Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cash-Landrum UFO: A Fresh Look by George Wingfield

"There was no evidence presented that would indicate that Army, National Guard, or Army Reserve helicopters were involved." 
That was the conclusion  of Lt. Col. George C. Sarran's report of his investigation for the Department of the Army's Inspector General’s office on the allegations of U.S. military helicopters being present during the Cash-Landrum UFO encounter.
(For further details, see, The DAIG Investigation of the Cash-Landrum UFO Incident )

This guest article by veteran UFO researcher, George Wingfield, provides a good look into the political backdrop of the Cash-Landrum UFO story, and examines the military forces that could have been involved. Also, he tries to offer a purpose and function for the UFO in this case.   

A Fresh Look at the Cash-Landrum Incident by George Wingfield

Having looked at Curt Collins' findings on George Sarran’s memo about 100 helicopters at Robert Gray Army Airfield, I accept that this was not the smoking gun that it appeared to be.  There is no reason to think that George Sarran was being untruthful in saying that the DAIG investigation, 18 months after the event, had failed in its quest to find whether any Army or USAF (or other military unit’s) helicopters were those seen by Betty Cash and the Landrums during the infamous incident.

However, there are very good reasons for thinking that the helicopters were real and were indeed ones belonging to the US military.  This fact probably had to be covered up because this exercise required the very highest level of secrecy without which its whole purpose would have been lost.  Only the helicopter crews and the senior officers who ordered the exercise would have had the slightest idea about its purpose.

To make any sense of the episode one cannot afford to ignore the grave international political situation that had consumed the attention of the United States, the President, and the US military for all of the year 1980.  This was of course the Iran hostage crisis which blighted Jimmy Carter’s presidency and concentrated minds both in government and in the military to find some way of rescuing the 52 Americans who were eventually held for 444 days.

Operation Eagle Claw used eight RH-53 helicopters and several C-130s in an attempt to rescue the hostages on April 24, 1980. It failed miserably with the loss of several aircraft and the lives of eight servicemen.  Subsequently the crisis deepened.  A second rescue attempt, Operation Credible Sport, was planned using highly modified YMC-130H Hercules aircraft, one of which crashed during a demonstration flight at Eglin AFB on October 29, 1980. This project was abandoned shortly afterwards and it was on November 2, 1980, the Iranian parliament set forth formal conditions for the US hostages’ release. At just this time Ronald Reagan was elected President, although obviously he would not take up office until eleven weeks later.

I believe that one cannot understand the strange Cash-Landrum affair without first setting the scene.  New urgent plans for the military to rescue the hostages in Iran were still being prepared as from October 1980 since few believed that the Iranians would keep their word on any agreements that had been reached.  These new plans resulted in the formation of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the ‘Task Force 160’ that is referred to in John Alexander’s book UFOs –Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities.  The 160th and US Navy SEALs are most likely to have been the occupants of the helicopters involved in the Cash-Landrum incident.

There is known to have been a second projected rescue plan, known as Project Honey Badger, by the 160th to rescue the Iran hostages in early 1981. This was called off when President Reagan came into office and the hostages were released on January 20, 1981.  However, it is known that the Honey Badger exercises continued until well after the 1980 US presidential election. “Numerous special operations, applications, and techniques were developed which became part of the emerging USSOCOM repertoire”  --according to Wikipedia’s entry on Operation Eagle Claw.   I suggest that Honey Badger was what produced the Cash-Landrum incident which had near fatal results for Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum, and her grandson Colby.   

If that were the case, we need to explain what the flaming object was that descended on the country road near Huffman, TX.  My suggestion is that it was some kind of “THW”.  That is my unofficial acronym for “Trojan Horse Weapon” and something of this kind was going to be needed for the hostage rescue mission to have any chance of success.

Illustration from a TV re-enactment of the event.

Everyone is familiar with the story of the great wooden horse which the Greeks left outside the gates of Troy during the Trojan War (c. 1200 BC). The Trojans were very puzzled as to what this was but, thinking the Greek forces had sailed away, they took it inside the city anyway.  Inside the horse Greek soldiers were hidden and in the dead of night they climbed out and opened the city gates for their returning comrades to rush in.  This clever deception allowed the Greek army to destroy the city of Troy and bring the lengthy Trojan War to an end.

Any modern THW would have to be a totally unfamiliar object and one whose purpose was not obvious to the people it was intended to fool. Its objective would be to deceive, distract, and possibly even disable the enemy defenders at the position attacked. I don’t suggest that it was meant to look like a UFO but this THW would have to descend from the sky at night, land close to where the rescue operation was going to take place, and completely distract the Iranians guarding the hostages.  If it worked, the hostages could be rescued from the large building where they were being held in Tehran.  Task Force 160 men would descend onto the roof of the building from helicopters and blast their way into where the hostages were being held.

It may have been planned as a similar sort of mission to Operation Neptune Spear which was sent to Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011 to kill Osama bin Laden. That was an easier proposition in that there were no hostages to rescue and few armed defenders in the bin Laden compound.  Even so, it involved several helicopters and a staging point in the desert for refueling of the aircraft and a holding position for the back-up CH-47 Chinooks. 

If the Cash-Landrum “UFO” was indeed a THW we can only guess at the role it was meant to play.  It may have been, primarily, an experimental nuclear lighting device powered by a small reactor that could have weighed 10 tons or more. Output would have been used to produce an exceptionally intense light source (or sources) for, if need be, an hour or more.  If it could be made to work as planned, it could have been flown into Tehran slung under a Chinook helicopter, and fired up when it was landed near the Teymour Bakhtiari mansion in Tehran where the hostages were being held as from November 1980.  The device’s intensely brilliant light(s) would blind any Iranian guards or soldiers who tried to resist the rescue mission which would have been carried out by Navy SEALs wearing special goggles to shield their eyes from the intense beam.  

A number of Task Force 160 helicopters could have carried such an operation and taken the rescued hostages to a waiting US Navy ship out at sea.  Such a THW –presumably unmanned—might have been intended to descend under its own power or else be lowered by cables from a Chinook helicopter high overhead.  During the Cash-Landrum incident the mystery object was said to be belching flames downward but whether that was from a descent rocket engine or simply part of its fearsome THW display is unclear.  It is most unlikely that any THW like this could fly the 400 miles between the Persian Gulf and Tehran under its own power and so it would have to be taken there inside a large aircraft --or else slung under a large helicopter-- before being deployed.    

If this scenario is correct, the operation that resulted in the Cash-Landrum fiasco was a dress rehearsal for the hostage rescue mission, probably flown from a US Navy carrier in the Gulf of Mexico.  The nuclear lighting device when fired up, intentionally or otherwise, presumably went out of control and it had to be put down on a road in Texas with the resulting radiation burns to the two unfortunate women who were in the car that stopped near it.

If this operation was as I have suggested, it was most certainly Top Secret --to the very highest level of security.  Whether or not such a Project Honey Badger rehearsal was sanctioned by President Carter in the last days of his presidency, we cannot tell.  It may well have been solely authorized by some senior figure in the Pentagon.  When it failed, all traces of the operation had to be concealed and it does seem quite likely that someone in the military may have promoted the wild idea that this was a UFO incident simply to prevent the real explanation becoming public knowledge.

This also raises the intriguing question of whether the “UFO” which landed in Rendlesham Forest and was approached by Jim Penniston and John Burroughs could have been a similar --or identical—Honey Badger THW being given a dress rehearsal test.  This is pure speculation but it seems no less likely than an alien spacecraft landing by mistake in Rendlesham Forest at the very same time as the Cash-Landrum episode in Texas.   If there ever was a US Trojan Horse Weapon being tested in December 1980, it never had to be used in anger since the Tehran embassy hostages were freed just three weeks later when President Reagan came into office.

George Wingfield has been researching and writing about the UFO phenomenon since 1987 and has contributed to numerous books and magazines on the topic. George is the co-author of  UFO: Strange Space on Earth with Paul Whitehead.