Thursday, August 18, 2005
Body Snatchers in the Desert: Pflock Strikes Back
It looks like another of the longtime Roswell researchers has finally weighed in on Nick Redfern's book Body Snatchers in the Desert.
Karl Pflock has just sent an open letter sent to Nick, which Karl copied to a number of people (including Stan Friedman, Jerry Clark, Kevin Randle, Rob Swiatek, Jim Oberg, Bruce Maccabee, Dennis Stacy, John Scheussler, John Rimmer, and, obviously, me). In the letter, Karl gets in his two cents worth - and then some - about Body Snatchers in the Desert.
The parts of the letter that are relevant to the book follow:
"I've read the book, sampled the online chatter about it, and waded through your pre-publication interview with “UFO Review.” The latter (http://www.uforeview.net) puts your book in enlightening and illuminating context and is must reading for anyone who wants to assess your brief seriously. Here are some thoughts on BS IN THE DESERT and my decision about the future of our collaboration on the Aztec project.
Congratulations! You may have pulled off a ufological/ufoological trifecta with a bonus: (1) you offer a semi-new, non-UFO Roswell “explanation” that (2) could allow all but the most hardcore crashed-saucer advocates and even the squishier pro-Mogulists a way to save face (“We were right. There were bodies. There was a nearly intact craft. We were just wrong about their origin.” And “Mogul was one of the secret projects operating in the area at the time, but it looks like it wasn’t the answer to Roswell”) and (3) extends to and allows practically every phony, crook, and crank who helped create or has taken advantage of the Roswell legend to claim varying degrees of legitimacy for their yarns, “research,” and revelations. The bonus: You give America- -or at least the American government, especially the military- -Stinks! characters who infest UFOdom with an answer almost as satisfying as a crashed-saucer cover-up and one far more compatible with their socio-political prejudices than a cover story used to maintain security for Mogul, a legitimately classified, non-nefarious military research and development project. Of course, once all the implications of your thinking sink in, you may well find yourself persona non grata in ufological circles, but this should be more than offset by a rise to big frog status in the conspiratorialist fever swamps.
There are many problems with BS IN THE DESERT, but this one is central: Your sources, well versed in the Roswell mythology, have sold you an alternative, earthly explanation for the features central to Roswell’s mysterious glamour: strange bodies and an unusual, crashed but virtually intact flying machine. Unfortunately for you and them, the “witnesses” responsible for introducing or providing allegedly corroborative testimony about these elements of the saucer-and-bodies version of Roswell have been shown by me and others not to be credible, and several among them, including the key players, are proven liars. None of this depends upon buying into Mogul as the answer to Roswell, and it has been accepted even by many of the most vigorous crashed-saucer advocates, some of whom participated in exposing the phonies. Yet you and your sources seem to be entirely in the dark about it.With the original stories discredited, there is no foundation for what you recount. In sum, Nick, you have been fed a large helping of BS repackaged from the rotten banquet of Roswell BS and smothered in a tasty new conspiracy sauce, and you have uncritically swallowed and regurgitated it.
But you say there is testimony and documentation backing up what you were told. What sort of stuff is this and from whom does it come? First, of course, there are the tales of the discredited Roswell witnesses. Then we have official documents that provide absolutely no support for your version of Roswell, to most if not all of which you were guided by your sources. Adding further bogus substance (and, not incidentally, enough extra words to make a book), there’s interesting but not new historical material about Japanese “medical” atrocities, biological warfare experiments and plans, and Fugo balloon operations and schemes; reprehensible- -in many cases even by the standards of the time- -American medical research practices; and of course the obligatory captured exotic German experimental aircraft. Rounding things out, you turn to Don “Lyin’ King” Schmitt and Tom “I Want DESPERATELY! to Believe” Carey and their cast of New Witnesses of the Month; Tim “The Human Doctored Documents Factory” Cooper; Ray “Show Me the Money” Santilli, his laughable film, and his nonexistent cameraman; Phil “I’m NOT Just Another Obscure Retired O-5” Corso; David “Through the Looking Glass” Rudiak; Bill “Double Agent” Moore and his sidekicks, defrocked Air Force OSI agent Richard Doty and erstwhile TV documentary producer Jamie Shandera (“Who us, fake the MJ-12 and other documents?”); and so, on and on, up to and including our old friend master conman Silas Newton and even by sly implication Yours Truly.
Here in no particular order are some further comments on just a few of the issues of varying degrees of importance that raised red flags about the credibility of your work and your capacity for critical judgment as I read your book and interview:All of your tiny handful of sources- -four, count ‘em, four- -except the highly questionable Brit know and are in touch with each other, a critically important piece of information you leave out of your book, mentioning it only in the interview. Moreover, in the book you give the false impression that one of them, “the Colonel,” your key source for what allegedly is actually behind the Roswell story, surfaced out of the blue, independently of the others.
Your sources claim a much greater depth and breadth of knowledge about far too much highly sensitive classified information far beyond their “need to know,” and virtually all of it supposedly gained all too casually. Of course, this is something of a ufological tradition. In addition, all of their information about what allegedly happened at Roswell is by their own accounts second- or third-hand. Further, only “the Black Widow” claims to have seen strange bodies. Given what was going on at the time in the study of radiation effects, she may well have seen unusual cadavers at Oak Ridge, but the only link between her claim and Roswell is what she says she was told about the origin of the bodies.
You repeat as fact Corso’s assertion that science writer Willy Ley was part of von Braun’s Paperclip gang. In fact, Ley fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and had nothing to do with von Braun’s activities in New Mexico. When discussing test flights in which one of the experimental aircraft is towed, the Colonel, supposedly a former military man, makes a couple of odd flubs. He refers to the Army Air Forces tow plane as a DC-3 (civilian airliner) rather than by the correct military designation C-47. He also says the pilots of that aircraft had been in the 82nd Airborne during World War II. In fact, the planes that carried the 82nd and towed its gliders and the aviators who flew them were assigned to transport units of the AAF’s 8th Air Force.
The LeMay 1 July 1947 memo concerning plans for radiation-effects research in Japan from which you draw sinister implications about Asian bodies allegedly found in New Mexico shortly thereafter: It’s perfectly obvious this refers to studying the horrible effects from the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.According to the Colonel, the crew of the ill-fated Roswell “saucer” were captured Japanese kamikaze Fugo pilots, in the Colonel’s words, “fierce little fuckers.” If you were running the operation, would you let such dedicated fanatics fly one of your precious test articles, especially when there was a very good chance they’d use it for one last glorious suicide mission for their Emperor- -probably with you and your staff in the bulls eye?
Contrary to your interpretation, the 25 August 1947 classified memo from AMC technical intelligence to Air Staff intelligence included in your book doesn’t show the level of security at Roswell went far beyond what was justified to keep something like Mogul under wraps. First, the security efforts brought to bear in connection with Roswell were not even close to being as dramatic and draconian as the legend suggests. What measures were taken were in response to the worldwide publicity, which threatened to compromise the project. Second, after the Roswell flap, Mogul project managers and their superiors decided it would be wise to inform officials in the intelligence community who were working the flying saucer problem and senior officers at military facilities in the area where Mogul operations were being conducted that their project might well generate flying saucer reports and in fact had already done so. This included a visit to Roswell Army Air Field in September ’47. You would know all this and much more that should have given you pause about the credibility of your sources had you read my ROSWELL: INCONVENIENT FACTS AND THE WILL TO BELIEVE.
You quote McAndrew’s observation that the Air Force had flown balloons as high as 170,000 feet with payloads of as much as 15,000 pounds. Then you suggest such balloons would be more than adequate to lift a small experimental aircraft with a diminutive crew and be far more than what was needed to carry a small “radiation-” (actually, sound-) detection device, i.e., for Mogul. You seem to have missed the fact that McAndrew was referring to capabilities and operations that didn’t exist and didn’t take place until well after the Roswell incident.Lincoln LaPaz, Fugo, and Roswell: You offer the fact that LaPaz worked on the Fugo problem during World War II as though it were some sort of significant revelation. Yet this has been known for years. LaPaz wrote an article about it for a popular magazine back in the 1950s. His alleged involvement in the Roswell case arose from a jumble of mistaken and conflated memories, as, again, you would have known had you read my ROSWELL and the results of the investigations of Robert Todd.
You cite my 1994 conviction that there were strange bodies involved in the Roswell affair and that they might have been the product of something akin to the radiation experiments that were just then coming to light, conveniently failing to mention this was based exclusively upon my misplaced faith in the truth of Glenn Dennis’ claims. Also left unmentioned is all the evidence I (and others) subsequently uncovered and published seven years later in my ROSWELL, revealing the sources and inspiration for Dennis’ (and Frank Kaufmann’s) convincing, crucially important to the Roswell legend, but bogus stories. Much of this evidence should have but apparently didn’t embarrass the hell out of a certain very prominent ufologist.
Silas Newton and Aztec: First a couple of things in themselves minor, but in this context telling. No matter how many times I have told you that J.P. Cahn’s second TRUE article about this hoax-scam was published in 1956 (August,"Flying Saucer Swindlers," pp. 36-37, 69-71), you persist in saying it appeared in 1953. Similarly, like the FBI and despite my pointing it out to you, you continue to spell the name of Newton’s partner in crime incorrectly. It’s GeBauer, not Gebauer.
More important, in your “UFO Review” interview you say that as far as you know, despite his lifelong career as a conman, Newton was never convicted of anything. Yet you know perfectly well he and GeBauer were convicted on fraud charges in December 1953 as a result of their peddling phony oil-finding gadgets supposedly based upon technology recovered from a flying saucer that fell to earth near Aztec, New Mexico.
Still more important, in BS IN THE DESERT and your interview you refer to the handwritten notes (not a diary or journal) made by Newton that I was shown in 1998, in which he claimed to have been contacted by two mysterious agents of the U.S. government who encouraged him to continue telling his tall tales about crashed saucers. You advance this as evidence in support of your notion that crashed-saucer stories were created and have been and still are being used to keep the lid on the truth about Roswell. But it isn’t evidence of anything. We don’t have the notes. Even if we did, they are the unsubstantiated writings of a totally unscrupulous con artist who most likely was making his agents up out of whole cloth, probably in anticipation of writing a book. At best, this is an interesting addition to the Aztec story and a potential lead to something more...
I’m not sure if BS IN THE DESERT reflects amazing credulity, reckless opportunism, or something of both on your part... Finally, a suggestion concerning the sale of movie rights to BS IN THE DESERT: Try Michael Moore first. The quality of your research, rigor of your logic, and spin on your content are right down to his standards.- -Regretfully and most sincerely, KARL"
There are a number of things in Karl's critique that I and others have already mentioned (Newton's diary as a source, for example). As most already know, I agree with the general assessment offered by Karl, Stan Friedman, Brad Sparks, and many others, that Body Snatchers in the Desert is a massive red herring that offers nothing new to the Roswell debate except a theory that makes no sense. Further, I have no faith in the veracity of Nick's sources, for reasons I and others have pointed out. Finally, I think Karl is correct when he states that one of the main reasons Nick's theory appeals to some within ufology has nothing to do with UFOs, and everything to do with their own political leanings, and their inherent distrust of everything to do with the government. Oddly, they find the prospect of a massive government cover-up of Nazi-esque human experiments to be more palatable than a cover-up of a UFO crash, not to say the other, more relatively mundane explanations that have been offered. Ultimately, I think Body Snatchers in the Desert may tell us more about the world view and the political prejudices of some of the people who read it than the Roswell case itself.
For myself, I consider Roswell still a "case: unsolved."
Regardless, this is sure to set off an even more intense discussion about Body Snatchers in the Desert.