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Thomas Buchanan: Did he solve the JFK case?

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I came across this thread while Googling JFK materials on the web on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. I was interested in particular in anything mentioning my father, Thomas G. Buchanan.

I just wanted to offer some clarification where some of you have had questions or doubts that I can answer, or have made statements that are incorrect or defamatory.
About my father's birth and death:
First, a minor correction concerning his birth. According to John Simkin, the book jacket of the UK edition of Who Killed Kennedy? says my father was “born in the Deep South.” He was born in Baltimore, Maryland. I don't think that's considered the “Deep” South, although it did fall on the southern side of the slavery issue during the civil war.
To answer the question about his death: he died of multiple myeloma in January 1988. He was diagnosed in 1984, the same year his last book was published.
There are two versions of the Kennedy book:
John wrote:
“The publication date of the book was interesting. It was May 1964. In fact, it was based on a series of articles that appeared in L’Express in March, 1964. As you can see, this was before the publication of the Warren Report.”
The book was first published in 1964 in the UK and France, then other countries, and only later in the US. The US version includes additions and revisions based on material that came to light after the first publication. For instance, it includes commentary on the findings of the Warren Commission.
Regarding what kind of contact he had with Senator Edward Kennedy:
John also wrote:
“In the preface Buchanan writes that the reason he had written the articles was because he had been contacted by a staff member of the Warren Commission. This person had put him in contact with Ted Kennedy. He in turn had arranged for Buchanan to meet Nicholas Katzenbach “to whom Attorney-General Robert F. Kennedy had delegated responsibility in recent months”. Buchanan therefore implies that the Kennedy brothers were behind this book.”
That's not what my father meant to imply. I don't have the UK version of the book at hand, so I'm not sure in what way it might differ from the US version in this respect, but I do have the US version. It doesn't have a Preface per se, just an Author's Note, which is worded as follows:
“The major part of the report you are about to read—extracts of which first appeared in l'Express of Paris—was filed in Washington in March, 1964, with the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren. This action was taken at the request of a staff member of that commission, Howard P. Willens.
“Discussion of the case with a Commission representative followed an interview of more than an hour with Nicholas De B. Katzenbach, at that time Deputy Attorney General of the United States, to whom Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had delegated most of his responsibilities during the months that followed the assassination. This interview was arranged by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the President's younger brother. The subsequent appointment with a representative of the President's Commission was made by Mr. Katzenbach.”
I also have the book my father wrote about his FBI files, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, published in 1984 and titled Big Brother—Ma vie revue et corrigée par le F.B.I. (Big Brother--My life reviewed and revised by the F.B.I.). The latter describes the sequence of events to be as follows:
  • My father first started writing about the assassination about a month after the event, on his own, as a freelancer, without being commissioned to do so. He wanted to put down in written form an analysis of all the inconsistencies being reported by the media at the time.
  • He showed his report to friends who were able to bring it to the attention of the editors at l'Express.
  • L'Express published extracts of what he had so far, as a series of 6 articles.
  • L'Express then assigned my father to go to Dallas to cover the Ruby trial in real time.
  • The editor at l'Express also arranged for my father to have an interview with Edward Kennedy during that visit to the States.
  • Edward Kennedy arranged for him to meet instead with Katzenbach.
  • Katzenbach spoke with him for around an hour and then, in my father's presence, called Howard Willens (liaison to the Warren Commission) to request that the latter speak with my father as well.
  • Willens had a similarly long discussion with my father and then invited him to submit his report to the Warren Commission.
So I think you read more into it than was there, John, when you wrote, “What appears to have happened is that someone on the Warren Commission realised that a cover-up was about to take place. Therefore, they had decided to leak what the WC had really found out to a journalist.” My father had not been contacted by Willens, Willens had been contacted on his behalf by Katzenbach. It was just the usual kind of journalistic interview gathering, initiated by the editor from l'Express. I'm not aware of any leaks to my father from anyone connected to the Warren Commission.
In response to Tim Gratz's comments that the Kennedy brothers would never have associated in this way with a “known” communist, I think you overestimate my father's notoriety at the time (although the FBI was certainly aware of him – but I'm not sure that would mean they would screen all contact that the Kennedys had with journalists), and you perhaps underestimate the willingness of the Kennedys to allow journalists to do their job without unnecessary obstacles and without scrutinizing their backgrounds. I imagine they offered the same redirection in interview opportunities to other journalists as well. In any case, my father didn't claim to have met with either of the Kennedy brothers, he simply communicated the fact that the appointment with Katzenbach was arranged by the Senator.
Tim wrote:
“And remember Buchanan states that Sen Kennedy directed him to Nicholas Katzenbach. Katzenbach was of course the author of the infamous "cover-up" memo, we could even call him the architect of the cover-up. But, of course, Buchanan was unaware of the Katzenbach memo when he wrote the book. So I think Buchanan's invocation of Katzenbach is probably further demonstration that he lacks credibilty.”

You're right that my father would not have known about the Katzenbach memo at the time of his book, so I'm not sure how you feel it impacts his credibility. Even if he had known of it, why would it discredit him to relay the (basically clerical) facts about which people were involved in how his report found its way to the Warren Commission? I imagine that the mention of government officials by name was intended to cater to the needs of the kind of reader who wants to have a sense of proof that the author is a serious journalist who has gone through official channels rather than someone inventing theories off the top of his head, i.e. it is precisely about demonstrating credibility.
Tim also wrote:
“And again I think Buchanan's credibility can be tested by determining whether he really had any contact with Sen Kennedy.”
I think the clarification I gave above addresses the doubts expressed about my father's credibility and truthfulness in the matter of his contact with Katzenbach and Senator Kennedy. It would be nice to see a retraction of the disparaging suspicion of lies.
Regarding the importance of disclosure that my father was a communist:
Tim wrote:
“John, I assume when you posted you did not know that Buchanan had been a member of the Communist Party since at least 1948 (or you certainly would have so informed us). Since the Communist Party is an obvious suspect in the assassination, Buchanan is hardly a "disinterested" observor.”
We clearly have different personal experiences with the communists in our respective lives (or, more likely – correct me if I'm wrong -- you have no communist friends or acquaintances, Tim, so you're going solely on preconceptions about what the ideology is and how it translates in terms of human character). Since all the communists I know first-hand as real people are genuinely ethical, caring and compassionate people with noble ideals of making the world a better place for all people through peaceful means, I obviously don't agree with your prejudice against them. But given that your prejudice is a commonly shared one in the US, I suppose I can acknowledge that many of the rest of you on this forum might think it relevant to know that my father was indeed once a member of the American Communist Party. To me, if it's relevant at all, it's by virtue of the fact that, as a communist, he was among those in the best position to recognize the fallacy of a communist connection. I won't go into why, since John already quoted the passage from his book where he outlines the reasons why none of the communist groups or countries would have expected to benefit from JFK's death, and could, on the contrary, be negatively affected by it, and therefore none had a proper motive.
Regarding the idea that all communists only tow the party line:
Tim also wrote:
“As the article notes, he could have written the book under Communist discipline.”
“Communist discipline” sounds like an assumption that anyone who is communist would automatically be indoctrinated to tow a party-line without thinking for themselves. In my father's book Big Brother, he offers what he calls “Buchanan's law”: that anyone who is 100% aligned with every single tactical or strategical decision made by party leaders, must be an infiltrator rather than a genuine Marxist; that it's only when one has no true compatibility with the philosophy, and is trying hard nevertheless to appear to adhere to it, that one has to regurgitate doctrine defined by others rather than work out one's own perspective and decide how closely (or not) it aligns with party lines. My father left the US Communist Party around the same time as many others did, around 1956, when they felt that the party line was not sufficiently integrating the lessons learned from Krushchev's report on Stalin's crimes. He was never under any state or party control even during the time he had a membership in the party. In fact, I would say he was very much his own man, it was one of the traits about him, hence going against the grain by being a communist even when it was an unpopular and dangerous thing to do. He continued to believe in Marxist ideals his whole life.
Regarding mistrusting anything that any communist says:
Tim wrote:
“So to say Buchanan cannot be trusted since he was a Communist is not a smear; it is simply a fact.”
It's not a fact, it's a preconceived opinion. Referring to him as a communist is not a smear because he was one. Some day, referring to someone as a communist who is not one, will also not be a smear, it will simply be a mistake. In the meantime, it's only a smear if it's intended to be disparaging, just like the word “gay” is used by intolerant people as an insult when it really should only be a matter of fact or misinformation.
Regarding the notion that he had CIA backing:
Paul Rigby wrote:
“Thus Thomas Buchanan’s Who Killed Kennedy? was published, in the UK, by a publisher at the very heart of the Anglo-American spook politico-cultural nexus.
“Nor is this the only evidence of CIA-backing for Buchanan’s book.”
No offense intended, but I actually literally laughed out loud when I read that. But the CIA's suspected interest in my father – an interest of a totally different sort – was not at all a laughing matter to us, his family, back in the days of his JFK articles/book coming out. My father was told by several editors that someone had come to them to dissuade them from publishing his writings. No person or agency would bother doing that unless “someone” wanted his version of the story silenced. I don't know for a fact that it was the CIA who kept warning editors (both in the US and in Europe) about my father's “subversive” leanings and urging them not to “collaborate” with such things – the “officials” claimed to be from the US embassy – but we believed it might be the CIA. Whoever it was, we lived in fear of our father being assassinated as well. [Update: I read too quickly what was written in the book Big Brother. It wasn't that the two men "claimed" to be from the US embassy, it was that they were 'representatives of what was euphemistically referred to in Spain as "the United States embassy"' -- from the context on surrounding pages, this appears to be the United States Information Agency (USIA).]
Regarding the notion that he ghost-wrote Farewell America:
William Turner wrote:
“In my opinion Thomas G. Buchanan was the ghost writer of "Farewell America." He fits the profile given to me by Herve Lamarre, the French intelligence agent who fronted the Farewell project.”
I'd be interested to know what that profile said, but either way, you're simply wrong. My father did not ghost-write Farewell America.
William also wrote:
“Buchanan was far from a Communist. He was a World War II veteran, an Ivy Leaguer and a correspondent for L'Express, for whom he covered the Jack Ruby trial.”
I can't tell if you're trolling. My father was indeed a communist. He became one when he was 12 years old, after reading Men Like Gods by H.G. Wells. How is that incompatible with having attended Lawrenceville school and Yale and George Washington universities, having fought in World War II, and having been a correspondent for a leftist paper?

Regarding the civil rights of communists:
Tim wrote in response to John:
“You ask whether it is right to "sack people because they are members of the Communist Party." I certainly agree with free speech, within constitutionally acceptable limits (e.g. child pornography, etc.) But I also believe a newspaper has the right to fire a staff member who deliberately withheld the fact that he was a card-carrying member of the Communist party. Free speech does not mean a newspaper is obligated to employ Communists.”

A newspaper isn't “obligated” to employ anyone specific – a specific woman, a specific Afro-American, a specific homosexual, a specific communist. But do you believe the Constitution supports the idea that it's okay to base hiring and firing on prejudice -- that a newspaper has the right to fire someone on the sole basis of their political views?
I can guess what you might be going to say, Tim: you probably believe that communism is the exception to the rule. Except for who the “bad guy” is, it's the same argument that allowed water-boarding at Guantanamo. What were you saying about the ends justifying the means...?
I know I can't convince anyone who has already closed their mind to the idea (in my experience, the reality) that people who believe in the communist ideal of what's socially and economically fair (not to be confused with the failed attempts at implementation of that ideal) are generally motivated by humanitarian ideals. I can only hope that you haven't closed yours and can re-evaluate your demonizing portrayal.
In any case, the whole point of having rights and freedoms is that they should apply to everyone, even Nazis, fascists, and -- *shudder* ;-) -- communists. Back in 1948, avoiding discrimination may not have been a legal obligation, but it's always been a moral/ethical one.
My father's editor stated very clearly, when he fired him, that his work was not at issue and had always been satisfactory. It was the first case of a journalist being fired explicitly for the sole reason of being a communist. As such, it triggered a debate in the American Newspaper Guild about whether or not to support the civil rights of their communist members.
Many of his colleagues were in favour of supporting my father's right to his own views and affiliations, even when they themselves disagreed with them. A bunch of them even bought him a full-page space in a competing newspaper to give him an opportunity to express his views on his situation. The local chapter, however, voted against supporting him, saying that no one was keeping him from belonging to the Communist Party if he so chose, therefore they didn't consider his rights to be violated. Never mind that it meant he couldn't get employment as a journalist in the US while he was blacklisted. He couldn't even keep a job in any other field, because of it. The Guild's debate went on for a long time, and in the end the majority at the national congress ruled in his favour by 273 to 18, but it was too late for my father and he continued to lose subsequent jobs that were not in journalism.
One of the positions he held after he was fired from the Washington Star, was executive secretary of the Washington chapter of the Civil Rights Congress.
That job ended when their funds dwindled to where they could no longer pay his salary. In the meantime, it earned him the label of “key figure” in the eyes of the FBI. This was not the beginning of their awareness and surveillance of him, as they were the ones who notified the Washington Evening Star about his communist party membership in the first place. But the Civil Rights Congress position was the trigger for the FBI increasing their suspicion of him. Around 1952, they started intercepting him after work every so often, always the same two agents taking him to their black car for little “chats” to try to persuade him to give the names of other communists. As John Simkin has already guessed, he always refused. They put his file into dormancy when he moved to France in 1961, then re-activated it when he started writing about the Kennedy assassination.
I hope you've all found the above clarifications helpful.
Edited by Marian Buchanan
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I read your father’s book “Who Killed Kennedy?” (published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 1964). I believe it is a remarkable piece of work to have been published only 5-6 months after the assassination.

Regarding Thomas Buchanan’s view of the assassination, I would point to a very telling excerpt on Page 187 (of my version):

“I believe the murder of the President 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.”

Although Thomas Buchanan emphasized Texas oil interests, his point resonates well when viewed in the context of the entire Defense establishment.

Your clarifications and insight will be appreciated by numerous members of this site.

Welcome to the forum.

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Ditto Dobson's comments. I haven't seen Gratz on this board recently, and that's a shame now, because I think Ms. Buchanan really put it to him. In fact, I rarely see anyone defending the idealism of so-called Communists, and I feel this personally because my parents were very much of that milieu, left the party in the mid-fifties after realizing that their 'best friend' in the party was an FBI agent, but never abandoned their idealism. It was their legacy to me. Ms. Buchanan's comment that her father believed that the ones that towed the party line the most were often agents could not be any more true.

Ms. Buchanan, your essay was enlightening and eloquent, and I thank you very much for posting here. Would you care to comment in more detail on Robert Morrow's email correspondence with the friend of your father's?

Its so important now that we concentrate on the big picture, and not get bogged down on the minutiae of the killing itself. If Veciana's recent statement is real its a key piece of a puzzle that Buchanan seems to have already put together by 1964. It might be helpful at this point to come to grips with the possibility that the conspiracy was large. I think that for the conspirators there was safety in numbers. It made a real investigation impossible, and a continuing coverup both necessary and easier to manage. And we certainly live in that world that Mr. Buchanan outlines on page 187 of Richard Hocking's edition of Buchanan's book. That's the why of it. The who were many. The shooters? Not as important, though I would really like to know the conspiracy down to the street level.

Edited by Paul Brancato
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I haven't seen Gratz on this board recently, and that's a shame now, because I think Ms. Buchanan really put it to him. In fact, I rarely see anyone defending the idealism of so-called Communists, and I feel this personally because my parents were very much of that milieu, left the party in the mid-fifties after realizing that their 'best friend' in the party was an FBI agent, but never abandoned their idealism. It was their legacy to me. Ms. Buchanan's comment that her father believed that the ones that towed the party line the most were often agents could not be any more true.

I agree. I have never been a member of the Communist Party. In fact, I find it difficult to accept the discipline of any political party. However, I do accept that people originally joined the CP for the best of reasons (unlike the mainstream parties where it is often a career choice). However, on my website I have been highly critical of CP members' actions during the 1930s in the way they supported Stalin's policies and ignored the terrible things he was doing in the Soviet Union (he also did some terrible things in Spain as well - see George Orwell on this).

I also find it difficult to understand how members stayed in the CP after the Soviet-Nazi Pact. I know most left in 1956 but why did it take so long? Some even remained in the CP after the events in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The main crime of the Bolsheviks is that the contaminated for all time the idea that communism was a good idea. Nor do I think it would have been much different if Trotsky had gained power after Lenin's death. As Rosa Luxemburg pointed out, a revolution carried out by an elite will always end in a dictatorship.

I think the main reason that people stayed in the CP was McCarthyism. It was such a hateful creed that they were unwilling to give into the pressure it brought. To them, they would prefer to be seen as victims than traitors.

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As Rosa Luxemburg pointed out, a revolution carried out by an elite will always end in a dictatorship.

Not to chatterbox, but the temptation in any new form of government, founded by anyone, is to adapt it to accommodate the perennial human lusts for money, power, and position. It certainly happened in the US by the Gilded Age, and some would argue by the 1830s.

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It seems apt to chatter. a soviet is a worker cell and a union of such formed the power structure of the rather peaceful russian Revolution of '17. The counter revolution led to stalinism. trotsky was more of a populist who sought a world revolution, and a permanent one at that, a bit like Che'. There is a bit of a mixup here with terminology, like when they call terrorists rebels, a revolution that has elements of like the opportunistic lumpen elements of Libre in Ukraine or the petit bourgeoisee in Thailand is led by right wing elements and better characterised as Putch's or in effect counter revolutionary in nature and not in the interest of the international working class at all.

edit add : and indeed as Rosa points out end in dictatorship.

Edited by John Dolva
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Thank you for welcoming me to the forum. Paul, it's good to connect even in this small way with someone who knows what it was like to grow up in that situation.

Regarding the emails sent to Robert Morrow, I believe they contain some inaccuracies. I've emailed my step-mother to find out more before I comment.

I also find it difficult to understand how members stayed in the CP after the Soviet-Nazi Pact. I know most left in 1956 but why did it take so long? Some even remained in the CP after the events in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The main crime of the Bolsheviks is that the contaminated for all time the idea that communism was a good idea. Nor do I think it would have been much different if Trotsky had gained power after Lenin's death. As Rosa Luxemburg pointed out, a revolution carried out by an elite will always end in a dictatorship.

I think the main reason that people stayed in the CP was McCarthyism. It was such a hateful creed that they were unwilling to give into the pressure it brought. To them, they would prefer to be seen as victims than traitors.

I think it's only difficult to understand people staying in the party if you believe the American party was intended to represent an alignment with Soviet policies and practices. I would imagine it was, instead, intended to align with Marxist ideals. The fact that the Soviets were distorting the ideology in their attempted implementation, and appropriating the label of "communist" when it was clearly never at the communist stage of the initially intended transition, shouldn't make the ideology itself invalid.

It would be like deciding not to go to one's own Christian church anymore just because there was another church somewhere else that was run by some strange sect with questionable practices that was claiming to be Christian too.

I think there's evidence for what I'm saying in the fact that my father and others didn't leave the American party based on what the Soviet party's leaders did or didn't do, but only when the American party leaders failed to align with the members' views on how the party's position should be adjusted after the Khrushchev report.

I acknowledge I'm not a historian and don't know the details of what was known at what time and what the reactions were within the American party. I also don't know the inner thoughts of my father in his teen years in the 30's. But, as I said before, he was very much his own man. He was also very bright and logically-minded -- IQ of 145, almost always first of his class even though he was two to three years younger than his classmates. So it's doubtful he would have embraced the Soviets' way wholesale without any kind of analysis or reservation, even as a teen.

I agree that the Bolsheviks contaminated the use of the word "communist" and the general population's perception of what the Marxist ideal was about and how it could be implemented in practice. I can also see the possibility that some American communists might have stayed in the CP as a way to assert their right to be there, ironically allowing the external pressure for them to leave to turn into an internal pressure for them to stay longer than they might have otherwise. But I don't think that accounts for all personal reactions, and my father's account of it in his own case indicates that he was led, instead, by his own conscience at all stages.

There are some closed-minded doctrinarians in any packaged worldview, but that doesn't mean that all those who embrace a defined worldview do so in a closed-minded way. The open-minded will continue to refine their understanding of the world and adjust accordingly, as my father did over the years. I remember in particular him telling me in the 70's that I'd helped him see the importance of incorporating an environmentalist perspective into any social-economic-political prescription. I had become very preoccupied with the state of the environment after studying ecology in school in 1970 -- the year that the science curriculum was ecology happened to coincide with the year of the first Earth Day and there were many alarming articles in a wildlife magazine my grandmother subscribed to. I used those articles and their statistics and citations as the basis for the science report I was assigned as homework, and it made a profound impact on me -- and apparently, through me, an impact on my father's ideology. My point is that, earlier than this, he had not contemplated this aspect of the socio-political equation -- and neither did most people, of any ideology -- but once it came to his attention, he wasn't above making adjustments in his worldview. If only all people of all ideologies were so willing to admit past omissions and evolve a better version of their worldview...

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Thank you Marian - well written and well spoken....

Your father's was one of the first 3 books I purchased and read as I wanted to read the POV from as early a moment as possible... your father's was about as early as it got.

The bogeyman: Fascism, Communism and now Terrorism will always be a crutch onwhich those desiring the Status Quo will lean when those upsetting the Quo emerge.

That more planetary harm has been done in the name of DEMOCRACY (subtext Capitalism) than any other ideology is well understood...

While the nuances of these diverse ideologies are lost on most of the sheeple here in the US.

What most USAmericans fail to realize is the abject FEAR the USA/CIA put into the hearts of nations and their people from the early 50's on.

and how much the LEGEND of the USA has eclipsed the reality...

Why would any nation or people on the planet trust US ?

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I have a 207 page copy of this book that was a special edition printed by Putnam for Peterson Engineering Company and given out to their Friends. Anyone know the history for Peterson Engineering in this 1964 time frame?



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There is a special edition for this book that is extremely interesting! Printed especially for Peterson Engineering Co.

It appears Peterson Engineering Company is connected to PINGO, which is in the book. Based in Texas Oil well business, and the appearance is bragging on Hunt.

URL 1:


URL 2:



"Offered is "Who Killed Kennedy?" by Thomas G. Buchanan and published by Putnam. This hardcover is in very good condition wrapped in a very good dust jacket. The jacket has light edge wear. The book hinges are strong and the pages tight in the binding. There is a section in front of the book titled 'This edition is especially printed for the friends of Petersen Engineering Co: Creators of PENGO products,' with several pages of product photos. 207 pp."

Edited by Jim Phelps
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Hi Marian, thank you for the information about your father, it was very informative. WHO KILLED KENNEDY is a favourite of mine and I know a Melbourne-based author/screenwriter who also values it highly.

If more writers had done what Thomas Buchanan bravely did back in 1964, things may have tuned out a little differently thereafter.

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