Barbara's Hair-Raising Day
Excerpt from Family of Secrets, by Russ Baker (Bloomberg Press, 2009)
In the art of propaganda, and in the daily business of public relations, a cardinal rule is that if a problem emerges, it must be managed immediately. The trick is to quickly acknowledge and gain control of thenew material, mitigating the damage by redirecting it in a beneficial way. This is known in tradecraft as "block and bridge."
Thus it was that the first and only Bush family acknowledgment of where Poppy Bush was on that red-letter day [JFK's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963] came in classic form--from the wife, in the most innocuous swathing. The venue was her 1994 book, Barbara Bush: A Memoir, which was published ten months after the document's declassification. Deep in that book, mostly a compendium of narrow-gauge, self-serving recollections, there it was: not just a recollection of the assassination, but the reproduction of an actual letter written by Barbara on the very day, at the very moment, that Kennedy was shot. The letter has plenty of details, but it omits one important personal item from that day: Poppy's call to the FBI; perhaps Poppy did not mention it to her?
Barbara begins to describe that fateful day on page 59 of her memoirs:
On November 22, 1963, George and I were in the middle of a several-city swing. I was getting my hair done in Tyler, Texas, working on a letter home. Here are some excerpts:
The following is exactly how the excerpt appears in the book, ellipses and all:
“Dearest family, Wednesday I took Doris Ulmer out for lunch. They were here from England and they had been so nice to George in Greece. That night we went to….”
I am writing this at the Beauty Parlor and the radio says that the president has been shot. Oh Texas—my Texas—my God—let’s hope it’s not true. I am sick at heart as we all are. Yes, the story is true and the Governor also. How hateful some people are.
..Since the Beauty Parlor the President has died. We are once again on a plane. This time a commercial plane. Poppy picked me up at the beauty parlor—we went right to the airport, flew to Ft. Worth and dropped Mr. Zeppo off (we were on his plane) and flew back to Dallas. We had to circle the field while the second presidential plane took off. Immediately Pop got tickets back to Houston and here we are flying home. We are sick at heart. The tales the radio reporters tell of Jackie Kennedy are the bravest I’ve ever heard. The rumors are flying about that horrid assassin. We are hoping that it is not some far right nut, but a “commie” nut. You understand that we know they are both nuts, but just hope that it is not a Texan and not an American at all.
I am amazed by the rapid-fire thinking and planning that has already been done. L.B.J. has been the president for some time now—two hours at least and it is only 4:30.
My dearest love to you all,
Russ Baker spent considerable paragraphs in his book musing on who the Ulmers were and what connection they may have had to the Bushes and to the recipients of Barbara's letter written on that fateful day. He finally concludes as follows:
Although there were numerous Doris Ulmers in the United States at the time, only one matches the description of an old friend who had helped Poppy when Poppy visited Greece, and who was in 1963 a resident of London: Mrs. Alfred C. Ulmer, Jr.
Al Ulmer is sometimes described as having filled the positions of “attaché” and “first secretary” at the US embassy in Athens from the late 40s through the mid-fifties. Yet a memorial tribute to him in the alumni publication of his alma mater, Princeton, scores higher on the candor meter, describing his life in the wartime OSS and the CIA.  Ulmer was a good friend and confidant of CIA director Allen Dulles.  He embodied the attitude that nobody could tell the CIA what to do -- nobody: "We went all over the world and we did what we wanted," Ulmer later recalled. "God, we had fun."  He also managed coups. 
 Burton Hersh, The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA, (St. Petersburg, FL: Tree Farm, 1992); and Peter Grose, Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994).
 Hersh, The Old Boys, p. 394.
 Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (New York: Anchor, 2008), p. 144.
 Ulmer was running things in Greece during the country’s vicious civil war; the Athens CIA station was also in charge of most Middle East operations, and anti-Soviet bloc efforts in Yugoslavia, Albania and other Balkan countries. Ulmer would go on to a host of key CIA assignments, including running the Paris station, the CIA’s Far East division, overseeing operations in Southeast Asia and an attempted coup against the populist Indonesian president with the typically Indonesian one-word name: Sukarno.
Princeton Alumni Weekly --published in Sept. 13, 2000:
Alfred Conrad Ulmer Jr. (Princeton Class of 1939)After a long illness brought on by a severe stroke in 1992, Al died June 22, 2000. Editorial chair of the Prince and business manager of the Triangle Club, Al served overseas with US Naval Intelligence in North Africa and Italy, staying on in occupied Vienna with the OSS, which became the CIA. He ran their Far East operations from 1955-58 and served as operations chief in France. He was awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit.
Al said he had to move into the business world in 1962 to shore up the family finances so he and Doris could take care of educating their four children. Ultimately he joined the Swiss banking firm of Lombard, Odier et Cie of Geneva, opening their New York and Bermuda offices.
We offer our sympathy to his son, Nicolas [Courtland Ulmer], daughter Marguerite, five grandchildren, brother Thomas '40, and sisters Ruth and Blanche.
*****New York Times obituary
Alfred C. Ulmer Jr., a former official of the Office of Strategic Services and the Central Intelligence Agency, died on June 22 in Virginia Beach. He was 83.Ulmer's son, Nicolas Courtlandt Ulmer, married in 1986. He was then an attorney in the Paris office of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, having graduated from Brown University and the University of California Hastings College of the Law. At that time his father, who had been an OSS officer who stayed behind in Vienna when WWII ended, was president of Lombard, Odier Ltd., a Geneva, Switzerland-based investment bank in Hamilton, Bermuda.
Mr. Ulmer did intelligence work in the Navy in World War II and then joined the O.S.S. He served in Turkey, Egypt, Italy and Austria, overseeing intelligence operatives gathering information about the German military in North Africa and the Balkans, his family said.
The service was disbanded by President Truman late in 1945, and Mr. Ulmer joined the C.I.A. not long after it was founded in 1947. He retired in 1962 and received the agency's Intelligence Medal of Merit. In his C.I.A. years, he was stationed in Madrid, Athens, Paris and Washington. He ran the agency's Far East operations from 1955 to 1958.
''God, we had fun,'' he said in a 1994 interview. ''We went all over the world and we did what we wanted.''
Thomas Powers wrote in his book The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the C.I.A (1979), that in 1956 Frank Wisner, a senior C.I.A. executive, told Mr. Ulmer, ''It's time we held Sukarno's feet to the fire.''
At the time, Sukarno was Indonesia's leader. Mr. Powers wrote that the director of central intelligence, Allen Dulles, and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, ''did not want to overthrow Sukarno exactly, just force him to suppress the P.K.I.'' -- Indonesia's large Communist Party -- ''send the Russians packing and get on the American team.'' So the agency aided anti-Sukarno rebels, but they were confronted successfully by Sukarno's forces and, Mr. Powers wrote, Allen Dulles decided that the rebels must be told that the United States had to disengage. ''The result,'' Mr. Powers said, ''was a humiliation for the United States.''
In a major covert operation in Japan, the agency spent millions of dollars in the 1950's and 60's to support the conservative party that dominated the country's politics for a generation, the Liberal Democratic Party.
Mr. Ulmer was born in Jacksonville, Fla., and graduated from Princeton in 1939. After the C.I.A., he worked in the financial world.
His marriage to Doris Gibson Bridges ended in divorce. He is survived by a son, Nicholas, of Geneva; a daughter, Marguerite Ulmer Power, of Virginia Beach; five grandchildren; a brother; and two sisters.
After the oil crisis of 1973, Stavros Niarchos sold off some of his companies and launched into finances and the diamond trade. In the 1980s, he came more and more often to Geneva, from where he managed his business around the globe. The Golden Greek, as his fellow countrymen liked to call him, retired in the nineties to his main residence in Saint-Moritz, in the Swiss canton Graubünden, where he devoted a lot of time to his favorite sport, skiing.
Al Ulmer's sister, Ruth Ulmer Smith, also died in 2000, only one month after her brother. Her obituary stated:
A lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she was the daughter of the late Alfred C. Ulmer [Sr.] and Ruth Porter Ulmer. ... Her brother Alfred C. Ulmer, Jr., preceded her in death in June. Mrs. Smith is survived by her three children Charles C. Smith, Jr. (Mary Kathryn), Porter Smith (Mrs. H. Robert) Corder of New Orleans, and Thomas Randolph Smith (wife Nancy) of Atlanta and eight grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren; her brother, Thomas Porter Ulmer and her sister Blanche Ulmer Pavlis, both of Jacksonville, also survive her.It is Al Ulmer's brother-in-law, Anthony George Pavlis, who is of the most interest. When he married Blanche Vandiver Ulmer (previously married in 1947 to a son of her father's partner, Stockton), his best man was none other than King Paul, and his wife, Queen Frederika, was in attendance, as was the wife of American Ambassador Cavendish W. Cannon (who during his life was Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Portugal and Monacco and died in Seville, Spain in 1962). Anthony had been the "chief naval aide and master of the household in the court of King Paul II of Greece, and later president of Transoceanic Marine in New York" while Blanche Pavlis, was a teacher at the Greenwich, CT Country Day School, where some of the Bush children went to school.
Pavlis' death occurred in 1998 and was well reported in Jacksonville, FL, where the newspaper commented:
Anthony George Pavlis died Thursday morning, December 24 at St. Catherine Laboure. He was born in Kipseli, Greece on October 26, 1912 and was graduated from the Royal Hellenic Naval Academy in Athens as First Cadet. During World War II he served as Executive Officer of a destroyer on convoy duty in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. He attended special gunnery school in England and was awarded the Greek Order of the Phoenix and other military honors.
After the war he was appointed Naval Aide to His Majesty, King Paul, and then became a member of the Royal Court as Master of the Household. In December, 1953, he was married to Blanche V. Ulmer of Jacksonville, retired from the Greek Navy as Captain, and came to the United States. From 1954-55 he worked in the firm of William G. Helis, Jr. in New Orleans. The family moved to Connecticut when he joined the shipping firm of Stavros Niarchos and in time became President of Transoceanic Marine Inc., their New York office.
In 1984 he retired and moved to Jacksonville where he has since managed family properties. He was a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, St. John the Divine, and belonged to the Royal Hellenic Yacht Club in Athens, the Riverside Yacht Club in Greenwich, CT, the Florida Yacht Club in Jacksonville, and Cedar Creek Racquet Club in Highlands, NC.
Mr. Pavlis is survived by his wife, five children, and nine grandchildren: Paul and wife, Jan, their daughters, Alison and Emily; George; Alfred and wife, Deirdre, their sons, Michael, Nicholas, and William; Maria and husband, Steven Glasser, their son, Philip; Ruth and husband, Michael Gasparino, and their children, Michael, Jr., Christina, and Thomas. He is also survived, in Greece, by his brother, Emmanuel Pavlis, and by many nieces and nephews.Special to the New York Times, Published: August 08, 1988
NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 7 — William G. Helis Jr., a Louisiana oil producer and sportsman, died at Ochsner Foundation Hospital (a cancer research center where Judyth Vary Baker tells us a bioweapon was being made in 1963 in New Orleans, with help from Lee Harvey Oswald) here Saturday after a long illness. He was 70 years old. Mr. Helis was the managing partner of the oil properties of his father, William G. Helis, an independent producer who died in 1950. In 1956, as chairman of the Louisiana Mineral Board, Mr. Helis signed an agreement with the Federal Government permitting the resumption of oil and nautral gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after a boundary dispute halted production.
The younger Mr. Helis, whose father emigrated to the United States from Greece, maintained close ties to Greece throughout his life. He served as honorary consul here for the Royal Consulate of Greece from 1950 to 1968, and represented President Johnson at the marriage in Athens of King Constantine to Princess Ann-Marie of Denmark in 1964. Among his civic and philanthropic activities were the Dmitri Mitropoulos Awards for young pianists, which Mr. Helis founded. He helped send dozens of award winners through college and music schools.
September 1964 --- King Constantine, born in 1940 was king of Greece 1964-1973.
He married Princess Anne-Marie, youngest daughter of Frederik IX of Denmark