Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy

November 6, 2013

Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Vincent Palamara.
November 6, 2013

A leading civilian Secret Service authority, Palamara spent more than twenty years researching and writing Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy (Trine Day), which was published digitally this Monday and in-print last week. He has appeared on the History Channel and C-SPAN as well as in numerous newspapers and journals; further, his original research materials are stored in the National Archives. Palamara makes his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Survivor’s Guilt is currently averaging 5-star reviews on both and Barnes & Noble and has been equally well received among Kennedy authorities and the author’s contemporaries. JFK era Secret Service Agent Abraham Bolden (The Echo from Dealey Plaza) noted, “The facts as outlined would sustain a charge of gross negligence without the possibility of refutation from any source. A great book.” Further, John Davis, author of The Kennedys: Dynasty & Disaster and Mafia Kingfish, praised, “You’ve done a very valuable service. Your work is most interesting and even chilling.”

From the publisher:

Painstakingly researched by an authority on the history of the Secret Service and based on primary, firsthand accounts from more than 80 former agents, White House aides, and family members, this is the definitive account of what went wrong with John F. Kennedy’s security detail on the day he was assassinated. The work provides a detailed look at how JFK could and should have been protected and debunks numerous fraudulent notions that persist about the day in question, including that JFK ordered agents off the rear of his limousine; demanded the removal of the bubble top that covered the vehicle; and was difficult to protect and somehow, directly or indirectly, made his own tragic death easier for an assassin or assassins. This book also thoroughly investigates the threats on the president’s life before traveling to Texas; the presence of unauthorized Secret Service agents in Dealey Plaza, the site of the assassination; the failure of the Secret Service in monitoring and securing the surrounding buildings, overhangs, and rooftops; and the surprising conspiratorial beliefs of several former agents. An important addition to the canon of works on JFK and his assassination, this study sheds light on the gross negligence and, in some cases, seeming culpability, of those sworn to protect the president.

Now, Vincent Palamara takes readers inside his search for truth …

1) What inspired you to revive SURVIVOR’S GUILT – and how do you feel that your book differs from the multitude of other JFK assassination books?

I was inspired to write this book because of my deep admiration of President Kennedy and my great alarm and concern at what I felt was a tragic and unnecessary lack of proper protection for the man. JFK’s brutal murder could have been avoided. My book differs from other books because a) my book does NOT stand or fall based on a theory and b) it holds up whether or not one believes Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or that there was a conspiracy. In this regard, I feel my book is unique in this capacity.

2) Your book is very much the antithesis of Gerald Blaine’s THE KENNEDY DETAIL. What would you consider to be the strongest evidence of Secret Service complicity in President Kennedy’s death – and how do you feel that the government and main stream media has gone about covering this up?

Thank you—I agree. I believe the fraudulent mantra of “JFK-was-to-blame” for the security deficiencies, started by the Secret Service, is one, especially when one considers the actions and inactions of Agent Floyd Boring (in charge of planning the Texas trip and the originator of this false mantra), Emory Roberts (the commander of the follow-up car agents who recalled several agents, ordered other agents not to act, and later became too close to LBJ) and Bill Greer (the driver of JFK’s limousine who slowed down the car during the shooting, disobeyed a direct order to get out of line, looked back twice at JFK, and later denied all these actions). All three agents had disturbing feelings toward JFK, as did other agents who were angered at JFK’s tawdry private life, among other things. The other general indicator is the lack of protective coverage of building rooftops in Dallas, a standard security measure used everywhere except Dallas. In fact, during the longest domestic motorcade ever for JFK, the Tampa, FL motorcade of 11/18/63, all multi-story buildings were manned and guarded by police and military. There are other factors, obviously, which is why I wrote the book.

The media and the government has bought the JFK-is-to-blame mantra hook, line, and sinker, thanks largely to books such as the Warren Report and William Manchester’s “The Death of a President”, as well as later books by Ronald Kessler and Gerald Blaine. One can argue Secret Service complicity (or even gross negligence) is a hotter topic to discuss than mere conspiracy theories for the media and the government, as it is much harder to argue with the results of the agency’s failure than it is with nebulous theories that often lack hard evidence.

3) You are in the unique position of having more than 70 former Secret Service agents, White House aides, and family members as sources. How did you go about establishing these relationships – and what do you feel these particular perspectives add to the historical record?

I would definitely consider myself to have been a friendly adversary, so to speak, akin to a likeable cross-examiner. Meaning, while I tried to be respectful and open, I needed to ask the hard questions and obtain real answers, not just lob “softball” questions as an in-their-pocket defense attorney would ask. Keep in mind, a lot of my contacts and interviews were made in the pre-internet days of the early 1990’s (I, myself, did not have the net until 1998). A lot of old-fashioned ground work and sleuthing was done- directory assistance, newspaper archives, etc. Finally, my young age, especially during the heart of the lion’s share of my interviews and correspondence (late 20’s to early 30’s) was a decided advantage, as was my in-depth knowledge of the agency. I think a lot of the agents felt comfortable and flattered because of my youth and expertise. Alas, some may now feel betrayed because of my stance on issues, but to use today’s vernacular, “it is what it is”: they told me what they told me, the truth hurts, and I owe it to the memory of President Kennedy (who I care far more for than I do the hurt feelings of some agents) to let the world know that something was tragically amiss in Dallas with JFK’s protection. My book gives an entirely new framework for discussion. The old parlor game of “did Oswald act alone?” has been replaced by “Why was JFK such a sitting duck [to allow Oswald or a conspiracy the chance for success]”?

4) Other than your own book, what would you suggest as essential reading for students of the assassination – and what specific areas of inquiry would you say warrant further investigation?

I heartily recommend these essential works that are required reading for all Americans: The 5-volume series “Inside The ARRB” by Douglas Horne; “JFK & The Unspeakable” by James Douglass; “The Girl on the Stairs” by Barry Ernest; “Into The Nightmare” by Joseph McBride; “It’s Time For The Truth” by Charles Hurlburt; “Reclaiming Parkland” by James DiEugenio; and “Killing JFK: 50 Years, 50 Lies” by Dr. Lance Moore. There are other great books, but these are my current favorites that demonstrate conspiracy and cover-up—NOT just “theories”—in the death of JFK. Highly recommended. I believe the medical evidence avenue of the case bears the most fruit. The eye and ear witness evidence, as well as theories of who did it, are tantalizing but, ultimately, inconclusive. Horne’s books alone are ground-breaking on this score.

5) Tell us: What first drew your interest to this case and how has that initial fascination influenced your life path? Also, would you care to speculate as to how things might have been different had President Kennedy not perished on that fateful November day?

Believe it or not, it was both the fictional television show about the Secret Service of the 19th century, “The Wild, Wild West”, and my hobbies of stamp and coin collecting (many with images of JFK), all at the tender age of 12 in 1978, which also coincided with the HSCA investigation. I vividly remember checking out the classic book “Four Days” at my middle school library (with its iconic photo of Secret Service agent Clint Hill) and asking my parents questions about President Kennedy. My parents were also a big influence on me, as they had a beautiful color portrait of JFK and were big admirers of the late president.

So, my interest in the Secret Service merged with my interest in JFK’s life and tragic death. I knew I was definitely on to something when, at the age of only 24 in 1991, I delivered a research paper at The Third Decade conference in Fredonia, NY that was very well received by seasoned authors and researchers old enough to be my father or, in some cases, my grandfather! Author Harry Livingstone and Dr. Cyril Wecht inspired me to have the courage to contact these men out of the blue, as well, which I began in earnest soon after this conference.

President Kennedy was no saint and made his share of blunders. However, he had his share of great successes (the space race, civil rights, test ban treaty, missile crisis solution, etc.) and was a huge inspiration to millions with his soaring rhetoric and call to service. There is a reason many historians place him in the top 10 (out of 44 presidents to date) and the public frequently places him in the top 5. I firmly believe, had JFK lived, there would not have been a Vietnam War and all the cultural and political strife associated with it. Consequently, LBJ would not have been president and, most importantly, neither would Richard Nixon have attained that title, thus sparing the nation yet another tragedy with Watergate. In addition, Ford and Carter would not have seen higher office, as well. The tragedies of JFK’s own assassination, the Vietnam War, and Watergate would have been averted. Would it have been utopia? Of course not. Would life have been much better? Absolutely: quicker end to the cold war, no huge political and cultural disillusionment, and a government that truly cared about its people. Needless to say, we lost a lot on 11/22/63…and the Secret Service bear the biggest burden, whether or not Oswald “did it”.

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