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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Fletcher Prouty's Interview with the ARRB, Part Eight

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Was General Edward Lansdale in one of the pictures of the three tramps?

Allegation #9: General Edward Lansdale was in Dealey Plaza on the afternoon of the assassination, and can be seen in one of the "tramp" photos. (Prouty has made this statement at several public conventions, and repeats it during the interview.)

Here is the "tramp" photograph in question:

The man with his back to us is supposedly General Edward Lansdale.

Wray: Let me ask you a couple of other questions about the assassination. I didn't read this in your book; I've sort of heard this indirectly from other researchers, that you are quoted -- or alleged by other researchers -- that you have ... they cite you as having said that Lansdale was in Dealey Plaza.

Prouty: Yeah, the picture ... it's in Garrison's book.

Wray: This is the photograph ... which photograph are you referring to? --

Prouty: Tramps picture, chronologically, number one. You know; have you seen -- you've seen the series. The first one, he's going by the garage -- the iron door of the garage there, at the corner of the building, and right after the shooting, with police in front, and policemen in back; and they don't have handcuffs on. He says [sic], "I don't understand that." We were looking at the pictures, and I said, "Geez -- the police uniforms aren't the same thing." We were just critiquing the photographs. And these were big press photographs, 8 x 10's, clear ... [it was] the first time I had seen him. And I didn't tell Dick, because I wasn't sure ... but the guy walking past the tramps -- the tramps are going this way, (indicating a direction to his right), with the police and everything else -- and walking past them, by himself, is one man. And he's not looking at them ... he's just walking right along. And I thought, "That's strange. One of the greatest events in the world, and the guy isn't even looking at the police." And then I looked at him more carefully, and [it was a man] I'd known for years. It was Lansdale. So, I got a copy of that set from Sprague [researcher Richard E. Sprague]. And I took that photo, without the others, and I sent it to a few selected people. And I got answers back -- like, one of them, it was most interesting -- said in the first sentence, 'What the he -- and I didn't say who was in it; I just said, 'Look at this tramps thing. Have you ever seen the police take these guys in [with] no handcuffs on, and different uniforms. Doesn't that indicate some kind of role-playing, instead of the real situation? Something's wrong down there in Dallas." His first sentence was "By God, what's Lansdale doing there?" Just like that. He saw like I ... we knew the guy very well ... you sit in the same goddamn office with a guy, you know him.

When the ARRB asked who this person might be, Prouty demurred:

Wray: Do you recall who that person was that made that statement?

Prouty: No. That's a personal mater. A personal letter.

Lansdale was a neighbor of Prouty's. Perhaps they discussed this:

Barger: Did you have the opportunity ever -- you had mentioned that Lansdale had been a neighbor of yours until his death -- did you ever have that opportunity, or decide to take the opportunity, to discuss this with Lansdale, or ask him about it at all?

Prouty: No, I figured it's his business. Because my idea -- now this is nothing more than personal -- he was very good at the 'C and D' role. He was very good at the scenario role. So I figured, if he's there, he's on duty. And if he's on duty, [then] he's doing a scenario. Well, the scenario were the tramps. [sic] See? I mean, any other guy ... the tramps were never picked up by anybody. I mean, what a silly thing to run in the middle of the show. But that's what they were doing. You see, it's to distract ... and Howard Hunt has had to admit he was there ... it's the same kind of -- and I'm quite sure others were there. Well, that's a paid business. But: who puts them in the business on that day at that place? Now, that's beyond any ... I just don't know. But there's no question about the guy.

What about other people?

Wray: Do you know of anyone we could talk to, to confirm this independently?

Prouty: Well, people that knew him.

Wray: But you're talking there about looking at the photograph again.

Prouty: Yeah.

Wray: Do you know anyone who was an associate of Lansdale around that time ... I would guess what I'm talking -- what I'm asking here is someone who could confirm that he was away from office, or might have been aware of his activities, who might be able to describe them to us?

Prouty: Well, you have ... you have Oliver Stone's book that came out right after the movie --

Wray/Barger: Yes.

Prouty: -- called, "The Book of the Film"? It's in there. All the details. Lansdale was in Ft. Worth in the same hotel that Kennedy was in a week later; he was there a week before Kennedy was there. That's on the record ... See, he had retired his role as [an] Air Force officer in October of '63. But he was still working -- when I was a banker in Arlington, I'd see him going in and out the CIA building across the street ... later in the sixties. So he must have stayed on duty with the CIA. And I used to see him at social ... we never talked business, but ... our wives knew each other ... but we didn't talk business.

Perhaps there are some documents about Lansdale's role?

Wray: Are you aware of any documents that might exist that would somehow describe Lansdale's role in this? Or speculate of such documents? Where we might find them, or ...

Prouty: You would never find them. They would not ... whenever you get into that kind of thing -- like, when I would be told .... I'd be called into see General Cabell, and General Cabell and I would go and see Mr. Dulles, and Mr. Dulles would tell me what he wanted done, and I'd go back. End. No notes, nothing. We didn't do it with that kind of work. No documents all over the place. In fact, I worry about it ... I'll be frank with you fellows, because this is a business you're in. I worry about the validity of documents you find, because I don't think they ever existed, frankly. I mean, I did too much of this stuff myself ... I had secretaries that I trained carefully on exactly what to do with the documents as soon as I got done with them. They never even saw the files.

Wray: Would there even be records like travel orders, or anything like that, or would those have been melted routinely?

Prouty: Well, they seemed to ... this material that Stone put together -- which I was surprised to see, because I didn't know he was that interested in it -- there must have been records, he picked them ... of course, he was on a -- supposedly, anyway, a personal vacation. He was going out to see his son, or something like that. Or a friend in Arizona, and he never got there. But he got as far as Texas, that kind of stuff. I mean, you've seen it; you've read the book, I'm sure. Well ... I was surprised when I saw that except [that] I'd seen him in the picture, so I figured he must have stayed in the same hotel.

Result or conclusion by ARRB: Prouty relies on an unofficial source (Oliver Stone's book) to "prove" Lansdale's presence in Dallas the week before the assassination, and has no corroboration whatsoever of Lansdale's presence in Dallas that day. While a search of travel records from Lansdale's office or his personnel file might verify or disprove this allegation, the small likelihood of successfully finding such records, as well as the relative unimportance of these records, the fact that finding them might not clarify much of anything, and the limited amount of time and resources that ARRB has remaining would indicate that these records are not worth checking out. No action is recommended.

As you can see, Prouty did not convince the ARRB.

Prouty did convince Oliver Stone.

In JFK, Mr. X [Prouty] talks about his boss General Y, and you briefly see his desk nameplate which reads "M/GEN. E.G."

A still from the film JFK showing the nameplate of General Lansdale.

Here is the scene from JFK: The Documented Screenplay:

Jim Garrison: ... and your General?

X: ... got promoted to two stars, but he was never military, you know, always CIA. Went to Vietnam, lost his credibility when we got beat over there, retired, lives in Virginia. I say hello to him when I see him at the supermarket ...

Jim Garrison: Ever ask him?

X: You never ask a spook a question. No point. He'll never give a straight answer. General Y still thinks of himself as the handsome young warrior who loved this country but loved the concept of war more.

Jim Garrison: His name?

X: Does it matter? Another technician. But an interesting thing -- he was there that day in Dealey Plaza. You know how I know? (Jim shakes his head) That picture of yours. The hoboes .... you never looked deep enough...

General Y in photo: The idea for this scene has its roots in a story Col. Prouty has told many times that his former colleague, celebrated CIA man General Edward G. Lansdale, is seen from the back in one of the "hobo" photos. We decided to check on Lansdale's movements in November, 1963. What we found among Lansdale's papers at the Hoover Institute piques our curiosity even more.

Lansdale was "retired" from the Air Force in October 1963. He then went to visit his son in Arizona, driving by way of Texas. He wrote to a friend in San Antonio, saying he'd stop by on the way; by November 14, he still hadn't arrived at the friend's house. Among the papers from this period was a claim check from the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, the hotel that the presidential entourage stayed at the night before the assassination. There was no identifying mark on the claim check and we could not track down the guest records of the hotel (which had many different owners since 1963). Lansdale was furious with J.F.K. for two reasons: (1) he did not get the hoped-for-ambassadorship to Vietnam and was subsequently taken off the Vietnam project to work on Operation Mongoose and (2) his good friend, South Vietnamese [President} Ngo Dinh Diem, had been killed in a CIA-sanctioned coup in early October. He had masterminded assassination plots for the CIA, could he have done it in Dallas? Of course, we don't know, but it is fascinating to find out he was in Texas that very week.

FLASHBACK TO one of the hobo pictures. Next to the freight entrance of the Book Depository, Y, in a dark suit, is nonchalantly walking past the hoboes, his back to us. The camera closes in on Y.

X: (voice-over) I knew the man 20 years. That's him. The way he walked ... arms at his side, military, the stoop, the haircut, the twisted left hand, the large class ring. What was he doing there? If anyone had asked him, he'd probably say "protection," but I'll tell you I think he was giving some sort of "okay" signal to those hoboes -- they're about to get booked and he's telling 'em it's going to be okay, they're covered. And in fact they were -- you never heard of them again.

Jim Garrison: ... some story ... the whole thing. It's like it never happened.

X: It never did (he smiles tartly)

The irony of the last two lines!

Oliver Stone's fact checkers were unable to find any evidence that Lansdale was in Dallas. He actually just went to visit his son.

I guess he combined business and pleasure, right? Kill JFK while visiting the family. Makes sense, no?

Prouty claims that General Victor Krulak is one of the people who also believed that Lansdale is in the photo. Is this letter authentic? I have my doubts. Was Krulak pulling Prouty's leg? I think a possible factor is that Krulak despised Lansdale. Here is a quote from page 235 in Cecil B. Currey's biography of Lansdale:

"Relations between Krulak and Lansdale were never good and soon turned sour. Krulak despised sharing power with Lansdale and began to undercut him at every turn. Lansdale fared so badly in these exchanges over the next several months that Krulak's allies referred to him as a "paper tiger." The more power that Krulak gained, the less contact Lansdale was allowed with Vietnam."

Another passage from page 255:

"His enemies, including General Krulak, finally succeeded in their sabotage. "The mice finally gnawed through the woodwork and got my office 'disestablished' on 30 September," he wrote a friend. Even his position as assistant to the secretary of defense for special operations was simply abolished."

And on the next page:

"That "disestablishment" was a little more vindictive than Lansdale admitted. Savaged and undercut by Krulak, prevented from participation in Vietnam affairs, Lansdale turned to work with Latin America."

Prouty thought that Lansdale was the mastermind of the assassination. Here is an excerpt from a letter Prouty sent to Harold Weisberg:

And here is page 283 of Prouty's book, JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy:

These weren't tramps. They were "dangerous presidential killers."

But wait, there's more!

Here is a gem from the Harold Weisberg Archive. It's a letter from assassination buff Jack White and an article with material from Prouty. Lansdale wasn't the only military bigshot in Dealey Plaza, Lucien Conein (an army lieutenant and CIA covert officer) was there as well:

No shortage of insanity in this article:

"... In keeping with our work, Lansdale's and mine, I have a good idea of what he was doing in Dallas. It is a most professional and demanding type of work. He was using certain of his highly trained MONGOOSE people to perform roles in Dallas and he was orchestrating the whole thing. In such a capacity he may or may not have had a thing to do with the shooting team. They are always "faceless", highly professional and from out of the country. He simply created the "smoke screen" under which the professionals worked. In fact, the actual smoke screen on the Grassy Knoll, the Umbrella Man, the Tramps, and other such events are among the things he would have been directing. The phoney [sic] police and Secret Service men would have been his actors. Ed was very good at such things and had a world-wide reputation for it. Note: people have noted that Ed had eyeglasses on in the photo. They are more likely his ear-pieces for radio transmission. The cops are wearing normal (hearing) devices."

The man in the photo does have eyeglasses. I have yet to see a picture of Lansdale with glasses. So Prouty's solution is that they are really "ear-pieces for radio transmission."

Here is a picture of Edward Lansdale from 1963:

"Prouty conveniently waited until after Lansdale’s death in 1987 before naming his old boss as the mastermind of a plot to kill Kennedy. His evidence? A photo taken in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, showing a man in a suit walking by three tramps who are being escorted by police officers. The man is visible only from the rear and wears a ring (which Lansdale’s son told me he never did). But Prouty claimed to recognize his old boss."

Here is Prouty's paragraph on Conein:

"...It is my belief (unverified to date with other associates) that the fellow in the white hard-hat who is shown in the Altgens photo, the man almost in line with a pole and to the left of the Depository door rea, with his arms folded over his chest and staring, not at the President, but at the shooter in the Dal-Tex building, is Lou Conein. He, (E. Howard) Hunt and Lansdale frequently worked together on major projects and we know they were in Dallas."

Bonus Material:

Cecil B. Currey's book, Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American, has this footnote on page 384:

"Prouty later book, The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, gives an indication of his view of Company activities. He did not hold Lansdale in high esteem. In turn, Lansdale had his own view of Prouty. "I continue to be surprised," Lansdale once wrote, "to find Fletcher Prouty quoted as an authority. He was my 'cross to bear' before Dan Ellsberg came along. Fletch is the one who blandly told the London Times that I'd invented the Huk Rebellion, hired a few actors in Manila, bussed them out to Pampanga, and staged the whole thing as a press agentry to get RM {Magsaysay] elected. He was a good pilot of prop-driven aircraft, but had such a heavy dose of paranoia about CIA when he was on my staff that I kicked him back to the Air Force. He was one of those who thought I was secretly running the Agency from the Pentagon, despite all proof otherwise." He elsewhere commented on Prouty's "whacky imagination" and lamented that "I sure pick 'em, huh?" See letters Edward Lansdale to C.T.R. Bohannan, 2 March, 2 July 1975, Bohannan Collection."

Previous Relevant Posts on Fletcher Prouty

A summary document of his interview with the ARRB

Another summary document from the ARRB about Prouty's allegations and army intelligence.

Prouty had some very unsavory relationships with antisemitic groups.

Was Fletcher Prouty's Trip to Antarctica Unusual?

Regarding Christchurch, New Zealand and The Christchurch Star

Regarding the 112th Intelligence Corps (INTC) Group and/or the 316th INTC Detachment

Did Prouty Keep the notes from his supposed phone call about army intelligence?

Prouty's experience with military presidential protection duties

Flagrant failure by the Secret Service to take minimum precautions?

Did Lee Harvey Oswald participate in a covert program in Indonesia in 1958?

Previous Relevant Posts on the Tramps

Jim Garrison holds a conference in New Orleans with his investigators and a few "buffs" and the tramps come up for discussion.

An overview of the three tramps and the Garrison investigation.

A witness comes forward who saw Oswald with the three tramps in New Orleans!

Was Fred Crisman one of the three tramps?


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Fred Litwin
Fred Litwin
Jul 19, 2021

We have the arrest records of the tramps. They were hoboes. As I pointed out, in an earlier post, the policeman in front of the escort, had an ear infection, and he had cotton in his ear.

Jul 19, 2021
Replying to

Thanks for clearing that up. The mystification about the tramps could have been resolved with a letter to Computers & Automation after Sprague's article appeared in 1970, as could Sprague's misunderstanding about the officer. I assume the identities of the tramps were established and that "hoboes" was not just an assumption by the arresting officer(s).


Jul 19, 2021

I think it was Dick Sprague who first publicised photos of the the tramps, in his 1970 Computers and Automation article. He found it significant that one of the cops was wearing an earpiece, which he said was not standard DPD equipment. One of the main points of interest for researchers was the neat and trim appearance of the tramps and the clean appearance of their clothes. The answer appeared to be that the tramps had spent the previous night in a local hostel, where they had showered and shaved and been supplied with clean clothes from a local charity shop. Police had been alerted when they were seen boarding a train, and the train was stopped for their arr…

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