Thursday, August 21, 2014

General Exon and the Unholy Thirteen

When I began the Roswell investigation with Don Schmitt, I thought we’d find a solution quickly and that would be it. That didn’t happen, but as we talked with various witnesses, prowled various archives, museums and newspaper morgues, and found some limited documentation, it became clear that something had happened back in 1947.

When I interviewed retired Brigadier General Arthur Exon on the telephone on May 19, 1990, I began the discussion by saying that we were doing some research into the activities at Wright – Patterson Air Force Base. The discussion began with him mentioning that some outside agency would call, tell him they needed an aircraft for a mission, and then people would arrive by commercial air to be carried to the site of the investigation by an Air Force aircraft. This was all in the mid-1960s when Exon was the base commander. Seemed like a good way to disguise what you were doing.

Eventually we got around to the events of 1947 and Exon said:

As a result of that, I know they saw the one sighting and then where there… a good bit of the information came down. There was another location where it was, where apparently the main body of the spacecraft was… where they did say there were bodies there. I’ve been in… I’ve got special information but it may be more rumor than fact about what happened to those bodies although they were all found apparently outside the craft itself but were in fairly good condition. In other words, they weren’t broken up a lot.
I know what some of you are thinking. This doesn’t get us to Roswell and 1947 but it does mention bodies and does mention a spacecraft which means he wasn’t talking about an aircraft accident. He then said (after my question wondering if the bodies had come into Wright – Patterson which was simply “And they came to Wright – Patterson?):

Well, that’s my information. But one of them was that it went to the mortuary outfit… I think at that time it was in Denver [Lowery Field] where these people were being identified. But the strongest information was that they were brought into Wright – Pat. But whatever happened to the metal residue, I imagine it’s still there in the [unintelligible] some place.
But back in that ’47 time period, everybody was, it happened and why wasn’t there more information and who kept the lid on it. Well, I know that at the time the sightings happened it went to General Ramey who is now deceased, who was at Carswell AFB [Fort Worth] and he along with the people out at Roswell decided to change the story while they got their act together and got the information into the Pentagon and into the President.
Of course President Truman and General Spaatz, the Secretary of Defense [actually Secretary of War] who has now passed away, and other people who were close to them were the ones who made up the key investigative teams in relation to the released information. In one of my officers who did some research, who worked for me at Wright – Patterson, who had done some research on this part of his school came up with a deal that there was great concern at the time and there was fear that the people would panic if the sketchy information that they had such as what was it and where did it come from and what was their mission and so on and so on got out. So they decided to make it a national cover up. And that there probably wouldn’t be much released until everybody who was involved in it, including the thirteen people I’m talking about and their immediate staff who made up the, oh what was it, the twelve people who made up the investigative team had passed away. So they wouldn’t divulge information or information wouldn’t come out that they may or may not have been involved while they were alive.
That’s the logical thing and I know most of those people were around. I did know that they’re numbers one and two people were at the top of the staff including the Secretary of Defense and the Chief of Staff and the intelligence circle including the President’s office, I never heard of any elected officials…
I cut in to ask a very basic question. I asked, “Now, is this personal knowledge that you have of this?” Exon said:

This is stuff that I’ve heard from ’47 on to the present time, really. About why wasn’t it… about who was responsible and it was no problem to find out who was in those positions in ’47 and ’48 and I just happen to remember them because the Air Force was being formed and I was in the Pentagon and worked around a lot between the Pentagon and the field so I knew these people.
Given this information, I wondered who would have been the controlling agency. Who had the overall responsibility for this? Exon said:

I just know there was a top intelligence echelon represented and the President’s office was represented and these people stayed on it in key positions even though they might have moved out to investigate all sightings and stuff and get pictures and get information and bring it into the central repository
From that point, the discussion shifted into who might be able to provide additional information. He did tell me of a man who had been in charge of the Foreign Technology Division at one time by the name of Cruikshank. I actually found him and called him. That conversation was very short and I could think of no way to keep him talking. He was too clever. He just told me that he didn’t know who I was, he didn’t know what was still classified and what wasn’t, and he had nothing else to say. While I didn’t appreciate the short telephone call, it made perfect sense to me. It was what I would have done in a similar circumstance.

I did ask about other crashes, but Exon said that the only one he knew about was the one in New Mexico. We finished our conversation with Exon saying, “…I’d be surprised if you found much in the records of FTD or like that because it was so closely held… If it originated there it ended up being part of the unholy thirteen group… people that I know who were involved in it, they were sworn to secrecy.”

Now here’s something that I came to realize later. We all assumed, and it is almost engraved in stone, that the modern UFO era began on June 24, 1947, when Ken Arnold made his sighting and report. We assumed that nothing else was going on in the world of the UFO, but as I was working on Government UFO Secrets, I learned that the UFO investigations actually went back to the Foo Fighters. There were the Ghost Rockets in Scandinavia in 1946 and finally the flying saucers of the US. But the intelligence networks had been looking into these things since World War II, and one guy’s name surfaced throughout this. Howard McCoy was the man and he was involved in the Foo Fighter investigation, was part of the US Ghost Rocket investigation and was then charged with investigating the flying saucers that were being reported prior to Arnold. And then in September 1947, when Twining’s letter was written, it was McCoy who wrote it for Twining’s signature.

So, if what fell at Roswell was alien, the committee to study these things already existed. It might have been expanded at that point but it was not created in response to anything that happened in July 1947. This was the mistake that I think we were all making. The people who were going to study this were already worried about the national security implications of the flying saucers, though they wouldn’t have called them that until after Arnold. So this committee, these “Unholy Thirteen” as Exon called them, was already at work trying to determine what was going on. If we postulate that they were already in existence because of what had been happening before Arnold it changes the complexion of UFO history.

So, when Exon revealed what he knew, he was talking about something that existed prior to July 1947. When what he told me, and later amplified for Don Schmitt, is looked at in this context, we see something a little different. What he says makes a little more sense, when what we know today is added to what Exon said in 1990.

In the end here, we see Exon’s words with a little more clarity, and we understand a little more about what he was saying. That doesn’t diminish the importance of them, just changes the context slightly and gives us a better understanding of what he said. 


cda said...


General Exon mentions Denver. This is the very place that Silas Newton gave his (in)famous lecture. Coincidence?

I suggest that Exon was merely relating what he remembered from reading Scully's Aztec story, and also from his reading of "The Roswell Incident". He has confused the two cases and added some gossip gained from conversations with personnel at WPAFB.

The only crashed saucers he heard about were these two incidents. The various 'search teams' he talks about were those sent out to examine various aircraft crashes, military or civilian.

I wonder why, in your own book "Roswell UFO Crash Update" you only give the transcript of Don Schmitt's phone call with Exon, and not your own (which seems to have been one month earlier than Don's).

I do not find him a convincing witness at all, and find it strange that you attach so much weight to what he told you. And I still cannot see anything in his testimony that suggests the USAF had set up any committee prior to Arnold's sighting, or had any interest in UFOs before that date.

Where, for instance, did Exon tell you about any such committee investigating either the WW2 foo fighters or the Scandinavian 'ghost rockets'?

KRandle said...


He mentioned Denver, not because of Newton, but because Lowry Air Force Base was in Denver and in the 1940s, he believed the Army had a mortuary unit there...

Exon did not mention the Foo Fighters or the Ghost Rockets. That information was developed later. There are documents that show an interest in the Foo Fighters, as you would expect considering the implications of them. I tried to provide the link among these aspects of UFOs and suggest that it began before Arnold.

Because Don's interview, in Exon's home and not by telephone, was shorter than mine.

No, he is not talking about aircraft accidents, but teams that went out to investigate UFO sightings. He mentioned one in Montana, for example... he wasn't talking about teams that went out to UFO crashes.

I suggest that Exon was relating his own experiences (flying over the crash sites in NM for example),
his experiences with coordinating the UFO investigative teams, his experiences in the Pentagon, and what he learned in discussions with colleagues.

I am not surprised that you don't find him convincing and have confabulated various excuses to ignore what he said... I, on the other hand, find him credible, if for no other reason than here is a general officer with nothing to gain telling me these things. Remember, I sought him out, he didn't come forward volunteering the information.

And once again, Exon mentioned nothing about the committee being formed prior to Arnold. That is information developed later and I believe the connections can be better understood in the context of my book.

cda said...


I am still baffled. Are you saying there were TWO teams located at WP that were actively investigating UFO sightings?

Ruppelt and his gang at Blue Book and another, different, lot directed by Exon? And what was the Montana sighting? I can think of the Great Falls (Mariana) movie as one. Ruppelt dealt with this and maybe other cases in Montana.

What precisely did Exon do that Bluebook didn't do?

Or was Exon merely telling you about Blue Book but giving it another name? Recall also that Ruppelt mentions the 4602nd squadron. Was this the 'rapid response team' Exon talks about?

What I am trying to unravel is whether Gen Exon is telling you anything different from what Ruppelt wrote in his book.

Anthony Mugan said...

Kevin...can I ask about your comment about Colonel Mckoy's involvement with Foo Fighters and Ghost Rockets? Are you referring to SIGN's request for documentation on those events or is there evidence that he was actively involved in investigating those events in the 1944-46 period?


KRandle said...


Exon was not part of Blue Book and made no such claim. He didn't investigate UFO sightings. In his role as base commander in the 1960s, he was responsible for providing support to a team that came into Wright-Patterson and then deployed to other locations. This investigative team might have been part of the 1127th AISS at Fort Belvoir. His role was logistical support.

If you are worried about concurrent UFO investigations, I will note that Project Moon Dust, which had a UFO component was formed in late 1957 and did actually provide some sighting reports to Blue Book... I found these reports in the Blue Book files.

So get this idea that Exon did UFO investigations out of your head and stop speculating. The Montana movie has nothing to do with this, other than Exon said one of the teams deployed to Montana in the 1960s. It was a landing trace case that is not part of the Blue Book files.

Ruppelt has no part in this either, although Ruppelt did talk of the 4602nd, which was tasked to do some UFO investigations and that evolved into the 1127th.

Anthony -

According to the September 6, 1944 minutes of the Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee, formed to unravel the Foo Fighter mystery, one of those present representing the Army Air Forces was Colonel Howard McCoy.

McCoy and others at Wright Field, were gathering Ghost Rocket reports in 1946 and when the official investigation began, that is Sign, those reports had disappeared. Little about the Ghost Rockets appear in the Blub Book files.

McCoy, it seems, had been tasked in late 1946 to begin an unofficial investigation into these things and after the Arnold sighting, that unofficial investigation became the official one.

So yes, there is documentation that McCoy had been involved long before we reach the summer of 1947 which is why I think that there was a committee already in place when the events of June and July 1947 exploded.

Steve Sawyer said...

I seem to recall some pre-Arnold, 1946-era informal UFO investigations occurring which involved not only McCoy, but most intriguingly, AAF Col. Miles E. Goll, according to some materials I read long ago that derived from Wendy Connors and Michael Hall's research, but I'm at a loss to a specific citation about that at the moment.

Goll, who was retired from the AAF/USAF by the early 50's, much later became "notorious" as the recipient of what Vallee termed the "Pentacle" memo, written by Dr. Howard C. Cross of the Battelle Memorial Institute.

The memo was directly addressed to a "Mr. Miles E. Goll" at ATIC, and Cross/"Pentacle," in the run-up to the Robertson Panel meetings, was inquiring of Goll (among other very controversial proposals for a secret, staged UFO simulation to allow BMI to better calibrate the nature of the UFO phenomenon during their contract work for ATIC/FTD at Wright-Patterson under Projects Stork, White Stork, and Golden Eagle) just what could and could not be disclosed to the CIA-orchestrated Robertson Panel about the UFO case incidents then under analysis by BMI for ATIC and Project Blue Book.

Do you, Kevin, know of any involvement by Goll, when he was an AAF/USAF officer, in early, pre-1947 UFO investigations of either a formal or informal kind?

David Rudiak said...

Gen. Ramey during the "Washington Nationals" radar/visuals over Washington DC in July 1952 was the Pentagon's Operations Officer and in charge of any jet scrambles. The press called him the Air Force's "saucer man" and top two experts on saucers (the other being Gen. John Samford, USAF director of intelligence, and later deputy director of the NSA). Both Ramey and Samford were at the big press conference in Washington on July 30 to debunk the recent torrent of saucer reports.

A few days later (August 3), Ramey went on CBS TV and said he had been reviewing UFO reports for the last 6 years, which if accurate, means he had been doing it from 1946, or a full year before Roswell.

Further, a little over a week before Roswell, only a few days after Kenneth Arnold's sighting went national, Ramey was already publicly debunking the recent saucer reports, including Arnold's. This would all suggest Ramey was very much involved in investigating saucers (and debunking them) even before the Roswell incident, perhaps clear back to 1946, or in line with Kevin's other comments. More on the Ramey UFO connection:

This also ties in with what Wendy Connors told me some years ago of interviewing two surviving Project Sign employees (one I remember being a secretary) and being told that they were already investigating back in 1946 at Wright Field. Again, this would support the idea of Col. Howard McCoy being a part of UFO investigations prior to 1947.

Larry said...

Given the documented and continuing interest by Ramey and McKoy in the subject PRIOR to the Roswell event It seems to me there is a pretty good prima facie case to be made that the US government was responding to the UFO phenomenon (under whatever name it happened to go by at the time--Foo Fighters; Ghost Rockets; Flying Disks; etc.) in an organized manner.

However, I would note that none of this evidence so far demonstrates that the interest was higher than the Army (or Army Air Force). It doesn't necessarily indicate a national level "control group".

Or am I missing something?

Steve Sawyer said...

Well, Larry, yes and no. It's a definite maybe.

The point is that as a result of the late WWII European and then Pacific theater Foo Fighter incidents (hundreds of military reports), and then the Ghost Rocket incidents in 1946, several "someone's" attention at a fairly high level must have been involved in initiating investigations of both, prior to either the Arnold or Roswell cases.

And, it seems this attention, and subsequent investigations, originated from above the Army Air Force level, as Kevin notes here and elsewhere, and as early as a coordinated Allied intelligence investigation that in part was responsible for looking into the "Foo Fighters" as early as August, 1944. The first "Foo Fighter" military incident reports date back to as early as 1941.

As a matter of fact, much of this is documented in Keith Chester's book, "Strange Company," which Kevin also did an intriguing blog post about back in 2008.


Excerpt: "... in August, 1944, the Allies created the Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (CIOS) which was charged, in part, with the problem of the foo fighters. They held their first meeting in London on September 6, 1944, and what is interesting is some of the representatives who are there...".

Names like Col. Howard McCoy, who was later in charge of the first official U.S. UFO investigation, Project Sign. Dr. Howard Robertson (of the 1953 Robertson Panel). Even Commander Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond / 007 books, for British Naval Intelligence. Dr. Luis Alvarez. Dr. Samuel A. Goudsmit (these latter two were also members of the Robertson Panel). And others of note.

Makes me wonder if in Chester's book, or any other documentation that exists, in turn, what's been documented about the role of Col. Miles E. Goll, as early as 1946 or before in regard to the earliest UFO investigations, once again. I believe there is some nebulous evidence extant.

Oh, and (then) Col. William H. Blanchard, who later was the 509th ABG commanding officer in 1947, and who was the one to request Walter Haut, PIO officer, to put out a certain intriguing press release in July of 1947 about a "captured disk," was also on the CIOS subcommittee. As Mr. Spock would say: "fascinating."

It's like these guys just keep turning up, like "bad pennies," in the earliest U.S. and international or Allied Foo Fighter, Ghost Rocket, and then "Flying Saucer" or UFO investigations, and later on, again, in the late 40's and into the early 1950's.

All of that, and much more, strongly indicates a very high-level interest in UFO phenomena, and their national security implications, even before the end of WW II (since, for example, KR notes in his blog in regard to the CIOS Foo Fighter investigatory documentation that "Those in a position to know what was happening produced classified documents that have now disappeared") -- I assume Chester's book has more to say about that, as may Kevin here, if so inclined.

(And, parenthetically, whatever happened to the final report of RCA's David Sarnoff and General Jimmy Doolittle's investigation of the Scandinavian Ghost Rockets? More "disappeared" documents, or simply still... classified? As per wikipedia: "On August 22, 1946, the director of the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), Lt. Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, wrote a Top Secret memo to President Truman, perhaps based in part on information from Doolittle and Sarnoff. Vandenberg stated that the "weight of evidence" pointed to Peenemünde as origin of the missiles," however, "there are no reports of rocket launches at Peenemünde or the Greifswalder Oie after February 21, 1945." Curious and curiouser...)

See also: and

Anthony Mugan said...

I'm starting off from a very sceptical opinion concerning the idea of an overall control group prior to July 1947.
I can't see anything in the reports of Foo fighters that could have led to an interpretation as extraterrestrial...German or natural cover the range of credible options in 1944-5. Likewise Ghost Rockets, whilst more technological in description were hardly so far beyond the V2 as to lead to such a conclusion, and they conveniently followed trajectories from Soviet controlled area...
In terms of the characters listed above, Blanchard was in the Pacific theatre on operations at the time ( late 1944). Alvarez was with the Manhatten project working mainly on the plutonium bomb. Goudsmit was in Europe as part of operation Alsos. This was a project looking to capture axis nuclear secrets / personnel run out of the Manhatten project. In Sept 44 they were focusing on the Low Countries.
McCoy ( sorry for typo above) was part of the CIOS operations leading preparations for LUSTY aimed at gathering Luftwaffe technology. Robertson was the main scientific link with Britain, working with RV Jones.
It's likely the latter two may have seen something about Foo fighters, but this was hardly more than a footnote in a much wider ranging set of intelligence operations.

I think it was Grigg who actually studied them?

Always open to being convinced of course

Larry said...


If, by the beginning of 1947, the only facts that were known about UFOs were the Foo Fighter and Ghost Rocket reports which Steve points to in Chester's book, then I would agree with your skepticism about the existence of a high level control group at that point in time. For one thing, those reports originated primarily from foreign shores (from the perspective of the USA) and for another, there was nothing in particular that needed to be "controlled" from a high level. Like most UFO reports, they were witness accounts of ephemeral phenomena which may or may not have come from a common origin and, in most cases did not leave any tangible residue to either study or "control". The situation would have been different, however, if Foo Fighters and Ghost Rockets were NOT the only UFO facts that US authorities were working with at the time.

In the realm of speculation, here, I am thinking about the infamous Battle of Los Angeles (BOLA) in early 1942. We (the public) have never received what I would consider a coherent and comprehensive official explanation for what happened on that night and there is, of course, a lot of testimony surrounding that event that would put it pretty clearly in the category of a UFO encounter.

I wonder if anyone here has heard of and/or investigated the claims of Bill Brophy regarding the BOLA?

Steve Sawyer said...

Just to clarify for Larry and Anthony's benefit where I'm "coming from" in my reiteration of the pre-1947 investigations and secrecy on the part of elements of the U.S. government in regard to the earliest WW II and 1946 UFO reports (of which there were thousands, as in the Ghost Rockets "flap"), I'm not arguing or advocating that there was any centralized, military or civilian intelligence agency UFO "control group" per se involved in the management and policy side of the natsec implications of the UFO phenomenon at the executive branch level, or DOD/CIG/CIA highest levels prior to 1947, at all -- just that such investigations began a process towards that probable end.

But, as I also noted, that is unknown, or at least inadequately documented, so far.

I surmise that a higher-level kind of "control group" did not emerge. at the earliest, until sometime during late 1948, or as late as 1951 through early 1953. Prior to that, it was simply slowly coming together in "bits and pieces" at lower levels emerging from the evolving nature of the actual UFO incidents reported via military channels beforehand until it evolved into something else that could be considered a "control group" by no later than mid-1953 to maybe sometime in 1954 and ever since then. Maybe.

Of course, this is simply speculation of sorts, but there are many "clues," relating to policy directives to "clamp down" on serious and objective scientific examination of the phenomenon, at least publicly, coupled with a policy (codified, for one example, by the conclusions and recommendations of the Robertson Panel) of denial, ridicule, and active public suppression of significant UFO incident data, depending on how one interprets these actions, that suggest this.

The early and mid-Cold War proxy conflict between West and East was also a very important factor in these suppressive and covert "perception management" policies and directives, IMHO.

It would seem there was a relatively slowly, developing realization of the social and governmental effects and potential impact that derived from sometime in late WW II into the late 1940's or early 1950's that appears most likely to have then evolved into a more formal "control group" of some kind, but after 1947 itself. I also think the UFO incidents over and around Washington, D.C., in July of 1952 only added to or accelerated this "formalization" process of control within certain elements of government in the early part of 1953, possibly at the behest of President Truman and/or the NSC.

For reference, see:

Review the latter part of this reproduced Sydney Morning Herald article, "Plan 9 from Outer Space" from Nov. 3, 2007, regarding the initial creation and alleged purpose of the Office of National Estimates, or ONE, by CIA Director Gen. Walter Bedell Smith in late 1950, now called the National Intelligence Council, or NIC.

"This [Robertson] report and the original Tremonton "seagull" film were then
made part of an Office of Scientific Investigation briefing on
January 29, 1953, to the entity known as ONE. The air force
briefed ONE on UFOs the next day and its 11 members included "Dr
Edgar Hoover [sic], William Bundy, General H. Pull and Admiral
B. Bieri [Eisenhower's chief of staff]".

"These documents reveal that ONE was an elite think tank within
the CIA and that General Smith created the Office of National
Estimates on the issue.
Now, whether the ONE was really created by Smith with UFO phenomenology as one of its areas of investigation and analysis is debatable, as are so many other allegations about an actual "control group."

Regardless, a real, thorough investigation is required.

Dave said...


Please see previous week for a post by yours truly addressed to you.


Larry said...


I'll respond to your question at the previous post, when I get a chance.

Anthony Mugan said...

I noticed I had typed an error in an earlier comment. The Major General attached to RDB in 1950 was Jerry Phillips, not White (more or less inverting the point I was trying to make accidentally!). There are other possible candidates for that person such as Putt, of course, but I couldn't find anyone with the name White. Ruppelt's vagueness about the name may therefore be an indication of the sensitivity of the subject.

Apologies for any confusion!