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24 August 2017

On the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Death of George Lincoln Rockwell

 
George Lincoln Rockwell in front of the headquarters of the NSWPP, and his home, on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington.

 

The Murder of George Lincoln Rockwell

Hadding Scott

adapted from Setting the Record Straight, 22 January 2011

 

Shortly before noon on Friday, 25 August 1967, George Lincoln Rockwell left his home, and headquarters of his National-Socialist White People's Party, at 6150 Wilson Boulevard1 in Arlington, Virginia, to do his laundry at the Econ-o-wash laundromat in the Dominion Hills Centre at 6013 to 6035 Wilson Boulevard. The location was described by the Associated Press as "across the busy highway from the old frame house that served as Rockwell's home -- and the barracks of his 'troopers'" (AP, 26 August 1967).

At the laundromat a witness, 60-year-old Ruby Pierce, said that Rockwell, "a tall, charming man," came in and talked about which washing machine to use. "He put his clothes in the washer and put his detergent in, and then he said, 'I forgot something,' or maybe he said, 'I forgot my bleach.'"

Rockwell exited the laundromat, got into his 1958 Chevrolet, and began to back out. Two loud shots pierced the windshield of Rockwell's car, one of them striking him in the chest. Rockwell made a brief and futile attempt to seek cover. His  backward-moving car struck another car and stalled. Rockwell either lurched out or fell out of the passenger-side door, landing face-up on the pavement with feet still in the car; in one report he pointed to the rooftop before dying. Witnesses said that he had been shot in the head and chest, but the medical examiner, Dr. John Judson, found only a chest wound (AP, 26 August 1967). Here is a photo of the crime scene that appeared in the Washington Post:



Here are the bullet-holes in the windshield of Rockwell's car:





Here is how the Washington Post mapped the area where the killing occurred, and the sequence of events. You can see that if Patsalos had been hanging around the entrance to Rockwell's property, he would have been practically in the shopping center already. It may even have been possible to use the rooftop as a point of surveillance over Rockwell's property; certainly it was possible to keep track of comings and goings from there, at least.











LOCALE -- George Lincoln Rockwell drove from American Nazi Party headquarters (A) across Wilson Boulevard to shopping center (B). The sniper on the rooftop (C) in inset) fired two shots as Rockwell backed his car from parking lot (D). Car coasted to stop (E). (Washington Post illustration and caption.)








When the shots were fired2 17-year-old laundry attendant Robert Hancock looked up and saw the gunman on the 15-foot roof of the beauty salon (UPI, 25 August 1967). A barber named James Cummings saw a man later identified as John Patler, a.k.a. John Christ Patsalos, an expelled former member of Rockwell's organization, leap from the south end of the shopping center and gave chase but lost him. 

Somewhere in the range of 30 to 45 minutes after the killing Patsalos was spotted by police standing at a corner bus stop at the edge of a park about one-half mile from the shooting.  He tried to run away but was caught and placed under arrest by Inspector Raymond S. Cole (UPI, 25 August 1967).



Patsalos' Character

John Christ Patsalos was born in Bronx, New York.  His family history is quite troubling. His father, an immigrant, served a term at Sing Sing for murdering John Patsalos' mother in 1943 when he was five years old. (AP, 26 August 1967) He fought for custody of John and his brother on being released. (AP 26 August 1967) In 1996 the brother, Christ George Patsalos, was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida for having murdered his girlfriend in 1982. This was literally a family of murderers.

John Patsalos had a criminal history prior to adopting the name Patler and becoming a "Nazi." He spent time in a New York youth-detention house where Patsalos boasted that another assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had once been held. One report says that he murdered a childhood friend. 

Patsalos  enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1958. In July 1960 he was given an honorable discharge on grounds of "unsuitability." One report says that the discharge was due to his being arrested at an American Nazi Party event (AP 26 August 1967). He joined Rockwell's organization in 1960 and around that time he started calling himself by the German-sounding surname Patler. 

In 1961 Patsalos, now "Patler," was put in charge of the American Nazi Party's "Hate Bus," which toured the South with a dozen stormtroopers. Patsalos made speeches in various Southern cities where there was notable conflict over "Civil Rights." (AP 22 May 1961)

Patsalos edited and illustrated the NSWPP's publication for members, The Stormtrooper, and drew cartoons found in Rockwell's book White Power.

In 1962 Patsalos left the American Nazi Party and in collaboration with crypto-Jew Dan Burros3 formed the American National Party. This ANP, based in Manhattan, claimed ten members and was able to muster six for public demonstrations, all clad in white shirts and black trousers. They managed to call some attention to themselves by extreme and aggressive posturing, e.g. calling for war against Russia, which provoked a public complaint from a Russian diplomat.  In their magazine Kill! Patsalos accused Rockwell of being a liberal (UPI, 25 August 1967). Patsalos rejoined Rockwell's organization in 1964. Rockwell commented on the episode as follows:


"A political guerrilla band is what we are. And under such conditions, the struggle for power is almost cannibalistic. What happened is Patler rebelled against the leadership-- he thought he could do it better. He went up to New York and tried and he fell on his face. He's ashamed of what he did. He's apologized for it publicly. And he's worked his head off. He's a fine member right now."

Having tried and failed to build his own organization, Patsalos sought and received readmission into Rockwell's organization, but the incompatibility that had led to his resignation was still there. 

Patsalos, in his and Dan Burros' short-lived "American National Party," had done away with all things "nazi." Patsalos objected to this aspect of Rockwell's organization even after rejoining, and had conflicts with other members because of it. As a swarthy Greek, Patsalos seems to have objected particularly to the Nordic ideal associated with National-Socialism. He referred to members lighter than himself as "blue-eyed devils" (NY Times, 26 August 1967).

Matt Koehl told reporters that Patsalos had exhibited "Bolshevik leanings," and, "Communist thought kept creeping up in his work." (UPI, 25 August 1967)

According to testimony given during his appeal before the Virginia Supreme Court in 1970, Patsalos said to another NSWPP member, "Rockwell is an evil genius and must be stopped." (UPI, 1 December 1970)

Police Inspector Walter E. Bell is cited for the claim that Patsalos had left the NSWPP in January 1967 (AP, 26 August 1967). A UPI story of 1 December 1970 specifies that Patsalos had been fired as editor of the party's newspaper on 30 March 1967 and expelled from the organization on 4 April.

Early in the summer of 1967, there was an attempt to kill Rockwell in the driveway of his house.  Dr. William Pierce, who worked for Rockwell at the time, quotes Rockwell as saying that the gunman looked like Patsalos to him:


"About June of the next year, 1967, Rockwell drove out of the headquarters to  run an errand.  As usual he  was  accompanied by somebody when he went  out.  That  wasn't always the  case,  though--he could be  very careless about  his  personal safety.  There  was a long  drive, maybe one  hundred  yards, from the house down to the street, with  forest on both sides.  When Rockwell  got back  from his  errands, there  was some brush piled in the  driveway.   Rockwell was driving and had to  stop, and the other guy got out of the car to clear the brush off the driveway so they could continue. It turned out that Patler had put the brush  there  and was hiding in bushes alongside  the  driveway.  While  the other  guy was out of the car clearing the brush, Patler  took a shot at Rockwell sitting in the car.  It missed and ricocheted off the car just above the door  where  Rockwell was sitting.  Rockwell, who was  unarmed, jumped  out of the car and  began running toward where Patler was. Patler panicked  and took  off running through the woods with Rockwell at his heels.  Patler was  armed,  Rockwell wasn't, and  Rockwell was chasing him.  Patler was about  twenty years younger  and a faster  runner  and  got away.  Later I asked  Rockwell who did it, and he said, 'I couldn't get a clear look at the guy, all I could see was his  back--but I  would swear it  was John  Patler.'" [W. L. Pierce quoted by R. Griffin, The Fame of a Dead Man's Deeds].

Rockwell's father, former vaudeville and radio5 performer George "Doc" Rockwell, age 78 at the time, said after learning of his son's fate: "I'm not surprised at all." (AP 26 August 1967) And, "He was more afraid of his own men than people were of him."


Patsalos on Trial

At the time of the arrest, Patsalos was drenched in sweat, had roofing tar on the bottom of one shoe, and both shoes were wet, as were his pants up to six inches above the knee. A teenage girl had witnessed Patsalos hurrying away from the shopping center. (The Free Lance-Herald, 3o September 1967)



The day after the murder a C-96 Mauser "Broomhandle" was found "just below" a wooden foot-bridge under six to eight inches of water in a creek that runs through Bon Air Park, midway between the shopping center and where Patsalos was apprehended. (AP, 27 August 1967) Apparently it had rocks placed over it, since Four Mile Run is full of rocks and the prosecutor contended that Patsalos had knelt in the water while concealing the weapon.

The Arlington Police submitted it to the FBI's crime lab for testing. (AP, 27 August 1967) Ballistics showed that this was the murder weapon.  Patsalos had borrowed the unusual firearm from a party member in 1964 and never returned it. Patsalos had been seen target-practicing on his father-in-law's farm, and slugs taken from a tree there confirmed that the gun found in the creek was the one that had been in Patsalos' possession. 

Based on this evidence Arlington County judge L. Jackson Embrey sent the case to a grand jury.

Patsalos loudly protested his innocence and never confessed anything. A conspiracy theory was propagated that Patsalos had been the victim of a frame-up by the ADL. Rockwell's former deputy Karl Allen was a proponent of this theory.4 Karl Allen also raised money for Patsalos' defense.

When the trial began on 27 November 1967, Patsalos was very well defended, with three attorneys. His attorneys' strategy all along was to draw attention to flaws in the prosecution's case or to try to create flaws by challenging the admissibility of crucial pieces of evidence, specifically the Mauser Broomhandle slugs found on his father-in-law's farm, the admissibility of which was challenged on the first day of the original trial (Free Lance-Star, 28 November 1967) and in the final appeal before the Virginia Supreme Court in 1970.

One of the defense attorneys, Thomas J. Harrigan, tried but failed to have the case dismissed, alleging that the prosecutor, William J. Hassan, had piled inference upon inference and had failed to connect Patsalos with the crime. (AP 12 December 1967) 
Patsalos was caught lying. He claimed that he had left home just before noon and could not have been at the shopping center when Rockwell was killed.  Patsalos' father-in-law Sam Ervin and wife Alice contradicted him, testifying that he had left the house at 11:10AM. (AP, 15 December 1967)  The trial ended with a guilty verdict on 15 December 1967.



Did the government go easy on Rockwell's assassin?

Some conspiracy-theorists have suggested that the Commonwealth of Virginia showed undue leniency to Rockwell's assassin. While Patsalos did get a light sentence, it is easily shown that this was not the fault of the government.
Patsalos was convicted in December 1967 of first-degree murder. The prosecutor had urged the death penalty. 
The all-White jury of ten men and two women (Free Lance-Star, 28 November 1967), however, recommended a sentence of 20 years' imprisonment, which was indeed the minimum sentence for First-Degree Murder in Virginia.

Under Virginia Law, the judge could not give a sentence greater than what the jury had recommended (AP, 19 December 1967). Judge Charles Russell postponed sentencing until 29 January 1968, at which time he pronounced the only sentence that he could.

Since there is an element of randomness in the selection of juries, Patsalos' lenient sentencing cannot be attributed to some conspiracy and favoritism by government officials. The prosecutor had asked for death, and the judge gave the most severe penalty that he could give under the circumstances. Evidently Patsalos had a very good defense team who found a way to make the jury take pity on the killer.
On 31 November 1970 Patsalos' conviction and sentence were upheld by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

It is sometimes claimed that Patsalos was released from prison after only three years. This is inaccurate.


As of 1975 Patsalos was still in prison, but he was allowed to participate in a "study release program" that enabled him to take art classes at Radford College. In August 1975, Patsalos was approved for parole.


John Patler, ambush killer of American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell, Friday became the first major political slayer of the 1960s -- America's "Decade of Assassination" -- to be freed. [...] He had served eight years of a 20-year sentence.... 

[...] 

"He was a model inmate who never caused any problems... that's why he was paroled...." said Alan Brittle, of the state parole office. (UPI, 23 August 1975)

What confuses people is not really that Patsalos was treated leniently, but that they are sure that anybody who assassinated a prominent enemy of the White race would be treated with utmost harshness, which casts Patsalos' treatment into stark relief.

To determine whether Patsalos was treated leniently by the Commonwealth of Virginia after his conviction, one would have to compare to other similar cases in the same state. In 1993 it was reported that the average prison inmate in Virginia serves less than a third of his sentence. (Virginian-Pilot, 2 October 1993) At that rate, Patsalos was not given any special leniency except initially by the jury that had recommended only a 20-year sentence. That was where Patsalos got lucky.

Today, John Patsalos lives in New York City.

Of course, if Patsalos had killed some Negro leader, the federal government would have added federal charges and federal penalties, so that Patsalos would never have gotten out of prison. It is not Virginia's fault that White lives were worth less than Black lives to the federal government. 


The Succession

UPI reports that Matt Koehl announced that he had taken command of the NSWPP a few hours after the murder: 


The 32-year-old Milwaukee native assumed command on his own, but nobody questioned his right.

What was Koehl's position in the NSWPP that enabled him to succeed Rockwell without being challenged? 

In the 1966 Playboy interview, Koehl was identified by Rockwell as his "research chief,"  who had determined that some photos of alleged Holocaust victims really showed victims of the bombing of Dresden.

More to the point, Koehl was publicly known as the deputy commander. As part of his conspiracy theory, Harold Covington claims that there was no reference to Matt Koehl as the Deputy-Commander of the NSWPP prior to Rockwell's death. This is not true.  On 14 April 1967, just a few months before Rockwell's death, the Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, Virginia reported: 


The Spotsylvania County American Nazi Party chapter is making plans to celebrate the birthday of Adolph Hitler next Thursday, April 20. [...] Principal speaker will be Maj. Matt Koehl, deputy commander of the American Nazi Party and second in command to George Lincoln Rockwell.

It was also Matthias Koehl whom Rockwell named as executor of his will (J. Goolrick, The Free Lance-Star, 8 September 1967) and to whom he willed "my mortal remains, in the event of my death for whatever disposal he may care to make of such body." (UPI, 28 August 1967) (UPI, 9 September 1967)

On the day of Rockwell's death, Koehl said, "I don't know of anyone who can fill his shoes. We cannot talk in terms of a successor to Commander Rockwell. But we'll all do everything we can to carry on." (AP 26 August 1967)



Legacy

In fact Koehl was not able to carry on very well what Rockwell had started. Although loyal and trusted by Rockwell, he was not the right type of man for the position. The four-phase plan that Rockwell had outlined in This Time the World was abandoned entirely. The uniformed public demonstrations that had been intended as only a temporary gimmick to gain publicity, under Koehl became once again the organization's main activity. 

Why? Perhaps because the men who had been attracted to the organization for its hellraising aspect demanded it and were not interested in serious politics. Perhaps because other men, capable of subtler forms of activism, had not appeared in sufficient numbers. But the main reason seems to be the personal preference of Matt Koehl.

This is not to say that the NSWPP under Matt Koehl did no good whatsoever, but it did not follow the path into serious politics that Rockwell had intended. Uniformed "Nazi" groups in the USA generally follow the pattern set by Matt Koehl in the late 1960s and '70s, rather than the course laid out by Rockwell.

It should be admitted that Rockwell's plan was too ambitious to work, at least in terms of its stated goal of electing George Lincoln Rockwell as President of the United States in 1972.  But, some transition in a more serious direction might have been feasible.

In the 1980s Koehl receded even farther from politics, sinking into mysticism and renaming Rockwell's organization as the New Order. (Since Koehl's death in 2014 New Order seems to have become more active in producing and distributing printed matter.)

The best legacy of Rockwell's effort is probably the pro-White activist career of Dr. William Pierce, who contacted Rockwell and joined the cause after seeing reportage of Rockwell attempting to give a speech before of a hostile crowd. Rockwell offered an example of bold truthtelling and an attempt to educate the public against the anti-White agenda, in stark contrast to the apologetic and halfhearted, and ultimately worthless resistance offered by so-called responsible conservatives. That educational component of Rockwell's effort became Dr. Pierce's life's work.
____________________________________
Notes

1. The house at 3150 Wilson Boulevard has since been razed and the property incorporated into Upton Hill Regional Park. The street address that was once Rockwell's is now farther northwest.

2. There is a great discrepancy in the reporting about what time Rockwell was shot.  Robert Hancock, the 17-year-old laundry attendant says 12:20. Other reports say slightly before noon (AP, 26 August 1967). As close as the laundromat was to Rockwell's home, if Rockwell left at about 11:50 as Koehl later testified (AP 12 December 1967), the time of the killing seems unlikely to have been significantly later than noon unless Rockwell spent 20 minutes or so in the laundromat before leaving.

3. Dan Burros was later exposed as a Jew and allegedly shot himself in the apartment of Roy Frankhouser on 31 October 1965 after reading an article about himself in the New York Times. (Reading Eagle, 10 October 1967)

4. Too little interest is paid to the fact that Karl Allen shared some interests with Patsalos. Allen was another disgruntled former  member of the NSWPP who had quit and become a critic of Rockwell and tried to start his own group. See my article on the question of Karl Allen's perspective.

5. Doc Rockwell had been an occasional performer on Fred Allen's radio show. (AP, 26 August 1967) 

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