Kenn Thomas: July 2011
Mysterious crash site holds clues to the UFO
— and to JFK!
The remnants of an airplane crash from 1947 remain on private property in Kelso, Washington. No urgency exists to dig it up except among UFO enthusiasts who understand the relationship the B-25 has to the first flying saucer sighting of the modern era, the so-called Maury Island affair. Interest among UFOlogists rarely ends with the implementation of the necessary resources applied to get to the bottom of a flying saucer mystery. Consider Roswell, New Mexico, place of inspiration for a cottage industry of speculative books and a couple of government cover-up stories, no real investigations that only enhance its legendary status. Like Roswell, the plane in Kelso promises the possibility of recovering actual material from the space ships. Also like Roswell, however, the best hope for that recovery lies with everyday people until professional investigators are made to wake up.
Two men died in that Kelso plane crash: Captain William Lee Davidson and First Lieutenant Frank Mercer Brown of the Fourth Air Force A-2 Intelligence, under the command of General Carl “Ptooey” Spaatz. From McChord Air Base outside of Tacoma, Washington, General Spaatz had begun an investigation of the wave of UFO sightings that followed Kenneth Arnold’s famous report of nine flying chevrons over the Cascade Mountains near Mount Rainier in Washington. Spaatz previously had directed air force military intelligence at Hamilton Field in California to report relevant UFO data to the Air Force Technical Intelligence Command at Wright Field in Ohio. Davidson and Brown were headed for Wright Field, for ceremonies marking the formal separation of the Air Force from the army, when their plane went down. It had flown out of McChord after the two men had loaded it up with a Kellogg’s Cornflakes box full of residue from the flying saucers at Maury Island.
Fred Crisman gave them the slag. It was part of a stash that he and the other Maury Island witness, his partner Harold Dahl, had taken from the Puget Sound shoreline after the incident. Six flying saucers had hovered over the harbor patrol boat Dahl had been using for lumber log salvage. One of the craft seemed troubled and wobbly until touched by another. It was at that point the wobbly saucer spilled its spew, a black substance and a white one, some of it injuring Dahl’s son and some of it killing his dog. Crisman went down the next day and collected some of the junk and spotted yet another saucer. This happened in the days immediately preceding Kenneth Arnold’s encounter. Some have suggested, in fact, that Arnold saw the same saucers, the troubled one corrected but only for a month, when it finally did crash at Roswell.
Arnold had a more immediate connection to the Maury Island case, however. He was hired by a pulp magazine publisher to investigate the story of Crisman and Dahl. Unable to reach any real conclusion, it was Arnold who brought in the Air Force investigators. As part of “Ptooey” Spaatz’s operation, Davidson and Brown previously had talked to Arnold about his experience, and so he turned to them when he felt he could do no more.
So the stage was set for the Kelso crash. Crisman and Dahl first showed the flying saucer slag to Arnold and then to Davidson and Brown, all three men suspicious that the stuff had a more prosaic explanation, such as lava rock or the by-product of a local smelter. Crisman helped load the specimen on the B-25. After the explosion and crash—which occurred at 1:30 AM August 1, 1947–a counter-intelligence team was sent out to collect data but never found any of the slag. It recommended that any similar material found in the future should be directed to the Army Foreign Intelligence desk, oddly the same place that parceled out back-engineered technology from the Roswell crash according to writer Phillip Corso. But no real investigation ensued.
Some suspected that Crisman himself may have sabotaged the plane, but he was never investigated. Dahl began to call the whole thing a hoax after a visit by one of the infamous Men In Black led to serious problems in his home life. Neither man was investigated or even questioned by the military. Official interest in the Maury Island story began and ended with Davidson and Brown. Dahl went back to a normal life. Crisman disappeared for two decades.
Crisman’s re-appearance is what adds that certain urgency to the quest to reopen an investigation into the crash of the Kelso B25. Crisman next comes on the public scene when he is subpoenaed by Jim Garrison, the New Orleans District attorney, as part of Garrison’s 1968 investigation into the JFK assassination. Garrison’s case became the subject of Oliver Stone’s JFK movie in 1992. Although that movie doesn’t mention Crisman—it’s about the “toehold” Garrison had on the larger conspiracy—the New Orleans prosecutor nevertheless had reason to believe that Fred Crisman was the grassy knoll shooter. The CIA currently maintains that over 300 documents still exist in its files about the JFK assassination that cannot be released because they continue to pose a grave threat to national security. As ever, the government currently is being sued for the release of those files, which involve the anti-Castro Cuban milieu to which Crisman belonged according to Garrison.
If those files should be released, so should that airplane. But there it sits, what’s left of Davidson and Brown’s B25 and whatever clues it holds to the Maury Island mystery–and to the assassination that shaped political life in this country for over a half decade. Local UFOlogists occasionally rally and call for an investigation and the wreckage sometimes even attracts the local press. Circumstances of the original Maury Island event are weird enough, however, that they usually assure that links to JFK are never made. Tant pis. That might be what it takes to move this investigation forward.
Kenn Thomas authored JFK & UFO, recently released by Feral House. He has written more than a dozen books on various conspiracy topics, most notably The Octopus. He also has new essays in two other current books: one in a new reprint of Jim Keith’s Casebook On The Men In Black and one on the link between the Nazis and UFOS in Tim Beckley’s Round Trip To Hell In A Flying Saucer. Two other Kenn Thomas productions can be had at his web site, steamshovelpress.com: a PDF book on adventures in the conspiracy underground called Popular Parapolitics; and a DVD of one of his appearances with Timothy Leary, entitled Café Chaos.