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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Anatomy of a James DiEugenio Citation, Part Two

My last blog post looked at James DiEugenio's citation that Lee Harvey Oswald was at an anti-Castro Cuban training camp in the summer of 1963. The training camp was mentioned in this citation:

The relationship of David Ferrie in the CAP with Oswald, and Ferrie’s anti-Castro activities are dealt with in William Davy’s Let Justice Be Done, pp 3–10, 25–33; information about Oswald being at the training camp is on p. 30; that information is also noted in Dick Russell’s book The Man Who Knew Too Much (p. 329). Ferrie’s activities are sketched in Deadly Secrets by Warren Hinckle and William Turner (pp. 232–33). Ferrie’s life and career is also written about in HSCA, vol. 10 (pp. 105–114).

As I noted in my post the citation for the training camp in Dick Russell's book was sourced from a Colonel William Bishop who was an incredible fabulist. The second source, cited from Davy's book Let Justice Be Done, was Robert Tanenbaum who supposedly saw a movie with Oswald, Ferrie and Banister at the training camp. That film has since disappeared.

So, I return to a short excerpt from my book about the training camp: (page 166 of On The Trail of Delusion)

In the summer of 1963, about twenty anti-Castro Cubans trained at a small camp. There were only a couple of rifles to practice assembly and disassembly, and no actual shooting occurred. Food was scarce, the men complained bitterly, and after a little more than a month, the Cubans were all sent back to Miami.

I think my paragraph is completely accurate.

Another key question to address is whether David Ferrie was at the training camp.

Like Oswald, there is absolutely NO evidence that David Ferrie was there.

I checked Hinckle and Turner's book, Deadly Secrets (pages 232 - 233). They write that Ferrie "became an instructor at the Lake Pontchartrain camp when it opened." Unfortunately, there is no footnote for this allegation.

Here is what Davy says about the training camp: (page 29-30)

One of the camps was located across Lake Pontchartrain on land owned by Bill McLaney, a mob-related gambler, who, along with his brother Mike (an acquaintance of Jack Ruby), had once operated casinos in Cuba. On President Kennedy's order, the FBI raided a house near this camp on July 31, 1963. Several people were arrested, a cache of munitions and explosives was confiscated and the nearby camp was shut down. Needless to say this did not further endear Kennedy to the anti-Castro movement. Ferrie was a frequent presence at this camp often drilling the Cubans and mercenaries in guerilla warfare.

Davy is conflating two different things. First, there was an FBI raid on a house in July of 1963 owned by Bill McLaney. There was also a training camp that was nearby, but I have seen no evidence that that had any relationship to the house owned by McLaney.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 2, 1963

What was the training camp all about?

Please note that that I am posting in this article all the major Garrison documents I have about the training camp. Some of these documents have never before been posted on the internet. The documents clearly show that there was no contemporaneous evidence that Ferrie or Oswald was there.

In early January 1967, Garrison sent out a memo regarding investigative assignments. Al Oser was tasked into looking into several anti-Castro Cubans and finding out more about a supposed training camp near Covington.

Here is his first report:

So, Carlos Bringuier told Oser that Ricardo Davis was "the purchasing officer of the camp."

Here is Oser's second report:

Here is Oser's third report:

Oser went out to the McLaney house and found an air strip and an old firing range which had been built 20 years earlier.

Here is Oser's fourth report:

Oser went back to the firing range to see if he could find any 6.5 mm., 38 cal. and other types of ammunition. Milton Brener, author of The Garrison Case, tells a funny story about the search for ammunition: (page 71)

Bill Gurvich was surprised one morning to see the assistant, Alvin Oser, his face covered with mosquito bites, tramping through the D.A.'s office with hip boots.

"Where have you been?" asked Gurvich?

"In the g-d- swamp," replied Oser.

"Doing what?" asked the bewildered Gurvich.

"Looking for bullets," responded Oser, showing a sack full of spent cartridges.

"What bullets? queried Gurvich.

"Oswald's," responded Oser.

Gurvich was not at all sure he understood. He determined from Garrison that Oser's report was, indeed, accurate, and the D.A. patiently explained to Gurvich that he was looking for a 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano bullet, one that would have been fired from a weapon of the type used by Oswald in the assassination of Kennedy.

Gurvich was incredulous. "What are you going to do with it when you find it, Jim?" asked the investigator. "That stuff was Army surplus and plenty of people have 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano rifles and ammunition. Even if you find one," said Gurvich, "what do you have to compare it with? You don't have Oswald's gun."

"You just let me find one," said Garrison. Several members of his staff patiently examined each of the spent cartridges under magnifying glasses for marks which would identify it as coming from a rifle similar to Oswald's.

Shortly after the incident, Garrison approached Gurvich and advised that if a cartridge from a 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano could not be found on the ground, that perhaps one might be buried under the ground.

"Can you get a metal detector for us?" asked Garrison.

"Of course," responded Gurvich.

"You can?" asked the delighted and admiring Garrison. "How long will it take you?"

"About twenty minutes," said the investigator as he thumbed through the yellow pages of the New Orleans Telephone Directory to the listing of rental businesses.

"Can you show us how to work it?" asked Garrison.

"Sure," responded Gurvich. "You turn on the switch and start walking."

No 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano cartridge was ever found.

By January 25, 1967, Garrison had a pretty good idea of what was going on. Here is an excerpt from the Richard Billings diary of January 25, 1967:

Giant has talked to two Cubans who convinced there was a camp set up to plan and train for Castro assassination . . . Camp was north of lake . . . A spy was found in camp in August, driven to Miami and questioned by Laureano Batista . . . CDP tried to turn spy over to FBI, but Bureau had no jurisdiction . . . Giant sends Fowler to see Batista . . . Another name attached to camp: Ledovido Interam . . . Fowler points out there were two camps -- one CDP where the spy, Fernando Fernandez, was caught; another run by ultra conservatives . . . Turns out CDP camp didn't break up when spy was caught (claim they knew he was there all the time and kept him for protection against other infiltrators) . . . Camp broke up because of raid on conservative camp . . . Davis ordered departure . . . CDP camp on land owned by Redemptorist Fathers, later located by Oser with help of Angel Vega, one of Cubans there . . . Ultra conservative camp reportedly on land owned by McLaney (see report on raid) . . .

Alberto Fowler was active in the fight against Castro, and he was also aiding the Jim Garrison investigation.

The anti-Castro Cuban training camp was separate from the McLaney arms cache.

I don't have Oser's fifth report, but here is his sixth report:

On February 5, 1967, James Alcock, second-in-command to Jim Garrison, interviewed Angel Vega who attended the training camp run by the Christian Democratic Movement:

There were twenty Cubans who trained at the camp. Note the condition of the camp -- "the house and grounds where they stayed were completely run down, giving the appearance they had not been inhabited for quite a while." All they had were two or three old Springfield rifles and one M-1 carbine. Vega told Alcock that "No shooting whatsoever took place at the camp."

He never heard of David Ferrie or Sergio Arcacha Smith.

Alcock also met with Laureano Batista who was an officer in the Christian Democratic Movement and who knew a lot about the training camp.

Only about 20 people attended the camp. They did discover a pro-Castro spy at the camp. Batista claimed they shut down the camp once the FBI found the arms cache.

The McLaney house was located in Mandeville, and just to east is Lacombe which is where the MDC training camp was located.

Alcock spoke to Frank de la Barre on the phone in March 1967. Davis did not tell Frank de la Barre the true purpose of the camp, which was to be built on his family's property.

Al Oser then met Angel Vega in New Orleans who took him to what remained of the training camp.

Vega took Oser to the exact location of the camp, but the house had been painted and cleaned up by a new owner. Vega claimed the camp broke up two days before news of the McLaney explosives raid. While Vega did hear some gunshots while he was at the camp, they actually did not come from the camp itself.

Finally, on March 22, 1967, Bill Gurvich spoke to Ricardo Davis in Houston, Texas.

Davis tells the cover story of bringing in men for his lumber company. He does say that "Ferrie had nothing to do with this camp." Gurvich notes at the end of his memo that Davis "was somewhat a bragger."

He also tells the story of being introduced to Lee Harvey Oswald by Carlos Quiroga. Here is a relevant excerpt from an FBI report:

In June, the Shaw defense team interviewed Laureano Batista:

Note that "Davis never reported Lee Harvey Oswald, David Ferrie or Clay Shaw as being at any training camp."

Davis claims that 19 men were sent to the MDC camp near Lacombe.

Carlos Quiroga heard there was a pro-Castro spy at the camp

The Shaw defense team also interviewed Carlos Bringuier about the training camp. I don't have a date for this memo:

Davis told Bringuier that David Ferrie had nothing to do with the training camp.

Bringuier said he knew of no connection that OSWALD had with any Cubans, and that OSWALD made no mention of any Cuban training camp and gave no indication of knowing about a training camp or of being acquainted with any Cubans.

Another source on the training camp comes from Stephen Roy, aka Blackburst. He interviewed Victor Paneque, who was an MDC trainer at the camp:

My principal source would be an interview I conducted with Victor Paneque, who was the MDC trainer at the camp. I will find the tape and transcribe the relevant portion. My notes indicate that Paneque did all the training, did not ever see Ferrie at the camp, and ascertained (in 1967) that nobody else there had seen him.
In NODA interviews, Laureano Batista Falla (2/5/67) said there were no English-speaking people at the camp except Ricardo Davis and Fernando Fernandez. Angel Vega (2/5/67) said he never saw Arcacha or "Lindbergh" (NODA code name for Ferrie) at the camp, that the only other Americans he saw there were the de la Barres.
Ricardo Davis, who helped organize the MDC camp, gave a joint interview with Arcacha to Holland McCombs of Time (3/21/67). Both told McCombs that "Arcacha and Ferrie did not run any training camp, that Ferrie did not run any training camp..., that Ferrie did not concentrate on any one thing long enough to operate a training camp."
While Quiroga and Bringuier were not directly involved in the MDC camp, they both had heard that Ferrie had nothing to do with it. And there are other bits of evidence to this effect, which I will dig up.

The best history of the training camp comes Milton Brener's book, The Garrison Case: (page 70)

The camp was beset by problems during its short existence. On one occasion, a pro-Castro spy was discovered. The local Cuban community was much chagrined to learn that there was no crime for which a pro-Castro sympathizer would be punished for spying operations in the midst of an anti-Castro group. An additional group of about ten Cubans arriving from Miami were the subject of an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation when the automobiles in which they were traveling had broken down on one of the highways leading out of New Orleans. Upon hearing Davis's story to the F.B.I. of the purpose of their venture, the Cubans were furious. They had been told that they were to train to liberate their homeland. They had never been told of any cover story and were not interested in cutting timber. As a final straw, at the end of July the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered the cache of explosives at another location in St. Tammany Parish. Neighbors of the De La Barre property, already jittery due to the presence of the Cubans, suspected a connection between the cache of explosives and the strange operations on the De La Barre property and caused further inquiry. By August 1st every one of the Cubans had been sent back to Miami by bus. Thus ended the abortive attempt to locate a Cuban training camp near New Orleans.

The Garrison investigation uncovered no evidence that David Ferrie or Lee Harvey Oswald was there.

The only evidence that Oswald was there comes from the allegations of Robert Tanenbaum and Robert D. Morrow that they saw films of Oswald at the camp. The film produced by Morrow didn't show Oswald, and the the film that Tanenbaum says shows Oswald has never turned up.

I will conclude with a paragraph from Stephen Roy's unpublished biography of David Ferrie, Perfect Villain: David Ferrie and the JFK Mystery:

Because of his arrests, Ferrie was ostracized by the Cubans. Houma was a last gasp, but to no avail. He was still persona non grata. And so, with little fanfare, David Ferrie’s involvement with the Frente Revolucionario Democratico quietly ended. While the sources on Ferrie’s anti-Castro activities from, at the earliest, summer 1959 to about October 1961 are many, detailed, mutually corroborative and reliable, there are no reliable sources for significant anti-Castro activities on his part after October 1961. This is an important point missed in most studies of Ferrie’s life and career. The single thread of Al Landry’s runaway, pulled by New Orleans area police, led to the virtual collapse of Ferrie’s life: his job, his Falcon group, his position in the anti-Castro group and his standing in the community. While he would love to have continued on in the fight against Castro, nobody would have him. What scattered reports there are of anti-Castro activities by Ferrie in 1962 and 1963, such as running training camps, all come from sources of questionable reliability and are impossible to corroborate. Ferrie had other battles to fight.

For a brief period, Jim Garrison thought the answer to the JFK assassination was within the anti-Castro community.

Nothing panned out, and Garrison realized there were far shinier targets out there.


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