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The Umbrella Man

Two of the most suspicious people at Dealey Plaza were two men standing near Kennedy when the fatal shots were fired. One held an open umbrella while the other stood at the curb and waved his arm into the air. These and their subsequent actions are only known from analysis of photos and films taken that day and aroused suspicions of researchers. Both the Dallas Police and the Warren Commission ignored these two men throughout their investigations.

The Umbrella Man (right) and the Dark-Complected Man
The Zapruder film clearly shows an opened umbrella as the motorcade passed the Stemmons Freeway sign on Elm Street (see photo 2). In Photos taken minutes before and after the assassination, the umbrella can be seen closed. Furthermore, when Kennedy's limousine was passing the sign, "Umbrella man" pumped his umbrella almost two feet into the air and then lowered it again. At the same time, the other man raised his arm and possibly made a fist. Because this one seemed to be dark-complected, perhaps black or Hispanic, he was called the "dark-complected man". The man with the open umbrella was the only person in Dealey Plaza with an open umbrella. There was no reason for such a behaviour since the warm Texas sun was shining at that time.

Two main theories have been come up concerning the Umbrella man. The first says that both men provided signals for the hidden gunmen. Certainly, this presumes that Kennedy was killed by a coordinated crossfire, perhaps with the help of radiomen. The two men were among the closest bystanders when Kennedy was struck. They possibly gave signals that JFK was not fatally hit and more shots were needed. Gary Shaw provided an interesting twist in this theory. He said that the umbrella was a last-second sign of who was responsible for the assassination. Shaw explained that throughout the planning of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA promised an "umbrella" air protection of the invaders. Kennedy refused to authorize this military support. Therefore, the man with the open umbrella symbolized the promise of an air-support "umbrella" while the dark-complected man may have been a person --- perhaps an anti-Castro Cuban leader --- that Kennedy was familiar with.

Most of the assassination researchers prefer this first theory. But there is another one that cannot be dismissed. Researcher Robert Cutler claimed that the umbrella may have been a dart-firing weapon. This is supported by the testimony of a CIA weapons developer in 1975 (1). He told the Senate's Intelligence Committee that such an umbrella was in use in 1963. He described the weapon as looking like an umbrella. He explained the dart gun was silently operating and fired through the webbing when the umbrella was opened. He also said that the CIA ordered about 50 of such guns and that they were operational in 1963. Furthermore, Cutler theorized that Kennedy's throat wound could have been a wound caused by such a dart, but that it was altered during the Bethesda autopsy. This would also explain Kennedy's lack of motion during the shooting sequence. Many researchers think that since such a weapon existed and its operation is consistent with the actions of Umbrella man, this theory can not be ignored completely.

Zapruder film frame showing the umbrella
None of these theories is approved or confirmed. But the actions of Umbrella and Dark-complected man are. While almost everyone in Dealey Plaza was reacting to the assassination by either falling to the ground or moving towards Grassy Knoll, both men sat down on the sidewalk of Elm Street. In this situation, several photographs indicate that the dark-complected man talked into a radio. Jim Towner made a photograph where an antenna - or better an antenna-like device - can be seen jutting out from behind the man's head and his hands holding an object to his face. Just moments later, they both got up and walked away - each in another direction: Dark-complected man went toward the Triple Underpass while Umbrella man was walking towards the Schoolbook Depository.

Officially, both persons did not exist. Neither FBI nor Warren Commission made any effort to locate them. Researchers claimed that the lack of investigation of these men indicate the poor quality of the government's care of the assassination. When the House Select Committee on Assassinations was formed, researchers demanded an investigation of both men. Finally, the Committee released a photograph of Umbrella Man and asked anyone to come forward with any information about him.

"Coincidently", the Umbrella Man was suddenly identified in Dallas just shortly after this national appeal. An anonymous caller told researcher Penn Jones Jr. that the wanted man was the former Dallas insurance salesman Louis Steven Witt. Jones contacted some local newsmen and together they confronted Witt. Although Witt refused to talk to a newsman, he confirmed that he was in Dealey Plaza when Kennedy was killed. Jones later wrote (2):

    I felt the man had been coached. He would answer no questions and pointedly invited us to leave. His only positive statement, which seemed to come very quickly, was that he was willing to appear before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in Washington.
Witt told the Commission that he had the umbrella to heckle Kennedy. He claimed that someone told him that an open umbrella would rile Kennedy. But he did not offer any further explanation of how it would heckle JFK. Some Committee members theorized that the umbrella somehow referred to Kennedy's father who was serving as U.S. ambassador to Britain prior to World War II. The umbrella may have symbolized the policies of Britain's Prime Minister Chamberlain who always carried an umbrella. (3)
    I think I went sort of maybe halfway up the grassy area (on the north side of Elm Street), somewhere in that vicinity. I am pretty sure I sat down....(When the motorcade approached) I think I got up and started fiddling with that umbrella trying to get it open, and at the same time I was walking forward, walking toward the street....Whereas other people I understand saw the President shot and his movements; I did not see this because of this thing (the umbrella) in front of me....My view of the car during that length of time was blocked by the umbrella's being open. (4)
None of Witt s statements were accurate. Umbrella man stood waiting for the motorcade with his umbrella in the usual position over his head. Then he pumped it up in the air as Kennedy passed. Despite Witt's bizarre story - totally incompatible with the actions of the man in the photographs - a few researchers accepted Louis Steven Witt as the "Umbrella Man".

The HSCA made no effort to find the second man, the Dark-complected man, who appeared to have been talking on a radio moments after the assassination. Witt claimed he had no recollection of such a person, although on photographs he can be seen talking to him. He only recalled a "Negro man" who sat down near him and mumbling:

    They done shot them folks.
One of the Committee's attorneys asked Witt specifically if he remembers seeing the man with a walkie-talkie. This is interesting because no one has ever admitted the possibility of radios in use in Dealey Plaza. Both men still remain in mystery among the people of Dealey Plaza.

(1) Jim Marrs: Crossfire - The Plot That Killed Kennedy. p. 30.
(2) Jim Marrs: Crossfire - The Plot That Killed Kennedy. p. 32.
(3) Robert J. Groden - The Killing Of A President. (4) HSCA Vol. IV, p. 432f.

Ralph Schuster

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