Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mac Magruder and the Air War College Part 2

Though I thought we would revisit the Mac Magruder story after the first of the year, I have new information. Magruder is the late Marine officer who lead a night fighter squadron during the Second World War and achieved some status in the Roswell UFO crash when his sons said he had told them of the crash long before Roswell was a household name. Magruder, at the time of the crash was assigned, according to them, to the Air War College at Maxwell Field and that students had been taken to Wright Field to view the wreckage, the bodies, and to provide insight into a possible release of information.

A few weeks ago I telephoned, emailed, and questioned various offices at Maxwell Field to learn when the class would have been in session, when the students would have arrived, and if they had made a trip to Wright Field during their studies. I was told then that the records I needed would not be available until a major renovation of the registrar and history areas was completed. However, Dr. James A. Mowbray said that he believed that the class was in session in July 1947 and he remembered that they had taken a trip to Wright Field. Good news for the supporters of the Magruder tale.

Now, however, I have later and better information. Another researcher, Aurimas Svitojus wrote for Magruder’s records from NPRC in St. Louis and received a reply that is interesting.

(Let me take a moment to digress. I’ve had sporadic success with St. Louis. Some records I have requested I have received quickly. Others, including my own, come in parts or not at all. My grandfather’s from World War I was destroyed by the fire, for example.)

According to the documents received by Svitojus, from the first of July to the nineteenth, Magruder was assigned as the commanding officer of VMF-542, a Marine aviation unit. (I’ll note here that he was assigned there as CO in June, but for our purposes, we’re only looking at July and later.)

On July 20, he was "...Detached to: AIR COMMAND AND STAFF SCHOOL, AIR UNIVERSITY, MAXWELL FIELD, ALABAMA."

The records show that he had an authorized delay in enroute from July 21 to 14 August and that from August 15 to August 26 he was to travel to Maxwell.

What this means, simply, is that he was authorized a leave of about three weeks and that he was then given 11 days to travel from his old station to Maxwell. The records suggest he reported in on August 27. He was assigned to the school beginning on August 1 and was released from that assignment on June 6, 1948.

This means that he was not at Maxwell in July so that a trip at the end of the month with his class did not happen. The school, according to the information began in early September. Although assigned there on August 1, the documents show he didn’t arrived until very late in the month.

There is no inconsistency here. This simply means that the morning reports from his Marine Squadron dropped him, and those at Maxwell would have picked him up. Both would have shown him on an authorized delay and this is more for accounting purposes than anything else.

The final bit we can pull from the records is that Magruder did go to Wright Field, but not until April of 1948. This was part of the training for the school. Students were often detailed to other, working bases to see those commands in operation.

What we can find out from Maxwell, once their renovations are complete are the dates that Magruder arrived (or verification of the date we now have), the dates that classes began, and finally, the dates of the trips they might have taken during the class sessions. All that information will be helpful in determining what happened and when.

I also asked for a complete roster of students in the hopes that we might be able to find some corroboration. This, I believe is a long shot given the timing. The students would be senior officers, probably in their late thirties. Since the school ended sixty years ago, any survivors would be in his 90s. Not impossible but so far, of those I have identified as students, all are now dead.

My reading of the records, however, suggests to me that Magruder was on leave in July and all the Air War College really knew about him was that he was a high-ranking Marine officer who had been assigned to the school. They would have known when to expect him, and I would be surprised to learn that he had no communication with the school prior to his arrival. There are mundane things like housing that needed to be arranged before classes begin.

But I see nothing to suggest that he would have been brought into the Roswell investigation at that point. The Army was trying to contain the information, not share it with those who had no need to know, and this is certainly a case where the officer in question had no need to know. Why even think about this?

The suggestion has been made that they had a captive audience of trustworthy men and they brought them in to gauge the public reaction. But couldn’t they do much the same thing by setting it up as a class assignment, what we now call a "tabletop" exercise, and gauge the reaction that way? They could even reference the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast for "real world" information. No need to compromise the secret here.

I know on this one I’m swimming against the current, but everything we’ve been able to learn to this point suggests that Magruder was not involved they way it has been alleged. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t involved in some fashion, but a trip to Wright Field to view the craft and bodies just doesn’t make the grade.

4 comments:

mouseonmoon said...

".... a captive audience of trustworthy men and they brought them in to gauge the public reaction."

But 'we' already know the 'public reaction' from the response to the Well's radio broadcast in ''38 > panic in the streets.

And now '47 , what 'we' need to know is the response of our military officers > especially pilots who will be sent to 'battle against aliens' ....in the anecdote provided in regard to the apprentice at NNAS - it really makes no sense to show him the 'craft' (he certainly has 'no need to know' - and to this day doesn't know why he was shown - the only 'reason' would be to gauge his response and test his loyalty (that i can see ).

Jimmy said...

I get the impression that everybody might be suffering from a confusion here. The Air Command and Staff School and the Air War College are two seperate schools, and according to his orders Magruder was assigned to AC&SS (which is sort of the lower division, as I understand it). The _Commemorative History of the Air War College_ says that no Marine attended AWC until the class of 1949-50 (p. 10, viewable on Google Books). Since Magruder was actually attending AC&SS whether the AWC was in session in July or not is irrelevant. As I understand it the story of Magruder's deathbed revelation says "Air War College." This might be a pointer to the same confusion, or an indication that the story is less than credible.

KRandle said...

These notes, I think, relate to the problems of trying to piece together a precise history. According to Magruder's records:

SEP. 1947: 1-30, Student Air War College.
OCT. 1947: No change.
NOV. 1947: No change.

Apointed a Lieutenant Colonel in the the Marine Corps (Permanent ) on 7 August 1947...

DEC. 1947: 1-31, Student Air War College.
JUN. 1948: 1-6, Student, Air War College; 7, detached to; MCS, Quantico

Since the first entry said it was the Air Command and Staff School and not Air War College, and since the assignment was to the Air University, I think we can say that the notes that followed, saying Air War College, were notes written in the file by a clerk who did not understand the fine line between the Air Command and Staff School and the Air War College.

And, I believe that this led to our misunderstandings of things.

So, where are we? Back to waiting until the records are unpacked so that we can see which school he was in and when he was there.

The orders and notes, however, put him on leave in July 1947 and not at Wright Field with classmates, because in July 1947 he had no classmates. We can also say that he did not arrive at Maxwell until late August 1947.

Right now, it seems that there are some mistakes and misunderstandings in the official records. We need to get into the files at Maxwell to see if we can straighten this out.

zenmode said...

I find it disappointing that you doubt the Magruder story. My family was neighbors of the Magruders for over 20 years in Paradise Valley, Arizona, and I am inclined to believe Mark's account. Colonel Magruder's character was beyond question.

If I were to recollect the events that my father told me about his service at Williams Field between 1950-1952, I would be hard pressed to give an accurate acount of the details, such as the number of the training wing or even the name of his commander. Perhaps you should weigh Mark's testimony in the same light.

I do know that when my father was an ATC, they were issued stereo-optic cameras to record anything that looked remotely like a flying saucer and immediately contact Wright Field.

I suggest you talk to people who were actually in the Air Force at the time to grasp just how seriously our government took the possibility of UFOs.