"Farewell America, Al, you have to get a copy of Farewell America," said the voice on the telephone. The soft East Texas twang immediately identified the caller as one William Penn Jones, Jr. and he was calling me from his desk as Editor-in-Chief of the Midlothian Mirror, a weekly newspaper from the town just south of Dallas.
It was about two weeks before Christmas 1968 and winter in Toronto was fast approaching. America, and indeed the entire world, had just endured what was possibly the worst single year of the century, excepting the Wars. It was a presidential election year and Lyndon Johnson said he wouldn't run, but Robert Kennedy said he would. By the end of the year, Kennedy was dead by assassins' bullets, Richard Nixon was President, Hubert Humphrey had lost the election by just over 25,000 votes and Johnson was back home in Texas after aging 20 years in the past five.
Add to this, the assassination of Civil Rights champion Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; North Korea capturing the electronic spy ship USS Pueblo; the continuing war in south-east Asia; the Soviet Union occupying Czechoslovakia, a student and worker revolt in France and the few good things which occurred that year were all but invisible.
The first heart transplant in December, 1967 gave way to an avalanche of them in 1968; American astronauts orbited the moon in preparation for a lunar landing in mid-1969 and President John Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline, married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.
So when Penn mentioned Farewell America, I asked him what was it about. The story that Penn told me -- coupled with what I learned from former FBI-agent-turned-author William Turner and added to the rather bizarre occurrences which would happen to me 16 years later -- is what Paul Harvey routinely calls "the rest of the story."
The rest of this story begins on 22 November 1963, with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. While the various timelines of history converged on that place at that time, what came out of Dallas was best described by a Hopi word koyaanisqatsi, meaning crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating or a state of life that calls for another way of living.
For virtually every person connected with the assassination, this is true and it was especially true for the President's brother, then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Even in the middle of the worst four days of his life, Robert Kennedy had the presence of mind to ask one of his most trusted aides, future Senator from New York Daniel Moynihan to quietly assemble a small staff to look into his brother's murder. Kennedy basically asked Moynihan to get him the answer to two questions: did Teamster boss and Kennedy family enemy Jimmy Hoffa have any involvement in the assassination, and, was the Secret Service as an agency or specific agents themselves paid off?
In a few months, the results came back to Kennedy: "no" and "no." The report was, however, quite damning in its criticism of the Secret Service agents and the agency in general, as far as their collective performance was concerned. Standard protection procedures had been ignored, countermanded or subverted and the result was that the President was left exposed from practically everywhere in Dealey Plaza -- a full 360 degrees of opportunity.
When you look back at the weekend which followed the assassination in 1963, you can probably agree with Robert Kennedy's prime suspects. Jimmy Hoffa was the most vocal of the detractors of the Kennedy White House as both John and Robert Kennedy had sat on the Kefauver Committee in the late 1950s looking into organized crime in America. The very fact that the President was so completely defenseless naturally gave cause to cast disparaging glances at the organization whose primary duty is to protect him.
It is indeed interesting, from the point of view of 35 years after the fact, that Hoffa and the Secret Service would be the primary suspects in the 'crime of the century.' When we now look at who might have had a hand in the planning and execution of this execution, we normally list the CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, the anti-Castro and pro-Castro Cubans, the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Pentagon/DIA, the Texas oil fortunes of the Hunts and the Murchisons and even the massive interests involved in the Federal Reserve Bank. The 'grassy knoll' is now getting to be as crowded as a Tokyo subway car at rush hour!
It was during the first few months of 1964 that a copy of the Moynihan report to Robert Kennedy found its way across the Atlantic and into the caverns of French Intelligence and, eventually, onto the desk of President Charles de Gaulle. Who actually was the genesis of what would become Farewell America must now be left to pure conjecture, as it was probably done verbally, covertly and quietly. Was it Robert Kennedy or Charles de Gaulle or both or neither?
It became the provenance of two recently-retired French Intelligence operatives and one of their British counterparts to look into the murder of a president, again probably done verbally, covertly and quietly. They were basically given carte blanche to travel wherever leads took them and to talk to whoever they thought had useful and pertinent information to give. Their investigation took more than 3 years and covered practically the entire globe.
Because the operatives were just that, and not writers, they enlisted a rather peculiar-looking Frenchman who called himself Herve Lamarr. It was this slightly-built, chain-smoking editor who took the voluminous notes, reports, interview transcripts and essays that the operatives had accumulated over the past 40+ months and collate them into a somewhat readable concise report. It was also Lamarr who came up with the pseudonym "James Hepburn," based on his overwhelming love and admiration for actress Audrey Hepburn. He bastardized the French word j'aime which means I love.
It was most probably in mid-December, 1967 that Robert Kennedy received the final draft of the report and its effect was quite noticeable. Kennedy's public image changed from that of a New York Senator to a potential presidential candidate. His speeches became more international and less local-oriented. And it was quite soon thereafter that he did indeed throw his hat into the ring for the November presidential election.
During Kennedy's all-too-brief run for the Presidency, most people judiciously avoided the assassination questions, but one student reporter for a campus newspaper in Berkeley, California asked Kennedy a rather direct question, couched in metaphor -- if elected would he open 'the files?' Kennedy's reply was metaphorical in return, saying that only the President can open 'those files' and I will be President! In less than three days, Robert Kennedy lay dead in a Los Angeles hospital after being shot three times at point blank range 25 hours earlier, only minutes after winning the California Democratic Primary.
After waiting a few weeks, the Kennedy family was contacted about the status of 'the project,' meaning Farewell America. It was now the duty of the last remaining son, Edward Kennedy to basically squelch the entire operation as he said to the effect that he and the Kennedy Family no longer wished to pursue any aspects of either of the brothers' deaths.
So now Lamarr had a book with content that could change the world's view of what had happened in Dallas. After approaching nearly every major American and British publisher and getting rejections from all of them, Lamarr decided to begin in Europe. One can assume that corporate attorneys working as counsel for those American and British publishing houses looked at a statement on page 387 of Farewell America:
We challenge the individuals whose names are cited in this book to sue us for libel.One can also assume that those same attorneys would have cast a 'no' vote when asked by the editorial staff if they should publish Farewell America. But that was the entire tone of the book, because the book was a natural product of the results of the research and that research named names and placed blames.
While I won't disclose what that research found, leaving it up to you to read the book, I will say that it cast light in directions which, at that time, had always been in shadows. When it was published in France under the title America Brule (America Burns), it quickly shot to the top of the non-fiction bestseller charts. Italian and German editions soon followed, each a bestseller as well and soon it became apparent that the only way to get an edition published in English was to self-publish it.
So came the entity now known as "Frontiers Publishing." It was registered in Vaduz, the tiny capital city of the even tinier Duchy of Liechtenstein, nestled in the Alps. The legal office was in Geneva, Switzerland. The editorial office in Paris. The books were actually printed in Belgium and shipped to Manchester, England and Montreal, Quebec. The print run has never been disclosed but my research came up with an approximate number of copies in the 10,000 range. It seems that 4,000 were shipped for distribution throughout the UK and the other 6,000 were off to North America, but by having them sent out from Montreal they kept them out of the reach of the American authorities. Or so they thought.
While the copies which were in England were distributed without incident to various bookstores in the British Isles, the copies which were sent to Canada came under attack quite quickly. After about one-third of the consignment had been shipped, a very odd thing happened. The shipments stopped completely.
I have been able to place together some random facts and oddities into a fairly reliable story of what indeed happened. It seems that the FBI (or perhaps the CIA, but more probably the former) had traced the flow of Farewell America to a book warehouse in Montreal and they elicited the assistance of the Canadian Government (possibly the RCMP, but more probably the Ministry of Customs and Excise) to find a way to staunch the flow of Farewell America into the U.S.
Now comes the creative part. Through some logistical legerdemain they were able to create an excise on hardcover books which were printed in Belgium. They were then assigned a 50% duty, to be applied retroactively as well! This means that the books would be seized for non-payment of a duty which didn't even exist when the shipment arrived in Canada. It's like getting a speeding ticket in September after they lowered the speed limit, and you traveled there in July! Nice grift if you can swing it.
From 1969 until 1984 two pallets of Farewell America languished in Montreal, in an unheated, bonded, government warehouse. Freezing cold winters and blistering hot summers -- all fifteen of them.
During this time the book became very tough to find and the price began to climb, eventually hitting more then $100.00 -- if you could find a copy. The scuttlebutt was that the FBI had bought up all remaining copies and had them destroyed. This type of tactic had worked with two of William Turner's books, The Fish is Red and The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy which Random House had stopped shipping to bookstores a few months after it was published, probably at the behest of the FBI. Of the 20,000 copies it printed, Random House probably burned three-quarters of them! Not good for the bottom line, but very good for the government relations.
But the rumors were untrue and for some reason, still unknown, the book showed up as part of a Canadian government auction back in the spring of 1984. When I saw that there were two lots of about 2,000 copies each, I decided that I would attend the auction. With most of the auction audience after office furniture and the like, I was unopposed when bidding for the first lot of 2,000 copies. That changed in the few minutes that it took to begin bidding for the second lot. I repeated my opening bid when a voice from the back of the room bid an amount that was ten times my bid! Needless to say I didn't get the second lot.
The bidder was a nondescript white male in a dark suit, perhaps 6'2" and around 200 pounds, as was his partner. I say 'partner' because they immediately radiated the impression 'government' or 'police.' When I paid for the lot and got my receipt and release slip I was approached by the two men and offered twice what they had just paid for the second lot in cash, right there and then, if I gave them my release slip and receipt. I politely declined.
Since the books had to be picked up within 24 hours, I borrowed a friend's van and drove to the government warehouse to claim my books. Want to guess who was there when I arrived? That's right, the same two guys from the auction the day before. This time they offered me four times what they had paid for the books, which means that I could have made a nice tidy profit . . . 40 times what I had paid the day before. Again I said, "no thanks," and loaded the 50 boxes into the van and drove away.
I drove around for about two hours basically seeing if anyone was following me, but, not exactly being a private detective myself, I couldn't really tell. I had a friend who had a warehouse in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto and he had two rear loading docks. One was the standard truck-backs-up-to-the-door height and the other was a long ramp, which allowed him to park his car inside the warehouse during the winter. It was up this ramp that I drove that afternoon and for the next two hours the van just sat inside the warehouse as my friend and I chatted.
He called his neighbor, who was an off-duty policeman to come over, which he did. I gave him the short-version of the story and then I drove the van back out and down the ramp, this time driving it a bit faster, trying to make anyone watching to believe that I had off-loaded the books and that the van was now empty. The ruse must have worked as not more than 15 minutes later, the sound of glass breaking in the warehouse caused both my friend and his policeman neighbor to come running back there.
When they turned on the lights, all they saw was an arm trying to reach through the broken windowpane to unlock the door, but as the lights came on, the arm disappeared, coupled with a loud scream. By the time my friend had unlocked the back door and opened it, all they saw were the taillights of a dark-colored Ford sedan high-tailing it out of the rear parking lot. When they shone the beam from a flashlight down on the ground just outside the door, they noticed a trail of blood -- he had sliced his arm open on the broken glass when startled by the lights coming on!
So for the next 15 years I quietly sold copies of this gem to Kennedy assassination researchers from all over the world. I also ended up donating probably close to 200 copies to the JFK Assassination Information Center in Dallas, which was run by the late Larry Howard and Robert Johnson. Selling these books at the Center was my way of donating to their cause.
Even though I know so much about the book, I still have so many nagging questions. Who actually were the three operatives? Who was Herve Lamarr? Who began and financed the project? And finally, who owns the copyright? This last question will be answered, possibly, in the next few years because, when my supply of Farewell America gets down to a few copies I am going to reprint it . . . and let's just see who sues me for libel!
Al Navis still has copies of Farewell America for sale to interested civilians. Click here for details.
Back to Farewell America commentary menu
Back to main Farewell America menu
Back to JFK literature menu
Back to JFK menu
Dave Reitzes home page