The Curious Case of John Underhill

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-6-07-00-amJohn Garrett Underhill descended from Captain John Underhill, original commander of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia and also the primary perpetrator behind the Mystic Massacre of several hundred Pequot. His grandfather (on his mother’s side) was a former general who’d played a leading role in creating the National Rifle Association.

Underhill studied linguistics at Harvard and graduated in 1937. With his blue blood, he was a natural fit into military intel and quickly rose to chief editor of the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division. Following the war, he became the military correspondent for Life magazine, no doubt working hand-in-glove with the newly-formed CIA, staffed mostly with his wartime buddies from G2 and OSS. He acquired one of the world’s largest collections of Soviet small arms outside Russia.

Beginning in 1949, he became an informant for the CIA. Two years later, he co-wrote a 6,500 word essay, “The Tragedy of the US Army,” for Look magazine, published February 13, 1951. According to the Harvard Alumni Bulletin, he was “recalled to brown suit service after finishing a 6,500 word article.”

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-6-19-06-amHe served as Deputy Director for the Civil Defense of Washington, D.C., and worked on setting up “Operation Alert” in 1955, although days before it was held he claimed the exercise was “so inadequate it couldn’t cope with a brushfire threatening a doghouse in a backyard,” comments that led to his dismissal from the alert moments before it began.

Immediately following JFK’s assassination, Underhill drove to Charlene Fitzsimmon’s house on Long Island in a state of panic, and conveyed a sudden overwhelming desire to leave the country and disappear. He claimed Kennedy had been killed by the CIA’s executive action team, and some people who were profiteering off drugs from the Far East. He knew the people involved, and he knew they knew he knew, which is why he feared for his own life. “Oswald is a patsy,” he said. “They set him up. The bastards have done something outrageous. They’ve killed the President! I’ve been listening and hearing things. I couldn’t have believed they’d get away with it, but they did!”

In 1966, when Jim Garrison began his investigation of the crime, he’d heard about a CIA informant with important information, a detail noted in Garrison’s lengthy interview in Playboy magazine. Garrison was eager to get a deposition from this person of interest, but before he could locate Underhill, his corpse was discovered in bed, a bullet hole behind the left ear.

A memo from the CIA to the Justice Department later uncovered through FOIA noted that Underhill had a connection to Harold Isaacs, who knew Oswald’s cousin Marilyn Murret. The memo also stated Underhill was not an employee of the CIA, had “infrequent contact with the New York office” and “committed suicide on May 8, 1964.”

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Author: Steven Hager

I'm a writer, journalist, filmmaker and event producer.

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