Allen Dulles and the origins of the lone gunman theory

In comment on this post about the first meeting of the Warren Commission more than 50 years ago, a reader notes how former CIA director Allen Dulles reached his conclusion before the Commission’s investigation began.

“On page 51 of the transcript Allen Dulles passes out a book that he says will predict the outcome of their investigation — lone gunman. He says other than the attack on President Truman, all assassination attempts against American Presidents fit the lone assassin pattern. John McCloy retorts that the Lincoln assassination was a conspiracy, to which Dulles replies that one man was so dominate ‘it almost wasn’t a plot.'”

The reader continues:

“I think this transcript shows that Allen Dulles had an agenda to promote the lone assassin theory of the case from the inception of the Warren Commission.”



  1. […] Allen Dulles and the origins of the lone gunman theory […]

  2. Paul Turner says:

    I highly doubt Dulles “reached his conclusion before the WC even began”. He was TOLD what to “conclude”. John E. Hoover(J.Edgar) had a lot to do with that.

    • David Regan says:

      Good point, Paul. With the Katzenbach memo of 11/25/63, you have to wonder why the WC bothered going through the motions. It’s certainly not like anyone on the Commission would publicly refute Hoover’s FBI Report of 12/10/63. Although, we do know now of dissection on the Commission.

  3. Kennedy63 says:

    It is well documented that both Dulles brothers tossed their hats into the globalist camp from the beginning of their careers in government service. At the end of WWII, the American military and Industry leaders understood what looking into the abyss meant: the decline of Western democracy, free enterprise and hegemony, and the rise of unaligned Nationalism. Apparently, some well-placed and powerful American military and business leaders shaped this knowledge into an extremist philosophy, where they viewed the world, necessarily and purposely, as static (Democracy vs Socialism and Communism, sans Nationalism). What emerged from such rigid thinking? The Cold War and CIA wars by proxy against nationalist movements erroneously labeled communist insurgency (
    The Industrial/Military power base lies in war, readiness for war, production of war materials, and production of WMD…and, of course, production of large scale fear. The CIA, in conjunction with the Industrial/Military power base purposely established an assassination capability to remove leaders deemed unfriendly and inimical to the interests of the United States (such interests were inevitably decided by men tied to special interests money, investments, and connections to the power base duly represented. When you look at the frequency of assassination after this Executive Action capability was established, you get a sobering lesson not only geopolitical intrigue, but in how this power base operated in tandem to affect global outcomes in their best interests. Kennedy’s assassination may well have been a state sponsored execution by a formidable power base in the United States, but whose reach remains globally intertwined.

    I still get chills when I listen to Kennedy’s American University Speech and his other speech, concerning an open, responsible press, given to reporters. The Dulles Brother were puppets of the rich and well connected; they were part of this entrenched power base, which emerged after WWI, focused on war and covert operations as its primary modus-operandi. Assassination of democratically elected officials was their solution to legitimate revolutions which sought to remove the entrenched and parasitic foreign enterprises that had choke holds on resources. Such exploitative businesses operated through flagrant corruption and shameful exploitation motivated by the usual racist paternalism of the day. These are the kinds of enterprises that our government defended under the guise of fighting communist aggression, especially during the zenith of the Dulles Brother’s power. Anyone see why Allen Dulles was appointed to the Warren Omission?

  4. Alex S says:

    The book is The Assassins by Robert J. Donovan, released, I believe, in 1955.

    I believe the first JFK researcher to identify it as such was Donald Gibson in The Kennedy Assassination Cover-up, but I’m glad to be corrected if wrong.

    Robert J. Donovan wrote an introduction to one publication of the Warren Commission Report, I believe the abridged version.

    “Jock” Whitney, at the very least a passing acquaintance in Establishment circles of Allen Dulles, published an editorial November 23, 1963 in his NY Herald Tribune, mentioning Donovan’s book as a precedent for “lone assassin” Oswald.

    Gibson argues that Whitney’s editorial and Dulles’ distribution of the book to the Commission shows coordination by the Establishment in attempting to confine the assassination to a lone nut, as early as the night of November 22nd. I agree. He also argues that the clear involvement of the Establishment in the spread of this idea and in the establishment of the Warren Commission are strong signs of an Establishment conspiracy in the assassination. I think this is possible, but I also think we must consider the idea that the Establishment was using the lone nut archetype to reign in an out of control military and intelligence establishment hell bent on provoking war with Cuba or the Soviet Union via the assassination. Still, the very early use of the Donovan book to argue for a lone nut verdict in the public sphere could very well be the product of some level of advance preparation, just as the alleged Oswald ties to Cuba and the Soviet Union may well have been contrived to force cover-ups within the various federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies later, as illustrated by Peter Dale Scott and John Newman, among others.

    It seems to me worthwhile to ask: Who was really signing Robert J. Donovan’s paychecks in 1955? Of course, he may well have come up with his own bizarre addition to the concept of American Exceptionalism entirely on his own, but perhaps he was aided in coming to his “it can’t happen here” conclusion.

  5. Larry Schnapf says:

    I did an independent study project in college back in the early 1970s on political assassinations in the United States and remember coming across that book. My professor made me address the book’s conclusions and explain why it was not persuasive with the JFK case.

  6. Mary Gossick says:

    Lewis Powell, Mary Surrat, George Atzerodt and David Herold were accused of conspiracy by a military tribunal and all were executed on July 7,1865. Dr. Samule Mudd was also convicted of conspiracy but pardoned by President Andrew Johnson.

  7. john barbour says:

    In the ten years following the clay shaw trial, Jim Garrison only gave one interview about his case to one person. That interview became the foundation of many have said is the best documentary ever made on the subject. It won the San Sebastian Film Festival award in ’93, was praised all over the world, even in the LA Times, and Entertainment Weekly said, ‘It’s more powerful than the film ‘JFK!’ In spite of its world wide success, it has been totally surprised and even ignored in the US. No matter how many good books are written about that horror, from ‘Rush To Judgement,’ to ‘The Unspeakable,’ all anyone needs to know is in this very American must see film, free at It astonishes me that so many excellent sites like this, anxious to spread the truth, never, ever mention this film about the only law enforcement officer to actually investigate that tragedy!

    • Bob Truitt says:

      Mr. Barbour, I certainly agree that at JFK conferences, blogs and websites that The Last Word of the Assassination is hardly ever mentioned. However, you have brought this great film out of the shadows forever and it will not return to it’s former place. Your life’s work to bring this about is similar to Mr. Morley’s work to bring about the release of the files of George Joannidess. Perhaps similar forces have been working overtime to keep them both in the dark. A hearty Godspeed to both endeavors.

  8. Ronnie Wayne says:

    ON 11/9/63 Georgia right winged racist Josepeh Milteer was taped by a Miami FBI informant regarding assassinating JFK: “from an office building, with a high powered rifle”, and, “they will pick up somebody within hours afterwards, if anything like that would happen just to throw the public off”.
    If Milteer could so accurately predict what would happen two weeks before it did then the former CIA director with many still loyal former employees in the agency could have had his agenda planned before a shot was ever fired.
    Also interesting to note Dulles had so many copies of the Assassinations book so readily available to hand out just 2 1/2 weeks after the execution.

  9. Photon says:

    But wasn’t his perception the most common viewpoint at the time? Within hours of Oswald’s death at least one major network stated that history would consider him the Lone Assassin.
    His comment about the history of Presidential assassinations was correct. The Lincoln conspiracy was Booth and a few hangers- on. The most motivated of the bunch was Paine, a real idiot who couldn’t even finish off a helpless Seward bedridden with a broken jaw. The most competent conspiracy was the Puerto Rican attempt on Truman and they never got close. The last two unsuccessful attempts were also Lone Nut attempts, as was the Reagan shooting.
    As the narrative on this blog is that Dulles was an evil warmonger who wanted to get rid of Castro and the Soviet Union, wouldn’t it have been to his advantage to find evidence of a conspiracy, particularly one involving international Communism? One that would vindicate his anti -Communism and perhaps precipitate the invasion of Cuba that he supposedly desired? Not some silly Marxist misfit with no real connection to anybody? Exactly what was the advantage to him not to find a conspiracy? This has never been clear to me.

    • Thomas says:

      If the actual conspiracy hit too close to home then he wouldn’t want people probing. Once a conspiracy is on the table then all kinds of doors are opened and from his point of view who knows (or perhaps he did know) where they may lead.

    • PBR says:

      Clever argument. One fact is that regarding Lincoln’s assassination there was a conspiracy. Whether or not it was well organised is a moot point and granted it has no material bearing on the question at hand apart from the fact the Dulles did lie on the record. Sophistry accepted, admired and yet set aside, a more rational observer might take exception to your blanket assertion that the narrative of this blog is that Dulles did this or that and that this blog paints Dulles as an ‘evil warmonger’. Your suggestive language aside, Dulles was certainly a man of war. Of that there can be no doubt. He was at the fulcrum of the events covered by this blog and is a key figure in the history of the United States in this period. Perhaps the issue of transparency is what is at the heart of the matter? The motivation of Dulles regarding the WC book episode as described is a question of interest. Given his background and the context in which the assassination of Kennedy occurred any historian ‘worth their salt’ would be remiss in eschewing this particular line of investigation. The questions raised in this blog are of significance in that regard. With transparency there will be some closure on these issues. Alan Dulles cannot be overlooked given his role in the Warren Commission and his rich history beforehand.

    • leslie sharp says:

      Photon, why would you omit from your list the alleged plot against FDR that was foiled by Smedley Butler?

      You are simplifying to the extreme when you suggest that the narrative on this blog is that Dulles wanted to get rid of Castro and the Soviet Union; that or I’ve wasted a lot of time on this site. Recently I was reading about Fidel’s recruitment of former Eastern European Nazis to train his soldiers because he was so disgusted with the Russians at the time. You paint a picture that Cuba and the Russians were in complete alignment and moving in concert; how does this story of the Nazis figure into your version of history?

      I was under the impression, based on the mission statement of jfkfacts, that the purpose of this site has been to encourage a civil, informed debate, and that few if any have drawn conclusions, let alone the particularly narrow assessment of history of yours that insists Oswald acted alone. In fact in this instance, I think there are some who consider, and rightfully so, that Dulles’ motives ran far deeper than the hot regions of Cuba and Vietnam but rather toward the Great Game or better said The Great Global Game. His role with the Warren Commission suggests that he was a highly significant board piece. These were not small men with small minds focused on even smaller issues. They were Globalists before the term was coined, beneficiaries of their private, unmoderated schemes on behalf of private industry under cloak of their government Credentials. Kennedy recognized that. There was far more at stake than little ol’ Cuba, and far greater enemies of freedom and liberty than the communists, and I think we live with the consequences of their machinations, your small narrative, and Kennedy’s death at the close of 2013.

    • Dan says:

      The 1950 conspiracy by Puerto Rican Nationalists to assassinate President Truman resulted in the death of a White House police officer, and the wounding of another in what has been described as the biggest gunfight in Secret Service history. The gunmen got within 31 feet of where President Truman was standing at a second floor window of Blair House. Since this was the most recent publicly know assassination attempt in 1963, the proper analysis would have been that recent history demonstrated that there might be a threat to the President from passions generated by nationalist sentiments, particularly in the Carribean islands. But Dulles ignored this obvious conclusion in favor of trying to persuade his fellow commissioners of the dubious lone nut argument.

    • Fearfaxer says:

      “Within hours of Oswald’s death at least one major network stated that history would consider him the Lone Assassin.”

      Interesting that you choose not to say which one(s). Any source for that, or are you just Making Stuff Up again?

      Your “explanation” of how the plot to murder Lincoln was not a conspiracy is absurd. If more than one person is in on a murder attempt (and they tried to murder Secy of State Seward and VP Johnson as well), it’s a conspiracy. It doesn’t matter how stupid or deluded most of the perpetrators may have been.

      As to Dulles going along with not fomenting a war against the Soviets and Cuba, he was far more interested in protecting the CIA, which might not have survived the scandal if a great many things that are known now were to have become known then (e.g., the many attempts to murder Castro in league with the Mafia). I don’t believe you aren’t aware of that, and that you’re being completely disingenuous with every “point” you make in this comment.

    • Neil says:

      Photon said: “Exactly what was the advantage to him not to find a conspiracy? This has never been clear to me.”

      The Warren Commission was a CYA job.

      Johnson created the WC to dispel rumors about his own involvement in Kennedy’s murder. Dulles wanted to protect the CIA which also was the subject of immediate suspicion after the assassination.

      If it were found that Oswald was a CIA asset or there were others involved with Oswald with links to the CIA, that could’ve lead to the disbanding of the agency. Dulles also didn’t mention anything about the CIA-Mafia plots/conspiracies against Castro which he had to have been aware of since they began on his watch.

    • lysias says:

      I’ve always wondered if Fritz Tobias’s 1960 Spiegel articles arguing that the Reichstag Fire was set by the lone nut Van der Lubbe was somehow inspired by the CIA. Which would mean that, as early as that, the CIA was interested in pushing the idea that lone nuts commit atrocities.

      I am persuaded by the 2001 book by Alexander Bahar and Wilfried Kugel Der Reichstagbrand. Wie Geschichte Gemacht Wird that the Nazis (and their Nationalist coalition partners) were very much involved in setting the fire, and that, whatever role Van der Lubbe may have played, it was at most a subsidiary one. Now a new English-language book is to be published by Oxford University Press, Benjamin Carter Hett’s Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery, which apparently takes the same view.

      • Alex S says:

        Thank you! I’ve been curious to find an up to date English-language work on the Reichstag fire.

        As a somewhat more innocuous explanation for the Spiegel articles, perhaps they were simply an attempt to counter Soviet claims that communist Van der Lubbe had been framed. The West German state might well have been interested in refuting that point, just as US Cold Warriors would have been.

  10. Smokie says:

    This isn’t really anything surprising, considering “lone-gunman” became the official story as early as two days after JFK was killed. (See “HSCA Report, appendix vol. 3, p.472” and “Memorandum for Mr. Moyers”)

    • Nathaniel Heidenheimer says:

      Episode 50 of Black Op Radio’s 50 Years for 50 Reasons argues McGeorge Bundy, not working class, radioed Air Force One and the cabinet plane while the former was in flight back to Washington, to inform all aboard both flights that it was a lone nut and they had their man. This was before the Dallas Police Department was preaching this gospel.

    • Bob Prudhomme says:

      I believe the lone gunman theory began the moment the rifle was found on the 6th floor and jubilantly pronounced as “the weapon”. Try to imagine the great deductive minds at work here, able to deduce at that very moment there was only one shooter, and they had found “the weapon”.

  11. Jonathan says:

    In the photo of Warren’s presenting the Warren Report to LBJ, J. Lee Rankin and all seven commissioners except one are looking at LBJ with a smile. The exception is Dulles, who is facing and staring expressionless into the camera.

    This picture tells me the B.S. is over for him; all the others present are fools who have lost the big game.

  12. Stanley says:

    Probably obvious but the book was irrelevant in every way in that past events have no bearing on the probabilities of future events. Either he viewed a given set circumstances surrounding any assassination attempt as one side of a multisided die where each side is a different set of circumstances (he couldn’t have) or he was telegraphing fair warning that an outcome different than his own thus stated agenda was to go against his authority and the power he represented.

  13. Stanley says:

    On page 13 it appears Dulles draws focus away from pursuing getting an original of a report from Mexican authorities by talking about the incompleteness of a Russian report. Then he discusses how publishing Oswald’s diaries will show how much more was happening with the Russians than is “known around here”. Seems obtuse to me.

    Is he implying they should drop further requests for info because it will bring undue attention to those dealings? Or, in railroading the discussion about getting a Mexico report, are the concerns he expresses about Russia actually the identical concerns he has about Mexico? It’s been said that Mexican authorities were essentially CIA assets and so the topic of what went on in Mexico with Oswald may be nuclear, per Simpich on Mary Ferrell. Is Dulles doing fancy smoke and mirrors to direct the Commission away from Mexico? Note how the topic dies after that.

    • Fearfaxer says:

      Yes, I would say Dulles’ pipe smoke was being blown exactly as you suspect, trying to get his fellow commissioners to not probe too deeply into whatever was going on in Mexico. FWIW, I’ve also noticed that in a number of witness interviews, he would suddenly interject himself in such as way as to remind everyone that Oswald Was A Commie. This is usually just a matter of asking a very brief question about Oswald’s possible Marxist beliefs, then allowing the discussion to continue along other lines. It’s almost as if he was trying to drive a subliminal thought into the minds of the other Commissioners.

  14. Alan Dale says:

    I had one personal encounter with President Kennedy’s Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger. It was at The French Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC. Mr. Salinger had responded enthusiastically to the live music he was hearing and, based upon that reaction, I did approach him, shook hands, and made the impulsive decision to ask for an autograph. He was very friendly, very positive, and while he was signing I said something very close to this: “Did you ever think it was strange that someone such as Allen Dulles, who had been fired by President Kennedy, would be entrusted to participate in the investigation of his assassination?” Still smiling, he looked up at me and repeated the line which I believe is credited to Winston Churchill, “Dull. Duller. Dulles.”

    That’s what he said, folks.

    Stay tuned for David Talbot’s next book, “The Devil’s Chessboard” which focuses on Allen Dulles and the practices of entrenched authority versus new attitudes and new policies of reform as represented by President John F. Kennedy.

    • TLR says:

      Salinger always supported the WC version of events (at least publicly), if I recall.

    • D. Olmens says:

      I’ve seen that comment before, but in the context of a remark made about the personality of his brother, John Foster Dulles. The comment is attributed to either Churchill or Eden. What do you think Salinger was getting at here?

      Just on a bit of a tangent, I haven’t seen this mentioned a lot here, but I’d recommend Alan’s interview series over at JFK Lancer. Well worth checking out.

    • lysias says:

      Foster Dulles may have been dull, but Allen Dulles was anything but.

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