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)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MUFON vs. APRO, Allegations, Accusations & Countercharges

The Cash-Landrum UFO Case Backstage Drama 

"I am concerned that Betty Cash and Vicki and Colby Landrum may be merely pawns in some kind of game." - Coral Lorenzen

This historical correspondence released here needs an accompanying UFO politics and history lesson longer than I can provide.  So, I’ll try to give it a basic and informal introduction instead. 

In the days when giants roamed the Earth, there was a feuding, territorial situation with rival groups trying to stake claims on UFO cases. Jim and Coral Lorenzen founded APRO (the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization) in 1952 and for years it endured while other UFO organizations came and went.  MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network) was formed in 1969 by some discontented members of APRO over a difference in policies. Jim and Coral Lorenzen saw Walt Andrus, John Schuessler and his upstart MUFON group as traitors who’d led a mutiny. Publicly, however, there was a stated shared goal that UFO groups would cooperate and share data. 

Jim and Coral Lorenzen of APRO

When the Travis Walton case hit in 1975, APRO tried to own it and there was some controversy over how they handled the case, and to strain their dysfunctional relationship further, MUFON labeled the Walton affair a hoax. In 1981 when the Cash-Landrum case surfaced, APRO couldn’t effectively investigate it due to the distance involved, so they passed it on to a small independent research group called Project VISIT (Vehicle Internal Systems Investigative Team) chiefly because they were based in the Houston Texas area and near the witnesses.  John F. Schuessler, while MUFON’s Deputy director, was also the leader of Project VISIT, but VISIT was not MUFON.

Initially, it was a VISIT case, but soon became soon a MUFON property, prominently featured in their journal and annual symposium lectures.  The reporting of the case almost came almost exclusively through Schuessler, but at first he shared case files with the other major UFO groups including APRO. When the Lorenzens had questions about the evidence, their inquiries went unanswered, causing them to seek answers elsewhere. The resulting APRO column ignited a feud between APRO and MUFON, or at least between Coral Lorenzen and John Schuessler. The feud had the Cash-Landrum investigation squarely in the center, and the battle was fought in scathing letters which were distributed to a circle of UFO insiders and associates.

John F. Schuessler of MUFON

The exchange is a fascinating look behind the scenes, an emotionally charged swap of allegations, counter-charges, mud slinging and rumors. Along the way, a few factual case matters were discussed, too.

APRO Bulletin article firing the first shot.

Some highlights:

APRO insinuated that Andrus, Schuessler and Hynek had ties to the US intelligence community.

A rogue member of APRO intercepted the story and sold it to the Weekly World News.

Schuessler was unaware of any road repairs to the UFO incident scene until 1982.

Bill Moore was circulating a story that the UFO was a secret USG nuclear-powered vehicle.

APRO made bold charges in print that the UFO was definitely a military test craft.

APRO stated that by Schuessler promoting the event as a UFO, he intentionally or not, was allowing the USG to disavow it as their project.

APRO accused Schuessler of withholding case details including medical records.

APRO charged that MUFON was desperate for a good UFO case and was milking it for publicity.

In response to APRO’s US secret project allegations, Schuessler told Lt. Col. Sarran to question them.

Schuessler rejects their charges and accusation, accusing APRO in return of being sensationalistic.

Schuessler denied allegations that the US is paying Betty Cash’s medical bills (but does not disclose  they are partially covered by Medicare). 

APRO charged that by presenting the UFO as ET,
Schuessler was aiding the USG in a cover-up.

John Schuessler's annotations, correcting and refuting APRO.

Many of the topics mentioned branch into other complex areas which will be discussed later. Grab your favorite beverage, a notepad and dig in. Previously only seen by the UFO elite!

Index of Documents (26 pages)

1 Cover letter from Coral Lorenzen  to Robert Barrow 7/19/1982
2-3 APRO Bulletin Vol. 30, # 6 Cash-Landrum Case by Coral Lorenzen
4-8 J. Schuessler to APRO 6/29/1982
9-14  C. Lorenzen to J. Schuessler, 7/6/1982
15 Attachment: Vickie Landrum letter to APRO, 10/31/1981
16 Attachment: APRO’s letter to VISIT (case transfer) 2/20/1981
17 C. Lorenzen  to Robert Barrow  status report, 7/27/1982
18 J. Schuessler to C. Lorenzen, 8/15/1982
19-20 C. Lorenzen to J. Schuessler, 8/24/1982
21-26 J. Schuessler annotated Cash-Landrum APRO Bulletin articles.

A note about the image quality: These scans were made from second-generation or later copies, sometimes of old carbons. In cases of the worst images, attempts were made to adjust for clarity.

PDF link to documents: 

APRO letter dated 2/20/1981 transferring the C-L case to Schuessler & VISIT.

A special thank you goes to Robert Barrow for furnishing the missing pieces of this documentation. 
Also check his blog about the classic film,  UFO: The True Story of Flying Saucers 

Additional document sources were the collections of Philip J. Klass, and Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle.

Friday, January 17, 2014

One of Ours? Earth Technology Candidates for the Cash-Landrum UFO

Cash-Landrum UFO Suspects: Military Tech

If the Cash-Landrum UFO incident in December 29, 1980 could have been a military operation, the leading candidate would be a  Delta Force exercise by Task Force 158 practicing for a rescue of American hostages held in Iran. If the UFO was part of this, it must have been intended to serve a specific and necessary purpose for that mission. Based on the mission needs and what the witnesses saw, two of the most logical possibilities are either a battlefield illumination system, or a vehicle to provide transportation of the hostages. I’ll cite some known experiments along those lines and suggest a few past projects that were designed for similar purposes. Most of these possibilities, however, do not suggest causes of injuries reported in the case. If it wasn’t an alien space ship or a WASP II, what was it?

The following is a visual checklist of candidates I gathered in 2012. Some of this equipment might have played a role in this or other UFO cases.*

V/STOL Rescue Vehicle?

Vertical or Short Take Off and Landing vehicles are desirable when areas for landing strips are not available. The embassy building where the American hostages were being held offered no landing strip for a rescue mission except for a nearby soccer stadium. In an effort code named Credible Sport, Lockheed modified at least two C-130 Hercules planes, expanding their lift surfaces and equipping them with a series of rocket thrusters to allow them to make use of an  incredibly small landing strip for the size of the plane.

On a test flight on October 29, 1980, a crash destroyed one of the planes and the program was reportedly scrapped. The test was top secret and developed at breakneck speed, ignoring standard safety protocols. Credible Sport was developed as an Air Force project. Is it possible that they had other vehicles in development for this mission, or that other military branches were conducting tests?

Project Nite Fite Test?

There were tests run on systems based on the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system (STARS). From the JTF (Joint Task Force) Capability Review:
“Project Nite Fite investigated the possibility of using a hot air balloon mated to existing in-flight satellite recovery systems. The system would be capable of recovering 7-10 personnel on a single pass.”


Airfield Illumination Device?

The bright light produced by the UFO is puzzling if it was part of a rescue operation. Task Force 158 was drilling for night missions using night vision goggles, which seem incompatible with airfield or battlefield illumination techniques.
Click for larger view
The light may have been produced by a powerful military flare of some kind.

High-Powered Helicopter Spotlight?

The most mundane scenario is that the UFO was an Army helicopter outfitted with high-powered illumination equipment. With the beam directed towards the witnesses, they would be unable to see past its brilliance to identify the vehicle.

Nightsun searchlight used to simulate a UFO.
National Helicopter Service & Engineering Co.

Carbon Arc Searchlights were designed, and built as a searchlight to search out, and illuminate enemy aircraft at over 20,000 ft during World War II. It has a 5 ft, 5 mile beam length visible for over 35 miles. 
Further details and history of searchlights:

These are just possible candidates to investigate; ones that had a military connection and a reasonable chance of being in play on that night in December 1980. While none of these are a perfect match, it is worth examining the military technology in use at the time that could have produced UFO reports.

*Notice the frequent use of question marks, a journalistic tradition to make the author sound like he's really on to something while just clutching at straws.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Not a UFO, Not Bigfoot, but a Mysterious sighting of a Vanishing Cat

And now for something completely different...

Working outside in the morning, I found cat tracks. Bad news- I have a dog with a feline intolerance of the fatal kind.

Chores continue, but breaking for lunch, I see a cat in the edge of the trees.

I move closer and see that it's an unfamiliar cat,

a gray and white one, a bit like this.

Random similar cat pulled off the Net.

Closer still, getting concerned the cat is not moving, fearing the worst,

wondering if somehow, the allegedly murderous dog got out.

At some point, maybe 15 feet away, the cat seems to change form, and in its place, 

I see something with writing on it. Closer inspection reveals it to be the empty of a bag of sand, blown away from one of my morning chores.

So, I had to go back and look up a word I'd heard, pareidoliabasically that's when you see something like an empty bag, but your mind thinks it matches a cat instead.

This kind of thing has happened to me many times before, but this time, I had a phone camera handy to recreate it. Usually, even after scary false alarm, the memory of it soon fades away.

Funny thing is, if I had looked away and the wind had carried it into the woods, I'd have fiercely sworn the cat simply ran away.

A true story, and I am prepared to produce the bag in a court of law. Some of you may be asking yes, but what about the very real cat tracks? 

Not all mysteries are fully solved!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Exposure to Flying Saucers: Your life may change!

This is an autobiographical piece of sorts, where I look at my memories of being exposed to the notion of Flying Saucers from childhood and beyond.

Me circa 1965,  ready for school.

Roughly the order of exposure, regardless of my love for them:

Past my bedtime, but caught this episode that gave me the creeps!

Not really Saucers, but Ancient Aliens at the Earth's core!

Not really My Favorite Martian, but nothing else on… At least he's friendly!

WE are in control (but lost).
Less scary when we have the Flying Saucer! Space travel goes mainstream via prime time TV.

THEY are in control (but humorless).
A scary show, bad aliens every week!

This is where I got hooked! All the Blue Book classics in four color glory!

An examination of alien races, featuring Orthon and the Flatwoods Monster!

After that, the first "real" book I ever bought!

 Flying Saucers- Here and Now!  by Frank Edwards!
And this book had pictures of real flying saucers!
They can't put it in a book if it isn't true!

 And in the news...

The first UFO case I remember on the news, mostly due to it happening in my home state of Mississippi.

The Pascagoula (Hickson/Parker) Alien Abduction

Through the 70s, I read every UFO book I could find in the library (not many, but free). Along the way, I also had interest in many other sensational things like the NASA programs, comic books, Bigfoot and Fortean weirdness. The only movies I recall seeing about UFOs were Chariot of the Gods (spooky), and later, Close Encounters (disappointing). By 1980, my interest in UFOs was waning, but a film advertised as if it were a documentary caught my attention.

I actually took my mother to see this!
Hangar 18 was so bad it may have killed my interest in the topic. After seeing it, I just drifted away to more concrete and productive interests. I still loved science fiction and monster movies, though!

If a UFO show came on, I'd watch it, but there was all this very weird stuff about abductions, probing, cutting cows and Cosmic Watergate… pretty ugly and unbelievable stuff. Later, it was more entertainingly served up on the X-Files, which I didn't realize at the time was basically a filmed adaptation of the 80s "darksider" UFO mythology.

Years passed, and I happened to watch a film on Netflix about Gray Barker, a flying saucer writer who was equal parts trickster:

Shades of Gray

I became fascinated with Barker and tried to learn more. Reading about him, I kept seeing mention of a friend and co-conspirator of his who was also featured in the film. Having not found my answers in the literature, one day I wrote him a letter. Before long, the phone rang, 
"Hi, it's Jim Moseley…"

The conversation was interesting, the first of many.

I was back in the grip of the saucers...