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Calendar >  Short Story JFK, the FBI, & Me_

Short Story JFK, the FBI, & Me_

By   /  November 21, 2014  /  No Comments

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JFK_assassination

JFK, the FBI, & Me_ By Garry Garretson 

For my first job out of high school, I applied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  I

was hired & started working in September 1963.

The FBI was the only government agency that did not require passing a civil service exam, but they did an extensive background check.  An investigator asked every one of our neighbors about my character, loyalty and respect.  One old spinster, who lived across the street from my family, was asked about me.  She told him what a terror my friends and I were.  She stated that she was constantly calling the police.  The investigator contacted the Police Department and found out that our shenanigans included throwing the football in the street on the way to the park and sometimes spinning tires when pulling out of my driveway.  I had to submit a written statement explaining the incidents.  It did not hurt my cause that the Police Lieutenant’s daughter was a good friend of mine and that he was a former FBI Special Agent.

He wrote a nice letter of recommendation for me to Mr. Tolson, the Associate Director of the A friend of my family had also recommended me, along with his brother and two other friends for the FBI.  He had worked for the Bureau for ten years and was highly respected.  He told us what would be expected of us, from mandatory white shirt and black tie to mandatory approval of where we lived and careful adherence to “off limits” areas of D. C.  They checked everything.  All four of us were from the same area in West Virginia,  along a narrow stretch of US 119, a winding road between the mountain ranges of the Appalachians.  Some say, “It’s where they pipe the sunshine in and the moonshine out.”  We all knew our way around guns, hunting, fishing and camping.  We were good friends.

After being accepted in the FBI Special Agent program, each of us was to complete either an accounting or law degree to become a special agent.  I chose accounting and enrolled at American University immediately after getting settled in an apartment in Southeast D.C. with my three old friends from high school.

Our first job assignment in September 1963 was delivering mail throughout the Justice Department building.  After six months we would be scheduled to move into filing and then into fingerprint identification.  Once I had completed my accounting degree, I would attend the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia,s to become a Special Agent of the FBI, my dream job.

At this time, Robert Kennedy was Attorney General and J. Edgar Hoover was The Director of the FBI.  The FBI had been formed from several agents on loan from the Department of the Treasury.  The FBI orientation consisted of learning about the history of the FBI, but seemed more like a pep rally honoring Mr. Hoover.  He had built it to a world class organization consisting of over 10,000 Special Agents and support personnel.  Every room in the building had a photograph of him.

We were told to never get on the elevator if the door opened and the Director was on it. One day, soon after I began delivering the mail, the elevator door opened and I saw an elderly gentleman was on board.  I got on the elevator, thinking he was just a visitor who got separated from the public tours.  Upon exiting the elevator, one of the directors approached me and asked if I knew of the rule about riding the elevator with Mr. Hoover.  I of course did, but all of the photographs I had seen of Director J. Edgar Hoover were of a 45-year-old man, not the 69-year old man on the elevator.  While on the elevator Mr. Hoover had started a conversation with me and he could not have been nicer.  From then on, whenever I entered his office to deliver the mail, he always greeted me by my name.

Besides fighting crime with modern methods, Mr. Hoover was a staunch opponent of Communism, and his FBI became the chief agency for tracking down enemy espionage.  Mr. Hoover was demonized by liberals who were upset by his inaccurate linkage of Communism to revered liberal heroes like Martin Luther King.  Conservatives admired Mr. Hoover for his use of modern scientific methods to stop crime and to upgrade the technical skills of police departments across our nation.  Mr. Hoover became an American icon, the man who created and led the FBI for a half century through a depression, a world war, and the cold war.

The day after the elevator encounter, I delivered mail to Mr. Hoover’s secretary, Miss Gandy.  Mr. Hoover was walking out of his office as I was entering the outer office.  He concluded his business with his secretary and began a conversation with me about the Baltimore Colts   I could not believe I was talking with Mr. Hoover again.  He chatted for about fifteen minutes and then reentered his office.  When I picked up his out-mail from Miss Gandy, she just smiled as I began to leave.  Before I reached the door she called me back and asked, “What is your name again?”  My name badge was clearly visible but she waited for my response. “My name is Garry Garretson,” I replied.

Over the next month, I was constantly being asked to deliver a package to Mr. Hoover’s office.  I never saw him, but he or Miss. Gandy, on his behalf, had decided that I was to be the primary person to deliver his mail.  I later learned that he just liked familiar faces around him.  I kept thinking about being a hillbilly from Boone County, West Virginia, and rubbing elbows with some of the most important people in my country.  It was quite a thrill.

Part of the mail route was the Teletype room.  On November 22, 1963 there came a shocking message across the wire as I was entering the room.  The word came that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.  The news rocked my inner being.  He had been my Idol ever since I had met him and gotten his autograph in Madison, West Virginia, when he was running against Hubert Humphrey in the primary elections in 1960.  The teletype operator said, “Deliver this to The Director immediately.”  Miss Gandy read the message and immediately showed me into his office and I delivered the message directly to Mr. Hoover. As I was leaving I lingered long enough to observe the incredible response and reaction in The Director’s office.  Clyde Tolson, Mr. Deloach and the other Associate Directors all gathered quickly.  It was what one would expect under such potential national security danger, but something got my attention and did not seem right.  I quickly left the office  before anyone noticed me. There was no way I wanted to get in trouble for sitting in Miss Gandy’s office.

Later in the day, I returned to the Teletype room and it had been confirmed that JFK had died.  I left for lunch but first had to stop in the men’s room to cry and pray for his family. When finally leaving the building, the streets were busy, but everyone knew of the tragedy and had their heads hanging low.  No one was talking.  Everyone was in a state of shock.  This was the leader of our country.  He was loved and respected.  My heart ached and I could see the same emotion on every face I passed on the street.

The news stations kept repeating that just before 12:30 p.m. CST, President Kennedy’s limousine entered Dealey Plaza in Dallas, shots were fired and our President and Texas Governor John Connally had been hit. As the shot was heard, a fist-sized hole exploded out from the right side of President Kennedy’s head, covering the interior of the car and a nearby motorcycle officer with blood.

Over the next few days, the news focused on Lee Harvey Oswald who had been arrested an hour and 20 minutes after our President’s assassination for killing the Dallas police officer, J.D. Tippit, who had spotted Oswald walking along a sidewalk. Oswald was later captured in a nearby movie theater. He was charged with the murders of Tippit and Kennedy later that night. Oswald denied shooting anyone and claimed he was a patsy. Oswald’s case never came to trial because two days later, while being escorted to an armored van for transfer from Dallas Police Headquarters to the Dallas County Jail, he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby.

John F. Kennedy was one of the most charismatic and controversial Presidents.  He was the thirty-fifth President of the United States of America.  He born in Brookline, Massachusetts, and he was descended from Irish-Americans who had shown a talent for politics.  He studied at Harvard and his senior thesis “Why England Slept” (1940) became a best-seller and his 1956 “Profiles in Courage” won the Pulitzer Prize.  He enlisted as a seaman in the U. S. Navy and after Pearl Harbor was commissioned as an ensign, given command of PT 109 and assigned to the South Pacific.  He was wounded when his boat was cut in two by a Japanese Destroyer.  He returned to Massachusetts after the war and was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives (1947-53) and the U. S. Senate (1953-61). In 1960 he became the youngest man and the first Catholic to be elected as our U. S. President.  He inspired a whole generation to seek to better their world through government service.  He created the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress.  While I was still in high school we watched him lead through the Cuban missile crisis, taking us to the brink of nuclear war with the USSR.  We watched “Camelot” played out in the White House.  We loved him and were inspired by his leadership.

I later joined the US Navy based on his role modeling. The entire Bureau was overwhelmed in the first few days after the assassination.  No one wanted to work.  Everyone was grieving the death of our great President and a great American hero.  Many of us had met him and loved him as if he was a member of our family.

On television I saw JFK’s brother, Bobby, just hours before the message about the shots in Dallas, walking briskly in the courtyard below, getting into a limo.  RFK was relied upon as both the President’s primary source of administrative information and as a general counsel. President Kennedy trusted his brother as a doer and therefore he had a lot of power to influence policy.  RFK would be a calming and guiding force in the transition of power.  Killing him also would have put the USA in a lot more turmoil.

Everyone was told to go home on November 22, 1963 because the Bureau would be shut down.  This seemed odd to me, but a day off was not something to question at the time. Additionally, rumors were rampant and bomb threat after bomb threat was called in.

Every one of our friends attended the funeral, in spite of the fears of bombs and assassins, as rumors of an attempted “coup” swirled around.  Then again there were rumors of Soviet Union involvement due to the Cuban Missile crisis and the embarrassment to them after backing down from the Kennedy directed embargo.  The Cubans were suspected because of the Missile Crisis and the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion.  The mob was a suspect because of Bobby Kennedy prosecuting them. There were rumors of Teamster involvement because of JFK’s sexual encounter with one of their babes.   There was even a rumor of the Chinese involvement because of the United States involvement in Vietnam.  The most overhead rumor involved our own government including  LB Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, the military, etc.

My friends & I found an unobstructed place to watch the horse drawn casket move down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the White House and into the Rotunda of the Capital Building. One of my roommates, who worked with the FBI fingerprint identification division, kept talking about inconsistencies in the evidence.  Holy cow, this was only days after the assassination so of course there would be inconsistencies.  My first words were, “You are just playing junior agent.”

He responded, “there were no fingerprints on the weapon when the field agents examined it in the bookstore, and then suddenly there were prints of Lee Harvey Oswald on it. Everyone could see from the video on TV how carelessly the police handled the weapon.  The Dallas Police should have been embarrassed by their lack of protection for Oswald that allowed Jack Ruby to kill him.”  I asked, “Were they involved in a plot?”  He just stared and said nothing.  His concerns had gotten my attention.

We watched the assassination of Jack Ruby on the news. Then the conversation with my roommate resurfaced.  When I approached him, he had little to say.  He seemed ill at ease even with me, and we had grown up together playing sports and attending every class together until high school.

The rumor around the Bureau was that Jack Ruby’s file had been pulled the day before he shot Oswald.  I talked directly with another clerk who said he pulled the file and took it to Mr. Tolson’s office.

On November 24th, just hours after the death of JFK, I was summoned to make a delivery to Mr. Hoover’s office.  They told me to take a cart because the package was rather large.  I picked it up at an Associate Director’s office and got on the elevator.  It stalled between floors and I was stuck.  The boxes read, “Top Secret.”  One of the boxes was not sealed and it was labeled, “Executive Summary.”  I opened it as a reflex to boredom.  It was a preliminary FBI report on the assassination of  JFK.  I did not want to read the contents at first for fear of what I might learn, but curiosity got the best of me.  What I did read contained some very interesting information that I assumed would be public later, but I never saw it in the press or on TV. I had to make sure that I kept my mouth shut about opening the box.  What difference did it make anyway?  I had about 50 minutes to read the contents of the one executive summary.

What did it all mean?  The summary mostly pointed to Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman who killed the President and the police officer with some side track investigations still ongoing.  FBI Director  J. Edgar Hoover said that he wanted something issued so that the public would be convinced that Oswald was the real assassin.

On December 9, 1963, only 17 days after the assassination, the FBI report was issued and given to the Warren Commission. The FBI stated that only three bullets were fired during the assassination. The second summary I read talked about foreign involvement with a focus on the Chinese that was never mentioned in any public release. A Chinese Connection was all I kept thinking about after thumbing through the report.

Planting personnel throughout the USA to infiltrate the political system.  Mind control!  What was the report saying?  Did I read too little to make any conclusions?  Why were the Chinese mentioned so often as I thumbed through the report?  Did the Chinese assassinate  JFK?  Did they have anything to do with Jack Ruby or with Lee Harvey Oswald?  A big part of the report was about Oswald’s visit to Russia and to Mexico where he met with the Chinese.  Could he have been selling his services to the highest bidder?   Or was he just an agent for one of them? I doubted that I would ever use the information anyway.   It would just be part of my youthful past. At the time it was just curiosity.

The Russians, the Cubans, the Mafia, the Chinese, the US government, The US Military and many other conspiracies kept surfacing and we continued to deliver information between the Bureau leaders.   There were discussions about LBJ being behind the shooting, but I never saw any information about it in any of the papers delivered to The Director’s office.

As part of our normal progression, I was soon transferred to the filing clerk position at another building in southeast D.C.  For eight hours daily we filed or pulled files of criminals and average citizens.  There was even the secret and personal vault of Mr. Hoovers where files of enemies or non-friends of Mr. Hoover were kept.  Rumors of sexual escapades of top ranking officials were the most common rumor contained within the files.  There were many newspaper readers who cut out articles about government officials from every major city in the country and were filed into the secret vault.  We were constantly getting clippings from the FBI branch offices to file. I delivered special files to the special vault on many occasions. My good friend “Mother Goose” Carlton had worked in the vault for six years and had been with the Bureau for 15 years.

He became my friend when he was attacked in a local bar where many FBI employees hung out.  I recognized him from the FBI vault and stepped in to defend him.  He was very thankful to me and my friends for defending him.   Anytime I was in the special vault he left me alone and I went looking for the files on the assassination of JFK.  Each time I learned a little more.  Mother Goose seemed to be very disinterested in my snooping and never said a word about what I was looking for or what I was finding.  He just seemed numb from all of the secret information he had seen over the years.

US government conspiracy to get rid of JFK to start the infiltration of higher and higher levels of the US Government. Why did that keep running through my young brain? File this and pull that file…Boring!  The excitement of working in D.C. and the great friends I had kept me going and every weekend there was a party somewhere.

I lasted only 9 months with the FBI because my vision worsened and I knew I could never become a Special Agent.  This was before laser surgery.   They wanted me to stay on in a support capacity, but I had always dreamed of being a Special Agent not part of the support staff.

I resigned and returned to my home in Connecticut.  I never expected to hear anything else about the JFK assassination other than the Warren Commission Report, which I knew was just Lyndon Johnson’s cover-up since he believed there was a conspiracy. The news media just continued to speculate however.

In late September 1964 after a 10-month investigation, the Warren Commission Report was published. The Commission concluded that it could not find any persuasive evidence of a domestic or foreign conspiracy involving any other person(s), group(s), or country(ies).

The Commission found that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the murder of Kennedy and that Jack Ruby acted alone in the murder of Oswald. The theory that Oswald acted alone is informally called the Lone gunman theory. The commission also concluded that only three bullets were fired during the assassination and that Lee Harvey Oswald fired all three bullets from the Texas School Book Depository behind the motorcade.

It noted that three empty shells were found on the sixth floor in the book depository and that a rifle was identified as the one used in the shooting.  Oswald’s Italian military surplus 6.5×52 mm Model 91/38 Carcano was found hidden nearby. The Commission offered as a likely explanation that the same bullet that wounded Kennedy also caused all of Governor Connally’s wounds. This single bullet then backed out of Connally’s left thigh and was found on a stretcher in the hospital.

This theory has become known as the “single bullet theory” or the “magic” bullet theory (as it is commonly referred to by its critics and detractors).

The delivery I made to Mr. Hoover’s office on November 22, 1963 had changed my life.  It was the first report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  For a long time, it seemed like every time I recalled that day, “my get up and go just got up and went”. It didn’t matter what was in the report.  I only had my recollections which were not worth a damn until my friend Carlton, “Mother Goose”, became critically ill.  While visiting him in the hospital two days before I was leaving D.C. and returning home for good, he asked me, “Who do you think was behind the assassination of JFK?” I told him, “I believe it was the Chinese, why do you ask?”  He was frail and not very clear as he outlined the events in the last months based on information from his job in the secret vault of Mr. Hoover.  He agreed with me.

Carlton handed me a key for a locker at his gymnasium and asked me to hold it.  After he died, I went to retrieve the contents of his locker.  There was a file folder about six inches thick, titled “Secret FBI. Assassination of JFK.”  I went directly to the library to read it, but based on the page numbers and how it read, parts were missing.  It seemed to have about every third page with the other two missing.  That is the way it stood for the next five years until a strange thing happened in Vietnam that gave me another part of the report.  Then the chance meeting with a Marine forty years later at the VA in San Diego completed the report.

How did I survive these last 50 years?  What do I do with the complete report?  Will anyone believe me in spite of the documentation?   Would I become a target for what I now know is a massive foreign attempt to turn the USA into a Communist state?  What is next?

Garry worked for the FBI as stated.  

Excerpt from the novel “Rainproof 7” soon to be released.

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