Lee Harvey Oswald was not Impersonated at Bolton Ford
I believe that I have come up with the answer to what actually happened at the Bolton Ford dealership in early 1961 in New Orleans.
Bolton Ford 1960
Bolton Ford 1960.
A staple of conspiracy theorists is the supposed impersonation of Lee Harvey Oswald at the Bolton Ford dealership in New Orleans in 1961. An anti-Castro group, Friends of Democratic Cuba, visited the dealership in 1961 wanting to buy trucks. Joseph Moore was the contact for the group, and he was accompanied by another person. Right above Moore's name on the quote form was the name 'Oswald.'
Here is the order form:
Here is the FBI report regarding the incident:
Of course, Lee Harvey Oswald was in the Soviet Union, so it could not have been him. But was he impersonated?
Jim Garrison looked into this incident in 1967. Oscar Deslatte not only refused to discuss this with Garrison, he also denied the incident happened. I would guess that he just didn't want to get involved with Garrison.
His boss, Fred Sewell, went further than Deslatte in 1963 and said the 'Oswald" who came to the dealership used the name "Lee Oswald."
What piqued Garrison's interest was not just the supposed impersonation, but the fact that Guy Banister was involved with Friends of Democratic Cuba. Here is a page from the organization's incorporation papers:
Friends of Democratic Cuba did not last long.
Here is how Jim Garrison described the discovery that Guy Banister was behind Friends of Democratic Cuba: (page 58 in his On the Trail of the Assassins)
I pondered the implications of this staggering information. In the very month that John Kennedy was inaugurated, an intelligence project being run by Guy Banister was using the name "Oswald" in bidding for pickup trucks for apparent use in the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Of course, we do not know what purpose the trucks were intended for.
To determine the meaning of all of this, Garrison decided to brainstorm with his assistant Frank Klein. Here is an excerpt from On the Trail of the Assassins: (dialog from pages 59 - 60, reformatted for clarity)
Garrison: You don't think Sewall [sic] and Deslatte were lying, do you?
Klein: No. But the story doesn't make sense. Oswald was in Russia in January, 1961. He couldn't possibly have been at Bolton Ford.
Garrison: Someone was playing Oswald's part.
Klein: Playing Oswald's part? But why?
Garrison: I don't know yet. But the important point is we now know that whoever was behind the assassination was inclined to have someone impersonate Lee Oswald.
Klein: You're headed somewhere but I don't know your direction yet.
Garrison shows Klein some job applications from the Warren Commission documents.
Garrison: Notice anything odd?
Klein: That's the wrong height. In every one of these applications, he's got the wrong height down.
Garrison: Exactly. If they'll impersonate you in 1961, they'll impersonate you in 1963.
Klein: But why would someone fill out these applications at all these places and continually put down the wrong height?
Garrison: Because the impersonator was only five feet nine. Since he was interviewed in person, he had to put down his real height or close to it. Just because someone could imitate Oswald's handwriting perfectly doesn't mean he could stretch himself to Oswald's real height.
Klein: You know, you haven't mentioned the most significant thing of all.
Garrison: What's that?
Klein: The time of the visit to Bolton Ford. Using Lee Oswald's name as early as January 1961. That was the month of Kennedy's inauguration.
Garrison: You're asking me if I think the plan to eliminate John Kennedy had begun as early as January 1961. I would find that hard to believe. My answer would have to be no.
Garrison understood that it is ridiculous to believe conspirators were plotting just when Kennedy was inaugurated (see Bugliosi's comment below).
I have already covered Garrison's ridiculous obsession with Oswald's height here, here, and here.
But Garrison goes on to say that he learned in 1977 that the CIA had prepared, after Kennedy's win in the 1960 election, a psychological profile of how Kennedy would react in certain circumstances.
Nowadays I often think back to Frank's question about the implications of the 1961 impersonation of Oswald. And when I do, I wonder -- if I had known then about the C.I.A.'s remarkably early psychological profile of Kennedy -- whether my answer would have been the same.
So, now Garrison is now saying that indeed people were plotting back in January 1961.
Garrison made the supposed CIA report sound creepy. But here is a paragraph from William Corson's The Armies of Ignorance: (page 30)
Ok, so the CIA wanted to know the best way to brief Kennedy. Hardly nefarious.
The Bolton Ford story made the film JFK: (page 77 from JFK: The Documented Screenplay)
BACK AT GARRISON'S HOME - (1967)
SUSIE ... now it gets positively spooky. In January, 1961 -- in New Orleans, at the Bolton Ford Dealership -- when the Oswald we know is in Russia -- there is a man using the name "Oswald" to buy trucks for the Friends of Democratic Cuba. The salesman never saw him again, but guess who's on the articles of incorporation of the Friends of Democratic Cuba? Guy Banister. (reactions from the others) Banister, has someone using the name "Oswald" to buy the trucks. Hoover, at the FBI, writes a memo dated June, 1960, that there could be someone using Oswald's passport and identity.
The film makes the illogical leap that Guy Banister was behind this impersonation of Oswald.
James DiEugenio, in his book Destiny Betrayed, also discusses the Bolton Ford incident. With no evidence at all, he implicates David Ferrie: (page 110)
To this day, no one knows for sure why Oswald's name was used, or how it was obtained. But a distinct possibility is that it likely came from Ferrie. For in 1961, in his letter to Eastern Air Lines requesting paid leave for Ferrie, Arcacha Smith had nothing but effusive praise for the intricate work Ferrie had done with his group of Cuban exiles.
In the interest of completeness, here is the letter that Arcacha Smith sent to Captain Eddie Rickenbacker:
And here is the reply from Eastern Airlines:
How any of this implicates David Ferrie is beyond me.
Vincent Bugliosi found this all to be quite silly: (pages 1,025 - 1,026 of Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy)
Assuming this very shaky and questionable story were true, what possible relevance could it have to the assassination? Ask almost any conspiracy buff and he'll tell you it means that someone was impersonating Oswald in New Orleans in January of 1961, ultimately framing Oswald for Kennedy's murder. But let's walk this through. January 20, 1961, happened to be Kennedy's inauguration day. Even before Kennedy angered Castro and anti-Castro Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs, and before he failed to call his attorney general brother, Bobby, off the mob's back, and before the CIA and military-industrial complex feared that Kennedy might withdraw from Vietnam, indeed, before Kennedy had done anything at all that might cause anyone to want to kill him, a group of conspirators decided to murder him? And their brilliant plan was to frame a man who at the time was living in Russia—which means they would have no way of knowing if he'd ever return home and even be capable of being framed—and one way they decided to set Oswald up was to have one of two men who were thinking of buying trucks for their organization call himself "Oswald"? Really? Once again, is there no end to the silliness of the conspiracy theorists? Answer: No. And by the way, since those supposedly framing Oswald had to know that he was a Marxist who had defected to the Soviet Union, would it help their cause to have their Oswald impersonator acting like he was anti-Castro and hence anti-Communist? Just a thought. Assuming the Bolton Ford incident actually occurred, chances are it was just a coincidence (something conspiracy theorists refuse to acknowledge exists in life) that the man's name was Oswald.
I believe that I have found the solution to the Bolton Ford question. When searching the web last week, I found this court case:
This case presents a suit by Oswald A. Schulingkamp, the owner of Schulingkamp Motor Company, for damage to his property on North Claiborne Avenue in the City of New Orleans, which resulted from a fire on November 13, 1960. The fire originated in the adjacent building, leased and occupied by Bolton Ford, Inc., and spread from there to plaintiff's property. Named as defendants are Bolton Ford, Inc., and its insurer.
Bolton Ford and Schulingkamp Motor Company were adjacent to each other. Perhaps the Friends of Democratic Cuba went to Schulingkamp first (perhaps Oswald Schulingkamp was a supporter), hoping that he could get them a good deal on some trucks. Schulingkamp then took them next door to Bolton. Someone there wrote “Oswald” because he was well known at Bolton, and/or because his last name was hard to spell.
Oswald Schulingkamp's was a brother of Oliver Schulingkamp, who was a judge in New Orleans. Here is a picture that suggests a connection: (hat tip Steve Roe)
New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 5, 1961
New Orleans Times-Picayune, December 12, 1965
There is no reason to assume that the name Oswald, on the Bolton Ford quote form, is a last name.
Almost three years later, JFK is assassinated and Deslatte remembered the name Oswald from the quote form. His memory is hazy because the people from Friends of Democratic Cuba were only at Bolton Ford for a very short period. This bit from the FBI report on Deslatte offers another clue that supports Mr. Schulingkamp as the "Oswald."
DESLATTE quoted him the price and advised that he would make a $75 profit on each truck. MOORE said that he thought they should get the trucks for no profit for his organization. MOORE then told him that he should change the name on the bid from MOORE to OSWALD, no first name given. The individual with MOORE then said that was his name and it should go on the form as he was the man with the money and would pay for the trucks, if they were purchased.
Quite possibly, the trucks would have been purchased by Schulingkamp, who would then donate them to Friends of Democratic Cuba.
The impersonation of Lee Harvey Oswald at Bolton Ford never made sense.
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