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Priscilla and Lee:
Before and After the Assassination
Part Two

by Peter R. Whitmey

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Whether or not Priscilla Johnson was merely a ''stringer"(1) for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA) in the late 1960s or a "correspondent,"(2) as she liked to describe herself, has been a matter of conjecture for many years. Certainly, her credentials would suggest the possibility of a dual role while serving in the Soviet Union.

Miss Johnson had been educated at the exclusive Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, a women's university founded in 1885, where she graduated in 1950 with a bachelor's degree in the Russian language. In 1953, she obtain a master's degree in Russian Studies from the equally exclusive Radcliffe College, affiliated with Harvard University. Upon completion of her studies, Miss Johnson initially applied to work for the CIA as an intelligence analyst although, according to an affidavit provided to the HSCA in 1977(3), she had, in fact, withdrawn the application. Instead, she obtained a position in Boston as a research assistant specializing in Southeast Asia for the new junior Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. A year later Priscilla moved to New York, becoming a translator of the Current Digest of Soviet Press,(4) where she visited quite frequently in hospital with Kennedy, who was recovering from spinal surgery (her recollections of contact with the young, newly married Senator are briefly mentioned in a biography of the Kennedys.(5))

In 1955, Miss Johnson travelled to the Soviet Union for the first time as a translator for the Joint Press Reading Service followed by similar work for the New York Times in 1956, while becoming an acknowledged expert on Soviet law. After returning to the United States, she was again posted to Moscow in 1958, this time as a "correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance and The Progressive magazine,"(6) a liberal oriented publication out of Wisconsin. During her two-year posting, Priscilla provided two articles to The Progressive(7) and upwards of a hundred reports to NANA, not of all of which were published, however.(8)

With the expiration of her visa in the summer of 1960, six months after Lee Harvey Oswald had settled into a new job and home in Minsk, Miss Johnson again returned to the United States, continuing to work as a journalist, on a free-lance basis, as well as becoming a visiting scholar of the Russian Research Center at Harvard in 1962. During that time she went to work with Leopold Labedz on a book dealing with Soviet culture and politics, initially writing a report for the July-August 1963 issue of Problems of Communism(9), which was the basis for her 89-page essay, "The Politics of Soviet Culture, 1962-64," published in the 1965 book, Khrushchev and the Arts (M.I.T., Cambridge). It is intriguing to note that, although Miss Johnson's research was done at the Russian Research Center, the book was published by M.I.T., whose Center for International Studies was revealed to have been heavily financed by the CIA since the early 1950s.(10)

In late1962, Miss Johnson obtained a visa to travel again to Moscow, this time as a correspondent for the liberal magazine, The Reporter, and produced three lengthy articles on various aspects of politics and culture in the Soviet Union, becoming closely associated with the supporters of writer Boris Pasternak, about whom she had written in 1961.(11) Oddly enough, her third article for The Reporter, "Russia: Poetry, Politics and the Unpredictable," was published on November 21, 1963, the day before the assassination.

Upon returning to the United States in November, 1962 (according to her affidavit filed with the HSCA(12)), Miss Johnson was, unlike her first two trips, debriefed by an agent of the CIA - a meeting which took place at the Brattle Inn in Cambridge (which had been written at the bottom of the November, 1959 report sent to NANA based on her interview with Oswald). According to Miss Johnson's recollections in 1977, she was asked about her impressions of the Soviet literary and cultural climate, and the circumstances surrounding the confiscation of her papers and notes by the KGB. She stated that she had been under "heavy surveillance and the KGB knew what Soviet citizens I had seen. Many ... were Russian liberals (anti-Stalin and pro-Khrushchev"(13)). In Miss Johnson's opinion, she felt it "might help them if the CIA knew that which the KGB already knew," but did not elaborate.(14)

As mentioned in Part One of this report, Miss Johnson signed a contract with Harper & Row in the spring of 1964 to co-author a book with Marina Oswald, who was still being closely guarded by the Secret Service in her home near Dallas. Priscilla was certainly a natural choice for the assignment, in that she had not only met Lee Harvey Oswald and written about him on several occasions already, but also because of her knowledge of the Soviet Union and the fact that she spoke fluent Russian. As she describes in her 1977 book, Marina and Lee, Miss Johnson was permitted to live with Marina during the summer and fall of 1964 - which also included a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Reference to the book was actually made by Marina herself during her fourth and most important interview with members of the Warren Commission, which took place on September 6, 1964 at the U.S. Naval Air Station, of all places, in Dallas, Texas.(16) In reply to a question about her "memoirs," Marina asked that they not be published as part of the Warren documents, stating that she was "working on a book, and I may wish to include these materials in that book."(17) Senator Russell inquired as to when her book would be published, to which she replied: "...the publisher will possibly publish the book toward the end of December."(18) One of her translators interjected that this wasn't quite correct, but that "the person who writes the story is hoping to be able to finish it in the latter part of December."(19) Shortly afterwards, while discussing a bus ticket stub found in a "Spanish" (Mexican?) magazine that had somehow been overlooked by both the Dallas police and the FBI, Marina stated that she had "found the stub of this ticket approximately two weeks ago when working with Priscilla Johnson on the book..."(20)

Despite indications that a book co-authored by Marina Oswald and Priscilla Johnson was close to being completed, this was certainly not the case. Following her extended interviews with Marina, Priscilla returned instead to the work she had begun with Leopold Labedz with completion of the book, Khruschchev and the Arts, occurring in late 1964 (a short preface was dated November 15, 1964). It received a favourable review in the May 8, 1964 edition of Saturday Review.

In the meanwhile, a series of articles and books questioning the results of the Warren Commission were published throughout 1964 through 1967. In the latter year, Judge Jim Garrison's probe of a New Orleans-based conspiracy focused even greater public and media interest on the assassination.Given the obvious interest in the assassination and the Oswalds in particular, Harper & Row undoubtedly anticipated that Miss Johnson's book would be a bestseller, especially given her unique relationships with Lee Oswald, Marina and with John Kennedy himself. Still, "the book" was not yet forthcoming.

As the Garrison drama was unfolding in New Orleans, an equally intriguing development occurred in early March, 1967, with "one of the most spectacular defections of the Cold War,"(21) involving Svetlana Stalin, daughter of Joseph Stalin, who chose to identify herself as Svetlana Allileuva, using her mother's maiden name. She had been given permission to travel to India with the ashes of her late lover, Brajesh Singh (unlike Marina and Lee, Svetlana had not been allowed to marry a foreigner). While in New Delhi, Miss Allileuva contacted the American Embassy there and applied for political asylum. Although she received a visitor's visa, she was persuaded to travel first to Switzerland for six weeks (prior to arriving at Kennedy Airport). She met with George Kennan, the noted historian and former Ambassador to the Soviet Union, along with prominent lawyer Edward Greenbaum, both associated with Princeton University.

Miss Allileuva had also brought with her a copy of an 80,000 word memoir that the Soviet government had previously refused to publish, although she left a second copy back home in Moscow for her 21-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. In addition, Svetlana produced a written statement on the reasons behind her defection, published in the April 28, 1967 edition of Time magazine (p. 37).

Greenbaum returned to New York with the news that a contract to publish Svetlana's memoirs had been signed with Harper & Row, the same company who had provided a generous advance to Priscilla Johnson in 1964 to co-author a book with Marina Oswald. Earlier in the year, Harper & Row had also successfully negotiated for the publication rights to William Manchester's Death of a President, a negotiation also involving Greenbaum.

Upon arriving in New York after six weeks in Switzerland, Svetlana was provided with "elaborate security measures"(22) in the hope that the media would not learn where she was living while she worked with her translator on her memoirs, to be published that fall, following serialization in both Life and the New York Times. It was nevertheless revealed that "Svetlana was staying at the home of Long Island Socialite Stuart Johnson, whose daughter, Priscilla, is the translator of her book."(23)

In the April 23, 1967, edition of the New York Times (p.23), it was pointed out by George McMillan that Priscilla had originally met Svetlana in February, 1956, when Miss Johnson attended a lecture given by Stalin's daughter. Although originally allowed to audit the course, Priscilla was subsequently "barred from the classroom." According to the report, Khrushchev's "celebrated secret speech denouncing Stalin" probably was the reason for the decision to bar the American "translator" from sitting in on the lecture series.

The article also indicated that Miss Allileuva "was a guest last night at the 16-room Locust Valley, L.I. home of Mrs. McMillan's father, Stuart R. Johnson, Sr., a 69-year-old retired stockbroker," along with "several unidentified guests ... two cooks and a housekeeper ... and four private detectives in civilian clothes" protecting the premises. Mr. Johnson was described as being a breeder of "English springer spaniels" and widower, "his wife having died in February, 1966." Along with Mrs. McMillan, he had three other children, the report stated, including a son who served as chief counsel for a Congressional subcommittee investigating "news-media monopolies."

A lengthy description of Mrs. McMillan was provided by her husband, including the fact that she had interviewed Oswald. It was pointed out incorrectly that the conversation occurred in the afternoon, and at a time when "Oswald ... was then trying to get out of the Soviet Union" (unless Priscilla was in contact with the Oswalds in 1961 or 1962). George McMillan also briefly referred to his wife's article for Harper's about Oswald. Reference was also made to Priscilla's educational background in New York at "the Brearley School" along with her post-secondary work at Bryn Mawr College and Harvard. Her proud husband even mentioned his wife's background as a tennis player, which included participation in the Junior Wightman cup competition.

Finally, it was pointed out that Mrs. McMillan, who "was a member of President Kennedy's staff when he was a Senator," was "now working on a book with Marina Oswald, the widow of the assassin. It is being published by Harper & Row, which also issued William Manchester's The Death of a President." No date of publication was given, however, for the collaborative effort that seems much like Priscilla's agreement with Svetlana Allileuva.

In its May 26, 1967 edition (p. 54), Time again reported on the latest developments related to Svetlana's memoirs, stating that contracts with Harper & Row, Book-of-the-Month Club, Life and the New York Times amounted to an incredible figure of $1.2 million, even though "none of the buyers has read the book." The magazine pointed out that it was "still in the process of being translated into English by Priscilla MacMillan (sic) at her family's home on Long Island..." No mention was made of Mrs. McMillan's earlier interview with Oswald nor her extensive involvement with Marina. As for why Miss Allileuva ended up staying with the McMillans and Stuart Johnson - clearly an arrangement made with the approval of the State Department - no such explanation was given. The possibility that Priscilla McMillan was not just a translator but an intelligence analyst for either the CIA or the State Department (or both), of course, was never considered.

As for Svetlana, she became very rich and subsequently married a prominent architect, but after a tumultuous life in the U.S. and the publication of a second book, moved to England in 1982 with her teen-age daughter, Olga. In 1985 they returned to the Soviet Union for the first time, prompted by a series of calls from Svetlana's son, by then a successful physician in Moscow. He had previously not been allowed to contact his mother, nor had his sister, but for obvious propaganda purposes, there had been a change of policy. Shortly after returning, Svetlana appeared at a press conference at the Moscow headquarters of The Committee of Soviet Women, where she informed 25 Soviet and western journalists that "she had been naive about life in the U.S. and had become a favourite pet of the CIA..."(24) According to Miss Allileuva (whose married name had been Peters), she had not been "free for a single day in the so-called free world."(25)

The Time report describing Svetlana's life also quoted Leopold Labedz, the "Sovietologist" who coauthored a book with Priscilla Johnson McMillan, suggesting that Svetlana had "gone back to her fatherland..."(26) However, after 18 months in both Moscow and the Republic of Georgia, where she lived as a child, "Lana Peters," as she goes by today, abruptly returned to Spring Green, Wisconsin, while her homesick daughter went back to school in Cambridge, England. According to a recent report, Mrs. Peters is close to bankruptcy.

With completion of Twenty Letters to a Friend, which became a bestseller despite mixed reviews,(27) Mrs. McMillan could now return to her research related to the long-overdue publication of her own book, which appeared to be close to completion by 1968, according to a report in Newsweek.(28) Marina Oswald Porter (who was married in 1965) was unwilling to ''grant interviews, saying that all will be told in her soon-to-be finished book on her life with her former husband." According to the magazine, Marina was "writing it with Priscilla Johnson McMillan."

Not only had Svetlana Allileuva been criticized for both her style of writing and much of the content of her memoirs, but Mrs. McMillan, as the translator, had been severely criticized too, by well-known columnist Edmund Wilson in a lengthy New Yorker review.(29) Possibly Wilson's suggestion that "the translator [has] simply no literary sense, no sense of tone, phrasing, language" was enough to convince Mrs. McMillan that much more work was needed before her book on the Oswalds was ready to be published.

In addition to Priscilla's ongoing struggle with her book, George McMillan also announced plans for a book on James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King (who has since denied being responsible for King's death). McMillan was quoted in the New York Times of March 13, 1969 (p.22) as believing that Ray "did it alone," describing him as a "loner." According to McMillan, his book, Portrait of an Assassin, was to be published "four months after the end of Ray's trial," although he suggested that "the date may be pushed forward."

McMillan indicated that his study would be a "psychological" one and, with that in mind, he had "hired a psychiatrist to help him interpret the psychological effect on Ray of his many years in prison, his background of poverty, and his family life." For instance, he wondered what would result from having slept "in the same bed with his parents when he [was] growing up." Whether the sometime writer had the necessary skills and training to accurately develop such a thesis was not considered, or the obvious similiarities in points of view between Priscilla and George. Educationally, however, there was no comparison between the two, in that George had no formal education beyond high school. He had published two books previously totally unrelated to the subject at hand: The Old Breed in 1948 about the Marines and The Golden Book of Horses in 1968. He had mainly worked as a television reporter and, in fact, interviewed the DeMohrenschildts in 1967 for NBC's attack on the Garrison case.(31)

In 1970, Priscilla McMillan became an Associate at the Russian Research Center located at Harvard, having previously been a "visiting scholar" from 1961-67.(32) On November 20 of that year she once again wrote a psychological analysis entitled, "The Real Lee Harvey Oswald," published in the Op-Ed page of the New York Times (p.41) on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the assassination. The title conjures up images of three look-alikes on television's "To Tell the Truth" - all claiming to be Kennedy's assassin.

In Mrs. McMillan's opinion, Oswald's decision to kill the President was not well planned out and, in fact, was almost a spontaneous decision, closely related to events surrounding his crumbling marriage. She pointed out that Oswald had actually liked Kennedy, "approved his course in civil rights," emphasizing that he had "identified" with the President, "to use the jargon of the psychiatrists," just as Marina had likewise "identified" with Mrs. Kennedy. However, despite admiration for the man (or because of it), "during his lunch break on Wednesday, November 20," she suggested, Oswald began to consider killing JFK. This decision "was very much a revocable one" in Mrs. McMillan's estimation, "dependent on events in his marriage" - an interpretation that was bound to increase Marina Oswald Porter's sense of guilt that she struggled with for many years.

Priscilla also believed that opportunity and timing played an important role in the assassination, suggesting that Oswald would not have gone out of his way to kill Kennedy, but was "fated" to do so simply because he happened to work in a building along the motorcade route (although it wasn't clear that the motorcade would be turning right onto Houston and left onto Elm).

In her view, Oswald was a deeply disturbed individual, reflected in his suicidal tendencies (which were hardly substantiated), his defection in which he misled "both his mother and the Marine Corps," and his attempt to kill General Walker (which has never been proven). Somehow she linked his many "turning points" together and concluded that "...Oswald's life was notable for a single decision, taken over and over again." The fact that Oswald had achieved some degree of satisfaction as a Marine, as a world traveller, as a husband and father, were all either ignored or downplayed. Instead, Priscilla saw Oswald as a "man whose life destined him to enact, and re-enact, a particular emotional drama," like a character in a play or movie.

But in order to fully convince her readers and possibly herself, Mrs. McMillan provided even further psychological "evidence" to offset her own admission that Oswald had shown no outward hostility towards Kennedy, even to his wife, Marina (who was convinced that Connally more likely had been the target). Unlike other presidents, Kennedy was not just a "father-figure" but, because of his "youth and his dashing ways," came across in the "fantasies of some" as a brother, a sibling rival, a lover, or a combination of "several roles."

Despite the growing hostility towards Kennedy during his presidency amongst various factions of American society such as organized crime (including a romantic rival by the name of Sam Giancana who, like Kennedy, pursued Judith Campbell), white racists, anti -Castroites , Texas oilmen, Minutemen, the CIA and big business, Mrs. McMillan still believed that John Kennedy, along with his brother Robert and Martin Luther King were able to "call forth the very best that is in us." It was difficult for her to conceive of assassination as a cold-blooded political act. In her mind, the "positive feelings" evoked by Kennedy would likely have stirred up in Oswald "...the most deep-seated longings and hopes ... ancient memories, childhood memories, memories of disappointment," oblivious to the divisive impact of Kennedy's policies in 1963. It could be that Mrs. McMillan was unconsciously transferring some of her own "deep-seated" feelings related to her own childhood and her own father as well as emotions associated with her relationship to John Kennedy himself into the mind of a young man that she only met once --- a man who had made a fairly positive impression back in 1959.

Near the end of her essay, Priscilla naively suggested that American leaders were not killed or shot at "because the policies they pursued were controversial," citing the attempt on FDR's life as an example, seemingly unaware of evidence linking the attack, which resulted in the death of the mayor of Chicago, to organized crime."(33)

She also did not believe that any attempt had been made to kill either Johnson or Nixon, "controversial as their policies have been," not taking into account the harmonious relations that existed between these presidents and such powerful groups as the Teamsters, the Mafia, the military, and the CIA.

In conclusion, she believed that "no one has dealt with Lee Harvey Oswald or his motives," which was to be the main theme of her book, arguing that it was "easier to seek conspiracies outside than to look to the Oswald within each one of us." And yet a large number of documents prepared by the CIA, the FBI, Naval Intelligence, the Secret Service, Army Intelligence, etc. were not available to the general public in 1970 to help bring into focus "the real Lee Harvey Oswald."

Mrs. McMillan contributed two additional essays emphasizing a psychological analysis, beginning with her comments in the October 19, 1972 edition (p.17) of the New York Times related to the Chappaquidick incident of 1969. In her opinion, "what we were engaged in that year was the symbolic murder of Edward Kennedy. We were killing him ourselves. In that way, we could spare ourselves the horror of yet another, real-life Kennedy assassination." A year later, on the tenth anniversary of events in Dallas, Mrs. McMillan hypothesized to her New York Times(34) readers that the "assassination of President Kennedy was a parricide, an enactment in the political arena of the ancient drama," referring to Freud's theory of the Oedipus Complex to support her contention. Having "failed to resolve" emotions associated with his childhood and the relationship with his mother and the absence of one with his father (who died before his birth), "he chose to enact the unresolved part of the drama - violently," unlike other neurotics who worked out their inner conflicts in some other manner. Mrs. McMillan, in fact, believed that "the feelings that were in Oswald are in us all," resulting in a national need to "hold onto conspiracy theories because they are a defense, a screen, a barrier against having to accept these feelings in ourselves." Despite mounting evidence that a conspiracy existed in the Watergate scandal led by Nixon himself, Mrs. McMillan even extended her theorizing to the growing demand for impeachment of the President. She believed that the "demand for more and more evidence [against Nixon] is a blind, an obstacle we are raising to escape the truth of our own emotions."

In her concluding remarks, it was clear that Mrs. McMillan had become totally convinced that Freudian psychology could not only explain Oswald's behavior, but that of the entire nation:

"Today it is we who are challenged to be the executioners. The rifle and the bullet are missing, but the feelings underneath are the same: the primal wish to kill the father, guilt and horror over this and, at last a desire to protect him, to keep him in his place after all.

And so, like Hamlet, whipsawed by conflicting emotions of desire to avenge his father's death and guilt at having desired that very death, we hesitate."

At the end of her essay, readers were once again reminded that "Priscilla McMillan is writing a book on the Kennedy assassination."

Both George and Priscilla took time out from their parallel journalistic efforts in the fall of 1973 to write a glowing review of November 22, 1963: You Are the Jury by lawyer David Belin.(35) As it turned out, however, the jury didn't have all the facts in order to make a proper judgment on the case. Belin, who conducted many of the staff interviews as well as writing some of the Warren Report itself, strongly argued in favour of the "lone assassin" theory, as well as being convinced that Oswald had murdered Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit, further proof of Oswald's deranged mind.

The McMillans were understandably impressed with Belin's book, suggesting that "it is as if Lee Harvey Oswald had lived and there had been a trial ... Mr. Belin has done a better job of putting the evidence together than the one-volume Warren Commission report..." Once again, this time in reference to critics of the official verdict, the McMillans couldn't resist psychologically analyzing "the morbid atmosphere of suspicion that still hovers over the tragedy in Dallas." In the critics' defense of Oswald, the McMillans surmised that it was "as if [he] stood in some deep intimate relationship to them, as if these theorists did not dare believe that Oswald did it for fear they would have to face something in themselves. To accept Oswald as the sole assassin, to accept the event as it really happened, is to face the killer within ourselves, or so might go a psychological explanation. What is important ... is to lay the blame on something that seems rational and that is, above all, outside themselves. That is the enduring appeal of a conspiracy..." Ironically, criticism is levelled at Mark Lane by Belin (and the McMillans) for "making a lifetime meal ticket of the Kennedy assassination" - a criticism that could just as easily apply to Belin himself today.

In summarizing the various theories and possible culprits in the death of Kennedy, it is interesting to note that the McMillans made absolutely no reference to organized crime or the Teamsters as likely candidates, but do mention Texas oilmen, the CIA, the FBI, Cuban agents, Russian agents, the military and Howard Hughes. But, in the end, they support Belin and the Warren Commission, asking "is this too much for much for us to accept, that a warehouse clerk living in a seedy boardinghouse in the rundown Oak Cliff section of Dallas could cause us all so much bewilderment and pain?"

Despite Belin's best efforts, however, skepticism toward the official conclusions continued to grow. A series of critical articles and books appeared in the middle 1970s, the Zapruder film was shown on ABC's "Goodnight America," there were new revelations about the Soviet "defector" Yuri Nosenko and about Oswald's pre-assassination contacts with FBI agent James Hosty, etc. In this critical atmosphere, the January 26, 1976 edition of "Time" (pp. 16-23) previewed George McMillan's long overdue book on the life of James Earl Ray, the result of "seven years of dogged research."(36) McMillan managed to ignore virtually every evidence of any conspiratorial connections of Ray and, in a description that could have equally applied to Oswald from Mrs. McMillan's point of view, George described Ray's state of mind as he prepared for his moment of glory, as though he was actually there himself:

"By killing King he would become an actor in the turbulent ideological drama of his times, the drama he had heretofore only watched on the cellblock TV. He saw how King's assassination could serve a larger political power by a single act performed by him. And he saw at the end of the road a hero's sanctuary if he turned out to need a sanctuary, in several places, one of which was Rhodesia ... He needed the mission, he needed the concept of killing King to hold himself together. It gave him the cohesion that he was utterly dependent on. It was not just a twisted ideal that led him on. It was a compulsive obsession, and he was having trouble sustaining it, over the period of time he had set to accomplish his desperate plans ... Given the chain of circumstances of his life, killing King had become Ray's destiny..."

In a footnote to Time magazine's report on George McMillan, once again reference was made to his wife's efforts at "writing a book with Marina Oswald on President John Kennedy's assassination."

In the midst of the McMillans' research, pressure was building for Congress to re-examine the evidence surrounding the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King (and, for a while, that of Robert Kennedy) , and, in the spring of 1976, the House of Representatives created a special committee that got under way in September of that year. In the course of their investigation, Priscilla McMillan's book, entitled Marina and Lee, was finally published by Harper & Row in the fall of 1977, twelve years later than was expected.(37) Prior to its publication, Mrs. McMillan was interviewed by Publishers Weekly(38) and, in addition, two excerpts from the book were included in the October and November, 1977 editions of Ladies Home Journal.(39)

Priscilla's book was widely reviewed by most of the major periodicals and, generally speaking, received a positive response from the critics, particularly fellow author Thomas Powers (who wrote The Man Who Kept the Secrets in 1979 about CIA's Richard Helms). Powers described Marina and Lee as "a miraculous book ... rich in brilliant detail ... passionate and compelling ... painful ... unsettling."(40) G.A. Preston of Library Journal suggested that Mrs. McMillan did not "specifically try to disprove the conspiracy theory..."(41) (only one?) but felt that she showed how the Oswalds' life together, coupled with Lee's character - his tempter, self-styled Marxism, and attitude towards authority figures ... leads almost inexorably to the lone assassin conclusion."

Time magazine chose an appropriate reviewer in Patricia Blake, who also spent time in Moscow as a correspondent in the late fifties for Life.(42) In her opinion, Mrs. McMillan "has come forward with the first plausible explanation for Lee Harvey Oswald's assassination [not alleged, mind you] of John F. Kennedy." Miss Blake cited yet another sign of Priscilla's Freudian approach, noting "Marina's revelations to McMillan ... that she provoked Lee's fury with her talk of her sexual attraction for Kennedy. It may well have been one reason why Lee's free-floating rage finally settled on the President." There was no indication, however, that Mrs. Oswald was at all attracted to Governor Connally as well.

The review also pointed out that Mrs. McMillan "went to Texas to conduct a series of exhaustive interviews over a seven-month period with Oswald's wife," but failed to mention the fact that the interviews took place in 1964 during the Warren Commission's own investigation, at a time when Marina was being closely guarded by the Secret Service and still facing interrogation, constantly fearing that she could be deported back to the Soviet Union if she did not co-operate with the authorities, particularly the FBI.

Miss Blake also noted that "Oswald [had] made the astonishing statement that is the epigraph to her book," ignoring the date of November 1959, when Oswald had stated that he wanted "...to give the people of the United States something to think about. . ." Presumably the reviewer had not read Mrs. McMillan's interview notes or her summary to the State Department of December 5, 1963, in which the full, unedited version of Oswald's innocent remark was made, indicating that he wanted to tell his side of the story, related to his defection and not to a future assassination. Nor, of course, did she point out that Mrs. McMillan hadn't even bothered to mention the remark in her original 1959 article sent to NANA. Anyone reading Miss Blake's review would probably assume that Oswald made the remark just before he pulled the trigger, with Miss Johnson crouched down at the sixth-floor window taking notes.

Raymond Sokolov of Newsweek wasn't overly impressed with the book, feeling that it did not "add much hard information to the extensive literature ... but does throw light on the many dark corners of Oswald's personal life..." He facetiously compliments Marina for her "remarkable memory. Every kiss, every unattained orgasm and premature ejaculation in the Oswalds' fumbling sex life seem to have remained graven in Marina's mind." [Or Priscilla's, for that matter.] Pointing out that Mrs. McMillan had "tantalizingly waited 13 years to publish the results of that extraordinary interview," [which was clearly more than one interview] he nevertheless believed that "Marina's account only fuels further speculation about what really happened."

Choice magazine was the most unkind - and probably the most accurate - in its assessment of Marina and Lee, concluding that:

"McMillan has no background in psychology, yet attempts to weave Freudian explanations of Oswald's alleged motives for assassination. The use of source materials is so shoddy as to be capricious with many claims about Oswald's history and state of mind having no citations to substantiate them... The armchair, pop-psychoanalysis is so loose, the conclusions so logically flawed and so far beyond McMillan's data and sources, that the book obscures more important questions than it clarifies. It is poor history; its overwhelming bulk of pseudohistory renders it poor human interest or journalism.(44)

Undoubtedly, Marina Oswald's willingness to cooperate with the authorities following the assassination, which provided much of the incriminating evidence used against her dead husband both by the Warren Commission and now in Marina and Lee, had been the result of fear and confusion. Years later, Marina described the vulnerable position she was in at the time of the 25th anniversary of the tragedy. But she also had a need, in 1964, to deal with her own feelings of guilt at not having somehow prevented the assassination from occurring. In the 1988 interview, she said:

For years I didn't think about [Lee]; I just felt guilty ... I blamed myself. I wondered if I could have change things if our relationship had been better. I didn't think about the assassination, I didn't read the conspiracy theories; I didn't even read the Warren Commission report.(45)

Possibly Marina's willingness to cooperate and reinforce, rather than question, the official "lone assassin" scenario, also applied to Mrs. McMillan's book which, in a sense, provided her with an opportunity to share her feelings with the American public, particularly other women, regardless of the conclusions that were drawn by Priscilla, who either consciously or unconsciously played the role of therapist.

The intimate relationship of Marina Oswald Porter and Priscilla Johnson McMillan was to continue beyond the time spent working on the book. This became clear as the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) moved from behind closed doors into the glare of television cameras and enormous media coverage in September 1978 for public hearings related to President Kennedy's assassination (and that of Martin Luther King, Jr.).

- Peter R. Whitmey, April, 1999
Continued in Part Three


1. Peter Model and Robert Groden, JFK: The Case For Conspiracy (New York: Manor Books, 1976). According to the authors, Miss Johnson (mistakenly referred to as "Patricia McMillan Johnson") was described by NANA in 1975 as a "stringer ... and occasional translator of Soviet law journals for the Embassy...

2. Priscilla Johnson McMillan, Marina and Lee (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 5; on page 83 she describes herself as a "newspaper and magazine reporter."

3. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Final Report (New York: Bantam Books, 1979), p. 271. References to this source cited hereafter in format: HSCA Report, p. 271.

4. Contemporary Authors, Volumes 41-44, First Revision.

5. Peter Collier and David Horowitz, The Kennedys: An American Drama (New York: Summit Books, 1984), p. 404. Priscilla is described as a "Harvard researcher who sometimes visited him in the hospital..." bringing him books to read; Kennedy, in turn, would often phone her "at 3:00 a.m. to kiddingly complain about how hard they were..." In her own book (Marina and Lee), on pages 4-5, she describes her frequent visits to the hospital, "posing as one of his sisters, bringing him "a copy of the New York Post in an effort to make him more liberal." After he was released from the hospital, she recalls that "Jack" crossed paths with her "once in a while, lit it up briefly, then disappeared, very often for months at a time." She describes their conversations about politics and her social life with great affection, although also pointing out that his decision to pursue the presidency from an early age might have affected his "capacity for empathy and imagination. He had a candor and a breathtaking detachment about himself, but I wondered how well he understood other people, especially those who lacked his kind of ambition, or those who happened to be failures..." It is interesting to note that Mrs. McMillan makes no reference to Jackie Kennedy, "Jack's" wife and, given his many affairs and brief encounters, one cannot help but wonder just how involved Priscilla was with JFK at that time.

6. McMillan, Marina and Lee, p. 5.

7. Sent to me by editor Erwin Knoll. In answer to a question about NANA, he stated in his reply of March 5, 1990 that "...though NANA had been an important source of foreign news before World War II, it was now a very marginal operation, picking up and distributing free-lance articles here and there... I suspect that by their very nature, these outfits could have been easy vehicles for providing journalistic 'cover' to CIA operatives, though I do not know this to have been a fact."

8. According to Sid Goldberg, a vice-president at United Media and formerly managing editor of NANA, "Priscilla had many NANA stories published - perhaps over 100... The primary reason we chose not to publish Priscilla's Oswald interview in 1959 was that we had more interesting stories on hand. We operated on a daily budget and always had more stories submitted than we distributed. We chose the most important or the most interesting ones for distribution..."

9. As referred to in the preface to her book, Khruschchev and the Arts: The Politics of Soviet Culture (Boston, MIT, 1965), coedited with Leopold Labedz.

10. Wise and Ross, The Invisible Government (New York: Vintage Books, 1964), p. 20; cited in Bernard Fensterwald, Coincidence or Conspiracy? pp. 217-218, in a description of Professor Harold Isaacs; this connection with the CIA was confirmed by Mrs. Isaacs.

11. Priscilla Johnson, "Death of a Writer." Harper's, May, 1961.

12. HSCA, Report, p. 271.

13. HSCA, Report, p. 271.

14. HSCA, Report, p. 272.

15. In Marina and Lee, there is a photo of Priscilla and Marina taken by David C. Davenport, who is referred to as Priscilla's "cousin" in the acknowledgement section. According to the caption next to the photos, they were taken in Santa Fe, where they were provided "a haven during the unquiet weeks of September and October, 1964, just after the Warren Report was issued."

When I first tried to contact Priscilla McMillan in the fall of 1987 in Cambridge by phone after initially writing to her, I was informed that she was temporarily living in Santa Fe at a hotel, doing research on a new book. I was able to contact her there and had an interesting conversation with her, although she would not indicate what her book was about. I have learned from Michael Eddowes that it is a biography of Robert Oppenheimer, who spent much of his career at Los Alamos near Santa Fe.

16. Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, vol. 5, pp. 588-620. References to this source cited hereafter in format: 5H588-620.

17. 5H600.

18. 5H600.

19. 5H600.

20. 5H602.

21. "Surprise From the Past." Time, March 17, 1967, p. 32.

22. "Hello, There, Everybody." Time, April 28, 1967, p. 38.

23. "Hello, There, Everybody." Time, April 28, 1967, p. 38.

24. Patricia Blake, "The Saga of Stalin's 'Little Sparrow.'"Time, January 28, 1985, p. 56.

25. Blake, "The Saga of Stalin's 'Little Sparrow.'" p. 56.

26. Blake, "The Saga of Stalin's 'Little Sparrow.'" p. 59.

27. See Book Review Digest, 1968 edition, under "Alliluyeva, Svetlana."

28. "Where Are They Now?" Newsweek, November 25, 1968, p. 22.

29. New Yorker review, December 9, 1967, p. 43; an excerpt appears in Book Review Digest, 1968 edition.

30. Several Books Planned on Ray Case, New York Times, March 13, 1969, p. 22; the tentative title was later changed to "The Making of an Assassin."

31. See George DeMohrenschildt's unpublished manuscript, "I Am a Patsy!" in HSCA documents, Volume XII, pp. 47-316. Also available online as a text file: download I Am a Patsy! in .ZIP format.

32. See Contemporary Authors, Volume 41-44, First Revision.

33. See David Scheim, Contract on America (New York: Zebra Books, 1988), p. 25.

34. "That Time We Huddled Together in Disbelief." New York Times, November 22, 1973, p. 39. McMillan's analysis in this article was referred to as "psychological twaddle" in George O'Toole, The Assassination Tapes (New York: Penthouse Press, 1975), p. 236.

35. New York Times, November 18, 1973, pp. 35-37. Belin's book was published by the New York Times.

36. Time, January 26, 1976. Like his wife, George had been given a generous advance by Little, Brown Publishers. Out of the money provided to him, it was revealed by Time that he had paid four members of the family of James Earl Ray a total of $3,850 "to help with his research," describing them as "impoverished and prison-prone." According to Mark Lane in his book, Code Name Zorro (1977), Ray's brother, Jerry, indicated that all the information provided to McMillan was "made up." Facing a deadline and "desperate" for information, the author stated in a letter to another brother that "he was going to publish material" that he now knew to be false. Although Time printed excerpts from McMillan's book, they did point out several contradictions between statements made to the author and ones made to the magazine shortly before publication. For instance, McMillan had stated that Ray's claim that he was following the orders of a man he met in Montreal named Raoul had been debunked by Jerry. However, Jerry told "Time" that the "mysterious Raoul was behind everything" and that "his brother had been set up in the case." In McMillan's book, James had been quoted as telling his brother, Jerry, that he was going to "kill that Nigger King" on the very day of King's murder. However, in conversation with Time, brother Jerry denied hearing from James about his plans.

37. W.S. Wyeth, Jr., Vice President and Executive Editor, stated in a letter dated December 7, 1989 that such a long delay "is not an unusual development in publishing" and felt that Priscilla's book "certainly was" worth waiting for. In citing several other examples of long-delayed books, he stated that "people simply find writing a book takes much longer than they expect."

38. "The Making of a Marriage and of an Assassin." Publisher's Weekly, July 11, 1977, pp. 47-48.

39. Which also interviewed Marina for its November, 1988 edition in which she first supported the likelihood of a conspiracy.

40. New York Times Book Reviews," October 30, 1977, p. 10.

41. Library Journal, November 1, 1977, p. 102.

42. "The Making of an Assassin." Time, November 14, 1977, pp. 106-107.

43. Newsweek, October 31, 1977, p. 105.

44. Choice, March, 1978, p. 138.

45. Ladies Home Journal, November 1988, pp. 184+.

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Partial Bibliography of Peter Whitmey
My Brief Correspondence with Aline Mosby

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