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Thursday, 18 September 2014 17:50

Jean Davison: Update

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As I mentioned in the second edition of Destiny Betrayed, when David Phillips was trying to convince Vincent Bugliosi to write a book on the JFK case, he mentioned two examples to follow. ... The second was Oswald's Game. In the upside down world of Jean Davison on the JFK case, it would not surprise me if she took the suspect conspirator's recommendation as a complement, writes Jim DiEugenio.


Read Part 1


Since Jean Davison posts regularly at JFK Facts, both Leslie Sharp and myself placed a link in two of the threads there to my review of her book. The idea was to remind the other posters that contrary to what she leads people to think, Davison almost never tells a complete story on any issue. And secondly, even though she wrote a biography about Lee Oswald, it does not appear that she ever went anywhere to conduct new, firsthand research. It does not even appear she went to Dallas. Leslie asked her that question; did she go to Dallas--and Jean failed to answer. This is a huge failing in her (largely derivative) book.

But in her usual charming and delicate manner, Davison now fired back. She called my review of her book a "train wreck." Why? Because unlike what I wrote, she maintains that she never actually said that Oswald learned Russian in the marines. Let us examine her complaint in its proper context.

First of all, I wrote a 21-page review of her book Oswald's Game. I analyzed it in almost all of its aspects: methodology, sources, use of original material (of which there was none), and most of all, her selectivity about facts. That is, what she chose to leave out that was already in the public domain. Therefore, she had to have known about it. In all of those 21 pages, this language issue is all she could come up with as a complaint about my review. That means I had a pretty good batting average. Well over .900.

And even on that, she is not being forthcoming or candid. In a purely technical sense, she does not say in the book that Oswald learned Russian in the service. But here is the problem with her defense: that is what the book clearly implies. Consider this quote: "Lt. Donovan...thought Oswald subscribed to the Russian newspaper to learn the language and get another view of international affairs." (Davison, p. 76, italics added) Even before that, she herself writes that, after his court-martial, "it was during this period that Oswald began studying the Russian language." (p. 73)

Most objective readers would say these statements clearly suggest Oswald was learning Russian in the service. Especially in light of my next point: she provides no other opportunity or alternative for the Russian language acquisition in her text. So what else is one to think?

But today, Davison says this is all wrong. She now refers us to the Warren Report, which says that Oswald spoke little Russian once he arrived in the USSR. In other words, now she says that he acquired the language while in Russia. This information is from posts she made in 2014. They are not in her book. Therefore, the deduction I previously made is completely justifiable based on what is in Oswald's Game. So for her to say that my review was somehow faulty because of that, such a tenet is simply bogus. Especially since she brought up no other specific point of contention with the review. Which means she had to bring up something, so she had to stretch for this.

But, in fact, even the Warren Report says Oswald studied the Russian language in the service. (WR, p. 391) Nevertheless, to further her new argument, she says that when Oswald went to Minsk he was at first assigned a Russian tutor. This is a gross exaggeration, which further illustrates her looseness with the record. The "tutors" were his Intourist guides, the girls hired to serve as the Soviet travel service escorts. How skilled could they be in teaching Russian? (WR, p. 697)

Anyway, today Davison has a new argument about the issue. Namely that Oswald did not really acquire the language until he got to the Soviet Union. Let us dissect this Davisonian drivel. There are four pieces of evidence which seriously undermine what she now proposes. First, back in 1974, Harold Weisberg unearthed the transcript of the Warren Commission's January 27, 1964 executive session meeting. That meeting contains a reference by Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin to the Commission's efforts "to find out what he [Oswald] studied at the Monterey School of the Army in the way of languages." (Philip Melanson, Spy Saga, p. 12) Note, Rankin did not say if Oswald studied there. He said he did study there.

Secondly, back in 1994 this writer interviewed Dan Campbell. In going over his military career, he said that he was a highly skilled marksman. He was so good that he did exhibitions throughout the country. He once did one in Santa Ana. It went over quite well and he stayed late. He then asked the officer in charge if he could stay over that night. The man replied sure he could and led him to the barracks. He pointed at a bed and said words to the effect, sleep here, this Oswald guy is almost never here. (Campbell remembered the name because he had been in an orphanage with Oswald as a youth.) This provides an opportunity for Oswald to have been at Monterey, directly north on the California coast.

Third, there is evidence in the Commission volumes that undermines; as it often does; what is in the Warren Report. (Or Davison's selective reading of it.) As Jim Garrison so memorably wrote in his book, On the Trail of the Assassins, he was shocked when he learned that Oswald was being tested in the Russian language while in the service. In front of the Commission, Lt. Colonel Allison Folsom was reading from Oswald's military records on a Russian test he took while at El Toro Marine base in California. As Garrison so memorably wrote:

In all my years of military service during World War II-and since; I had never taken a test in Russian...In 1959, when Oswald was taking that exam, I was a staff officer in the National Guard in a battalion made up of hundreds of soldiers. None of them had been required to show how much Russian they knew. Even on that night in 1966 when I read Colonel Folsom's testimony I was still in the military service; by now a major; and I could not recall a single soldier ever having been required to demonstrate how much Russian he had learned. (pgs. 22-23)

Garrison concludes that Russian is not taught to soldiers if they are genuinely part of the combat duty regiment they are assigned to. Oswald was supposed to be involved with anti-aircraft and radar duties, "A soldier genuinely involved in anti-aircraft duty would have about as much use for Russian as a cat would have for pajamas." (ibid)

Finally, there is the Rosaleen Quinn testimony. After taking the test mentioned by Garrison and not doing well on it, Oswald's Russian skills greatly improved. Shortly before he left the service a friend of his arranged a meeting with his aunt, Rosaleen Quinn. Quinn had been studying the language for over a year in hopes of getting a State Department job. She actually did have a tutor; not a travel guide-- who worked with her for over a year. The two spoke in Russian over dinner for two hours. Quinn later said, "Oswald spoke Russian better and more confidently than she did." (Melanson, p. 11) Quinn's testimony, by itself, demolishes the idea Davison is now trying to sell: that somehow Oswald did not learn Russian until after he defected.

The more interesting question is: Why does Davison try and market such a ridiculous idea? As I noted in my review, one thing that Davison attempts throughout Oswald's Game is to keep Oswald out of the clutches of the intelligence community e.g. CIA, FBI, ONI. If you deliberately ignore all of the above evidence, and say he didn't really acquire Russian until after he defected, that is one way of achieving your agenda. The problem is that this notion is not supported by the facts, and is easily discredited by the record. After all, two hours of speaking pure Russian seems to indicate some degree of fluency. And the fact that Oswald improved between the time of his test and his meeting with Quinn clearly suggests he was getting instruction somewhere.

In going through Oswald's Game again for this update, the book seems even worse on the third go round than the first two. For instance, Davison uses the usual crew of witnesses to paint Oswald as a sociopathic Red: Marina Oswald, Ruth and Michael Paine (especially the latter), and Kerry Thornley. In no instance does she ever advise the reader of any of the liabilities of these witnesses. For instance, Jim Garrison indicted Thornley for perjury in 1968. Thornley denied being seen with Oswald in New Orleans in the summer of 1963. Thornley's testimony seems very strained today. There are just too many credible witnesses who say they saw the pair together. (See Joe Biles, In History's Shadow, pgs. 193-97) Since Davison never left her living room to do research on her book, I would be willing to wager she was not even aware of this indictment, or the witnesses against Thornley.

But here is the bottom line about this obsolete and useless book: Davison could care less if she left out important data about Oswald. Even though she was writing a book about him. Why? Because although her book pretends to be a biography of Oswald, it really is not. After all, if she had really been interested in the man, and not the caricature the Warren Report published, she would have left her house a few times and visited New Orleans or Dallas or New York. She never went to these places because she had no interest in researching the man.

And we have this in her own words. She wrote that "He complains that I didn't interpret the evidence the same way he does, didn't mention all the points he would have mentioned. Well hello? Does he think I agree with him about the assassination?"

I would be remiss if I did not comment on the first and last parts of her response.

First, there was little if any argument about "interpretation of evidence" in my critique. I was clear in my adverse comments. I critiqued her for her lack of new evidence, her lack of any field investigation, her use of highly controversial sources, her highly selective use of dubious pieces of evidence and testimony, and her consistent and almost rigorous avoidance of better evidence that would vitiate that dubiousness. To point up two examples of the last: She used Jack Ruby's Warren Commission polygraph test to attack Mark Lane. But she ignored the HSCA report showing that the FBI broke so many protocols of polygraph technique in that the test that it is worthless today. Second, she tries to say that since some witnesses say it was Guy Banister in Clinton/Jackson, and not Clay Shaw, that these witnesses are confused. If she had used the primary documents available to her at the AARC, she would have seen that this was a myth. The witnesses identified Shaw as the driver of the car, not Banister. Instead she was using James Phelan anti-Garrison spin.

Unlike her diversionary claim, these are not matters of interpretation. They concern the search for the best evidence about key parts of the case. Which is something, as I showed, she repeatedly failed to do.

Her last sentence, about agreeing with her about the assassination, says everything the reader has to know about Oswald's Game. Like the Warren Commission, Jean Davison made up her mind about the Kennedy murder before she wrote her book. And her biography then followed what she thought about the murder. Which is putting the cart before the horse. If one was really looking to write a book about Oswald's life, one's opinion about the assassination should remain out of the equation. A good biographer would never do that. In fact, a good biographer probably would not even discuss that controversy if he were really interested in telling the truth about Oswald. Because he or she would want his work independent of that matter to stand on its own.

As I proved, such is not the case here. It's not even close. Jean Davison had an agenda from the minute she picked up her pen. One she had been nursing for many years. And not only was she out to nail that dirty commie Oswald, she was also out to smear all those loony writers who thought he was innocent. In an Orwellian stroke she calls such persons who believe the Commission was wrong--which is hundreds of millions of men and women all over the world; Conspiracy Thinking. And she exemplifies the work of those writers with the examples of David Lifton's Best Evidence, and Michael Eddowes' The Oswald File. (See Davison pgs. 269-92)

Anyone who can exemplify the work that had been done on the Kennedy case by 1983 with those two books simply cannot be trusted. For the simple point that those works do not at all represent anywhere near what the consensus was on the case back then or now. This is the kind of cheap trick that someone like Ron Rosenbaum would perform in one of his missions for the MSM.

Davison also tried to defend her worthless and dishonest performance in Oswald's Game by saying it was written in 1983. It doesn't matter when an author writes a book. Once he puts his name on it, it is his. He or she cannot run from it. But secondly, there are many books much older than hers that are still very much worth reading and using. One of which, Accessories After the Fact, is one I use all the time. But there are many others, like Seth Kantors's biography of Jack Ruby. But Davison knows this since she lists those two books in her bibliography. Which proves she was out to demean and distort.

Among the Krazy Kid Oswald crowd, Davison's book is somehow looked up to. In fact, John McAdams features her introduction, where she attacked Mark Lane, on his infamous web site. McAdams, of course, protects Davison from exposure by not mentioning the HSCA polygraph examination report, which, among other things, exposes Davison's chapter as being a fraud. But alas, we now know that, in reality, Jean Davison is simply McAdams in skirts and a bouffant hairdo.

I should add one last admirer of her work. As I mentioned in the second edition of Destiny Betrayed, when David Phillips was trying to convince Vincent Bugliosi to write a book on the JFK case, he mentioned two examples to follow. (p. 364) The first, quite naturally, was CIA asset Priscilla Johnson's Marina and Lee. The second was Oswald's Game. In the upside down world of Jean Davison on the JFK case, it would not surprise me if she took the suspect conspirator's recommendation as a complement.

(The author has extended a public invitation to Davison to debate her book on Black Op Radio twice already. So far there has been no response. I extend that invitation a third time here.)

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 April 2017 16:44
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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