Umbrella Man More Doubts
by Russ Baker
by Russ Baker: NY
Times’ Umbrella Man Exposed
Man and Dark Complected Man: Two big question marks
If you read
piece on the New York Times’ credulous video about
the “Umbrella Man” and his curious behavior at the scene of the
JFK assassination, you’re ready for what follows. If not, please
take a few minutes and get up to speed, by clicking here.
has struck a nerve, and generated considerable interest. With that
in mind, I’d like to offer some additional thoughts on the subject.
As you’ll recall,
the New York Times’ preferred explanation for why a man
opened an umbrella on a sunny day, just as JFK’s limousine passed
and just as the bullets poured into the car was an
entirely benign one. Strange, but benign.
years after the assassination, as the special House Select Committee
on Assassinations was taking the first serious look at the death
of JFK (and others), a man came forward to identify himself as the
so-called “Umbrella Man” and to explain his bizarre behavior.
The man, Steven
Louie Witt, said that, no, it was not someone signaling the shooters,
and no, it had nothing at all to do with the assassination. Instead,
he said, it was a message against appeasement of enemies. He hoped
to signal his disapproval of what he considered JFK’s forbearance
of America’s enemies.
How to signal
that? Here’s where it gets complicated. Witt claimed he held up
the umbrella as an icon symbolizing the treachery of Neville Chamberlain,
the 1930s British prime minister. Chamberlain, who tried to preserve
peace with Hitler by ceding him a part of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland),
became a reviled symbol of appeasement. The self-described Umbrella
Man said that he had been identifying appeasement with Chamberlain’s
trademark umbrella. The connection to JFK came via his father, Joseph
P. Kennedy, ambassador to Britain at the time and an anti-war isolationist.
Only a very
unusual 15-year-old American (Witt’s approximate age in 1938) would
have strong feelings about a British prime minister’s behavior,
and still harbor those feelings a quarter century later. It is even
harder to accept that he could believe JFK, himself a young man
in 1938, might “get” the message somehow via the umbrella.
Even if we
are to accept that Witt really was the man pumping the umbrella
on the Grassy Knoll, and even if he was cognizant of Chamberlain,
and even if he did think he could get a message to JFK via the Chamberlain
affair, we still have a big problem with this claim.
John Simkin, a retired British history teacher and textbook author
who runs the historical website Spartacus
Educational, the umbrella was never the symbol of Chamberlain
that the “umbrella man” claimed he was.
there was never any association with an umbrella at all,” Simkin
told me. “Everyone had umbrellas and bowlers in those days.”
According to Simkin, the only proper symbol for Chamberlain and
appeasement was a piece of paper. That was the document
he held aloft, with Hitler’s signature to the so-called Munich
Agreement in which Hitler agreed not to seek any further
territorial gains in Europe as Chamberlain famously declared
that he had secured “peace in our time.” (In this
old newsreel, you can see Chamberlain hold aloft that document.)
the New York Times video’s assertion that the purpose of
opening the umbrella and pumping it in the air to signal Munich
it was exactly what it appeared to be: a method of signaling shooters,
perhaps that JFK had been hit, perhaps that he still seemed to be
alive, perhaps to keep shooting. Although it was a sunny day, it
had rained the night before, and there was a wind, so it would not
have been operationally illogical to move forward with using an
umbrella. The fact that the New York Times and the establishment
in general have never considered the umbrella worthy of real, serious
inquiry, tells us that if the umbrella was part of a plot,
it was not so bad a choice.
In the last
article, I mentioned that Witt, the self-proclaimed “Umbrella Man,”
worked for Rio Grande National Life Insurance in the Rio Grande
building. I mentioned that the same building housed the Immigration
office frequented by Lee Harvey Oswald, and the local office of
the highly negligent Secret Service. I mentioned that Rio Grande
wrote a lot of insurance for the military. And, separately, I noted
the strong military intelligence connections to key figures connected
One thing I
did not mention, but should have, was that Military Intelligence
itself had offices in that Rio Grande building.
Now, all of
that could be coincidence. But there’s a reason certain entities
signed leases with particular landlords and not others especially
so in Dallas circa 1963 (more on this in Family
Some of our
readers wondered why I did not mention another figure who acted
strangely as Kennedy’s limo passed. This was the so-called “Dark
Complected Man” so named because his complexion was his most
readily identifiable feature in photos from November 22.
I left him
out of the initial piece because I wanted to focus solely on Umbrella
Man, who, after all, was the sole subject of that New York Times
video I was considering.
Dark Complected Man is without question an extremely important character.
Maybe even more deserving of scrutiny than Umbrella Man.
Man (DCM), like Umbrella Man, was on the Grassy Knoll, and, like
Umbrella Man, appears to reasonable observers to have been signaling.
At the precise moment that JFK’s car passed, as Umbrella Man opened
and pumped his umbrella repeatedly, Dark Complected Man shot his
fist up into the air. To some, DCM seemed to be calling for a halt
to the presidential limo, which did in fact either come to a complete
halt or slowed down to a crawl.
It’s not just
their actions at the moment that Kennedy’s head is blown apart.
It’s how they behave afterwards.
reacting with horror and springing into action, these two purported
strangers sit down together, on the curb, and calmly survey the
chaos. In their icy nonchalance, they exhibit an almost professional
thing about DCM is that in photos, something that looks like a radio
or walkie-talkie appears to be protruding from his back pocket.
Dark Complected Man and Umbrella Man add real bulk to the mountain
of circumstantial evidence for a conspiracy in the death of JFK.
Maybe we do
have The Times to thank, after all. Although that whimsical
was intended to discourage inquiry, it has had exactly the opposite
effect. It goads us to focus diligently on long-ago events that
“the paper of record” will not scrutinize and that cast a
shadow over democracy to the present moment.
Baker is an award-winning investigative reporter. He has written
for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Nation,
The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village
Voice and Esquire and dozens of other major domestic and
foreign publications. He has also served as a contributing editor
to the Columbia Journalism Review. Baker received a 2005
Deadline Club award for his exclusive reporting on George W. Bush’s
military record. He is the author of Family
of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in
the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America
(Bloomsbury Press, 2009); it was released in paperback as Family
of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and
the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. For more information
on Russ’s work, see his sites, www.familyofsecrets.com
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