized.

There are many names in the book and it is easy to get distracted as the author moves through the story.  I do think that a quick primer on the crime will help readers make it through the subject matter.  As a rule, I always recommend Jim Marrs ‘Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy‘, which still remains one of the best-selling books on Kennedy’s death.  With that being said, Newman does an excellent job of focusing on one aspect of the matter and exploring it into exhaustive detail.   I am now on to the second volume and his multi-volume approach will undoubtedly change the way Kennedy’s assassination is viewed through the eyes of even the most ardent researchers.   What I also found to be exceptionally valuable is that Newman does not put forth conspiracy theories, his conclusions are based solely on the evidence that was released.  And it is that approach that makes the book an even more exciting read.

I admit that the Kennedy murder is usually not at the top of the list of books to buy for a majority of readers.  But the crime still remains one of America’s darkest moments.   Perhaps one day we will finally know what really happened that day but until then, we can only reveal the truth layer by layer.  If the author is consistent, the volumes that follow will be nothing short of exceptional.  Good read.

ASIN: B00X3VZED6

 

Assassinations

Wilson -JFKLast week I was debating what book to read next and realized that I had not covered anything on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) in quite some time.  To many Americans, his death is in America’s past, and a crime never to be solved.  With that being said, his murder is a reminder of how easy it once was to remove a sitting president from the highest office in the land.  Kennedy’s death endures as one of America’s darkest moments and the unanswered questions surrounding the events in Dealey Plaza still send chills down the spines of even the most seasoned researchers.  Colonel John Hughes-Wilson has taken another look at the crime and lays out his case for what he believes was a coup d’état on November 22, 1963.  In the fifty-years since JFK’s death, researchers have been able to compile a staggering amount of revealing evidence throughout independent research and the release of government files under the Freedom of Information Act and the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.  Incredibly, Hughes-Wilson has managed to compress thousands of pages of information into a book that is less than 400 pages.  But contained within the pages of this book is an excellent summary of what happened before, during and after Kennedy’s murder.

Some readers may be independent researchers in the crime or simply someone that has never believed the official story put forth by the government.  I warn the reader to be prepared for many shocking revelations and the introduction of facts that are simply unbelievable.   If you believe that Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) was the lone killer,  you may find this book hard to accept.  But I do think that the author provides an incredibly strong position to support his believe that Kennedy’s murder was in effect a change in government by powerful sources hidden behind the scenes.  One of the book’s most interest parts is how the author sets the stage for Kennedy’s murder.  So much focus is often placed on November 22 but it is critical to understand the forces that raged against his administration and their culmination into a deadly web of enemies determined to have the president removed at all costs.  Author James Douglass does a great job of covering topic in his book on the murder “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters“.   The information provided therein if plentiful and highly enlightening.  Hughes-Wilson takes a similar approach but streamlines the information to keep the pace moving at a sufficient pace.

Any book on Kennedy’s murder is sure to contain a long list of characters relevant to the story at hand.  This book is no different and as one would expect, figures such as Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) and J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) are discussed throughout the book.  We also learn about the various groups that came to loathe the president such as Cuban exiles, Texas oil barons, Wall Street bankers, the government of Israel and the Italian American Mafia.   The connections between the various groups will raise eyebrows and cause mouths to drop open in surprise.   But what may truly shock many readers, is their connection to the White House, in particularly Kennedy himself.  I warn some that what is also revealed about Kennedy’s private life may change the way they see the former president.   But if you have read Seymour Hersh’s “The Dark Side of Camelot“,  some of the information may be repetitive.   Kennedy is long gone so we will never known what made him do some of the things that he did.   The author here does provide clues to his sometimes strange behavior but to a point, even his views are somewhat speculative.  Regardless, his assessment of the late president, puts the murder into clear context and also reveals that many great political figures also had a very dark side that the public was not privy to in the age before cell phones and social media.

Hughes-Wilson did an incredible job of staying focused and not straying too far from the main goal of the book.  One can easily spend hours on just one part of the murder.  Whether it is Oswald’s life or the murder of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippitt (1924-1963),  the amount of information to cover is exhausting.  The author here never lets the reader become overwhelmed with information but wisely keeps things moving along and provides enough information for the reader to continue to piece together the entire puzzle.  In short, I found the book to a collection of information covered separately in other books but told in a way that keeps the reader deeply intrigued.  And even for myself, the book was thoroughly enjoyable even though I have read at least a dozen books and several articles on the crime.

Someone asked me one day if Kennedy’s murder would ever be solved.  Well Jim Marrs once said that we already know who did it, but we just need to look closely at the evidence.  I think that we have many of the answers that have long been sought through the hard work of researchers and the deathbed confessions of individuals long suspected of being part of the plot.  The real question is whether Americans are ready to accept information that will change the way the see the United States Government and politicians many of them have long admired.   It is said that no one who was alive when Kennedy’s murder took place will forget where they were that day.  My father has told me the same thing many times and can easily recall that day from start to finish even at the age of 66.   For my generation, none of us will forget where we were on September 11th.  The future generation will have their own moment in history but what that is remains to be seen.  No matter how many generations pass, the murder of John F. Kenney will remain the biggest unsolved mystery in American history.  But with books such as this by Col. John Hughes-Wilson, we already have many of the answers needed to eventually find the truth.

For readers that are discovering new territory,  I strongly recommend reading the late Jim Marrs’ (1943-2017) “Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy“.  It remains one of the best sources for information on the assassination.  Having discovered this gem, I also strongly recommend this compendium as well for those who truly want to know what really happened.

ISBN-10: 1782198547
ISBN-13: 978-1782198543
ASIN: B00GF3MVUS

Assassinations JFK RFK

9781250080615_p0_v1_s550x406

He was arguably the most feared and secretive intelligence officer to have worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.  And although he left the agency in 1974, his name still conjures up images of the cold warrior with nerves of steel, engulfed in the world of counterintelligence and determined to protect the United States at all costs. Formally he was known as James Jesus Angleton (1917-1987), but to author Jefferson Morley, he is referred to as the ghost. The title fits appropriately for the secret life of the late CIA spymaster was one which Hollywood could never replicate on screen.  By all accounts, his personality was outwardly unassuming, but behind the horn rimmed glasses, was an operative that ate, slept and breathed counterintelligence.

This project began in 1994 and the amount of research Morley has invested is impressive.   Angleton did not leave behind diaries or personal writings, he was far too cloak and dagger for that  He did however, testify before Congress as the CIA’s domestic mail spying program came under fire after being revealed by the press.  The spymaster escaped without prosecution but his career at the agency was effectively finished.  He would remain hidden in the shadows but still involved in the field until his death on May 11, 1987.   The mystery surrounding Angleton helps to keep him in the public light, but what is it about him that is so fascinating?

Morley has composed a solid biography of Angleton, but there is still much about his life that has probably been lost to history.  Angleton himself said that he would take things to his grave and I have no doubt that many secrets were buried with him.  And next to Allen Dulles, Dick Helms, Bill Harvey, Cord Meyer and the many legendary officers once part of the OSS, Angleton stood as a gatekeeper to the trove of the Agency’s dark secrets.  And throughout his life he was involved with a cast of characters who made their names famous as operatives of the agency that John F. Kennedy once threatened to scatter into a thousand pieces.   As he moves up the ladder and increases his power, his secretiveness and paranoia grows at an exponential rate.  His hunt for Soviet moles would prove to be one of the final nails in the coffin of his career and nearly crippled the CIA.  But was he too paranoid or did he know more than he let on?

There is so much about Angleton’s life that remains a mystery.   He was a family man, but his wife and children barely factor into the story.  Instead, the book is filled with CIA intrigue, informants, double agents and political gambles in Washington.   And sadly, it seemed that when no enemies existed, they were manufactured to suit personal agendas.  And for Angleton, this might have been an underlying cause of his later obsession of moles within the government. But such was Angleton’s mind, the maze with false exits, traps and more riddles than answers.  The man whom Morley calls “the ghost”, led a life which did not give away secrets and prevented even the most prying eyes from gaining too much insight.  It may have been by design or just an extension of the counterintelligence legend’s way of operating.

To say that Angleton’s life was incredible would be a severe understatement.  In fact, throughout every major event that takes place, the CIA seems to be close by and his  actions regarding some are bizarre and even disturbing.   Although detested by many, scared of by others and mind boggling to subordinates, he endeared himself to more than one president and those relationships gave rise to many questions surrounding his actions following JFK’s murder, RFK’s murder and the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer.

By the time he died, his CIA life was far behind him but the saying goes that you never really leave the agency.  For James J. Angleton, the agency was his life and in a taped interview with Thames TV in 1975, he stated pointedly that he regretted nothing.  I have no reason to doubt him and after reading this book I believe that you will also feel the same way.  But as I read the book, I could see that in more than one way his life was quite tragic.  As Morley explains, secret intelligence work was his life, but what suffered in the process was his personal life and in some cases his health.  In a tragic fate, the love he would give to the CIA would not come to him from his family. Even to them he remained the elusive ghost.

Readers who are familiar with the stories from the cold-war CIA era will know many of the facts revealed in the book.   We have heard the names before and their actions are now well-known.  But I do think that the section on Lee Harvey Oswald is telling and adds yet another question to the mystery of Kennedy’s murder.  When asked about the assassination, Angleton reportedly said ” a mansion has many rooms, I was not privy to who struck John”.   Exactly what he meant we will probably never know.  But what is clear is that Angleton possessed knowledge of many things that most Americans would prefer not to know.

I cannot imagine that writing a book on a secret CIA operative is an easy task.  But Morley’s account of Angleton’s life is a solid work and will be appreciated by historians.  Love him or hate him, there is no denying Angleton’s legacy, fame and infamy in the annals of the history of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Deception is a state of mind–and the mind of the state.”– James J. Angleton

ISBN-10: 1250080614
ISBN-13: 978-1250080615

 

 

 

Biographies

20180619_235509I have often wondered why my uncle and many other veterans that I have met, were sent to Vietnam.   He and others never speak of the war, choosing instead to internalize their memories and feelings.  But from the few things about being Vietnam that my uncle has told me,  I cannot image what it was like to be fighting a war in a jungle 13,000 miles away from home. Today he is seventy-two years old and his memories of Vietnam are as sharp today as they were when he left the country to return home.  And there is a part of him that still remains in Vietnam, never to leave its soil.    He is one of five-hundred thousand Americans that served in a war that claimed fifty-eight thousand lives.

The reasons for America’s involvement in Indochina have been muddled and in some cases omitted from discussions.   Secrecy became the standard method of communication in more than one administration in Washington as the United States became deeper involved in a conflict with no end goal in sight.  Daniel Ellsberg gained fame and infamy when he revealed the top-secret Pentagon Papers to the country.   The New York Times later published a review of the documents and today it is available in the form of a book titled The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War.  The book is enlightening and contains a trove of information regarding how and why decisions were being made in the White House as control of the government passed through several presidents.  Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara (1916-2009) published his own memoir of the war, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam.  The book has its fans and critics. McNamara has often been blamed for the war and the vitriol towards him was so strong that in later years he declined to talk about the conflict.   True, he was a participant in the events leading up to the war, but many other players had a hand in the game which became deadlier as time went on.  To understand their roles and the policies enacted, it is necessary to revisit the  complete history of U.S. foreign policy in Indochina.  David Halberstam (1934-2007), author of The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert F. Kennedy, conducted his own research into the war’s origins and the result was this New York Times bestseller that is nothing short of mind-boggling.

Halberstam admits that he knew Ellsberg and in fact, he reviewed the Pentagon Papers as he wrote the book.  In addition he conducted hundreds of interviews but was careful not to reveal any of their names.  When Ellsberg was indicted and had to stand trial, Halberstam was subpoenaed to give testimony, unaware then of how Ellsberg came into possession of the documents.  But what started out as a look at the life of  former National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy (1919-1996), grew into this definitive account of the reasons for the Vietnam War.

The book follows a carefully guided timeline and the story of Vietnam begins in China before moving on to Korea and eventually Southeast Asia.  These parts are critical for they set the stage for foreign policy decisions in the years that followed and explain many of the mistakes that were made.  As President Eisenhower winds down his time in office, a new young Catholic Democrat gripped parts of the country as he declared himself the next person to occupy the White House.  By the time John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) took office, the road to Vietnam had already been paved.  It is at this point in the book where the pace picks up and never slows down.   The concept of the best and the brightest came to Halberstam as he thought of a phrase for Kennedy’s cabinet of intellectuals who were set on reshaping Washington in the image they believed was right to push the country forward.  One by one he introduces us to all of the characters that have a role in the story, tracing their origins and helping us to understand how they reached their positions in the government.  Some of them are as mysterious as the country’s then paranoia about communism taking over the world.  But as they come together, something still is not quite right and Vietnam becomes the issue that will not go away.  And for the thirty-three months Kennedy was in office, the American involvement would grow in Indochina but the nation had not yet entered a war.   The growing crisis however, had begun to cause a rift in the White House and the deception employed by those loyal to the military and war hawks is eye-raising and chilling.  I also believe that it helps explain Kennedy’s murder in November, 1963. We can only guess what would have happened if he had lived.  There are those who strongly believe we would have withdrawn from Vietnam. I believe that is what would have happened, probably sooner rather than later.  But Kennedy was gone and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, inherited the nightmare of Vietnam.

As Johnson settles in to being the new Commander-In-Chief,  Indochina becomes a thorn in his side and he becomes conflicted with the decisions he will eventually make.  This part of the book is the crux and the key to the final push by the military for a war.  Many of Kennedy’s cabinet members continued to stay and at first worked under Johnson.  But as time passed and the ugly truths about Vietnam came back from Saigon, they would fade out as Johnson led the nation down the path of escalation.  Halberstam is a masterful story-teller and the scenes he recreates from his research are spellbinding.  Nearly everyone in the book is now deceased but as I read the book I could not help but to scratch my head at their decisions and actions.   The warning signs of Vietnam loomed ominously large but tragically were ignored or discounted.   Washington suffered from a tragic twist of fate: although it had the best and the brightest in Washington, they still made mistakes that literally made little sense. And that is a central theme in the book. The war’s architects were all brilliant individuals with endless accolades yet they failed to understand what was considered to be a peasant nation far away from home. Many of them would suffer in one way or another.  For Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam eventually became the final nail in the coffin that sealed his chances at reelection.

During the reading of the book, I also noticed at how Halberstam explained the actions of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Vietcong.  In order to understand why Vietnam became a stalemate, it is not just necessary to understand the failures of Washington, but the strategy of Ho Chih Minh and the generals under him.  The small peasant nation took on a colossus and refused to give up. And the battles of  Vietnam changed warfare and showed the world what many believed to be impossible.  Arrogance and in some cases, racist beliefs laid at the base of some foreign policy decisions regarding the war.  History has a strange way of repeating itself and the repeated warnings from the French fell on deaf ears as American troops landed in a place many of them knew nothing about.  Looking back with hindsight, the critical failures are clearly evident and although Halberstam shows us how we became involved in Vietnam,  we are still baffled about why.  How could so many minds filled with so much knowledge make such rudimentary and baseless decisions?   The answers are here in this book in the form of official cables that withheld information, overzealous military advisors, an unstable South Vietnamese government, National Security Action Memos and the idea that the United States could solve any of the world’s problems.   This book is a must-read for those who are interested in the history of the Vietnam War.

ISBN-10: 0449908704
ISBN-13: 978-0449908709

Investigative Report

liftonThe murder of John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) continues to maintain its place among the greatest crimes in American history.  The official story as published by the Warren Commission is that former Marine Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963)  fired three shots in six seconds from the sixty floor of the Texas School Book Depository, fatally wounding Kennedy and severely wounding Texas Governor John Connally (1917-1993).  To many, including the author of this book, David Lifton, the government version seemed to be the best and final explanation.  But over time Lifton came to doubt the official story and after obtaining a set of the twenty-six volumes that composed the Commission’s investigation, his doubt turned into disbelief and lead him down the path that culminated with this national bestseller.

At the time his odyssey began, Lifton was a law student at UCLA.  Working on campus was a law professor by the name of Wesley J. Liebeler who served as a Warren Commission attorney.  Disillusioned by the official report, he decided to confront Liebeler about the many discrepancies he found in the final report.  Over the next several years, the two men would become more closely acquainted as Lifton dived deeper into the murder and Liebeler sought to preserve the Commission’s report.  Ironically Liebeler is the person that suggested to Lifton that he should one day write a book.  He eventually did and this is book is a must read for anyone with unanswered questions about the murder of John F. Kennedy.

Having read multiple books on the assassination, I would like to point out that Lifton focuses on the medical evidence surrounding Kennedy’s murder.  He does not go into great detail about Oswald’s life, murder or the life and murder of J.D. Tippit.  This is strictly about the postmortem events from the time Kennedy was declared dead at Parkland Hospital until the official autopsy report was published by the physicians who were on call at Bethesda Naval Hospital when Kennedy’s body was brought in. I warn readers that the subject matter graphic as it pertains to the autopsy and a large number of anomalies with Kennedy’s body that by all appearances, occurred before the official autopsy even began.  Almost like a horror movie, the body tells signs of makeshift surgical procedures, unexplained bruising and conflicting testimony between doctors in Dallas and Maryland.  But as Lifton explains, the body is the evidence.  Skeptics might be tempted to ask how on earth could such changes have been made to Kennedy’s body before it arrived at Bethesda?  Well Lifton asked himself the same question and many others that have been answered through exhaustive research and due diligence in the most plausible manner to date.  But what is even more sound about Lifton’s work is that he supports his conclusion based off of evidence that is publicly available and in some cases, was hiding in plain sight.  His case is further supported by statements he obtained from numerous individuals who were at either Parkland Hospital, Bethesda or part of Kennedy’s entourage that escorted the body all the way back to Washington.

There are those of us who will refuse to believe that the Government could engage in such nefarious activity.  On the surface it simply seems absurd.  But we soon learn that there is far more than meets the eye.   As Lifton is continue to develop his case for a frontal shot a key event takes place changing his life forever.  On a FBI report filed by Agents Francis O’Neill and James Siebert is a section  in which they state that surgery had been performed on the president’s head prior to the autopsy.  I confess that as I read that section of the book I nearly jumped out of my seat.   This statement served as the catalyst for Lifton to change gears and become one of the most respected researchers to date.  As I continued through the book I noticed that at times chills ran down my spine.  As the story progresses, the macabre becomes a reality and it dawns on the reader that there was more to that day that had nothing to do with Lee Harvey Oswald.  This is a story that the Government did not want its citizens to hear.  But like Oswald’s murder, it refuses to be put to rest and leaves many unanswered questions.

There are many books about JFK’s murder, each taking a slightly different approach.  To get an idea of the overall picture of what happened that day, I always recommend to new readers Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by the late Jim Marrs (1943-2017).  For others that have passed beyond that point, Lifton’s work is a critical addition to every researcher’s library.   The narrative is chilling: unexplained changes to the president’s head indicating prior dissection, two ambulances, two caskets, a helicopter and other mind-boggling postmortem incidents reveal a darker and more sinister plan in effect that most could not begin to fathom.   However, there are still many interviews that were classified and thousands of pages of others that remained classified. When they finally are released we can only guess or shudder as to what they might reveal. Until then, we have authors such as David Lifton that force us to take a close look at what is considered to be best evidence.

ISBN-10: 0881844381
ISBN-13: 978-0881844382

Investigative Report JFK

20180603_133855For twelve years Evelyn Lincoln served as John F. Kennedy’s devoted secretary.  Following Kennedy’s murder she penned a memoir of her time as his assistant under the title “My Twelve Years with John F. Kennedy”.  As his secretary she was a first hand witness to his daily routine and the decision making process behind some of the biggest moments in American history.  The relationship between Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson has been documented in scores of books. But Lincoln’s account is a welcomed look into the unusual relationship between two polar opposite individuals.

It will be expected that Lincoln speaks fondly of her boss.  A good secretary becomes an extension of the person that is served listening to their gripes, anticipating their next move and putting the pieces back together again after a major fallout.  Lincoln is all of these but that is not the goal of this book.  This book is the record of what she saw and heard between John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson.   And what we learn in the book will either confirm what many felt all along or seem like the unsubstantiated ramblings of a secretary in mourning and bitter at the new Commander-In-Chief.   In her defense, never in the book does she show a personal vendetta against Johnson.  She only reports what she observed during her time with both of these legendary figures.

The book begins before Kennedy is elected to the presidency. In fact, in the early part of the book, he is about to declare his candidacy and gears up for what turned out to be a bitter campaign against Johnson for the Democratic nomination.  The animosity and sometimes vindictive methods employed during the primaries made it even more unusual that the two former enemies ended up working together in Washington.  But what is clear is that they were never “friends” in any sense of the word.  They established a cordial and professional working relationship that was sometimes fragile and tense.  Tragically it culminated with the events in Dallas.

Lincoln does shed light on two moments in JFK’s campaign that have been the subject of heavy debate for many years.   His decision to accept Johnson as the vice-president caused shock, suspicion and in some cases outrage for Johnson was not liked in many parts of the United States.  The often purported story is that Kennedy offered Johnson the nomination believing that he could help pull the southern states which resisted civil rights legislation and were wary of a Irish-Catholic nominee.  There is also the belief that Johnson blackmailed his way onto the ticket.  What the real reason was for Johnson’s inclusion we will never know for Kennedy took it with him to his grave.   But Lincoln does give us enough to see that Johnson’s version of the events leading up to his appointment as vice-president were way off base.

Towards the end of 1963 as Kennedy was preparing for his reelection campaign in 1964, he began to develop a series of agendas that he was determined to accomplish during a second term.   The biggest question surrounding his administration was if Johnson would remain on the ticket.   Scandals began to surround Johnson through affiliates with the most dangerous being the Bobby Baker debacle.  It has been said that Bobby Kennedy had been monitoring the cases building against Johnson who may have possibly landed in jail.  Apparently Jack had told him they would speak about it when he returned from Dallas.  What would have happened if he did return we will never know.  But what we do know from Lincoln’s journal is that before he left for Dallas he made it very clear exactly who would be his running mate for 1964.  Her admissions which we have no reason to doubt, serve as concrete statement on what was going through Kennedy’s mind in regards to the future of his administration.

The book is only 207 pages but within these pages is a good journal kept by an interesting woman who served one of the greatest political figures this world has ever seen.  And in his short time in office, he touched the lives of many including his own secretary who duly devoted twelve years of her life to him.

ASIN: B0006BUHQK

Journal Political Memoirs

lbj bargainsOn January 7, 1971 law enforcement personnel responded to the scene of a single car accident on U.S. Route 271 near Pittsburg, Texas.  The deceased is identified as Malcolm “Mac” Wallace.  His death marks the end of a life replete murder, sex, alcohol and suspicion.  Wallace was a known associate of several powerful figures in the State of Texas, most notably, Billie Sol Estes and Lyndon Baines Johnson.  His association with Johnson earned him the title of a conspirator in the murder of President John F. Kennedy.  An unidentified finger print at the Texas School Depository discovered in the wake of Kennedy’s murder, puzzled investigators and researchers for years.  In 1998, Nathan Darby, a career fingerprint analyst, identified the print as belonging to Wallace giving rise to the belief of many conspiracy theorists that Wallace had been on the sixth floor either right before or during the assassination.  Wallace’s death was cloaked in conspiracy theories about how and why he died.  But just who was Mac Wallace? Was it really his print at the book depository? And was he LBJ’s hitman for hire as has been alleged?  Joan Mellen, a noted scholar and author of several books related to JFK’s murder explores the relationship between Wallace and Johnson in this phenomenal account of the lives of both of these Texas natives.

Drawing upon the words of Wallace’s children, interviews with former associates, some of whom are now deceased, official documents from the LBJ Presidential Library and other public records, Mellen retraces the origins of the mysterious figure.  JFK assassination researchers might be tempted to believe that the book might contain a “smoking gun”.  This is not the case and the book is not another look at the assassination.  It is purely about the relationship between Wallace and Johnson and the climate of corruption and murder in Texas.  Because Texas is also the location of JFK’s murder, the book does contain a section about the assassination, but not what the reader may be tempted to think.  While the focus of the book is not of JFK’s murder, where it truly shines is the information about Wallace and the true nature of his relationships and troubled life that included more than one marriage, several divorces, alcoholism and deadly sexual triangles.

What is abundantly clear from Mellen’s work is that a deadly climate of suspicion and fraud existed engulfed Texas, then a stronghold of right-wing extremist groups and politicians determined to operated a completely different system of government and culture.  In the middle of this climate is Lyndon Johnson, the native of  Stonewall, Texas and former U.S. President.  His close-knit group of associates formed an impenetrable circle of deceit suspected in the deaths of a number of individuals including Henry Marshall, a former investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, John Douglas Kinser and even LBJ’s sister, Josefa.  Billie Sol Estes, Bobby Baker, Herman Brown and George Parr all make an appearance in the book showing the reader how Texas politics were controlled during the first half of the 20th century.

Johnson has been portrayed in textbooks as the champion of civil rights, voting rights and the leading force behind the “Great Society” program.  The reality as shown by Mellen is that a very dark side to LBJ was carefully hidden from public light but did show itself from time to time.  Beginning with the controversial election in 1948 against Coke Stevenson, Johnson’s career would be dogged by controversial events that often had tragic and catastrophic results.  JFK’s murder in Dallas and the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 remain some of the darkest moments in U.S. history and two of the biggest crimes for which those involved have never been brought to justice.  The truth about the Liberty presented here in its entirety, reveals the very grim reality of the U.S. government’s faulty foreign policy that claimed the lives of 34 sailors and injured nearly 200 more.  And had it not been for JFK’s death, perhaps the story of the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson would be told far differently today.

Many years have passed since the events in this book have taken place.  A majority of the figures in the book are now deceased and their secrets having been lost to history.  But for students of history, the JFK assassination and those curious about the true nature of both Lyndon Johnson and Malcolm Wallace this is the book that sets the record straight and finally puts to rest rumors, misinformation and uncertainty about November 22, 1963 and the lives of many that ended tragically in South Texas.

ISBN-10: 1620408066
ISBN-13: 978-1620408063

Investigative Report

lbj blood money powerPrior to his death from cancer, Jack Ruby, the convicted murdered of Lee Harvey Oswald who executed his prey live on national television, once remarked that to get answers in the murder of John F. Kennedy, it would wise to ask the man currently in office.  That man as we all know was Lyndon B. Johnson.   In most history classes, Lyndon Johnson or LBJ for short, is seen as a pioneering president, responsible for the passage of the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964.   However, what is often looked over is his role in the escalation of the U.S. military in southeast Asia resulting in the Vietnam War.   As the body count of American soldiers climbed, his approval rate dropped to absurdly low levels, possibly the worst in recent history.  And the announcement of Robert Kennedy for candidacy for president served as a final nail in the coffin forcing Johnson to withdraw his name in the 1968 presidential race.  Many years after his death, the true story of the life of Lyndon Johnson has come to light in dozens of books.  And what we learn through each of these books is that there was a very dark side to the 36th President of the United States.

Barr McClellan worked as an attorney at the firm of Clark, Thomas and Winters, the firm that worked intimately with Johnson, handling many of his private affairs.  This book is McClellan’s recollections of the things he saw, heard and took part in over a multi-decade service to the firm under Johnson’s primary attorney and close friend, Edward A. Clark.  The cover of the book alludes to a smoking gun in the book.  Having read dozens of books on the Kennedy murder, I wouldn’t quite go that far.  And as McClellan points out, many of the discussions that took place among some of the partners and various nefarious figures associated with Clark were never put on record as an official transcript.  While he presents to us a picture of what might have been said, the participants are lone gone and can neither confirm of deny the statements in the book.  Also, the allegations regarding Lee Harvey Oswald are direct but gloss over many important details that not only cast doubt on him being Kennedy’s assassin, but also being the murderer of Officer J.D. Tippit and the attempted assassin of Gen. Edwin Walker.

The beauty in the book are the revelations about the relationships between Johnson, Clark, Thomas, Mac Wallace, Bobby Baker, Clifton Carter and Billie Sol Estes.  This close group of conspirators, pulled off some of the biggest scams in Texas history and are complicit in the murders of several individuals, possibly including John F. Kennedy. Of all of the players, Baker is the only one still alive and has disclosed a lot of what he did for Johnson and other politicians in Washington during his career. However, out of all of these mysterious and fascinating figures, the two that stand out in the book as the most interesting are Edward Clark and Mac Wallace.  Johnson, while complicit in many illegal activities,  always maintained a safe distance in the event that a scandal arose.  However, when problems did come up and people need to be taken care of, Clark and Wallace would prove to be the most loyal and deadly associates of Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Wallace has been long known to assassination researchers and people familiar with Johnson’s activities in Texas.  And if McClellan’s account is correct, then it shows the assassination into an entire different perspective.  Clark is lesser known to those outside of the State of Texas but McClellan clues us in to another major participant of the crime of the century in the United  States of America.

While I do believe that LBJ did have foreknowledge of the crime, I do not think that the law firm of Clark, Thomas and Winters had the sole role they did as described by McClellan. Did they play a part? Absolutely.  But I also believe that there were many things transpiring in Dallas that day that went far beyond the control of both Edward Clark and Lee Harvey Oswald. A conspiracy of that magnitude needs many participants with plans made far in advance in many different sectors of government.  Of interesting note, McClellan does shows that the plan to remove Kennedy began as early as 1961 which coincidentally is when multiple Oswald sightings first began.  Was there a plan to remove JFK from office? Undoubtedly.  Was a sole lawyer the mastermind behind the entire plot? You be the judge.

ISBN-10: 161608197X
ISBN-13: 978-1616081973

Assassinations

clint hillThe 20th Century was filled with some of the most earth-shattering events the world has ever seen.  The home video shot by Abraham Zapruder that recorded the assassination of John F. Kennedy stands as one of the most important pieces of motion picture ever captured.  During that film, as former Firs Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy reaches to the trunk of the car to retrieve a portion of JFK’s skull, a secret service agent can be seen leaping on the trunk of the car as the motorcade sped down the Stemmons Freeway en route to Parkland Hospital.  The agent, Clint Hill stands out in the film as only one of two agents to make any major movement to help the fatally wounded Kennedy and Gov. John Connally. Hill would go on to serve three more presidents and today is a best-selling author with several books published about his time working in the United States Secret Service.

Teaming up with Lisa McCubbin, who worked with Hill on his first book, ‘Mrs. Kennedy and Me’ and subsequent memoir ‘Five Days In November’, Hill recounts his experiences during a career that stretched over five administrations, beginning with the legendary Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The secret service of today is far advanced from the days of Eisenhower’s administration and as Hill shows us, the secret service was still developing as the agency tasked with the daily protection of the commander-in-chief.  As Eisenhower’s administration comes to an end, a new president takes office and his administration would change Hill’s life forever.  Primarily assigned to guard Mrs. Kennedy, she and Hill become close friends and as fate would have it, he was included in the motorcade on November 22, 1963.   The murder of JFK and the swearing-in of Lyndon Johnson are still surreal and continue to capture the public’s attention as more books are published about that day.

Moving on to Johnson’s administration, we see the stark contrast between the two presidents.  But Hill allows us to see the private side of LBJ, not often seen or discussed in books or magazines. He would stay with Johnson throughout the remainder of his term until the top office in the land was assumed by Richard M. Nixon.  Nixon’s presidency and the events that followed would shock not only Hill but the entire nation.   The Vietnam War and Watergate scandal permanently marked Nixon’s time in office and his resignation is the only one to have ever occurred by a sitting U.S. President.  The prior resignation of then Vice-President Spiro Agnew began to erode the already crumbling confidence in the U.S. government.  And by the time that Gerald Ford took office, things had reached the point where the nation was threatening to become unhinged.   Regardless of their personal shortcomings or questionable judgment calls, Hill stood by each one and recalls his time with each and remarks fondly and gracefully on the proud career he left behind.

This book is not a “smoking gun” about JFK’s murder nor is it a gossip column.  It is a memoir by a remarkable person who had an even more remarkable career.  His life was and is extraordinary by far and in the book an entire cast of characters make an appearance such as Arnold Palmer, Frank Sinatra and even Elvis Presley.  Assassinations and attempted assassinations,  infant deaths, racial tension, war and social change are relived as Hill’s memory comes alive.  And as he Hill points out, not many agents have worked in as many details as himself making his story all the more valuable as a piece of history recounting America’s most dangerous moments.

ISBN-10: 1476794138
ISBN-13: 978-1476794136

 

 

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