Chapter Four:
The Return of Lee Harvey Oswald

he Bolton Ford episode was not the only event to indelibly link Guy Banister with the accused assassin. In April of 1963, Oswald returned to the city of his birth. By May 9th he had found work at the Reily Coffee Company, conveniently located two blocks from Banister’s offices. Its owner, William B. Reily, was yet another right-wing reactionary. Reily provided financial support to such groups as Arcacha’s Crusade to Free Cuba and Ed Butler’s propaganda outfit, INCA.(1)

Oswald’s employment at Reily’s lasted until July 19th, when he was let go, supposedly for spending too much work time next door at Adrian Alba’s garage. The Crescent City Garage was home to the local government agencies’ motor pools. One day Alba recalled observing an FBI agent handing a white envelope to Oswald, who was standing in front of Reily’s. Alba watched as Oswald clutched the envelope close to his chest and walked back into Reily’s.(2)

One of the things about Reily’s that later aroused Garrison’s suspicions was the number of employees that left shortly after Oswald’s departure to begin careers in the aerospace industry. For example, Oswald’s superiors, Alfred Claude and Emmett Barbee both left Reily’s in July and went to work for NASA in eastern New Orleans.(3) Two of Oswald’s co-workers, John D. Branyon and Dante Marachini, were also later hired by NASA.(4) Marachini is of particular interest since he was a self-described friend of David Ferrie’s as well as Clay Shaw’s next door neighbor.(5) A vice-president of Reily’s who testified before the Warren Commission, William Monaghan, was a former career FBI man who left the bureau to become an executive with Standard Fruit.(6) After his stint at Reily’s he, along with William Reily’s brother, Eustis, show up on the board of directors of Aaron Kohn’s Metropolitan Crime Commission.(7) According to an INCA bulletin from 1962, Monaghan is listed as a charter member of that organization as well.

All of this peculiar activity led Garrison to surmise that Reily’s was part of an intelligence apparatus. Recent file releases seem to bear out Garrison’s suspicions. A CIA memo dated January 31, 1964 reads, "this firm [Reily’s] was of interest as of April 1949."(8) Also according to this memo, Reily’s was assigned Agency number EE-334.(9) In addition, career soldier-of-fortune and CIA contract employee, Gerry Patrick Hemming confirmed that William Reily had worked for the CIA for years.(10)

After his departure from Reily’s, Oswald began what Bill Turner wittily describes as his "guerrilla theater" on the streets of New Orleans—touting his one-man Fair Play for Cuba Committee and distributing pro-Castro literature amid this hotbed of anti-Castro sentiment.(11) On August 9th, Oswald was attacked by Carlos Bringuier and other Cuban exiles as he was handing out his literature, complete with pro-Castro placards, on Canal Street. Oswald had visited Bringuier’s clothing store four days earlier offering to train members of Bringuier’s exile group, the CIA funded Cuban Student Directorate or DRE. Oddly, at approximately the same time Oswald was engaging in his gratuitous picketing, Ferrie, along with several anti-Castro Cubans, was taking part in his own "counter" demonstration, also on Canal Street.(12)

After the Canal Street fracas Oswald was arrested and taken to the police station where he promptly asked to speak to an FBI agent. The following morning John Quigley was dispatched and interviewed Oswald at some length.(13) Quigley also retained some of Oswald’s one-sheet Fair Play For Cuba flyers and other materials. Oswald normally rubber-stamped these sheets with either his name or "FPCC" and also his home address or a post office box number. However, on this occasion he also handed out a 40-page pamphlet written by Corliss Lamont, entitled, The Crime Against Cuba. The usual rubber stamp adorned this literature as well, except it read:

FPCC
544 Camp Street
New Orleans, LA

What the FBI and the Secret Service would later discover (and what Quigley must have surely known) was that 544 Camp was the side entrance to 531 Lafayette. In the summer of 1963, 544 Camp housed just three tenants: a restaurant worker’s union, a railway union, and Guy Banister Associates. Strangely, this was the only incident where Oswald used the Banister address. Another curious sidebar to this affair is that Oswald wrote to the FPCC headquarters in New York informing them of his street altercation. In his letter Oswald wrote, "Through the efforts of some exile "gusanos" [a derogatory term for anti-Castro exiles, literally translated as "worms"] a street demonstration was attacked and we were officially cautioned by police. This incident robbed me of what support I had leaving me alone. Nevertheless thousands of circulars were distributed and many, many pamphlets which your office supplied..." The problem with this letter was that it was written on August 4th, five days before the incident actually occurred.(14)

What is also odd about this affair is the pamphlet itself. Written by a well-known New York peace activist, the tract was critical of the Bay of Pigs invasion. In 1963 the pamphlet had already gone through four printings. However, the copies that Oswald distributed were from the first printing of June of 1961, a period that found Oswald still in Russia. In 1961 a large bulk order for this first printing came directly from the Central Intelligence Agency.(15)

On August 16th Oswald once again hit the streets, this time distributing his FPCC materials in front of the International Trade Mart, then managed by Clay Shaw. However, the supposedly impecunious Oswald had hired two individuals from the local employment agency to assist him.(16) Local news cameramen captured this event for posterity on film. Curiously, Clay Shaw’s right hand man, Jesse Core, had summoned the cameras.(17)

Prior to this incident and just after the Canal Street demonstration, Oswald received a visitor at his home. Carlos Quiroga was a mutual associate of both Carlos Bringuier and Sergio Arcacha. Bringuier stated he sent Quiroga to Oswald’s home in an effort to "infiltrate" Oswald’s communist cell. According to Bringuier, Quiroga brought with him a couple of the sheets Oswald had dropped on Canal Street. But there are two reasons why this incident is suspicious. First, both Bringuier and Quiroga lied to the Warren Commission by telling them this event occurred after the Trade Mart demonstration.(18) Secondly, Oswald’s landlady, Mrs. Garner observed Quiroga when he arrived at the Oswald home. According to Garner, Quiroga did not have one or two "Hands Off Cuba" sheets, but rather a stack five to six inches thick.(19) As journalists Ray and Mary La Fontaine and others have noted, it seems more likely Quiroga was delivering the pamphlets rather than attempting to infiltrate the FPCC. In fact, Quiroga was given a polygraph exam by Garrison’s office and sent the needle off the chart when he answered "No" to the question, "You have said you tried to infiltrate Oswald’s "organization." Isn’t it a fact that you knew that his "Fair Play for Cuba" activities were merely a cover?"(20)

So what was Oswald’s purpose in using the 544 Camp address? Was he trying to embarrass the notoriously right-wing Banister? Or was he in fact an operative in the Banister cell? There is compelling evidence that strongly indicates the latter.

Oswald and 544 Camp Street

Delphine Roberts, Banister’s longtime secretary, mistress and confidante, revealed to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and later to British journalist, Anthony Summers, that Oswald walked into Banister’s office sometime in 1963. He was given a form to fill out as one of Banister’s "agents."(21) After Oswald filled out the form, he met with Banister behind closed doors. According to Roberts, "Oswald came back a number of times. He seemed to be on familiar terms with Banister and with the office. As I understood it he had use of an office on the second floor, above the main office where we worked...Mr. Banister brought me upstairs, and in the office above I saw various writings stuck up on the wall pertaining to Cuba. There were various leaflets up there pertaining to Fair Play for Cuba."(22) Roberts’ daughter, also named Delphine, told Summers that she and a photographer friend also saw Oswald at Banister’s on occasion.(23) Further corroboration of Oswald’s second floor offices comes from former Banister associate Bill Nitschke. In a 1967 interview with a New Orleans States Item reporter, Nitschke revealed that sometime before the Kennedy assassination, he visited Banister’s office and the second floor anterooms. Nitschke recalled seeing crudely lettered placards that he believed had something to do with Castro. He told the States Item that "it didn’t make any sense to me how Guy got tied up to those signs."(24) As a side note, Nitschke also recalled Delphine Roberts telling him that Banister, Ferrie, and sometime Banister operative and pilot, Hugh Ward, were all involved in running guns to Miami and other places.(25)

Dan Campbell, an ex-Marine that worked for Banister infiltrating left-wing groups on college campuses confirmed the gunrunning, recalling that "Banister was a bagman for the CIA and was running guns to Alpha 66 in Miami."(26) Campbell also assisted Banister in small arms training for the Cubans and received $50 per week for his services.(27) Campbell’s recollection of Banister is telling. He describes Banister as "one of the most frighteningly violent persons I have ever known."(28) The Banister menagerie he added "were the worst kind of fanatics."(29) Campbell also remembered one day when he was in Banister’s office and a young man came in and used the phone. "I knew he was a Marine from his bearing and speech pattern the minute he walked into 544 Camp Street," he recalled.(30) The next time he saw this young man was when his picture was on television as the accused assassin of President Kennedy. Interestingly, Campbell also recalled seeing Oswald’s buddy from his Marine Corps days, Kerry Thornley, pop in and out of Banister’s office.(31) Strangely enough on the day Kennedy was shot Thornley was with Allen Campbell, Dan’s brother.(32) Allen, like his brother, also worked for Banister. On one of the days Oswald was handing out his leaflets, Allen remembered Delphine Roberts returning to the office and complaining to Banister that "that young man is passing out pro-Castro leaflets in the street."(33) Allen recalled Banister’s reaction was calm, "Don’t worry about him. He’s a nervous fellow, he’s confused. He’s with us, he’s associated with the office."(34) This cavalier attitude on the part of Banister was confirmed by George Higginbotham. Like the Campbells, Higginbotham was also assigned to infiltrate supposed communist groups. Banister even went as far as providing him with false credentials. Higginbotham remembered bringing the Oswald leafleting incident to Banister’s attention. Banister’s response was, "Cool it. One of them is one of mine."(35)

Former Banister investigator Vernon Gerdes, who later went to work for New Orleans attorney Stephen Plotkin, told Plotkin that he had seen Oswald and Ferrie together with Banister.(36) Plotkin would later tell an attorney for Clay Shaw that he considered Gerdes "reliable."(37)

William Gaudet, a twenty-year CIA veteran who worked out of the International Trade Mart, told Anthony Summers that, "I did see Oswald discussing various things with Banister at the time," and added, "I suppose you are looking into Ferrie. He was with Oswald."(38) Finally Gaudet said, "Another vital person is Sergio Arcacha Smith. I know he knew Oswald and knows more about the Kennedy affair than he ever admitted."(39)

Jack Martin, who we saw earlier suffered at the hands of Banister, provided a statement to the New Orleans DA’s office that he had seen Oswald with Ferrie in Banister’s office in the summer of 1963.(40) Additionally, Banister’s wife recalled seeing Fair Play for Cuba sheets in Banister’s office.(41)

Infiltrating left-wing groups with his agents provocateur was a particular specialty of Banister’s. Tommy Baumler, a New Orleans attorney, revealed in a 1981 interview that he too worked for Guy Banister, joining left-wing college groups and reporting back to Banister. Baumler also recalled that "Clay Shaw, Banister, and Guy Johnson made up the intelligence apparatus in New Orleans."(42) Johnson was a former Lieutenant Commander in the Navy in World War II and a former assistant D.A. in New Orleans from 1938-1942. In 1950, he was granted a Top Secret clearance by the Office of Naval Intelligence, while working out of the office of the Chief of Naval Operations.(43) Johnson later went into private practice as an attorney, but it is not known when his intelligence career ended.(44) In a letter from Banister to Johnson, dated January 5, 1959, Banister discusses the possibility of hiring a candidate for his infiltration squad. Banister writes:

We have discussed the advisability as well as the feasibility of establishing certain channels of information and it is possible that the above named individual will qualify...

Mr. Bergeron, in the course of conversation, advised that he served in the Air Force and had just gotten out and entered school. He said he served in the security section and has atomic clearance.

I mentioned, during the conversation, the United States National Students Association and he said that he heard someone mention this organization on Channel 12 (WJMR-TV, the Citizen’s Council Program) and said that he had checked and found that there is a small organization on the campus.

If it is satisfactory and you can determine this individual’s reliability, I will set him up to begin work with me and pass on to you any information he produces.(45)

Finally, evidence of Oswald’s association with the Banister clique, may have come from the CIA itself. In an intriguing, but incomplete, memo from April 9, 1968, someone at the CIA wrote:

Moreover, until then, there had been no secret as far as anyone was concerned in regard to the fact that Banister, David William Ferrie and Subj. [Oswald] may have known or been acquainted with one another.(46)

It should be noted however, that this is the exact same wording from an affidavit from Jack Martin. So it seems the CIA was quoting from Martin’s affidavit in this memo rather than stating their own conclusion.(47)

At the end of August Oswald made a memorable appearance in Clinton, Louisiana, which we will examine in detail in Chapter 11. In September Oswald left from New Orleans for Texas, by way of Mexico City. He eventually found work at the Texas School Book Depository and settled in Dallas to await the denouement to this strange play, whose opening act may have begun that summer in New Orleans.

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