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S. M. Holland: An Important Witness

John Simkin

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In 1938 S. M. (Skinny) Holland began working for the Union Terminal Railroad. Holland, who lived in Irving, Texas, eventually became a supervisor for railroad track and track signals for the company.

On 22nd November, 1963, Holland watched the motorcade of President John F. Kennedy from the overpass in Dealey Plaza. He had a perfect view of the assassination and his testimony should have been of great importance. However, the Warren Commission did not like what he had to say.

Holland was interviewed by Samuel A. Stern for the Warren Commission on 8th April, 1964.

Samuel A. Stern: Now, on Friday, November 22, will you describe what you did concerning the President's visit and where you were.

S. M. Holland: Well, about 11:00 o'clock, a couple of policemen and a plainclothesman, came up on top of the triple underpass and we had some men working up there, and I knew that they was going to have a parade, and I left my office and walked up to the underpass to talk to the policemen. And they asked me during the parade if I would come back up there and identify people that was supposed to be on that overpass. That is, the railroad people.

Samuel A. Stern: Where are your offices, Mr. Holland?

S. M. Holland: At the Union Terminal Station.

Samuel A. Stern: Is that within walking distance of the triple overpass?

S. M. Holland: Yes, it is. About - less than a quarter of a mile a very short distance.

Samuel A. Stern: And these policemen that you spoke to, there were 3 altogether?

S. M. Holland: Two - there were 2 city policemen and 1 man in plainclothes. I didn't talk to him. I talked to the city policemen.

Samuel A. Stern: You don't know what his affiliation was?

S. M. Holland: I know he was a plainclothes detective, or FBI agent or something like that, but I don't know, and I told him I would be back and after lunch I would go up there.

Samuel A. Stern: Approximately what time did you arrive up there?

S. M. Holland: Oh, I arrived up there, I guess, about a quarter until 12, and I would identify each person that came up there that he worked at the Union Terminal and department so-and-so...

Samuel A. Stern: Yes; and did you participate in identifying people as being terminal or railroad employees?

S. M. Holland: When they first started arriving, yes; it was my purpose for going up there.

Samuel A. Stern: So, that it is fair to say that at the time the President's motorcade turned into this area, there was no one on the overpass that you didn't know either as Terminal Co. employees, or railroad employees, or as a policeman?

S. M. Holland: Wouldn't be fair to say that, because there was quite a few came up there right in the last moments.

Samuel A. Stern: There were? Tell us about that.

S. M. Holland: That I couldn't recognize. There wasn't too many people up there, but there were a few that came up there the last few minutes, but the policemen were questioning them and getting their identification, and...

Samuel A. Stern: Is this just about the time of the motorcade?

S. M. Holland: Just about the time, or just prior to it, because there was a few up there that I didn't - that I didn't recognize myself.

Samuel A. Stern: Had they been, as far as you could tell, checked by the police?

S. M. Holland: He was checking them as they came on top of the underpass.

Samuel A. Stern: Did it seem to you that everybody up there had been checked by this policeman for identification?

S. M. Holland: I think everyone was checked by some person.

Samuel A. Stern: Yes. Can you estimate the number of people that were on the overpass immediately as the motorcade came into view?

S. M. Holland: Well, I would estimate that there was between 14 to 18 people.

Samuel A. Stern: Now, where was the motorcade when you first saw it?

S. M. Holland: Turned off the Main Street - in front of the county jail...

Samuel A. Stern: Now, what did you observe from that point on, Mr. Holland?

S. M. Holland: Well, I observed the motorcade when it turned off of Main Street onto Houston Street and back on Elm Street... and the President was waving to the people on this side (indicating)... And about that time he went over like that (indicating), and put his hand up, and she was still looking off, as well as I could tell.

Samuel A. Stern: Now, when you say, "he went like that," you leaned forward and raised your right hand?

S. M. Holland: Pulled forward and hand just stood like that momentarily.

Samuel A. Stern: With his right hand?

S. M. Holland: His right hand; and that was the first report that I heard.

Samuel A. Stern: What did it sound like?

S. M. Holland: Well, it was pretty loud, and naturally, underneath this underpass here it would be a little louder, the concussion from underneath it, it was a pretty loud report, and the car traveled a few yards, and Governor Connally turned in this fashion, like that (indicating) with his hand out, and another report.

Samuel A. Stern: With his right hand out?

S. M. Holland: Turning to his right.

Samuel A. Stern: To his right?

S. M. Holland: And another report rang out and he slumped down in his seat, and about that time Mrs. Kennedy was looking at these girls over here (indicating). The girls standing - now one of them was taking a picture, and the other one was just standing there, and she turned around facing the President and Governor Connally. In other words, she realized what was happening, I guess. Now, I mean, that was apparently that - she turned back around, and by the time she could get turned around he was hit again along in - I'd say along in here (indicating).

Samuel A. Stern: How do you know that? Did you observe that?

S. M. Holland: I observed it. It knocked him completely down on the floor. Over, just slumped completely over. That second...

Samuel A. Stern: Did you hear a third report?

S. M. Holland: I heard a third report and I counted four shots and about the same time all this was happening, and in this group of trees (indicating).

Samuel A. Stern: Now, you are indicating trees on the north side of Elm Street?

S. M. Holland: These trees right along here (indicating).

Samuel A. Stern: Let's mark this Exhibit C and draw a circle around the trees you are referring to.

S. M. Holland: Right in there (indicating). There was a shot, a report, I don't know whether it was a shot. I can't say that. And a puff of smoke came out about 6 or 8 feet above the ground right out from under those trees. And at just about this location from where I was standing you could see that puff of smoke, like someone had thrown a firecracker, or something out, and that is just about the way it sounded. It wasn't as loud as the previous reports or shots.

Samuel A. Stern: What number would that have been in the...

S. M. Holland: Well, that would - they were so close together.

Samuel A. Stern: The second and third or the third and fourth?

S. M. Holland: The third and fourth. The third and the fourth.

Samuel A. Stern: So, that it might have been the third or the fourth?

S. M. Holland: It could have been the third or fourth, but there were definitely four reports.

Samuel A. Stern: You have no doubt about that?

S. M. Holland: I have no doubt about it. I have no doubt about seeing that puff of smoke come out from under those trees either.

This is how the Warren Commission interpreted his evidence.

S. M. Holland, signal supervisor for Union Terminal Company, came to the railroad bridge at about 11.45 a.m. and remained to identify those persons who were railroad employees....

According to S. M. Holland, there were four shots which sounded as though they came from the trees on the north side of Elm Street where he saw a puff of smoke...

No one saw anyone with a rifle. As he ran through the railroad yards to the Depository, Patrolman Foster saw no suspicious activity. The same was true of the other bystanders, many of whom made an effort after the shooting to observe any unusual activity. Holland, for example, immediately after the shots, ran off the underpass to see if there was anyone behind the picket fence on the north side of Elm Street, but he did not see anyone among the parked cars.

Holland continued to stand by his story. This is what he said in an interview in 1967 (The Warren Report: Part 2, CBS Television)

Just about the time that the parade turned on Elm Street, about where that truck is - that bus is now, there was a shot came from up-the upper end of the street. I couldn't say then, at that time, that it came from the Book Depository book

store. But I knew that it came from the other end of the street, and the President slumped over forward like that and tried to raise his hand up. And Governor Connally, sitting in front of him on the right side of the car, tried to turn to his right and he was sitting so close to the door that he couldn't make it that-a-way, and he turned back like that with his arm out to the left. And about that time, the second shot was fired and it knocked him over forward and he slumped to the right, and I guess his wife pulled him over in her lap because he fell over in her lap.

And about that time, there was a third report that wasn't nearly as loud as the two previous reports. It came from that picket fence, and then there was a fourth report. The third and the fourth reports was almost simultaneously. But, the third report wasn't nearly as loud as the two previous reports or the fourth report. And I glanced over underneath that green tree and you see a - a little puff of smoke. It looked like a puff of steam or cigarette smoke. And the smoke was about - oh, eight or ten feet off the ground, and about fifteen feet this side of that tree.

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And about that time, there was a third report that wasn't nearly as loud as the two previous reports. It came from that picket fence, and then there was a fourth report. The third and the fourth reports was almost simultaneously. But, the third report wasn't nearly as loud as the two previous reports or the fourth report.

I got to wondering last night if anyone ever tested firing a Mannlicher Carcano in Dealey Plaza and let people who were there listen to the sound of it.

Would they have been able to say, "Yes, that's the sound I heard that day", or "No, that doesn't sound anything like what I heard on November 22nd?"

Seems like that would have been helpful.

Steve Thomas

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Does anyone know if there was indeed a policeman on the triple overpass checking identification?

The two Dallas Policemen who were on the triple overpass were J.W. Foster and J.C. White. Foster stood on the east side of the north/south running overpass, White on the west.

Right at the end of his WC testimony, Foster was asked:

Mr. BALL - You did permit some railroad employees to remain on the overpass?

Mr. FOSTER - Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL - How did you determine they were railroad employees?

Mr. FOSTER - By identification they had with them. Identification they had and the other men that was with them verifying that they were employees.

That "other man" sounds a lot like Holland.

Steve Thomas

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The two policemen on the overpass also invented a passing freight train during the assassination, this phantom train completely blocking one policeman's view and the hearing of shots.

Mr. BALL. Did you see the President's car come into sight?

Mr. WHITE. No, sir; first time I saw it it has passed, passed under the triple underpass.

Mr. BALL. You were too far away to see it, were you?

Mr. WHITE. There was a freight train traveling. There was a train passing between the location I was standing and the area from which the procession was traveling, and--a big long freight train, and I did not see it.

Mr. BALL. You didn't see the procession?

Mr. WHITE. No, sir. . . .

Mr. BALL. Did you hear any shots?

Mr. WHITE. No, sir.

Mr. BALL. Didn't?

Mr. WHITE. No, sir. . . .

Mr. BALL. Freight train was going through at the time?

Mr. WHITE. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. Making noise?

Mr. WHITE. Yes, sir; noisy train.

J.W. Foster to Larry Sneed (No More Silence, p. 212):

"Just prior to the shots, a three engine locomotive went by, so there wasn’t a lot that you could see or hear from up there even though the locomotive had already passed and just the boxcars were going by at the time the motorcade passed through."


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