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Journalist Aline Mosby worked for United Press International (UPI) her
entire career, beginning in Seattle, then Los Angeles. In 1959, she became
the first American woman correspondent posted in Moscow. There she
met and interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald.
After her Moscow assignment, she moved to UPI bureaus in Paris (from
1961-63), New York (1964-65), Moscow again (1964-66), New York again
(1967-68), Vienna (1968-70), and Paris again (1970-78). She was among the
first group of American journalists to re-open China-U.S. reporting in 1979.
After her China assignment, she returned to Paris, where she retired in 1984. She
freelanced after her formal retirement, occasionally appearing in the New York Times.
Suggested background: Down to the Wire: UPI's Fight for Survival,
by Ronald Cohern and Gregory Gordon (McGraw-Hill, 1989); The
Moscow Correspondents: Reporting on Russia from the Revolution to
Glasnost, by Whitman Bassow (William Morrow and Company, 1988);
and Women of the World: the Great Foreign Correspondents, by
Julia Edwards (Houghton Mifflin, 1988). Although out of print, Aline's
The View from Number 13 People's Street is also worth finding
(Random House, 1962).
After her Moscow assignment, she moved to UPI bureaus in Paris (from 1961-63), New York (1964-65), Moscow again (1964-66), New York again (1967-68), Vienna (1968-70), and Paris again (1970-78). She was among the first group of American journalists to re-open China-U.S. reporting in 1979. After her China assignment, she returned to Paris, where she retired in 1984. She freelanced after her formal retirement, occasionally appearing in the New York Times.
Suggested background: Down to the Wire: UPI's Fight for Survival, by Ronald Cohern and Gregory Gordon (McGraw-Hill, 1989); The Moscow Correspondents: Reporting on Russia from the Revolution to Glasnost, by Whitman Bassow (William Morrow and Company, 1988); and Women of the World: the Great Foreign Correspondents, by Julia Edwards (Houghton Mifflin, 1988). Although out of print, Aline's The View from Number 13 People's Street is also worth finding (Random House, 1962).
I recently was dismayed to learn that Aline Mosby, a former UPI correspondent who interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald in Moscow (prior to Priscilla Johnson's interview), had passed away in early August (1998) at the age of 76. Aline ("Ellie" to her friends) was, according to an A.P. report (1) "a native of Missoula, Montana", whose father had owned several radio stations in the state (2). She graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in journalism and began a 41 -year career with UPI in Seattle. Later in the 1940s she moved to L.A. to cover the Hollywood scene as well as various social trends of the 1950s (such as reporting on a nudist colony which required her to leave her clothes behind, or looking for UFOs in a jet airplane). However, Aline moved up the journalistic ladder when she was posted to Moscow during the height of the Cold War in 1959. She was later posted to Beijing and Paris, where she continued to live after retiring from UPI in 1984, although she was a freelance reporter for various magazines and the NY TIMES for several more years.
In 1990, I had obtained a phone listing for her in Finley Pt., located on Flathead Lake in the heart of the Rocky Mountains north of Missoula, not far from the B.C. border, and was able to speak to her there one day as she was leaving for Paris. I mentioned that I was doing research on JFK's assassination and she suggested that I write to her in Paris and gave me her address. I wrote the first of two letters on June 4 and received a reply dated June 22.
At the outset she thanked me for my "fascinating letter," which she had received "upon returning from my annual visit to Montana, my childhood home." She answered my questions in point form on a manual typewriter badly in need of a new ribbon, with her name, Paris address and phone number printed on the bottom. I wrote to her again on July 24, but did not receive another reply.
Recently, I decided to write to her once more, after having come across her 1962 book, The View From No. 13 People's Street, (Random House: NY) at a thrift store, which I enjoyed reading even at this late date. It is interesting to note that the dust jacket states that Aline was "the only woman correspondent in Moscow" (I mailed a copy of the cover to Priscilla McMillan, who considered herself to be a correspondent while also stationed in Moscow in the early 1960s, but have not received a reply.) Aline is pictured on the cover sitting atop her MGA, which she had been able to ship to Moscow in February, 1959, at the beginning of her three-year stint as a UPI correspondent there (coincidentally, I owned an MG Midget from 1963-67 while working at the SEATTLE TIMES and attending the University of Washington).
When I first wrote to Aline, I had a copy of her Nov. 15, 1959 report on Oswald (taken from the Warren volumes), which appeared in the FT. WORTH TELEGRAM (and possibly elsewhere), but wasn't certain whether she had mentioned him in her book, although Edward Epstein suggested she hadn't in his book, Legend.(3) In answer to my question in that regard, Aline stated in her reply that she had made "no reference to Oswald in my 1962 book; I do not know why not." (Epstein stated that, according to Aline, "Oswald did not leave a strong enough impression for her to include it" - which certainly is inconsistent with her 1964 recollection for the Warren Commission.) It certainly is surprising, since her interview would have been a natural addition.
In her letter to me, she recalled having "learned from somebody at the U.S. embassy about the defection" (apparently not John McVickar, who had tipped off Priscilla Johnson, since she wondered who he was at the beginning of her letter) "that Oswald had come into the embassy and tossed down his passport and announced he would defect. I then telephoned him and asked for an interview. He said he would talk to me because I was a woman and would be more understanding." As to whether he might be faking his defection, Aline replied that she never suspected that was the case (of course, Oswald might have believed a woman would be easier to fool). She remarked that she "still (had) the strong impression that he was not a very intelligent person (was) emotionally unbalanced, and wanted to be a 'big shot'. He acted as if the Russians would fall all over themselves to install him in some nice Moscow flat with a big car, etc. (He did not say that but gave that impression.) I quickly sized him up as a little nobody that the Russians would not be interested in. My impression was confirmed when they shipped him off to Minsk. Years later I was in Minsk with a visiting French president and a planeload of press. I skipped part of the official schedule to try to locate where Oswald had worked. I talked to passersby on the street and they mentioned seeing him with his wife, wheeling their baby carriage on the street. A taxi driver instantly drove me to the radio factory where he had worked; to me that job was a way the Russians got rid of him."
Evidently, Aline was not aware that Oswald had arrived in Moscow with a certain amount of knowledge of U-2 flights over Russia from having been a radar operator at the Atsugi Air Force Base in Japan, although she had mentioned his training in radar and electronics in her report. Even though he was "shipped off" to Minsk (George DeMohrenshchildt's hometown), he was provided an above-average sized apartment in the heart of the city and enjoyed a relatively comfortable lifestyle there. Of course, as it turns out, he was closely monitored by the KGB, who had bugged his apartment, and questioned co-workers and colleagues on a daily basis, as described in Norman Mailer's book, Oswald's Tale (which should really be titled, "Mailer's Tale"). The KGB certainly weren't going to automatically accept him as a genuine defector, given his military background, and possible training as a low-level spy, nor did the CIA with Nosenko and others.
Despite her interview with Oswald and the knowledge that he had been sent to work in Minsk, the closest she came to referring to him in her book was on page 118 when she stated:
"We had a parade of five 'defectors' in 1959 and 1960. One, a worker at the American Exhibition, [Webster] changed his mind and later wrote his family in Cleveland that he wanted to come home, but he never appeared at the American embassy to get a visa [yes he did], and vanished in the vast country..." [it sounds like she's talking about Oswald]
Aline also referred to another American "defector" (putting the word in quotes, as was the case in several State Department memos about Oswald), who quickly changed his mind and wanted to go back home (Petrulli), and near the end of the book revealed that a former Russian friend named Dimitri had also "defected" to England, where he was attending Cambridge University! She also included a chapter on the U-2 incident and Gary Powers' spy trial, which Oswald had written about in his diary.
It is interesting to note that all correspondents for both A.P. and U.P.I. had to live in the same building where they worked, (No. 13 People's Street), including her boss, Robert Korengold (who also provided a report to the W.C.). I had asked Aline if Korengold might have had "intelligence" connections and in reply she stated: "Bob Korengold was NOT a CIA agent in my view. A UPI correspondent working a 100-hour week seven days a week could hardly have time to spy! He now is minister in charge of public affairs (and press relations) at the U.S. Embassy in Paris." I wasn't suggesting that he was a spy, but that he might have been a media asset to the CIA or the State Department, as many journalists at that time were (including Priscilla Johnson).
It should be pointed out that although Priscilla had described herself as a correspondent for N.A.N.A. (which might have had CIA ties), in her case she lived at the Metropole Hotel, where Oswald also was staying. Aline made severaI references to the hotel, but did not refer to Priscilla in her book, whom she was certainly aware of, as reflected in her statement that "At the time in Moscow, some journalists in the U.S. press corps gossiped about their impression that Priscilla was a U.S. government agent, since NANA paid so little and since she did seem to have high level Washington connections. [Such as?] I have no comment myself on this possibility."
Despite the fact that Aline had interviewed Oswald before Priscilla, she was not questioned by the Warren Commission in person, but simply asked by phone to submit a report, which was buried in one of the volumes. Conversely, Priscilla had been interviewed by Richard Mosk, a young Warren Commission lawyer and fellow Harvard graduate (whose father was AttorneyGeneral of California). Priscilla was treated with great respect during the interview; Mosk clearly had not done his homework when it came to the subtle changes between Priscilla's original 1959 report and the revised version that appeared shortly after the assassination. Priscilla had also written in more detail about her interview for the State Dept. ( published in the Warren volumes), followed by a detailed article for HARPER'S magazine in April, 1964. During Marina's last interview with the Warren Commission, she indicated that she and Priscilla were working on a book which was expected to be published by the end of the year (as it turned out, Marina and Lee wasn't released until 1977). In 1967, TIME magazine reported that Svetlana Stalin, who had "defected" from Russia, was living at the home of Priscilla's father, a stockbroker on Long Island, while Priscilla translated Svetlana's memoirs, which were serialized in LIFE and also published in book form. Priscilla was also employed at Harvard University's Russian Research Center for many years, and has appeared on programs related to JFK's assassination (most notably the three-hour 1993 PBS special), and is always treated as an expert on Oswald's psyche - despite her lack of any formal training in this field. Unlike Aline, Priscilla made a lifetime career out of analyzing Lee Harvey Oswald.
In Aline's book, she also described the difficulties she sometimes encountered being an American woman in Russia, who was not content to simply hang out with other American journalists. Early on she was even suspected of being a spy, and was often restricted in her travels by various Soviet officials and the KGB, in her attempt to get to know ordinary Russians, whom she had an obvious affection for, and see as much of the country as possible (sometimes beyond the limits set for foreign journalists). In her discussion of the U-2 incident and the subsequent trial of Powers (who was still in prison at the time she was writing her book), she did not apparently suspect that Oswald might have provided information to the Soviets about the U-2's capabilities (Powers himself later believed this to have been the case). Although Oswald might not have revealed his offer during their interview, as he did to the State Department, part of the first A.P. report on his defection dated Nov. 1, 1959 had been censored by the Soviets possibly in reference to this threat. Aline did discuss the problem of dealing with the Russian censor herself and was pleased that the Soviet government decided to do away with it in 1960, as a way of improving international relations.
Shortly after completing her book, Aline was transferred to Paris, and, according to her letter, "The Warren Commission telephoned me about including my report" which she possibly had already written for possible publication; it was included as CE 1385. No date is given, but it would appear from the summary pages of several documents listed in the ARRB web site that it was submitted in Sept. 1964. In her letter she recalled that she "did not remember hearing in Moscow about Oswald's decision to return to the U.S. Possibly no correspondent knew about this." This wasn't the case as I learned from a document in the appendix of John Newman's 1995 book, Oswald and the CIA (4); the Oswalds' departure by ship for the U.S. was, in fact, reported in the WASHINGTON POST on June 9, 1962. She went on to state that "When I heard of the assassination I was still with UPI ... My reaction was that little mixed-up Oswald was still trying to be the Big Man. There never has been any evidence to my knowledge that he worked for either the USSR or USA as an agent, and I cannot imagine why either country would want to hire him. No real evidence has appeared to change the conclusion that he was a sole assassin."
Aline obviously had a very negative impression of Lee Harvey Oswald, although had he not been arrested for the murder of a policeman and the President (and the attempted murder of a governor - whom the W.C. concluded was, in effect, accidentally hit), who knows how she might have felt about him. In addition, her impression of Oswald was likely influenced by the negative "spin" - typical of articles that appeared following the assassination, beginning with:
- Priscilla Johnson's revised report for THE BOSTON GLOBE published in morning newspapers throughout the U.S. only hours before Oswald, the "fanatic", was gunned down;
- Paul Mandel's explanation of certain "nagging rumors" in his Dec. 6 LIFE report (with the Zapruder film supposedly showing JFK turning around and facing "sniper's nest");
- Ben Bagdigian's lengthy article for SATURDAY EVENING POST entitled, "The Assassin", which was dated Dec. 14, when, in fact, it was written almost entirely prior to Oswald's death, according to the author(5);
- NEWSWEEK'S Dec. 16 article entitled, "Portrait of a Psychopath";
- TIME'S Dec. 20 report, "Dear Ma", emphasizing Oswald's difficulty with spelling and grammar (no worse than your typical engineer);
- TIME's Feb. 14 cover story on what the Warren Commission would conclude (written just as their investigation was getting underway, supposedly "behind closed doors"); and
- LIFE's Feb 21 cover story entitled "The Evolution of an Assassin" with the famous backyard photo of Oswald.
Of course, there were some reporters (along with lawyer Mark Lane), who questioned the evidence, but it would appear that Aline was not influenced by them. She certainly had not forgotten about her contact with Oswald, since she stated in her letter that "As I have said on the lecture tour in the U.S. in the 1960s, Oswald struck me during my interview in the Metropole Hotel with him, as an unbalanced person with emotional problems. He spoke a lot about his mother (reminding you of why he let me interview him, because I was a woman.)" Presumably, she believed that talking about your mother (who was frantically trying to persuade Lee to return home) is a sure sign of instability. Maybe Aline would have been happier if Oswald referred to his dead father, whom he never knew, or maybe his former stepfather, or his Uncle Dutz Murret, or even his teen-age mentor, David Ferrie.
According to Epstein, Oswald was "apparently embarrassed by Mosby's attempts to belittle his motives for defecting (and) later wrote his own version of (the) interview" which is included in the appendix of Legend (despite a few spelling errors, it is quite well written for someone who was supposedly not very intelligent.) When Aline decided to write her "Moscow memoirs," while Oswald was attempting to leave the U.S.S.R., she had the opportunity to discuss someone who had, at a young age, decided to turn his back on his homeland and family, and who had seemingly disappeared into Russian society only to resurface almost three years later, when he contacted the American Embassy in Moscow, beginning in Feb. 1962. It's difficult to believe that Aline would not have been informed by the Embassy of Oswald's change of heart, which was reported in the WASHINGTON POST on June 9, 1962.
It could be that Aline had resented Oswald's reasons for defecting, based on his disgust with U.S. domestic conditions - the gap between rich and poor, race relations, and resistance to socialistic programs - along with his anger over U.S. foreign policy, which he considered imperialistic. Instead, as reflected in Aline's interview with Oswald and his reaction, she preferred to believe he had defected for personal reasons as a result of emotional difficulties in childhood (which did not prevent him from completing three years of Marine duty).
As a loyal American, who certainly did not admire the Soviet system of government, Aline possibly felt so insulted by this young ex-Marine's attitude that she chose not to even think a bout him when she began writing her book. Obviously, Oswald had made a strong impression on her, albeit a negative one. I suspect that her possibly unconscious decision came back to haunt her as a result of the events that took place in Dallas, Texas only a year after The View From No. 13 People's Street was published. (6)
1. See JFK WATCH on the Internet for a brief obituary written by the A.P. in San Diego. Aline is survived by a sister, Mary Jane Bader. Presumably, Aline died in California.
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Aline Mosby, a journalist who covered everything from Hollywood gossip to world affairs for more than 50 years, died Aug. 7. She was 76.
Although she contributed stories to various publications, Miss Mosby did most of her writing for United Press International. She covered the Kremlin and later Beijing.
A native of Missoula, Mont., Miss Mosby earned a journalism degree at the University of Montana. She joined UP in Seattle in 1943. She retired from UPI in 1984 and continued to freelance for various magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, for several years.
She is survived by a sister, Mary Jane Bader.
2. "Uncovered Coverage", Newsweek, August 24, 1953, p. 67.
3. LEGEND: THE SECRET WORLD OF LEE HARVEY OSWALD (Reader's Digest Press: NY), Edward Jay Epstein 1978, pp. 98-99; also, footnotes 18 & 19 on pp. 292-3. 1 read this book back in the 1980s and found parts of it intriguing, but it now looks more like Cold War propaganda than objective journalism. Clearly, James Angleton was a major influence.
4. Newman includes extensive reference to both Mosby and Johnson in chapter five ("The American Girls in Moscow") and more on Priscilla in chapter six ("The Thin Line of Duty"). According to his notes, he interviewed Priscilla, but I was disappointed that he made no reference to my three-part series on PJM, even though we discussed her at the 1993 Sudbury conference; John was obviously familiar with my work.
5. Letter from Prof. Ben Bagdikian to Peter R. Whitmey, dated June 26, 1989. He stated in his brief reply that "What has transpired since that time is far more complex, some of which I am familiar with but far less than you seem to be." He had no comment on the photo which was included, taken from the second floor of the Dal-Tex building, which the magazine claimed to have been taken from the sixth floor of the TSBD, which I had brought to his attention.
6. Aline did report on her contact with Oswald for UPI immediately after the assassination, published on Nov. 23, 1963 ("Oswald interview Recalled / UPI Reporter Talked to Defector"). She described him as being "unsure of himself, naive and emotionally unbalanced." According to the notes she had kept from the interview, Oswald had moved to North Dakota from New York as a youth, where he supposedly first began reading about Marxism at the local library. Thanks to John Armstrong for sending me Aline's article.
Aline was also interviewed at great length in 1991 for a
The Lady in Red
Did LHO Come Back?
Partial Bibliography of Peter Whitmey
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