Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Body Snatchers in the Desert - Part II

Perhaps the most important "witness" in Nick Redfern's new book, Body Snatchers in the Desert, is the man he calls the Colonel. A quick glance at the index makes it clear that, of the four major "whistleblowers" that Redfern uses for sources, the Colonel gets the most play. Like the other four, the Colonel claimed unequivocally that "there has never been the crash and recovery of an alien spacecraft." He maintained that "the Roswell and other 1947 events were given a 'crashed UFO cover' to hide research that was linked with classified high-altitude balloon experiments and the Nuclear Energy for Propulsion of Aircraft project." (pp. 98 - 99)

The big question is whether or nor there is independent corroboration for the Colonel's story. As Nick himself notes, "if the Colonel's testimony stood alone, then one could rightly question its veracity." (p. 119) However, Nick claims that there is independent corroboration for The Colonel's "controversial" story, which he sets out in Chapter 11 (titled "Corroboration"). This independent corroboration, according to Nick, can be found in “documents and accounts by others,” and led him to conclude that the Colonel's account "does not stand alone."(p. 119).

With corroboration, however, one must consider both the source and the report. In Body Snatchers in the Desert, here is what Nick presents as "independent corroboration" for the Colonel's account, as found in Chapter 11:

1. People

(a) The family of Meyers Wahnee, a pilot and aircrew commander of the 714th Bomb Squadron, 448th Bomb Group, who, according to Nick, told Roswell researchers Don Schmitt and Tom Carey, that the Roswell incident was true, that he was involved, and that there were “decomposing body parts.” What Nick doesn’t mention – and what calls the story into serious question – is that Wahnee (an old man by the time he supposedly related his story) also said that there were three separate crash sites, which does not square with either the traditional "Roswell as an ET crash theory," or Nick’s.

(d) Dee and Loretta Proctor, who allegedly told Schmitt and Carey that, in 1994, with the 81-year-old Loretta Proctor extremely ill with a life-threatening blood clot in her neck, her reclusive son Dee felt compelled to drive her to a remote location on the former Foster ranch where he told her that Mack Brazel had found "something else." Assuming that this is true, neither Dee not Loretta would tell Schmitt and Carey what the “something else” was, and yet Nick (as did Schmitt and Carey in their original article, which Nick quotes from), assume it to be corroborative evidence that Brazel found bodies. This is, needless to say, pretty thin evidentiary gruel. It is hardly corroboration.

(c) Paul Helmick and Albert Collins. What these men supposedly said is irrelevant, because they allegedly said it to Timothy Cooper, the purveyor of literally hundreds of phoney MJ-12 documents. According to Nick, they provided “important data that may corroborate… aspects of the Colonel’s account.” However, any corroborative evidence that comes from Cooper is, at best, suspect, and, in fact, is most likely as worthless as his MJ-12 documents (see. pp. 120 – 122).

(d) Vicki Ecker, editor of UFO Magazine, is cited as corroboration by Nick (pp. 123 – 124). Why? Because, a decade ago, she wrote, “What if the Roswell crash was a failed nuclear experiment – either ours or somebody else’s… [What if] it wasn’t nuclear; but if it was, that aspect has been kept secret. Maybe it was still a test of some kind, using shaved monkeys – or even worse, captured Japanese prisoners, for instance – as experimental passengers on an ill-fated flight. Ergo, ‘alien bodies.’” This is not corroboration – this is speculation. The fact that Nick considered it to be worthy of inclusion in the “corroboration” section of his book is indicative of just how little real independent corroboration there is for the stories told by the "Big Four." Even more interesting is the fact that Ecker speculated about “shades of those hideous Nazi experiments” and “Japanese prisoners.” One must legitimately wonder if any of Nick’s four main “whistleblowers” ever read UFO Magazine – or other sources that made similar unfounded speculations?

(e) Dr. Jacques Vallee, Martin Cannon, and Karl Pflock are all cited as “corroboration” in chapter 11 (pp. 124 – 125). Why? Because each posited that the Roswell case may have been related to a secret government experiment of some sort. Again – a theory by one person does not qualify as corroboration of a theory by another person.

(f) There is William Moore, upon whom Nick relies for various pieces of information. As with Cooper, Moore – he of MJ-12 / Paul Bennewtiz / AFOSI infamy - is hardly a pillar of credibility.
At one point even Frank Kaufmann is cited as a reliable witness (p. 15)! This, needless to say, is not a good sign – as Stan Friedman has pointed out in his review of Body Snatchers in the Desert, even Kevin Randle, long the staunchest supporter of Kaufmann as a reliable witness, now admits that Kaufmann was a fraud.

2. Documents

(a) Silas Newton's diary – I believe Karl Pflock when he says he saw something that might have been Newton’s diary, but it has not been authenticated, nor has it been seen by anyone else. There is no way to tell if it is Newton’s diary, or a forgery. Some would argue, correctly, that there is, other than Karl’s word, no evidence that the document even exists. And yet Nick makes no mention of these facts. Instead, he accepts the “diary” as real, a “fascinating piece of documentary evidence… that may ultimately shed more light on the psychological warfare angle of the crashed UFO mystery.” The use of such an alleged document for this purpose is a-historical, to say the least. As Karl told me, in an e-mail last October, “With the Newton journal, I'm NOT relying on an anonymous source. I'm saying: This is what the source showed me. Can anyone help me with independent confirmation / refutation? BIG difference.” A big difference indeed; unfortunately, it is one that Nick, does not take into account, or note for his readers.

(b) Otis Benson memos - Benson, who at the time of the Roswell incident was chief of the Medical Research Division in the Office of the Air Surgeon stationed in Washington, D.C. (see Benson's full biography at www.af.mil/bios/bio.asp?bioID=4669 - Benson was a pioneer in space and aviation medicine, and rose to the rank of Major General), wrote a number of memos that Nick quotes from, and claims as corroboration. In fact, they corroborate nothing. They talk about various experiments the military was conducting, none of which fit the description of the types of experiments Nick's "whistleblowers" discuss, and all of which, at least in terms of subject matter, are now public knowledge. Further, one memo which Nick quotes from at length, dated 1 July, 1947, specifically contradicts Al Barker, who stated that there was a rush on to get the experiments done before the judgment was handed down at the SS doctor's trials in Nuremberg (which came in August 1947). The memo states that experiments dealing with the ability of the human body to withstand G forces would be "greatly extended in the next three months at higher speed utlizing a greater variety of aircraft" - meaning the experiments being referenced in this memo were actually being increased, and were projected to continue well past the "hush hush" date described by Barker. In fact, the memo makes clear that all of the work it described was proceeding apace, and was to continue (it states, for example, that "work is continuing on studies of cockpit cooling and the cooling of pilots employing airflow suits."). (p. 127 -128) Nick calls this document "intriguing;" in fact, it is wholly irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the experiments described by the "whistleblowers," and in fact describes the kind of cutting edge work - all of it perfectly legal - that was undoubtedly going on at the time, and was to continue going on for many years to come.

(c) After the red herring of the Benson materials, Nick references a memo that he states is "a true smoking gun." This memo, titled "Analysis of Factors Contributing to 'Pilot Error' Experiences in Operating Experimental Aircraft Controls," unlike the aformentioned Benson memo, does indeed seem to be, at least on the surface, relevant. Written on 22 September, 1947, it talks of "recent air accidents at White Sands Proving Ground" and a report "dealing with mutant experiments of extreme altitude flight, capsule ejection, and decompression effects." The document also talks of "radio-biological hazard studies incident to the work of this project," and a crash on 4 July, 1947 of a "loaned S-Aircraft (PF). (pp. 128 - 130)

The problems with this "smoking gun" should be readily apparent, however. For example, what about the "crash" of 4 July, 1947 that is described? The scenario as described by the Colonel et al deals with a Horten Wing type aircraft which was carried aloft by fugo balloons, and then crashed as a result of a catostrophic lightning strike. Certainly the military would have known, by the time this document was written, what the cause of the crash had been if it was a "catostrophic lightning strike." Instead, the document talks of "engine failure," and states that the Army Air Forces Scientific Advisory Group, and the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, could not fully agree as to the exact cause of the "engine failure," and were specifically looking into pilot error, and how to rectify the problem. Hardly a catostrophic lighting strike, which would have been, to put it mildly, "obvious."

Of course, this is pretty much moot, because the document is almost certainly a fake.

The source of the document (which can be seen at http://www.majesticdocuments.com/documents/pre1948.php - scroll down to "Lt. Col. Tucker to Office of Air Surgeon, 22 September 1947") is the "mysterious" Cantwheel, of MJ-12 infamy. This "retyped copy" of an alleged original was provided to Timothy Cooper by Cantwheel, who allegedly worked in "Army Counterintelligence."

The Cooper - Cantwheel documents are bogus, as any number of researchers have shown. Even Stan Friedman, who believes that the original MJ-12 documents are authentic, labels the Cooper - Cantwheel documents as frauds. At best (and I'm being extremely charitable here), any information provided by Cooper is as highly controversial as the information provided by the Colonel et al. Nick should have known better than to rely on a document provided by this "source" (and I'll note again that the document doesn't even corroborate the Colonel's story anyway). At the very least, he should have noted this fact in the book, but he did not.

(d) Lincoln LaPaz documents (pp. 134 - 136) - these documents cited by Nick as corroboration are, in fact, simply press releases from the University of New Mexico, where LaPaz was head of the department of Mathematics and the university's Institute of Meteoritics, which confirm that LaPaz had worked on wartime studies about Fugo balloons. Nick then links this to Lewis Rickett's statement that LaPaz was one of those people with whom Rickett worked in an investigation of the Roswell incident, and then asks, "If, as the Colonel has asserted, the key event that led to the legend of the UFO crash at Roswell involved 'a next generation of Fugo' balloon that was responsible for launching an experimental aircraft that catastrophically crashed, then who better to enlist into the study of how and why the Roswell experiment failed than an expert on those very same balloons?" (This sounds an awful lot like the Donald Menzel line of reasoning with respect to MJ-12, i.e. well, Menzel was involved in crytopgraphy during the war, so he was a natural to be on MJ-12 to decipher the "alien" symbols).

Even if you believe Rickett's statement, however, there is nothing there to provide any corroboration to the Colonel's story. It is well known (and a quick search of LaPaz's name at www.bluebookarchive.com will confirm this, if confirmation is necessary) that LaPaz, while he may have worked on the fugo balloon problem in the Second World War, had moved on, and that his primary interest and expertise in the late 1940s was with meteors, green fireballs and other unidentified aerial phenomena. Studying these phenomena was the task for which he had been engaged by the military.

Also, if you accept Rickett's account, you have to accept it all, including this part: "Before [LaPaz] went back to Albuquerque, he told me that he was certain this thing had gotten into trouble, that it had touched down for repairs, taken off again, and then exploded. He also felt certain there were more than one of these devices, and that the others had been looking for it. He was positive the thing had malfunctioned." This bears no resemblance to the Colonel's description of the incident.

You also have to accept Rickett's explanation of why La Paz would have been involved, which had nothing to do with his wartime work on fugos, but rather his postwar work on meteors: "It was La Paz's job to try to find out what the speed and trajectory of the thing was. La Paz was a world-renowned expert on trajectories of objects in the sky, especially meteors, and I was told to give him all the help I could." (quoted in Friedman and Berliner, Crash at Corona, pp. 102 - 103)

There is nothing here that is even remotely corroborative. It is another red herring.

As should be clear by now, there is no real corroborative evidence for the accounts told by The Colonel, the Black Widow, Bill Salter, and Al Barker. Thus, their accounts must stand or fall on their own merits. As demonstrated in Part I, Barker's account is beset by a claim that is simply unbelievable, and which calls into serious question his overall credibility.

But what of the other three?

To be continued...

Paul Kimball


gordon said...

Just a comment on one part of this - Documents part (c).

Leaving aside the question of provenance, your argument doesn't seem completely watertight. Is it not possible that the cited cause of engine failure (lightning) was not confidentely established until well after the crash date? And trying to decide the classification of a document 60 years on, which obviously references _many_ incidences, is speculative at best.

In other words, like Redfern's use of the document, it is just one interpretation.

Of course, as you state, the source of the document should lead one to suspect it.



Anonymous said...

One quibble:

"First, the studies that the memo references were only classified 'restricted data,' which is a relatively low level of classification."

Actually "Restricted Data" is and was a pretty high classification, applied to nuclear secrets. "The term 'Restricted Data' means all data concerning (1) design, manufacture, or utilization of atomic weapons; (2) the production of special nuclear material; or (3) the use of special nuclear material in the production of energy, but shall not include data declassified or removed from the Restricted Data category pursuant to section 2162 of this title." (42 USC 2014 (y)) This classification was, I think, originally established in 1946. Thus the putative writer of the alleged memo :) is suggesting that what he's talking about is some really super-secret stuff, not just your pedestrian Top Secret.


Paul Kimball said...


One would suspect that the cause of the accident, if it had been, in the Colonel's words, a "catostrophic lightning strike," should have been obvious from the get-go, and the investigators - who surely would have been top notch - would have made that determination, if not immediately, then certainly well before the September date of the memo, over two months later.

And, again, the source of the document is the real problem.

It is certainly not corroboration.


Paul Kimball said...


Yes, quite right about Restricted Data - my error (brain freeze after a long day at work!). RD was and still is the highly classified category of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy data where secrets are deemed "born classified" even without having a classification official making them classified. It is NOT to be confused with the low level military and national security classification called "Restricted" which was abolished in 1953 to avoid confusion with RD.

I have removed the reference from the article.

Also, a further flaw with the Wahnee story has been pointed out to me by researcher Brad Sparks: The 448th Bomb Group was inactivated on Aug. 4, 1946, long before Roswell. Only its component squadrons such as the 714th Bomb Sq survived to active service at Roswelll under the 509th BG. He's not sure where the 714th BSq was based and when. But it seems doubtful that Wahnee would continue to remember having served briefly in the long gone 448th BG decades after it was deactivated, when it was the longer lasting 714th BSq that would've made a more lasting impression. See:



Jack Rousseau said...

Paul - Re: "Restricted Data" good to see someone in ufology willing to admit to and correct a mistake. A rare thing indeed. As for the Cooper documents, the less said the better. If Tim Cooper is a source of any information, then the credulity of the author must be called into question. You are absolutely right - none of this is corroboration. - JJR

Anonymous said...


Well, according to Maurer Maurer's (yes, that really is his name, and what's more, he's a Ph. D.) _Combat Squadrons of the Air Force: World War II_, the 714th was inactivated on 4 August 1946 at Fort Worth Army Airfield, and activated in the Reserve on 12 July 1947, when it was stationed at Long Beach Army Airfield in Long Beach, CA. (Just a couple of miles from where I live.) It was assigned to the 448th Bomb Group at the time of its inactivation, and assigned to the 448th again when it was activated in the Reserve. During WWII, the 509th had only one bomber squadron, the 393rd. On 9 May 1946 the 715th Bomb Squadron was assigned to the 509th, along with the 830th, which brought it up to its normal complement. According to Maurer, the 714th was never assigned to the 509th at any time, nor was it ever stationed at Roswell. About the only thing that squares with Roswell is that by the time of its inactivation the 714th had become a B-29 squadron. I think you can write Wahnee off.

You can view this book at https://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/Publications/titleindex.htm, if you want to download a 98MB PDF. The same information is repeated in Maurer's _Air Force Combat Units of World War II_, available from the same site -- but that one is 102 MB. Both books are out of print, it says on the site.


Anonymous said...

What of all the UFO sightings leading up to the Roswell crash which contain extreme manueverability by these "aircraft" - see project1947.com

gordon said...


Going back to the "catastrophic lightning strike" comment by the Colonel.

Given Nick Redfern's reply to your comments, this is now probably a moot point in terms of deciding "corroboration". However, I'd like to point out how implicit interpretation of phrases can lead individuals down very differing paths of logic.

The term "catastrophic" could easily apply to either the lightning strike itself (in which case I would agree with you that this should have been pretty obvious), or the (in hindsight) _affect_ of said strike, which caused a catastrophic failure. In the latter case, one could easily posit a situation where the cause of engine failure could be unclear - explosion, fire, lightning, mechanical failure, until further investigation.


Paul Kimball said...


I'm never afraid to admit an error - that's what real investigation and scholarship should be about, after all.


I agree that there could be two interpretations here, but given the context of how the term was used in the book, and the nature of the alleged experiment that Nick describes, I have little doubt that it referenced the lightning strike itself.

As you say, however, probably moot.