(Blogger’s Note: In the last few days I have been asked about Philip Corso and his tales of seeing the Roswell bodies and of seeding alien technology into American industry. I have updated the information to reflect what we now know. This is my take on the stories Corso told, and once again, I find myself attempting to explain why I don’t accept what he said as real.)
As everyone now knows, Philip Corso burst on the Roswell UFO scene in the summer of 1997 with the publication of his book, The Day After Roswell. It was Corso’s story of his involvement with the flying saucer crash at Roswell, first as an officer at Fort Riley, Kansas, and later as a staff officer in the Pentagon, the Eisenhower White House, and finally on the staff of Lieutenant General Arthur Trudeau. Corso claimed that he had been responsible, under orders from Trudeau, for leaking bits and pieces of alien technology to American industry for reverse engineering, duplication and replication.
There is no doubt that Corso had served as a military officer and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served in World War II and stayed on active duty until he retired and did work for Trudeau. Although he did say that he had retired as a full colonel, there is no evidence to back up this claim.
It was during his assignment at Fort Riley that Corso was introduced, according to him, to the alien crash at Roswell. Corso, again according to him, was an above average bowler and because of his skill was invited to participate on a Fort Riley team by then Master Sergeant Bill Brown (which is a name nearly as common as John Smith for those who wish to attempt to learn more about this guy). Corso was surprised because enlisted men weren’t supposed to fraternize with officers at that time, but apparently Corso’s skill was such that the master sergeant took a chance and breached military protocol.
The friendship that developed between Corso and the master sergeant, who he now called by the nickname Brownie, would play an important role in what would happen on the evening of July 6, 1947, after the arrival of a “secret” convoy. Corso was assigned as the post duty officer, in charge of security and as he described it, the “human firewall between emergency and disaster.” As he walked his post, checking the security, he failed to find Sergeant Brown where he was supposed to be. Instead, Brown was in the doorway of the veterinary clinic. There was something inside that Corso just had to see.
Forget for the moment that Brown would have had no reason to enter the building unless there was some sort of a disturbance inside, or that the secret convoy of five “deuce and half” (two and a half ton trucks) with its accompanying “Low boy” side by side trailers would have been guarded by the men who brought them to Fort Riley to ensure that the contents were not compromised. Forget also that the best evidence suggests that the material from the crash was shipped by air to its various destinations because it was the quickest and safest way to move it and the 509th Bomb Group had access to a wide range of military aircraft. Corso, in his first-hand account, claimed that the convoy stopped at Fort Riley, and the Military Police assigned to it as guards were all armed, which, of course, they would be so that wasn’t unusual. These guards, once the material was secured in the veterinary clinic, apparently abandoned their posts to leave the guarding of the crates to the local soldiers. These guards would have been no reason to unload the cargo, so there is no reason that it would have been in the veterinary clinic but without this wrinkle Corso’s story collapses.
Those local soldiers, being curious men, began to search the material from the top-secret convoy. What they found so upset them that they risked the wrath of the post duty officer and court martial by telling him that there was something he had to see. Brown told Corso that he had to take a look at what the convoy was transporting. Corso warned Brown that he wasn’t supposed to be there and had better leave. Brown, apparently ignoring this advice, which would actually have the force of a lawful order, said that he would watch the door while Corso snooped.
Inside the building, Corso found the crates but hesitated at prying open any of them, which would have been closed with a seal to expose any tampering. He searched among them until he found one that had apparently already been opened by the Fort Riley soldiers so that the nails were loose. He opened that crate and then looked down inside. In a glass tube containing a blue fluid, floating, suspended, was what Corso thought, at first, was a small child. Then he knew it wasn’t a child, but a human-looking creature with “bizarre-looking four-fingered hands... thin legs and feet, and an oversized incandescent light bulb-shaped head...”
Rifling the crate, Corso found an Army Intelligence document detailing that the creature was from a craft that had crashed outside of Roswell, which also doesn’t make sense. The documents wouldn’t have been stashed in a crate carrying the body. The paperwork appeared to manifest the remains, first to the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field, and then to Walter Reed Hospital for what Corso believed would be autopsy (which is in conflict with data provided by the late and former Brigadier General Arthur Exon). Of course, such a manifest would have been in the hands of the convoy commander rather than stuck in a crate where he wouldn’t have easy access to it. Corso, realizing that he was not supposed to have read the document, seen the creature, opened the crate, or penetrated the security around the cargo, put everything back the way he found it, and hurried outside. He told Brown that he had seen nothing and that he Brown, was to tell no one.
That wasn’t, of course, Corso’s last brush with the Roswell case. It was however, more than a decade before he again saw anything dealing with Roswell. Instead he had a number of military assignments, moving him to Washington, D.C., and then to Fort Bliss, Texas. At Bliss he was trained in anti-aircraft artillery, then assigned as an inspector of training and finally assigned as battalion commander for several weeks before he was reassigned to Europe. While at Bliss, according to Corso, he was assigned as the commander of the White Sands Missile Range. At least that is what he told reporters in the summer of 1997 as he was describing his background for them.
In Germany, in 1957, he was a commander of a Nike battalion. In March, 1959, he became the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff at the Seventh Army Headquarters. In May 1959, he became an Inspector General at Seventh Army HQ, and continued in that assignment for about a year. In 1960 he returned to the United States. In 1961, he was assigned as a staff officer of the Plans Division in Washington, D.C. and then as a staff officer of the Army’s Foreign Technology Division until April 1961 when he became the Chief of Foreign Technology. Three months later he was reassigned as a staff officer at Plans and less than a year later he retired.
It was during the tour in 1961 that he became involved, once again, with the Roswell case. According to an affidavit prepared by Peter Gersten, and according to Corso, “...In 1961, I came into possession of what I refer to as the ‘Roswell File.’ This file contained field reports, medical autopsy reports and technological debris from the crash of an extraterrestrial vehicle in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.”
Corso’s job, in 1961, was to parcel the debris into American industry hands for research and development which doesn’t explain why he was exposed to information that was irrelevant to his assignment and in violation of the “Need to Know” rule. The idea here was to suggest to various companies that the small artifact or metal had come from an unknown source, which of course shows that there was no need to provide Corso with the background of a UFO crash. The expertise of the scientists at the companies was supposed to unlock the secrets of the debris. This led, according to Corso, to the creation of the transistor, night vision equipment, fiber optics, lasers, microwave ovens and a host of other recent developments though the scientific papers and history of the times suggests that this is not accurate.
All of this was outlined in Corso’s book which became news in July 1997. He appeared on NBC’s Dateline for an exclusive interview. About a week later he appeared in Roswell for a press conference, a lecture, and a book signing. For three weeks in August, his book appeared on the New York Times bestseller list.
Corso was, in 1997, the highest-ranking officer to write a book about Roswell and to make public claims about the case of what he had seen and done (Colonel Jesse Marcel, Jr. now holds that distinction). According to him, he had been a member of NSC, had worked inside Eisenhower’s White House, and had served with the Army’s Foreign Technology Division. If he could be believed, then here was the truth about the Roswell crash. Finally a witness with impressive credentials had gone on the record.
The stories told by Corso to friends and family are even more impressive than those detailed in his book. In a proposed chapter that was edited out of his book, Corso claimed that in 1957 he had taken command of missiles at Red Canyon, where he trained specialists in the management of sophisticated radar and range finding equipment. It was here that Corso saw a series of radar contacts showing objects that could outperform the best Air Force interceptors.
Corso, according to the details of the missing chapter, had been told to report all unidentifiable sightings and then, finally, was told to forget them. He also claimed that at “times of intense UFO activity during his tenure as commander... he is ordered to turn his targeting radars completely off because, he believes, the craft themselves are in danger from our missiles as well as from our high-energy radars.”
Naturally the claims of Corso were subjected to intense scrutiny. Problems with his book began to arise almost immediately. For example, Corso had claimed to be a member of the NSC in the Eisenhower White House. Herbert L. Pankratz, an archivist at the Eisenhower Library, reported Corso was not a member of the National Security Council or its ancillary agency known as the Operations Coordinating Board. There was nothing to link Corso to the NSC.
Corso, in his book, told of how he had intimidated the CIA director of covert operations after Corso learned the CIA was following him. He told Frank “Wiesner” that he was going to start carrying a gun and if he ever spotted a CIA agent following him, they would find the agent’s body with bullet holes in the head. Corso then noted that Wiesner was found dead in his London hotel room in 1961. Wiesner had killed himself by hanging, which is not to say that Corso’s threat so unhinged Wiesner that he committed suicide.
The problem is that most of the facts used by Corso to support this story, from the claim that he had charged into the Langley Headquarters of the CIA, to the facts surrounding the death of Frank Wisner (note correct spelling) are wrong. Corso couldn’t have charged into the Langley headquarters because they weren’t opened when Corso supposedly entered the building. Corso couldn’t have driven to Wisner’s office as he claimed because, in April 1961, Wisner was, in fact, assigned to the CIA’s London office. Wisner did, eventually commit suicide, but it was with a shotgun, at the family farm, and on October 29, 1965.
In what may be the most telling of the events surrounding the publication of Corso’s book is the Foreword written by Senator Strom Thurmond. Here seems to be an endorsement for Corso’s book from a man who has served in the United States Senate longer than almost anyone. When the book was published, Thurmond, objected, claiming that the Foreword he had written had been for a different book. The publisher, Simon and Schuster issued an apology and pulled the Foreword from future printings of the book.
Corso tried to explain it away, saying that Thurmond’s staff had written the Foreword and that “the old man knew it” and that they hadn’t really known the nature of the book. The whole flap, according to Corso, was a misunderstanding about the nature of the book and who actually authored the Foreword. As a matter of courtesy, given the controversy, Simon and Schuster decided to pull the Foreword.
Karl Pflock, who had been around Washington, D.C. in various capacities, decided to look into the matter himself, believing that his friends and sources inside the Beltway would give him a unique perspective on the matter. Pflock, it turned out, knew the senator’s press secretary, and learned that “Yes, it’s true the foreword was drafted by one of the senator’s staff... It was done at the senator’s direction on the understanding he had from Corso that it was to be for Corso’s memoirs, for which he and his staff were supplied an outline, a document which made no mention of UFOs.” Pflock added, “I know of my own certain knowledge the senator was and is mad as hell about the cheap trick that Corso pulled on him...”
Pflock continued, pointing out that Deputy General Counsel Eric Raymond demanded, “Recall all copies of the first printing - failing that, remove all dust jackets with the senator’s name on them; stop using any reference to the foreword by the senator in promoting the book; do not use the foreword in any subsequent printings of the book; issue a statement acknowledging the truth, ‘to establish for the public record’ that the senator ‘had no intention or desire to write the foreword to The Day After Roswell,’ a ‘project I completely disavow.’”
The apology issued by Simon and Schuster was not as bland as Corso had characterized it but was, in fact, damning in its wording. It was clear that Thurmond did not know the nature of the book and that the outline he had read was for a completely different book. The publisher did remove the foreword from all subsequent editions of the book.
This might seem as if it is an argument over trivia, but it does speak to the general attitude of Corso in constructing his book. If he was willing to mislead a United States Senator, one who Corso considered a friend, why believe that he wouldn’t want to mislead the rest of the country? The evidence is that he played fast and loose with the truth.
For example, it was Corso who said that he had been the commander at the White Sands Missile Range but a check of the Range’s website revealed that, with two exceptions, the Range had been commanded by a general officer. The first exception was Colonel Turner who had been the first commander, and the second was when a full colonel took over temporarily when the commanding general died. Corso’s name did not surface as a commander.
However, as noted, his records indicated that he had been a battalion commander at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. The two organizations, Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, share some facilities. So, it might be said Corso was a commander at White Sands but not the commander. Clearly Corso was inflating his record when speaking to members of the press.
During those same press conferences, Corso made other statements that were quite revealing. He mentioned the Philadelphia Experiment, a hoax that began in 1956 when a man claimed he had witnessed, during the Second World War, Navy efforts to teleport a destroyer. The story is an admitted hoax, but Corso began telling reporters about the event, claiming that he had read the top-secret files about it.
Research into Corso’s claims showed that they were firmly grounded in the UFO community. Corso had read and reviewed everything that had been printed, published on the Internet, or shown in television documentaries over the last five or six years as it related to the Roswell case. There was nothing new in Corso’s book, except for his claim that he had seen one of the bodies at Fort Riley and then that he was the conduit for the alien technology to American industry. For evidence, he offered nothing more than his claim it happened and documentation offered as some sort of evidence had nothing to do with his claims.
In fact, when Corso came into conflict with other witnesses, or information that was contrary to his point of view, he retreated. He appeared on a radio program with Frank Kaufmann but at every point of disagreement, Corso deferred to Kaufman as if Kaufman was the real authority. Kaufmann’s tales have since been shown to be untrue, a fact which Corso should have known if he had the inside knowledge that he claimed he had.
He was quick to suggest that his information might not have been the best. In other cases, it seemed to have been the worst. The caption over a photograph in his book read, “Lt. Col. Corso was never able to confirm the veracity of the following purported UFO surveillance photos which were in Army Intelligence files as support for material for the R&D project to harvest the Roswell alien technology for military purposes.”
The first of the pictures is of a well-known hoax. The photographer, Guy B. Marquand, Jr. told various UFO researchers, as well as the editors of Look, that he was sorry, but it was a hoax. He had been young and foolish and thought it a great joke. It would seem that if Corso was on the inside as he claimed, he would have been aware that this particular UFO photograph was faked.
Given the information available, given the mistakes in Corso’s book, and given his inflation of his own importance during his military career, it seems that the logical conclusion is that Corso’s claims are of little value. They added nothing to what was already known, and certainly have detracted from the whole of the Roswell case. When his claims break apart, those who know little about Roswell become convinced that the whole case is built on structures similar to those built by Corso.