Crisman by Don Ecker (c) UFO Magazine
In the summer of 1968, when New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison arrested prominent city socialite Clay Shaw, he may or may not have been on the trail of the assassins he believed were responsible for killing John F. Kennedy. But what Garrison did undeniably get close to exposing were the identities and activities of intelligence agents who not only harbored a deep hatred of Kennedy, but were willing participants in one of the government's more shameful episodes.
Had these men been exposed, Garrison would have unsealed the Pandora's Box on flying saucers, which, if it had occurred, would have forever ripped away the then nearly 20-year-old mythic fabric wrapping the UFO mystery--a veil since used to great benefit by the military to conceal the testing of classified aircraft.
As bizarre as it sounds, Kennedy's assassination and "flying saucers" share common ground.
As the central figure in Garrison's conspiracy, Clay Shaw appears to have been involved in Project Paperclip, a top-secret intelligence operation that began in 1945 with the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. It was a deeply covert program to bring Hitler's secret weapons and their designers to America. Among the aeroforms the Nazis had developed were strangely configured jet-propelled aircraft the likes of which had never been seen.
Then two years later, in late June, 1947, a number of aircraft that looked very similar to some that had been on the Nazi drawing boards were seen flying in and around Washington state, the location of several aerospace defense contractors which were benefiting from the secret Paperclip operation Shaw was a part of.
Among the civilians who saw these aircraft was U.S. Deputy Marshall Kenneth Arnold, who watched a formation streak past in front of his plane while flying near Mt. Rainier on June 24.
The Maury Island sighting allegedly happened three days before Arnold's own rendezvous with destiny. The craft, initially reported by Harold Dahl, was said to have spewed "slag-like" material over a wide area. Crisman, a pivotal player in the ensuing investigation, was ostensibly an official of the Puget Sound Harbor Patrol and Dahl's supervisor.
Twenty years later, Garrison intimately linked Crisman to Clay Shaw. Government records indicate Crisman was much more than a lowly harbor patrol officer. Available evidence also suggests he knew a lot more about the aircraft Dahl saw than he admitted--aircraft some intelligence sources believe were hybrids of those designed early that decade by Nazi engineers who were brought to the U.S. under Project Paperclip.
In 1967, when Garrison launched his investigation of Shaw-- whose intelligence background was not yet documented--Paperclip had been secret for nearly two decades. It continued to be a secret for the next six years. But even when it did begin to unravel in 1973, the government successfully continued to promote the lie that it was a short-lived operation limited to just a few post-war raids on Hitler's hoard of scientific talent. In 1985, the U.S. General Accounting Office--typically not an office known for apologizing for government wrongdoing and bungling--even claimed the operation ended in 1947.
The Paperclip operation got underway even before American soldiers laid down their rifles. Attached to special military units called "T-Forces," scientific teams comprised of the Army, Navy, Army Air Force and intelligence agents from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the forerunner of the CIA) fanned out across Europe to capture and interrogate Hitler's brain trust, locate and microfilm documents and confiscate all useful equipment found in the Third Reich's factories and laboratories. (1)
T-Force teams secured Hitler's most secret aerospace technologies. Among the information that these teams captured were plans for fast, disc-shaped aircraft which the Nazis never got into full-scale production. (2)
Through Paperclip, America secured some top-notch scientific and research specialists, including many involved in Nazi atrocities. The most important of these ex-Nazis ran the Peenemunde Aerodynamics Institute, the installation where Hitler's V-2 rocket and jet aircraft were developed using forced slave labor from the concentration camp at Karlshagen. Peenemunde was a gold mine for the military and its contractors. Under the cloak of Paperclip, the Peenemunde scientists secretly controlled America's rocketry, aerospace and space programs for the next 20 years. (3)
*War crimes `papered over'
Peenemunde scientists serving U.S. interests--including Werner Von Braun and Kurt Debus, who were installed as the first directors of the Marshall Space Flight Center and Kennedy Space Center--had come a long way from being members of Hitler's elite SS. Their war crimes had been papered over and withheld from NASA officials.
Garrison, some suspect, came very close to compromising this and other secrets when he arrested Clay Shaw on charges of conspiracy to murder John Kennedy. But without hard evidence of Shaw's ties to the CIA (clearly established later), and having lost his star witness David Ferrie, who was found dead just before Shaw's trial, Garrison had little to take to court. Consequently, Shaw was acquitted. He died on Aug. 14, 1974--mysteriously, Garrison believed.
*Shaw's CIA background
Documents surfaced in 1977 showing that Shaw had worked for the CIA since 1949. (4) He had also been in business with former Nazis and European fascists involved in several CIA-supported covert operations throughout Europe, and there is strong evidence he had been a member of the OSS; he certainly had worked for a top OSS officer who was involved in Operation Paperclip.
But did Crisman know Shaw from those days? It's possible. Crisman is said to have been attached to the OSS. Intelligence sources say he was a member of a secret fraternity of former intelligence officials. Other sources swear he was involved in gunrunning and was closely tied to organized crime--two factions which certainly worked hand-in-glove at the time.
According to Garrison's information, Crisman knew Shaw well. One of Garrison's informants said Crisman was "the first man Clay called after being told he was in trouble." The same source added that Crisman "flies to New Orleans steadily. 1964, eleven times. 1965, 17 times, 1966, 32 times, 1967, 24 times . . . he seems to have no income and certainly spends a large sum of money on air travel."
In August, 1967, a year before Garrison announced his subpoena of Crisman, Dahl allegedly corresponded with UFO researcher Gary Lesley, in which he said Crisman "has been in the deep South for some time . . . certain government agencies are very interested in his movements at all times. He sometimes drops out of sight for months on end and returns just as quietly. I do not know how he supports his manner of living, but he never lacks for money." (4)
When Garrison's office announced its subpoena of Crisman on Oct. 31, 1968, the press release read: "Our information indicates that since the early 1960s, (Crisman) has made many trips to the New Orleans and Dallas areas in connection with his undercover work for that part of the warfare industry engaged in the manufacture of what is termed, in military language, a `hardware'--meaning those weapons sold to the U.S. government that are uniquely large and expensive."
According to FBI records on Crisman, disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act and on file at the Assassination Archives & Research Center (AARC) in Washington, D.C., Crisman was a Captain in the Army Air Corps and had flown during World War II. From March 20, 1946 to March 31, 1947, he was employed as a "special investigator" on veterans' matters for the state of Washington.
What Crisman did between March 31 and June 21 when Harold Dahl encountered the six "doughnut-shaped" aircraft near Maury Island can't be determined, though presumably that's when he got the Harbor Patrol job. Then, on August 21, the FBI began a security check of Crisman for an unspecified position with the Atomic Energy Commission, which Crisman did not end up taking, according to the files.
The FBI's background check, which includes details about Crisman's life prior to the war, disclose that the Seattle office had a file dealing with the UFO incident at Maury Island, including a sworn statement from Crisman and another individual (presumably Dahl), dated Aug. 7.
Crisman's life from that time until Garrison ordered him to New Orleans is a confusing puzzle, as he turned up in many different and bizarre occupations. He was involved in a government program to help Gypsies (5); he was listed as the president of a car lot and official of at least a half-dozen companies that had no offices; he was a rabid right-wing talk show host on KAYE Radio in Puyallup, WA, under the name of Jon Gold: he was an industrial psychologist for Boeing, and he was a bishop in the Universal Life Church, a murky organization which seems to have had ties to the CIA and whose members included old Bay of Pigs veterans like Ferrie (6).
And there were Crisman's brushes with the law, including the early morning arrest the day after Garrison announced his subpoena of Crisman. He was arrested for what today would be considered drunk driving, in addition to carrying a concealed weapon--a loaded .38-caliber pistol.
The last of his legal troubles occurred a year before he died. At that time, Crisman was under investigation by the FBI for apparent stock fraud involving certificates of the Idaho First National Bank.
Until he died, garrison strongly believed Crisman was connected in some crucial way to the men Garrison was trying to indict for President Kennedy's murder--all men he believed were tied to the CIA's ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation to oust Fidel Castro.
Crisman disappeared into obscurity after appearing before the New Orleans Grand Jury that was hearing Garrison's case. He died with little fanfare on Dec. 10, 1975.
Twenty-five years after Crisman failed to yield much value for Garrison, he remains much of a mystery. But what can be pieced together indicates Crisman was part and parcel of the seamy underworld of the intelligence community that flourished during the 1950s and '60s.
In a lengthy handwritten memo to Jonathan Blackmer, an investigator for the House select committee that re-investigated Kennedy's assassination in the late 1970s and had a keen interest in Crisman, Garrison spelled out what he had concluded about Crisman:
" . . . I suggest the only reasonable conclusion is that he was (and probably is, if still around), an operative at a deep cover level in a long-range, clandestine, intelligence mission directly (in terms of our national intelligence paranoia) related to maintaining national security . . . Crisman emerges as an operative at a supervisory level . . . acquired by the apparatus to carry out the menial jobs that are needed to push a current mission forward, a middle man--in the final analysis--between the mechanics who eliminate, and the handy men, who otherwise support a termination mission, on one hand, and the distant, far removed, deeply submerged command level, on the other."
The events surrounding the Maury Island episode in 1947 involving Crisman were serious and raise further questions about Paperclip and Crisman's involvement in it: They include the deaths of two Army G-2 intelligence officers enroute to Wright Patterson Air Force Base with specimens of the "slag-like" substance one of the discs supposedly spewed out, given to them by Crisman; a persistent newsman's sudden death, and the bugging of Arnold's hotel room while he investigated the sighting with Capt. E.J. Smith of United Airlines, a friend of his. (7)
The two Army intelligence officers had become involved probing what Dahl saw after having already paid a visit to Arnold. Why G-2 was so interested in those early UFO sightings has always been somewhat of a mystery. But perhaps it's not when considering that it was G-2's responsibility to keep a lid on Paperclip, as well as to provide security for Paperclip activities. Another function of G-2 involved illegal surveillance of anyone whose activities put Paperclip security at risk. (8) This illegal eavesdropping operation expanded into the notorious Army spying activities of the 1960s and 1970s.
When the two G-2 agents, Capt. William L. Davidson and Lt. Frank M. Browm were killed shortly after take-off, they were enroute to Wright-Patterson AFB, an installation that, if the objects Dahl saw were indeed Nazi hybrids that had malfunctioned, would have been the logical place for G-2 to escort the pieces. Wright Patterson was a major research and development center where many of the Peenemunde scientists had been gathered to continue their work. (9)
The Army reportedly admitted that "classified" material had been on board the flight. News accounts of the crash and statements by Army officials hinted that sabotage had brought down the B-25 on which Davidson and Brown were flying. Brown's wife Velma also spelled out her suspicions in a letter to Arnold. "I have never thought that Frank's death was an accident," she wrote.
The way U.S. intelligence agencies and the military treated UFO encounters in the late 1940s and early 1950s left similar bitter tastes. They were hiding something, that much is evident. The Maury Island incident was no exception. With this fresh look at Crisman, the theory that Operation Paperclip got a lot more than just rocket technology from the Third Reich becomes more credible.
If Maury Island was a hoax, as most ufologists today assume, then Crisman's role in perpetrating it is equally as bizarre; more so considering his intelligence connections.
What is clear is that the intelligence community was deeply immersed in the very events that launched contemporary ufology. And because it was, using men like Crisman, it deserves much closer scrutiny than it has ever been given.
*An award-winning investigative journalist, Anthony L. Kimery is an associated editor at American Banker Newsletters, a major publisher of financial publications, and former Washington Bureau Chief of Money Laundering Alert. His past reporting on intelligence community activities has appeared in a variety of national newspapers and magazines.
1. One of the best accounts of Operation Paperclip is Linda Hunt's book, *Secret Agenda, St. Martin's Press, 1991.
2. *Argosy Magazine, XXXXXXX< XXXXXX, 19XX, pp. XX_XX. 3. Paperclip was still in full swing at the time of Kennedy's murder, and was actually responsible for the European "brain drain" phenomenon at the time. U.S. aerospace industries were among the top beneficiaries of the Paper-clip inspired immigration of German scientists to the U.S. in 1962-1963.
4. Copies in author's possession.
5. It may be coincidental, but some scientists brought to the U.S. via Paperclip had used Gypsies for experimentation.
6. Garrison expounds at length on the church and the similar organizations he contends were used as CIA fronts, in a memo he wrote to Jonathan Blackmer, an investigator for the select House committee of the late '70s that re-investigated Kennedy's assassination.
7. An unknown informant reportedly would call a local reporter after every meeting Arnold and Smith had with Crisman, Dahl and the two agents of G-2, and relate in detail what had been said.
8. Linda Hunt, *Secret Agenda, 1991.
by: Don Ecker UFO Magazine www.ufomagazine.com