Sunday, May 26, 2013

Media coverage of UFOs prior to the Cash-Landrum encounter

Some cultural and historical background for the study of the Cash-Landrum sighting:

UFOs were big in the media in those days.
There was even an annual cash prize from the National Enquirer for the best UFO story of the year, judged by some prominent UFOlogists.
Bob Pratt on the National Enquirer UFO Blue Ribbon Panel

A lot of the media attention was fueled by the success of a 1977 movie by Steven Spielberg (more on that below).

Project UFO, an NBC television series debuted in 1978 and ran for two seasons.
It loosely adapted Blue Book cases, while taking its visual depiction of UFOs from CE3K- gigantic and brilliantly lit.

On April 24, 1980, there was a failed helicopter mission to rescue American hostages held in Iran, Operation Eagle Claw. The secret training for this mission was conducted at Area 51 in Nevada and the mission failure led to the base's public exposure. A second mission Iran rescue mission, "Honey Badger" was planned and test flights involving CH-47s flew across much of the United States. When President Reagan was elected in November, it was clear that the mission was unnecessary, but the operation remained active until Jan 1981. Reports of these test missions likely fed into reports of "mystery helicopters" at the time. The Cash-Landrum case was initially linked to this phenomenon.

In August, 1980 Secretary of Defense Harold Brown disclosed details of secret US stealth technology experimentation. There was much press and speculation leading up to this. (Incidentally, the test flights for the F-117 stealth plane were conducted at Area 51, birthplace of many UFO legends.)

 Another key media influence in the latter half of 1980 was the movie Hangar 18  (a Hollywood version of the Aztec UFO crash legend). The movie's advertising misleadingly promoted as a documentary, and the advertising traded heavily on US Government cover-up and conspiracy, drawing on distrust and paranoia following the Watergate affair. The movie poster played on government distrust:

 "The government is concealing a UFO 
and the bodies of the alien astronauts. 
 Why won't they tell us?"

    (Betty Cash's cardiologist recommended that she see this movie- it is highly likely she saw the television advertisements for it.)

Close Encounters of The Third Kind was rereleased nationwide to theaters August 1980 in a Special Edition. Almost every element of the Cash-Landrum UFO encounter was featured in the movie:

Brilliantly lit, gigantic UFO

 Car encounters UFO on lonely road
Witnesses suffer skin burns from UFO

A young boy endangered by a UFO   

Helicopter menaces witnesses

US military has knowledge of UFO and has scheme to for cover-up

Whatever actually happened on Dec 29, 1980, the incident was quickly absorbed and reshaped to fit into the existing UFO paradigm. The witnesses claimed it was a military exercise, but the chief investigator and promoter of the case preferred an extraterrestrial solution.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Was the Cash-Landrum UFO a Damaged Nuclear Warhead?

Among the theories for the Cash-Landrum UFO event, there was speculation that it was an accident involving a damaged nuclear weapon carried across Texas. There was such an event just a few months earlier, a deadly accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas in September 1980. An accident led to a fuel tank leak which caused an explosion that sent the nuclear warhead flying. The warhead was recovered a sent to the Pantex weapons assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas.

The secrecy of the recovery led to contradictory news coverage, as to whether the damaged warhead was sent by truck or a shielded C-141 plane.

Lewiston Morning Tribune Sept 24, 1980

The Damascus incident was the subject of the 2017 documentary Command and Control.

Official Theatrical Trailer - Command and Control

The similarities in time and place are most interesting, but the Damascus incident was resolved by the time of the Cash-Landrum encounter, and there's no evidence that another weapons accident occurred.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Exonerating the Helicopter Pilot

Cover-Up or Mix-Up?

You've probably heard this story if you are familiar with the Cash-Landrum case:
April 30, 1981, a CH-47 helicopter landed in Dayton, Texas, as part of The Future Farmers of America livestock show. Vickie Landrum attended, met the pilot and she asked him if they ever encountered UFOs. He told her that he'd been called out by the Montgomery County Sheriff's department to investigate a UFO. when she told him that she was one of the witnesses and was injured in the encounter, he clammed up and tried to rush her out of there.

Colby Landrum and the CH-47 in Dayton, Texas.

Later John Schuessler contacted the pilot by phone. According to reports, the pilot first admitted it, but subsequently denied it.

What Happened Before is Important

Before any of this happened, in April 1981, there was an investigation into the source of the helicopters in the incident. Allan Hendry worked with Professor J. Allen Hynek at the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). Hendry was contracted by the Fund for UFO Research (FUFOR) to investigate the helicopters in the Cash-Landrum encounter, but Hendry's report was far more inclusive (but much more on that later).

John Schuessler received a copy of this report and he either ignored or missed the connection detailed below.

From Hendry's FUFOR report.

Hendry wrote that during in his investigation on April 2 and 3, 1981, he contacted a Mr. Nidever from Ellington Air Force Base and was told that they while they were the only base in the area with matching helicopters, they were not in flight at the time of the incident. He did however, have an interesting story, Nidever said:
"We had a UFO sighting down here earlier about two years ago. We were called out on this by the sheriff's department of Montgomery county. they had spotted one about two or three times. They had a helicopter out there, we were supposed to go out when they saw it and go chase it down because Mr. Culverson (with the Army Guard) was involved in that."

Mr. "Culverson" is one letter away from the name of the accused pilot.

Hendry's report was distributed sometime in the spring of 1981, but Schuessler did not act on the information. Instead of investigating a possible connection between the two sightings, he missed it only to treat the pilot as a hostile witness. He gave his name to the officer during the DAIG investigation and later published the pilot's name in UFO literature, citing him as a participant in a UFO cover-up.

The UFO incident the pilot was connected with seems to match this case:

July 21, 1977; Porter, TX 4:15 AM. Officer John W. Bruner, a deputy sheriff, was on duty and was the first person to observe the phenomenon. Officer Bruner and his partner Officer Coogler were parked west of the object which appeared to be approximately 1/2 to 1 mile away. Bruner and Coogler got out of their vehicle and tried to observe the object better by shinning their light on it. The object moved toward the men and the officers turned off the light because they became nervous at seeing the object's response to their light. The object then moved back to its first location. The two officers concurred that the object appeared to have six portholes surrounding a type of framework. The two officers observed the UFO for approximately 45 minutes. During that time period, the UFO appeared to stand still in mid air, pulsated, traveled at incredible speeds and flew with erratic mobility. The officers described the UFO's apparent size to be about that of a grapefruit. Officer Bruner is convinced That the object he saw was not a balloon or a helicopter.
(from NICAP: The 1977 UFO Chronology
A similar incident on July 29, 1977 is the one where the National Guard was summoned to investigate by helicopter. Full report at: NICAP Investigator October 1977 (see page 4)

Based on the evidence, it seems that the pilot mentioned the UFO case. Vickie, in her excitement, made an overzealous mistaken connection. Emotion and the inattention of the investigator carried the story from there.

The pilot's denial was the foundation of the charges of US government and a cover-up. It was a false accusation. 

Update- further information found:

Billy Cox located the pilot, and interviewed him for an article appearing on the case in the December 5, 1983 Florida Today newspaper:
"(The pilot) conceded he told them he'd flown a UFO mission out of Ellington, and he even repeated the part about being called out by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department. But what he really told them, (the pilot) says, was that he and another chopper investigated a UFO sighting near Sam Houston State Park - in the Dayton vicinity- in 'June or July' of 1977. Not 1980. And they came up empty handed." 
The pilot is quoted, “I guess those ladies just got what I told them mixed up.”