Monday, August 5, 2013

The Mystery of the MAJESTIC-12 Documents

There exists a controversial set of purported Top Secret documents pertaining to the Government's involvement in the UFO phenomenon. The documents are known as the Majestic-12 documents. This is an article I wrote for Fate Magazine (1999) on the subject.

While this article was first published in 1999 the information it contains is a matter of historical record, still valid today, and provides a good introduction to the Majestic-12 controversy for those who may wish to pursue their own investigation of the subject.



Smoking Gun or Tool Of Disinformation?

By Gary Val Tenuta

"OPERATION MAJESTIC-12 is a TOP SECRET Research and Development/Intelligence operation responsible directly and only to the President of the United States. Operations of the project are carried out under control of the Majestic-12 (Majic-12) Group which was established by special classified executive order of President Truman on 24 September, 1947, upon recommendation by Dr. Vannevar Bush and Secretary James Forrestal." 

--  from page 1 of the MJ-12 report known as the Eisenhower Briefing document.

    Majestic-12 was established for the expressed purpose of investigating the crash of an extraterrestrial craft near the town of Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Or so the story goes.

But did such an organization really exist? There is new evidence in the form of a set of documents which has many people believing it did. Yet, as would be expected with such controversial material, opinion remains divided. The story of the MJ-12 documents is now a two part saga, the first part having had its debut in 1984. For readers not familiar with this first part, the very short version goes as follows:

    In 1984, a TV producer by the name of Jaime Shandera quite unexpectedly received a mysterious package in his mailbox. The package had no return address. Inside was a role of 35mm film which, when developed, revealed what appeared to be an official briefing document prepared for then president-elect Dwight  D. Eisenhower.

It was stamped "TOP SECRET/MAJIC -- EYES ONLY". The briefing officer was listed as one Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter (MJ-1). Hillenkoetter was in fact the first director of the newly established CIA. The "MJ-1" is apparently a reference to his position on the panel of 12 men all of whom have been identified as real persons, both military and civilian, and who were alive at the time these documents were ostensibly dated. For the complete story, readers might want to locate a copy of Stanton Friedman's book, Top Secret/Majic which presents a detailed investigation and analysis of those documents.

As our current story unfolds, however, elements of the first case will be mentioned as there are documents common to each case. The discovery of the second set of documents and how they eventually came to public attention is a story involving a number of people. Let's begin then with a fellow by the name of Timothy Cooper.

    Cooper, a resident of California, was a self described "hardened skeptic" prior to his unexpected involvement in this series of events. In a recent interview with radio talk show host, Art Bell, Cooper said,

"I used to chide and laugh at people concerning UFO sightings and flying saucers".

It happened, however, that he had relatives who were military people and over a period of time, during casual conversations, they mentioned the Roswell incident and indicated that something unusual did occur near Roswell in July of 1947. This piqued Cooper's curiosity, especially since he had an interest in military history, so he began to research the story.

    Little by little, over a couple of years, he began to see some common threads linking the various versions of the Roswell story. He made personal contact with various military officers and acquired information from them which led him to believe there was truly a hot story here. He then began filing FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) requests for anything he might be able to get his hands on regarding not just the familiar Roswell incident but also other similar incidents which he had been told occurred in and around the same location within roughly the same time period. Soon, however, he acquired more than he bargained for.

    Suddenly, much to his surprise, he began receiving - in his post office box - what appeared to be genuine Top Secret military documents all relating to the now legendary Majestic-12 group.

Cooper had never requested these documents. Nevertheless, they kept coming, a few at a time, over a period of about four months. On a couple of occasions the documents were accompanied by  letters from a man who signed himself, Thomas Cantwheel. It was Cantwheel who was somehow getting these documents into Cooper's locked post office box.

Eventually, in 1995, Cooper had his first and, to date, his only face-to-face meeting with the mysterious Mr. Cantwheel who, Cooper surmised, must have been nearly 90 years old. Cantwheel enters the scene like a mysterious character right out of a good spy novel. According to Cooper, Cantwheel claimed to have been involved in army counter intelligence for nearly 50 years, beginning around 1942.

    In an exclusive email interview for this article, Cooper told me,

"He claimed to have been a double agent for the FBI and CIA while assigned to West Germany in the 50's. [He] was one of the original members of the Army's Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit, CIC, created by General Marshall in 1942 until 1958. [He] had knowledge of [the] JFK assassination and of [the] Oswald/CIA connection.

    "He told me via letter that I was the only researcher who was looking into the White Sands connection and had my phone tapped and my mail intercepted. I'm convinced of this because he revealed personal items about me that no one could have known and the fact that I did receive FOIA documents from Army G-2 and the NSA as he promised (Stan can verify).

    "I think he chose me because my information was close to the facts surrounding the 1947 UFO incidents in New Mexico and saw an opportunity to exploit what he knew. When I met him on July 16, 1995, he said he was sick and dying and wanted to get a lot of things off his conscience. I think he said that the time was coming when the UFO mystery would be exposed and that this and other information should be given to the public and possibly, the  intelligence community would have to release more, sooner or later (Stan and myself did receive Army CIC flying saucer files and NSA UFO files shortly after)".

Eventually Cooper contacted Stanton Friedman and mailed copies of the documents to him. Friedman is a UFO researcher with an impressive background of over fourteen years working under security as a nuclear physicist. He is perhaps best known for his extensive research into, and analysis of, the first set of MJ-12 documents which surfaced in 1984.

Upon receiving these "new" documents, Friedman immediately recognized at least one of these, known as the Eisenhower Briefing document. It was a duplicate of the one which came to Jaime Shandera in 1984; the same one Friedman had subsequently subjected to intensive investigation and analysis. It is interesting, at this point, to note the similar manner in which both sets of documents were initially obtained. They each simply appeared mysteriously in the mailboxes of completely unsuspecting recipients.

[An interesting side note here (especially in light of the fact that some researchers think these documents might be part of a disinformation project) is that, according to Friedman and Berliner in their book "Crash At Corona" (p.46), when Shandera received the role of film he was already working with another UFO researcher by the name of Bill Moore. Moore tarnished his own reputation as a UFO researcher when he later admitted to having once participated in a government intelligence disinformation project.]

    So once again Friedman found himself in the midst of the MJ-12 mystery and spent the next two years investigating these papers (apparently approaching nearly 200 pages) in an effort to verify their authenticity. The effort was fruitful but extremely time consuming. In time he decided to more or less turn the project over to his friend and colleague, Dr. Robert Wood and Wood’s son, Ryan. Both are residents of California.

Dr. Robert Wood

Ryan Wood

    Dr. Robert Wood is a retired physicist who worked for McDonnell-Douglas and served as an advisor to NASA in conjunction with the space station project. His son, Ryan, has degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science from the California Polytechnical Institute. When they received the documents from Friedman they were intrigued and excited by the role they would now fill as the primary investigators of what could be one of the most important discoveries in history. It was now up to them to pull together the resources and people who could help them determine the authenticity of these papers. So they proceeded diligently, quietly, behind the scenes for several years in an all out pursuit of the truth.

    Recently, the Woods came into contact with a young multi-millionaire entrepreneur named Joseph Firmage.

Joseph Firmage

Firmage has his own interests in the UFO phenomenon and persuaded the Woods to go public with these documents by posting them on the internet. And so, in late November of 1998, the documents appeared on Firmage’s web site. Shortly thereafter, the world was made aware of these documents when Michael Lindemann, editor of the respected CNI News online bulletin, broke the story on Jeff Rense’s highly touted, nationally broadcast, Sightings On The Radio. Immediately, the UFO community was a-buzz with excitement as the news spread like wild fire across the internet. Within a couple of weeks, the Woods appeared on Art Bell’s Coast-To-Coast radio program for an interview.

    In that interview Dr. Wood said the authenticity of the documents “depends on four or five different things”. He went on to list items such as the signatures of the various signers of the documents, the font of the typewriters used to produce the documents, characteristics of the paper they were written on, the chronology of the events described in the documents, and other such details. Regarding the signatures, he says many of them have been compared to other known signatures by these same men. Dr. Wood believes, from his comparative analysis, that the signatures are indeed authentic. Apparently, however, as of this writing, these signatures have yet to be analyzed by qualified handwriting experts.

    Dr. Wood found a number of things which point to the authenticity of at least some of the documents. He cited, for example, one of the documents known as the Einstein/Openheimer letter. He said the size of the paper is smaller in length and width than standard letter size paper and is consistent with a move by the government during WWII as part of a policy to save money on paper production. Dr. Wood's son, Ryan, also had an intriguing bit of information lending to the authenticity of the documents.

    Ryan Wood points to the fact that the documents contain many pieces of information that would be difficult for a hoaxer to come up with. He cites, for example, the document called the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit Report. This report states:

"As to the bodies recovered at LZ-2 [an MJ-12 code referring to a site near Socorro and the White Sands Missile Range -- GVT], it appeared that none of the five crew members survived entry into the atmosphere due to unknown causes".

    The document goes on to say that an autopsy was conducted on “one well preserved cadaver” by someone named Major Charles Rea. In the ongoing effort to verify the identities of the many names which appear throughout the MJ-12 documents, Ryan had a difficult time locating any record of a Major Charles Rea.

A thorough check of the government document section of the Stanford Library turned up nothing. He continued to search, however, and finally found Major Charles Rea listed in some literature on medical specialists. In the process of preparing this article Friedman told me Major Rea was a very prominent Physician-surgeon and head of medical services for the Manhattan Project covering Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford, Washington. Rea was, according to Friedman, "a  likely candidate indeed for autopsying an alien body because of both his medical skills and his high security clearance". However, Friedman adds, "I have never seen his name mentioned in connection with anything no less UFOs though, as a nuclear physicist working on classified programs,  I have been at Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos". Ryan Wood implied that the difficulty he incurred in his effort to dig up information on Major Rea was typical of what he and his father, as well as Stanton Friedman, have encountered in their attempts to verify many of the personnel names and other bits of information found in these documents.

Also cited was page-6 of the document known as the Intelligence Assessment. This document identifies John F. Kennedy as having been assigned to the department of Naval Intelligence as an officer during the war. It also says "some of the recovery operation" was made known to him. The fact that Kennedy served as an officer under Naval Intelligence is not widely known. This is just one more indication that these documents are either what they purport to be or, if fake, the perpetrator must have had deep access to military files including intelligence data.

It is precisely this sort of thing that leads Robert and Ryan Wood to believe it would be extremely difficult for someone to have simply fabricated these documents. And as Stanton Friedman has pointed out, after all these years no one has come forward to chide us and say, "Ha ha, it was me! I got you all!"

Another example is the document known as the White Hot Intelligence Estimate. As in other portions of the MJ-12 documents, there is information here that corresponds with similar information found in entirely, and otherwise unrelated, sources. Even if some of this information is readily found in other sources, that doesn’t necessarily mean a hoaxer borrowed it from one source and inserted it into another. In fact, just the opposite might be the case. Such duplication of similar information from divergent sources could be seen as corroborating evidence of the factual nature of the information.

The White Hot Intelligence Estimate is dated 24 September, 1947. It mentions navigation controls, the operation of which, could be linked to artifacts described and speculated on by the late Colonel Philip J. Corso in his book The Day After Roswell (Pocket Books, 1997). The MJ-12 report describes navigation and engine controls “...activated by tactile manipulation of the fingers, feeding impulses to the brain and vice versa”. Colonel Corso, in his book, described what he called “headbands” which were on the dead alien bodies found at the crash site. On page 109 of his book he calls these items “sensorized headbands” and suggested these devices somehow picked up brainwave activity, virtually translating thought into electronic “system commands” used to control the operation and navigation of the craft.

It is interesting to note that the White Hot Intelligence Estimate is dated 24 September, 1947. This date is just one day after the dating of a report mentioned in Corso’s book. That report, dated 23 September, 1947 was from General Twining to Brigadier General George Schulgen.

This is the famous report, probably acquired through a FOIA request, in which Twining, referring to what he called “flying disks”, states unequivocally:

“The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious”.

    This “new” set of MJ-12 documents is not without it’s drawbacks, however. Among other things, such as questionable dates, there are a number of misspelled words. However, the item which has caused considerable controversy is found in the document called Majestic Twelve Project First Annual Report. The report is dated 1952. Within the text of this document is the word “retro-virus”. The question is, did this medical term exist in 1952? At the time of this writing, Ryan Wood, after an intensive search of the literature in the Stanford University medical library, has yet to come up with anything to show this term in use during the time the document is alleged to have been authored.

 Reportedly, according to Michael Lindemann, there is mention of a nonhyphenated version of the word in the medical literature after the mid 1970s. Lindemann points out, however, and others including Stanton Friedman agree, that even if some of these documents are not purely authentic it does not necessarily follow that the whole batch is bogus. In fact what could be the case is that this entire set of documents is "real" in quite another way. They could be an authentic tool of government disinformation. It is well known that a tactic of disinformation, in the professional sense, is to purposely mix and mingle hard, factual, verifiable data with completely bogus pieces of information. Now, if these documents are, in fact, a product of disinformation, who produced them, and why? Here enters a man by the name of Steven Schwartz, reportedly an acknowledged expert on Soviet era disinformation and a man with connections to the CIA and an alleged association with the Hoover Institution which studied Soviet disinformation tactics during the Cold War period.

According to information received by Lindemann, Schwartz has expressed a strong conviction that this latest set of MJ-12 documents is a product of the Soviet disinformation regime of the Cold War era. Reportedly, Schwartz claims that the Soviets occasionally used the UFO phenomenon in disinformation projects. To date, Schwartz has not elaborated publicly on his assertions regarding this intriguing scenario. However, if his contentions are indeed correct we could surmise at least a couple of things:

(1) the Soviets had spies situated deep within the U.S. intelligence network, which probably is not surprising and

(2) these documents were in fact created some 45 years ago.

   This second item is much more important than the first because it would nail down the age of these documents, thus eliminating the possibility that they were concocted just within the past couple of years as part of some elaborate hoax. It would tell us something else also. It would strongly support the idea that not only was our government aware of the UFO phenomenon as something real but it must also have considered it to be of significant importance; significant enough that the Soviets, realizing the level of U.S. concern about UFOs, would spend the considerable time, effort, and money to concoct an elaborate and sophisticated scheme of disinformation centered entirely around the UFO scenario. Just how this would be used effectively for Soviet purposes, I don’t know, and Schwartz has yet to explain his ideas in a public forum.

So where does that leave us? Are these documents the smoking gun we've been waiting for? Are they part of some sophisticated disinformation scheme cooked up over 40 years ago? Perhaps Mr. Lindemann summed it up best, by saying,

"In the end, the real dilemma regarding the new MJ-12 documents, as with any evidence of UFOs that appears to be tainted by errors, may be that they are more likely to help preserve the UFO cover-up than threaten it. Such is the intent of disinformation -- and history may one day show that no subject ever attracted more intense and expert disinformation than the subject of UFOs. This does not mean, of course, that all of the MJ-12 documents are necessarily fraudulent. Indeed, some may be entirely authentic. But the writing is already on the wall: the controversy will continue unabated. There is no resolution in sight".

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


Ten years after my article appeared in FATE Magazine, Timothy Cooper allegedly disavowed his belief that the MJ-12 were authentic and claims he was foolish to have become so involved in the controversy.
The question is, did he genuinely make this retraction of his belief or was it just a way to distance himself from a controversy that became too burdensome to deal with?

For anyone interested in seeing good, full-size images of many of the MJ-12 documents, click here:


  1. So very interesting, Gary!!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Nicole! Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment! :-)