Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Arthur Exon and the Investigative Teams

As happens all too often, as I’m searching for something else, I stumble onto a document that helps explain information I had found in the past. Brigadier General Arthur Exon, who was the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base commander, a position similar to that of a mayor, told me during an interview on May 19, 1990, that he was responsible for dispatching aircraft to carry investigators to important
Brigadier General Arthur Exon.
UFO sightings. He said:

Well, the way this happened to me is that I would get a call and say that the crew or the team was leaving and they knew… there was such and such a time they wanted an airplane and pilots to take “X” number of people to wherever, you know. They might be gone two or three days or might be gone a week. The would come back and that would be the end of it. So, there would be certain people in FTD [ATIC evolved into FTD in 1961] that would lay the missions on… I know they went out to Montana and Wyoming and the northwest states a number of times in a year and a half… They went to Arizona once or twice.
These special teams, or these people, would apparently come from around the United States and their assignment was to investigate a UFO sighting according to Exon. He didn’t have much in the way of details about these special flights, but the implication I took away from this was that the teams, or the team members, were a specially trained group who were investigating UFOs at a higher level than Project Blue Book. It was clear that they weren’t part of the Blue Book operation.

We (Don Schmitt and I, who first interviewed Exon) asked if the men were assigned to Wright-Patterson. Exon said, “No. They would come from Washington, D.C.” He also said that the team would be made up of eight, maybe fifteen people, the number probably dictated by the sighting they were investigating. The idea was that if anyone checked, they would learn that the team had been dispatched from Wright-Patterson as a way of disguising the nature of this somewhat secret activity.

During my interview with Exon, I wanted to know if he knew who the controlling agency or agencies were. I thought FTD was one of those agencies, but Exon said, “I don’t know they were controlling but I know where the assignments came from.”
I asked, “That was basically your control? FTD?”

He said, simply, “Yeah.”

The conclusions that I drew, and the conclusions that Don drew, were that teams, controlled at a different level, but that were not assigned to Blue Book were called in for special investigations. This, according to Exon, was in 1960 and 1961.

But it turns out, according to the documentation that I have just found, this assumption is not true. Oh, the documents were there in the Project Blue Book files for anyone to find who scanned through the boxes and boxes of data as it is contained on microfilm. As, I say, I was looking for something else when I found this.

According to the documents, in a draft of a staff study that was declassified in 1969 but suggested in a document dated December 17, 1958, that:

To provide a flexible investigative force which will not cause a particular drain on any one office within ATIC [think FTD at this point] the Commander has approved the establishment of a volunteer force which will work under the direction of the Aerial Phenomena Group of the Air Science Division when actually engaged in field investigation of UFO sightings. The general ground rules for their employment are as follows:
A total group of from 18 to 20 volunteers will be selected from company grade officers [lieutenants and captains] and NCO’s presently assigned within ATIC. This group will for the most part be people who do not have much opportunity to travel during the normal course of their duties. Once selected they will be given a 20 hour course of instruction in interrogative and investigative procedures and will be checked out on equipment pertinent thereto [the class syllabus was included in the documentation]. Once trained two of these individuals will be placed on alert each week to undertake such investigations as may arise during the week. Orders required for TDY [temporary duty] travel will be processed by the Aerial Phenomena Group citing funds programmed by that Group for such travel. A separate project nick-named “Horse Fly” [which is the first time that I have heard of this project] will be established to provide military airlift for investigators to and from the nearest Air Force installation to point of UFO sighting. Flyaway kits of equipment will be issued by and specific flight arrangements will be made by the Aerial Phenomena Group.
It is estimated that each investigator can plan on about 5 TDY trips of 3 days duration per year.
FTD Building at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Photo courtesy of USAF.
The officer who signed the document was William E. Boyd, who was a colonel at the time and listed as the Chief of Staff at ATIC. Although what I found was a draft, there was additional discussion about this later but it apparently was implemented. While the suggestion is that the alert teams would be made up of two individuals, there was nothing in the original document to suggest that the deployment teams were restricted to the two people on alert. This sounds suspiciously like the teams that Exon spoke about when he talked to me, though he seemed to have overestimated the size. They didn’t come from Washington, D.C as he suggested, but they were not all consolidated in a single office within ATIC. They would come from a number of locations within ATIC to deploy into the field.

Given that the documents were originally classified (confidential, I believe), and given the nature of the assignment, I don’t believe that there was any reason for Exon to have denied the request for the assets needed. It would have come from inside ATIC [or later FTD], or possibly from the Pentagon, authorizing the use of military equipment to move the personnel into the field. Since it involved specific intelligence, which in this case would be a UFO sighting or landing, there would be no reason to brief Exon on the specific mission. The request would have the proper authorization, and in fact, given the nature of it, and the various authorizations approved, there would be no reason for Exon to handle this personally. Someone on his staff could certainly have made the arrangements and if there were questions about the authorizations, those might have been bumped up to Exon for resolution, but I doubt that would be necessary. This suggests the reason that Exon was rather vague on the nature of the assignments. He wouldn’t be doing the work himself, one of his staff did, and Exon was probably briefed on this, as he would be on other aspects of the operations at Wright-Patterson that fell under his area of authority. At the time, this would not have been a big deal, but the routine movement of assets to a location where their expertise would be of value.

This means, I suppose, that we shouldn’t draw any specific conclusions about the nature of these teams, simply because we now know about their formation, their purpose, and their deployments. They were sent to investigate UFO sightings that would require the expertise that these officers and NCOs brought to the table based on their 20 hours of classroom work so that they knew, at least in a rudimentary sense, what they were doing.

What I don’t know at this point is where their reports would have been sent. Probably to the Aerial Phenomena Group, which would have been housed at ATIC and then FTD when the name change came about. All I really know is that the teams were formed and were apparently deployed on a number of investigations. While all this is interesting, it seems to lessen the importance of the information supplied by Exon, but it does give another avenue of investigation. It will be interesting to see if I can find the results of those investigations that Exon mentioned.


Signifying Nothing said...

If these teams weren't necessarily from Wright-Patterson, why was the base involved in their transport? Would they not use the nearest MATS(?) flights to get around?

KRandle said...

Sorry. I didn't make it clear. These teams were all part of ATIC/FTD and all were based at Wright-Patterson. There were twenty or twenty-two people trained in this and it seems that no one was brought in from outside of that base. Exon thought they came from Washington, D.C. but I found no evidence to suggest this was accurate.

Signifying Nothing said...

Got it, thanks. Interesting that there was a "special sauce" group performing investigations that hasn't been looked at till now.

Bombastic Bill said...

I have 2 questions about this great piece of UFO news, 1st why would the USAF who already had a specialized UFO group on base need to be jumped up by a selection of lower officers and NCOs who seemed to be given special access to military assets and equipment (remember Ruppelt spoke of having problems getting a staff car let alone a military aircraft) under a legitimate and named project nonetheless when (also according to Rupplelt) 7 to 8 years previous during the Robertson panel, the suggestion came from NSC that they should spend time "demystifying" UFOs? 2nd, although it sounds like a nice detail, why only give 20hrs on technique and basically choose officers and NCOs who don't travel much? Was this somehow treated as a "sweet gig" for these guys? Something to increase morale in the times of cold war brinksmanship?

Bamm Bamm Bahama said...

It is interesting that none of these team members have come forward given that the retired General was leaking information to the public.

It appears there is a lot of money to be made if you have a good story to tell, and someone is willing to buy it?

Mr. Sweepy! said...

Kevin, this is interesting. This like your other followers, begs for additional questions. Were these "teams" only for UFO investigations only? The 20 hours figure suggest that this would be the case.

So is there any evidence of a second team for actual crash retrieval? Did Exon mention anything about this?


Drake Gilliland said...

Is it possie to track any of these team members down? How would you even go about that?

KRandle said...

I believe that I have found a roster... but remember, all this is from 1960, more than a half century ago and there is little information on these guys (yes, guys, there were no women involved in this).

purrlgurrl said...

I've always suspected that some of the last century's UFO reports involved airspace incursions by foreign military/intelligence, and not all were necessarily high-altitude overflights. There could have been incursions by helicopters launched from sea, for example. I've never believed that US airspace was as inviolable as was claimed by the military and US government during the Cold War.

This group would fit into that scenario, especially since some of the areas visited by the group that Exon noted were home to major military installations and missile bases. The group's purpose might have been to investigate what was suspected to be a breach or attempted breach initiated from the air. Investigating any suspect missile system breakdowns might also have been part of the group's mission. Putting it under the UFO investigations umbrella would provide cover.

During the Cold War the American public kept being reassured it was protected 24/7 by our missiles targeted to strike at the heart of the old Soviet Union. Imagine the uproar (careers would be shredded - political, military; corporations ruined – defense contractors) if it ever leaked that our airspace and those bases could be breached or our missile systems were subject to breakdowns that took them offline.

I have a hunch there's quite a bit of information on Cold War activities that remains classified, possibly including this group's mission and activities. Why keep it classified? We're still giving some of those same Cold War contractors trillions in defense spending today. The public would be rightfully outraged to discover our current defense infrastructure is being trusted to contractors with a long history of questionable work and products. Even today, Americans would want to see some heads on the chopping block.

Did this group have anything to do with investigating aliens? You gotta be kidding me. It was the Cold War. That's the critical context that must be considered as the reason for this group's formation and activities, if it existed as Exon claimed it did.

KRandle said...

From Robert Hastings -

In the course of my UFO-Nukes Connection research, I once interviewed a retired USAF missileer who alluded to UFO investigations conducted by a mysterious helicopter unit. Major Gaylan W. King, who was a Minuteman launch officer at Ellsworth AFB in the mid-to-late 1960s, told me,

“I think this happened in 1967 but it may well have been in ’66. I was a Captain, a Missile [Combat] Crew Commander, with the 66th Strategic Missile Squadron. We experienced several cases of UFOs hovering over sites. Everyone knew that there were weird things going on.

The most interesting occurrence—of about 10 to 15—happened one night at another flight, Charlie. I was in the Echo capsule that night and heard what happened on the Primary Alert System. Following the security violation [alarms], both Outer and Inner, they sent out a Strike Team and received a visual report of a UFO hovering over a Launch Facility—I don’t remember which one—with some kind of light beam coming down from the bottom of the UFO to the site. The team leader told the commander at Charlie that the object looked like a ‘flying saucer’ and the beam was described as reddish in color. The craft then took off at high speed.

This report went immediately up the chain [of command] to SAC Headquarters. Soon, black, unmarked Hueys showed up at Ellsworth. They were constantly coming and going, from the base out to the countryside. You know, we had 150 missiles scattered around out there. Anyway, the Hueys were strategically stationed around the greater area of the 44th Strategic Missile Wing—I guess to get a look at the UFOs—which were very evident for three to four weeks.

The crews of those choppers came to the Officers Club but spoke to no one and disappeared as quickly as they appeared. They weren’t Air Force; they were probably working for the CIA or NSA or some group like that. Short hair, dark clothes, kept to themselves. They were different and stuck out. They were all over the place. I’d love to know who they were.

As soon as they showed up, everything began to clamp down. We heard nothing about the results [of their investigations], but I spoke with some of the security Strike Team commanders, all NCOs, who actually saw the unidentified [aerial objects]. This scenario apparently happened at all or most of the Minuteman wings. We heard about that through the grapevine. I have no doubt what the objects were.”

It should be noted that I have King’s DD214, which confirms his presence at Ellsworth during that time-frame and his position as ICBM launch officer. I should also say that his conjecture about the helicopter unit’s non-USAF affiliation is unproved.

--Robert Hastings

Bombastic Bill said...

Kevin, in response to the great investigative work done by Bob, who would have be notified about non branch, yet government groups gaining access to a site as secure as a launch facility (this is all assuming that you credit King's story which is a big assumption on my part)? It almost seems like a psy-ops mission where you have a mysterious event that everyone on base is dying to find out more about, then you send a non branch IC operatives to conduct very visible operations for a long time on a very large area of operations and despite this high visibility, no one knows what these people are doing on base. From your experience as an intelligence officer, does the military/government deliberately obfuscate in order to seem a certain way, knowing full well that this will lead to false assumptions? I always go back to Vallee's comment that things seemed to be stage managed. I always found it odd why the government would care so much as to manipulate the thinking of such an insignificant group as UFOlogy but that's a question we're all dying to know the answer too though it would probably take an act of God to reveal.

Paul Dean said...

Im trying to get every unit history of the 1006th AISS and, later as reorgansied, the 1127th FAG. They are broken up between NARA and AFHRA. Also, various Aerospace Defence wings assigned to ADC and later ADCOM may have a few passages of text re old UFO investigation attempts by semi-formal groups (as highlighted in this blog post). Barry Greenwood and I have tracked down some of the histories, but we are also finding command chronologies from various AISSs and FAGs too that may shed light. Not an easy task, and expensive.

Paul Dean, Australia

Mr. Sweepy! said...

Have you ever run into or suspect military or government personal who were using second or fake identities? One of the reason for asking is, on one of the UFO TV shows, it was suggest that recovery teams did this. Possible yes but I generally don't think so.

Brian Bell said...

An interesting development. While I suspect most of these people are deceased, there may be some willing to discuss the actual purpose of these teams if living.

I do agree that purrlgurrl has some good points. There may still be classified Cold War era information that for whatever reason has never been released. Some of that information may contain Soviet incursions into US airspace.

And just for fun, let's not forget that Japan had submarines that could launch observation planes in 1944-45. The Soviets also developed and test flew the Ushakov' Flying Submarine in 1947. The bizarre thing was both sub and aircraft and was made of lightweight metals and special sealants and varnishes.

While the project ended in 1953, who's to say they didn't get this thing far enough along to test it over US airspace? Six years spent on something that was already flyable in 1947.

One can imagine one of these launched by submarine from the Gulf of Mexico. The added bonus? It's airframe is triangular in shape with a large tower on the top, which for some, might easily be described as "UFO like" in appearance.

cda said...

You were once very disposed towards accepting Gen. Arthur Exon's Roswell claims, as they came from someone who seemed to be 'in on it' and knew his facts. Do you now accept that perhaps these claims (and memories) were not so reliable after all?

He once said he flew over the exact site of the 'crash' and saw the ground traces in the desert, among other things, didn't he?

His testimony looks very shaky now. Not that it ever looked, or sounded, solid anyway.

Bombastic Bill said...

Not sure this will do any good, but this story has inspired me to file my first FOIA request for any info on Horse Fly. If anyone has any of these documents, please share.

Robert said...

I looked up the memo, which was part of a bigger UFO Study in 1958 on Fold 3 Bluebook microfilm as I wanted my own copy. One of the previous documents in this UFO study file is very interesting. It indicated that the background facts to the Air Force UFO program were as follows:
a. AFR 200-2, dated 5 February 1958, essentially stipulates the following:
1) The objectives of the UFO program are to first determine the possible threat of UFO's to the security of the United States and its forces; second, to determine the technical or scientific characteristics of any such UFO's; third, to explain or identify all UFO sightings.

5) Prompt reporting and rapid identification of UFO's is essential in the Air Force and public interest.

So we know that the bottom line the objective of the UFO program was to "explain or identify all UFO sightings" as rapid as possible as that was "essential in the Air Force and public interest."

Robert said...

The other thing is Bluebook was essentially a PR front to explain and throw out explainations for UFOS. This would not necessairly be the group or investigators that would go out to crash sites and or recovering advanced technology.