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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Fletcher Prouty's Interview with the ARRB, Part Two

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Regarding Christchurch, New Zealand and The Christchurch Star

Here is an excerpt from the screenplay for JFK:

X (voice-0ver) It wasn't until I was on my way back to New Zealand that I read of the President's murder. Now, Oswald was charged at 7 P.M. Dallas time with Tippit's murder. That was 2 in the afternoon the next day New Zealand time, but already the papers had the entire history of an unknown 24-year-old man, Oswald -- a studio picture, detailed biographical date, Russian information -- and were pretty sure of the fact he'd killed the President alone, although it took them four more hours to charge him with the murder in Texas. It felt as if, well, a cover story was being put out like we would in a black op.

Here are a few excerpts from Prouty's interview with the ARRB:

Prouty: Well, we left there [Antarctica] and came back to New Zealand on the way back home, and we were in New Zealand on, I think, the 21st, 22nd and 23rd, and then maybe the 24th of November. Among the party that I was the escort officer for was a Congressman. And he and I were getting ready to go down and meet each other for breakfast. And I had already gotten to the table, had a cup of coffee, and was waiting for him to come down; and the PA system in the hotel said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the BBC have announced that President Kennedy has been shot ... [then an] interval ... dead, in Dallas." Just like that, that's all we heard. Sheez! I put my cup down, and on the stairs, coming down into the dining room, was the Congressman. He came up to the table, and he said, "Did you hear what I just heard?" I said, "Of course." The PA system came back on again, and said, "We're very sorry, that's all the news we have; we just picked it up from the BBC, but we'll see what we can do." Well, you know, of course, what we wanted to do was learn more -- what's going on? And the people outside this nice hotel -- it was like a lanai out there, a big patio -- had a flagpole, with a British flag on it. People just got up from breakfast, without any words being spoken or anything, and they went outside and stood around that flagpole, for lack of ... and a few people knew that the man with me was a congressman. And the manager of the hotel came over and stood beside him, and he said, "We're going to lower the flag for your president." And as I understood it, that was the first time the British flag was every lowered for anybody except an Englishman. [It was an] interesting little thing, that happened all by itself; a couple of hundred people standing there. Of course, November down there, it's springtime. We didn't have any news. That was all the news we had. So, during the morning, we wondered what was going on ... finally, we got to a radio and got some news, but it was still all broken. And [we] went out on the street of Christchurch, New Zealand, and I got a newspaper. (Pulls out newspaper) And this is how I learned about it. And since I had some experience in the business, within about fifteen minutes, I knew how it happened. Because there' some things in this picture, and what's in the paper ... and you don't have to go any further. Too bad the picture's a little blurred here in this thing ... The windows are open; obviously open, in the School Book Depository Building, the famous building. And I turned to the congressman, and I said, "You know, there must be something wrong in Dallas. The Secret Service never allows that. Our military protection people never allow that. I wonder what happened." Then down here, it says, "Three bursts of gunfire, apparently from automatic weapons were heard. Secret Service men immediately unslung their automatic weapons and their pistols." Now, from what you know about that event, what we read in the papers -- have you heard that before? But that's the ... I went to the Library of Congress when I got home. I still had the paper with me. I opened up as many different newspapers as I could get from the same date, and they all had that three bursts of gunfire, and they all had the Secret Service men with their automatic weapons -- two things which the literature have never gotten to [sic] subsequent to the very first printings. Down here --

Wray: -- Excuse me, does that credit a wire service or a source for that story?

Prouty: Oh, of course, Yeah. This is published under NZPA, and AAAP. The AAAP is American Associated Press, but the New Zealand is something -- Press Association, I think; New Zealand Press Association. But they're published ... And in places where they borrowed from others, they put the other, like ... this is NZ ... here's Reuters ... Well, it was all ... it was all made up, because they didn't have any information. They didn't have a correspondent out there. That's what was interesting about it. It's all stuff coming in from outside. After we read it a bit, I got interested in this, because it said, "the arrested man lived in Russia." Now to have that accompany the same news that said three bursts of automatic weapon fire, and the other things, convinced the congressman and myself that, 'geez, they've got this guy, and they've known -- they've already queried him and know who it is.' But they hadn't. We didn't learn till -- it was the next day when they finally arranged [sic] Oswald for the crime, and even at the time, reporters hadn't gotten to him to find out all this background. Where the hell did it come from? Well, of course, I didn't know that till after I got home. Because I believed it. I thought ... you know, I thought they had the guy. But with that kind of stuff in the paper, and then having the sources that I had in the Pentagon, and going to the Library of Congress, the answer to the whole thing is right there. And this is a copy of the paper. I'll leave it with you if you want it. Because, here's the next page ... see, Oliver Stone made it for the movie. But, it's got the stories in it; if you want it just for the hell of it, you're welcome to it.

Wray: Let me ask you this: is this a copy of the newspaper?

Prouty: It's a precise copy of my original. Except, of course, you can see, there are other pages in there ... if you go back to ... see, what they do in the ... in different parts of the film, they would be using different newspapers that day. Like, here's something interesting, the Dallas Morning News is in there.

Wray: So, actually -- I guess my question is, this is not the ... this item I'm holding in my hands is not the thing that you held in New Zealand -- this is a reproduction?

Prouty: A copy of it.

Wray: A reproduction.

Prouty: But done movie-style; on the next page, it's what is it? -- the New Orleans something-or-other-

Barger: The States-Item.

Prouty: And so on. But that's the way the movies do it. But the subject matter is just -- it's a print of the subject matter.

Wray: Right. So what we're really looking at here is a reproduction that actually has on subsequent pages ... are actually the pages -- reproductions of pages from other newspapers, dealing with information or news about the assassination?

Prouty: See, what they did, when they heard how I got my news by going to the Library of Congress, they did the same thing. They went and got the front page of all the papers that were in the library, and then put them all together so you could see them at one time instead of having to sit in the library and pull them all down, and that was the objective of it. They printed hundreds of them.

Barger: If I can interrupt for just a moment, do you recall approximately what time it was that you purchased or got the paper in New Zealand? What time it hit the streets?

Prouty: We heard about the shooting at 6:30 in the morning. I'm quite sure we didn't have the paper before noon. But if it wasn't before noon, it was very close to noontime. And, if you move back eighteen hours, you can figure what it was, US time. But ... it ... in my opinion, it was just before we had lunch. We were on the street, and we heard the guy yelling, you know obviously; [he was] walking in the middle of the street with the papers. And we got it. So it was somewhere in that area. You know, at that time, we didn't think anything complicated. We figured, "Geez, there's the story -- what more will there be?" See, so, we took the paper for what it was. The funny thing is -- well, it isn't in here - really strange coincidence, is ... the day before, we'd been to the horse track, and all the horse race finishes were here. Well, I didn't think anything of that, either; but, I got home, and found out that one of the neighbors had bought the horse that won the big race that day and the day before. And I kept the paper as much to show my neighbor about this beautiful horse he had bought, which became the biggest money winning ... not a trotter -- what's the name? -- pacer, in this country, ever. So, I had two reasons for bringing the paper home, and one of them seemed to be as important as the other: my neighbor and his new horse. But it's not in there of course, it wasn't the part that was copied.

If you check the early reports in newspapers in the United States, you will find that the statement "Three bursts of gunfire, apparently from automatic weapons, were heard," comes from a UPI report. Here is an excerpt from the November 22, 1963 afternoon edition of the Omaha World Herald:

It was an early report, and clearly not right. But Prouty would go on believing it for the rest of his life (more below).

Prouty is unsure as to when he actually bought the newspaper in Christchurch. He said it certainly wasn't before noon...but it was close. It's quite surprising that Prouty could not do the proper math to figure out the proper times frames.

"Prouty creates confusion by maintaining the release of information on Oswald could not occur until Oswald was charged with the crime. Any student of the Kennedy assassination remembers Oswald wasn't charged for many hours and then for the Tippit shooting. He was, however, taken into custody at 1:50 PM. (8:50 AM, New Zealand time.) The Warren Report referencing Dallas Police Chief Jessie Curry's testimony at 12H30, the testimony of reporter Glen King at 15H55 and King's notations in Decker Exhibit four (DE4) shows the press had knowledge Oswald was in custody "within an hour of Oswald's arrest." (10:00 AM, New Zealand time.) In fact, King points out there was a live TV news broadcast concerning Oswald at 3:26 PM (10:26 AM, New Zealand time.)
To me and by Prouty's own admission the newspaper had at least two hours to get the "extra" on the street. To make this perfectly clear, we can convert Dallas events to Prouty's time zone (New Zealand). Kennedy is shot at 7:30 AM. Oswald is taken into custody at 9:00 AM. The press knew of Oswald's being in custody by 10:00 AM, and could start their research on him. King's live TV coverage commenced at 10:26 AM. In essence, the New Zealand newspaper would have from shortly after 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM to get the "Extra" out. Remember an "Extra" is not a complete newspaper. It is a quick compilation of immediate facts on a specific subject. The "Extra" is wrapped around the previous issue."

The New Zealand perspective

The Christchurch Star reported that the Kennedy assassination took place at 7:00 am (New Zealand time), Saturday, 23 November 1963. Oswald was taken into custody at 8:50 am, at first charged with the shooting of Dallas Patrolman J. D. Tippit. The press knew of Oswald’s being in custody by 10 am and could begin gathering information about him. The Christchurch Star was published in the early afternoon.

The Christchurch Star connection

Preoccupation with The Christchurch Star connection had existed since 1963 [I doubt this is true; it all started with Prouty] but intensified with the release in 1992 of Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, which put forward a conspiracy view of the assassination. It used, as part of its evidence, the front page of The Christchurch Star of 23 November 1963.

There were claims that The Christchurch Star coverage contained information which was pre-packaged by conspirators prior to the assassination taking place, and distributed in the United States and then sent out to New Zealand very soon after the event. They say Oswald’s background was reported far too quickly and it must have been a CIA-planted cover story.

An episode in the film features ‘Mr. X’, identified by Oliver Stone later as Air Force Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty (1917 - 2001). Prouty served in the Pentagon and was shown being sent out of the way to Antarctica by those who had planned the assassination. Played by actor Donald Sutherland, Mr. X is seen supposedly buying a copy of The Christchurch Star on the morning of 23 November 1963 at Christchurch Airport.

The Star’s reporting of the assassination

Bob Cotton, Chief Reporter of The Christchurch Star, says that following the release of JFK, The Star received numerous requests from investigative writers, journalists and authors in the United States for copies of the pages of the November 1963 issue. Some conspiracy theorists have made special trips to Christchurch to interview him and there have even been suggestions that The Christchurch Star company was involved. These theories, however, are based on inaccurate assumptions about The Star newspaper’s production.

Bob Cotton was a reporter at the paper at the time and can recall clearly the events of November 1963. He says that even in 1963 global communication was fast and effective, and an assassination of an American President meant that everything and everyone on The Star worked doubly quick. News then came by AAP and various wire services which would have been competing to get the news out to their subscribers.

Photographs were usually wired to Australia, then to Auckland and then to Christchurch. This time, to get the photographs early, some of the geographical links were bypassed through technical ingenuity at The Star. Even so, the paper would not have been published until 1:30 pm or 2:15 — 2:30 pm depending on the edition.

Bob Cotton says that The Star was never published in the morning during his time on the newspaper (from 1958). The JFK character Mr X is not even shown with a genuine Christchurch Star newspaper. He buys a thin-width broadsheet whereas The Christchurch Star was always produced as a full-width broadsheet.

Bob Cotton also explains that every newspaper has a large store of biographical material, and says that Lee Harvey Oswald was not a stranger to the media. Information on him would have been readily available in American newspapers and media offices and would have been sent out quickly. In 1959 there had been much coverage in newspapers about young men defecting to the Soviet Union and Oswald’s defection had been covered in detail in The Washington Post, The Washington Evening Star and The New York Times.

Here is part of the front-page of the Christchurch Star:

Here is the front-page story on Oswald:

Further in his testimony, Prouty brings up the picture of Oswald that appeared in the Christchurch Star:

Prouty: But let's go to who is it [that] told the newspapers that there was a burst of ... that there were three bursts of automatic weapon fire in Dallas. Where did that come from? Who planted that? Or was it the truth? And I think it was probably the truth. I think that one, because it was put so high in the headlines. It was one of these things where a reporter immediately called in, and said, "We heard three bursts of gunfire," and that's probably the truth. But then when they start going down ... unfortunately, in his paper, since it doesn't have the inner pages -- I don't have the inner pages of that Christchurch paper. But there's a picture of Oswald there in a business suit, with a tie on... nobody was able to get that picture that day. Where the hell did that picture -- in fact, Sprague told me he'd never even saw that picture. One of the most famous experts on the pictures of this whole thing. Dick Sprague, never saw that picture until I showed him the Christchurch paper. And even after that, they couldn't find it anywhere. [But] it went around the world in the papers. Where'd it come from? Who planted that? Well, it's the cover story; that's not the crime. There's a very serious problem --

And, here is the picture of Lee Harvey Oswald that appeared inside the paper:

Where did they get this picture from? Well, from the 1959 UPI story about his defection:

Augusta Chronicle, November 16, 1959

When the ARRB wrote their analysis of Prouty's allegation about the time frame of the Christchurch Star in their report, they had yet to go through the various press reports. Needless to say, it would not have taken them long to figure out that there was nothing to Prouty's allegations.

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?


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