488th Military Intelligence Detachment

In 1956 Jack Alston Crichton started up his own spy unit, the 488th Military Intelligence Detachment in Dallas. Crichton served as the unit's commander under Lieutenant Colonel George Whitmeyer, who was in overall command of all Army Reserve units in East Texas. In an interview Crichton claimed that there were "about a hundred men in that unit and about forty or fifty of them were from the Dallas Police Department."

In November 1963 Jack Alston Crichton was involved in the arrangements of the visit that President John F. Kennedy made to Dallas. His close friend, Deputy Police Chief George L. Lumpkin, and a fellow member of the the 488th Military Intelligence Detachment, drove the pilot car of Kennedy's motorcade. Also in the car was Lieutenant Colonel George Whitmeyer, commander of all Army Reserve units in East Texas. The pilot car stopped briefly in front of the Texas School Book Depository, where Lumpkin spoke to a policeman controlling traffic at the corner of Houston and Elm.

As Russ Baker points out in Family of Secrets (2008) Crichton served as the "intelligence unit's only commander... until he retired from the 488th in 1967".

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Russ Baker, Family of Secrets (2008)

If Poppy Bush was busy on November 22, 1963, so was his friend Jack Crichton. Bush's fellow GOP candidate was a key figure in a web of military intelligence figures with deep connections to the Dallas Police Department and, as previously noted, to the pilot car of JFK's motorcade.

Crichton came back into the picture within hours of Kennedy's death and the subsequent arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, when a peculiar cordon sanitaire went up around Marina Oswald. The first to her side was Republican activist and precinct chairman Ilya Mamantov, a vociferous anti-Communist who frequently lectured in Dallas on the dangers of the Red menace. When investigators arrived, Mamantov stepped in as interpreter and embellished Marina's comments to establish in no uncertain terms that the "leftist" Lee Harvey Oswald had been the gunman-the lone gunman-who killed the president.

It is interesting of course that the Dallas police would let an outsider - in particular, a right-wing Russian emigre-handle the delicate interpreting task. Asked by the Warren Commission how this happened, Mamantov said that he had received a phone call from Deputy Police Chief George Lumpkin. After a moment's thought, Mamantov then remembered that just preceding Lumpkin's call he had heard from Jack Crichton. It was Crichton who had put the Dallas Police Department together with Mamantov and ensured his place at Marina Oswald's side at this crucial moment.

Despite this revelation, Crichton almost completely escaped scrutiny. The Warren Commission never interviewed him. Yet, as much as anyone, Crichton embodied a confluence of interests within the oil-intelligence-military nexus. And he was closely connected to Poppy in their mutual efforts to advance the then-small Texas Republican Party, culminating in their acceptance of the two top positions on the state's Republican ticket in 1964.

During World War II, Crichton had served in the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA. Postwar, he began working for the company of petroleum czar Everette DeGolyer and was soon connected in petromilitary circles at the highest levels. A review of hundreds of corporate documents and newspaper articles shows that when Crichton left DeGolyer's firm in the early fifties he became involved in an almost incomprehensible web of companies with overlapping boards and ties to DeGolyer. Many of them were backed by some of North America's most powerful families, including the Du Ponts of Delaware and the Bronfmans, owners of the liquor giant Seagram.

Crichton was so plugged into the Dallas power structure that one of his company directors was Clint Murchison Sr., king of the oil depletion allowance, and another was D. Harold Byrd, owner of the Texas School Book Depository building.

A typical example of this corporate cronyism came in 1952, when Crichton was part of a syndicate - including Murchison, DeGolyer, and the Du Ponts - that used connections in the fascist Franco regime to acquire rare drilling rights in Spain. The operation was handled by Delta Drilling, which was owned by Joe Zeppa of Tyler, Texas - the man who transported Poppy Bush from Tyler to Dallas on November 22, 1963.

It was in 1956 that the bayou-bred Crichton started up his own spy unit, the 488th Military Intelligence Detachment. He would serve as the intelligence unit's only commander through November 22, 1963, continuing until he retired from the 488th in 1967, at which time he was awarded the Legion of Merit and cited for "exceptionally outstanding service."

(2) Fabian Escalante, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 (1995)

In late November 1959, James Noel, CIA station chief in Havana, met with his closest collaborator to analyze the evolution of the political situation in Cuba. He had received instructions from Colonel King to prepare this analysis. His years with the Agency had taught him that when his boss personally asked for a report, big issues were involved and since nobody could swim against the current, he took great care. Noel believed that there were still individuals in the Cuban government that could be won over to the cause of the United States; that everything had not ended with the capture of Huber Matos and his associates; and that men such as Sori Marin had definite influence. However, he knew he should be cautious when offering his opinions, since an error could cost him his career. Therefore he adopted a dual position, giving King the report that he wanted to hear, while at the same time - with his pawns - continuing to play the game. The document that the CIA specialists drafted concluded: "Fidel Castro, under the influence of his closest collaborators, particularly his brother Raul and Che Guevara, has been converted to communism. Cuba is preparing to export its revolution to other countries of the hemisphere and spread the war against capitalism."

With these words, they pronounced a death sentence on the Cuban Revolution. Days later, on December 11, Colonel King wrote a confidential memorandum to the head of the CIA which affirmed that in Cuba there existed a "far-left dictatorship, which if allowed to remain will encourage similar actions against U.S. holdings in other Latin American countries."

King recommended various actions to solve the Cuban problem, one of which was to consider the elimination of Fidel Castro. He affirmed that none of the other Cuban leaders "have the same mesmeric appeal to the masses. Many informed people believe that the disappearance of Fidel would greatly accelerate the fall of the present government ."

CIA Director Allen Dulles passed on King's memorandum to the NSC a few days later, and it approved the suggestion to form a working group in the Agency which, within a short period of time, could come up with "alternative solutions to the Cuban problem." Thus "Operation 40" was born, taking its name from that of the Special Group formed by the NSC to follow the Cuban case. The group was presided over by Richard Nixon and included Admiral Arleigh Burke, Livingston Merchant of the State Department, National Security Adviser Gordon Gray, and Allen Dulles of the CIA.

Tracy Barnes functioned as head of the Cuban Task Force. He called a meeting on January 18, 1960, in his office in Quarters Eyes, near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, which the navy had lent while new buildings were being constructed in Langley. Those who gathered there included the eccentric Howard Hunt, future head of the Watergate team and a writer of crime novels; the egocentric Frank Bender, a friend of Trujillo; Jack Esterline, who had come straight from Venezuela where he directed a CIA group; psychological warfare expert David A. Phillips, and others.

The team responsible for the plans to overthrow the government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 was reconstituted, and in the minds of all its members this would be a rerun of the same plan. Barnes talked at length of the goals to be achieved. He explained that Vice-President Richard Nixon was the Cuban "case officer," and had assembled an important group of businessmen headed by George Bush [Snr.] and Jack Crichton, both Texas oilmen, to gather the necessary funds for the operation. Nixon was a protégé of Bush's father Preston, who in 1946 had supported Nixon's bid for congress. In fact, Preston Bush was the campaign strategist who brought Eisenhower and Nixon to the presidency of the United States. With such patrons, Barnes was certain that failure was impossible.