In essence, this book is about three men. The main character is-as the title suggests-William B. Pitzer, who died of a gunshot wound to the head on October 29, 1966, at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. The second character-again as suggested by the title-is John F. Kennedy who died of a gunshot wound to the head on November 22, 1963, in downtown Dallas, Texas. The third character is Daniel Marvin, who is alive in his seventies despite (frequent claims of) having his life threatened. Pitzer is said by one witness to have had, within a few days of the JFK assassination, possession of a movie film of the Kennedy autopsy that showed a bullet entry in the right forehead, hence not inflicted by Lee Oswald. Marvin is said by one witness (himself) to have been solicited by the CIA to murder William Pitzer; it is thought by some that Pitzer had kept possession of a copy of that movie film and was about to spill the beans by making the movie public.
In the preface, Mr. Heiner states, "This book is in large part a result of Marvin's ten-year effort to close a dark chapter in his past by fighting for truth and justice in the Pitzer case." This is an odd statement since, beyond the contribution of obtaining in 1997 FBI documents on the investigation of Pitzer's death then writing an article in the Fourth Decade shortly thereafter, Marvin has contributed little to efforts to understand how William Pitzer died. Hounding local politicians with demands for action and talking in grand terms of congressional investigations is just so much hot air. The fundamental question, "Was William Pitzer murdered?" has not figured in Marvin's vocabulary. Having claimed that he was asked to assassinate Pitzer in August of 1965, he has made up his mind that the lieutenant commander was murdered in October of 1966.
Kent Heiner covers a lot of territory in this short book (120 pages of text). And with a clear and concise writing style, he does it well. Scanning the index turns up the following names, inter alia: Fidel Castro, Edward Cutolo, Edward Jay Epstein, David Ferrie, Pierre Finck, Gaeton Fonzi, Sam Giancana, Bo Gritz, Daniel Hopsicker, James Jenkins, Lyndon Johnson, Khun Sa, Ed Lansdale, David Lifton, John McCarthy, Charles Nicoletti, Thomas Noguchi, Nugan Hand Bank, Paul O'Connor, William Pepper, Fletcher Prouty, Johnny Roselli, Michael Ruppert, Richard Secord, Ted Shackley, Sirhan Sirhan, John Stockwell, Frank Terpil, Bill Tyree and Edwin Wilson. It's an easy and absorbing read, and with one caveat (see below) I recommend it.
A pretty comprehensive description of the historical context of the assassination of President Kennedy and its aftermath is provided. And there is good coverage of the salient aspects of the FBI FOIA-released information on the investigation of William Pitzer's death with the notable exception of the autopsy report, the only reference to which is: "In fact the complete autopsy report shows nothing which would contradict the conclusion that Pitzer had taken his own life with a single pistol shot." Actually the autopsy report describes three defects in the skull-on the face of it rather odd from a "single pistol shot." (And only a passing reference is made to the autopsy photographs on Pitzer's body, released under FOIA in 2002.)
This book's weakness lies in its kid-gloves treatment of Dan Marvin and his claims. Although to some extent Heiner keeps the controversial assertions at arm's length with phrases like "Marvin says," "evidently," "what he saw as," "according to Marvin," etc., any benefit of any doubt is given to Marvin. On the other hand, to be fair, if the author had not treated Marvin as favorably as possible there may have been no reason to write this book, or at least it would have been a different book. Not that it did not evolve during writing; it started out as a Heiner-Marvin jointly authored project titled Smoking Gun: The Conspiracy to Kill LCDR William Bruce Pitzer. Obviously, as shown by the final title, some fundamental rethinking occurred in the mind of Mr. Heiner. It must have troubled him to admit, "Marvin has only been caught in-and has admitted to-only one untruth, that being the number of officers who had volunteered for the assassination training course." (Marvin changed the number from half a dozen to over thirty. Heiner misses the reason for this change. It occurred after "Captain Vance" denied recognizing Marvin, hence Marvin had to bump up the number who took the course to rationalize this lack of recognition.) The operative words in the quote are "and has admitted to," because Marvin has been caught in other "untruths." But that is outside the scope of this review.
I have to take issue also with this sentence: "The grievances Eaglesham has publicly aired regarding Marvin seem less a matter of Marvin's exact truth or falsehood than a failure on Marvin's part to function within Eaglesham's expectations of how a truthful Dan Marvin ought to behave." The word "seem" may be operative here, but I reject the notion that my standards are somehow more stringent than those of others when it comes to judging truthfulness. For example, the back cover of Without Smoking Gun describes Marvin is a "veteran of two wars." Vietnam and Korea presumably. Lieutenant Colonel Marvin served with honor in Vietnam, but in fact he arrived in Korea six months after the armistice was signed. Is it nitpicking on my part to cry foul?
My criticism of Dan Marvin since mid-1997 is characterized by Heiner as a continuation of long-standing difficulties: "The relationship between Dan and Allan Eaglesham had been strained by discord and mutual suspicion from the beginning" and "Always citing the demands of principle, Eaglesham had often found himself at odds with Marvin." Perhaps the implication here is that I was out to get Marvin from the beginning, which would not be true. In early 1995 I withdrew my name from the Fourth Decade version of Marvin's article "Bits and Pieces" because he insisted on discussing his telephone conversations with Mrs. Pitzer although she had made it clear to him that she wanted no association with any reappraisal of the case. The editor of Unclassified agreed with me and deleted that passage from "Bits and Pieces," therefore my name is on the byline of that version of the article. It was an ethical issue, dealt with openly without discord. Later in 1995 I withdrew my support from his efforts to get the case reopened because-having learned of William Pitzer's extramarital affair-I was afraid that we might prove only that he had committed suicide, with sad consequences for Mrs. Pitzer. If Marvin interprets this as undermining his credibility-as is claimed in Without Smoking Gun-he isn't thinking clearly. At that time I wrote letters exhorting him to concentrate on the generic issue of the CIA contracts on US citizens and to leave the specifics of the Pitzer case in abeyance until Mrs. Pitzer's death. Thus, claims of "discord and mutual suspicion" constitute revisionist history, albeit in a tiny teacup. When, as a result of a face-to-face meeting in my kitchen in February 1997, it seemed that Marvin's story was flawed, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and invited a written explanation, to which he provided fudge words; therefore, I terminated our working relationship. Eighteen months later in a public apology to Robin Palmer and me he claimed that his family had been threatened. Funny, he mentioned no threat in February 1997.
I could go on, but enough said for current purposes. This is a worthy primer on the deaths of William Pitzer and John Kennedy.