Thursday, January 19, 2017

Palmer McBride

Palmer McBride inhabits a special place in the research of John Armstrong as it was his 1963 statement to the FBI (FBI 105-82555 Oswald HQ File, Section 11, pp. 2-5) that eventually initiated the Harvey & Lee double Oswald theory. Armstrong explains all this beginning on page 3 of his book (Harvey & Lee: How the CIA Framed Oswald) in a section titled "The Beginning of My Project." McBride recalled that he had worked and socialized with Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO) in New Orleans in 1957 and 1958, a period when records show he was in the Marine Corps.

Instead of accepting the obvious, that McBride was mistaken, Armstrong used his statement as the catalyst for the theory that McBride knew "Harvey" while "Lee" was in the service. Using the work of noted researchers, this article will examine McBride’s assertions. I will explain why he was honestly mistaken regarding the dates he knew LHO and Armstrong’s theory is therefore invalid. I will also discuss Armstrong’s successful effort to convince McBride that he was correct about the dates in his original statement and McBride’s subsequent appearances at conferences to promote the Harvey & Lee theory

McBride’s 1963 FBI Statement and the Evidence He was Mistaken

There is no doubt that McBride knew LHO and associated with him both at work and elsewhere because other individuals confirm many of his claims. The problem with McBride’s statement is the dates, which he was trying to recall from memory and without documentation. McBride stated that he met LHO in “about December, 1957” while both were employed by the Pfisterer Dental Lab and that LHO visited his home in “late 1957 or early 1958.” McBride also believed that he attended a meeting of the New Orleans Amateur Astronomy Association with LHO in early 1958.

However, incontrovertible evidence shows that LHO was in the service during the whole of 1957 and 1958, and for most of that time was overseas (for a summary see the Warren Report, 682-685). Additional evidence refuting McBride’s assertions came from the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) in the nineties. A tax return was made public that showed LHO was employed by Pfisterer in 1956, not 1957 as McBride recalled. Additionally, a Warren Commission document confirms LHO’s employment at Pfisterer in 1956 during the first and second quarters of the year only (CD 353, 2). Indeed, by July 1, 1956, LHO and his family had left New Orleans and moved to Fort Worth (CD 8, 2; CE 2239, 25 H 139; CE 1873-I, 23 H 670).

Pfisterer employees who remembered LHO from the year 1956 were Lionel Slater (CD 75, 18; CD 320, 42) and Paul Fiorello (CD 75, 17; CD 320, 42). John Ulmer could only say that a photo of LHO “resembled a messenger who was employed in 1956” (CD 75, 25). Several other Pfisterer employees could not remember LHO at all (CD 75, 13-25). Additionally, William Wulf, who knew LHO trough the Astronomy Club, told the Warren Commission that he met LHO in “September or August” of 1955 (8 H 16). Years later Armstrong would interview Wulf and Fiorello and they would change their minds about when their experiences with LHO occurred.

Further evidence that McBride was mistaken comes from author and researcher Greg Parker, who has done some good work debunking the Harvey & Lee theory. In McBride's statement to the FBI, he reported:

In April or May, 1958 Oswald stated he was moving to Ft Worth ... in about August 1958 I got a letter from him saying he had gotten mixed up in an anti-Negro or anti-Communist riot on high school grounds in Ft Worth, Texas.

But as mentioned, LHO and his family moved to Fort Worth two years previously in 1956. And as Parker points out, there are no news reports of riots in Fort Worth in 1958, but there are indeed reports from 1956 and in his 2015 book, Parker provides a scan of a typical article from the period (Parker, Greg R. Lee Harvey Oswald’s Cold War Vol. 2).

In an Internet forum post, author and researcher David Lifton confirmed Parker’s information stating that in 1994 he had a researcher locate a newspaper article confirming the 1956 riots. Additional validation of the riots comes from the late Gary Mack, a noted researcher and curator of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. Mack told Lifton in a 2015 email message that news footage of the 1956 riots had been used within the past few years in a story by KXAS-TV (Education Forum, “Who Wrote the Walker Letter?”, April 21, 2015, p. 6).

Details related by McBride near the end of his FBI statement have puzzled researchers for years and are mentioned here in the interest of completeness:

Upon hearing the name [of LHO] I recalled my association with a LEE OSWALD in New Orleans, and upon seeing a full face photograph of LEE HARVEY OSWALD in the November 23, 1963, issue of The Miami Herald newspaper I am now quite certain that they are one and the same individual. I particularly recall the large ears, the mustache, and the receding hairline (emphasis added).

LHO never had a mustache and could not be said to have had large ears. His hairline had receded very slightly by 1963 but hardly to the point of justifying McBride’s language. Since many of the statements made by McBride are known to have merit, these could be attributable to a miscommunication between McBride and the FBI agents.

The Lifton Interview-October 2, 1994

In his book on page 3, Armstrong asks:

Why did the Commission ignore Palmer McBride's statement? Why was McBride never interviewed?

The Commission did not ignore McBride. They were aware of his FBI statement and he was on a list of people to be interviewed (John Hart Ely Memorandum, March 30, 1964). But LBJ wanted the Commission’s investigation wrapped up before the November, 1964 election and they did not have the luxury of unlimited time. It was apparently decided that because of the extensive evidence that McBride was wrong about the dates he knew Oswald and because he was on record with his FBI statement, it was not necessary to have him testify before the Commission. The Commission couldn’t predict that Armstrong would someday create a double Oswald theory out of a simple misremembrance.

What Armstrong and other critics fail to realize is had McBride testified before the commission, he almost certainly would have been confronted with the documentation that showed his timeline was in error and he would have retracted his statement. I say this because that is exactly what happened when David Lifton interviewed McBride on camera and showed him the documentation. This is a short excerpt from that interview obtained from an Internet forum:

Lifton: OK. In this (FBI) statement, you also write, “during his first visit to my home, in late ’57 or early ’58. . . “
McBride: No, that’s not right. It’s gotta be ’56. It’s gotta be ’56. It can’t be ’57…
Lifton: I want you to go through this. Do you have any theory as to why you were confused, why you thought it was ’57 or ’58 back when you made the statement?
McBride: No. I can’t figure it out as to why I thought it was ’58. If he was already in the Marines in ’56, he sure as hell wasn’t at Pfisterer.

It would seem that the Palmer McBride matter was finally settled by Lifton’s interview. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

McBride Meets Armstrong

In 1996, Armstrong found McBride and began what David Lifton refers to as a “witness recruitment program.” As Lifton explained in a post at the Education Forum (Education Forum, “The Two Oswald Phenomena Explained”, December 24, 2011, p. 8):

It’s my opinion that John Armstrong "sold" a number of witnesses on the "historical importance" of his hypothesis, and that, as a consequence, they modified their accounts to be part of something that they believed was "important." Unfortunately, that's how he went about some of his "research" for HARVEY AND LEE and why we have the "filmed record" of these witnesses that are on the Internet today.

Indeed, Armstrong’s methodology was to approach the witness with a preconceived conclusion and then try and convince the witness of the validity of that conclusion. This is in opposition to the role of a journalist who tries to ascertain facts with objective questions. In the case of McBride, there was a powerful incentive to go along with Armstrong. McBride could convince himself he was right about his remembrances of Oswald after all and, as Lifton says, become a part of history. Armstrong’s version of the interview is found on page 6 of his book:

I finally located McBride in Sun Valley, California and spoke with him at length… It didn't take long to realize that McBride was very intelligent and possessed a superb memory. He remembered dates, times and places from the 1950's and 1960's better than I could remember events from last year.

In response to my questions about Oswald, McBride carefully reconstructed his life in the mid-1950's, his work at the Pfisterer Dental Lab, and his association with Oswald. McBride was absolutely certain that he met Oswald shortly after the Russians launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite on October 4, 1957.

First, Armstrong is trying to convince the reader that McBride is a person with a remarkable memory. McBride had a passion for the space program as many Pfisterer employees confirmed in their FBI interviews. Naturally, he would have a good grasp of facts related to the US-Soviet space race. However, there is no evidence that McBride’s memory for everyday events was any better than the average person. Armstrong says that McBride “carefully reconstructed” events from the mid-fifties. But Lifton did the same thing with McBride including reconstructing his employment history with a much different result.

In the Armstrong interview, McBride was “absolutely certain” that he met Oswald shortly after the Soviets launched Sputnik. But in his FBI interview, McBride said nothing about the Russian satellite. Rather he spoke of “Russian successes” at the time of his Oswald experiences. As Greg Parker says at his website:

It was by no means impossible to talk about "Russian success" in space PRIOR to Sputnik. The newspapers of the day were continually hammering away at how the US was falling behind the successful Russians.

Parker found two news stories from 1956 to bolster his assertion (Parker, op. cit.). The headlines are:

SOVIET SPACE SHIP IN ’56 ENVISIONED; London Red Paper Reports Moscow May Be Ready to Launch Craft before U.S. Race Disclaimed by U.S.


Indeed, McBride confirmed to Lifton that Sputnik was not even a part of his conversations with LHO:

Lifton: Let me ask you something. Was Oswald at Pfisterer when Sputnik went up?

McBride: Oh no, no, he’d left in 1956.

Lifton: So he was not there?

McBride: No. The whole thing with Sputnik was October 1957.

The length of time McBride knew LHO and the extent of their relationship outside the workplace varied significantly between the Armstrong version of events and the FBI statement. According to Armstrong:

[McBride] said they worked together every day for 7 months, went on dates with girls, went to the movies together…

Later in the book, the amount of time McBride knew LHO increased:

... another person who was with Harvey Oswald nearly every day for 8 months [was]-Palmer McBride.

But in his FBI interview, McBride said he knew LHO for no more than 5 months. The record shows that, in this case, he was correct since LHO started work at Pfisterers no sooner than the end of January, 1956 and had left Texas by July 1. CD 353 confirms that LHO worked at Pfisterers only during the first two quarters of the year.

In his FBI interview, McBride stated that he invited LHO to his home “two or three times.” McBride went on in his statement to describe one meeting of the Astronomy Club and one visit to William Wulf’s home. If one takes McBride’s FBI statement literally, that makes a total of five times he socialized with LHO away from the workplace. This creates the possibility that McBride was expanding his story and telling Armstrong what he wanted to hear. An additional McBride embellishment concerns a visit to the opera:

McBride liked to visit the Opera House where his father worked part time and remembered that on one occasion he and Oswald attended the opera "Boris Godounov." During the 1950's "Boris Godounov" played only twice in New Orleans, on October 10 and 12th, 1957.

First, it is surprising that McBride would not tell the FBI about a significant event such as the opera performance. Secondly, a logical assumption is that since McBride was recalling a previously unrelated event from 40 years earlier, it could have been a different friend other than LHO that he was remembering. Indeed, Greg Parker found that Armstrong’s source for the date the opera played in New Orleans was a single brochure from the New Orleans Historical Society. Through an Internet search, Parker found another reference to a New Orleans performance on October 15th, which refutes Armstrong’s assertion (Education Forum, “The Two Oswald Phenomena Explained”, December 24, 2011, p. 6).

The Astronomy Club

LHO likely attended a meeting of the New Orleans Amateur Astronomy Association (NOAAA) as a guest of Palmer McBride. Armstrong tries to use the original statements of club members and interviews conducted 30 plus years after the assassination as confirmation of McBride’s mistaken recollections.

William Wulf was President of NOAAA and testified before the Warren Commission (8 H 15). One thing is immediately apparent on reading Wulf’s testimony-his memory of LHO was not that vivid, especially regarding dates. Wulf stated that although he first believed LHO had contacted him by phone in 1953, it was “probably… September or August in 1955.” In fact, it was only after the FBI contacted Wulf and he asked them if LHO had worked at Pfisterers that he made the connection to the NOAAA. Wulf went on to diminish the value of his own testimony by saying “I really did not think the little knowledge I had would be important.” Wulf also thought that he met McBride in March or April of 1955. Nothing in the timeline Wulf presented during his Warren Commission testimony helps Armstrong’s theory. The Commission’s main interest in Wulf was his memory of LHO being thrown out of his house by Wulf’s father after delivering a diatribe on the virtues of communism. Wulf was another witness whose memory “improved” years after the fact and told Armstrong a story that was favorable to his theories, saying that he met LHO in “’57 or ’58.”

Walter Gehrke is another NOAAA member who Armstrong tries to use to place LHO in New Orleans after 1956. In Armstrong’s book on page 185 we find:

McBride told the FBI, "In early 1958 I took Oswald with me to a meeting of the New Orleans Amateur Astronomy Association at the home of Walter Gehrke ..... When interviewed by the FBI Gehrke confirmed McBride's memory of meeting Oswald in 1958 when he said, "None of the meetings of the NOAAA were held at my house until 1958."

But Gehrke also told the FBI that he had “never heard of” LHO before the assassination and “could not recall” him attending “any meetings” of the NOAAA (CD 75, 499). Since it is likely that Gehrke would have remembered LHO coming to his home, a reasonable assumption is that McBride was simply mistaken about not only when but where the meeting took place. The record shows that the meetings took place in at least two other locations in addition to Gehrke’s home.

Other NOAAA members who Armstrong tries to use to bolster his theory but had no memory of LHO at all during FBI interviews include Ralph Hartwell, Joseph Eustis and James Vance. Armstrong implies in his book that investigators ignored the NOAAA members and failed to seek documentation about the club. But the FBI conducted numerous interviews including one of the above-mentioned Hartwell who was Vice President of the club. Hartwell reviewed records and could find no mention of LHO either as a member or in the club minutes. Of course, the FBI could not have envisioned that Armstrong would appear years later with a double Oswald theory and therefore did not bother to establish details such as where and when specific meetings took place and so on.

The Tax Documents

In the mid-nineties, Armstrong developed another theory in an attempt to validate McBride’s observations. Armstrong found that although the FBI microfilmed LHO’s possessions that were taken into evidence on November 26 and 27, 1963, some items were omitted by the bureau. Among those items were three tax forms from the years 1955 and 1956. Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry wrote to the FBI in December, 1963 and asked them to microfilm the remaining items, which they did.

However, Armstrong believed that in the interim the tax records had been forged to conceal the fact that LHO (Harvey in Armstrong’s theory) had worked at Pfisterers in 1957-58 as McBride believed. To test his theory, Armstrong had Linda Faircloth, a Pfisterer employee who became of his followers, write to the IRS in 1995. Faircloth asked the IRS when the Employee Identification Number (EIN) on LHO’s records had been created. An employee representing the IRS replied that the number was created in January, 1964 and Armstrong believed he had the “smoking gun” that would finally prove his double Oswald theory.

But Doug Horne of the ARRB looked into the issue after Armstrong and associate Carol Hewitt wrote to the review board and reported their concerns. Horne contacted the IRS and found that the while the employee who had replied to Faircloth was acting in good faith, they were mistaken about the records being created in 1964 due to a misinterpretation of the database information. The official IRS report to the ARRB verified the tax records as genuine and the EINs as being created before 1964. Horne filed a memo that addressed Armstrong’s assertions in detail:

As previously mentioned, LHO’s 1956 tax return also showed LHO was at Pfisterers in 1956. When confronted with the return, Armstrong did what he had to do. He said it was forged as a part of a conspiracy (which included the Warren Commission, the FBI and the now the ARRB) to cover up “Harvey” Oswald’s presence in New Orleans in 1957-58.

McBride Becomes a Celebrity

Palmer McBride attended JFK conferences in 1997 and 1998 as an invited speaker. McBride repeated his claims of knowing LHO in 1957 and 1958 despite the irrefutable evidence to the contrary. McBride’s motivation seems to have been threefold. First, he was told he was a part of history, which would be a powerful incentive for anyone. Second, it probably became apparent to McBride that he could gain a certain notoriety from relating his story. Finally, McBride could assure himself that his original recollections were correct after all.

One has to ask why didn’t McBride provide documentation to support his claims about the dates he worked at Pfisterer? The Social Security Administration sends out periodic summaries of a person’s work history listed by year. Even if McBride had not received such a summary, he could have easily requested one. Although Armstrong had Linda Faircloth contact the IRS, he apparently did not see the necessity of McBride contacting Social Security for confirming documentation.

Summary and Conclusion

· We know LHO worked at Pfisterer in 1956 and not 1957 because of the ARRB tax records.

· CD 343 confirms LHO worked at Pfisterer in 1956 and not 1957.

· We know Palmer McBride could not have known LHO in 1957-58 since he was in the Marines.

· Other Pfisterer employees remembered LHO working there in 1956.

· In an interview with David Lifton in 1994, McBride recanted his assertions about knowing LHO in 1956 and about Sputnik.

· The riots LHO mentioned in a letter to McBride occurred in 1956 not 1958.

· The ARRB investigated and refuted Armstrong’s claims about the tax records.

In conclusion, the starting point and foundation of John Armstrong's research is Palmer McBride. Unfortunately for Armstrong, McBride's assertions are demonstrably incorrect.


  1. Parnell seems to believe that Mr. Armstrong is quite willing to fiddle with evidence where doing so is necessary to support his theories, but is something he must want us to believe the government would never do. The reality
    is just the opposite.

  2. Nickname,

    The problem is you have to prove something was forged. That something, as it pertains to this discussion is mainly the tax documents. But Doug Horne, who is a conspiracy believer, looked into the matter and completely ruled out any funny stuff. Things like the riots in 1956 instead of 1958 can't be faked and are confirmation that McBride was simply mistaken. Same with McBride's Lifton interview.

  3. WELL THEN. There you have it. Parnell is well on his way to proving that if a few things in H&L are subject to question - that's proof enough for Parnell to state that he's solved the conspiracy to assassinate JFK and the evidence of two Oswalds is merely the result of mistaken identity and "hey. look over there."

    And Doug Horne also disagrees with a few minor points in H&L.

  4. But McBride was the foundation of the H&L theory. If McBride was wrong, then the premise of the theory is as well. As for Horne, he refuted Armstrong’s assertions about the tax documents. If the tax documents are valid as Horne believes, the entire H&L theory is false. So, it is more than “a few minor points.”

  5. Thank You Tracy for removing any foundation the Harvey And Lee theory had.
    Armstrong's rhetoric makes Lee guilty.
    Having had the pleasure to ruffle John's feathers on many an occasion I encourage you to continue.
    The boat trip and VD records were proven wrong.
    The Zoo photo also shown to be Lee Harvey Oswald, one person.
    There is nothing left for the disciples of John to use to support this less than credible idea.
    The capper is whom John claims is Harvey, a big ugly gut whom looks nothing like Lee Harvey Oswald.
    Armstrong is a laughing stock!
    The guy needs to stop this ridiculous assertion he uses to sensationalize book sales. Well that doorstop is a hamper to actual investigation and research.

    Oh and Nickname, or John Armstrong, whomever... kindly tell us what's left of your precious doppelganger distortion?

  6. Tracy, did the HCSA ever address any "two Oswald" theories?
    I read the Eddowes book sometime in the 80s and if I'm not mistaken
    He was researching/writing the book in the 70s(which eventually led to
    the 1981 exhumation)
    I actually quite liked the Eddowes book and thought he might have been on to
    something...then again I was a lot more gullible back then!

    I wonder if we would even have a H and L theory if Eddowes book never existed?

  7. Michael,

    Thanks for stopping by. Yes, the HSCA looked into double Oswald theories:

    Some of the work, such as the handwriting analysis, is applicable to Armstrong's theories and some is not. Of course, the 1981 exhumation disproved both Eddowes and Armstrong.

  8. Thanks for the reply.
    Yeah, after that last comment I did a little research and found some HSCA stuff
    on the two Oswald theory...I also saw something on Popkin from the MID SIXTIES!
    that I had totally forgotten about.
    So rather than some new, cutting edge theory(in the late 90s) this goes back
    practically to the beginning!
    Its been recycled-debunked and recycled-debunked again...
    Thankless job, but I guess it was your turn in the barrel.


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