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The Four Faces of Harry D Holmes

by Ian Griggs

 

Note: Members of Holmes' family have contacted JFK Lancer to say that their father should be remembered in the context of the times where it was considered a badge of honor to be an FBI informant and feel he did his duty in all areas of his responsibility in relation to the murder of President John F. Kennedy.

Presented at the 1997 November In Dallas Conference.

Introduction

Harry D Holmes was born in Indian Territory, Oklahoma on 2nd July 1905. His father was a goatherd and young Harry's entire education took place in the area in and around Kansas City where he ended up at dental college. However, he went into the United States Postal Service when he was 18 years old and he remained in the USPS until his retirement in 1966. He died in Dallas on 14th October 1989. One of the most difficult things to find in the whole of the assassination investigation - apart from the truth! - is a picture of Dallas Postal Inspector Harry D Holmes. Has anybody here ever seen one? I think it safe to say that almost everyone who has visited my home city of London as a tourist is familiar with one of the major landmarks, Big Ben. This is the name by which the high, four-sided clock tower at the eastern end of the Houses of Parliament is known. Strictly speaking, Big Ben is actually the huge bell in the clock tower. In Britain, a person who is thought to be particularly devious is sometimes said to have as many faces as Big Ben. That expression hardly requires clarification. I think that Dallas Post Office Inspector Harry D Holmes falls easily into that category. Just like the Big Ben clock tower, he had four distinct and separate faces. The Four Faces of Harry D Holmes In strict chronological order, the four faces of Harry D Holmes were as follows:

(1) The FBI Informant

Prior to the assassination, Holmes had already become an FBI informant. One of his functions was to keep the FBI (and, incidentally, the Secret Service) appraised of changes in the allocation of post office boxes in the Dallas area. This obviously brought Lee Harvey Oswald to his attention. Several authors, notably the late Sylvia Meagher and our colleague George Michael Evica, brought this point out in their books. In each case they mentioned that Holmes had been allocated a Dallas Informant Number - T-7. It is a problem that nowhere do we find any document, FBI report or anything else which positively states this as a fact. However, close perusal of Commission Exhibit 1152 does prove the point. That exhibit is an FBI report which deals exclusively with information supplied by "Confidential Informant, Dallas T-7". It contains many precise details which can only have been known to Harry D Holmes in his capacity as a Dallas Postal Inspector. It is thus proved beyond any doubt that FBI Informant T-7 and Harry D Holmes are one and the same. I would urge you all to study that exhibit - CE 1152. In his Warren Commission testimony, Holmes told Assistant Counsel David Belin that he was "feeding change of addresses as bits of information to the FBI and the Secret Service and a sort of a coordinating deal on it" At this stage, Belin immediately silenced him with one of those convenient "discussions off record" and they then went on to something completely different.
 

(2) Eyewitness to the Assassination

Harry D Holmes was one of hundreds who watched the attack on the motorcade in Dealey Plaza. He was possibly unique, however, since he claimed to have watched it through binoculars. This fact emerged in strange fashion. During the recording of Holmes' Warren Commision testimony, David Belin suddenly came up with the rather odd and direct question: "Were you looking with the aid of any optical instrument?" Holmes replied: "I had a pair of 7 1/2 by 50 binoculars". As far as I know, such a question was never put to any other assassination eyewitness.

Holmes also said that he was watching from "my office on the fifth floor of the terminal annex building located at the corner of Houston and Commerce Streets". I now come to an important point and I believe I am the first researcher to come up with the answer to an oft-asked question about the exact location of Holmes' vantage point. Unfortunately, nothing appears to have been published to indicate the exact window from which Holmes witnessed the assassination. I believe, however, that through a lapse in concentration during his testimony, Holmes himself inadvertently provided that information although for some reason it had never been specifically requested. David Belin questioned Holmes closely concerning the exact location of the Terminal Annex building in Dealey Plaza and Holmes answered him plainly and fully. Holmes had already described exactly where the building was when Belin asked: "On what corner is your building?" Holmes, either mishearing or misunderstanding the question replied: "It is on the northeast corner". As we all know, it is not on the northeast corner of the Plaza - it is on the southeast corner. I believe that Holmes' answer mistakenly gave the location of his office within the building. If my interpretation is accurate, then something which has eluded researchers for more than a third of a century has now been resolved. When you are next on the grassy knoll, look across the plaza to the Terminal Annex building. I believe that Holmes' office (and vantage point) was either the small top (fifth) floor window on the extreme left or the first of the large windows just along to its right. Holmes mentioned that "there was several of us looking out of the window" at the motorcade but none of them has been positively identified.

In his testimony, Holmes also produced one of the classic remarks in the whole of this case. When asked by Belin if he had seen anyone run across the railroad track, he replied: "No. I saw nothing suspicious and I am a trained suspicioner".

(3) "Expert Witness"

As we have already heard from George Michael and Larry Hancock, Harry D Holmes was an important figure in the investigation into Oswald's use of post office boxes. Right from the beginning, he was active. In his testimony he said "I never quit. I didn't get to bed for two days" and "I was doing all I could to help other agencies". Indeed, within hours of the assassination, he was mounting his own private investigation. After learning from the FBI that an Italian rifle had been purchased by mail order from Klein's of Chicago on 20th March 1963, Holmes tried unsuccessfully to locate a record of the money order used in the transaction. The following morning, Saturday 23rd., he sent his secretary out to purchase "outdoor-type magazines such as Field and Stream, with the thought that I might locate this gun to identify it, and I did". As we now know, the magazine which Holmes obtained was both a different title and a different date to that allegedly used by Oswald to order his rifle. He actually obtained the November 1963 issue of Field and Stream whereas the so-called Oswald rifle had been ordered from the February 1963 issue of The American Rifleman. Holmes seemed to take control of investigation into the issue of the money order used for the purchase of the rifle. Despite the fact that Oswald was by then in custody, he also arranged continuous surveillance on Oswald's post office box, number 6225, at the Terminal Annex building. During his Warren Commission testimony, he covered all these events, together with details of Oswald's use of post office box 2915 at the U.S. Post Office on the corner of Bryan and North Ervay Streets in Dallas. Ironically, it was in that same building that the testimony of the Dallas-based witnesses was heard.

(4) The Final Interrogation of Lee Harvey Oswald

There are many strange aspects to Harry D Holmes' various parts in this case but perhaps the strangest is his attendance and participation in Oswald's final interview. In his testimony, he referred to it thus: "I presume my next part in connection with this was when I joined the interrogation period of Oswald on Sunday morning of November 24 at about 9:30 a.m." He went on to say that he had driven to church with his wife but that after dropping her there he suddenly decided to return to the police station (City Hall) where he simply walked in and saw Captain Fritz. He claimed that Fritz said:
"We are getting ready to have a last interrogation with Oswald before we transfer him to the county jail. Would you like to join us?"

Holmes replied: "I would."

Now what exactly is that all about? Why did the Chief of Homicide invite a Dallas Postal Inspector to attend such an important session? The other people present were Local Agent in Charge Forrest V. Sorrels and Inspector Thomas J. Kelley, both of the Secret Service, and, dependent on whose testimony you believe, either three or four Homicide Detectives whose job was solely to guard Oswald. The interview took place in Captain Fritz' office, room 317 at City Hall. It seems to have been readily accepted that no record was kept of this interview or of any of the previous Oswald interviews. Indeed, when Captain Fritz was questioned on this by the Warren Commission's Mr Ball, he mentioned that several unsuccesful attempts had been made to obtain a tape recorder. Amazingly, however, some very detailed and comprehensive notes were taken of that final interview - by none other than our friend Harry D Holmes. Now why he took it upon himself to do this is as much a mystery as why he was present in the first place. You will find Holmes' notes of the interview not once, but twice in the 26 Volumes! Firstly, they appear as Commission Exhibit 2064 on pages 488 to 492 of Volume 24. They also appear as Holmes Exhibit No. 4 betweeen pages 177 and 181 of Volume 20. As if that is not enough, Holmes' notes are even reproduced under the title "Report of U.S. Postal Inspector H. D. Holmes" as part of Appendix XI of the Warren Commission Report (pages 633 to 637). Holmes did not just sit there recording notes. He also took an active part in the interview, asking many questions of Oswald - particularly regarding his use of post office boxes. The interrogation seemed to go on for longer than Fritz had anticipated it would - indeed, in his testimony he stated that he had intended closing it at 10:00. As we know, it went on for a further hour.

Holmes later stated in a June 1989 interview with Postal Inspector David McDermott that Chief Curry "was beating on the door". Obviously, had the session ended at 10 o'clock or shortly afterwards, and Oswald's transfer had then been put into motion, we would not have had Mr Ruby waiting in the basement with his little gun.

Conclusion

Needless to say, there is a great deal more to Dallas Postal Inspector Harry D Holmes than I have had time to outline here. It is my intention eventually to publish the full story - or as much of it as I can. I will leave you with one small example of the amount of clout this manhad. How many witnesses who testified before the Warren Commission were officially permitted to keep any of their exhibits? Harry D Holmes was allowed to do just that. He introduced one of those well-known "Wanted for Treason" posters which he stated had been found in one of the postal collection boxes on the morning of the assassination. When Mr Belin stated that he intended to mark it as an exhibit, Holmes said: "I want to save that." It was then agreed that he could keep the original and that the Court Reporter would make copies. Holmes Exhibit No. 5 is, therefore, nothing more than a xerox copy of the original. Thanks I cannot close without expressing my thanks to a number of people who have assisted in many ways with what you have just heard or read. I am particularly grateful to friends and fellow researchers such as Mary Ferrell, Melanie Swift, Malcolm Blunt, Pat Cady, George Michael Evica, Larry Hancock, Connie Kritzberg and many others.
 
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