Harry D. Holmes
U.S. Postal Inspector
“In the case of Oswald, I don’t think that he would have ever confessed; he was that adamant. He was so direct. He’d look you right in the eye and ask you a question. He had an uncanny ability to determine or guess when I had evidence or when I was fishing… In fact, I thought in my own head that probably in Russia he had been trained to evade questions and be able to keep himself composed to guard what he wanted to keep secret…”
Born in Indian Territory in 1905, after having moved to Kansas City in 1917, Harry Holmes worked his way through his early school years in a toy factory, a bakery, and as a lamplighter. After taking an examination, he eventually became a mail handler and attended school part-time to become a CPA and later attended dental college. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Holmes, who was still working with the post office, was encouraged to take the postal inspector’s examination. Upon acceptance, he was stationed first in Lake Charles, Louisiana, then to Monroe, Louisiana, and eventually to Dallas in 1948. Because of his position with the post office., Holmes was responsible for much of the investigative work in tracking down the money order used to purchase the rifle which was allegedly used in the assassination. He was also a central figure in the last interrogation of Oswald shortly before he was murdered in the basement of the Dallas City Hall.
There were about five or six inspectors in town that day. My office
windows in the Terminal Office Building at the corner of Main and Houston
streets faced Dealey Plaza. That morning I saw them put up barricades and saw
the police getting lined up along the curbs, as well as other preparations for
the motorcade. I noticed the windows across the plaza at the School Book
Depository, which was maybe the length of a football field away, and remarked to
one of the four secretaries, “Well, look at all those open windows. Wouldn’t
that be a nice place to take a crack at the President?”
When the motorcade came by, I was watching with a pair of 7x50 binoculars when all of a sudden there was a CRACK… CRACK… CRACK!! All of us thought that somebody was throwing firecrackers. We just never dreamed that anybody would be shooting at him.
Anyway, about the first or second crack, I wouldn’t know which, there was just a cone of blood and corruption that went up right in the back of his head and neck. I thought it was red paper on a firecracker. It looked like a firecracker lit up which looks like little bits of red paper as it goes up. But in reality it was his skull and brains and everything else that went up perhaps as much as six or eight feet. Just like that! Then just a minute later another crack, and everybody fell down like they were ducking firecrackers. [Mr. Holmes is suggesting that there was a final shot after the killing head shot—KAR]
If I’d looked up, I’d have been the hero of the century. But I didn’t and thus didn’t see Oswald in the window. I did see the First Lady as she immediately bailed out. They said she cradled him in her lap and all that; well that’s a lot of hooey! She just immediately crawled over the back seat and out over the turtleback. The Secret Service Agent, whom I talked to personally two or three times after that, told me that Jacqueline immediately said, “Oh, my God, they’re going to kill us all!” And over the back she went!
He just grabbed her as the guys up front said, “Hang on! We’re headed for the hospital!” And they took off! He just shoved her and literally threw her back into the seat as he spread-eagled on the turtleback.
As I scanned the plaza, everybody was frantic and frenzied, falling down on top of their wives and little kids to protect them. It was just as many of them have stated. I realized when they took off that he’d been shot, especially as we were listening to the same events on the radio.
I kept the binoculars around to see if anybody left the area, especially the parking area and the railroad tracks where a guy would likely try to escape. I remember also a big chain link fence in back of the School Book Depository. I also noticed a lot of people lined up on the Triple Underpass, but I never saw anybody in a hurry to get away as if they were trying to escape, and I watched the area with those high powered binoculars the whole time.
There was just a bunch of scared people there milling around and looking for debris. One of my secretaries was one of them. She was standing just 15–20 feet from where he was shot. After the cars left, then there was just a mob milling around aimlessly, not headed in any particular direction. It wasn’t but two, three, or four minutes before police and detectives were running out there. In fact, the sheriff’s office was right there, and at least 200 deputy sheriffs and police officers were looking out their windows.
I had an open line to Washington during that whole time. The chief inspector asked me that evening how many shots had been fired. I told him, “You know, I couldn’t tell you to save my life.” Upon reflection, though, I’d say it was three or four. Anything else I might say would be just from reading.
It was hard to tell because the echo would reverberate between those four buildings: the Texas School Book Depository, the courthouse, the sheriff’s office, and my building. You just couldn’t tell where anything was coming from. It could have been somebody from the jail there at the sheriff’s office.
Right after the assassination I called the boss in Fort Worth, who already had the chief on the phone line in Washington because everything was chaos. He told me, “Well, you’re in charge of the investigation over there for whatever they need in the way of postal inspectors’ help or cooperation. The entire manpower that we have over there is at your disposal and we’ll send more if you need them.”
All the federal agencies would band together though they didn’t know what to do. Actually, for a while, they thought the shots came from my building, the Terminal Annex. So immediately we interviewed everybody on the floors on that side of the building to see what they knew or had seen because there was a possibility that it came from the post office. Of course, that was cleared up in a hurry.
I had the radio on all the time but there wasn’t much that I could do. I had called Captain Fritz and told him, “If there is anything I can do, why, I’m available and I’ve got plenty of men available.”
He said, “No, the FBI’s working on it and the Secret Service has charge of it, but I’ll remember, Harry.” I had worked closely with Fritz; he thought that I was a good inspector, and I knew that he was a good investigator. He was one of the best that we ever had here. He was kind of an unsophisticated country-type who had different ways, but nothing got by him.
Apparently, as I later learned, after Oswald had left the Book Depository he got on a bus and the bus had gotten stalled. He then went over and caught a cab and went to his room over in Oak Cliff. Later the radio blared that a policeman had been killed off of Jefferson Avenue. A shoe salesman, who was probably the owner of the shop on Jefferson which was four or five doors down from the Texas Theater, was listening to that broadcast when he saw a man standing out in front of his door. The broadcast mentioned that the policeman had been shot by a fellow that answered the description of a missing employee at the Book Depository, and the man in front of his door looked like the same guy. The shoe salesman then stepped out of his store and watched the man as he ran up the street and ducked into the theater. He said, “I went up to the ticket window and asked the lady, ‘Did that fellow buy a ticket?’” And he told her, “Well, he looked to me like this fellow that shot the policeman down the street.”
I don’t think that she even knew about that. Anyway, all of a sudden the police were all over the place. They came in the back, front, and side doors, turned the theater lights on, and there he was sitting there. As one of the policemen started going down the aisle toward him, the suspect jerked out a gun and leveled it at him. As the policeman lunged, Oswald pulled the trigger and the hammer came down on the webbing of his thumb. That’s the reason the policeman wasn’t killed. That was the first time I heard of Oswald.
Everybody in the post office had a little radio going, and about an hour after they had taken him into custody, one of the window clerks came up to my office on the fifth floor and said, “Mr. Holmes, you know this Lee Harvey Oswald has a post office box right here in the Terminal Annex?”
I said, “Oh, is that so?”
He said, “Yeah, we ran into him about a month or so ago.” So I got the number and immediately put a postal inspector standing unobtrusively around the lobby watching that box twenty-four hours a day. They didn’t leave that until Oswald was dead. That was really the first official act I took.
Nobody at that time knew what was going on. The whole country thought that this was just the thing to tee-off anarchy throughout the United States. There were all kinds of rumors. The only safeguard I could think of at the time was to put a watch on the box. If somebody came to get mail out of it, I needed to know who it was.
If somebody did open the box, he would have been apprehended, interrogated, taken to the office, identified, and his background checked and turned over to probably the Secret Service or the FBI. They would have done what they wanted with him because he would have had something to do with Oswald. But nobody ever took a piece of mail out of that box until Oswald was dead, and then his wife and her attorney took charge of the mail. Actually all the mail came up to my office, and she would come in with the attorney and pick up this mail.
All kinds of crank letters came in, not necessarily addressed to her, but just to Dallas—vile letters and hate mail. I turned those pertaining to her over to her and her attorney and she signed for them. She also received packages. The Secret Service flew down a contraption nearly the size of a coffin in which they would put a package in the top drawer or something there and X-ray it or fluoroscope it. It’s a lot more sophisticated now, but at that time I’d just stack the packages in that room with the contraption and they’d check them and give them to her. All of them were just ordinary packages postmarked from the United States and they would range in size from a shoe box to smaller sizes; there weren’t any big packages. A package the size of a pair of boots might be the largest we received. Each time she came in she had her attorney with her since the couldn’t spark hardly any English at that time.
In fact, postal employees forwarded all the mail to my office that had anything to do with the assassination no matter how it was addressed. One particular letter was addressed to “Marguerite Oswald, Mother of Killer!” Included in the letter was a picture of Oswald on the front of Time magazine. It said, “Momma, why didn’t you raise me like you should have? I’m in Hell forever because of you,” then it got into obscenities after that.
Somebody had gotten really busy stuffing mail boxes around various parts of town prior to the assassination. Hate circulars such as “John F. Kennedy: Wanted For Treason” and “Wanted For Impeachment: Earl Warren, Chief Justice” were printed up and distributed. They were turned in to me and lent credence to the idea of conspiracy.
Another piece of mail was sent to the employees of the Dallas, Texas Post Office. It was brought up to me and was a bunch of Bible quoting gibberish about Oswald. There were also references to Senator Goldwater. But it was all just hate mail which somehow ended up in my files. Some of the stuff wasn’t addressed to anybody in particular.
Oswald had a box originally in, I think, Fort Worth, then they went to New Orleans where he opened another. When he left there, he went to the Mexican Consulate in Mexico City, but they wouldn’t grant him a visa, so he ended up coming back to Dallas. During that time, the easiest way to keep up with the mail, as in Oswald’s case, was to have your mail with a forwarding notice from one box to another. She had to go from Fort Worth to New Orleans to the Dallas main office, then down to the Terminal Annex. I guess that there were four different post office boxes that he had.
When we opened his box at the Terminal Annex, I would take the mail to my office. It was a small box which I would say contained not more than half a dozen pieces of mail including a Russian magazine he subscribed to and some letters from Russia. But I do remember the Russian magazine which he received once a week for a while after that. Also found in his box were two softback books: N.S. Khrushchev: To Avert A War and Socialism and Communism, both being so-called review copes which were apparently circulated from Wacker Drive in Chicago.
Shortly after the assassination the FBI assigned a man to sit in my office to, I assume, second guess me. You just don’t know what the FBI is up to. I never was an admirer of the FBI, not that there was any jealousy between us, but I always felt like they didn’t rank. For example, in the case of postal inspector, when I would pick up a suspect I could take him to a state or federal court, or I could turn him loose; I might even just sit on my bottom. But the FBI couldn’t do anything but report it to headquarters and they would tell them what to do. Individually they didn’t know themselves what they’re up to; they had to ask somebody higher up. They had no independent opinion or judgment about anything. We did and would carry it to the bitter end. But in this case, I knew the guy assigned to my office, had worked with him around Dallas for a long time, and were good friends, so I didn’t try to hold anything back from him.
The next morning, on Saturday, when I came in, the inspector who was on duty in the lobby watching the boxes told me, “You’ve got an inspector up there sitting in your office.”
I said, “Well, I guess it’s so and so”; I’ve since forgotten his name.
When I arrived in the office, he said, “Harry, if you wanted to find an original postal money order, where would you go to get it?”
I said, :Well, Washington if you knew that number it was and could identify it.”
He said, “You mean it’s not in Kansas City?”
“No,” I replied, “it used to be. It was out on Hardesty Street in Kansas City until about two months ago. I don’t know exactly why but they transferred the money order center back to Washington. Why, is there something I can help you with?”
“Well, maybe,” he said. “You know, we got the owner of Klein’s Sporting Goods out of bed about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and took him down.” Somehow they had run this gun number to Italy, and this particular gun had been shipped to Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago. He also said, “We’ve got another man out in California to find out where this California scope was that was on the rifle. But he says he checked his records there and they show that a money order was sent in payment, but it didn’t say postal money order or bank money order; it just said a money order sent in payment. Well, he ran all that down. Meanwhile we got in touch with a bunch of agents in Kansas City who didn’t know the money order wasn’t still there. So, we hit a dead end.”
I told him, “Well, of course, it’s not there.”
So he said, “Well, if it were issued, it had to have been issued if it was a postal money order here in Dallas.” So I immediately put a crew to work on it.
In those days, postal money orders were issued in a book of paper money orders which, when you bought a money order, the clerk put the amount and the date, then you had a template that you put on that tore off at $10, not more than $15, or whatever. The clerk then ripped that off and handed it to the customer while the stub was retained which matched the money. All this was to be filled out in your own handwriting.
So I said, “Well, how much was it?” They didn’t have a number for the money order, but they had an amount. They had me looking for a money order issued in the amount of $18.95 which we couldn’t turn up. I had all the manpower and I wanted to examine all these stubs. I said, “Where did you get your information?”
“Out of a sporting goods magazine,” they told me.
So I gave one of my secretaries a $10 bill and sent her next door to Union Station which had one of those rotating things they used to have in railroad stations with postcards and magazines. I told her, “You buy every sporting magazine you can find over there and bring them back.” So she brought about six of them back, something like that, and I assigned each one of them to whoever was around, inspectors and secretaries, and took one myself. “Now you thumb through those,” I said, “and when you come to Klein’s Sporting Goods, let’s see what it looks like.”
It wasn’t but a couple of minutes that one of the girls hollered, “Here it is!” So I looked at it and down at the bottom of the ad it said that that particular rifle was such and such amount. But if it could not be carried on a person, such as a pistol, like a shotgun or a rifle, then it was $1.25 or $1.37 extra. Shipping charges were also added, so I added those together, took that figure and called around to all the different stations and the main office where these crews were checking stubs.
It wasn’t ten minutes that they hollered, “Eureka!” They had the stub!
I called it in immediately to the chief on the open line to Washington and said, “I’ve got the money order number that Oswald used to buy this gun, and according to the records up there, they had shipped it to this box that he had rented at the main office in Dallas at that time, which he later closed and opened another at the Terminal Annex because it was closer to the School Book Depository.”
So he said, “Well, we’ll run that right through the correlators or whatever they do up there.” In about an hour, he called back and said, “We’ve got it! Both the FBI and the Secret Service labs have positively identified the handwriting as being that of Oswald.”
I had previously furnished headquarters, because everybody wanted them, copies of box rental applications that he had to fill out in his own handwriting. Those I had sent up on Friday night after I had gotten that information, so that they had enough there on file. I figured that that was one of the very few pieces of actual evidence, not just circumstantial, that they would have been ready to go on the stand with and swear, and their testimony was just as authentic and viable as fingerprints or handwriting in federal court. Both agencies were ready to testify that that was his handwriting, that he ordered that gun in his own handwriting, and that it came to his post office box in Dallas. That’s good evidence!
That Sunday morning, the 24th, I let my wife and daughter out at church about 9:00 o’clock in the morning and told my wife, “You know, I just think I’ll run down and see if I can help Captain Fritz with anything or if I can be of any use to him.” So I drove on down to City Hall and got off the elevator on the third floor expecting to be mobbed, but there wasn’t a soul in sight; whereas, before, there had been plenty of reporters with their microphones stuck in your face. Everywhere you went they would follow and ask questions. But there wasn’t a soul that Sunday morning. What had happened was that Curry, the chief of police, had promised the press that after they interviewed Oswald they were going to transfer him to the county jail, near the assassination site, which was a safer place for federal prisoners. Curry told them, “We will tell you in plenty of time so that you can photograph it and do whatever you want when we get ready to move him so that you can be part of the move.” That’s the reason there was so much chaos in that basement. They really got publicity but they brought it on themselves. They just had to be in on everything.
Anyway, when I got off that elevator and came around the corner and looked down the hallway toward Fritz’s office, he was standing there motioning to me saying, “Psst! Hurry! Come here, come here!” So I hurried and he said, “You like to be in on an interview with Oswald?”
“Yeah, I sure would,” I said. “There’s a lot of things I’d like to ask him.”
“Well, just come on in. I’m waiting here now for them to bring him down from his holdover upstairs.” So we went in and sat down at this desk joining Sorrels, the local Secret Service man in charge, a Secret Service officer by the name of Kelley, who was an inspector from Washington working with Sorrels, Fritz, and me. We were the only four that took part in the interrogation. About that time Fritz said, “They’re bringing Oswald down from upstairs; we’re going to interrogate him for a while, then we’re going to move him up to the county jail. I wanted to move him up there about 4:00 this morning when the streets would be deserted and nobody knew what was going on. But, no, the press wouldn’t have it, and the chief wouldn’t go along with it because the press was demanding that they be in on it and all that, see.”
About that time a couple of guards came in with Oswald, who was handcuffed, and sat him down in a chair with the rest of us. I was sitting next to Fritz; Oswald was seated to the left of Fritz and directly across from me. The two guards stood beside him all the time he was there, but they never opened their mouths and didn’t enter into the interrogation.
Anyway, when they first came in with Oswald, he looked around and said, “Are there any FBI men in here?”
Fritz said, “No FBI men.”
“Well, who is that man?” as Oswald pointed to me. Fritz told him that I was a postal inspector and that I might have a question to ask in regard to post office matters. Oswald didn’t have a problem with that and responded, “Okay.” The FBI had interrogated his wife two or three times, and it really needled him and just set him off to the point that he had no use for the FBI. It was the FBI that wouldn’t tell the Secret Service or anybody else that he should have been watched, and they really were criticized over it. But anyway, Oswald wouldn’t talk until he was assured that there wasn’t an FBI man in the room. He just didn’t want anything to do with the FBI.
This was the only time that I ever saw Oswald. To me he looked just like a normal person. You read stories about how you can look in their eyes and see this or that, but I didn’t see anything different about him. Personally, I thought that he was very intelligent. He was very positive and opinionated about what he said and never minced words. His answers were either yes or no, and he had an excellent memory. He answered all the questions put to him either truthfully or otherwise, but I knew that he was lying on certain questions because of the evidence that we had.
When he came into the room, he was just matter of fact; he didn’t know why he was there. He said, “I presume I’m here because I resisted arrest and tried to shoot a policeman there in that theater. All I know is that I was in a picture show out there on Jefferson and the police came in after me. I had my pistol on me and took it out to defend myself when it didn’t fire. I wasn’t successful because the hammer caught on the web of the guy’s hand. If it had fired, he’d be another dead policeman. I didn’t kill anybody!” He wouldn’t even admit to killing Tippit, and he certainly denied any connection with the President. He didn’t have any reason for it.
As the questioning gradually led up to Kennedy, he just acted like he couldn’t imagine anybody thinking he might have shot Kennedy. He never worried about going to jail or being put to death. He just denied that he ever shot the President and acted like it never entered his head that it was possible that you could charge him with shooting the President. He kept that front all the way through and never wavered from it. I asked him, “Did you have a post office box in New Orleans?”
“What number?” I asked. And he just ran off the number. I’d look at my card and he’d be right. “Have one in Fort Worth?” And he knew the number. “One up here?”
“Yeah, box so and so,” which is where he received his gun.
I asked, “Well, did you ever get a package in that box?”
“Well, what kind of package?” he asked.
“Did you ever get a rifle shipped down here from Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago?”
“No, no, I didn’t get any rifle,” he responded.
“Well,” I said, “one came here addressed to A.J. Hidell in this box and it was delivered.”
“Well, I didn‘t get it.”
“Did anybody else have access to that box?” I asked.
I said, “Well, the box you had here you had the Fair Play for Cuba people entitled to get mail from it along with the American Civil Liberties Union.”
He had already told me no, but then when he got that far down, he knew he had to hedge, so he said, “I just stuck them on. I never did get any mail from them. I tried to get involved with each of them…” That’s another thing: He just did not impress anybody enough to have confidence in him to be a member of their outfit. They didn’t trust him, I guess.
Finally he admitted, “Well, my wife. She didn’t have a key, but occasionally I’d give her the key to check my box for me. That’s before I had it moved to the Terminal Annex. She’s the only one that ever got one out of there.” Of course, she didn’t get the rifle, he did. He admitted that nobody else could have gotten mail out of there because there was only one key issued. The same was true at the annex. There was only one key issued, and he had it in his pocket when he was arrested. So there was no evidence that he did receive that rifle. Now I don’t think that he shot it before that, but he kept it wrapped in a blanket over at Ruth Paine’s garage and everybody knew it. He would never admit to having owned the rifle even though I knew that he was lying, at least circumstantially. He just disabused his mind of any connection with it.
When the police went to her house looking for it, they were told, “Yeah, he had a rifle. It’s out here in the garage rolled up in a blanket.” At that time, you couldn’t hardly talk with Marina Oswald because of her Russian language and was sort of like an Indian. She didn’t express herself in her face and was rather stoic. She came into our office ten or fifteen times, but she communicated through her attorney. I didn’t ask her any questions of a personal nature.
At that time, the evidence was being gathered but he didn’t have to confess. They’re turning them off of murderer’s row because all they had was a confession. If a guy says, “I did it,” that doesn’t mean anything because they won’t take it. But in the case of Oswald, I don’t think that he would have ever confessed; he was that adamant. He was so direct. He’d look you right in the eye and ask you a question. He had an uncanny ability to determine or guess when I had evidence or when I was fishing. You would keep coming back to something such as the rifle and he’d give you the same answer. It was just like he had been trained. In fact, I kind of thought in my own head that probably in Russia he had been trained to evade questions and be able to keep himself composed to guard what he wanted to keep secret. Either that or maybe it was just his nature. He was very mannerly and only became rattled when Captain Fritz asked him about this Hidell. I was talking about the rifle coming in the name Hidell at the post office and Oswald said, “Well, I don’t know anything about any of it.”
“Ever use the name Hidell?” I asked.
“No,” he said. In reality he had used it in New Orleans and in two or three other places, but he just plain denied it.
Captain Fritz then interjected, “Well, what about this card that was taken out of your billfold when we picked you up?” (I don’t recall whether it was a Social Security card or some other kind of identification, but it looked like it was old and pocket worn, had been erased, and had the name Hidell on it or something to that effect.)
He looked at it and that’s when he became testy and responded, “Now I have told you all I’m going to tell you about that card. Now just forget about it!” He would not admit that the name meant anything to him, that he had never seen it before. That was the only time that he ever got a little sassy.
None of this bothered Fritz; it was like water off a duck’s back. He was too old a hand at that, so he’d just go on to something else, though he might come back to it later. There wasn’t any use of his asking about it because he was just plain lying about it without any compunction and without batting an eye. But he answered all the questions put to him one way or the other while his hands were handcuffed in his lap.
During the interrogation, he was asked if he were a communist, to which he replied, “No, I’m not a communist; I’m a Marxist.”
“Well,” Fritz said, “what’s the difference?”
“If you don’t know the difference,” Oswald replied, “then I don’t have the time to explain it to you.” He tried to put you down.
That’s when I asked him, “Well, Oswald, do you have a religion, a belief?”
“Yeah, I certainly do,” he said.
“Well, what is it?”
He then blurted out, “Marxism. I’m a worshipper of Karl Marx. I believe everything he stands for and what he says. It’s a religion.” “Now,” he said, “the Bible makes good reading as a novel or as literature, but as far as philosophy it’s for the birds,” or words to that effect. He was just that definite.
Nothing in particular was going through my mind at that time. You’ve got to be objective when you’re interrogating someone in a situation like that so you don’t form opinions. Instead, you just try to elicit opinions from him to see what he thinks about certain things, then you can think about them later and make up your own mind. Most of the time during the interrogation I was just trying to get his answers, but I don’t believe that I had ever dealt with anybody like him before. He wasn’t stupid, and he wasn’t crazy, but he did have a twisted mind.
He made reference to his Marine Corps service only when somebody asked him about why he would want to shoot Connally, and was it because he had written him trying to get his dishonorable discharge corrected. He responded, “No, I wrote to him and he wrote me a real nice letter stating that ‘I’m no longer Secretary of the Navy, and I’m in no position now, but I will forward your letter on to the current Secretary of the Navy.’ I had no reason to disbelieve Connally.”
Oswald had a map of the city of Dallas, or at least a piece of a map, which showed a bunch of X’s in ink on it. He was asked, “Well, now, what are these X’s? What do they represent? Tell us about the map.”
So he said, “Well, over here is where I live on Beckley. So you’ll notice those X’s are on bus lines between there and where my wife stayed with Mrs. Paine over in Irving, and every one of those X’s are on a bus line. I had no transportation so I would check them out, ads in the paper or somebody would tell me about a possible job. Every X is where I interviewed for a job. Check them out and see if I didn’t interview. In fact, here’s an X on the School Book Depository and that’s where I got a job.” I had no reason not to believe him since he was very forthright about it and made sense.
According to Oswald the reason that he went to Ruth Paine’s and stayed over on that Thursday night, which was unusual because he normally would go on Friday night, was that he learned that his wife and Mrs. Paine were having a party for the children and that it would be better if he came on Thursday night. I don’t know who checked that out with Marina or Mrs. Paine or whether it was true or not, but that was his explanation as to why he went over on Thursday night rather than Friday.
Somebody in the room at that point asked him what was in the paper bag that he had the next morning when he rode to work with another employee. “Well, that was my lunch.” That’s what he told us! “Your lunch? Why did you carry a lunch in a big old bag like that?”
“Well,” he said, “you don’t always get a bag that just fits your lunch; you take what you can get.” He was that quick, no mincing around, no trying to make up something.
He was then asked, “Well, where did you carry it?”
“I carried it in my lap,” he said, “just like I always carry my lunch,” and the driver said, ‘Throw it over in the back seat.’” That’s what he said about it!
According to the man who drove him to work the next day he had a rather long brown paper wrapper which might have been a bag. The driver asked him, “What’s that?” as Oswald threw it over the back seat.
Oswald told him, “That’s some curtain rods.” I’ve noticed in some of the literature that it was for his room, but he told Captain Fritz previously that it was curtain rods which he was bringing because he didn’t need them. As they were getting out of the car, he supposedly said that the curtain rods were for a fellow at work.
There was no tape recording of the interrogation or stenographer or anyone taking notes. That was the way that Fritz operated. The interrogation itself was rather informal with Captain Fritz being in charge. He would ask Oswald various questions and pull out different things such as the map with the X’s on it and the card that had been taken out of Oswald’s billfold that had A.J. Hidell on it and things like that. Then he would say, “Well, Sorrels, do you have anything you want to ask him?” But Kelley and Sorrels had very little to ask; they didn’t have the documentation that I had. We were free to ask or interject anything we wanted. Of course, we were all experienced interrogators, and when you went to trial in those days, especially in federal court, you had to show any notes you took to the defense. So they got to look at every note that you had against their client. But we old-time investigators would just do it by memory. I could still quote nearly every word that boy said to this day and that’s been over twenty years ago. That’s the way I was trained to interrogate anybody, and so was Fritz. If they’re telling the truth, you’d talk to them by the hour, and if they couldn’t tell it the same way twice or a third time, or a tenth time, you’d catch them because you’d know exactly what he had said the first time. You didn’t need notes; you didn’t need a secretary or a stenographer. Of course, you do now, but back then you really had to use your own wits to convict people.
At the time, I spent half the time in federal court, and especially through usage, I always had a good memory. You had to have to get through medical and dental school and work eight hours a days as I did. I would take post office schemes that took an ordinary person 30 to 60 days to learn; I’d learn it in five or six and make a 100 on the test which included 1,000 or 1,200 different addresses. Much of my work dealt with memory, and memory is just training: repetition, do it and practice.
Eventually I got to where I could go into federal court maybe six months after I’d interviewed somebody without a note of any kind and quote every detail of that conversation or confession of what took place or who did what. It was just training. You practiced at it and developed a memory.
With traveling all the time and staying in motels all over the country, whenever I’d go to bed at night, before going to sleep, I’d say,. “Well, let’s see, I got up this morning and got out on the left side of the bed, put on my left sock first, then my right, then I went to the bathroom, came back, put on my trousers, then went back and shaved.” I could tell you exactly what I ate for breakfast, what the girl looked like that waited on me. “When I got in my car, I went off to my right and the light was red and had to wait a minute.” I could tell you what every light was all day long everywhere, every little detail. By keeping in practice by just reviewing what I did that day, it was just like I had written it all out, and I’ve done that for years.
Though I never tested him, Captain Fritz could have done the same thing. He was a Texan who was crude and had farmerish ways and mannerisms, but as far as I was concerned he was really an outstanding criminal investigator. Fritz abhorred publicity, wanted to get the job done, send the guy to the penitentiary and go on to the next one. He was the pride of the Dallas Police Department; no one need ever sell him short, no matter what the press did. I don’t think this case got the best of him. He was just like me; he just got too old for the job and thought it was time to quit. As far as I know, there was no pressure on him, though there was a lot of criticism, “the stupid Dallas police,” and that sort of thing. Curry, on the other hand, being chief of police, owed his job to public relations. As far as I know, that was the only cross between the two.
Bill Decker was just like Fritz. Nobody questioned anything he did, not even the criminals. When “Old Bill” picked you up, they just said, “Well, you got me, Bill.” He treated them as nicely as he could, and so did I. I’d be very fatherly with them and give them advice and not gloat over the fact that they were a crook and that I was a really smart postal investigator. It just didn’t work that way; Bill Decker and Will Fritz were the same way.
In any case, we talked for a couple of hours with the interrogation ending around 11:00 o’clock. In the meantime, people were pounding on the door. Captain Fritz and some of his lieutenants wanted to get him out so that the press could see him and transfer him to the county courthouse which was a federal hold-over and more secure where all the federal prisoners were transferred as quickly as possible. By that time, I assume that he had been determined to be under federal arrest.
Fritz had been adamant about transferring Oswald about 3:00 or 4:00 o’clock in the morning in the quiet streets and nobody would know anything about it. But Curry had promised the hundreds of TV people and reporters from all over the United States and foreign countries that they would be privy to the transfer. They had apparently promised, “We’ll leave you alone up there if you’ll let us be in on the transfer of the prisoner.” That’s the reason they were not up in the hall that morning.
As the morning wore on, some of those outside the office were getting impatient. They’d crack the door open and look in, but it didn’t bother Fritz. “Just take your time, chief, take your time,” he said. You never know whose idea something like that transfer was. Curry, being the chief of police, was quite a P.R. guy which was why he got the job. As a result, being P.R. oriented, you get involved in politics and, of course, there a lot of really influential people wanting to be privy to the transfer such as the heads of ABC, NBC, CBS, and other powerful people.
Finally, Curry came in and talked with Fritz. However they were whispering to each other, and I could not tell what they were saying. It was during that interchange that they determined to go ahead and let him go. I didn’t accompany Oswald to the basement. Instead, Sorrels and I walked out of the office to our cars, mine being on the street.
Shortly after, we learned that, ironically, Jack Ruby had a postal box in the same panel of boxes as Oswald. Immediately, I placed a watch on that box along with the box of Oswald’s which was already under surveillance. In fact, another postal inspector and myself took the first watch but nobody got a piece of mail out of either box during the time they were watched. We started confiscating mail from them immediately after we were instructed but found nothing of a personal nature.
The question as to whether Oswald had ever received the rifle at his postal box was on our minds and has later become an issue. An application for a post office box in 1963 consisted of two cardboard forms that were attached and then were separated in the files. The first line on the front showed the post office, the date the box was rented, and the number of the post office box. The next line showed the name of the applicant; for example, in one of the forms I was allowed to retain, Jack Ruby. The next line was the name of the firm or corporation, to which Ruby put Earl Products. The next line referred to the kind of business, to which he put merchandising. The next line was his business address which was 223 South Ewing followed on the next line by his home address which was also 223 South Ewing. The last line at the bottom of the card contained his signature and the date of the application.
On the other side of the card was information that was kept in a different section of the post office, the delivery section. The first line showed the post office box then it said, “Deliver mail in accordance with instructions checked below,” and it had various little boxes. He checked all except special delivery mail in the box. Then, over to the right, he checked another box: “Only mail addressed to the box to be placed in it. All other mail to be delivered as addressed,” in other words, to his home address. And down below it says, “Deliver special delivery mail to 223 South Ewing” and is signed below that, “Jack Ruby.”
Oswald would have filled out the same type forms since they were of the same format. It would have been possible, nothing’s impossible, for someone to go to their post office box, find a slip that said there was a package for them and to receive that package without having the designated person receive that package, but it wouldn’t be routine. You’d have to identify yourself to the window where you would have to take the slip, but it would depend on how strict the clerk was that waited on him. Normally they would require some identification. Nine times out of ten if the clerk knows them they don’t question them, but if they didn’t then they would.
The slips were kind of like the ones you receive at your door if you’re not at home: “We’re holding a package at such and such station and we’ll hold it for so many days, and then we’ll return it to sender. You can call there and pick up the package.” Usually the slip itself is evidence enough, but again, some clerks will require identification to determine whether you are really the person it says or not. It’s really up to the individual clerk.
Actually there was no evidence that Oswald was the one that picked up the package which contained the rifle. But we did have his authenticated handwriting that he ordered the rifle from Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago, and it did come to this post office in Dallas. Obviously, a rifle wouldn’t fit in the box, so they would have to leave notice and nobody knows whether he took that notice over to the window and picked it up or whether his wife did because he admitted in the interrogation that the only person that ever got anything out of that box was possibly his wife, and he wasn’t sure that she had. He just said possibly, but nobody else. So, in my mind, it’s quite evident that he took the slip over and picked the rifle up at the window that was so designated for delivery of parcels.
I never interrogated his wife, but she knew all about the rifle. But, at no time, did she say anything about how he acquired the rifle or from where. She wasn’t trying to hide anything. She was very open abut all of her testimony and she would have said, “I know he got it because I picked it up at the post office.” But she didn’t say that.”
Despite all that’s been written, I think the Warren Commission was very factual with what they got. Being an investigator for many, many, many years, my personal opinion is that that was not any conspiracy. I say that for many reasons including the fact that he was just not high enough on the totem pole of being a spy or a double agent or anything like that. He just didn’t have the knack for it, I guess, because nobody had any confidence in him. He couldn’t even infiltrate himself into the American Civil Liberties Union or the Cuban outfit. They wouldn’t accept him. And Russia: It didn’t take them long to find out that they’d just as soon have him back in the United Stated because it was unusual as to how he got back and even brought his wife with him. Of course, there’s no way of telling what they did with him while they had him, but most of the time he apparently was hunting a job and trying to get work over there.
And then, too, there was no skullduggery in setting him up at the School Book Depository because the people that recommended it had no interest whatsoever; they were just neighbors of Mrs. Paine that had heard about the job. In fact, I think one of them worked there. He went to work a month before they even announced that the President was coming to Dallas. Further, the President’s line of travel from Love Field to the place where he was to make his luncheon speech was in an entirely different part of the city than the School Book Depository. That was not changed to pass in front of that building until, I guess, two days before, long after he had been working there. My belief is that that’s the first thought he ever had of making something out of it. I think that his mind started working and that it was a case of his finally being something, whether famous or infamous: here was his chance. And he would live on in infamy for having done this deed which was good enough for him because he had been a flop at everything else. In the meantime, there was no contact with him from anybody else, nobody. No agency or individual ever thought that anybody was trying to get in touch with him which would consummate a conspiracy.
In 1964 Harry Holmes was called to testify before the Warren Commission and presented most of the postal documents relevant to Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby which were used by the commission in the investigation of the assassination. Holmes retired as a postal inspector on January 1, 1967. After living for several years with his daughter and family in Garland, Texas, he passed away in October 1989.
Back to The Deed