Majestic Twelve lure
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”
Date: Thursday, August 24, 1961
Location: AREA 51. Joint U.S. Air Force/C.I.A. TOP SECRET Aircraft and Weapons Research Facility.
(A.K.A. Home Base, Groom Lake, Homey Airport, Dreamland, Paradise Ranch and Restricted Area 4808 North R-4808N)
Preparations for the next stage of surveillance evolution had reached a milestone. Lockheed’s Advanced Development Programs, (or “Skunk Works” as it was more commonly referred to as), aviation design genius Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson stood admiring the new Hangar 7 facility that would eventually house the first of his latest passion, the Lockheed A-12 also known as “Archangel 12”, (or “Oxcart”, named after the project name responsible for developing the aircraft). Kelly’s team of engineers, designers and various top-of-their-field trades had been working at the Skunk Work’s Burbank California facility for the last two years trying to overcome several daunting challenges that lay in the path of their latest high-speed reconnaissance aircraft. With a number of substantial “Oxcart” milestones now finally completed at the Area 51 facility, it wouldn’t be long before the entire A-12 program would be relocated here, mainly for security reasons.
The upgrading of Area 51’s facilities as part of the Oxcart Program, was “officially” designated as being primarily for the purposes of antiradar studies, aerodynamic structural tests and engineering designs in large part for further development of the U-2, A-11 and primarily the A-12 aircraft. The Area 51 operation command is now split between a remote division of Edwards Air Force Base and the Central Intelligence Agency . . . a partnership which has proven to be highly effective.
Much of the bulk of the Oxcart Program improvements at Area 51 were now completed, with externally sourced work crews and non-essential personnel being hastily evacuated so that long-awaited top secret aircraft development and testing could proceed. A new 10,000-foot runway with over-runs onto the expansive salt pans of Groom Lake heralded the imminent testing of new high-speed aircraft. Four new larger hangers would house all experimental aircraft away from possible enemy surveillance. The original three hangers, too small for housing the new aircraft, were being converted for use as mechanical and engineering workshops.
The Lockheed U-2 surveillance strategy had been all about altitude. Spying for the C.I.A. over the U.S.S.R. was a dangerous proposition, even getting close to Soviet territory would invariably see you chased, harassed and fired upon, such was the state of relations at this point of the Cold War. The U-2 could cruise at an altitude of 70,000 feet, supposedly out of range of Soviet surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft batteries and the deadly Mig-17. Unfortunately, the Soviets quickly adapted to the new American reconnaissance strategy culminating in the shooting down of pilot Francis Gary Powers in a U-2 over Soviet territory in May 1960 by an S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile.
Big changes were in the pipeline as a result of the shoot-down. Rumors of a highly-secretive “captured” technology from the “Russian incursion of 1947” discretely circulated among the engineers and development crews in hushed tones. Despite the vastly superior attributes projected for the A-12 in terms of velocity, altitude and range, it would be new stealth technology that would give the A-12 the ultimate reconnaissance edge. Work involving the “captured” stealth technology would only begin in earnest once the program was re-established at the upgraded Area 51 facility, or so the rumors went.
Spotting Kelly Johnson admiring the new Hangar 7 facility, Captain Evan Armstrong made his way over to greet his good friend. Throughout the 1950s, Evan had been intrinsic to the development of the Lockheed U-2, not merely as test pilot, but recognized as a clever design innovator highly regarded by the Design and Research Division at Skunk Works. It was Kelly that had recognized within Evan, a keen eye for detail. Often during the development of the U-2, it had been Evan that would identify problems early, before they manifested to disaster. His contributions to problem-solving Kelly considered invaluable.
Evan’s love affair with the U-2, affectionately nicknamed the “Dragon Lady”, extended beyond mere flight testing. He had piloted the U-2 in surveillance missions over Poland and East Germany in 1956, bravely testing the resolve of Soviet efforts to hold back American curiosity. In 1959, it was Evan that would head up the training of British pilots to overfly the Soviet Union which allowed American diplomacy to “honestly” claim that they were “not” flying spy missions over their cold war adversary. Real insight into Soviet capabilities flowed down through Evan eventually appearing in Kelly’s evolutionary design process.
‘Did you bring them?’ asked Evan offering his hand in greeting.
‘You know I wouldn’t dare show my face around here if didn’t,’ replied Kelly smiling broadly and accepting Evan’s handshake. ‘Let’s go inside and find somewhere I can lay this all out for you.’
Within Kelly’s hands were files containing the very latest design features and inclusions of the new Lockheed A-12. The files were clearly stamped “Top Secret”. Evan had approval to access all of Lockheed’s aircraft development files “by prior notice” as he had proven invaluable to Lockheed’s overall development success of surveillance technology, forging a strong and highly-effective working relationship with Kelly’s crew.
In 1957, the top-secret Project Rainbow program commenced with a brief to minimize the U-2’s radar cross section. The design and propulsion features of the U-2 however, did not lend themselves well to the exercise; no match for the enormous investment in Soviet radar detection technology. If America wanted to open the skies of the Soviet Union to their surveillance aircraft, a radical change of thinking was needed.
The latest A-12 design (replacing the A-11) from Lockheed Aircraft Corporation now fully occupied Kelly’s time. Still in the early stages of design and construction, it promised a technological mastery that would give the U.S. the reconnaissance edge over their Cold War enemy. This extremely long slim successor to the U-2 and A-11 had two enormous jet engines, a long sharp projecting nose and swept-back wings that seemed impossibly small to lift such a monster into the air. It was projected that this aircraft could fly faster than Mach 3, travel more than 3,000 miles without refueling, and cruise at 90,000 feet.
It was the J-58 propulsion system supplied by Pratt and Whitney that had been proposed for the A-12 that was of greatest interest to the dare-devil pilot within Evan. Capable of propelling the aircraft through the upper atmosphere at Mach 3 was an incredible feat that in turn created enormous problems. Specialized hand-crafted outer titanium skin was needed to handle 550-degree Fahrenheit temperatures; specially designed fuels and oils were created to accommodate these temperatures. Cameras also needed to be highly modified to defy the distortion of such incredibly high operating temperatures. Insulation was too heavy and bulky in the design/weight considerations; the pilot would fly the plane inside a kind of air-conditioned life support spacesuit with its own oxygen supply.
The feeding frenzy of the wide variety of private sector companies milking the funds from the Oxcart Program was veracious. It was testimony to the incredible expertise of the C.I.A. that they still managed to keep the experimental aircraft operation completely out of the public’s attention and the enemy’s sights. They achieved this only by using a succession of third parties and dummy companies. So successful in fact, the rare and difficult to procure titanium used for the skin of the A-12 was sourced from Russia, right under the noses of their intelligence.
Evan viewed the laid-out blueprints and sketches of the A-12 in silence. His blood ran cold. Up until now, he had ignored the rumors of technology being harnessed from wreckage found in Roswell, 1947. The “work-in-progress” aircraft blueprints before him looked too much like the downed alien spacecraft to be a coincidence. The rumors had to be true.
‘What about the stealth components of the designs?’ enquired Evan barely managing the words.
Kelly sifted through the files opening them at the appropriate pages.
‘Apart from the design features which lend themselves to a minimal radar cross section, we’re using radar absorbent composite materials for difficult to mask areas, particularly around the engine exhaust ports. The skin of the aircraft is mostly titanium, but we are also using some composite materials made from iron ferrite and silicon laminate that are combined with asbestos which absorb radar returns.’
‘What about the rumors of captured antiradar technology found at Roswell?’ asked Evan without looking at Kelly directly, feigning only mild curiosity.
‘I’m well aware of those rumors Evan,’ said Kelly. ‘I’m not permitted to speak on that subject for now, but I believe the rumors will be cleared up over the next few days. Nothing to get excited or worried about, I promise you. Did you like the new swe . . .’
Evan could not have been more worried.
Area 51, Groom Lake
Date: Friday, August 25, 1961
Time: 1844 hours
Location: AREA 51. Nevada. USA
Several times over the previous few weeks Evan had attempted the impossible; to have a quiet conversation with his Commanding Officer, Colonel Rafter. Witnessing the new design features proposed for the A-12, the encounter now became imperative. The temporary officers’ mess hall offered the best opportunity; Evan would deliberately take prolonged meals there in the hope of finding his Commanding Officer alone. Finally, this evening, the right opportunity presented itself. Evan grabbed his second meal of the evening.
‘Do you mind if I join you sir?’
‘Of course not Evan, please sit down,’ said Colonel Rafter. ‘It’s been a while. How are things with you?’
The conversation was polite and generally about the changes happening all around them. Just as Evan was about to bring up the topic of the rumors, Colonel Rafter instinctively read the direction the conversation was heading.
‘Don’t,’ said the Colonel getting up to leave without finishing his meal. ‘I need a cigarette. Do you mind if we go for a walk outside to discuss whatever it is you want to talk to me about?’
Colonel Rafter was using his eyes to indicate that he did not want Evan to discuss anything in this open room as it might be “overheard”. As a top-secret base, currently heavily populated by external private contractors, Colonel Rafter rightly suspected that the C.I.A. was listening at every opportunity. The possibility of enemy infiltration of the private sector was of utmost concern always.
‘Not a problem sir.’
Stepping outside the mess hall, Colonel Rafter casually lit up a cigarette and offered one to Evan.
‘No thank you sir.’
‘I’ve been expecting you to come and see me for weeks,’ said Colonel Rafter. ‘You are here to discuss the rumors, aren’t you?’
‘Yes sir,’ replied Evan, casually glancing around. ‘Has Kelly shown you the A-12 yet?’
‘Sir, the shape looks exactly like a smaller version of the alien spacecraft. The moment I looked at the blueprints, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity,’ said Evan.
‘How’s that possible?’ asked Colonel Rafter sounding perplexed.
‘The A-12 has virtually no wing surface area in comparison to its size, and they are swept right back just like the alien spacecraft wings.’
‘Keep your voice down,’ urged Colonel Rafter. ‘Did Kelly show you the new designs?’
‘Yes, but he wouldn’t discuss the captured technology from Roswell. He said it would all be cleared up soon.’
‘Where are the drawings now?’ asked Colonel Rafter.
‘With Kelly,’ said Evan lowering his voice as several personnel walked by. ‘He returned to Burbank last night but he’ll be back Tuesday.’
Their early evening walk had almost brought them to the temporary Air Force Command Center that the Colonel was using as his base until his new offices were fitted out.
‘Colonel Rafter, an urgent call has just come through from Edwards,’ yelled someone from the open front door of the Air Force Command Centre. ‘They’re waiting on hold for you sir.’
Colonel Rafter was fully aware of the rumors surrounding the captured technology. The rumors were false, he was certain, they were a trap set by extremely powerful and dark forces that somehow existed above the military and the C.I.A., and he was their intended prey. This new information from Evan was disturbing, but seemed unlikely. They could not possibly know anything about the design of the spacecraft, of that Captain Rafter was certain. Evan must be mistaken.
‘I have to take this call Evan, I’ve been waiting for it all damned day,’ said Colonel Rafter as he began walking back to his office. ‘Be careful, everything is not as it seems. Do not approach me again on this matter. Please Evan, leave it alone!!’
Evan was dumfounded. Had Colonel Rafter betrayed his oath?
The CIA presence at Area 51
The C.I.A.’s new accommodation was almost ready for occupation; the final few coats of paint were being applied even as carpet ready for laying was being unloaded from a private contractor’s truck. Everything at the old administration block was being boxed up readied for the move. Normally, the C.I.A. would insist that only their own security-cleared personnel be used in the handling of sensitive and top-secret materials and renovations. The rush to get the move completed by the end of the weekend saw them recruiting help wherever they could find it and this presented Evan’s best opportunity.
Evan was confused. The unusual profile of the new A-12 and its similarity in design to the alien spacecraft had made him suspicious. Added to the rumors regarding the “captured stealth technology of the 1947 incursion”, it made him wonder if Colonel Rafter had compromised their oath from that time, and was now cooperating with authorities to somehow adopt the alien technology. Why else would he snub Evan that way? Evan was determined to get to the heart of the truth . . . he would utilize the current state of chaos all around him to infiltrate the C.I.A.’s files.
Skunkworks involvement at Area 51
The lights were off in Hangar 3 as Evan casually opened the unlocked side door and entered. Turning on the huge overhead lights, he made his way over to the staircase leading up to his newly acquired mezzanine floor office. Test pilots didn’t normally warrant the consideration of a personal and private office. It had been Kelly’s insistence that Evan be close to the heart of the new engineering workshop that had landed him this privilege. The office was tastefully furnished with the sort of furniture not found in military “only” bases. Kelly had personally selected most of the pieces himself.
While the office and furniture were new, the files that had yet to be properly filed and stored were not. Many years of design innovation and experimentation for the U-2 lay bundled up on the floor ready to be sorted and filed. Seeing a bundle that potentially held what he needed, Evan cut the string that bound its contents and let them fan across the fresh odorous leather top of his new desk. He began sifting through the immense number of accumulated blueprints, technical drawings and various other design-related paperwork that was now quite dated and out of classification. Finally, he found exactly the file he was looking for. It was stamped “Top Secret”, and back in 1956, it had been. Much of the older technology developed in the U-2 program had been declassified and was now in substantial use within the commercial airline industry.
Taking a large felt tipped black pen, Evan wrote on the cover “ATT. Kelly Johnson. Return to A-12 files urgently”. Stepping out of his office with file in hand, he made his way across the hanger to the side exit, turned off the lights, and casually walked over to the old C.I.A administration block.
‘Just dropping off some files,’ said Evan to the M.P. standing guard at the door. ‘Am I too late?’
‘No sir,’ said the guard opening the door for Evan. ‘Everybody will be working back quite late this evening. Somebody will be able to assist you inside.’
The old administration building was a hive of activity. Years of accumulated paperwork was being queried, filed, crated or shredded. Numerous crates sat on the floor in various stages of being filled and secured, ready for the short trip across to the new premises. It was an opportunity to be discretionary as to what would make the journey across, and what could now be deemed to be redundant.
Evan picked the busiest and most harassed person he could find; a middle-aged woman, not part of the military by her appearance, who seemed to know the answer to every question being asked of her, and there were many.
‘Leave it with me Captain, I’ll find their home when I get a chance.’
‘Sorry ma’am, before he left, Kelly insisted that this material be put away immediately,’ countered Evan. ‘It will be needed in the next couple of days so it can’t afford to get waylaid. Can I find its rightful place for you?’
‘Come with me,’ said the woman, clearly impatient with Evan’s need for immediacy.
Evan was led to an office at the end of the corridor. Several filing cabinets labelled “Lockheed Advanced Development Programs” stood in the center of the room. The filing cabinets had all been taped closed, ready to be trolleyed to their new home. The woman handed Evan a large roll of packing tape.
‘You’ll have to figure out for yourself where they belong Captain, I’m too busy right now. When you’re finished, please make sure the cabinets are taped securely shut. I don’t want to be chasing loose documents in the wind half way across Groom Lake are we clear?’
Incredibly, he’d pulled it off. He was alone with the C.I.A.’s top-secret Skunk Works files. Ripping the tape off the first filing cabinet, it didn’t take him long to realize that he was in the wrong area of file type. He taped the cabinet up securely. Removing the tape from the second cabinet, Evan opened the top drawer and couldn’t believe his luck. Sitting about two thirds of the way back in the top cabinet was a file clearly marked “Roswell 1947”.
Checking to make sure no one was watching, Evan discretely removed the Roswell file and put it in the drawer of one of the desks that had yet to be moved. The file he had with him he put into the lower drawer of the same filing cabinet. He then taped up the filing cabinet securely.
‘Good job,’ said the woman returning to the room unexpectedly. ‘You found a home for your file then?’
‘Yes, thank you,’ said Evan a little flustered. ‘I better get back to my own chores now.’
Evan walked out of the old C.I.A. administration. He couldn’t believe he had been so stupid as to not have an exit strategy for the file.
The trap set by Majestic 12 for the Roswell witness
Date: Saturday, August 26, 1961
Time: 0614 hours
Location: AREA 51. Nevada. USA
The early morning ritual of Evan’s jogging intermixed with intensive calisthenics was a familiar sight at the Home Base grounds. He enjoyed his varied morning routines; over time gathering disciples by preaching that “pain was merely the process of weakness leaving your body”. Each day varied with his focus changing on whichever muscle group he considered to be lagging the rest. Invariably, that would mean whichever muscle group was in the least pain.
Pushing himself much harder than usual today, one by one the disciples had dropped off, unable to match the punishing sustained pace. Stopping beside the old C.I.A. administration block, Evan dropped face down to the ground in a rigid plank position, hands shoulder length apart, palms firmly planted in front of him. A second, no more, to get a quick breath. Springing his legs underneath him expertly to coil under his torso, he springs into the air as high as it is possible to achieve, at the same time raising his arms in an arc eventually to meet with a clap at the summit of his leap. Hitting the ground hard with his open hands again he counts “one”. Forty-nine burpees to go.
Observing the old C.I.A. administration building from this vantage, Evan could see that the chaos of the previous evening had finally concluded. It appeared that everything that could be filed, stored, shredded or simply thrown out, had. Rows of filing cabinets and crates were neatly organized, all clearly labeled, waiting to be taken to their new homes. They had done an excellent job. Apart from two guards manning the front entrance, there was no sign of life to be seen.
The desk containing the top-secret Roswell 1947 file hadn’t been moved. Evan could see through windows now without blinds that the many old desks in the building were not being moved to the new location. By their disorderly positions and careless abandon, it was apparent that they were destined for the scrap heap. The morning’s torturous workout finally over, Evan sprinted to his office at the Hangar 3 facility to begin his day.
Hangars 1 to 3 had been home to the Lockheed U-2s for the past 5 years. The U-2s were now actively deployed across the U.S., England and parts of Europe, and even though they were still in the process of further development, that development would now take place at Lockheed’s California premises. The old hangers had been perfect for their intended purpose, but were now too small to house the soon to be constructed and much larger A-12. Hangar 3 was in the process of being fitted out with various tools used in the design and crafting of experimental aircraft features. Evan stood at his mezzanine level office window overlooking the workshop floor. There was no one about anywhere.
Donning a pair of overalls, boots and grabbing a clipboard with a neatly filled out requisition form requesting three of the “better condition desks” from the old C.I.A. admin, Evan opened the main hanger sliding doors and left to recruit the labor he would need. Approaching a lieutenant supervising the early morning activities at the machining workshop next door in Hangar 2, he observed several men busy assembling machinery. They would be perfect for his needs.
‘Do you have five men I can borrow for about 10 minutes please lieutenant?’ asked Evan casually. ‘Six would be better.’
‘Including myself you have six sir,’ replied the lieutenant. ‘What’s the job?’
Evan escorted his willing workers over to the old C.I.A. admin building, approached the guards and offered them his clipboard.
‘That’s fine sir, everything of a sensitive nature has been secured, take your pick,’ offered one of the guards.
Fortunately, the desk that held interest for Evan was also one of the best condition there. The drawer with the Roswell file was open just a fraction, Evan could see that the file remained in the desk so he shut the drawer securely. It was also very fortunate that they had not rechecked the desk drawers or Evan may have been in some bother.
With the desks now inside Hangar 3, Evan closed and locked the main hangar sliding doors and thanked the lieutenant and his men. He waited several minutes in case they had been observed or followed . . . it didn’t look like there was a problem. Still not entirely sure of his success, he went over to the side entrance, checked around outside before entering, then locked that access also.
Opening the desk drawer, he pulled out the file labelled “Roswell 1947”. Stamped across the front clearly and distinctly were the words “Top Secret”. Evan anxiously opened the file, spreading its pages across the desk to reveal the contents. Checking the contents, something wasn’t right. Could he have mistakenly grabbed the wrong file?
Unexpectedly, Evan heard the faint sound of fatigued metal under strain coming from a dark corner of the shed. Somebody was moving stealthily along the elevated metal gangway that allowed servicing to the main hangar sliding door.
Gathering the contents and shutting the file, Evan then put the file casually under his arm and walked towards his office. Stopping at the water cooler, he bent over to take a drink. Searching distorted reflected images from the wet highly polished metal of the water cooler, Evan could see the slightest movement behind him. He wasn’t alone, and there was no reason for anybody else to be here. He stood up and was about to walk up the stairs to his mezzanine office when a deep male voice from behind froze him in his tracks.
‘Captain Armstrong, a moment of your time please.’
Evan closed his eyes in disgust. The trap had been triggered and he was their catch.
‘I’m glad that we have this opportunity to meet Captain, I’m keenly aware of your contributions to the U-2 program. My name is Lance Beckner. I’m with Majestic 12.’
Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017
Time: 1147 hours
Location: Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Evan was clearly exhausted.
‘Please pass me a glass of water,’ asked Evan weakly.
Julius was about to comply when the nurse came in.
‘You’ll have to leave for now sir.’
A doctor came in shortly after her and between them they gently returned Evan to a horizontal lying position.
After about five minutes, the doctor came out and advised Julius that Evan was resting, and was not to be disturbed. He could come back this evening if he liked. Julius informed the doctor of Evan’s family in Australia wanting the opportunity of a last phone call. Julius didn’t notice the couple emerging from their visit to the room next door . . . the empty room next door.
From: Julius Ryan
To: Melanie Stuart
Date: Feb 23, 2017 11:18
Subject: You have good instincts, but poor judgment!
Excellent job on the communication with Evan’s family. Evan has decided on a very rushed service at the local crematory. The arrangements are all in hand, (see attached file). Please advise the family, and also let them know I’ll be in personal contact at some point in the near future.
Evan has been telling some fibs. He seems concerned that he may have revealed too much and I’m sure he’s trying to throw me off track a little. The inconsistencies you found could be his attempt to dissuade me from ever revealing what he has told me. It is obviously at least partly made up and I would look foolish if I came out advocating his story to be factual. It might actually be an incredibly cleverly conceived way for him to limit my potential to reveal what happened??? I am gradually getting closer to the truth though. Still, the experience has been amazing. I wish I had met him much sooner. True.
Warning. I like the left-hand side of everything. Bed, bathroom, closet all left. Got It? Left! Do NOT make the mistake of thinking that last night’s left side of the bed privilege sets any sort of precedent. It doesn’t. I like the driver’s seat, and that means you get the passenger side.
On my way back now. I’m starving. Let’s at least eat (first).