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Oswald's brother acted fast.

Byline: Hector Saldana

John Edward Pic didn't hesitate on Nov. 22, 1963. When he heard that President Kennedy's alleged assassin, a 24-year-old former Marine with Russian ties, was in custody in Dallas and had been identified, he acted.

But his sense of duty couldn't quell the dread, shame, helplessness and anger.

The shaken Wilford Hall laboratory technician, a staff sergeant, presented himself to his superior officers at Lackland AFB and informed them that Lee Harvey Oswald was his estranged brother.

That information was kept under wraps from the FBI for several days, according to former San Antonio FBI special agent Thomas Berge, who interviewed Pic at Lackland and again at his modest home on Westville Drive behind Mary Hull Elementary.

''I was surprised that Oswald had a brother out there,'' said Berge, whose responsibility was Lackland and who was one of about 30 agents from the San Antonio FBI office running down leads on Oswald.

San Antonio agents were in the thick of the Kennedy case principally because of Oswald's mysterious bus trip to Mexico City in late September 1963 to obtain a visa from the Soviet Embassy and the Cuban Consulate. He was unsuccessful and allegedly argued and brandished a pistol. Oswald's return trip in early October 1963 brought him to San Antonio one early morning.

What occupied his thoughts on that long bus trip back is unknown, but he annoyed a passenger trying to sleep by reading with the overhead light on, ate a banana and was questioned by a Mexican immigration officer at the checkpoint south of Nuevo Laredo. He did disembark in San Antonio, a witness told the FBI, but he didn't contact Pic.

After Oswald was killed on Nov. 24, 1963, by nightclub owner Jack Ruby, the FBI office here was inundated with calls that he'd been seen in San Antonio before the assassination -- at a Holiday Inn; at the airport; hitchhiking south of town. Intrigue lurked everywhere.

Agents were sent to Laredo to check flop houses and cheap hotels. One former agent believes Oswald practiced shooting his Italian rifle in Mexico, entering through Del Rio.

Folklore shared among former agents that the FBI had discovered a tree stump used as a target couldn't be confirmed.

''We brought a lot of heat, a lot of manpower to the case,'' said Berge, 88 and retired in Maryland. Often, it led nowhere.

But Berge was not happy that the Secret Service and the Office of Special Investigations at Lackland had interviewed Sgt. Pic first. When a detachment commander refused to make him available, Berge pulled rank.

''I said, 'Lyndon Johnson is the president of the United States and we're the FBI, the agency that investigates. And if you want me to send something back to Washington, D.C. and tell him you can't make him available, we can do that.' ''

Pic appeared. He explained that he hadn't seen Oswald since Thanksgiving 1962.

At that gathering in Fort Worth, the last time all three brothers were together, Pic was shocked at how different his brother looked. Oswald told his brothers how hard life was in Russia. But he didn't talk politics. Pic later recalled ''a chip on his shoulder.''

Prior to that, he hadn't spoken to his youngest brother for a decade. Pic had told Air Force investigators in 1959 that Oswald was ''dead to me'' when he defected to Moscow.

''He wasn't a problem at all. He was cooperative,'' Berge said about Pic, who was stationed at Lackland in August 1962.

But a second, testy, interview was required -- this time with Pic's nervous wife, Margaret, at their home. Oswald's oldest sibling -- he was 7 when Lee was born in October 1939 -- had failed to mention something: Oswald had once pulled a knife on Pic's wife.

The forgotten brother

John Pic died at age 68 in Lynn Haven, Fla. in April 2000. Friends said the New Orleans native and father of five was proud of his Southern roots and never lost his accent, his love of chicory coffee or his stubborn streak.

He rarely talked about Lee. One neighbor was so stunned about learning about his family tie to the JFK killing, after knowing Pic for years, that she dared not mention it again.

In the year before he died, Pic studied the Bible with his pastor Paul Workentine.

Workentine didn't pry about Oswald. ''John was a very private person, especially when it came to his brother,'' he said.

Maybe it was too painful for him to revisit their childhood, when they lived together under their domineering mother's roof with her different husbands in New Orleans and in Texas.

His first stepfather, Oswald's father, was strict and doled out whippings. The family was poor and the brothers were placed in an orphanage at various periods. Lee Harvey Oswald slept in his mother's bed until he was nearly 11.

Pic, a highly regarded veteran of the Coast Guard and the Air Force, was questioned extensively about his brother by the FBI, the Secret Service and OSI immediately after the assassination, and gave sworn testimony to the Warren Commission well into 1964.

Oswald had once ''idolized'' his oldest brother (who he called Pic) and ''were best of friends.'' As a boy, Oswald had a dog named Blackie and collected stamps and played chess and Monopoly with his brothers.

After John Pic and middle brother Robert Oswald signed up for military service and left home, Oswald become ungovernable and violent. Margaret Pic had witnessed Oswald's temper and utter contempt for his mother in New York in 1952.

Testifying after the assassination, Pic chalked up the problem as he explained why Oswald had joined the Marines: ''He did it for the same reasons that I did it and Robert did it, I assume, to get from out and under the yoke of oppression from my mother.''
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Author:Saldana, Hector
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Nov 22, 2013
Words:974
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