Max Holland: Asks FBI to examine signal post in JFK case

Historians in the News

23 February 2007

Robert E. Casey, Jr.
Special Agent in Charge
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Dallas Field Office
One Justice Way
Dallas, Texas 75220

Dear Mr. Casey,

I am a journalist and author, currently writing a history of the Warren Commission for the New York publisher Alfred A. Knopf.

In the long process of writing this book, I have written several articles on aspects of President Kennedy’s assassination for various publications. One of these, “The Lie That Linked CIA to the Kennedy Assassination,” a 2001 article published in Studies in Intelligence, won an award from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Most recently, I co-authored an article that has just been posted on-line by the History News Network (HNN), a website maintained by George Mason University in Virginia. I believe this latest essay sheds new light on a very old question, namely, the timing of the shots fired in Dealey Plaza. But aside from settling a merely historical issue, I think the article may have some immediate significance.

The purpose of this letter, then, is to bring to your attention the possibility that important material evidence may still be extant in Dealey Plaza. Specifically, the horizontal mast of a signal post, located on the northwest corner where Elm and Houston Streets intersect, may still contain evidence from a fully-jacketed bullet deflected on 22 November 1963.

The U.S. Secret Service re-staged the assassination in December 1963. As the attached photograph (Warren Commission Exhibit 875) from that recreation illustrates, the automobile standing-in for the president’s limousine necessarily passed under a mast connected to the signal post at the intersection of Elm and Houston Streets. This mast momentarily obscured the line of sight from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository, as the building at 411 Elm Street was then known.

You may or may not recall, but the first shot fired by accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald missed all the occupants in the presidential limousine, as well as the limousine itself. Beginning with the Warren Report in 1964, it was theorized that this errant first shot occurred when the president’s limousine was well down Elm Street, and if deflected, the deviation was likely to have been caused by an oak tree then obscuring Oswald’s line of sight. Neither the Warren Commission, nor any other official inquiries, considered the possibility that the first shot was fired much earlier, and that the deflection might have been caused by the signal post’s mast. Consequently, the mast has never been subjected to a close and expert examination by a metallurgist or anyone skilled in ballistics.

Along with a co-author, Johann Rush, I have developed a theory that strongly leads to the finding that the first shot actually occurred much earlier than either the Warren Commission or other official inquiries concluded. If this is so, then it is quite possible that the mast deflected the first shot from Oswald’s rifle. And it may still be possible for an expert to detect a dent or some kind of malformation on the mast. There also may be metallic residue on the mast from the copper alloy sheathing used on the fully-jacketed bullets fired by Oswald.

The URL for our analysis is: http://hnn.us/articles/35445.html I am also taking the liberty of attaching the complete text of the essay. Only the on-line version, however, has URLs in the footnotes that offer additional and vivid illustrations of the main points in the article.

It is my understanding that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has always declared that its file on the president’s assassination remains open, and that the Bureau will entertain new information as it becomes available. I knew former FBI special agent Robert P. Gemberling fairly well, interviewed and corresponded with him often, and last saw him in person in September 2004. He respected my research and writing about the assassination, and I am all but certain he would have seriously weighed the theory presented in our essay, “11 Seconds in Dallas.”

I trust you will, too.


Max Holland

Attachment: Warren Commission Exhibit 875, Secret Service Survey Report photograph,
5 December 1963

Cc: Richard B. Roper
United States Attorney
Northern District of Texas

Special Agent in Charge
U.S. Secret Service
Dallas Field Office

Craig Watkins
Dallas County District Attorney

Sheriff Lupe Valdez
Dallas County Sheriff’s Office

Chief David Kunkle
Dallas Police Department

Senior Judge Barefoot Sanders
United States District Court
Northern District of Texas

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