Since I’m off on this General Exon rant, I thought I’d add another level to it. As I went back over the material that I had gathered in all forms which are the telephone interviews, emails and letters, and a personal meeting at Wright-
Patterson Air Force Base, I came across some information that hadn’t
really registered at the time (though I did provide Philip Klass with a
complete transcript of the interview, so he missed it too). It does, however,
affect the overall importance of the information that he provided about the
Roswell UFO crash.
First, a bit of a back story here. In my conversations with him, he mentioned that he was going to be at Wright-Pat for a golf tournament. Since Ohio is a lot closer to my home than California, I arranged to meet him there. He had suggested a time and I was at the front gate early enough that I wouldn’t miss him. The security police were checking IDs and asking for those of us who wished to enter the base to have some sort of a sponsor. I called Exon (in these pre-cell phone days), but there was no answer in the VOQ (Visiting Officer’s Quarters). Though I hadn’t wanted to do it I finally flashed my military ID, which, of course, negated the problem. Since I had an Air Force ID card (at the time I was still serving with the Air Force), they had no problem with me entering the base unescorted, and issued the temporary pass for me and my vehicle.
I drove to the VOQ, knocked on the door, but there was no answer. We’d had an appointment, but it seemed he was not interested in keeping it. As I turned to leave, he stepped into the hall, returning to his quarters. Trapped, so to speak, he had no choice but to go to lunch as we had planned. I always wondered why, after agreeing to meet me, he worked so hard to dodge me. He hadn’t counted on me having a military ID so that I could enter the base unescorted.
I’m not sure of the relevance of this little anecdote, but relate it anyway. I wondered if he had been “talked” to by some of his pals at a higher level, or if there had been an official visit of some sort that cautioned him about talking with us about UFOs and Roswell. That doesn’t prove that what he said was the whole truth, only that someone might not have appreciated his candor in talking with me and some of those others.
Now, on to the real point here. In my first conversation with him, back on May 19, 1990, he told me about four aircraft that had disappeared as they attempted to intercept a UFO. Given that, I had asked, “All four of airplanes disappeared?”
He said, “Yeah. And they don’t know what happened. If they went out oversees or out over the water which was not likely.”
“They were scrambled out of Kentucky?”
“Kentucky or Tennessee,” he said. “There were four of them that were scrambled. They were all lost.”
I asked, “Nobody ever found any wreckage or have any clues as to what happened to them?”
“That’s right. Not that I know of. That’s all been investigated before and it’s a matter of record and it’s kind of a mysterious thing.”
Well, it’s not a matter of any record that I can find. In all my searching, I never came across a story of four aircraft, scrambled to identify an intruder, that disappeared in the way he described. Exon said that it had happened in the mid-1950s, when he was assigned to the Pentagon, so he thought that was where the story originated.
My theory on this is that Exon was talking about Mantell. I say this because four aircraft were involved in the intercept and that it took place in Kentucky. Other than that, there isn’t much of a match. None of the planes disappeared and only Mantell was lost. Although we don’t know exactly what happened, there is a good theory about that.
I suppose an alternative theory is that this had something to do with the Flatwoods UFO case from September 1952, but there is no good documentation about aircraft disappearing in the big fur ball (fighter pilot talk for the aerial dogfight) that allegedly took place).
At any rate, I have found nothing that truly fits in with what Exon said. I think these were fragmented memories put together as people asked him questions about UFOs and what he knew about them. Bits of things that he overheard and put together but were unrelated. Aircraft scrambled to intercept UFOs, aircraft in Kentucky crashing while chasing UFOs, and aircraft disappearing over water (think Flight 19 and the Bermuda Triangle).
While this doesn’t overly affect what he said about other aspects of the UFO phenomena, we do have the notes that suggest his discussion of the UFO investigative teams which was technically true is not completely accurate. This is the problem when we begin to access memories that are decades old. Sometimes they are accurate, sometimes they are partially true, and sometimes they are cobbled together from fragments that might not be connected. It’s why documentation from the era is so important. Without that, we end up with some truly interesting tales that might not be completely grounded in reality.