Any proper discussion of the so-called MJ-12 documents must, of necessity, begin by placing the entire matter into proper context and perspective. The fact is that these documents do not stand alone, but rather represent only the final link (so far as is known) in a chain of apparently related documents and events dating at least as far back as late 1977.William Moore in The MJ-12 Documents, An Analytical Review
The MJ-12 documents have always been controversial because of a lack of provenance and for errors and discrepancies. But before the MJ-12 affair came into the public domain in 1987, there were at least several questionable documents appearing in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Certain documents and events hint at deceit. A small number of participants were involved, some knowingly and some not. One or more government departments and agencies were likely involved.
The incidence of sightings of unknown intrusions into the airspace of Air Force bases and missile facilities during the period from October 1975 through July 1976 would have caused concern and consternation among Air Force commanders and policymakers. Robert Pratt was working for the National Enquirer during this time. An experienced and competent journalist, Pratt closely followed these stories with his sources and in local newspapers in the affected areas. The events included unidentified aircraft imposing on restricted airspace and hovering over weapons storage facilities. These intrusions were the result of either foreign intervention, security tests, or authentic UFO activity.
The Air Force was well aware of Pratt’s work, as the Enquirer published a story in December 1977, headlined “UFO’s Spotted At Nuclear Bases and Missile Sites.” It included verifiable information. At that time, Barry Greenwood and Larry Fawcett filed FOIA requests concerning Maine, Montana, and Michigan. They received a reply in February 1978 from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense releasing twenty-four documents. Their delivery seems odd in and of itself. Greenwood noted the information had already come out in the newspapers and the Enquirer story.
The Ellsworth document was a cover letter sent by an alleged airman on Ellsworth Air Force base to the National Enquirer newspaper in January of 1978, with an Air Force Incident/Complaint Report. The report recounted a wild story in which a UFO intrusion happened at a missile site near Nisland, South Dakota. According to the incident form, the security level escalated to the point a Special Assault Team arrived at the site. Team members found two “individuals” (aliens) there. A team member ordered one of the entities to halt, pointing his M-16 rifle at it. The being turned toward the team member and pointed “an object” at him, disintegrating the weapon and burning the military member’s hand. Another team member fired his M-16 at the two entities. The “individuals” escaped in a flying saucer.
Richard Doty served in the Air Force from 1968 to 1988. During the Ellsworth hoax in 1977, he was employed with the security police at Ellsworth and was absorbed in counterintelligence training. According to Moore, Doty caught the eye of “Falcon” (Harry Rositzke?) and tapped for further undertakings. Doty denied he was the author of the Ellsworth papers but admitted he was peripherally involved. By 1979, he had completed counterintelligence training with AFOSI, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Assigned to Kirtland AFB as an AFOSI Special Agent, the profusion of activities coming to be known as the Bennewitz and MJ-12 affairs began.
According to William Moore (and by implication Richard Doty), the Air Force suspected someone was leaking information to the Enquirer. Richard Doty, suspected of being the author of the papers, was stationed at Ellsworth then. The Enquirer checked into the information in the report. Pratt found numerous errors and discrepancies and concluded it was a hoax. According to Moore, the episode was a counterintelligence training exercise to expose the National Enquirer’s sources.
Barry Greenwood and Brad Sparks reviewed the hostility between NICAP and the Air Force. Beginning in 1949, Donald Keyhoe published his sensational article about UFOs, implying they were extraterrestrial. Keyhoe continued to confront the Air Force throughout the 1950s and 1960s, claiming they were censoring UFO data and engaging in a coverup. He continued to press for Congressional hearings and investigations into UFOs during this time. Until the occasion of the end of Project Bluebook after the findings of the Condon Report, the USAF had reason to resent and even fear the ability of UFO groups such as NICAP to pressure them into disclosing information. From the Air Force perspective, such activities encroached on their mission of protecting the United States against foreign adversaries.
The Greenwood/Sparks paper made the argument the fear and even paranoia of the Air Force led to countermeasures against the UFO community. Greenwood and Sparks mentioned AFOSI regulations. Such regulations provide the means to foil UFO participants. Tactics were necessary, at least from the Air Force point of view.
Several things were going on in addition to the UFO activity in the northern tier. President Carter requested a UFO investigation by NASA. The blockbuster Close Encounters of the Third Kind heightened public awareness and raised Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s stature. All this added up to increased Air Force concerns.
William Moore had been a school teacher and had the ambition to become a published author. He became the co-author of The Philadelphia Experiment and The Roswell Incident with Charles Berlitz. The Roswell Incident investigation began after UFO proponent Stanton Friedman interviewed Jesse Marcel Sr., who was involved in the incident in 1947. Moore and Friedman claimed to have interviewed over 90 witnesses of the event, some of them first hand. After the Roswell Incident book was released, Moore claimed AFOSI recruited him to cooperate in a counterintelligence operation in return for “inside” UFO information from the government.
Moore was a busy man. In addition to serving as an informer to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Moore cultivated several sources he gave bird names. They became known as The Aviary, as Moore referred to each individual under a given bird name such as Condor, Pelican, Bluejay. These contacts mainly had military and government agency backgrounds. Most had a personal interest in the UFO subject and on the government angle regarding it. They didn’t seem to know about super-secret government UFO programs, but they knew things or heard things during their careers.
The Bennewitz affair began in 1979. The Bennewitz residence was directly adjacent to Kirtland, and Paul Bennewitz was able to conduct observations and record data from his terrace and the top of the house. In late December 1979, he noted unexplained craft over the Manzano Weapons Storage Area and Coyote Canyon on Kirtland AFB. By this time, he had come to believe aliens were operating in and around Kirtland, and he made contact with Major Ernest Edwards of base security in January of 1980.
Bennewitz was a scientifically talented government contractor with a successful business by the name of Thunder Scientific Labs. Although highly intelligent, he was very impressionable and vulnerable to outside parties’ manipulation. Paul sent voluminous amounts of correspondence to APRO’s Jim Lorenzen. After visiting the Dulce, New Mexico area several times with State Policeman Gabriel Valdez, Bennewitz became convinced aliens were mutilating cattle and abducting humans. He believed that aliens were aware of his activities. When Mr. Bennewitz met with Kirtland security and scientific personnel in October of 1980, he communicated these beliefs, which prompted several Air Force and government persons to leave the meeting room.
The so-called Kirtland Documents comprised nine pages consisting of reports of electronic interference on Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena in the Manzano Weapons Storage area and Coyote Canyon there, as well as reports on a meeting of base personnel with Paul Bennewitz, and a record of Senators Harrison Schmidt and Pete Dominici making inquiries as a result of Bennewitz’ prompting. The documents were released to the public as a result of FOIA requests by William Moore, Barry Greenwood of CAUS and by UFO investigator Bruce Maccabee.
These documents are suspicious for several reasons. William Moore received copies of five of the pages by his case officer ( “Falcon”) well before the papers became public. In contradiction to Richard Doty’s assertions, Bruce Maccabee found one of the UFO incidents didn’t occur. In X-Descending, Christian Lambright noted the documents gave the impression that Bennewitz came into the picture in October 1980. He actually contacted Major Ernest Edwards of the Kirtland AFB security police in January of that year. Besides, the copies Moore received had security markings such as “Secret” and “Confidential” whereas those released to the public had no such stampings, and showed no indications of declassification. Finally, it is unusual for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations to release documents related to UFO sightings on an Air Force base. Why were these documents released at all?
In July 1980, APRO received an anonymous letter, purportedly from an airman at Kirtland Air Force Base. The letter described an incident near Pecos, New Mexico. A trainee by the name of Craig Weitzel sighted a UFO landing and viewed “an individual” dressed in a metallic suit. Shortly afterward, the craft took off. Weitzel was approached by a man on the base who demanded he turn over photos. Oddly, the “Weitzel Letter” mentioned 1) a cover-up by the Air Force, 2) AFOSI investigates UFO sightings, and 3) a recovered UFO was in safekeeping on Kirtland AFB in the Manzano Weapons Storage Area. The claim of a saucer stored at Kirtland is a fascinating parallel to the stories told by Ernie Kellerstrass to Bruce Maccabee.
According to William Moore in The MJ-12 Documents An Analytical Report, the letter had been created by Richard Doty as “bait” in order to attract someone from APRO to Kirtland, for the purpose of recruitment, and it was replete with misinformation. The Weitzel document began to be passed around the UFO community not long after it was received. Although Craig Weitzel did have a UFO sighting, it happened in Georgia, not New Mexico. There were no photos.
Counterintelligence acquired an asset in APRO, probably to assist in the measures against Paul Bennewitz. Indeed, a secretary at APRO was leaking confidential material from 1980 to 1982, and this has added suspicion to Doty’s activities.
Doty took the brunt of the criticism for the deterioration in Bennewitz’ mental state and the progression of the MJ-12 affair during the 1980s. He admitted to creating the so-called “Weitzel Letter” sent to APRO in July of 1980. Doty met up with Bennewitz not later than the fall of 1980 multiple times. It’s believed he accompanied Bennewitz on a flight over the Archuleta Mesa area to convince him of an underground alien base there. Doty is associated with Linda Howe’s exposure to the “Carter Briefing Document”, and with the “Aquarius Telex” which Bill Moore delivered to Bennewitz in June of 1981.
Other questionable activities concerned Leonard Stringfield, a long time UFO investigator and author of Situation Red – The UFO Siege. Stringfield collected stories of UFO crash recoveries. He became associated with another UFO enthusiast by the name of Robert D. Barry. At the time, Mr. Barry ran the “20th Century UFO Bureau” in Yoe, Pennsylvania. Barry claimed to have an undisclosed contact formerly in the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Stringfield, Barry had several tape recordings of the CIA contact speaking, which Barry played back for Stringfield. Mr. Stringfield believed both Barry and the retired CIA person were reliable sources.
During the spring of 1978, Robert Barry received correspondence on CIA letterhead instructing him to confer with the CIA concerning a UFO documentary. Barry checked with the agency and learned they had no record of it. Stringfield wanted to reveal the letter at his presentation at the MUFON symposium. He and Barry discussed the situation extensively. Although Barry’s alleged CIA contact informed him it was false, Stringfield and Barry decided to go ahead with the presentation. In Stringfield’s Status Report II (1980), he mentioned UFO researcher Richard Hall, who was aware of who “perpetrated the prank”.
In September of 1980, Stringfield received a letter from a Jeffrey Morse (pseudonym) describing an incident at Ft. Dix-McGuire base in New Jersey. In the letter, Morse claimed he was serving in the base security police when on January 18, 1978, there was a UFO incident in which a security policeman fired on and killed an entity. “Blue Berets” quickly secured the area, and the entity was crated for transport and whisked away hours later, presumably to Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Morse claimed to have heard Stringfield on an Armed Forces Far Eastern Radio Network broadcast in July of 1980. Stringfield gave his mailing address on the program in hopes he might receive tips from military personnel regarding UFO crash retrievals.
Morse wrote to Stringfield on Air Force stationery, supposedly while stationed in Okinawa. One would expect if such a UFO-related event occurred, it would have been subject to strict security, and an active-duty person would not risk recognition in such a manner. Over several years, both Leonard Stringfield and Richard Hall corresponded with Morse, with Morse taking months between communications. Hall was impressed with Morse’ poise and credibility, despite Morse’s nervousness and paranoia at times. Two days after the Ft. Dix incident, Morse was taken to Wright Patterson for interrogation, along with others. He and members of his group were instructed to remain silent about the affair and made to sign security agreements. The people interrogated at the meeting were transferred to overseas duty.
Morse’ behavior and communications appeared irregular, and the Fort Dix/McGuire incident remains unresolved.
To better understand the UFO community in the 1970s, we should take note of Peter Gersten’s role. He,Todd Zechel, and Brad Sparks began efforts to extract government documents under the moniker of Citizens Against UFO secrecy. As an attorney, Gersten filed lawsuits with government agencies to force them to conduct declassification reviews for release under the Freedom of Information Act. Gersten began by assisting Ground Saucer Watch with a lawsuit against the CIA in September of 1977. His efforts eventually culminated in releasing about 3,000 documents between 1979 and 1984 from the Air Force, the CIA, and other government departments and agencies.
If we believe Bill Moore, Peter Gersten was a subject of interest to counterintelligence. As mentioned earlier in this paper, the Air Force had lurched into a defensive, paranoid posture because of President Carter’s interest in the UFO problem. CAUS’ attempts to force documents out of the Air Force certainly added fuel to the fire. After Moore’s meeting with a Gersten associate in San Francisco in September of 1982, Moore’s car was burglarized and his briefcase stolen. The so-called “Aquarius Telex” document emerged sometime later under Gersten’s auspices. Gersten is reputed to have connected Richard Doty with Linda Howe, resulting in Howe’s viewing of the Carter Briefing Document on Kirtland AFB. Richard Doty and Peter Gersten also met and discussed UFO issues more than once.
In the period between 1977 and 1984, questionable documents entered the public domain. One we will refer to as the “Bolling Memo” was a poorly done fabrication. It advocated the government come clean about its knowledge of UFOs. Concocted on Bolling Air Force Base letterhead, the letter was mailed in an official envelope and sent to a reporter. It included a distribution list of several persons in the UFO field. The document contained the terms Cosmic Watergate and Project NICAP and referred to Air Force regulations AFR-200-2 and AFR-200-23.
The Air Force replied to an FOIA request described in Clear Intent by Barry Greenwood and Larry Fawcett. The reply pointed to things wrong with the document, including an incorrect date format, an erroneous construction per Air Force regulations, an incomplete letterhead, and incomplete security stamping. In short, it was not an official Air Force document. Additionally, the FOIA officers did not locate any records regarding “Project NICAP”. They observed the “subject of AFR 200-23 does not concern UFOs”. The “Bolling Memo” is another example of the chain of dubious documents entering the UFO public from the late ‘70s into the ’80s.
As if the general circumstances couldn’t be muddier, William Moore claims after videotaping an interview with “Falcon” in Los Angeles in 1983, “Falcon” gave him a folded paper which has become known as the “Hilltop Document.” It was a one-page memo written on Department of Air Air Force letterhead classified Secret, from a Loren Wilson (Major, USAF) TO “1 STRAD/CC Vandenberg AFB, CA”. It recounted a UFO landing that took place on November 15, 1982. The memo doesn’t mention where the UFO landed, but referred to photographs developed at Kirtland Air Force Base. It references “OSI” (AFOSI) a minimum of four times.
Like most of the information in these documents, the “Hilltop Memo” has numerous things wrong with it. This memo aligns with the general pattern of fabricated information designed to confuse recipients by including both credible and false data.
In this paper this author cites eight separate instances of questionable documents circulating between the years 1976 to 1982. These incidents formed a pattern of UFO enthusiasts and news reporters receiving phony letters, memoranda, and reports. Some papers originated from anonymous sources, with others privately supplied to one or more UFO investigators. The reasons and motivations behind these activities are obscure. They involve deception, manipulation, and diversion.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is concerned with ordinary crimes on Air Force facilities. It also collects intelligence and creates security programs to protect sensitive and classified information and projects. AFOSI and other government agencies track leaks in an important counterintelligence function. Such leaks may or may not find their way into foreign intelligence groups. The Air Force’s animus toward the UFO community resulting from decades of adversarial interactions, along with interest by President Carter in the UFO topic, contributed to an atmosphere of distrust, possibly resulting in a concerted effort to create a smokescreen of misinformation.
Throughout the 1970s, UFO researchers generally viewed hoaxed documents as novelties and one-offs. If William Moore hadn’t made his cooperation with AFOSI public in 1989, the UFO community might still be unaware of games played behind the scenes. Perhaps UFO researchers, investigators, enthusiasts, and organizations are a conduit for information slippage in ways some participants don’t fully understand.
As Bill Moore stated in his address to the 1989 MUFON symposium, “Disinformation is a strange and bizarre game.”
- Fawcett, L., Greenwood, B. (1984). Clear Intent The Government Coverup of the UFO Experience. Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
- Moore, W. (1990). The MJ-12 Documents An Analytical Report. Burbank, CA: The Fair Witness Project.
- Tune In. (2019, April 9). Richard Doty, Retired Special Agent Who Worked for A.F.O.S.I. Retrieved from https://tunein.com/podcasts/Paranormal-Podcasts/Quantum-Hologram-Matrix-p1103137/
- Sparks, B., Greenwood,B. (2007). The Secret Pratt Tapes and the Origins of MJ-12. Irvine CA: The Mutual UFO Network International UFO Symposium Proceedings
- Moore, W. (1989). UFOs and the U.S. Government: Part I. MUFON UFO Journal. Number 259 (November 1989)
- Dolan, R. (2009). UFOs and the National Security State: The Cover-Up Exposed, 1973-1991. pp. 384-386
- Clark, J. (2018). Dark Side (The Bennewitz Affair). The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon From the Beginning (3rd ed., Vol. 1: A-M.). Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics. p. 359
- Lambright, C. (2011). X Descending. Kindle Edition: X Desk Publishing (Kindle Edition, IPad)
- Moore, W. (1989). Revelations: UFOs and the U.S. Government, Part II. Focus, Vol 4, Issues 7-8-9, Sept. 30 1989.
- Lorenzen C., & Lorenzen, J. (1983). New Membership Secretary. APRO Bulletin, volume 31(4). Retrieved from: http://files.afu.se/Downloads/ and Moore (cited above) Weitzel Letter, p. 6
- Maccabee, B. (1985, 2000). UFO Landing Near Kirtland Air Force Base: Welcome to the Cosmic Watergate. Retrieved from: http://brumac.mysite.com/kirtland4.html
- Maccabee, B. (2005). Hawk Tails!. Retrieved from: http://brumac.mysite.com/HAWKTALES/HAWK%20TALES.doc
- Stringfield, L. (1980). The UFO Crash/Retrieval Syndrome Status Report II: New Sources, New Data. Mutual UFO Network, Inc. Irvine, CA pp. 7-9
- Stringfield, L. (1985). The Fatal Encounter At Ft. Dix-McGuire: A Case Study; Status Report IV. MUFON 1985 UFO Symposium Proceedings, Mutual UFO Network, Irvine CA. pp. 42-65
Copyright 2021 Thomas M. Whitmore All Rights Reserved.
An audio version of this paper is available at https://youtu.be/4zFOYQ1N0yk