Mike Howard meets Oswald, protects his family at LBJ's request
We left off last week with Howard interrogating a suspect in Fort Worth and now we and he go back to Dallas.
He asked how the interrogation of Oswald was coming along and was told not so well, but D.P.D. captain Will Fritz would get him to open up.
Howard entered the room with the head of the Secret Service in Dallas, Forrest V. Sorrels, where Oswald was seated. Howard sat off to the side of the room to observe.
Shortly thereafter, an FBI agent came in to question Oswald. Howard said Oswald denied everything.
I said to Howard, that watching the films over the years, Oswald looked so calm throughout his time in custody and that really surprised me. “Did he seem that way to you,” I asked. “Oh yes. He wasn’t serious at all and that made us kind of mad,” Howard said.
Howard told me there was no doubt in his mind Oswald was guilty and that’s why he was so calm. “He could not possibly be that calm and go on if he were innocent. I’d seen these kind of people before,” he added, saying Oswald was so calm because he knew what was going on, not unaware of why he had been arrested.
Sorrels asked to interrogate Oswald but was told no. Howard said if Sorrels would have been allowed to do the interrogation it would have produced a much better result. He said the Dallas P.D. didn’t know what to do when under the spotlight.
Soon Howard got another assignment. President Johnson had called to say he had decided the Oswald family needed protection from potential harm. “I was the only person available at that time. I was just standing there and Mr. Sorrels said to go find them and put them in protective custody,” Howard said.
Charles Kunkel, a D.C. agent, came to town and joined him on the assignment. So together they protected Oswald’s wife Marina, their two very young children, Oswald’s mother Marguerite (who Howard didn’t have much good to say about) and Oswald’s brother Robert.
The agents found out Life magazine reporters had the Oswald’s holed up in a hotel room. They waited outside for the reporters to leave, then rushed in, scooped them up and took them to a secret location.
A mutual friend of the Oswald’s and the Secret Service, Peter Gregory, was brought in as an interpreter because Marina spoke little English. Over the next several days they spoke with the family, put a report together and sent it to Washington.
Part of what they reviewed was Oswald’s notebook. Howard said it contained statements that Oswald would kill FBI agent James Hosty, John Connelly, Gen. Edwin Walker and vice president Nixon. I asked Howard of his impression of Marina. “She was a scared little girl, but more intelligent than Oswald ever dreamed of,” he replied.
Howard understood her to be a registered pharmacist in Russia and wanted to come to the U.S. “That’s why she married Lee Oswald. She knew she made a mistake after she’d been married to him for a week,” Howard said.
Marina told him that Oswald would have blackouts, come out of it and slap her. He added that Oswald had mental problems, tantrums, according to the impressions Marina gave him. Asked why she stayed with him, Marina told the agents she felt she didn’t have a choice; didn’t have anywhere else to go (eventually she moved in with Irving, Texas, resident Ruth Paine where she lived at the time of the assassination, while Oswald lived in a rooming house at 1026 N. Beckley St. in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas).
Howard said Marguerite didn’t’ have much to say except that she had important papers at her house, which the agents obtained. They turned out to be newspaper clippings and other papers about her son in Russia, Howard said.
Of that week-long experience Howard said, “That was a hundred years of my life.” Marina and Howard eventually became friends; he was a person whom she would turn to for advice from time to time. Like when the English attorney/author Michael Eddowes sought her permission to exhume Oswald’s body.
Eddowes theorized that the Oswald that came back to the U.S. in 1962 was not the Oswald that arrived in Russia in 1959. Instead, a Russian agent came to America. Howard advised her to allow the exhumation to end the matter. This took place on Oct. 5, 1981, and proved the body was the real Oswald.
I asked him where he was when he heard nightclub owner Jack Ruby killed Oswald in the D.P.D. basement. “I was with Marina at that time. We were in a car going to Ruth Paine’s to pick up some things for Marina. We heard it over the radio,” said Howard.
Marina wanted to go to the hospital to see the body, which they did.
Howard helped with getting a casket, vault and preacher for the Oswald funeral. Media personnel served as pallbearers.
I asked Howard about Warren Commission documents that stated a few minutes after the assassination, two local law enforcement officers encountered Secret Service agents behind the picket fence atop the grassy knoll; that they said they were Secret Service agents and showed credentials.
The problem with that is that Secret Service agent Sorrels, according to his statement to the Commission, said he was the first agent back at Dealey Plaza, about 20 to 25 minutes after the shooting.
So, how could agents have been encountered in just a few minutes? Were they impostors? Howard said, “We didn’t have anybody up there behind that fence.
“That’s my opinion. There wouldn’t have been Secret Service agents there behind that fence. There should have been.” He then added that some people like to have attention.
“Everybody wants to get into a book,” he said.
Do you have any reservations about the Commission’s findings, I asked? “Oh no. They tried their best with what information they had. They failed to put one thing in there that was a dead ringer and that was what was in his notebook, where someone had torn out the page where he said he was going to kill these people. Someone tore that page out between the time it left our hands and when it got to the Warren Commission. It (the notebook) went through the FBI, which is who we turned it over to.”
There was much more I wanted to ask Howard, but we had to conclude the interview because he had another appointment. We didn’t even get to his time of protection for the Johnson family. He invited me back for another visit which will hopefully happen soon.