The Winnipeg Airport Incident

Paris Flammonde
The Kennedy Conspiracy
, Meredith Press, New York, 1969, pages 29–32

      The Winnipeg Free Press reported that an FBI man, Merryl Nelson, had checked out a story told by a local businessman whose name was withheld for “security reasons” until November 1967. At that time Maclean’s, a leading Canadian magazine, ran a more complete coverage of the fascinating incident.
The informant, an obviously sincere and sensible Mennonite, and father of four, named Richard Giesbrecht, related a conversation he overheard on February 13, 1964, in the Horizon Room, a cocktail lounge in the sweepingly modern Winnipeg International Airport. The nature of the conversation led the thirty-five-year-old businessman, who was at the flight terminal to meet a client, to quickly conclude the two participants had knowledge regarding the assassination of the President. The more he listened, the more he became certain of his suspicions.
He described one of the men as having “the oddest hair and eyebrows I’d ever seen. The eyebrows were wide and sort of streaky. The hair was very shiny and it started quite far back on his head.” Giesbrecht thought this one of the pair resembled Stan Laurel “when he gets that look as if he’s going to cry,” and he recalls he wore heavy-rimmed glasses. Giesbrecht now says this man was David W. Ferrie.
Ferrie’s companion was described as being, like the pilot, in his middle or late forties, with reddish blond hair and a badly pockmarked neck and jaw. He wore a hearing aid and spoke with a possibly “Latin” accent.
The witness remembered that the men wore casual clothes; light tweed suits and loafer-type shoes. He thought both were homosexuals.
Ferrie indicated he was concerned over how much Oswald had told his wife about the plot to kill Kennedy. Additionally, they discussed a man named Isaacs, his relationship with Oswald, and how curious it was that he would have gotten himself involved with a “psycho” like Oswald.
Isaacs seemed to have allowed himself to be caught on television film near the President when Kennedy arrived in Dallas, and, at the time the conversation was taking place, was under the surveillance of a man named Hoffman, or Hochman, who was to “relieve” him and destroy a 1958 model automobile in Isaacs’ possession.
Richard Giesbrecht heard Ferrie say that “we have more money at our disposal now than at any other time.”
The conversation moved to another area and the two began speaking of a meeting to take place at the Townhouse Motor Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 18. They mentioned that the rendezvous would be registered under the name of a textile firm. It was noted that no meeting had been held since November, 1963.
Ferrie mentioned that an “aunt” (or “auntie”?—gay patois for an older homosexual) would be flying in from California. A name which Giesbrecht thought sounded like “Romeniuk” was mentioned several times; Ferrie inquired about some paper, or merchandise, coming out of Nevada and the other man replied that things had gotten too risky and that the house, or shop, at a place called Mercury had been closed down, but that a “good shipment” had reached Caracas from Newport.
It was also agreed that the Warren Commission would not stop its investigation, even if it did decide Oswald was guilty.
Giesbrecht began to realize that the conversation behind him had dwindled into an innocuous exchange. He became a little “jittery or excited,” and decided to leave and contact the police. As he prepared for his departure, he heard Ferrie remark that he had flown a plane like one standing a short distance beyond the window of the cocktail lounge.
As Giesbrecht quietly slipped from his booth, he became conscious that an entirely new—to him, anyway—element had been introduced into the situation. He was being coldly eyed by a third man who, he now sensed, had been watching him for some time from another table. This ominous individual was about thirty-five, fair-haired, flushed-cheeked, with a slightly deformed nose. He stood about six feet tall, weighed about two hundred pounds, and may have been left-handed. The man from Winnipeg thought that this hand might have been tattooed or scarred.
The overhearer was trailed from the Horizon Room and found the big man standing between him and the stairs leading up to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police office on the next (ground) floor of the airport. Getting to a telephone, he began relating the situation to an RCMP corporal at the downtown headquarters. However, as he saw that the man was rapidly approaching him, he hung up and raced off. Finally, a couple of floors and many doors later he found he had successfully eluded the man, or been abandoned by him. He telephoned his lawyer who contacted the United States Consulate which in turn brought in the FBI.
Giesbrecht was quoted in the Maclean’s article as being rather confused by the Bureau’s behavior.
“This looks like the break we’ve been waiting for,” he said FBI agent Merryl Nelson had told him. Then, a few months later, he recalled that he was informed that he should forget about the entire episode as it was “too big,” and “we can’t protect you in Canada.”
On February 23, 1967, while visiting a friend in a hospital, Giesbrecht saw a photograph of David Ferrie in a newspaper. The face pictured struck him as familiar; then he remembered it as that of one of the men he had overheard in the airport.
The Winnipeg Free Press broke his story and one of Jim Garrison’s aides got in touch with him. At last he had found an official who actually wanted to pursue his evidence. Telephone calls were exchanged, including conversations between Giesbrecht and Garrison.
In September, according to Maclean’s, he tentatively agreed to testify at Clay Shaw’s forthcoming trial.
Garrison accepts Ferrie, who was easily recognizable because of his red wig and false eyebrows, as one of the Winnipeg men. It has been suggested that another of the men many have been Maj. L. M. Bloomfield, a former OSS officer, now living in Montreal. Bloomfield was among the members of the board of directors of the CIA-sponsored Centro Mondiale Commerciale in Rome—an organization which also had Clay Shaw on its board.
The author felt that this new development was of sufficient importance to warrant a personal inquiry and Giesbrecht was called, in Winnipeg, from New York. He agreed to answer a few questions. That conversation, between the witness and the author, went as follows:

      Q. Is there any doubt in your mind that the conversation you overheard [at the Winnipeg Airport] referred to the conspiracy relating to the assassination of the President?
A. Oh, yes. Most definitely [it was].
Q. There is no doubt in your mind?
A. No, none at all.

Q. From the photographs you have seen of David Ferrie, how certain are you that he was one of the two men talking?
A. Well, I’ll put it this way. It was a photo three years after—that I’d seen this man—three years after—without even seeing a story on it, that immediately this stuck out. And I had identified this man three years previous, but not knowing it was a man by the name of Ferrie, you know.
Q. When was the first time you ever saw a photograph of Ferrie?
A. About five or six months ago.
Q. Therefore there would have been a three-year lapse between seeing the man and the photograph?
A. Right, right.
Q. Yet, on the basis of that, what would you say your certainty that it was Ferrie was? Fifty percent? Eighty percent?
A. I would say a hundred percent.

      Although declining to comment on whether he had been recently contacted by the FBI or any other United States government intelligence agency, he did recall that he had been initially told that this “was the break they’d probably been looking for.” However, although remarking that he thought the FBI “had done a good job, maybe; the only thing [being] that it is not in the open … what their actual investigation is, I don’t know.”
Giesbrecht had originally mentioned that among the things overheard was a word which sounded like “Romeniuk.” As eastern European undertones had suggested themselves in other aspects of the various investigations, the author inquired whether the word might have been Romanian,” but he did not know. Similarly, shadowy clergy of some branches of the Old Catholic Church in this country had repeatedly appeared in the background. Asked whether any mention had been made of the Old Catholic Church, or related religious bodies, he replied: “No comment.”
The author sought more information regarding the mysterious Winnipeg Airport conversationalists. Giesbrecht continued:

      A. I don’t know the size of them. I didn’t see either one of the two standing up. The color of the hair? The one that I thought was Ruby [sic; Ferrie?] would have been a very light brown or red, and the other fellow, he would be blondish, grayish, you know, blond-gray, between red and blond, turning gray.
Q. Right. Do you have any idea who the man was, other than Ferrie?
A. At that time, or now?
Q. Now.
A. Well, I again would say “no comment” there.
Q. Right. But you have no doubt about the one man being Ferrie?
A. No, no doubt in my mind.
Q. So, in summation, we may say that in your mind there is no question that it was Ferrie, you have no comment at this time on who the second man might have been, you have no comment on whether you have been contacted by any intelligence agencies recently.
A. Right.