May 18, 1995: Jeffrey MacDonald's Version of his hair taking
incident during the 1970 Article 32 hearing
(Spelling, grammar and puncture preserved)
From: Jeffrey R. MacDonald, M.D.
Topic: Hair Incident - 1970
One last incident regarding the Fort Bragg scene, and believable/unbelievable events: you are familiar with the "hair incident". I remind you of it only to bring home to you the paranoia of those times. It was an unimaginable, at the time, event: two prominent defense attorneys, complying with the law & lawful orders, assaulted by agents of the CID and MP's; to drag me away - a Green Beret Captain - to obtain hair samples. It was brutally shocking. It was the lead story, I believe, for Walter Cronkite on the national evening news. To so brazenly attack prominent defense attorneys in broad daylight, with civilian witnesses following in the car behind, was so outrageous an event as to shock the nation. The Raleigh News & Observer - although very pro-government and army, ran editorials & cartoons about it. Remember, I was already in custody, hence no need for the assault. But the message, sent and received, was that the CID would do anything to force a conviction. In the hair incident their conduct backfired, as Colonel Rock, others, the national press, many congressmen and senators - all rallied to my support. But the message - how shockingly inept and physical they felt they could be -tells you loads about the temper of the times.
One only has to read The Fayetteville Observer that day to get a sense of the unreality of those times. There are two versions of the assault in the same newspaper. One version is that of the eyewitness, corroborated by several witnesses with no connection to the defense - all of which totally supports the "defense" version of events. On the other hand, the paper also re-printed the "official" army version of the assault. (that Dennis Eisman somehow wrenched himself violently & threw himself to the ground, feigning an assault & knocked himself out). The contrast between the two will give you a sense of the weird dichotomy between fact and fiction in the case, and in the CID investigation. It - the incident - can be viewed as a microcosm of the entire case.
Additionally, the assault and the taking of the hair samples, brought home to us - me, specifically - that my position/hopes/chances at the Article 32 Hearing were tenuous, at best. Whereas, prior to this event we suspected the CID of such activities , and we knew/guessed/reasoned out that they were spying on the lawyers and pressuring witnesses, this event shocked us into serious, deep, all-pervading paranoia from then on.
The hair incident occurred on Ft. Bragg in an area known as "Colonels' Row" which was a street of stately homes and large trees. Quiet, elegant and dignified.
The "victims", if you will, were in my 1965 white, Chevy convertible (photos available.) Captain S. Ranieri was the escort officer, driving the car - I was in the front passenger seat - Bernie Segal was in the back seat behind me, and Dennis Eisman was in the rear seat behind Captain Ranieri. Both Ranieri and I were in the uniform of the day for summer. It was short-sleeve khaki, a very sharply pressed (and handsome) uniform, with jump boots (paratrooper) and Green Berets, instead of the aviator-style army hats. (This uniform style is also called "summer khaki".)
Behind my car, following us, were two cars of newsmen. As we, (myself, Ranieri, Bernie, and Dennis) arrived to Jeffrey's BOQ, we saw not the usual 2 or 3 guards, but 15 sentries walking around. Ivory was pacing around outside the BOQ. Seeing this, Bernie suggested that we all go for coffee first. And we continued down the street. Suddenly, on the left, as if to pass, a military "MP" labeled jeep and an army sedan appeared, roaring up as if to cut off the Chevy. Also, there was another plain jeep, and another army sedan (unmarked). The Chevy was "blocked" and run off the road even though there was never any need to do so. It was basically the first army sedan that got the Chevy to the shoulder of the road.
Captain Carl Chase, as commanding officer of the "kidnapping" detail, got out of the olive-drab sedan (right front, as Chase had a driver), and approached the white
Chevy with its 4 occupants. Chase demanded "Cpt. MacDonald exit the vehicle", and "follow me", telling Bernie that I was being taken "into custody". Bernie was livid, and struggled to exit the 2-door car, ordering me to remain in the right front seat while he, Bernie, "straightened this out".
Once Bernie Segal and Dennis Eisman exited the Chevy, with difficulty, they "confronted" a clearly irate and overbearing Cpt. Chase, with the lawyers, demanding to know what was going on since Cpt. MacDonald was "already in custody". (Chase was about 5'8", black glasses, slight build and a real jerk, bristling with self-importance. He was notorious on post.) Bernie turned to the car and cautioned me to not do anything physical, or rash, that he and Dennis Eisman (the lawyers), would take care of it. As Bernie was doing this, more and more CID agents were crowding my car, and people were coming out of the nearby colonels' homes to see what was going on. The newsmen were now out of their cars - 2 cars, I think - and Ranieri and I remained in the Chevy. One newsman began taking pictures.
Bernie was indignantly (with Dennis Eisman) standing by the right front door of the Chevy "blocking" the CID and Cpt. Chase from me. Chase turned to the CID agents and nodded, and that is when a huge CID agent grabbed Dennis and flung him to the ground, face first, smashing his glasses and rendering him dazed, if not unconscious. We have the identity of this CID agent, if needed. (Dennis was about 5'9" and 145 lbs. - the C.I.D. agent, 6'3" and 250 lbs., the same one who eventually pushed me into the staff car.) Bernie was grabbed by a different CID agent, and slammed up against the white Chevy. Cpt. Ranieri and I both instantly began exiting the car to pull the CID off the lawyers, but Bernie was screaming, "Don't do anything! Don't fight! Don't do anything stupid!", and Ranieri and I stopped by our respective car doors, outside the car, watching to see what would develop.
Cpt. Chase then approached me, and over Bernie's continued indignant protests, told me that he was "authorized" to take me away in custody. At that, the huge CID agent grabbed me and sort of dragged me towards the O.D. staff car and pushed me into the rear seat (4 door). As I entered the car, I turned sideways and kicked the CID agent in the knee, who howled and dropped like a shot. A CID agent then piled in the car with me, and someone then slammed the CID car doors, and we roared off to JRM's own BOQ, with two agents in front, and one in the back seat with me face down on the seat and floor.
I remember being dragged and shoved into the CID car, & then, later, as I stood embarrassed, at attention, naked, in my BOQ room while they took hair samples, I recall that I was in a daze, literally, as though I was above the events and watching them. It didn't seem possible. You could see the hatred on the faces of the CID agents - jut as you could see the serious embarrassment/shame on the face of the army colonel who took the hair samples - Colonel Einar Himma, a tall, graying, lean paratrooper colonel-physician, who was the head of all Green Beret physicians. He spoke in a German accent. (He escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 and worked for the U.S. Army and CIA after that.) Col. Himma apologized to me, in his formal German accent, saying he "had his orders, regretted having to subject me to such a degradation, etc.", and he put the hair samples in the 18 or so vials being handed to him by William Ivory (who was smirking). Robert Shaw, Ivory's partner, I believe, was also among those present. I remember being of enough presence of mind so as to "demand" the right to tape record the incident, and I took out the tape recorder I had in my desk, and started it up, and how weird it was that by doing that, the "mad-dog craziness" in the air seemed to settle down. The agents were then considerably more careful, as Col. Himma was taking my hair samples. I was doing my best to maintain some sort of dignity, but my mind was racing, and I was internally agitated, instantly knowing this type of assault dramatically escalated the seriousness of the CID intentions to force a wrongful conviction. Paranoia incarnated.
When they left, I felt like I was reeling, that the whole episode was bizarre. Now I was alone in my BOQ, still guarded as previously, sort of wondering "what in the world just happened?", and knowing that now the CID would tamper with the hair samples to prove I was guilty. I kept thinking "where are all the lawyers?", and finally I found out, by turning on my radio and hearing a news bulletin about "2 prominent defense attorneys... rushed to Cape Fear Valley Memorial Hospital"...etc. Hearing the excited radio broadcast, I instantly knew the CID had miscalculated, and, that such news coverage of what the CID had just done could only hurt, not help, their case, and that proved, indeed, to be the case many months later as the hair incident came to a conclusion at the Article 32 Hearing.
Bernard Segal, by the way, was very pleased about me using my tape recorder to "respectfully protest the taking of the hair samples", and he was sure, immediately, that night (once he came to see me) that by doing the tape recorder bit, it had suddenly interjected some sanity into the CID agents' minds, sort of "what the hell are we doing here?" Also, just for interest, Col. Himma was the same prototypical, tall, polished colonel who first recruited me into the Berets while I was at Ft. Sam Houston in July, 1969.
As you know, *****, the news coverage of this hair incident was enormous. In another of those almost unbelievable events that the case is filled with, 6 weeks later, Col. Rock had to order Mr. Grebner of the CID to turn over the CID Lab. hair report. He put Grebner on the witness stand and told him, "Now, you've made fools of yourselves on national news, where is the hair report?", and Grebner claimed it was "lost". After several more days of wrangling, (See Potter/Bost book), Grebner suddenly found it, "in my evidence safe"(!). and what then became clear was that the extra time had been spent by the prosecutors trying to get the CID lab at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, to change the results, to minimize the suddenly catastrophic news that the hair samples of Cpt. MacDonald did not match the unknown hair in Colette's hand. (See Potter/Bost book.) All in all, the CID "kidnapping" of myself, & the subsequent handling of the hair sample report (which clearly exonerated me, but which we wouldn't know the full truth of until 1983, via F.O.I.A. which showed us the true identity of the brown hair in Colette's hand - i.e., not Jeffrey MacDonald's & known to be not his), were two of the most important and telling episodes in the entire 25 years. They had the evidence of my innocence, yet they assaulted my lawyers, kidnapped me, & attempted to alter the lab reports. Then they hid its meaning by having Paul Stombaugh of the FBI lab testify at trial in 1979 that the brown hair in Colette's hand was "too small to compare, disregard it", misleading the defense, judge and jury. And all along they knew it wasn't my hair (once they had seized the hair samples from me back in 1970).