Peter R. Whitmey
Originally printed in The Fourth Decade, March 1999
Posted here by permission of Mr. Whitmey
Ever since I first became aware of the "Winnipeg
Airport Incident" while reading Coup D'Etat in America twelve
years ago, (providing a brief and somewhat misleading reference, but which led
me to other sources), I have attempted to collect as many of the primary and
secondary documents as possible. After writing my first article on the subject
("The Man Who Heard Too Much," Nov. 1990, TTD), based on secondary
material as well as numerous interviews, I was pleased to learn from researcher
Bill Adams that he had been able to obtain some relevant material from the
"Boxley file" through AARC. Included was "Commission No.
645"—the six-page detailed report
provided to the Warren Commission by the FBI (dated March 6, 1964), which had
been prepared by the Minneapolis office, based on an interview with Winnipeg
resident Richard Giesbrecht, conducted by SA Merle Nelson from the FBI's Grand
Forks, ND office.
I also received some documents (but not all) through a FOIPA application, in several stages, which began arriving a year after writing to the FBI. Included amongst them were teletypes sent to FBI offices in Kansas City, Las Vegas and Dallas, dated March 2 and 3, 1964, giving specific instructions to check out certain "leads," along with a detailed summary of the Winnipeg Airport Incident. However, when the official six-page report was distributed on March 6, the cover pages attached to it list one new lead for the New York City office to check out in place of the previous Dallas lead. (I discussed partial results of these leads in my second article "The Winnipeg Airport Incidents"—TFD, Nov. 1995.)
With the formation of the Assassination Record Review Board in 1992 and the subsequent creation of the NARA website ("Kennedy Assassination Records Collection"), I was finally able to do my own search for other possible documents related to the Winnipeg Airport Incident. When I first used the database, I entered the name "Richard Giesbrecht," which resulted in a listing of thirteen documents, all of which I had received through my earlier FOIPA application. However, I soon discovered other relevant summary pages that did not include the name "Giesbrecht".
One of the most important, given its proximity to the events of Feb. 13, 1964 , is a seven-page, hand-written letter from Mr. Giesbrecht's lawyer, Harry Backlin (who had represented him and his brother in business dealings for several years) to Mr. John H. Morris, the U.S. Consulate General in Winnipeg, dated Feb. 18, 1964. The letter was headed "Absolutely Personal" and began:
"Further to our recent telephone conversation in which I set forth certain personal and confidential information concerning the Oswald case. I am writing this memorandum because I do not wish the information herein contained to get into too many hands. I have your undertaking that this information shall be dealt with in the strictest confidence."Backlin pointed out "..Before passing the information on to you, I checked out the man and firmly believe that what he has divulged to me is fact." (As it turned out, the FBI ended up concluding that Giesbrecht had an overactive imagination.) The remainder of the letter outlines the comments which Mr. Giesbrecht had overheard and noted in writing. (He tore up his notes while driving home, but his brother assisted him in rewriting them that evening.) Here are some excerpts:
Reference was made in Backlin's detailed letter to a planned "sales meeting," the first "since November," to be held "in a place sounding like Townhouse in Kansas City". Mention was made of the names "Kellogg" and "Broadway," which turned out to be the main streets in downtown Wichita, KA, where the Townhouse Motor Hotel was located. It would appear that the proposed meeting was slated for March 18, and a "banquet room" had been reserved for the unidentified group in the name of a "textile firm".
"On the afternoon of Feb. 13th my client, a salesman, had an appointment to meet a customer at the new International Airport. My client arrived early and sat in the cocktail lounge to have a drink. After finishing his drink he walked around the new building...then returned to the same table...Immediately behind him were seated two men who were not there previously...he could overhear them talking about the Oswald case. One of the men was wondering 'how much Oswald really knew' and 'how much does she know.' [This was undoubtedly a reference to Marina, who had testified before the Warren Commission on Feb. 4; her photo was on the cover of the most recent issue of Time.] A name was mentioned -- sounding like 'Isaacs' -- who was apparently seen on film after the landing.' [The FBI later wrote 'Love Field' next to this comment in the six-page report.] Further conversation could be heard in bits and pieces, such as...'if Oswald is found guilty the bureau will not stop investigation.' They talked about 'merchandise coming from Nevada...too risky in the past months. We'll have to close shop temporarily.' My client couldn't hear everything too clearly about the next matter but it related (to) the subject of 'mercury'."
"Note pad obtained from Ruby when arrested contained name Chuck Isaacs. Investigation reveals wife of Charles R. Isaacs, ticket agent, American Airlines, formerly assigned Dallas, now assigned San Francisco, made costumes for Ruby's dancers. San Francisco locate Isaacs and obtain all info. re: associates and activities of Ruby & relationship if any between Ruby & Oswald."On Dec. 23, 1963 the San Francisco office sent a teletype to Dallas with the following instructions:
"American Airlines advises Isaacs presently on vacation in the Dallas, Tex., area and will not return until after the first of the year. Dallas interview Isaacs as set out in retel."At the bottom of the teletype is a handwritten notation indicating that the instructions had been "covered" and that a teletype had been sent to "...SF, 1/2/64 for interviewing Isaacs & wife." On a faded copy of the teletype, the two agents involved are listed in the handwriting of one of them, namely Clements and Sayers, with the notation "Cc pulled for DL lead."
"Remytel December twenty-one, sixty-three and urtel December twenty-three, sixty-three concerning interview of Chuck Isaacs and wife. Dallas unable to locate Isaacs. Since Isaacs returning to San Francisco after first of year, San Francisco handle interview of Isaacs and wife re: Ruby and Oswald...JWS."On Jan. 6, 1964 the San Francisco office sent "25 copies each of an FD-302 reflecting interviews with Charles R. Isaacs and Mrs. Charles R. Isaacs" to the Dallas office, along with an Airtel, advising Dallas, if not already done so, to "...locate and interview BRECK WALL and JOE PETERSON, producers of shows in the Dallas area, who are acquainted with Ruby. They may possibly be located through JOE REICHMAN, an orchestra leader at the Century Room, Adolphus Hotel, Dallas, Texas." These names had been derived from the interviews with the Isaacs.
"Tom requested that I write what I remembered of the Harold R. Isaacs investigation. When I observed that Gen. Walker was 'investigated' in Boston by the F.B.I. on May 21, 1964, the thought occurred to me that Harold R. Isaacs, who was investigated by the F.B.I. in Boston on May 22, 1964, might also be from Dallas..."At the end of her memo, after making reference to telephone listings under Harold Isaacs' ex-wife and parents, with partial credit given to "Boxley" (actually William Wood) for locating Isaacs in the Houston area (which Wood later wrote about in a 1975 issue of the National Tattler, Mary made the following oblique statement:
"Please read the clipping from the Winnipeg paper re: the conversation overheard in the airport concerning Oswald and Isaacs and the meeting in Kansas City. There is no connection between Chuck Isaacs (in Ruby's notebook) and our Harold R. Isaacs. I determined this in June. I can send you my reasoning on that point if you would like, but it is very conclusive."It would appear that Turner was persuaded to forget about Charles R. Isaacs, as a result of the efforts of Bethell, Boxley and Ferrell, even though it was a far more solid lead than the one associated with CD 1080 (which turned out to be a reference to Prof. Harold R. Isaacs of M.I.T., who was the target of right-wing journalist Paul Scott, and who had attempted to link the professor to several "Communists," including Marilyn Murret, Oswald's globe-trotting cousin from New Orleans, although unaware they were related.)
Recently, on the way to Minneapolis for a JFK assassination conference, I
spent two days in Winnipeg researching this aspect of the case. While there, I
was able to watch a ten-minute interview conducted with the late Richard
Giesbrecht for a CBC-TV program called "Open Seasons;" the interview
took place at the very table where Mr. Giesbrecht allegedly overheard the
suspicious conversation, in the Horizon Room at the Winnipeg International
The interview was broadcast on Dec. 12, 1968, only a month or so before the Shaw trial got underway. This is almost a year since Giesbrecht had been interviewed by the National Enquirer and referred to briefly in William Turner's Ramparts report. It also took place on the heels of the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, and the turbulence at the Chicago Democratic convention. Under the circumstances, Mr. Giesbrecht would have been fully justified to cancel his agreement made with the New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, to testify at Shaw's trial (which he had expected to begin in June, 1968.) I was led to believe that Giesbrecht had, in fact, already notified Garrison that he would not be coming to New Orleans, as a result of threats to his family's welfare. However, when asked about his concern for his own safety during the interview, Giesbrecht indicated that since he had told the RCMP, the FBI and Garrison's staff everything he knew, he didn't feel there was any reason why he would be harmed, although he did state at a later point that his days were probably "numbered," and had "mixed feelings" about having come forward in the first place. He also was familiar with Penn Jones' study suggesting that there were as many as "32 mysterious deaths" associated with the JFK assassination (which had been discussed in a Canadian magazine the previous fall.) There was no indication that any threat had been made towards his wife or four children, however (one of whom drowned in 1969 in a motel pool in Detroit Lakes, Minn. at the age of nine.)
In addition to reviewing the highlights of his experience at the Winnipeg Airport on Feb. 13, 1964 (with no mention of David Ferrie, oddly enough, by either Giesbrecht or the interviewer) , Giesbrecht also provided information suggesting a possible link between JFK's assassination and that of Martin Luther King eight months earlier. He mentioned that he had been in contact with Arthur Haynes, one of James Earl Ray's original lawyers, and William Huie, a reporter who was writing a book on MLK's assassination in conjunction with the defense (who subsequently became convinced that Ray was a lone assassin.) While displaying a large police sketch, Giesbrecht referred to the "third man" who had followed him, when he left the airport lounge, as fitting Ray's description of a man seen with him in Montreal (presumably Raoul,, although no name is mentioned). Apparently, Ray's new lawyer (Percy Foreman, not referred to by name) was also aware of this possible connection. It should be pointed out, however, that the description of the "third man" given by Giesbrecht to the FBI was not consistent in terms of height and weight with the description of "Raoul" given by James Earl Ray, although it is possible that someone else who was seen with Ray was the subject of the discussion. Giesbrecht also pointed out that the incident at the airport and James Earl Ray's post-assassination movements both involved Canada, and believed there was a connection between the two.
In the course of the interview, Giesbrecht also mentioned that there were at least a dozen classified documents in the archives referring to his allegations, implying that the U.S. government was covering up what they had learned during their investigation of Giesbrecht's allegations (that number is correct, which he must have obtained from Garrison). One of the classified documents that he referred to specifically was the "Harold Isaacs" report, which I discussed in this report, which had nothing to do with the Winnipeg investigation (and turned out to be a very large red herring). He emphasized again having been warned to keep quiet by the FBI agent who had interviewed him, in the course of contacting the "U.S. media" (specifically being interviewed by the station manager of a KCND-TV in Pembina, North Dakota in early April, 1964; I spoke to the former manager recently, who now lives in Winnipeg. I also learned that the station had been purchased by Izzy Asper, who is now "C.E.O." of Canwest Global Communications, headquartered in Winnipeg, and one of Canada's private television networks.) Giesbrecht described having become frustrated at the apparent lack of any follow-up on the part of the FBI after such an immediate initial response, causing him to go public with his story (although he didn't reveal his name until he was interviewed by Maclean's magazine for their Nov. 1967 issue.)
Since the Shaw trial did finally get underway in late Jan. 1969 after a long delay (with Shaw's lawyers trying unsuccessfully to get the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the charges), obviously Giesbrecht must have had a change of heart following his television interview (he indicated to the interviewer that the case had been "frozen" for some time and wasn't sure when it would start, if at all). It is possible that the comments made by Giesbrecht in reference to the MLK case had some bearing on his subsequent decision to stay well away from New Orleans (a city which played a significant role in James Earl Ray's claim of being set up.) It would be interesting to learn whether Garrison was aware of the CBC-TV interview, and the possible links to the MLK case. In addition, it might be significant to learn who was responsible for the police drawing displayed by Giesbrecht.