Saturday, December 7, 2013

                                      An Early Prescient Critical Researcher--Thomas G. Buchanan

                                                                      John Delane Williams

Reading Talbot’s Brothers [1] brought my attention to an early JFK researcher, Thomas G. Buchanan, who was prescient regarding both the Warren Report and issues related to the assassination. The American edition of his book, Who Killed Kennedy [2], was published in May 1964, five months before the Warren Report was published. Moreover, much of the book was filed with the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, at  the request of a staff member of that commission, Howard P. Willens. The book was first published in several different languages and widely available in Europe. Buchanan had attended both Yale and George Washington University. He was a veteran of World War II, and had been a journalist in the U.S. until caught up in the McCarthy witch hunts in the 1950’s; he had a previous involvement with communists in the U.S. [3] He moved to France and continued being a political correspondent for several magazines in Europe and Asia. He became interested in the assassination of President Kennedy, and began writing articles about the assassination early on. The book, Who Killed Kennedy, grew out of these early articles.


A Review of Prior Presidential Assassinations


Who Killed Kennedy had one curious feature: it is one continuous text without chapters. It also contains no index. Buchanan addressed the idea that, like other American assassins, Oswald was a lone person without co-conspirators. The three previous presidential assassinations were reviewed. Though John Wilkes Booth was the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, he was part of a conspiracy that included several other persons. Two other persons were to be assassinated at exactly the same time: Secretary of State William H. Seward was to be assassinated by Lewis Thornton Powell, and Vice President Andrew Johnson was to be assassinated by George Atzerodt.  Though the latter two failed in their objective, they and Mary Surratt, a tavern owner, in whose tavern the plans were made, were all executed. Booth had been killed earlier, trying to return to the South. Three more conspirators were given life sentences. One conspirator turned state’s evidence and went unpunished, and Mary Surratt’s son, John, escaped to Canada. This group was in turn just one of several cells financed by the Confederacy to assassinate Lincoln and other figures in his government. The conspiracy led all the way to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederated States of America. Clearly Booth did not act alone.


James A. Garfield was the second American President to be assassinated. His assassin was Charles J. Guiteau, a 39 year old Republican of the Stalwart faction. Garfield overcame the Stalwarts efforts and received the Republican nomination on his way to winning the presidency. The only Stalwart in his choosing persons for positions in his administration was his Vice president, Chester A. Arthur. Guiteau and several of his Stalwart compatriots were left out of the mix. Buchanan argued that Guiteau reasoned that were he to kill Garfield, that the new President Arthur would replace Garfield’s choices with Stalwart Republicans. Guiteau would soon recognize that the public favor would turn against them, given Guiteau’s admission that the act was committed on behalf of the Stalwarts. Though his lawyer would attempt an insanity plea, Guiteau would be found guilty and executed.


Leon Czolgosz was a 28 year old American born son of Polish immigrants. He had worked as a laborer and had been attracted to anarchist writings, presumably due to President William
McKinley’s actions regarding big business. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed in 1890 to protect small businesses from the monopolies. McKinley came to office in 1896, and in the 5 ½ years of his presidency, no prosecutions were begun under the law, despite there being several multi-million dollar trusts established in defiance of the legislation. Czolgosz shot McKinley twice; McKinley died 8 days later. When questioned about his motive, Czolgosz quietly replied, “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.” [4] After an eight hour trial and a 34 minute jury deliberation, Czolgosz was convicted and subsequently executed.


Buchanan reviewed these assassinations to refute the idea that, “All Presidents of the United States to date who fell to an assassin’s bullet were the victims of deranged men who had no accomplices and no political motive.” [5] Buchanan seemed to accomplish this objective.
Buchanan argues that, “…whoever killed the President in Dallas could not possibly have acted from sudden impulse. All the evidence points to a thorough scientific planning of the crime.  Nor does it seem conceivable that an assassin temporarily deranged by sudden passion could, immediately after, at the culmination of his frenzy, stand and drink a Coca-Cola. Certainly the President was not the victim of sudden passion.” [6] 

On Insanity

Buchanan stated:

      For the only time a prosecutor says that the defendant was insane is when he is trying
      to convict a dead man. Such convictions can only be useful when they shield the living.
      “And an investigating agency declares that it can find no motive for the President’s
      assassination but the murderer’s insanity, it does not mean that no motive can be
      found. It only means, perhaps, that the investigation was a failure.” [7]

Buchanan’s digression on insanity addresses the attempt by the President’s Commission having tried to pass off Oswald’s motive as insanity. Buchanan addressed what was then known about Oswald and his actions and behaviors and concludes that Oswald was not insane; later in the book he concludes that Oswald was not the assassin.  

The Presidential Motorcade

District Attorney Henry Wade announced on November 24 that evidence had been found that proved the crime was premeditated. A map was found in Oswald’s rented apartment. The map was said to be of possible locations for the murder of the President. One location was the book depository, which not only was marked, but had a line indicating the trajectory of the bullet. Instead, it was a map of potential places to work—and he did get a job at the book depository. Since Oswald accepted the job and reported to work on October 14, and since a final choice for the motorcade route was not made until November 15, his accepting the job more than a month earlier on what would be  the actual motorcade route could not possibly be conceived as premeditation.


When the first shot rang out on November 22, 1963, several observers discerned that it came from in front, possibly in the direction of the railroad bridge on the underpass. Policeman Seymour Weitzman identified the shot coming from that direction and started running  toward the railroad bridge, until he was told to go to the Depository. Mary Woodward, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News reported the shot came from the direction of the bridge. Charles Drehm [Brehm?] thought the shot came from in front of Kennedy. [8] The reaction of the limousine driver William Green could be explained by a shot from the front. Were he to have perceived that the shot came from the front, he wouldn’t want to drive in that direction for additional shots. But with a shot from the rear coming next, he would push down on the accelerator to get the President out of the firing zone.  


A man and a woman were reported running on the railroad bridge over the underpass directly after the shootings. They were chased by a motorcycle policeman who was thwarted by a wire fence. [9] Wade said on November 23 that preliminary reports indicated that more than one person was involved in the shooting. [10] Buchanan would eventually posit that the first shot did indeed come from a shooter on the railroad bridge.


Four different interpretations of the shootings in Dealey Plaza were given through time by the President’s Commission. New information kept destroying earlier interpretations. Their final interpretation was that exactly three shots were fired, all by Lee Harvey Oswald, with one shot missing, and one shot, “the magic bullet” following an impossible route, doing considerable damage to both President Kennedy and Governor Connally, yet emerged in pristine condition, committed by a shooter who was a poor marksman, and who could not possibly perform beyond world class marksmen ( who could not replicate the feat attributed to Oswald), further restricted by an inadequate weapon. The interpretation also required dismissing the testimony of both Governor Connally and his wife that Conally and Kennedy were hit by separate bullets. The further likelihood is that Oswald was either in the lunchroom or on his way there at the time of the shootings.   


Prints on the Mannlicher-Carcano


The President’s Commission claimed that they had scientific evidence that Oswald fired the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, the imputed murder weapon. As it happens, the only evidence they had of Oswald having touched the weapon was a palmprint on the underside of the barrel, indicating that Oswald had handled the Mannlicher-Carcano when it was disassembled. One could conjecture that Oswald might have readied the rifle for the actual shooter. This conjecture would have been unacceptable, because it would imply a conspiracy. The efforts of the commission were to establish an Oswald working alone. The rifle did have several fingerprints, one of which was unidentified, but none of them belonged to Oswald.  With Oswald’s fingerprints on many of the nearby boxes, but not on the rifle, it was unlikely that Oswald was wearing gloves. He had nitrate on his hands, but not on his cheek. This would seem to preclude Oswald having recently shot the rifle. The one unidentified print on the rifle was finally identified in 1998. It belonged to Mac Wallace. [11]. Wallace was a known henchman for the new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson. That finding, were it to have made known at the same time as the other prints on the Mannlicher-Carcano would have brought suspicion to Johnson into focus regarding the conspiracies surrounding the assassination. [12] Were this information available at the time of the assassination, Johnson’s presidency could have been very brief. The course of American politics would have undoubtedly been considerably altered.


Buchanan’s Take on the Shootings in Dealey Plaza


The first shot came from in front, probably from the railroad bridge. Buchanan based this conclusion from the descriptions of the wounds by the Dallas physicians who attended the President at the Parkland Hospital, together with the observations of witnesses who saw a man and a woman scrambling on a walk on the railroad bridge. The shooter likely went either toward the parking area to enter an automobile, or continued to a freight warehouse. He could have run through the building and emerged on Houston Street, where he could have then entered the Dallas Morning News Building. Buchanan speculated that the first assassin could have been Jack Ruby. Ruby was seen at the newspaper at 12:20 PM when most of employees cleared the building. When they returned at 12:45, Ruby was there at that time also. The second shooter was in the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Buchanan conjectured that Oswald was in some way an accomplice to the second shooter. Perhaps Oswald’s role was to bring the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle for use in the shooting.


Was it a Mauser or a Mannlicher-Carcano? Or both?


Seymour Weitzman, the police officer credited with finding the rifle in the book depository, gave a detailed description of it. “This rifle was a 7.65 Mauser with a bolt action equipped with a 4/18 scope, a thick leather brownish-black sling on it. The rifle was between some boxes near the stairway. The time the rifle was found was 1:22 P.M. Captain Fritz took charge of the rifle and ejected one live round from the chamber.” [13] This statement came from Weitzman’s signed report on November 23, 1963. There seems to be no room for doubt that the rifle found WAS a Mauser. Later, the rifle said to have killed President Kennedy was a Mannlicher- Carcano. Buchanan handles this seeming inconsistency thusly:


     The authorities in Dallas have informed us solemnly that Kennedy was murdered by
     a Mauser. The men who made this first statement were all competent to practice
    their profession. I believe them. They informed us later that the President was killed
    by a Carcano. I believe that, also. I am forced to the conclusion that there were two
    weapons. I deduce that there were two assassins. [14]


It is possible that two different policemen could have found rifles and brought them back to the police station, one of which was the Mannlicher-Carcano. When it was determined that Oswald owned a Mannlicher-Carcano, this became the only weapon of the necessarily (to avoid the concept of conspiracy) lone gunman.


The Shooting of J.D. Tippet


Buchanan’s take on the J.D. Tippet shooting was that Tippet called Oswald to the squad car. Tippet’s presumed assignment was to badger Oswald into pulling his gun. When that occurred, Tippet was to draw his gun and eliminate Oswald; presumably Oswald could identify some of the co-conspirators. Buchanan took the positive test for nitrates as proof Oswald had recently fired a gun. It would also be proof that Oswald had handled some cardboard boxes that morning. There are alternative explanations to the Tippet incident. One of them would be that an Oswald impersonator played his role, but outdrew Officer Tippet. And of course, Buchanan may have been correct. However, I would be inclined to think that Oswald would not have stayed in the movie theater as long as he did if he had just shot a police officer.


Did Oswald and Ruby know each other?


With the information available to Buchanan in 1964, he surmised that the answer was yes. This interpretation is based on the F.B.I. report that Bill de Mar, a ventriloquist who was performing at Ruby’s nightclub (The Carousel), saw the two men talking at the club eight or nine days before the assassination. The President’s Commission (The Warren Commission) did not want the water muddied with such assertions. That they knew each other puts Oswald’s murder in a new light. The unmistakable interpretation is that Ruby killed Oswald to keep him quiet. And with Ruby’s seeming friends in the police department, Ruby’s ease at entering the police station as Oswald was being led past the reporters was suspicious. Recall also that Ruby attended the Friday night press conference and corrected the speaker about the name of the group that Oswald had been distributing pamphlets for in New Orleans (Fair Play for Cuba). “(C)omplicity of the police  with Ruby seemed so evident to people of all countries, all political opinions, outside the United States that any possibility that the official explanation of the President’s assassination might have been accepted was, thereafter, shattered.”     [15]


Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?


Buchanan concludes that: “Oswald was not at this time [in Dallas] what he professed to be-a Marxist- and there is good reason to suppose he never was.” [16] But to profess to be a Marxist in Dallas, he was a brave man and “a most imprudent man unless he had somebody to protect him. And in all the cities in the state of Texas the last place a radical would go, looking for a job, was Dallas,  unless he already had a job.” [17] When Oswald went to a stenographer in Fort Worth, Pauline Bates, to type his manuscript on Russia, he strongly hinted that he was a kind of freelance spy. He was without government assistance, but with government approval. [18]


Buchanan did not see Oswald as the person depicted by the Warren Commission, a crazed loner. Clearly Oswald also had to have income other than that indicated in his official tax information. The implication is that one or more government agencies [perhaps the FBI or CIA] had ways of getting money to him. How else could he undertake a trip to Mexico? If Oswald did kill Officer Tippet, it was a kill or be killed situation.



A Possible Substitute Patsy at the Schoolbook Depository


As difficult as it would seem to be employed in a job and be a radical in Dallas, as it turns out there was yet another radical employed at the Texas Schoolbook Depository. They were both brought to police headquarters and questioned on November 22nd, 1963. The other radical employed at the Schoolbook Depository was a bookkeeper there. His home was searched, and he was questioned for six or seven hours. If Oswald were not targeted to take the blame, an effective substitute was available. [19]


Who was Behind the Assassination?


Buchanan builds a case, not for specific individuals, but rather for persons with certain characteristics within two industries in Dallas. Oilmen come to mind; they were aware that President Kennedy was in favor of reducing the oil depletion allowance (then 27½%) and perhaps eliminating it. This “gift” to the oil producers was very highly valued, and they loathed to lose it.  Oilmen, in their initiation into the oil “game”, are invariably gamblers. With a going rate of about 1 in 8 oil wells actually producing oil, many would give up the ghost early on. For those with deep pockets or some degree of luck, the payoff from oil, particularly the 27½% depletion allowance, would have paid handsome dividends. For these successful oilmen, oil ceases to be a gamble; their wells come in with sufficient success, particularly with the depletion allowance, that the gambling aspect is no longer present. Since the oilmen were more gamblers than businessmen, they might seek to express their gambling elsewhere. One such point of gambling was the attempt to make Dallas the center of the U.S. business and stock markets in the early 1960’s, which clearly was unsuccessful. [20]  


Oilmen’s major threat was the left wing politicians’ intent on reducing or eliminating the oil depletion allowance.  Kennedy supporters made a pledge to ‘“close the loopholes in the tax laws by which certain privileged groups legally escape their fair share of taxation.” The pledge said, “among the more conspicuous loopholes are depletion allowances, which are inequitable.”’ [21] With Kennedy pledging to remove the oil depletion allowance in his next term, he clearly was viewed as an enemy by oilmen.


A second group of Texas interests deemed to be at risk from Kennedy’s agenda was the persons in the defense industry. The Texas defense factories could be brought to a standstill by recent actions by President Kennedy.  Kennedy’s pursuit of détente with Nikita Khrushchev, if continued, would lead to disarmament both for nuclear weapons and the production of war materials. “I believe the murder of President Kennedy was provoked, primarily, by fear of the domestic and international consequences of the Moscow pact: the danger of disarmament which would disrupt the industries on which the plotters depended and of an international détente which would, in their view, have threatened the eventual nationalization of their oil investments overseas.” [22]


It was Buchanan’s view that the Dallas contingent was as opposed as any area of the country to rapprochement with Russia; no other area was more convinced that the United States could survive a nuclear war, and that we could go on and win the war, if we made the first strike, and it might be worth it. That assessment, is a gamblers view. “But in Dallas, we have one of the most powerful and wealthy oligarchies in the world—controlled, as no society ever has before—by men whose instincts are not those of businessmen, but of gamblers. I suggest the impact of this fact upon world history, in any country that possesses the atomic bomb, is terrifying.” [23]


‘If a man believes that, under some circumstances, it is worth the risk of ending life on this planet to achieve some national objective, he will hardly flinch at ending one life, if the chances are remote that he will be detected.” [24]


In the previous presidential assassinations, there were no denials of the act. After the fact, there were the explanations of the reasons. Such was not the case in the Kennedy assassination. No one has ever voiced responsibility, nor given their explanations.       


Since the assassination, various agencies have sought to hide their own guilt, claiming the act could not have been anticipated, since it was the act of a madman. These same agencies also claim Kennedy was partially to blame, for failing to take more precaution. Having failed to find the real conspirators, they claim the only accomplice was the President himself. Buchanan’s final words were, “We, the people, are the only watchmen Kennedy will ever have now. Let these watchmen, then, awaken.” [25]



1. Talbot, D. (2007). Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years. New York: Free Press.

2. Buchanan, T.G. (1964). Who Killed Kennedy? New York: Putnam.

3. Simkin, J. (2013).Thomas G. Buchanan.

4. Buchanan, p. 61.

5. Ibid., p. 66.

6. Ibid., p.73.

7. Ibid., p. 74.

8. Ibid., p. 64

9. Ibid., p. 85.

10. Ibid., p.86.

11. Brown, W. (1998a). TSBD Evidence Places LBJ “Hit Man” in “Sniper’s Nest”. JFK/Deep Politics              Quarterly, 3, No. 3, Extra; Brown, W. (1998b). The Sordid Story of Mac Wallace. JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, 3, No.4, 22-27.

12. Williams, J.D. (1998).LBJ and the Assassination Conspiracies. JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, 4, No.2, 25-28.

13, Buchanan, p. 118.

14. Ibid., p. 120.

15. Ibid., p. 150.

16. Ibid., p.155.

17. Ibid., p. 155.

18. Ibid., p.158.

19. Ibid., pp.174-175.

20. Ibid., pp. 184-187. Later, Buchanan claimed H.L. Hunt helped fund the assassination.

21. Ibid., p. 184.

22. Ibid., p. 187.

23. Ibid., p. 190.

24. Ibid., p. 190.

25. Ibid., p. 198.



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