Secret History

By Tony Brunt

Part One: ‘The Challenge for a New President’

If history is any guide – secret history, that is – some time in the weeks after Barack Obama’s inauguration a group of officials, and possibly private citizen appointees, will file into the oval office or a nearby meeting room and brief the new president on the deepest secret in the American government.

They will almost certainly arrive under conditions of strict confidentiality, perhaps similar to those that were demanded for a special, top-secret White House meeting in 1953. “Due to the nature of the Meeting, it is necessary to take special security precautions and to maintain absolute secrecy regarding participation in, as well as the substance of, the Meeting,” President Eisenhower’s aide Robert Cutler wrote members of the National Security Council. “It is requested that you enter the White House grounds via the Southeast Entrance not later than 8.45 A.M. and descend from your car at the South (Diplomatic) Entrance of the Mansion. Your car should be discharged and not wait anywhere in the vicinity of the White House.”

Unlike 56 years ago when a flip chart presenter was probably the only visual aid available to support the presidential briefing papers this meeting will probably have a laptop, data projector and screen to highlight the essential points. For an idealistic new president with a much publicised commitment to transparency and open government the briefing will almost certainly prove unnerving and distressing. Obama will be told that for over 60 years the American government has had certain knowledge of visits to Earth by aliens. He will be told that his military are in the possession of numerous crashed UFOs of advanced design. Doubtless the room will be taut with a watchful silence as the briefing officer – possibly the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – moves further into his explosive summation: that major programmes of technical inquiry have been carried out into how these craft operate. For the uninitiated the revelations will come like hammer blows from the twilight zone: that bodies of aliens have been retrieved and preserved, and, almost certainly, that representatives of the president’s government long ago met and established contact with some of these extraterrestrial visitors. The profound cultural, technological and strategic implications of these developments will be traversed and discussed. The president will doubtless probe and provoke, his keen mind coaxing the visitors deeper into the detail of their subject. A follow-up meeting will probably be discussed and diaried. And then the White House visitors will depart their perplexed chief leaving him with a peculiar dilemma: to follow in the footsteps of his last 11 predecessors and keep the lid on this momentous secret, or launch a risky new era of openness with all its awesome potential to change planetary life in ways that can scarcely be imagined.

Of course, if he takes the bold path in favour of public disclosure President Obama will not exactly be telling us facts we don’t already know. Most of what he will have been told in sepulchral tones by his grave advisors is already in the public domain, at least in broad outline and sometimes in surprising detail, and has been so for decades. What he will be doing, of course – if he plumbs for openness – is carrying out an act of admission, a confession of seismic implications, rather than an act of revelation. It will be an act of legitimation, of liberation even. It will free up the vast organs of the world’s news media, academia, science, religion and the instruments of national and international government, to explore this sensational millennial development without the poisonous atmosphere of derision and career threatening disreputability that currently surrounds it.

Which way will Obama go?

The safe route, and doubtless the one that will be pressed upon him by his advisors, is to keep his trap shut, play along with this tired charade, and focus on the current economic crisis and the many pressing strategic challenges that his administration faces. He will be pressured to take this course by the selection of facts and the line of argument that his advisors on the UFO phenomenon present. They will almost certainly – and probably with good intentions – emphasise the dominance in the alien interaction with Earth of the ‘greys’, the short creatures with black, wrap-around eyes and spindly arms and legs whose image has penetrated just about every corner of our popular culture, from tee shirts, to pencil erasers, to fairground balloons, to B-grade movies (make that A-grade, Spielberg used the greys as the model for his aliens in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’). The ubiquitous greys have clearly been the culprits in the abduction phenomenon that has been extensively described by numerous investigators since the 1960s. Their craft appear to have been the main ones that have crashed over the years. And, not least, they have been implicated in some of the more disturbing, even chilling, phenomena that have surrounded a small proportion of UFO activity. Their intentions, on a balanced judgment, are difficult to describe as either benign or malign, rather as neutral or even indifferent, exploitive but not, as a rule, hostile. Their wide activities and the diplomatic tightrope that the US administration walks to keep their interaction within militarily and politically tolerable bounds, appear to be the raw nerve that drives the whole government suppression apparatus.

But it would be a mistake, in my opinion, for Obama to base a policy response on the activities of the greys alone and the benefits to public order of ‘looking the other way’. A number of other, more encouraging, alien contacts have occurred throughout the world over the last 60 years or so and the more authentic and credible of these ‘contactee’ cases give us much more cause for optimism. Instead of the relatively uncommunicative style and impersonal scientific orientation of the greys, these contacts – often with visitors who look exactly like us – promise a more balanced and inspirational level of cultural contact and exchange. These aliens hold out the promise of the momentous and enriching epiphany that mankind’s wildest dreams of extraterrestrial contact have long conjured up. These fascinating and wildly varying contact events are, in their sweep and totality, a powerful counterweight to the disappointing and perplexing greys. They portend a diplomacy of great complexity and novelty but they also hold out the prospect of fruitful enlightenment for a lonely planet reeling with problems of ecology, poverty, economics and governance. These are the visitors we have been waiting for.

How it All Started

The Roswell UFO crash of 1947 is credited in the popular imagination with having been the first of the ‘crash/retrieval’ incidents of the modern era. It has given rise to a TV series, a movie and numerous books. More military veterans have spoken out about their role in the retrieval of wreckage and bodies from this site than for any other crash that whistleblowers have revealed. Certainly it is a seminal event in the UFO timeline, not least for having been the first crash to be reported contemporaneously by newspapers – if quickly covered up – and has given rise over the years to an unprecedented stream of leaked documents of huge historical interest. We will return to Roswell shortly to draw insights from the more credible of these archival documents, but the honour of being the first place to host a piece of malfunctioning extraterrestrial hardware may lie with another continent, with Europe, where there are interesting reports of a UFO having crashed in 1937 in the western part of modern day Poland (eastern German), near the village of Czernica. A multi-coloured ball was seen to fall in a field and was soon surrounded by SS troops from the nearby garrison of Jelenia Gora (then called Hirshberg). The object was transported to Jelenia Gora where it was reportedly kept under strict guard. A year later a top-secret meeting with scientists was reportedly convened there. In a preview of a later pattern that would emerge in America, leading figures from the mushrooming new science of nuclear physics were in attendance: Max von Laue, Otto Hahn and Werner Heisenberg. In 1943 the Czernica UFO was delivered to an underground factory complex constructed by the Nazis for war production in the nearby Gory Sowie Mountains and there the trail peters out.

The first modern day UFO crash in the United States appears to have occurred near the town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 1941: again a crash in the countryside but this time with more detail, a description of pieces of metallic debris of advanced design, and three bodies of creatures similar to the greys. The report emanated from a minister of religion who was called to the site by local police who initially thought that an aircraft had crashed. The Rev. William Huffman got a good look at the three creatures as he said a prayer over their bodies, which showed no sign of injury. He was sworn to secrecy by military personnel who were in attendance but confided all the details to his wife and children. A granddaughter gave a detailed report to researchers many years later in 1991. There is tentative confirmation of this event: a leaked, authentic looking UFO related document from military archives refers to a crash incident on the mainland USA from which ‘artifacts’ were recovered in 1941.

The detailed events of the Roswell crash of July 1947 do not bear repeating. Any number of books and articles can be consulted which provide information on this event and its aftermath, much of it outlined by former military witnesses who were brave enough to go ‘on the record’ in their old age when the threat of official reprisal had lost its potency. What is worth examining about Roswell is not so much what was found (debris of advanced technology and grey-type creatures again, one or two of which were still alive) but the apparent extent of the official investigation which followed, and the historically important people who were involved. Investigators from the Army Counter Intelligence Corps IPU unit who were involved in the two-day scene examination reported later that they had recognised a number of scientists present from the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, most notably J.Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘father’ of America’s atomic bomb. A number of Operation Paperclip scientists were also seen – German rocketry specialists repatriated to the United States after the Second World War to work on the American space and missile programmes. Paperclip scientists present included Wernher von Braun, who had been a leader in the German missile programme, Ernst Steinhoff and space medicine pioneer, Dr Hubertus Strughold. An initial report to the head of the Army Air Force, General Nathan Twining, a few weeks after the crash mentions participation in the deliberations by personnel from the Jet Propulsion laboratory, California Institute of Technology and various branches of the military. Oppenheimer, von Braun and Steinhoff were mentioned as was Theodore von Karman, a Jewish Hungarian aerodynamicist and consultant to the air force.

A fuller report of authentic looking appearance and content, seemingly for presidential consideration, is also in the public domain from this time (it was leaked in 1996 with many deletions in black felt tip pen; much of the document is illegible through ‘carbon copy’ fading). The report authors had been tasked with a wider brief from the Roswell crash, including political and national security considerations. The mission members were mainly an array of military top brass, including Major General Leslie Groves, military controller of the Manhattan Project during the war, and three administration civil employees, James S.Lay, assistant executive secretary to the recently constituted National Security Council, Thomas J.Lynch, a Department of Justice lawyer and engineer, and Carlisle Humelsine, who had worked at the Pentagon for Chief of Staff George C. Marshall during the war and followed him to the State Department in 1947. Among the ‘contributing members’ to the mission were Oppenheimer, von Karman and ‘Professor Albert Einstein’. This report refers to “the recovery case of 1941’ – and regretted that no ‘unified intelligence effort to exploit possible technological gains’ had resulted from that earlier recovery ‘with the exception of the Manhattan Project.’ The committee seems determined to exploit the captured technology from Roswell in whatever way it can and refers to the possibility of studies on recovered microcircuitry underway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) being fed into the ‘proposed hydrogen bomb programme.’ Under the heading ‘Political Considerations’ the report reached conclusions that would clearly shape American policy for the next 60 years – that public disclosure would be damaging to political and social order, and bring in to question the credibility of national security arrangements, scientific knowledge, and public trust in institutions and religious structures. It recommended that a policy of ‘plausible denial’ be adopted to explain away UFO phenomena.

Hundreds of people had clearly been involved in the post-crash investigations. In addition to various military agencies mentioned as participating in crash debris analysis, the report mentioned other organisations crossing over into the civilian realm who were studying ‘recovered exhibits’ – the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission), NEPA (the Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft project), NACA (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA), the JRDB (Joint Research and Development Board), the Rand Corporation and MIT. The apparent wide dispersal of this top secret material provides an interesting insight into the trusted system of security clearance operating in the US military and civil administration, as well as within outside contracting agencies. This report is notable for confirming what many documents leaked over the years have revealed (and many insiders assert was the case) - that the initial intelligence agency set up to oversee secret UFO-related affairs was called Majestic (or MJ) Twelve and that access to its affairs was limited to people with a security clearance level called MAJIC.

The document ends with a paragraph memorable for its refreshing directness, possibly written by Humelsine, who had been coached over the years by Marshall to write clearly and without the use of official jargon: “In conclusion, for reasons of national security and the public well being, the US must be perceived as being the top of the heap, and every effort must be made to insure that there is [not], and never has been, a threat to the country.”

The Aztec Recovery

There are nearly 100 National Monuments on the American mainland but you won’t find Hart Canyon, near the town of Aztec, New Mexico, on the list. Over the years US Presidents have decreed the protection of old military forts, geological landmarks and native Indian historical sites. There is an 8.5-mile footpath in Minnesota on the list, an old flint quarry in Texas and a Nebraska homestead that once belonged to one “Daniel Freeman.” But in this era of surreal historical avoidance and inverted reality it took a grass roots initiative, rather than an act of presidential power, to commemorate what took place in 1948 on a small, dusty plateau, or mesa, that lies just above the dirt road that winds through Hart Canyon. One day in 1999 a group of Aztec citizens took the law into their own hands and erected a metal plaque on the plateau to explain the mesa’s historic significance. The plaque, set on the dry, yellow dirt amidst a scattering of sage brush and cedar pines, did not refer – as it could have done – to the fact that the canyon road was the old stage coach route from Aztec to the wild west town of Durango, across the state line in nearby Colorado. Instead its inscription was far more arresting.

“Recovery at Hart Canyon,” the plaque headlines. “On or about this site on March 25 1948 a spacecraft of origins unknown crash landed on this mesa. The 767 ANW radar base at nearby El Vado, NM, tracked the apparent landing to this site. A high secrecy recovery operation took approximately two weeks, with all the remains being taken to Los Alamos, NM, for scientific study and evaluation by some of the world’s leading scientists. The recovery of this craft by the US Government and military was one of the most secretive recoveries of spacecraft with origins unknown since the similar recovery in Roswell, NM, eight months earlier. Sadly, the occupants, as many as 16, died as the result of this crash, making full disclosure of both purpose and origination all but impossible.”

The local townsfolk seem to have got the story pretty straight, judging from details leaked by military and scientific personnel and by a few local citizens who were the first to the scene. During the recovery operation the federal government carved off the plateau from the local rancher and took ownership. Today the land is under the control of the US Bureau of Land Management, an otherwise inexplicable island of public property in the midst of private ranches. A barbed wire fence was strung around the plateau after the clean-up operation and this is now rusting and decrepit; it offers no barrier to UFO enthusiasts who are visiting the site in increasing numbers these days. Therein lies the uniqueness of the Aztec site – it is clearly marked and relatively easy to find, unlike the sites of the Roswell recoveries. It is truly one of the most important national – indeed international – monuments of the 20th century, or any century.

Visitors park their cars and walk up the dirt track that was bulldozed by the military to get their trucks to the crash site. Journalist and author Frank Scully, who wrote a wry and witty account of UFO secrecy, government shenanigans, and the Aztec crash in his best seller, “Behind the Flying Saucers,” in 1950, said that the 100ft diameter craft had been too large to transport in one piece. The insiders who leaked the story to Scully said that the craft was virtually intact, and it took a lot of investigation to detect that it had been made – and could be dismantled – in segments. Scully’s story was light on geographical detail so Hart Canyon lay largely unvisited for decades, after those who had been involved in the discovery and recovery were sworn, or frightened, into silence. One gutsy recovery worker confided the location to a friend who camped out on the plateau for several days in 1952, digging up tell-tale souvenirs from this remarkable episode – old canteens, web-belts, K-ration cans, and the like. In 1975 another mystery man stepped off the Greyhound bus in Aztec and cadged the use of a 4-wheel drive Toyota from local residents. They accompanied him as he drove unerringly to the crash site 12 miles away in Hart Canyon. He told his startled companions that this was where a UFO had crashed in 1948. The man wandered around the plateau for an hour taking photographs, and the next day left Aztec by bus again. One of the curious locals who had accompanied the photographer never forgot the location and was able to guide investigator William Steinman to the site in 1982. Steinman found the apparent epicentre of the crash without too much trouble. There were still old broken trees lying around the edge of a large clearing, as well as charred and scored rocks. Rusty steel braces that had apparently been used to prop up the saucer still lay in a jumbled pile. A piece of discarded welding equipment lay nearby. Not far away a large concrete block lay half buried in the dirt; an old timer who had helped clean up the plateau after the recovery, told investigator Scott Ramsey in 2002 that this had been a footing for the crane that was used in the recovery.

Steinman and fellow UFO investigator Wendelle Stevens published a book on the crash in 1986, “UFO Crash at Aztec: A Well Kept Secret,” and were able to tell the recovery story almost blow by blow, helped by a whistle blower whose existence, let alone identity, they didn’t even hint at. Whereas Scully had not mentioned a single one of the notables who had descended on Hart Canyon, Steinman and Stevens displayed no such reserve. Doubtless their frankness was encouraged by the fact that virtually all the main participants had passed away by that date. Secretary of State Marshall took direct control of the recovery operation, they said, and asked Dr Vannevar Bush, America’s leading science and technology administrator, to lead a scientific team to the site. Bush had headed up the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development, which had overseen the development of the atomic bomb, radar and other break-through technologies. Bush organised a team that included Dr John von Neumann, the celebrated physicist and mathematician from Princeton University; J.Robert Oppenheimer; Dr Detlev Bronk, a physiologist of international repute and chairman of the National Research Council; Dr Lloyd Berkner, geophysicist and electrical engineer and executive secretary of the peacetime Research and Development Board which was under Bush’s control; Dr Carl Heiland, geophysicist and magnetic sciences expert from the Colorado School of Mines; Dr Horace Buele Van Valkenburgh, an inorganic chemist associated with the University of Colorado; and Dr Jerome Hunsaker, head of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering at MIT. These men gained access to the inside of the craft by smashing out a porthole window in the central turret that had been punctured in the crash. A pole had then been inserted through the window and used to nudge levers in the cabin, one of which had opened an entry ramp on the side of the disc.

The sequence of the examination, disassembly and transportation of the disc to a secure facility on the Los Alamos atomic testing range 120 miles away is not repeated here. The Aztec crash has been covered in detail in this report only because it is one of the few that can be pinpointed to a specific and publicly accessible site, one that still offers up tantalising clues to its remarkable history. And also because, once again, this early crash in the UFO timeline highlights the breadth of involvement of some of the leading scientific figures of the day. Canny journalist that he was, Frank Scully knew better than to invite a firestorm of controversy and retribution in 1950 by ticking off a checklist of America’s Finest who had poked around one of the first flying saucers to fall to Earth.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this series are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect those held by UFOCUS NZ.

The next instalment of Secret History will be posted in April 2009

References for Part One :

2nd para “Due to the nature.…White House”: memo to General Nathan Twining from Cutler in Twining’s papers at the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, quoted by Stanton T.Friedman on pp.92-93, “Top Secret/Majic,” by Friedman, 1996, Marlowe & Co., N.Y.

How It All Started
Czernica UFO crash: “UFO Magazine”, UK, Nov/Dec 1998, Quest Publications International Ltd, p. 16 “The UFO Crash in Czernica”.

Cape Girardeau UFO crash: “UFO Crash Retrievals: The Inner Sanctum”, Status Report VI, by Leonard H.Stringfield, July 1991, self published, Cincinnati Ohio, p.69.

Army Counter Intelligence Corps IPU unit report: “The Majestic Documents” (ed. Robert M.Wood & Ryan S.Wood), Wood & Wood Enterprises, 1998, Calif., pp.27-33. Viewable at

Initial report to Twining: “The Majestic Documents”, pp.21-26.

Fuller report to President: “The Majestic Documents”, pp.44-81.

“The document ends…official jargon”: Inferred from Friedman, p.154.

The Aztec Recovery
“… 100 National Monuments…”: [National Monuments of the United States]

“…group of Aztec citizens…” & plaque inscription: per video “Aztec 1948”, Redstar Films, directed by Paul Kimball, 2004. Contact

“…the local rancher and took ownership…”: See “UFO Crash at Aztec: A Well Kept Secret,” William Steinman & Wendelle C.Stevens, 1986, privately published, Arizona, pp. 35, 245, 263.

“…1952, digging up tell-tale souvenirs…”: “UFO Crash at Aztec”, p. 203.

“In 1975 another mystery man…”: ibid., p.204

“Steinman found the….equipment lay nearby.”: ibid., pp.243-264.

“…recover story almost blow by blow...”: ibid., pp.27-50.

“Behind the Flying Saucers”, Frank Scully, 1955 edition, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London.

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