THE COLLINS RADIO CONNECTIONS to the Assassination of President Kennedy
By William E. Kelly – Revised from report originally published in Backchannels magazine and presented at the national conference of the Coalition On Political Assassination (COPA), October 10, 1994.
If the assassination of President Kennedy was the result of not only a conspiracy, but a covert action and coup d’etat, as many people believe, there should be evidence of this from both the scene of the crime(s) as well as from the highest echelons of power among those who took over the government. This would be especially so if the assassination was not the actions of a lone-nut or a foreign attack by Cuban or Soviet intelligence service sponsors, but an internal manipulation of policy and control, an inside job.
As Edward Luttwack describes in his “How-To” book Coup d’etat – A Practical Handbook (Alfred A. Knopf, 1968, p. 117), “Control over the flow of information emanating from the political center will be our most important weapon in establishing… authority after the coup. The seizure of the main means of mass communication will thus be a task of crucial importance.”
At the scene(s) of the crime, eyewitness testimony is always suspect. Homicide detectives prefer more solid leads that provide documented evidence that can be introduced in court, such as fingerprints, telephone and automobile license records.
There are a number of automobile license records of significance in regards to the assassination of President Kennedy, including the tampered photo among the possessions of Lee Harvey Oswald of the license on 1957 Chevy in General Walker’s driveway, plus the license numbers of cars seen in Dealey Plaza photos immediately before and after the assassination.
Most significant however, is the Texas plate PP4537. This number was jotted down on a piece of paper by an elderly Oak Cliff mechanic T. F. White, who noticed a man acting suspiciously behind the wheel of a 1958 two tone Plymouth sedan shortly after the murder of Dallas Policeman J.D. Tippitt in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. The car was parked behind a billboard in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant, with the driver, like White, watching the flurry of Dallas police cars racing down the street with sirens blaring, called to the nearby scene of the shooting of Tippit.
White walked across the street to get closer and exchanged glances with the man, who quickly drove away. White wrote down the license tag PP4537 on a piece of paper and forgot about it until later that day when he saw Lee Harvey Oswald on television and recognized him as the man he saw acting suspiciously in the Plymouth earlier that afternoon.
A few weeks later, when Dallas radio reporter and later mayor of Dallas Wes Wise gave a talk at the Oak Cliff restaurant, the owner of the garage where Mr. White worked mentioned the suspicious Plymouth to Wise, who then met White. White reluctantly told his story, but was reluctant to get involved, and Wise had to use all his powers of persuasion to convince White to share the information with him. Wise promised White he would not be brought into the investigation, but tat he, Wise, would handle it. “Do you have the piece of paper with the license number on it?” Wise asked, and sure enough, White had it right there in his pocket and gave it to Wise. It read: PP4537.
White told Wise that nobody knew who or what was really behind the assassination of President Kennedy and he really didn’t want to get involved, but he handed over the paper to Wise, who passed it on to the police and FBI.
A quick check of the Texas plate #PP4537 indicated that it was assigned to Carl Mather, of Garland, Texas. When the FBI went out to the listed Garland address they found the two tone 1958 Plymouth right there in the driveway and knocked on the door. Mrs. Mather answered, acknowledged the car belonged to her husband, who was then away at work at Collins Radio, in nearby Richardson, Texas. When asked where her husband and the car was on Friday, November 22, 1963, she said that the car was in the parking lot at Collins Radio until sometime in the afternoon when her husband returned home and picked up the family to go to the Tippit residence to pay their respects to the widow and family of their good friend, who was murdered that day.
Instead of going out to Collins Radio to interview Mather however, the FBI went first to Mr. White, who Wes Wise had promised wouldn’t be involved, and took additional statements from him, changing his story for the official reports and exchanging the two tone Plymouth to a red Ford Falcon. CBS News made a polite inquiry years later, leaving Carl Mather out of the documentary program they aired but listed Mrs. Mather in the programs credits. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) briefly looked into the affair, granted Mather immunity from prosecution to testify and then failed to question him under oath. The HSCA published a short report they titled “The Wise Allegation,” when in fact Wes Wise made no allegations, and merely followed up on his reporter’s instincts. He came up with an automobile license plate number that was scene near the murder of a Dallas policeman that was traced to one of the victim’s best friends, Carl Mather, whose alibi is that he was at work at the time, at Collins Radio.
Documents later released under the JFK Act indicate that Mather was questioned by HSCA investigators and claimed that he worked on electronics at Collins, his specific job being the installation of the radio equipment aboard Air Force Two – the Vice President’s plane.
That this lead was not properly investigated, and remains uninvestigated today, is because such an inquiry actually does lead to the heart of the plot to murder not only Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit, but as many believe, is tied directly to the assassination of President Kennedy. If the Tippit murder is connected to the assassination of the President, as the official stories alleges, then the Tippit murder may be the “Rosetta Stone” that could explain the mysteries of both murders.
The significance of the Collins Radio connections becomes apparent with a quick review of the published record, and that:
1. On November 1, 1963 the New York Times published a photograph of the ship the Rex, which Fidel Castro identified as the boat that dropped off a team of assassins in Cuba a few nights previous. The Rex was docked at Palm Beach, Florida, near the JFK family compound, and the Rex’s Halloween eve mission was in clear violation of President Kennedy’s March 1963 edict that no para-military raids against Cuba were to originate from U.S. shores. According to the article in the NYTs, the Rex had been sold by the Somoza regime in Nicaragua to the Belcher Oil Company, its dock fees paid by the CIA front company Sea Ship Inc., with the Rex then being leased to the Collins Radio Company of Richardson, Texas, “for scientific research.”
2. Founded by Arthur Collins, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Collins Radio first made news headlines when young Collins was an amateur radio buff with the only (home made) radio receiver who could pick up the radio transmissions of Navy Commander Richard E. Byrd from his polar exploration expedition. [Richard Byrd is the cousin of the founder of the Civil Air Patrol and owner of the Texas School Book Depository building].
3. Collins Radio became a major defense contractor during World War II, and following the war, participated in Operation Paperclip, hiring Dr. Alex Lipisch, the former Nazi scientist who developed the Delta I glider and ME 163 Komet jet fighter. For Collins, Lipisch was assigned to the boat development program that worked with General Dynamics in attempting to build and refine a sleek, swift speedboat – the V20 – that could be used for Cuban infiltration missions like the Rex mission. It was later used in Vietnam.
4. David Ferrie’s telephone records reflect that in the weeks before the assassination he made frequent calls from the New Orleans law office of G. Ray Gill to the Belcher Oil Company of Dallas, Texas, the company that was the listed owner of the Rex.
5. In the week before the assassination, a reservation was made at Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club for a large party of Collins Radio employees.
6. The Dallas P.D. Intelligence Division maintained a paid informant who worked at Collins Radio and reported on fellow employees who appeared suspicious or subversive, including one who was reported to subscribe to the leftist I.F. Stone Weekly.
7. When Lee Harvey Oswald returned to Texas from Soviet Russia, George DeMohrenschildt introduced him to retired Navy Admiral Chester Bruton, an executive at Collins Radio, with the idea of Oswald getting a job there, as he had worked in a radio factory in Minsk, USSR. Oswald and Marina visited Bruton with DeMohrenschilt.
8. At the time of the assassination Adml. Bruton was working on a top-secret nuclear submarine communications project for Collins, with the Navy’s nuclear sub radar and communications HQ being based at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, close neighbors of Michael Paine’s family island.
9. In 1963 Collins Radio began receiving large military contracts including one for the construction of a microwave communications network in Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam.
10. After Oswald was murdered while in Dallas police custody by Jack Ruby, his widow Marina P. Oswald married former Collins Radio employee Kenneth Porter.
11. In Miami, Florida, a Cuban exile, and former executive of Collins Radio, was murdered, assassinated in a still unsolved homicide.
12. Collins Radio supplied and maintained the equipment used by the Voice of America, all manned NASA space flights, the Strategic Air Command (SAC), as well as all equipment used for the CIA’s Guatemalan and Cuban operations. Most significantly, Collins Radio was responsible for installing and maintaining all radio equipment aboard Air Force One, Air Force Two and the Cabinet’s plane.
13. According to the Collins Radio Annual Report to stockholders for 1963-64, Collins Radio not only installed and maintained the radios aboard most military and executive branch planes, they also operated the station known as “Liberty” at their Cedar Rapids, Iowa headquarters, which served as a relay station for all radio communications between the White House, the Pentagon, Air Force One, Air Force Two, the Cabinet plane and Andrews AFB in Washington.
[This “Liberty” station is misidentified on most transcripts of the edited version of the radio transmissions from Air Force One on 11/22/63. “Air Force One, the Presidential airplane, was placed in service in 1962 using communications equipment developed and manufactured by Collins. The aircraft…was modified to meet special requirements…In 1962, the station many remember as “Liberty” was opened and operated from the new communications building….(in Cedar Rapids, Iowa)…Collins had a contract with the Air Force to serve as either the primary communications station or as a backup whenever Air Force One, the presidential aircraft, and other aircraft in the VIP fleet carried cabinet members or high ranking military officers. Over the airwaves the station’s call word was ‘Liberty.’” – From Collins Radio – the First 50 Years.]
In his book The Making of a President – 1964, Theodore H. White wrote: “There is a tape recording in the archives o the government which best recaptures the sound of the hours as it waited for leadership. It is a recording of all the conversations in the air, monitored by the Signal Corps Midwestern center ‘Liberty,’ between Air Force One in Dallas, the Cabinet plane over the Pacific, and the Joint Chiefs’ Communications Center in Washington….On the flight the party learned that there was no conspiracy, learned the identity of Oswald and his arrest; and the President’s mind turned to the duties of consoling the stricken and guiding the quick.”
According to the analysis of E. Martin Schotz and Vincent Salandria (in History Will Not Absolve Us, 1996), “And yet the White House had informed President Johnson and the other occupants of Air Force One, all of them witnesses to the hail of bullets which had poured down on Dealey Plaza, that as of the afternoon of the assassination there was to be no conspiracy and that Oswald was to be the lone assassin. If White’s report were correct this would mean that federal officials in Washington were marrying the government to the cover-up of Oswald as the lone assassin virtually instantaneously. This could have occurred only if those federal authorities had had foreknowledge that the evidence would implicate Oswald and that he would have ‘no confederates.’ An innocent government could not have reacted in such a fashion internally.”
Unfortunately, there is no longer “a tape recording in the archives of the government,” as the original, unedited, multiple tape recordings of the AF1 radio transmissions cannot be located despite an Act of Congress, the request of the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) and numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. Our government seems to have simply lost the recordings, with no records being kept of their whereabouts or destruction, if in fact they were destroyed.
The Final Report of the ARRB (p. 116) notes:
“6. White House Communications Agency. “WHCA was, and is, responsible for maintaining both secure (encrypted) and unsecured (open) telephone, radio and telex communications between the President and the government of the United States. Most of the personnel that constitute this elite agency are U.S. military communications specialists; many, in 1963, were from the Army Signal Corps. On November 22, 1963, WHCA was responsible for communications between and among Air Force One and Two, the White House Situation Room, the mobile White House, and with the Secret Service in the motorcade.”
“The Review Board sought to locate any audio recordings of voice communications to or from Air Force One on the day of the assassination, including communications between Air Force one and Andrews Air Force Base during the return flight from Dallas to Washington D.C. As many people are now aware of, in the 1970s, the LBJ Presidential Library released edited audio cassettes of the unsecured, or open voice conversations with Air Force One, Andrews AFB, the White House Situation Room, and the Cabinet Aircraft carrying the Secretary of State and other officials on November 22, 1`963. The LBJ Library version of these tapes consists of about 110 minutes of voice transmissions, but the tapes are edited and condensed, so the Review Board staff sought access to unedited, uncondensed versions. Since the edited versions of the tapes contain considerable talk about both the forthcoming autopsy on the President, as well as the reaction of a government in crisis, the tapes are of considerable interest to assassination researchers and historians.”
“Given that the LBJ Library released the tapes in the 1970s, the paper trail is now sketch and quite cold. The LBJ Library staff is fairly confident that the tapes originated with the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). The LBJ Library staff told the Review Board staff that it received the tapes from the White House as part of the original shipment of President Johnson’s papers in 1968 or 1969. According to the LBJ Library’s documentation, the accession card reads: “WHCA?” and is dated 1975. The Review Board staff could not locate any records indicating who performed the editing, or when, or where.”
“The Review Board’s repeated written and oral inquiries of the White House Communications Agency did not bear fruit. The WHCA could not produce any records that illuminated the provenance of the edited tapes.”
At the time I delivered my report on “The Collins Radio Connections” to the National COPA Conference in Washington in October, 1994, the Washington Post had just then exposed the true occupant of a new, mammoth, suburban Virginia building. It was not the headquarters for Collins Radio/Rockwell International as had been previously reported, but they had just been the cooperating cover company for the super secret National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), just as Collins Radio had served as a cover for the CIA in the operation of the Rex in Cuba in1963.
Also, in the October, 1998 issue of John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s George Magazine, – David Wise reported on how the NRO had “lost” $6 billion in U.S. taxpayer’s money, and specifically mentioned the fiasco surrounding the construction of the HQ building, or which Collins/Rockwell served as a cover company.
[William E. Kelly is a freelance journalist whose research into the assassination of President Kennedy is partially sponsored by the Fund For Constitutional Government Investigative Journalism Project. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org]