Biography of Vincent Salandria
Vincent Salandria is, to me at least, one of the most interesting of the JFK critics, as much for how the critical community regards him as for the nature of his criticism and how it has helped to shape the critical community. As a genuine "first-generation critic," he is regarded with awe by conspiracists of all ages. He dismisses such compliments handily by claiming that finding conspiracy in the assassination is so obvious that it required no great skills in analysis or writing. For example, in the Foreword to False Mystery, John Kelin's 1999 anthology of ten of Salandria's essays, Salandria states:
The idea of an anthology of my work on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy was not my idea. Whatever blame is attributable to such an enterprise--and considerable censure may be in order for the waste of paper attendant to this project--is properly placed on Mr. John Kelin.
Mr. Kelin sees value in these writings which I have always accepted as the clumsy expressions of simple truths. I wrote them, not to demonstrate any skills I had as a writer or as a scholar, since my writings clearly show my limitations as such. Rather, I wrote these pieces to explain how easy it was to come to the truth of how and why our national security state killed President Kennedy in order to perpetuate the Cold War.
But the truth was easily ascertainable. I feel that my work on the assassination is am accomplishment which required little intelligence, minimal analytic ability and no special talents. Rather it reflected a willingness to bear witness to the truth irrespective of the consequences. In my responsibility to adhering to the truth as I saw it, I have been and will continue to be, oblivious to all the consequences of its expression.
Vincent Salandria is now 71 years old. He was born and
raised in Philadelphia, where he still lives. He became a lawyer and ran his law
firm from his home. Among other things, he worked with left-leaning
organizations such as the ACLU and Women Against the War. He was one of the
first persons to openly question the Warren Commission's conclusions, and has
been an active critic ever since. He has influenced many critics, notably Josiah
Thompson and Gaeton Fonzi. Salandria
focused primarily on the "shots, trajectories, and wounds of the
assassination," in his own words. He soon came to believe that (1) JFK was
killed by "the national security state" because he was trying to reach
accommodations with the USSR and Cuba, (2) the truth of the assassination was
systematically covered up by the government, civilians, and the mainstream
media, and (3) JFK was killed by "our warfare system," aka "the
American power elite," rather than by Cuba, the USSR, the Mafia, the FBI,
or Lyndon Johnson.
Salandria was perhaps the first JFK researcher to come to believe that the truth of the assassination could be better approached by large-scale considerations than by focusing on details. Here is a brief selection from Gaeton Fonzi's 1993 book The Last Investigation that vividly expresses this sentiment, which has now been adopted by many researchers:
By late 1975, when I was beginning work as a Government investigator on the Kennedy assassination, I had not seen or spoken with Vince Salandria for a number of years... I moved to Florida and, because of other demands, found little time to devote to the assassination. But Vince Salandria had become something of a legend among the growing circle of Warren Commission critics. Almost everyone who planned to write a book about the Kennedy assassination first journeyed to Philadelphia to probe Salandria for insights and perspective...
But before starting my new job, I returned to Philadelphia to draw upon Salandria's vast knowledge of the evidence and get his opinion about the most fruitful areas of investigation. Salandria was most cordial, and we spent a long winter Sunday talking. Yet I sensed a certain balking in his attitude, a feeling of disappointment in what I was about to begin. Eventually, he explained why he was no longer actively involved in pursuing an investigation of the assassination. It gave me a surprising insight into how far Salandria's thinking had evolved.
"I'm afraid we were misled," Salandria said sadly. "All the critics, myself included, were misled very early. I see that now. We spent too much time and effort microanalyzing the details of the assassination when all the time it was obvious, it was blatantly obvious that it was a conspiracy. Don't you think the men who killed Kennedy had the means to do it in the most sophisticated and subtle way? They chose not to. Instead, they picked the shooting gallery that was Dealey Plaza and did it in the most barbarous and openly arrogant manner. The cover story was transparent and designed not to hold, to fall apart at the slightest scrutiny. The forces that killed Kennedy wanted the message clear: 'We are in control and no one -- not the President, not Congress, nor any elected official -- no one can do anything about it.' It was a message to the people that their Government was powerless. And the people eventually got the message. Consider what happened since the Kennedy assassination. People see government today as unresponsive to their needs, yet the budget and power of the military and intelligence establishment have increased tremendously.
"The tyranny of power is here. Current events tell us that those who killed Kennedy can only perpetuate their power by promoting social upheaval both at home and abroad. And that will lead not to revolution but repression. I suggest to you, my friend, that the interests of those who killed Kennedy now transcend national boundaries and national priorities. No doubt we are dealing now with an international conspiracy. We must face the fact -- not waste any more time microanalyzing the evidence. That's exactly what they want us to do. They have kept us busy for so long. And I will bet, buddy, that is what will happen to you. They'll keep you very, very busy and eventually, they'll wear you down."
Similar sentiments are expressed in the short passage by Daniel Brandt,
entitled "The Man Who Wasn't There."
Further details about Salandria are presented by Calvin Trillin in his 1967
article "The Buffs."
John Kelin has posted some of Vincent Salandria's articles. Here are some of the addresses:
(1) The Warren Report Analysis of Shots, Trajectories, and Wounds: A Lawyer's Dissenting View (gopher://freenet.akron.oh.us/h0/SIGS/JFK/FP/fp.back_issues/.29th_Issue/vs_dissent.html)
(2) A Philadelphia Lawyer Analyzes the Shots, Trajectories, and Wounds (gopher://freenet.akron.oh.us/h0/SIGS/JFK/FP/fp.back_issues/.30th_Issue/vs_stw.html)
(3) A Philadelphia Lawyer Analyzes The President's Back and Neck Wounds (gopher://freenet.akron.oh.us/h0/SIGS/JFK/FP/fp.back_issues/.31st_Issue/vs_wounds.html)
(4) The Impossible Tasks of One Assassination Bullet (gopher://freenet.akron.oh.us/h0/SIGS/JFK/FP/fp.back_issues/.32nd_Issue/vs_impossible.html)
(5) The Separate Connally Shot (gopher://freenet.akron.oh.us/h0/SIGS/JFK/FP/fp.back_issues/.33rd_Issue/vs_sep_connally.html)
(6) The JFK Assassination: A False Mystery Concerning State Crimes (http://shell.rmi.net/~jkelin/vs_text.html)
In closing, we should note that Kelin and others take Salandria's views very seriously. They avoid dealing with a few harsh realities, however, which I will consider elsewhere: (1) Salandria's views are ideas rather than solid proof, and often involve weak reasoning (he presented them as hypotheses, but they are now considered something stronger); and (2) some of them are extreme—the killing represented a coup d'état, the CIA and the military were both involved, the Warren Report was designed to reveal a conspiracy by being constructed so clumsily, for example.