Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Who's Who in the Cash-Landrum UFO Case

 Cash-Landrum UFO Case: Mini Bios of the Witnesses & Key Players

This is intended as an aid to identifying the chief participants in the Cash-Landrum case, with a special effort to include people that might have been called as witnesses in the courtroom.

This preliminary list groups the players in broad categories. Photos are not always contemporary to the events; some cannot be located, so place holders or illustrations are used instead.

Primary Witnesses

Betty J. Cash  (Feb. 10, 1929 - Dec. 29, 1998) 
Betty J. Collins from Jefferson (near Birmingham),  Alabama
Mother of two (known) children Mickey Joyce and Toby Howard. 
Married James F. Cash 10/4/1958, divorced 9/12/1980, received sole ownership of truck stop restaurant and attached grocery store.
Betty had heart surgery in 1977, recovered but was treated for heart pains in 1979 and continued to take medication. Betty received her new Cutlass Supreme as a Christmas present in 1979.

Betty’s family most involved in the case:
Jesse L. Collins, brother BC stayed with him after leaving hospital
Pauline Collins, mother, carried BC to Alabama to care for her.
Toby Howard, son. First to examine BC’s symptoms,
Mickey Joyce Foster, daughter. Could not recognize mother in hospital.

Vickie Landrum (Sept. 19, 1923 - Sept. 12, 2007)
Vicie Marzelia Holifield originally from Laurel, Mississippi.
Husband: Ernest Wilson Landrum Sr., children, Ernest Jr., Gloria Jean, David, Paul, and Jayne. 
Employed as a clerk, school meals assistant and waitress, also did work for neighbor Martha Thompson.

Colby Lee Landrum (Jan. 29, 1974 - )
From Dayton, Texas, son of Paul A. Landrum and ex-wife Peggy Sue.
After their divorce in 7/29/1976, Vickie became Colby’s his legal custodian.
At the time of the encounter, he was a month shy of his 7th birthday.
Grade school student at time of incident, active in sports.

Secondary Witnesses

There is much uncertainty concerning the number and quality of the secondary witnesses. 

Nellie Zedick (possibly Zitick), son John and his wife Toni were reported in the WWN as witnessing a UFO. By April 1981, they refused to talk about it, effectively retracting the report. Not included in VISIT/MUFON case reporting.

MUFON arranged for media announcements pleading for additional witnesses to come forward to help the victims. Several people responded, though some had UFO stories of other times and places. The key respondents in the case literature:

Jerry McDonald first witness to respond, reported seeing a large triangle shaped craft over Dayton earlier in the evening of the Huffman encounter.

L.L. Walker (off duty Dayton policeman), and his wife Marie claimed seeing a group of military helicopters in the Huffman area several hours after the incident.

Several others responded, most of whom only claimed to see helicopters, some unsure of the date. Several of these witnesses wished to remain anonymous. Some of them do not appear in later case reports. 
Link to witness map with names and approximate locations.

Medical Treatment and Analysis

Parkway General Hospital in Houston, Texas was where Betty Cash was treated after the incident.

Dr. V. B. Shenoy, Betty’s cardiologist whom she regularly visited for care. He was called in to see her  her hospitalization, and he was the first one to hear about the UFO story.

Dr. Steve Chandler, Liberty, TX optometrist, treated Vickie Landrum at his office. She and Colby received no other professional medical care after the incident.

Dr. Peter Rank, Chief of Radiology at the Methodist Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. MUFON medical consultant. Offered opinions on the case based on photographs and medical records. He did not examine the witnesses. Rank also participated in the DAIG investigation.

Richard C. Niemtzow, MD, Radiologist, Ex-VISIT member, medical consultant to APRO and MUFON. Participated in the DAIG investigation by offering opinions on the medical claims (and also MUFON article with his analysis). He did not examine the witnesses.

Bryan A. McClelland, MD, became Betty Cash’s doctor in Alabama around 1983. He practices family and geriatric medicine, but is often misrepresented in the media as an original caregiver and radiologist. 

The UFO Investigation

National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) was a national UFO hotline run by Robert Gribble. He took the initial report from Vickie Landrum and passed it along to UFO groups to investigate.

APRO, the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization based in Tucson, Arizona was  started in 1952 by Jim and Coral Lorenzen. Once the most prominent UFO organization, they suffered a serious blow when members withdrew to form the rival organization, MUFON. APRO was the first group to be contacted about the case. APRO dissolved in 1988.

William S. English, APRO member (banished) First UFO investigator to contact the witnesses, shortly thereafter, he sold the story to tabloid, The Weekly World News.

William L. Moore, APRO chief investigator. Known for his Roswell work and his 1989 MUFON speech claiming to have worked as a double agent in a US government sponsored disinformation operation. Moore promoted C-L UFO as a US government secret experiment gone wrong.

Richard C. Doty former AFOSI officer. Bill Moore associate and source. Had previously sent hoaxed material to APRO, the “Weitzel” letter. Background of the Moore-Doty "disinformation" activities.

The Weekly World News was the first to break the story, based on a tip from Bill English. Dick Donovan wrote the story based in part on taped statements made by the witnesses.

Cathy Gordon was the first mainstream newspaper reporter to cover the story for the Courier in Conroe, TX. She had the first detailed interviews with the witnesses, perhaps presenting the earliest, purest account of the story. She also covered developments in the case throughout the legal struggle.

MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network was founded in by an APRO splinter group in 1969, dedicated to “the scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity through investigations, research and education.”

John Schuessler, aerospace engineer, founding member and deputy director of MUFON, and also leader of a small independent UFO research group, VISIT.

Project VISIT (Vehicle Internal Systems Investigative Team) was a group of select individuals, primarily Aerospace professionals contracting for NASA. Other members participated in the original VISIT investigation, chiefly, Dave Kissinger, Don Tucker and Bill Eatwell.

Alan Holt M.S. Physical Science (astrophysics) joined in the initial interviews of Vickie and Colby Landrum and the first trip to the event location. He went on to write an analysis of Extraterrestrial space ship propulsion, which included his theory on the Cash-Landrum UFO.

Allan Hendry investigated case in April 1981, contracted by FUFOR (the Fund for UFO Research) to search for the origin of the military helicopters. He also conducted probing interviews of the adult witnesses by phone.

Dr. Ronald Leo Sprinkle  Professor specializing in using hypnotic regression to investigate alien abduction cases. MUFON & APRO consultant. (Hypnotized Vickie Landrum for That’s Incredible! & National Enquirer)

That’s Incredible! filmed a recreation of the incident and interviews with the witnesses in July 1981. In November, they broadcast a studio appearance of Vickie telling the story under hypnotic regression. The publicity from this broadcast led to the DAIG investigation. 

Bergstrom Air Force Base, near Austin Texas. At the suggestion of Senator Lloyd Bentsen, the witnesses traveled to meet with Air Force officers, gave a detailed interview about the incident and were given damage claims forms. The transcript from this interview is a valuable case record.

The Texas Department of Health and their Radiation Control Bureau investigated the possibility of trace radiation at the encounter scene. The investigation was led by Charles R. (Russ) Meyer. The results were negative, and their offer to examine the medical records were denied.

DAIG Investigation(Department of the Army Inspector General)  In 1982, after it was determined that the Air Force did not own for the helicopters in the incident, it became an Army investigation, led by Lt. Colonel George C. Sarran. His report stated that there was no evidence of military helicopters being involved. 

The Legal Case

Peter Gersten, the flamboyant “UFO Lawyer” accepted the case pro-bono, primary duty was preparing the legal documents. Most court filings or appearances were handled by Houston attorneys


Bill Shead and Rhonda S. Ross, Co-counsels in Civil Action No. H-84-3488 

Frank A. Conforti, Assistant United States Attorney, for the Defendant (United States Government) in the civil suit.

Judge Ross Sterling dismissed the case Aug. 21, 1986 without it going to trial. Two key factors: lack of evidence, and statements by the US military stating they did not operate a vehicle resembling the UFO, figured largely in his decision.

This takes us through 1985, which effectively ended the legal struggle. No further witnesses or evidence after that date have been shown to be solid. As John Schuessler said in 1986,
 "The case is closed! Unless…."

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Missing Man: Bill English on Opening the Cash-Landrum Investigation

A Conversation with Bill English

William English was the first UFO investigator to speak to a Cash-Landrum witness after the incident was reported, but very little is known about this gap in the case history. I contacted Bill English by email asking if he’d be willing to discuss his involvement in the Cash-Landrum case. He responded, “Interesting, since MUFON has taken all of the credit for that particular one. I'll be happy to answer any questions that you might have.” 

During our telephone conversation, his other UFO experiences were not the focus but he did mention some of them. He is aware of his controversial reputation and feels that he’s been misrepresented. “On the web there’s all kinds of stuff written about me, and 90% of it is bullshit.” For example, “I was Captain in the Army, not the Air Force, and there was a B-52 that went down.”  Most significantly, he stands by his claims of having seen the Project Grudge/Blue Book #13 report, but he did not discuss any details of it with me. 
“So much of what is said is like the game of Chinese Whispers,” and things get distorted while being repeated again and again as gossip and rumors. For this article, I’m staying away from that end of the the story, but that path features players like John Lear and Bill Cooper, and goes to places like Dulce and Roswell. 

English was clear-headed and cordial, even while talking about unpleasant memories. He has some strong opinions on things, but time has blurred some of the details, and he often had difficulty recalling people’s names. This presents a quandary for me, as I don’t wish to further cloud the Cash-Landrum story by repeating his memory errors, but feel he should have a chance to tell his side of the story. I’ve decided to first present what can be documented.

What the Record Shows

On Feb. 2, 1981 Vickie Landrum called the National UFO Reporting Center, but her report does not describe the UFO in detail and instead focuses on the illness of Betty Cash. She says the doctors can’t tell what’s wrong but have tested her blood for radiation poisoning with negative results. NUFORC forwarded the report to APRO, the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization, in Tucson, Arizona. Bill English intercepted the case and talked to Vickie Landrum on at least two occasions. During one of those calls, Vickie Landrum claimed that English told her that Betty Cash was going to die as a result of her injuries. English then instructed APRO secretary Chris Panter to call Dr. Richard Niemtzow of Project VISIT to have them lead the investigation. (English was unaware that Niemtzow had moved away from Texas and was no longer a VISIT member.) English managed to locate three additional UFO people who reported seeing a UFO on the same night as the Huffman incident.

There were close ties between tabloid news and UFO organizations during the period, and it was common practice for them to raise cash by selling UFO story tips. English, allegedly with the permission of the witnesses, sold the story to The Weekly World News in the hope that the witnesses would also receive compensation. 

That seemed to conclude English’s involvement in the case, except that in the WWN story and in at least two others, he was interviewed or quoted. He stated that he’d unsuccessfully tried to locate the source of the helicopters reported in the incident, and advanced the theory that the helicopters were also UFOs, unmanned probes in the service of the larger one.

When a local reporter became aware of the tabloid coverage, she interviewed the witnesses and suggested that Betty Cash call John Schuessler at NASA, who was also deputy director at MUFON. This began an investigation, and the case became a MUFON property, almost exclusively reported through their Journal and symposiums, or in mainstream media with the guiding hand of Schuessler.

Bill English Contacts a Witness

When I asked English how he became involved with the case, he cautioned me that it was a long time ago and difficult to recall, but went on to tell what he remembered. “I was hanging around the APRO office in order to pick up cases. One day the secretary received a call from one of the ladies begging for help, and she said her friend was dying.”

When he talked to Vickie Landrum, she told him about the events, describing the object as “bell-shaped, and it produced a noise like thunder.” It flew over, and then stopped for a moment ahead of them in the road. “One lady stayed in the car, the other walked toward it.” When she went home, she felt ill, went to the hospital and the doctor couldn’t help her.

He asked her to describe Betty Cash’s symptoms, and they reminded him of those of radiation sickness from his experiences with nuclear weapons. The doctors had no clue as to what was wrong or how to help her. He told Vickie to get the doctors to check Betty for radiation exposure. Betty was then treated for radiation poisoning and shortly thereafter began recovering.

English said there was a deal between UFO groups to share details on cases. Because APRO did not have the funds to fully investigate the case, he contacted MUFON (who was based in the Houston TX area at the time, near the witnesses). He felt it was unfair that MUFON had taken all the credit for this case and did not mention APRO’s role in the case.

I asked him about the allegation that he sold the story to the tabloids. “I did,” he replied, “ to the Weekly World News.” He agreed that UFO groups were closely working with tabloids during the time and said that “UFO stories were a tabloid mainstay.” He went on to say that he thought it would help give the case exposure. He remembered the story tip paid about $100 and that it “went straight into APRO coffers.”

He did not remember his own investigation of the case as reported in the Weekly World News, including locating the other three UFO witnesses. I asked him how WWN reporter Dick Donovan conducted his investigation. “He never left Florida,” and worked the story by phone. I asked if he knew who took the photos of the witnesses used in the articles, but he did not and could only speculate.

He stated that he was only involved in the case for a few days, but “did what I could to help,” and remained interested and continued to follow it.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

I asked him if he was familiar with the claims made by APRO, Bill Moore and Richard Doty, that the UFO was a United States secret military project using a nuclear engine. He was familiar with the scenario and seemed to think it was plausible.
“Not Moore.” He’d heard that suggestion from another source, “Stanton Friedman, told me he was involved in developing nuclear rocket engines,” and had told him about the testing of such programs. “In the archives, I came across a document that verified this development.”

I mentioned to him that while in the 1980s Stanton Friedman had promoted the nuclear craft theory, he had later changed his mind, and that it was not ours. He said Friedman was “told to shut up.”

Returning to the case itself, he said that the Cash-Landrum witnesses deserved better, and of his treatment, “MUFON screwed me. I called the news, then turned it over to MUFON.”

An Estimate of the Situation

He was critical of the state of the UFO field, both now and then, and described his split with APRO. He thought they had gone astray and had stopped investigating UFOs, chiefly due to being preoccupied with the stability of the group and financial problems. He expressed regret that the organization had become run as a dictatorship, and after the death of Jim and Coral Lorenzen the organization was disbanded and their extensive historical files were no longer available.

He feels that no one is doing actual UFO investigations anymore. He’ll occasionally watch programs like those on the History Channel and complains that “they are only rehashing old stories.” He said, “We need scientific investigation of UFOs.” 

What If..

Bill English turned the Cash-Landrum case over to Texas area investigators partly because of Dr. Richard C. Niemtzow's association with them. He was unaware that Niemtzow had moved away and that Schuessler's group was no longer working with him. We are left to wonder how the case might have been different had a radiologist actively participated in the investigation.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mystery Helicopters: Task Force 158 and Operation Honey Badger

The Helicopter Mystery

The best source of helicopter operations in the Cash-Landrum UFO incident seems to be forces covertly gathered for the purpose of a second attempt to rescue American hostages held in Iran.

Writing about the aftermath of “Desert One,” the first, failed, rescue mission of the hostages:
“The second positive outgrowth — and to us in Delta Force, the most important one — was the formation of an Army Special Operations aviation group. That organization was initially known as Task Force 160 and eventually evolved into the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment — the "Night Stalkers" of today. They are one badass aviation outfit, able to operate at night and under all weather conditions anywhere in the world. They are a dedicated, highly proficient, and absolutely courageous bunch of flyers. They are to aviation what Delta Force is to commando operations.”     - Eric L. Haney, Inside Delta Force

Here's a more detailed account of how the helicopter unit operated:
"This provisional unit was at first dubbed Task Force 158 since the majority of the pilots were Blackhawk aviators detached from the 158th. Their distinctive 101st "Screaming Eagle" patches remained on their uniforms. The Blackhawks and Chinooks continued to operate around Campbell Army Airfield at the north of post, and Saber Army Heliport at the south. The OH-6 Cayuse, an aircraft that vanished from the Division's regular inventory after Vietnam, were hidden out by the ammunition holding area at spot still known as the "SHOC Pad", for "Special Helicopter Operations Company."

As the first batch of pilots completed training in the fall of 1980, a second attempt to rescue the hostages was planned for early 1981. Dubbed Operation Honey Badger, it was called off when the hostages were released on the morning of President Ronald Reagan's inauguration." -160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)

It seems they were out of play for December 29, 1980, a period already unlikely for operations anyway, due to the holidays. We're left with nothing but a suspicious character that has a good alibi.

With the additional emphasis on military secrecy during President Reagan's terms, the search for the origin of the helicopters may have been problematic. Just exploring the possibilities could have exposed other, current operations. It could have been decided just to say nothing, and let the UFO story work as cover.

Further details on the Honey Badger operation, from the book by retired Army Colonel Billy R Wood. 
Lords of Darkness

Lords of Darkness: A History of the 45th Avn Bn (Sp Ops) and OKARNG Aviation
 By Col Billy R Wood U.S. Army (Retired)