The Warren Commission’s investigation of the Kennedy assassination, shoddy at best and a blatant, cynical cover-up at worst, neglected to dig deeply into many malignant and menacing areas. Especially, and probably intentionally, overlooked were Lee Harvey Oswald’s ties to the CIA. More than any other deficiency, this “oversight” led the Commission to the wrong conclusion about what really happened in Dallas. De facto head of the Commission Allen Dulles, CIA chief fired by Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs, carefully steered his colleagues away from the evidence which would have indicted the Agency. So it is left to us to do the dirty work. And a good place to start is Oswald’s membership in the Louisiana Civil Air Patrol (LCAP), a pack of social misfits, loners, thugs, thieves, and merciless CIA killers.
Rummaging through Lee Harvey Oswald’s past can be a murky and sometimes frightening enterprise, but it is quite necessary if one wants to understand the residue of the tangled plot that took JFK’s life. Even casual perusal leaves no doubt that Oswald and his associates had deep-rooted intelligence ties. Some of Lee’s best friends were CIA operatives, from David Ferrie to the Dallas White Russian community, which included people like Oswald’s best friend in Dallas George DeMohrenschildt and his erstwhile Irving, Texas, landlady Ruth Paine. Obvious patterns of sheepdipping and shepherding emerge as one follows Oswald’s journey from Louisiana to Texas, and to Russia and back. He was a low-level agent on deep-background assignments for the Company. Just the kind of dupe who can be set up as the fall guy when the Agency needs a patsy. But how did Oswald get to that point? Who picked him out of the hordes of nickel-and-dime operatives the CIA was running in the 1950s and’60s? And why?
It began when Lee was just a teenager and he joined LCAP. On the surface this was a harmless group of post-pubescent wannabe fliers who signed up for air rescue techniques, campouts, and long speeches about duty and country. But in reality LCAP was much more. It was established by David Harold Byrd, a wealthy Dallas businessman and defense industry insider who fancied himself an Air Force Colonel. Indeed he was bestowed this title by none other than his great pal, General Curtis (Bombs Away) LeMay, virulent Kennedy hater and Air Force Chief of Staff under same. Byrd and LeMay made LCAP look like a unit of weekend flyboys to outsiders, just an excuse to make Byrd a colonel and to have an auxiliary pilot training presence in the South. This was merely the cover story, however. US military intelligence and the CIA wanted to train and recruit pilots to make surreptitious flights, into the Caribbean and elsewhere, involving weapons trading, support for paramilitary operations, and drug running (later Air America). Louisiana was a logical location for this (easy access to Cuba, Latin America and South America). Later, of course, Byrd, one of LBJ's most ardent political and financial benefactors, owned the Texas School Book Depository. I have always been confounded by researchers who overlook this one incredible fact (which, in and of itself, screams conspiracy): Byrd, a Texas oil millionaire with nefarious connections to potential suspects, provided the first and last places of employment for Oswald. This is either the most incredible coincidence in history, or Byrd's businesses were being used as fronts for intelligence operations. Think of it, JFK's supposed assassin fires from a building owned by the same man to whose air patrol unit he was attached a decade earlier. And Byrd neither admits to nor is questioned about this suspicious happenstance. Of course, he had plausible deniability because he merely provided the facilities for intelligence assets to perform their operations while keeping a safe distance from the action.
Anyway, back to LCAP. The ideal candidates for CIA recruitment were young, impressionable, adventuresome cadets seeking daring and stealth and lacking morals or a social conscience; or, in the alternative, they were outcasts and misfits, willing to commit abnormal or questionable acts without resistance. Consequently, an unusually high number of Louisiana Civil Air Patrol cadets became psychopathic killers, CIA pilots, or gullible, low-level fall guys. Among them were John Liggett, Charles Rogers, Lee Harvey Oswald, Barry Seal, and James Bath, all of whom were either tangentially or directly connected to the JFK hit.
In order to facilitate its recruitment of LCAP cadets, the CIA needed mesmeric leaders who had sway over young men. It found one such leader in David Ferrie, a defrocked priest, a skilled pilot, a hypnotist, and a pedophile. Oswald was probably directed to Ferrie and LCAP by Dutz Murret, Oswald’s bookmaking uncle who worked for New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello. Rogers likewise had a bookmaker in the family, his father Fred, who also paid tribute to Marcello. Ferrie worked for Marcello as a pilot. When Marcello was deported by Bobby Kennedy’s Justice Department in 1961, Ferrie flew a private plane to Guatemala, picked up the gangland boss and flew him back home. Ferrie fancied himself an expert pilot, and loved flying secret missions for the Mafia and the CIA. In LCAP he insisted on being called “Captain Ferrie,” and despite his weird appearance (he wore an orange wig and painted-on eyebrows), his trainees were apparently defenseless against his hypnotic powers. One of “Captain” Ferrie’s most unusual recruits was a future mortician/body reconstructionist/assassin named John Liggett. More on him later.
Ferrie taught his prized pupils the tricks of spycraft. And while most LCAP alums tried to maintain their covers after joining the CIA, Barry Seal was flamboyantly and unabashedly open about his occupation. His remarkable life is well-chronicled in Daniel Hopsicker’s stunning book, Barry and the Boys. Seal was entrusted by the CIA to fly drugs out of Southeast Asia, Central America, and South America; guns in and out of troubled nations across the globe; and operatives to secret CIA missions whenever it needed a democratic or socialist leader overthrown. Hopsicker writes, ‘[Seal] was a high-rolling mercenary, a rogue pilot, an infamous gun-runner, the chief Mena narcotics trafficker, a fast-talking, self-assured, 300-pound pilot and Special Forces veteran, a notorious drug smuggler, a mystery man, and the most valuable informant in DEA history.”
Seal’s abilities as a CIA pilot were so valued that he was protected by powerful interests. He had George H.W. Bush’s private phone number; it was found on Seal’s body after he was mysteriously gunned down in the mid-1980s. Hopsicker writes of a witness overhearing one of Seal’s conversations with Vice President Bush. Seal reportedly threatened to expose the Iran-Contra scheme if the IRS did not stop hounding him. One week after the phone conversation, Seal was dead. The witness goes on to say that the murderers were acting under orders from Oliver North. Seal, according to Hopsicker, was also involved in another monstrous operation—he was one of the getaway pilots flying out of Dallas after JFK was killed.
Facts uncovered by this author indicate that JFK’s body was surreptitiously flown out of Dallas via Red Bird Airport and not Love Field. Here’s where another LCAP grad enters the drama. John Liggett, a Dallas funeral home employee, was present at Parkland Hospital just minutes after the mortally wounded Kennedy arrived there. On November 22, 1963, Liggett was officiating the funeral of his wife’s aunt at Restland Funeral Home, when he was suddenly called away from the graveside. He returned after a few minutes to tell his wife that Kennedy had been shot and he had to go to Parkland Hospital. When his wife asked him if Restland was going to get the job, John replied that he did not know but that she should not try to contact him. This was quite unusual. Normally when Liggett was on a job or on call, his wife and kids visited him at the funeral home. Never before had he instructed them to stay away. His funeral home did not get the JFK job; no matter, Liggett had other intentions. Circumstantial evidence indicates that Liggett, with the assistance of treasonous Secret Service agents, switched JFK’s body for a fake wrapped in sheets in Emergency Room 1. The substitute body was placed in the expensive coffin which publicly left Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963. The genuine corpse was placed in a cheap shipping coffin and spirited away by John Liggett in a Restland Funeral Home hearse. It was then rushed to Red Bird where Seal or possibly some other CIA pilot flew the body to Washington, DC, for body alteration prior to the autopsy. And, according to Liggett’s peers, there was no one better in the business at altering dead bodies than John Liggett. He even referred to himself as a “reconstruction artist.”
As incredible as this scenario sounds, several people close to Liggett have come forward to verify this story. It dovetails with the official record in many regards. The Dallas doctors saw wounds on the dead President which were radically different from the ones the Bethesda autopsy doctors saw. The only reasonable explanation for this is that someone, somewhere between Dallas and Washington, got access to Kennedy’s corpse and altered it. This ploy, this diabolical deception, was the plotters’ ace in the hole. It is how they intended to forever cover up the truth of the manner of JFK’s death. For in any murder investigation where the victim dies by gunshot wounds, examination of the corpse reveals the direction and number of shots. The Dallas doctors saw evidence of frontal entry and rear exit, indicating Kennedy was shot from the grassy knoll area of Dealey Plaza, a place where Oswald definitely was not positioned. The Bethesda doctors saw evidence of rear entry and frontal exit, indicating Kennedy was shot from the TSBD, a place where Oswald definitely was positioned. At Bethesda Hospital several witnesses saw Kennedy’s body arrive in the cheap shipping casket and the not the expensive public coffin that flew back to Washington aboard Air Force One. One LCAP grad (Liggett) framed another LCAP grad (Oswald).
Liggett did not return home from Washington until the next day. When he arrived he seemed worn and disheveled, quite unlike his customarily cool comportment and dapper dress. He quickly ordered Lois and the kids to pack up; they were going to hit the road. The family traveled south, and along the way Liggett stopped for furtive meetings with unknown parties out of the earshot of his wife and kids. They finally settled on a motel for the evening, and on the morning of November 24, after witnessing Ruby shoot Oswald to death on TV, Liggett breathed a deep sigh of relief and told his family it was okay to return home now. At no time did he let on what he knew about the historic events which had taken place that weekend or that he even knew Oswald, Ferrie, or any other LCAP members.
After the assassination Liggett came into a good deal of money which he used to purchase a home for his family in an upscale Dallas neighborhood. There he was visited on several occasions by Ferrie, whose appearance was so bizarre and amusing that they could not forget him. It is likely that Ferrie was conveying “liquidation” assignments to Liggett, as he was connected to many of the mysterious deaths of assassination witnesses after the fact (including one Lee Bowers, whose name assassination experts know well).
Certainly Liggett did not learn his morturarial talents in the LCAP; instead he joined the Air Force where he served as an attaché, a common euphemism for military intelligence work. At some point after his discharge he was encouraged by his benefactors (possibly Curtis LeMay, possibly D.H. Byrd himself) to enroll in a school for undertakers. Upon graduation, he went to work embalming and burying innocent people by day and underworld/intelligence victims by night. If the CIA or the local Mafia wanted a body disposed of, Liggett was called upon. He interred the poor saps in the “Field of Honor,” a Dallas joke for burial plots of the nefarious. If the unlucky stiff needed a transformation to disguise the manner of death, Liggett was equal to the task.
But Liggett was more than just a mortician; he was a killer, and, like Charles Rogers, he had a preference for bludgeoning his victims with a hammer. The Dallas police caught up to Liggett in 1974, when he was arrested for the attempted murder of Dorothy Peck, wife of Jay Bert Peck. Jay Bert Peck was Lyndon Johnson’s cousin, and he bore a stunning resemblance to LBJ. Liggett never divulged his reasons for viciously beating Peck and burning her home. But according to some researchers, Dorothy was about to talk about how her own husband had been murdered by Liggett. Jay Bert Peck had reportedly stood in for his cousin at the Fort Worth Hotel where the presidential party had stayed the night before the JFK assassination. This allowed LBJ to slip out the back door and attend a “Kill Kennedy” planning session at the home of local oil millionaire Clint Murchison. LBJ’s long-time mistress Madeleine Brown reported seeing many powerful JFK enemies at Murchison’s that night, including H.L. Hunt, J. Edgar Hoover, John McCloy (later a member of the Warren Commission), and George Brown (of Brown & Root, nee Halliburton). If this account is true it would explain the importance of silencing the Pecks. Lyndon Johnson, named by many as the prime mover behind the assassination, certainly had no qualms about killing those close to him if it suited his political purposes. He was once accused by his long-time associate and criminal co-conspirator, Billy Sol Estes, of ordering the executions of many LBJ political enemies. Estes’ lawyer wrote a letter to the U.S. Justice Department in 1984 which named these victims, one of whom was President Kennedy. But I digress.
The Dallas Police eventually caught up to Liggett when they arrested him in 1974. After his arrest, Liggett’s first wife Lois was warned by Liggett’s brother Malcolm to stay away from John and to avoid all contact with him. Malcolm was later appointed to a high-level presidential economic advisory commission by Gerald Ford. (As a side note, Ford was one of four future presidents closely tied to the events in Dallas. He served on the Warren Commission. Three future presidents—Johnson, Nixon and George H.W. Bush--were in Dallas the day of Kennedy’s murder. This was no coincidence. All played a role in the events of November 22, 1963. But that’s another story.)
Liggett’s death is just as fraught with subterfuge and deviousness as his life. In February 1975 the Dallas Times-Herald reported that “John Melvin Liggett died on a Parkland Hospital table about 30 minutes after he was shot by Dallas Police while trying to escape custody.” But Liggett left behind two widows who adamantly contradicted the official version of Liggett’s death. One saw a stranger with facial hair in Liggett’s coffin (Liggett was unable to grow facial hair); the other insisted she saw Liggett in a Las Vegas casino years later. It would be a relatively simple matter for the Agency which killed a sitting U.S. President to fake the death of a mortician, so the reports of Liggett’s death may well be exaggerated. (Read more on Liggett's life and death in my book, The President's Mortician.)
Another LCAP alumnus who became notorious was Texas native Charles Rogers, CIA pilot and murdering psychopath. Rogers was as brilliant as he was disturbed. A graduate of the University of Houston, Rogers worked as a seismologist for Shell Oil in the 1950s before joining the CIA. It is a seismologist’s job to determine if the underlying rock or substrata of any particular area is fertile ground to drill for oil or natural gas. This was and is vital information to oil companies; thus, seismologists and geologists are in great demand. But that kind of life was apparently not adventurous enough for Charles. So in 1956, he applied with the CIA and was interviewed in the offices of Shell Oil’s law firm, Fulbright-Jaworski (yes, the Leon Jaworski of Watergate fame).
Like other LCAP alums, Rogers graduated to the big-time when he was identified as having direct ties to the JFK murder. Many are convinced he is one of the three tramps who were photographed being escorted by Dallas cops away from the crime scene in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. The tramp photos have become part of assassination lore and have been the subject of much speculation and guesswork. What we know is the tramps bear a remarkable resemblance to killers Charles Rogers, Charles Harrelson, and the CIA’s E. Howard Hunt. Others claim they are real hobos whom the cops rousted from boxcars behind the grassy knoll. The matter ostensibly could be cleared up with some scientific analysis—comparison of height and weight, facial features, hairlines, arm length, and the like. Lois Gibson, a Houston Police Department forensics expert, performed such an analysis in 1991. Her meticulous study convinced her that Charles Rogers is the short tramp in the infamous photos. This begs the question, what was he doing there? Not likely he just happened to be boxcar-hopping just yards from the site of the murder of the century, at the exact time and day of its occurrence. There is no doubt that Rogers was a psychopath. He murdered his parents in June 1965, chopped them into pieces and stored them in a freezer before disappearing into the murky sub-world of CIA skullduggery.
It was most likely George DeMohrenschildt who recommended Rogers be hired by the CIA. A long-time CIA asset, and Lee Harvey Oswald’s handler in Dallas, DeMohrenschildt was also an expert in knowing where to drill for oil. He had an advanced degree in petroleum engineering, and he was associated with many Texas oil millionaires, including H.L. Hunt. LCAP founder D. H. Byrd once employed DeMohrenschildt at Three States Oil and Gas Company; DeMohrenschildt also was connected to Byrd through Byrd’s wife, whom DeMohrenschildt appointed to the board of his charitable organization in 1962. This would have provided cover for Byrd and DeMohrenschildt to have interaction during the time that Oswald was being shepherded to his tragic fate. DeMohrenschildt also had deep ties to the Bush family. George H.W. actually roomed with DeMohrenschildt’s uncle at Andover in the early 1940s. Later, when Bush was head of the CIA, DeMohrenschildt wrote a desperate letter to his old friend begging for help. DeMohrenschildt feared for his life because he was writing a factual book about his relationship with his old pal Lee Harvey Oswald. A few months later DeMohrenschildt was found shot to death in his home. The address and phone number of George H.W. Bush was on his person. Like Barry Seal, when DeMohrenschildt posed a threat of exposure of Bush secrets he met an untimely end.
Another Bush family intimate, one James R. Bath, turned out to be another “illustrious” grad of Byrd’s Civil Air Patrol. He served in his CAP unit in the mid-1950s, about the time Oswald, Ferrie, Seal and the other CIA recruits were active members. But it’s what he accomplished after his LCAP training that makes him notorious. Bath began a lucrative CIA career sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, after leaving active duty with the Air Force. He joined the Texas Air National Guard in 1965 where he met his great pal, George W. Bush, just as the Vietnam War was escalating. The Air National Guard was a great hideout for those pilots who wanted to avoid combat. Bath was George W. Bush's good buddy in the Texas Air National Guard. Like W, Bath refused a medical exam and went AWOL when he pleased. Bath eventually became the Bin Ladens' money man in Texas; this included investments in W's failed oil business--Arbusto. According to author Pete Brewton, Bush claimed that he and Bath never went into business together; however, “…records filed in a Houston lawsuit involving Bath contradict the [Bush’s] son: they show Bath was an investor in a Bush oil and gas enterprise.”
Brewton also claims that Bath became intertwined with some of the wealthiest and most powerful international players in global politics and finance. Among other things Bath became a trustee at a Saudi bank which provided financing for Adnan Khashoggi around the time that Khashoggi was involved in the arms-for-hostages transactions with the Iranians. The Khashoggis and the bin Ladens were intimately acquainted. Bath also went into business with Lan Bentsen, son of Texas politician Lloyd Bentsen. (Bath served in the 147th Fighter Group “Champagne Unit” Air National Guard with Lan Bentsen, George W. Bush, John Connally III—son of Texas governor John Connally, wounded in JFK’s death limo, Al Hill—grandson of H.L. Hunt, and several members of the Dallas Cowboys football team.) Bath formed a Cayman Islands company which moved money around for Oliver North in the Iran/Contra operation. And he worked for the du Pont family’s Atlantic Aviation corporation. Quite a success story for a guy who started out as a lowly cadet in David Ferrie’s LCAP.
Of all the sordid characters mentioned above, Byrd and Bath prospered the most. Byrd, rich beyond reason already, garnered million-dollar defense contracts for his Ling-Temco-Vought weapons company during Vietnam. His good friend LBJ apparently rewarded him for services rendered. Bath bilked American taxpayers for $12 million in Defense Department overcharges for one of his companies in 1990. Neither Byrd nor Bath was ever brought to account for anything. No investigative body—not the Dallas Police, not the Warren Commission, not the House Select Committee on Assassinations—interviewed Byrd. He answered no questions about the nature of his business, his associations, nor his weird connection to Oswald. Not a hint of suspicion was raised about who hired Oswald, nor who had access to the Texas School Book Depository building before, during and after the assassination. In his autobiography Byrd did not even mention the fact that he owned the TSBD, a tidbit he wanted to keep hidden for good reason. He does refer to his citation from General LeMay for starting up the Civil Air Patrol, but he excludes the names of all criminals therein bred. To remove himself as far from suspicion as possible, at the time of Kennedy’s assassination Byrd was on safari in Africa, his first-ever safari on foreign soil. He did not return to Dallas until the smoke had cleared.
Undeniable killers Charles Rogers and John Liggett were never convicted of any crime. Oswald, Ferrie, and Seal, all set up for murder by the covert forces which set their fates in motion, were the unluckiest of the lot.
In retrospect the Louisiana Civil Air Patrol was some sort of nexus of evil CIA recruitment and secrecy. Its founder and members went on to attain almost unfathomable notoriety. The truth of who LCAP members really were, the associations they made, and what they went on to do with their lives is quite provocative, and very dangerous information to the plotters of JFK’s murder. Their actions and connections speak to some sort of subterranean, for-profit enterprise that was dedicated to subverting democracy and creating what Jack Ruby called a “whole new form of government in the United States.” No wonder when the House Select Committee on Assassinations went to investigate the Louisiana Civil Air Patrol it found that all LCAP records prior to 1960 were missing.