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Bush and the JFK Hit, Part 2: Skull and Bones Forever


What possible connection could there have been between George H.W. Bush and the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Or between the C.I.A. and the assassination? Or between Bush and the C.I.A.? For some people, apparently, making such connections was as dangerous as letting one live wire touch another. Here, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination in November, is the second part of a ten-part series of excerpts from WhoWhatWhy editor Russ Baker’s bestseller, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. The story is a real-life thriller.

Note: Although these excerpts do not contain footnotes, the book itself is heavily footnoted and exhaustively sourced. (The excerpts in Part 2 come from Chapter 3 of the book, and the titles and subtitles have been changed for this publication.) For Part 1, please go here.

Skull and Bones

In 1945, with the end of the war, George H. W. “Poppy” Bush entered Yale University. The CIA recruited heavily at all of the Ivy League schools in those days, with the New Haven campus the standout. “Yale has always been the agency’s biggest feeder,” recalled CIA officer Osborne Day (class of’43), “In my Yale class alone there were thirty-five guys in the agency.” Bush’s father, Prescott, was on the university’s board, and the school was crawling with faculty serving as recruiters for the intelligence services . . . Yale’s society’s boys were the cream of the crop, and could keep secrets to boot. And no secret society was more suited to the spy establishment than Skull and Bones, for which Poppy Bush, like his father, was tapped in his junior year. Established in 1832, Skull and Bones is the oldest secret society at Yale, and thus at least theoretically entrusted its membership with a more comprehensive body of secrets than any other campus group. Bones alumni would appear throughout the public and private history of both wartime and peacetime intelligence . . .

When Bush entered Yale, the university was welcoming back countless veterans of the OSS to its faculty. Bush, with naval intelligence work already under his belt by the time he arrived at Yale, would have been seen as a particularly prime candidate for recruitment.

Bonesmen Have All the Muscle

Out of Yale, Bush went directly into the employ of Dresser Industries, a peculiar, family-connected firm providing essential services to the oil industry. Dresser has never received the scrutiny it deserves. Between the lines of its official story can be discerned an alternate version that could suggest a corporate double life . . .

The S. R. Dresser Manufacturing Company had been a small, solid, unexceptional outfit, . . . [when it found] eager buyers in Prescott Bush’s Yale friends Roland and W. Averell Harriman – the sons of railroad tycoon E. H. Harriman – who had only recently set up a merchant bank to assist wealthy families in such endeavors. At the time, Dresser’s principal assets consisted of two very valuable patents in the rapidly expanding oil industry. One was for a packer that made it much easier to remove oil from the ground; the other was for a coupler that made long-range natural gas pipelines feasible. Instead of controlling the oil, Dresser’s strategy was to control the technology that made drilling possible. W.A. Harriman and Company, which had brought Prescott Bush aboard two years earlier, purchased Dresser in 1928.

Prescott Bush and his partners installed an old friend, H. Neil Mallon, at the helm. Mallon’s primary credential was that he was “one of them.” Like Prescott Bush, Mallon was from Ohio, and his family seems both to have known the Bushes and to have had its own set of powerful connections. He was Yale, and he was Skull and Bones, so he could be trusted . . .

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