Reuben Robertson, Jr. and Miami University President John Millett knew each other during WWII!

Hi. I don’t have a lot of time to write this, so I really need to hurry. This is going to be a mini post that’s light on words and heavy on links and jpegs.

But first, I’d like to wish our veterans a happy Veteran’s Day, and to thank you for your service to our country. I’d also like to take this opportunity to discuss my favorite wartime movie. Actually, it’s not just my favorite war movie, it’s the only war movie I ever watch. And that movie is:

The Best Years of Our Lives.

It’s so good, it’s on Steven Spielberg’s top five list. If you’ve never seen it before, TCM is airing it on Saturday at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. If you’re busy, DVR it. Then you can watch it whenever you want, and trust me, you’ll want to watch it more than once. I watch it at least once a year. If you’ve seen it before, be sure to mention your favorite parts in the comments. (Mine is when they go out clubbing the night they return home. I mean, does Boone City have an amazing night life, or what??)

OK, back to the real reason I’m writing this mini post—I’d like to focus on two veterans from WWII: Reuben B. Robertson, Jr., and John D. Millett. As you may recall, Reuben Robertson, Jr. was the much-loved, heavily dimpled president of Champion Paper and Fibre, in Hamilton, Ohio, from 1950 to 1960. In 1955, Reuben temporarily stepped down from that post to serve as deputy secretary of defense under Secretary Charles Wilson. In 1957, he went back to being president at Champion but, tragically, three years later, he was assisting a driver whose car was stopped in the middle of a highway and was killed by a drunk driver. 

John D. Millett was Miami University’s 16th president. He’d been elected president in March 1953 after a committee that Reuben Jr. was a member of selected him as their preferred nominee. As far as Miami’s presidents go, I’d guess that Millett is considered one of their best. Steven Spielberg puts him in the top five. (Just kidding.) Millett didn’t officially start his duties at Miami until the fall of 1953, but, as president-elect, this was going to be a huge jump for him in his career. Before he came to Miami, he was a full professor at Columbia University. He’d done some impressive things, but from what I can tell, he didn’t have any administrative experience at a university. He likely wanted to hit the ground running. He attended the June meeting of the Board of Trustees. I’m sure he was doing other things to prepare as well.

As my most dedicated readers know, a woman named Dorothy Craig, whom I’ve narrowed down to being one of Reuben Jr.’s employees, wrote a check to Ronald Tammen shortly before he disappeared. Oddly enough, Dorothy Craig’s name was never, ever mentioned in any newspaper articles, even though Carl Knox had written it down in his notes. How did they manage to keep her name out of the papers? I think it may have to do with a friendship that goes back to WWII.

That’s right, just as the headline says, Reuben Robertson, Jr. and John Millett knew each other during the war. How do I know that they knew each other? Because I now have it on excellent authority that both men were working in the same extremely small branch of the same division of the Army Service Forces at the exact same time.

So let’s cut to the chase:

Both Reuben Robertson, Jr. and John D. Millett worked for the Control Division of the Army Service Forces.

The Army Service Forces was the part of the U.S. Army that was responsible for making sure that Army personnel had the necessary supplies and services to do their jobs. The Control Division was the part of the Army Service Forces that focused on improving efficiency. Control Division officers would travel to Army bases and monitor how things were being done. They helped reduce paperwork and whatnot. I’m sure they did more, but I have guests coming at 2 p.m. and I haven’t even started cleaning the downstairs yet.

OK, so where were we? Both men worked in the Control Division. But that’s not all.

Both men were officers in the same branch of the Control Division.

Which branch?

The Administrative Management Branch.

How small of a branch was it? 

Really small. We’ll get to that in a minute.

OK, so this is the part where I stop writing words and start showing you pictures.

Here’s the preface to a book titled Organization of the Army Service Forces, a 700-plus page tome written by John D. Millett. In the preface, he describes his role in the Administrative Management Branch of the Control Division.

Here’s a document from Reuben Robertson Jr.’s separation papers that describes his time with the Army. In the first paragraph of the summary section, it describes his time in the Administrative Management Branch of the Control Division, a position he held for 18 months, beginning in March 1943. Although he did go to Georgia later, he was in Washington, D.C., for a portion of that time.

And lastly, here’s a citation from a book on the history of operations research in the Army that tells us how many people worked in the Control Division’s Administrative Management Branch.

We’re talking 28 officers and 3 civilians, all housed in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1943. Reuben Robertson, Jr. and John D. Millett were two of those officers.

Reuben Jr. was such an extrovert, he could get to know 30 other people really well by lunchtime. John Millett strikes me as a major people person too. You guys, they knew each other.

For this reason, I think Reuben Robertson Jr. probably encouraged John Millett to apply for the presidency at Miami when Reuben was asked to sit on the selection committee. John had Reuben to thank for that very large boost to his career, from professor to president. It would only make sense that Reuben would have John’s ear if he ever needed to keep a bothersome detail out of the paper. 

Mind you, this is just a hypothesis.

Your thoughts?

Kismet: how the chief architect of WWII’s Japanese-American internment camps went from infamous racist to president of Champion Paper and Fibre in Hamilton, Ohio

On April 19 of this year—the 70th anniversary of Ron Tammen’s disappearance—we discussed how, around the time Ron went missing, he’d cashed a check from someone by the name of Dorothy Craig. We then proceeded to narrow the field of potential Dorothy Craigs to the one who was a long-time employee of Champion Paper and Fibre, in Hamilton, Ohio. We then discussed Champion’s extraordinary practice of providing lucrative jobs to decorated military officers and CIA officials after they’d retired or stepped down from their posts in the federal government. This led us to the hypothesis that someone within the company had been funding activities conducted by people in Miami University’s Psychology Department (and, by extension, Ron Tammen) and using Dorothy Craig as cover.

Today, I’d like to elaborate a little more about one of the military guys whom Champion had hired. Recently, I learned something astonishing about him and I think I need to give it more column-inches than a mere mention on Facebook.

His name was Karl Robin Bendetsen. In my April 19 post, I’d reported that, before Karl had arrived at Champion Paper, he’d been the assistant secretary of the Army, and, eventually, undersecretary of the Army, both of which are very high up the climbing rope. As assistant secretary, he was in charge of general management issues, and as undersecretary, he was immediately below the secretary and above two assistant secretaries, one who oversaw research and materiel and the other who oversaw manpower and reserve forces. So, to sum up this paragraph for readers who, like me, have little to no military background, Karl R. Bendetsen was an important person in the U.S. Army before Champion Paper had hired him.

Karl R. Bendetsen; credit: Library of Congress and the U.S. Army Signal Corps

What I hadn’t realized at the time of the earlier writing was that Bendetsen was also famous the world over—infamous actually—at the time that Champion had hired him due to his activities during WWII. After the war, he’d tried to downplay those activities, conveniently glossing over his military past on his resume or in bios. Nevertheless, decades later, when Congressmen asked him about those (infamous) activities, he defended what he did, claiming that he still considered his and others’ actions to have been necessary at that time. 

So let’s delve into Bendetsen’s military past now, shall we?

Right after Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, the Army was concerned that Japanese Americans living on the West Coast might be used as spies and whatnot to assist Japan, a country they no longer lived in or perhaps had never lived in. For this reason, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which gave the Army’s officer in charge of the Western Defense Command in San Francisco, a man named Lt. Gen. John DeWitt, the power to declare areas of the region “military zones” in which certain citizens—i.e., people of Japanese ancestry—must be evacuated. Plenty of politicians and Army brass were involved in the decision to institute such a program, but one man was given the dubious distinction of being in charge of said program, and that man was Karl Bendetsen. Indeed, with the job title of commanding officer of the Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA), for which he reported to Lt. Gen. DeWitt, Karl was responsible for ousting Japanese Americans and immigrants from their homes and relocating them into primarily 10 concentration camps in California, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, and Arkansas

If you happen to be feeling sorry for Karl, as if he was merely following orders, don’t. Karl was one of the principal authors of Executive Order 9066. He believed strongly in what he was doing. All over the internet, he’s known as the chief architect of the Japanese American internment program, which means that, by and large, he was the mastermind. 

And so, as Nazis were forcibly removing people of Jewish ancestry from their homes and herding them into concentration camps, Karl was overseeing the forced removal of people of Japanese ancestry from their homes on American soil and herding them into concentration camps as well.

Without question, the German camps were far worse. Not until the war’s end did the world fully grasp the atrocities that the Nazis had been committing. Six million European Jews died in the Holocaust, as did five million others. For these reasons, Hitler is widely recognized as the personification of evil—the most vile human to have ever lived. 

Still, when a government that represents the land of the free imprisons a segment of its populace, not for anything they’ve done, but because of their ancestral heritage, it’s not only immoral, it’s unconstitutional. With FDR’s signing of Executive Order 9066, the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for a subset of Americans was thereby revoked. 

In point of fact, at the time that Karl was tearing Japanese-American men, women, and children away from their homes in states along the Pacific Coast and beyond, there wasn’t much dissention in other parts of the country. Perhaps people weren’t aware of what was happening or maybe they were looking the other way, somehow thinking that their government was beyond reproach and that the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans, 110,000 by force, was a disturbing though inevitable aspect of war. 

But four years after WWII had ended, Americans across the country were taking a more critical view. The public was learning how egregious the government’s actions had been. They learned how, after being physically uprooted, forced to leave nearly everything behind including their pets, families were transported by bus and train, sometimes over state lines, and crammed together in makeshift buildings covered in tar paper with no kitchen or bathroom facilities. The living conditions were deplorable. Doctors and nurses; lawyers and clerks; professors and teachers; Buddhist monks and Shinto priests; artists and musicians; fishermen and farmers; cooks, wait staff, dishwashers, and all the rest were forced to leave their livelihoods, their very lives, behind. Their access to medical care was abysmal, though incarcerated doctors and nurses were known to step in to care for their fellow prisoners. And even though (to the best of my knowledge) no prisoner had been killed outright through the internment program, 1862 people died while being held there, perhaps some as a result of the unsanitary living conditions.

On August 26, 1949, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had ruled that the government’s internment program was “unnecessarily cruel and inhuman.” In the ruling, Chief Judge William Denman lays out perhaps the most vivid description of how the prisoners were treated at the camp at Tule Lake, California, excoriating Lt. Gen. DeWitt in the process. He said: “The barbed wire stockade surrounding the 18,000 people there was like the prison camps of the Germans. There were the same turrets for the soldiers and the same machine guns for those who might attempt to climb the high wiring.” I encourage you to read it.

Karl Bendetsen was the poster child for all of the above.

In the fall of 1949, just weeks after the Court of Appeals ruling, Karl was being considered for the post of assistant secretary of the Army, which is when his name was making the biggest headlines, and not in a good way. At least 40 civil rights organizations joined together to declare their opposition to the nominee based on his deeply entrenched racist views. The organizations who denounced him included the Japanese-American Citizens League Anti-Discrimination Committee, the NAACP, and other members of the National Civil Liberties Clearing House. A priest from Los Angeles named Father Hugh Lavery who had first-hand knowledge of Bendetsen’s callousness sent an impassioned letter to President Truman hoping to persuade him to rescind the nomination. According to the book The Colonel and the Pacifist, by Klancy Clark De Nevers, and other sources, Father Lavery told Truman of the following exchange:

“Colonel Bendetsen showed himself to be a little Hitler. I mentioned that we had an orphanage with children of Japanese ancestry, and that some of these children were half Japanese, others one-fourth or less. I asked which children we should send to the relocation center.” 

Bendetsen had replied “I am determined that if they have one drop of Japanese blood in them, they must all go to camp.”

Continued Lavery in his letter, “Just as with Hitler, so with him. It was a question of blood.”

You’d think that all of that bad press might have affected Karl negatively. You’d think he would have slunk away from the spotlight and found a less newsworthy way to make ends meet. He could put his Stanford law degree to use and set up a respectable practice in a small, out-of-the-way town.

But that’s not what happened. President Truman and the United States Congress waved away the letters and petitions and went through with his confirmation as secretary of the Army anyway, which, in turn, put him on the path to occupying the Army’s second-most-powerful office. Even so, Karl didn’t remain with the Army long. In 1952, he accepted a consultant position at Champion Paper and Fibre’s Texas division, and, from that point on, he went about reinventing himself, banking on the American public’s inability to retain names and faces for very long. Karl Bendetsen would go on to become vice president, president, and, by the time of his retirement in 1972, chairman of the board at Champion International, the company’s new name after it had merged with U.S. Plywood Corporation. 

As for how Karl managed to get his foot in the door at Champion Paper at a time when his name was being equated with “little Hitler” in the minds of a large sector of Americans? A former colleague of his described it thusly:


I can see that several of you have questions.



Q: 😮

A: I know. It’s a lot to process. Take your time. 

Q: Kismet? Why did he consider it kismet?

A: That’s the word used by B. Joseph Feigenbaum, who used to work in the same San Francisco law firm as Karl Bendetsen, and whose interview is part of the Earl Warren Oral History Project at University of California, Berkeley. 

Here’s the juicy gossip regarding how it all went down with Champion Paper in Feigenbaum’s words. Note that the transcriber misspelled Reuben, and I’ve spotted a number of other inaccuracies (which I’ve corrected in bold with my initials). It’s kind of a wild story:

Then comes, as it often does in life, kismet, fate. Secretary of the Army Gordon Gray was supposed to make a speech at the homecoming day at the University of North Carolina, I think it was, at Chapel Hill. And Gray gets some other assignment and can’t go. He gives the speech to Bendetsen (who’s by now Assistant Secretary of the Army, I guess. I don’t know whether he was Assistant Secretary of Defense [JW: there’s no such position, and he was never the deputy secretary of defense either] or Under-secretary of the Army, maybe it was still Army).

He goes down to Chapel Hill, makes the speech, finds himself sitting on the stand next to a prominent alumnus [JW: neither Reuben Jr. nor Reuben Sr. were alumni of the University of North Carolina; Reuben Jr. graduated from Yale, and Reuben Sr. graduated from Yale and the University of Cincinnati Law School], I guess, by the name of Ruben Robertson from Cincinnati who is the head of Champion Paper Company, a more or less family-controlled, but very large company. And as Karl told me the story, after they made their speeches, Mr. Robertson invited him up to his room to chat and drink and he went along, and Robertson says, “You know, some time when you’re out in Cincinnati, look me up. We could use somebody like you around our company.” Karl told me he said to Mr. Robertson, “When you’re in Washington sometime look me up.”

It happened that Robertson’s son at that time or just before had been Under-secretary [JW: deputy secretary] of Defense. Karl looked up Mr. Robertson, or vice versa, left the Army, and became a vice-president of Champion Paper. [JW: He started as a consultant at Champion in 1952, three years before Reuben Jr. was made deputy secretary of defense.] They sent him to a mill outside of Houston, Pasadena, Texas. Karl had never had any paper experience. He’d done a little work for a client of ours in the paper business. And he was there a number of years, did apparently an outstanding job and was called back to Cincinnati, where the company had gotten so big and loose they wanted somebody to pull tag ends together. [JW: I think he’s speaking metaphorically?] He was made one of the executive vice-presidents.

The president now was Ruben Robertson, Jr. Mr. Robertson, Jr., is driving in traffic in Cincinnati and somebody bumps the rear of his car. [JW: Reuben Jr. had hit someone who was stopped, not the other way around.] He opens the door to get out to see what happened and another car comes along and kills him, and two or three weeks [JW: actually, it was two dayslater, Karl is the president of Champion Paper.

Here’s a link to the entire transcript on the topic of Karl Bendetsen.

Q: I’m confused. Which of the Reubens bonded with Karl Bendetsen—was it Reuben Jr. or Reuben Sr.?

A: I’ve been trying to figure that out. The way that Feigenbaum tells the story, it sounds as if he thinks that Bendetsen had met with the father, Reuben Sr., since he refers to Reuben Jr. as “Robertson’s son.” But there’s one major problem: Reuben Sr. had been born and raised in Cincinnati. He received degrees from Yale and the University of Cincinnati, but his home was in Asheville, NC. So the part where Robertson says ““You know, some time when you’re out in Cincinnati, look me up,” sounds more like something Reuben Jr. would say, since he lived in Glendale, which is a Cincinnati suburb.

I still think it was the dad, though, since, of the two Robertsons, the one more likely to speak at a UNC homecoming (or whatever the event—we don’t know if Feigenbaum got that detail correct either), would be the man from Asheville who seemed to have a strong relationship with UNC’s Asheville campus. It could be that, when Karl recounted the story to Feigenbaum, he told him that Robertson had said, “If you’re ever in town, look me up,” and Feigenbaum had presumed he was talking about Cincinnati. 

I’ve been consulting with the archivists at UNC Chapel Hill to find out if they have a record of an event where the two men were speaking. If they’re able to find anything, I’ll let you all know.

Q: Do you think it matters which one it was?

A: I think it does. I don’t know much about Reuben Sr.’s personality, but I happen to think Reuben Jr. was a warm human being who genuinely cared about his employees at Champion, treating them like family. For a man who treated his employees like family to have an interest in hiring a man who spent WWII tearing American families away from their homes and businesses seems out of character for Reuben Jr. It seems out of character for Reuben Sr. too, but more so for Reuben Jr., in my opinion.

Q: Do you have any other reasons for thinking it was Reuben Sr. who bonded with Karl Bendetsen?

A: Yes, the timeline. As it turns out, Gordon Gray was secretary of the Army for only one year, from April 28, 1949, to April 12, 1950, therefore that’s the time frame in which the UNC event likely occurred. What’s more, Gray, who was indeed an alumnus of UNC Chapel Hill, was named president of his alma mater in October 1950, so, again, the UNC event couldn’t have taken place after that date. If Bendetsen was assistant secretary of the Army when the UNC event took place, as Feigenbaum suggested, then we’re talking about a window of roughly 8 months after he was publicly described as “little Hitler” that one of the Robertsons told him that the company could really use somebody like him. 

But here’s another clue: homecoming. If Feigenbaum is correct that the UNC event had been on homecoming, then it couldn’t have occurred in 1950. Homecoming in 1950 was on October 28, and President Gray was in attendance at the football game that day. The only other homecoming to fit within Gray’s timeline as secretary of the Army was the one in 1949, which occurred on November 26, 1949. Although Bendetsen hadn’t yet been confirmed as assistant secretary of the Army, reports indicate that he was working for Gray in a less official capacity. 

If the UNC event occurred on November 26, 1949, then my strong suspicion is that it was Reuben Sr. who’d bonded with Bendetsen, not Reuben Jr. At that time, Reuben Jr. was still an executive vice president for the company. He was important, but he wasn’t the big boss. He wouldn’t be named president until July 1950, when his father was promoted to chairman of the board. 

One thing is for certain: if the Robertson-Bendetsen meeting took place on November 26, 1949, it was at the height of the period in which Bendetsen was generating negative headlines about his activities during WWII. Perhaps Robertson was unaware of what Father Lavery had said about Bendetsen at that time, but plenty of other things were being written that could have, and should have, given Robertson pause.

In 1960, after Reuben Jr. died, and Reuben Sr. retired, the whole feel-good “Champion family” culture began to dry up. From what I’ve heard and read, many people point to Karl Bendetsen as the reason. According to a student research paper written by Brannon Ernest Aughe, Bendetsen was responsible for “sealing the end of the paternalistic nature of Champion Paper and Fibre Company.” Aughe went on to say that on March 31, 1961—a little over a year after Reuben Jr.’s death—Bendetsen laid off one-third of the employees in the Canton, NC, mill. That awful day came to be referred to as “Black Friday.”

Q: Are you sure the Robertsons were aware of the things that were being said about Bendetsen, especially Father Lavery?

A: I’m positive. Much of the bad press Bendetsen was receiving occurred in September and October of 1949. Also, even if the UNC event had occurred in November 1949, they would find out in a couple months what Father Lavery had said about Bendetsen. 

On February 3, 1950, Drew Pearson, syndicated writer of the newspaper column Washington Merry-Go-Round, had written an article that included Father Lavery’s accusations, word-for-horrifying-word. Pearson said that many senators were opposed to Bendetsen’s nomination and that Lavery’s letter could put him in jeopardy, though, as we know, he was still confirmed.

Drew Pearson was huge in the newspaper field. If you were a politician in the nation’s capital, it didn’t matter if you were right, left, or center, if you were up to no good, he’d find out about it and let his readers know. And his readers were…everyone. His sources were iron-clad and he didn’t mince words, so people felt they were getting the unvarnished truth about the people who were representing them.

Pearson even came down hard on Reuben Jr. once. The article ran in February 1960, after Pearson had discovered that Champion Paper had paid $15K to Admiral Arthur Radford, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to work as a consultant even though he didn’t know anything about papermaking. Pearson had found a number of lucrative consultant gigs for Radford, which led him to question what he was actually doing for all that money. When he tried to reach Reuben Jr. for answers, he wound up getting Bendetsen instead, who, I must say, may be one of the best stonewallers of all time, what with all the “I don’t knows” and “Not my jobs” and “That’s out of my bailiwicks.”

Suffice it to say that it was never a good thing to be mentioned in a Drew Pearson article, which is probably why most people read it. It’s kind of like reading the obituaries—if your name wasn’t there, the day was off to a good start. 

As it so happens, we know that both Reuben Jr. and Reuben Sr. had to have been aware of the tumult that Bendetsen’s nomination was causing nationally, since both Reuben Jr.’s newspaper, the Hamilton Journal-News, and Reuben Sr.’s paper, the Asheville Times, carried Pearson’s article the same day. 

How anyone could read the accusations that were leveled against Karl Bendetsen in Pearson’s article and think “we need more of THAT on our team” is beyond me. But put in perspective, it might be one more indication that, in the 1950s, Champion Paper could be counted on to support anyone or anything having to do with the U.S. military. Even if a person was a political hot potato. Even if a project resulted in a student who mysteriously disappeared.

Louis Jolyon West’s relatively rocky start with the CIA: How a ‘talkative,’ ‘unconventional’ ‘champion of the underdog’ became the face of MKULTRA

At some point in our lives, all of us has learned the valuable lesson that…pardon my French…💩 happens. By this, I mean that not everything is going to go exactly as planned. Sometimes, there’ll be the occasional hiccup, even though no one is really at fault. 

As a matter of fact, 💩 happened to me very recently. That’s not surprising for someone who spends a lot of their time doing what I do. But you know what? As all-powerful as the CIA has been throughout its history, sometimes 💩 happens to the CIA too. That’ll play a part in the story that I’ll be sharing with you today.  

Let’s do this the fun way…Q&A. The floor is now open. 

What was the bad thing that happened to you recently?

You know my Labor Day post on Facebook? The one where I was discussing a memo that I felt was describing Louis Jolyon West to a “T”? (I still feel that’s the case, by the way.) In my post, I made the bold claim that the number at the top of the memo—A/B, 5, 44/14—was an important clue, and that any document with a similar alphanumeric pattern and a number 44 in the second-to-last position would have something to do with Jolly West. Not only that, but I felt that two memos within that classification were probably describing St. Clair Switzer. Unfortunately, I came to realize later on that I’d gotten some details in my theory wrong, including the part about Switzer. 

Of course, I felt horrible because I really hate to say wrong things and mislead you all. But then, after doing a lot more digging, I’ve come to believe that I wasn’t that far off the mark. Yes, some things I got wrong, but I also feel confident that I got a number of things right. So I’m feeling a lot better now.

Here’s a copy of the memo, which was written on April 16, 1954, by the CIA’s Technical Branch chief, Morse Allen, to the chief of the CIA’s Security Research Staff. Paragraph 2 is what convinced me that he was referring to West.

The April 16, 1954 memo which shows its A/B classification number. Note that the CIA sometimes used Roman numerals and sometimes they separated the last two numbers by a slash instead of a comma. For consistency, I’ve chosen to use Arabic numerals and a slash between the last two numbers. Click on image for a closer view, thanks to

Why are you so sure that April 16, 1954, memo is describing Jolly West?

I’d like to answer your question a little bit now, and a little more later. Based on documents that I found in UCLA’s Archives, West had become disenchanted with his position at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB) not too long after his arrival in July 1952. Back then, he was a 20-something hot-shot psychiatrist and hypnosis researcher who’d performed his residency training in psychiatry at Cornell University’s Payne Whitney Clinic in NYC. West viewed his time at Cornell with fondness, and he’d thought that he might like to return there one day as a faculty member. However, because the Air Force had made it financially possible for him to take his residency training in psychiatry, he was obligated to serve four years at the hospital on base.

In July 1953, when a neurologist who West didn’t seem to care for at Lackland was promoted to supervisor over both the neurology and psychiatry programs, West felt as if his wings had been clipped. He also worried that this development would jeopardize the plans he was cooking up with Sidney Gottlieb in regard to hypnosis and drug research under CIA’s Artichoke program. The last thing he needed was someone looking over his shoulder, especially when that someone wasn’t a believer in the use of hypnosis on patients.

Fast forward to April 1954, when Jolly was being courted by the University of Oklahoma for the position of professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Behavioral Sciences. Five days after Morse Allen had written his memo to the chief of the Security Research Staff, the dean of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Medicine wrote to Surgeon General Harry G. Armstrong, asking him to please relieve Jolly West of his duties with the Air Force so they could hire him. Armstrong wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, but by the end of September, under a new surgeon general named Dan Ogle, Jolly was permitted to begin his transition to the University of Oklahoma. It took some fancy finagling by an Agency representative named Major Hughes (I think it was a pseudonym used by Sidney Gottlieb) to help convince Air Force officials that this move would be in everyone’s best interest. 

Before we move on, can we talk about the letters and numbers at the top of the memo? What do you think they mean?

Many (though not all) of the MKULTRA documents have similar notations in the upper righthand corner. The A/B is consistently in the front. According to Colin A. Ross, M.D., a psychiatrist, author, and MKULTRA expert, the A/B stands for Artichoke/Bluebird. After the A/B is a number between 1 and 7, which is sometimes written as a Roman numeral. This number represents a grouping of like files. Although I’m not sure about the meaning of the other numbers, the number 5 appears to represent consultants of some sort. The second-to-last number—in this case, 44—is unique to a person or group of people who seem to be linked somehow. The last number is the number assigned to each document within the category. In 44’s case, the last number runs from 1 to 17, with a couple numbers (9 and 11) being skipped over, probably because the CIA decided we shouldn’t see them. One thing I’ve noticed is that the last numbers weren’t assigned in chronological order. Some seem to run in reverse chronological order. This makes me think that they were numbered by someone after MKULTRA became public in 1977.

This question is a two-parter: What was your hypothesis when you wrote your Facebook post on Labor Day and how has that changed?

It has to do with document A/B, 5, 44/1 (aka # 146319), which has the title “RESEARCH PLAN” typed in all caps at the top of the first page. The document describes a research project in which a team of researchers plans to study a demographic group referred to as criminal sexual psychopaths who were being hospitalized in the same facility. The point of the research was to use narco-analysis (psychoanalysis with the assistance of drugs) and hypnosis to see if the patients would admit to actions that they denied but that were documented through police reports and other records. In other words, they wanted to see if they could get people who made a practice of being deceptive to admit the truth.

What I initially thought

First of all, I knew that Jolly West was named in the January 14, 1953, memo as being part of the “well-balanced interrogation research center.” I also knew that Jolly West had written articles on the topic of homosexuality in the Air Force, and had studied airmen who were gay or who were accused of being gay at Lackland AFB from 1952 through 1956. Because it was the 1950s, I’d thought that perhaps it was an archaic term for gay individuals who’d been incarcerated, but I was mistaken. The term “criminal sexual psychopath” generally was used to describe people who’d committed sexual crimes against children and, what’s more, it wasn’t a term that was used universally back then. Canada used it as did the states of Indiana and Michigan. There may have been others, but I wasn’t seeing it in use in Texas or in the military. 

I later learned through old news accounts that the study on criminal sexual psychopaths was conducted by Alan Canty, Sr., a psychologist and executive director of the Recorder’s Court Psychopathic Clinic in Detroit, whose work included the analysis and placement of individuals whose cases had gone through the Wayne County criminal justice system. The selected location for the CIA’s project was Ionia State Hospital, in Ionia, Michigan, where 142 individuals labeled as criminal sexual psychopaths had been residing at that time. 

What I think now

Because references to Jolly West can be found in documents occupying the same “44” category as the researchers from Michigan, and because the researchers were receiving assistance from at least one outside consultant, my current hypothesis is that West had been providing guidance to them on occasion. Sidney Gottlieb signed off on the Ionia State Hospital project, listed as MKULTRA Subproject 39, on December 9, 1954. By that date, Jolly was spending roughly one week out of every month in his newly acquired academic role in Oklahoma City.

By the by? I still have my suspicions regarding whether Jolly may have been conducting his own studies on gay airmen stationed at Lackland AFB. In 1953, Air Force Regulation (AFR) 35-66 mandated that homosexuals were not permitted in the Air Force. If someone was caught in the act or if someone reported their suspicions to the authorities, that person would be subjected to a lengthy investigation, a portion of which included a psychiatric examination, which is when Jolly West would enter the picture. What’s more, during the investigative period, these men were placed on “casual status,” and relocated to a special barracks to await the results of their respective investigations and final rulings, a process which could take months. Somehow, I can’t imagine West walking by the special barracks and not thinking that these men sequestered together with little else to do would make good test subjects in the detection of deception.

Now that we know what the criminal sexual psychopath study was about, can I address the rest of the question that you’d asked earlier about how I’m sure that the April 1954 memo is referring to Jolly West?

Yeah, sure. Why else do you think the April 1954 memo is referring to Jolly West?

I’ve researched the primary participants in the criminal sexual psychopath study, and everyone was steadfastly employed in their positions in April 1954. Ostensibly, no one was looking for work elsewhere as evidenced by the fact that no one left. In addition, a psychiatrist and an anesthesiologist from the University of Minnesota whom I suspected had offered guidance to the Michiganders were happy in their jobs as well. To the best of my knowledge, no one directly or peripherally tied to that project was being considered for another job in April 1954. Only Louis Jolyon West.

Interesting. I noticed that you said there were ‘references’—plural—to Jolly West in documents occupying the same ‘44’ category as the researchers from Michigan. Where else have you found a reference to West?

Excellent catch! This is where our story gets fun…and it’s also where, as I noted earlier, the CIA was experiencing some, um, difficulty of the “💩’s a-happenin’” variety.

It all began when I was using the searchable, sortable MKULTRA index that Good Man friend and history buff Julie Miles created, and focusing heavily on the documents that were dated within the window of 1952 through 1954. I noticed that, at some point, a psychiatrist was having a tough time getting through the CIA’s clearance process. I’ve read that CIA clearance is a lengthy process that’s stricter than any of the other federal agencies, so it didn’t surprise me that it wouldn’t be easy. Fleetingly, I may have wondered who it might have been, but I didn’t get all that hung up over it.

Then I read document A/B, 5, 44/3 (#146321), dated July 24, 1953. The document is a memo from Morse Allen, chief of the Technical Branch, to the chief of the Security Research Staff, and he’s seriously worked up over the clearance issue. 

Click on image for a closer view, thanks to
Click on image for a closer view, thanks to

Apparently, when the CIA’s Special Security Division (SSD) was conducting its preliminary investigation into Morse’s man of interest, they discovered that another entity had conducted an investigation into that same person in mid-June 1953.

The other investigation was described as a “full field investigation,” which is an intensive background check into new government hires in which interviews are conducted with former bosses, family members, neighbors, clergy, you name it, and their comments are written up into summaries called “synopses.” Although full field investigations had been used before in the federal government, they were more notably implemented after Exec. Order 10450 was signed in April 1953. At that point, all civilian federal agencies were required to conduct full field investigations on new hires to make sure they wouldn’t be putting the nation at risk by giving information to the communists. The military required a full field investigation for Top Secret classifications. (As you may recall, the real reason behind Exec. Order 10450 was to purge the federal government of homosexuals because they claimed that they could be blackmailed.) 

So, to quickly recap: someone other than the CIA had conducted a full field investigation on Morse Allen’s man of interest and the memo which discusses the findings is labeled under the #44 category.

Moreover, this particular full field investigation had something to do with the military. I believe this is true because, over New Year’s this year, this blog site took advantage of the down time to decode what some of the letters in the margins of the MKULTRA documents mean. For example, we determined that an “A” stands for an Agency employee; a “C” stands for a contractor; and so on. (They didn’t always start with the same letter, but in those cases, they did.) In the July 24, 1953, document, the margins are filled with A’s, C’s, and H’s, the latter of which, we determined, was used for the Department of Defense or one of its military branches.

That’s extremely interesting, because none of the other people associated with the proposed research project at Ionia State Hospital had anything to do with the military. They would have needed to undergo the CIA’s clearance process, but they wouldn’t have to be subjected to a full field investigation by the military in June 1953.

There’s a lot in this memo, which we can discuss in the comments if you’d like. For now, let’s go to my favorite paragraph, which is paragraph number 5:

“You will note that these synopses indicate that REDACTED is ‘talkative,’ somewhat ‘unconventional’ and a ‘champion of the underdog’ but, according to all informants, he does not discuss classified information and can be trusted with Top Secret matters.”

That’s it. That’s the giveaway. Morse Allen is talking about Louis Jolyon West.

Wait—why is that the giveaway? Was Jolly West talkative? Unconventional? Was he a champion of the underdog? 

The answers are yes, yes, and, although you may find this surprising, yes he was. But don’t take my word for it. I have a few anecdotes to share. 

On being talkative

First, there was his nickname—Jolly West—which is an indicator of his gigantic personality that seemed to match his size 2XL frame. A 1985 Los Angeles Times article on Jolly and his wife Kathryn said: “Psychiatrist West’s nickname, Jolly, seems unlikely to casual acquaintances, for his manner is serious, attentive, concerned. But he lightens up with frequent moments of laughter, and he can convey a measure of humor even in moments of stress.” 

That was written when Jolly was a mellow 61. Imagine him when he was 28 and eager to impress his superiors and overpower his competition.

In an article that appeared in the U.K. publication The Independent after his death, a colleague of West’s, Dr. Milton H. Miller, said he was: “above all, a colourful figure, an alive person who loved to be on stage.” 

On being unconventional

This is a broad term—what does it even mean? But yes, it’s safe to say that Jolly West wasn’t your run-of-the-mill psychiatrist who’d been sent to medical school by monied parents. His father had immigrated to the United States from Ukraine, and according to The Independent, his mother taught piano lessons in Brooklyn. His family, who’d later moved to Madison, WI, struggled financially, and he had to work hard and think creatively to find his way in the world. 

“We were, in fact, quite poor,” West said in the 1985 L.A. Times article. “Some of our neighbors didn’t have jobs. Some had no books. The family across the street had no bathtub. It was strictly the wrong side of the tracks. But in our house there was an attitude of ‘Thank God, we’re in America,’ and there was always a willingness to help others.”

According to that same article, West enlisted in the Army during WWII because, as a Jewish teen, he took Hitler’s fascism personally and he wanted to fight and kill.

“I was a bloodthirsty young fellow,” he said.

Because there was a shortage of Army physicians, the Army steered Jolly West to medical school, first at the University of Iowa, and later at the University of Minnesota. As mentioned earlier, the Air Force had financially supported his residency at Cornell, which is why he was obligated to serve at Lackland AFB for four years before finally severing his military ties.

On being a champion of the underdog

This one is so fascinating, knowing what we now know about West and some of his more questionable actions during the MKULTRA years. But he truly was a believer in civil rights. 

A 2001 article on Charlton Heston in the Los Angeles Magazine said that Heston and Louis Jolyon West were best friends(!) and that in the 1950s, after Jolly had moved to the University of Oklahoma, he’d reached out to Heston, and “the two friends teamed up with a black colleague of West’s to desegregate local lunch counters.”

In 1983 and 1984, Jolly flew to South Africa to speak out against apartheid.

“Everybody makes a difference,” he said in the 1985 L.A. Times article. “You can fight city hall. You can change the world. It might not seem like much of a change at the time, but you have the power as an individual to do a great deal.”

West was also fiercely opposed to capital punishment. In 1975, he published a paper in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry which provided one of the most strongly-worded abstracts I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a lot of them:

“Capital punishment is outdated, immoral, wasteful, cruel, brutalizing, unfair, irrevocable, useless, dangerous, and obstructive of justice. In addition, psychiatric observations reveal that it generates disease through the torture of death row; it perverts the identity of physicians from trials to prison wards to executions; and, paradoxically, it breeds more murder than it deters.”

So, yeah. I can see someone describing Jolly West with the words used in the memo. That the CIA would consider someone being characterized as a “champion of the underdog” as a knock against him kind of tells you all you need to know about the CIA of the 1950s.`

But what about the last part of paragraph 5? The part that said: “according to all informants, he does not discuss classified information and can be trusted with Top Secret matters.” Under what scenario would Jolly West come into contact with “informants”—again, plural—and be in a position to discuss classified information with them?

That line threw me too until I thought about the people West associated with when he was at Cornell. Two of the faculty members that he would have known well were Harold G. Wolff, a personal friend of Allen Dulles, and Lawrence E. Hinkle, who published a study with Wolff titled “Communist Interrogation and Indoctrination of ‘Enemies of the State’” in 1956. They were the CIA’s go-to’s in brainwashing. 

In 1955, Wolff created the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology (later referred to as the Human Ecology Fund), which supported the Ionia State Hospital study. Hinkle, who was also in a leadership role in the society, was one of the primary contacts for the study’s researchers. It’s certainly plausible that Harold Wolff, Lawrence Hinkle, and Jolly West could have discussed national secrets when Jolly was conducting hypnosis studies at Cornell. For Morse Allen to identify Hinkle and Wolff as CIA informants in July 1953 doesn’t seem like a stretch of the imagination. Not in the least.

Oh my gosh. I just thought of something.


Read Paragraph 6 of the July 24, 1953, memo. Morse Allen says the following:

“In further consideration, it should be remembered that REDACTED will be dealing with close personal friends and close professional associates of his in the REDACTED ARTICHOKE work and further if he works with us his professional reputation may conceivably be greatly enhanced by successful development of our program. These elements should be weighed, of course, in the evaluation of REDACTED.”

When you consider paragraphs 5 and 6 together, Morse Allen is saying: yes, I agree, West is currently an immature idealist. But if he could be cleared according to our plan—which is at the Secret level, not even Top Secret—he’ll be in close contact with CIA-sanctioned researchers Harold Wolff and Lawrence Hinkle, which will “greatly enhance” his “professional reputation.” In other words, if Security would just clear him, Morse and his pals could mold Jolly West into the person they desire him to be. Less angry young man—more “this is the way the world works.” Because Wolff and Hinkle were closely tied to the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, and the society funded the Ionia State Hospital study, it’s conceivable that Louis Jolyon West played a role in the study too, which was good reason to have his documents marked with a “44.”

Harold G. Wolff (credit: 1957 Annual Report or the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology) Fair Use
Lawrence E. Hinkle, Jr. (credit: 1957 Annual Report of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology) Fair Use

[You can link to the 1957 Annual Report of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology.]

Very interesting. But how does that impact your hypothesis regarding St. Clair Switzer?

I’m happy you brought this up. You’re absolutely right—that’s why we’re here. We’re trying to understand how Ronald Tammen’s psychology professor St. Clair Switzer might have been used in Project Artichoke and, in turn, what might have happened to Ronald Tammen after he went missing from Miami University’s campus.

I haven’t budged from my belief that, in January 1953, St. Clair Switzer was mentioned in the same paragraph as Louis J. West for a “well-balanced interrogation research center.” In fact, I feel stronger about that hypothesis now more than ever. 

Let’s zoom in on the names of the Major and the Lt. Colonel in paragraph 3 of the January 14 memo. When we zoom in on the Major, we can see the letters of West’s first name—the L, the o, the u, the dotted i, and the s—even though it’s crossed out. We can see the J. We can sort of see the West. It’s him. Also, we know that Sidney Gottlieb was having conversations with West about a hypnosis and drug research center in June and early July 1953—roughly the time when the CIA’s Security office was conducting its preliminary investigation into the person who was talkative and unconventional.

The Lt. Colonel’s name is harder to see, but I definitely see a capital S. Without a doubt. I happen to see a w and a z as well. (Oh, who am I kidding? I see all the letters.) And I’ll be honest—I haven’t come across very many lieutenant colonels in the Air Force in 1953 with last names that began with S that were also hypnosis experts. In fact, I only know of one. (Switzer.) We’re still waiting on our Mandatory Declassification Review to see if we can finally remove the redactions and put that question to rest.

But there’s more. Do you recall how, at first, the Air Force Surgeon General’s Office wasn’t entirely on board with having the CIA using one of its bases as a testing ground for hypnosis and drugs? A memo dated September 23, 1952, was focused upon two individuals who were under consideration for the endeavor. Person A, a U.S. commander, had “nothing to contribute in the line of research.” (See paragraph 2.) 

Click on image for a closer view, thanks to

As for Person B, a CIA rep said they were “inclined to go easy on him from a security standpoint, because of his propensity to talk.” (See paragraph 3.)

In paragraph 4, a colonel in the Surgeon General’s Office was speaking of Person A (I believe) when he said that “he thinks very highly of REDACTED, and that it will be essential to keep him cut into the picture.” The words “air research” were handwritten above the essential person’s blackened name.

In a former blog post, I argued that Person A, the one whom the colonel thought very highly of, was likely St. Clair Switzer, since he’d recently spent a summer working for the Air Research and Development Command, and he and the surgeon general had a connection with Wright Patterson AFB. Perhaps Switzer’s name was being floated as a liaison between the interrogation research center at Lackland AFB and the Office of the Surgeon General.

Today, I’m adding to that hypothesis. I’d suggest that Person B, who had the “propensity to talk,” was Jolly West. Perhaps the Office of the Surgeon General thought West a wee bit too chatty, and St. Clair Switzer—quiet, conventional, obsequious to the powerful—was brought in to appease the brass. 

OK! I think that’s all for today. Questions? Concerns?


To demonstrate how well Jolly West knew the guys at Cornell, he’s written Dr. Harold G. Wolff’s name as a character reference on a form he’d filled out on November 4, 1955. (I don’t know the purpose of the form.) Wolff’s name is directly below West’s adviser at Cornell, Dr. Oskar Diethelm.

When Doc met Jolly: the sequel

I think it’s time we elaborated a little on our theory about St. Clair (Doc) Switzer and famed MKULTRA researcher Louis Jolyon (Jolly) West. For a while now, I’ve been frantically waving a document in everyone’s faces from January 1953, and using it as evidence that the two men must have known each other and even worked together in some capacity.  

So…THEN what, right?

Right. This blog post is all about what happened to Doc and Jolly AFTER the January 14th memo. Admittedly, it mostly has to do with Jolly, but, based on events that came to pass in his career, we can deduce how Doc was affected as well. 

But first, let’s have a little recap.

Our running theory 

In September 1952, the CIA was rounding up experts to conduct research for Project Artichoke. One of the locations at the top of their list was an Air Force Base—Lackland AFB, to be exact, in San Antonio. The reason they were drawn to Lackland was likely two-fold. First, it was where all incoming basic trainees were psychiatrically screened and where “questionable” Air Force officer candidates and pre-flight cadets were more fully evaluated psychiatrically. That’s a lot of baseline data concerning what was going on inside pretty much every airman’s head. 

Second, the new chief of the Psychiatric Service had arrived at Lackland AFB in July 1952—Jolly West. He had just completed his residency at the Payne Whitney Clinic in New York City, which was part of Cornell University Medical College. As it so happens, people in the Payne Whitney Clinic were friends with people in the CIA. Harold G. Wolff, an expert on headache and psychosomatic illness, was one of those people. He would go on to head the Human Ecology Fund, which funded MKULTRA-focused research, and to coauthor a 1956 comprehensive report on communist interrogation and indoctrination methods—aka brainwashing. Jolly, having developed strong skills in hypnosis while at Payne Whitney, was now in charge of the entire psychiatric division at Lackland’s 3700th USAF Hospital. If that’s not a perfect fit for Project Artichoke, I don’t know what is.

At roughly the same time in which the CIA was scrutinizing Jolly West, someone else’s name had made a little ping on their radar. That person was Miami University psychology professor Doc Switzer, who was brought to their attention by way of a memo written on March 25, 1952. Chief among Doc’s selling points were his having worked under noted psychologist and hypnosis expert Clark Hull and for his being a pharmacist before becoming a psychology professor. By September, however, the CIA was having their doubts about someone—Doc, I believe—and, despite his Artichoke-friendly credentials, they didn’t think he had much to contribute toward the research they desired. 

As it turns out, Doc could be useful in a different way. Doc was well-connected in the Air Force, whose surgeon general would have to approve whether Lackland could be a site for CIA-funded Artichoke research. Not only had Doc made a name for himself during WWII, but he was on the rolls of the Air Force Reserves, and, most recently, during the summer of 1951, he’d served in a prestigious post at the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in Baltimore.  

On September 23, 1952, a CIA rep had spoken with a colonel in the Air Force’s Office of the Surgeon General, and the colonel had said that the person whom the CIA was uncertain about—the person I believe to be Doc Switzer—would be “essential” to be “cut into the picture” because they thought very highly of him. Four months later, on January 14, 1953, Jolly (I’m 100% sure) and Doc (I strongly believe) are named in a memo with regards to the creation of a “well-balanced interrogation research center.”

Jolly West; Credit: Oklahoma Department of Public Welfare; Fair use.

The hot shot and his rival 

The winter of 1953 turned into the spring of 1953, with all of its happy trappings:  

the flowers were blooming… 

the birds were singing…

 the bees were buzzing… 

…and, on April 13… 

…the director of the CIA was signing a memo establishing MKULTRA, an amped-up version of Project Artichoke. 

(Due to a lack of time, we’ll forgo discussing how, six days later, a certain student from Miami University who had Doc Switzer for his psychology professor seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. We can discuss that little coinkidink another day.)

Our story picks up two months later, in the summer of 1953, when Jolly West and Sidney Gottlieb, who oversaw the CIA’s MKULTRA program, are discussing the to-be-implemented operation at Lackland AFB. Jolly couldn’t have been more gung-ho. On June 11, a 28-year-old West wrote to a 34-year-old Gottlieb a detailed letter about his short-term and long-term goals with regards to the hypnotizing of human subjects—a resource he ostensibly had an endless supply of—as part of his new project for the CIA. Among those readily available subjects were basic airmen, whom he could summon by simply telling the folks in HR to: “Send us 10 high I.Q. airmen at 0900 tomorrow,” he bragged. Other potential subjects would include volunteers who worked on the base, hospital patients, and a miscellaneous category of “others,” including prisoners in the local stockade and returning POWs.

He had the subjects. He had the know-how. He had the drive. He had the space—though he’d need to purchase some suitable new equipment. He could hire the necessary staff. 

But there was a problem, Jolly informed Sidney. The problem’s name was Robert Williams, who, by the way, should not be confused with Robert J. Williams, who oversaw Project Artichoke in the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence before it was reassigned to Inspection and Security. Nope, this guy was Robert L. Williams, who was chief of Neurology at Lackland AFB. Jolly informed Sidney that, after Williams had received his certification by the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry—with coaching from Jolly in preparation for the psychiatry portion of the exam, he pointed out—Williams started eyeing Jolly’s territory. Williams persuaded Colonel Robert S. Brua, commander of Lackland’s 3700th Medical Group, to combine the two divisions into one and to put Williams on top. 

As you can imagine, Jolly was fuming over this power grab. Here was someone Jolly described as being “several years my senior professionally although his experience in psychiatry is considerably less than mine” getting in the way of Jolly doing whatever he wanted. He’d be a giant roadblock to the hypnosis research the two men were discussing, Jolly contended. 

“This is a most unhappy turn of events from the point of view of our experiments,” he lamented. 

“Dr. Williams is extremely acquisitive and will be an uncomfortably close scrutinizer of my activities,” he said. “The fact that I am still Chief of Psychiatry doesn’t alter the fact that it is now merely a section in this new Service, and that many of my administrative and even professional decisions can be hamstrung.”

He later added: “And, most unfortunately, he is one of those conservative traditionalists who actively opposes research or treatment involving hypnosis, states that it is ‘tampering with the soul,’ and spoken out against some of my previous work; he will undoubtedly hamper my efforts in many ways.” 

Jolly had some suggestions on how to fix this unlivable situation. Going back to the old organizational structure was one possibility. Transferring Williams the heck out of San Antonio to some other base was another one. Or, geez, maybe Jolly should, you know…leave. That last option wasn’t very realistic though. Because the Air Force had foot the bill for Jolly’s medical training, he was obligated to serve there until June 1956. For him to even entertain the possibility of leaving in July of 1953 was indicative of…what…his immaturity? His arrogance? His bullheadedness? Take your pick—I can’t decide.

“The ultimate solution to the repeated occurrence of this type of situational crisis is, of course, a return to civilian status. If I were back on the staff at Cornell Medical Center where my previous research was done, there would be no problem. I could receive some funds from you disguised as a U.S. Public Health Service grant, or some such thing, gon [sic] onto a half-time research basis, and plub [sic?] away at the problem with considerable independence. This future eventuality we’ll have to discuss at a later date; meanwhile, we have the local problem to solve. If someone in the Surgeon General’s office, or the Surgeon General himself, were in on this whole complicated situation, it might make the solutions a little easier.” 

Um, I’m sorry, but has this 28-year-old never had a boss before? I mean, sure, it’s a drag that his division got usurped and all, but who among us hasn’t had something like that happen at our jobs without our feeling the need to run to our boss’s boss’s boss in hopes that they’ll fix it? Plus, some might say that Jolly could have used a little more supervision at that time, don’tya think? (Did I mention he was 28?)**

**Dear 28-year-olds: I have nothing against you. If you happen to be in this age group, that’s fantastic. It’s a super fun age to be. It’s just that, occasionally, people in your age bracket have been known to think they have all the answers when in fact they really don’t. (Not you. Other people.)

Listen to the Traveling Wilburys. They’ll tell you what I mean.

Sidney Gottlieb was undeterred by the likes of Robert L. Williams. He asked Jolly for the names and contact information of Lackland’s top brass, which were Col. Brua, Col. Cowles (who oversaw the Human Resources Research Center), and Brigadier General Steele (who commanded the entire base). Although Sidney wasn’t willing to give these men all the goods on MKULTRA just yet, he would explore obtaining Top Secret clearance for each one, just in case. He also would contact Donald Hastings, a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota who was to collaborate with Jolly on the project. Hastings had been chief of psychiatry for the Army Air Forces during WWII, so he was much more seasoned in dealing with military brass. If anyone could arm wrestle them into acquiescence, he could probably do it without their having to bother the surgeon general over trivial workplace politics. 

Sidney closed his letter with “I feel that we have gained quite an asset in the relationship we are developing with you. We will work this thing out one way or another. It is of the greatest importance to do so.”

Less than a year later, Jolly wanted out of Lackland. Maybe he’d predicted correctly, and Robert L. Williams had rained all over Jolly’s MKULTRA plans. Or maybe it was plain old bureaucratic red tape. The laboratory where he needed to conduct his research still hadn’t been built. No matter the reason, at some point along the way, Jolly decided to look elsewhere for a job. As far as his obligation to the Air Force was concerned, he’d have to cross that bridge when he came to it.

In April 1954, he arrived at the bridge. He’d been offered the position of professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma, and he would now need to seek approval from the Office of the Surgeon General before he could accept the position. Of course, he’d have to do so strategically and with finesse, since he had no intention of taking no for an answer.

University officials did what they could to get the Air Force to relinquish Jolly. The dean of the medical school promised to build Jolly the laboratory he needed to conduct his “special research assignment” for the CIA and USAF, including technical assistance and equipment. The laboratory was to be called the Air Force Psychosomatic Laboratory, likely as camouflage. Best of all, he would be able to conduct his research as he saw fit, with no questions asked. Still, months went by as Jolly tried to convince the assorted colonels and generals that the Air Force would be better off with him in Oklahoma than in Texas. He proposed transferring to Tinker Air Force Base, in Oklahoma City, where he could split his time between the university and military base, but the Air Force said no. Practically speaking, there was no need for a psychiatrist of his stature there. 

Despite the string of disapprovals, the Office of the Surgeon General began coming around to see things Jolly’s way. In August 1954, they offered a compromise in which Jolly would be granted 60 days of unpaid leave per year over and above any accrued leave he had, all of which he could use to work for the university. On September 26, 1954, the university announced that Jolly West would be joining their faculty. 

After all was said and done, Brigadier General H.H. Twitchell, in the Office of the Surgeon General, let Jolly know what had gone on behind the scenes that brought about the Air Force’s change of heart.

“It seemed ill advised to establish the Air Force Psychosomatic Laboratory either at Lackland or an Air Force base in Oklahoma only to have to abandon the project upon your release from the service 20 months from now. Therefore, General Powell, Major Hughes, Major Kollar, and myself conferred to discuss the best way to get your special research project underway on a continuing basis. It was decided that the Air Force Medical Service should withdraw from the project as it now stands leaving you and Major Hughes free to organize the program within your department at the University on a contract basis with the Agency that Major Hughes represents. Major Hughes indicated that other than the slight delay involved in establishing your program at the University of Oklahoma this will not seriously interfere with the conduct of the research since the acceptance of your professorship was predicated upon the unquestioned full support of this project. Major Hughes also indicated that he would discuss the details of this matter with you in the near future.”

Hmmm. Major Hughes sure sounds as if he had a lot of sway in the matter, doesn’t he? But who was he? Brigadier General Twitchell and General Powell both worked in the Office of the Surgeon General. Major Kollar worked at Lackland AFB. But this was the first I’d ever heard of Major Hughes. 

My guess? I think Major Hughes was our friend Sidney Gottlieb. Here’s why:

  • Sidney liked to use pseudonyms. In his July 2, 1953, letter to Jolly West, he signed his name Sherman C. Grifford, a pretend person who was affiliated with the pretend organization Chemrophyl Associates. In a meeting with the military men, I can see him taking on a more suitable pseudonym for the occasion—something with a rank that was respectable, but not too high—and a last name that was a little more forgettable than Gottlieb. 
  • Major Hughes was representing an Agency—with a capital A. General Twitchell was being cautious with his wording, but there’s no question that he was referring to the CIA.
  • Major Hughes seemed to be closely tied to Jolly’s research project. In fact, the way General Twitchell described it, Major Hughes and Jolly would be working together to organize the program in Jolly’s new department.
  • The person from the CIA with whom Jolly was working most closely on this project since June 1953 was Sidney Gottlieb.
Credit: CIA; Was Sidney Gottlieb Major Hughes?

In December 1954, Jolly wrote to a friend telling him that he’d started at Oklahoma, and by January 1955, he’d submitted a proposal to the Geschickter Foundation (another CIA front organization) for MKULTRA funding. By March 1955, he’d received approval for a $20,000 grant to begin his infamous work which came to be known as Subproject 43.

That pretty much sums things up, except there may be a little more to the story. In an article for the investigative site The Intercept, authors Tom O’Neill and Dan Piepenbring brought to light a gut-wrenching story in which Jolly West played a critical role. It concerns a murder that took place near Lackland Air Force Base at around midnight July 4, 1954. The victim was a three-year-old girl named Chere Jo Horton who’d been playing in the parking lot of a tavern while her parents and brother were inside. (Helicopter parenting was definitely not a thing in the ‘50s.) A search went on, and, tragically, her lifeless body was found in the nearby gravel pit.

The man who was charged with the murder, Jimmy Shaver, had come walking up from the gravel pit before her body had been discovered, almost as if he was in a trance. His body was bloody and scratched from brambles. Chere Jo’s underwear were dangling from his car door. An Associated Press story that ran the following day said that Shaver had written in a statement that he remembered putting her in his car and driving away. His last memory was of removing her from the car, and “then I blacked out.” Shaver was employed at Lackland AFB as a drill instructor. Up until that moment, he’d been a law-abiding citizen.

According to the Waco Times-Herald, Jolly testified at Shaver’s trial that Shaver was “given over to his care two months after the crime.” During that period, Jolly had given Shaver sodium amytal which, according to the paper, “put Shaver into an hypnotic trance.” A United Press wire service story said that West had examined Shaver “under hypnosis and truth serum.”

Jolly stated to the court that Shaver had been ridiculed and abused as a child by a little girl, and when he saw Chere Jo, Shaver was mentally transported back to his childhood. He killed her—a voice in his head had told him to do it—but he thought he was killing the abusive girl, Jolly told the court. Shaver was “insane” at the time of the killing and “did not know right from wrong,” the paper quoted him as saying. 

Jimmy Shaver died from the electric chair on July 25, 1958. 

It’s a horrible, tragic story that I’ve avoided writing about for a while. Here’s why I want to discuss it now: First, this was all happening while Jolly was trying to leave Lackland AFB. At the time of Chere Jo’s murder, Jolly had already been offered the job, and he was trying to convince the Office of the Surgeon General that he’d be of more use to them in Oklahoma than in Texas. In September, during Shaver’s trial, Jolly’s name, along with the name of Lackland Air Force Base, was being splashed on newspapers across Texas, and beyond. It was precisely at this time when the Office of the Surgeon General gave the green light for Jolly to conduct his research elsewhere.

Could it be that the surgeon general decided to make the Jolly West P.R. problem go away by approving his early move to Oklahoma? They’d allow him to continue with his experiments, but just not on their turf.  

The reason I pose this question is that in Tom O’Neill’s and Dan Piepenbring’s piece, they raise the question of whether Jolly West may have actually been conducting hypnotic experiments on Shaver before the murder and perhaps even introduced false memories during his hypnosis sessions after the murder. You can read the story and see the evidence for yourself.

I’d like to focus on one detail. Jolly had said under oath that Jimmy Shaver was “given over to his care two months after the crime.” But in O’Neill’s and Piepenbring’s piece, O’Neill had actually spoken with another psychiatrist at Lackland, a man named Gilbert Rose, who’d taken part in the sessions with Jolly West and Shaver.

In 2002, he said the following:

“[Rose had] also never known how West had found out about the case right away. ‘We were involved from the first day,’ Rose recalled. ‘Jolly phoned me the morning of the murder. He initiated it.’”

If what Rose said is true, then Jolly had committed perjury when he told the court of his later involvement. Why would he say that if he didn’t have something to hide? And again, were any of the Air Force officials knowledgeable? 

There’s one last person we need to discuss, and that person is Doc Switzer. Where does Doc factor into all of this?

In our running theory, Doc was considered “essential” by the Office of the Surgeon General in September 1952. At that time, the surgeon general was Harry G. Armstrong. However, when Jolly West received the OK to move to Oklahoma in 1954, the surgeon general was Dan C. Ogle. And once West was doing his work at the University of Oklahoma, the Office of the Surgeon General had purposely written themselves out of the equation. 

I have no idea what Surgeon General Harry Armstrong wanted from Doc Switzer. Perhaps he helped keep him up to speed on things. But by the time Jolly West moved his laboratory to the University of Oklahoma, there would have been no need for his services, at least in that regard. 

To look at it another way, could it be that the perfect window of time when Doc Switzer was considered “essential” to Project Artichoke happened to coincide with the time that Ronald Tammen disappeared from Miami University?

Remembering Bob Schuette, aka ‘Shoots,’ who helped solve 2 mysteries regarding Ron Tammen

I’m so sorry to report that we lost a member of our Good Man family recently. He was one of my sources, and he’d spoken with Ron Tammen shortly before Ron disappeared. That person was Bob Schuette (pronounced SHOOT-ee), an Oxford businessman—a legend in that town, really—who passed away at the age of 96 on July 13.

Bob didn’t know Ron well—but then again, I’ve yet to meet anyone who did. Bob seemed to be Ron’s polar opposite. Ron was generally quiet and kept to himself. Bob Schuette—“Shoots” to his friends—was generally not quiet. He was a gregarious go-getter in cream-colored khakis and a white Oxford rolled up past his elbows. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. He was a people magnet who could work a room like nobody else.

Bob pledged Delta Tau Delta the same year as Ron. But Bob was no run-of-the-mill freshman pledge. Born in 1926, he was seven years older than everyone in his class. He’d enlisted in the Navy before he even considered attending Miami University. During WWII, while his fellow pledges were still learning where to find Japan on a map, Bob had been serving in the Naval Construction Battalion—the Seabees—in Okinawa. Of course everyone in the fraternity looked up to him. They’d wanted to make him president of the entire chapter his sophomore year, but that would’ve been unheard of. They made him vice president instead.

We can thank Bob for solving two mysteries for us regarding the Tammen story. One is clear-cut, as in: here’s the question, there’s the answer. The other is still a little blurry, as in: here’s the answer but we still don’t know what it means. Both have contributed to our understanding of the person that Ron Tammen was, even though no one had really known him at the time.

Bob Schuette in May 2017

Mystery #1: Was Ron Tammen asked to step down as the Delt song leader?

I wrote about the first mystery in my June 2017 blog post. In that post, Bob is the person whose pseudonym is “Bill.” 

In 1956, journalist Murray Seeger had written an anniversary piece about Ron’s disappearance for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and included a rather strange detail I’d never seen anywhere else.  The second-to-last paragraph read as follows:

“About a week before [Ron’s disappearance], the fraternity had asked Ron to drop out as a leader of its singing group because his other activities were so demanding. But this did not seem to upset him unduly—he took a place in the singing group and let someone else direct it.”

Weird, right? To have the entire fraternity ask you to “drop out as a leader” sounds like a big deal. It was as if he was shirking his duties so badly, they’d voted on whether to give Ron the boot, and the “ayes” had carried it.

Well, that’s not what happened at all, and Bob helped straighten things out. The fraternity didn’t ask Ron to step down as song leader. No way. Ron had discovered that he couldn’t be there on the night of the performance—even if he hadn’t disappeared, that is—so he passed the conductor’s baton to someone else. 

The singing group Seeger was describing was a group of Delts who would be performing in the Intrafraternity Sing, an annual competition among Miami’s fraternities that was scheduled to occur on Mother’s Day weekend. Bob was in charge of the Delts’ entry in the competition. He was the main contact even though he didn’t sing in the group.

According to Bob, it was Ron who’d approached him. They met for coffee at Coffee Pete’s on a Thursday, and Ron had told him he had a scheduling conflict for the weekend of the big event. He was going to be playing with the Campus Owls at the University of Kentucky on the night of May 9, 1953, and couldn’t lead the Delts in their song. Bob said that Ron had worked everything out, even going so far as to find his replacement—Ted Traeger.

Here’s how Bob described their last interaction to me: “He went through the whole deal, what Traeger was going to do, and when that concluded, we shook hands, and I said, ‘Have a good weekend,’ and he said, ‘You too. Everything will be all right,’ and to be honest with you, that was the last I ever saw Ron.”

Bob’s story checks out despite one minor discrepancy. Whenever he would tell me the story, and he told it to me several times, Bob would recall the time interval between the coffee meeting and the Mother’s Day performance to be days, not weeks. But that’s impossible, since Ron had disappeared three weeks earlier than Mother’s Day weekend. Even so, the date of the Intrafraternity Sing was on the same date in which the Campus Owls had played at the University of Kentucky. Ron indeed had a scheduling conflict that would have needed addressing back then.

Also, what stood out clearest in Bob’s memory was that he and Ron had met at Coffee Pete’s on the Thursday before Ron had disappeared. That would establish their meeting to have occurred on April 16, 1953. Could he have been right that it was the last time that he saw Ron? Absolutely. 

Lastly, we can thank Murray Seeger for providing the assist that established that, despite Ron’s no longer leading the singing group, he still attended song practice on April 19. As Seeger had written in his 1956 article, Ron “took a place in the singing group and let someone else direct it.” Because the Delts only practiced on Sunday nights, the only date in which that could have happened was April 19, the night of Ron’s disappearance. 

This supports Paul’s story (see June 16, 2017 blog post), who placed Ron at song practice that same night, before he, Ron, and Chip Anderson walked back to the dorms together, just moments before Ron disappeared.  

Thanks to Bob Schuette, not only do we know that Ron was simply being responsible when he stepped down as song leader, but, with a little help from Murray Seeger, we have corroboration of Paul’s story. 

Mystery #2: Did Ron Tammen sleep over at the Delt house on occasion?

When Charles Findlay, Ron’s roommate, returned to their room on Sunday night to find Ron wasn’t there, he wasn’t that worried, according to news reports.

Gilson Wright, a journalism professor at Miami who had a side hustle as an on-call correspondent for area papers, provided this write-up on April 25, 1953, for the Hamilton Journal-News:

“When his roommate, Charles Findlay, Dayton, also a sophomore, returned later that evening he found the lights on in the room and Tammen’s books open on a study table. He assumed Tammen had gone out for the rest of the evening and when he failed to return he thought perhaps Tammen had decided to spend the night at his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta.”

In November 1953, Wright wrote: “It wasn’t that unusual for Tammen to spend an evening at his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta.”

A year after Ron’s disappearance, on April 19, 1954, Wright similarly wrote:“Findlay had some classes the next morning and again didn’t worry about Tammen. After all, he thought, the lad might have stayed overnight at the Delt house.”

I don’t care what Gilson Wright says, staying overnight at the Delt house seems unusual, especially for a residence hall counselor who’s paid to look after a corridor full of freshman men. That goes double for someone who’s a studious, non-drinking introvert, whose own dorm room is a 10-minute walk away. 

Wright’s reporting was different than what Joe Cella had written three days later for the same paper. Cella, a reporter for the Hamilton Journal-News who had uncovered most of the pertinent discoveries of the case, wrote this in a full-page article on April 22, 1954:

“Charles (Chuck) Findlay, 22, a junior in business administration who lives in Dayton, returned to Fisher Hall Sunday night around 10:30 p.m. to find his roommate’s book open on the table, the lights on, and most of Tammen’s personal effects in the room. He assumed his roommate had gone to his fraternity house, Delta Tau Delta.”

It’s one thing for Chuck to assume Ron was at the Delt house at 10:30 p.m., as Cella had written. That’s normally where Ron would be at that hour on a Sunday night because of his weekly song practices, and, according to Paul, that’s exactly where Ron had been walking back from at around that time on April 19. It makes sense for Chuck to make that assumption. 

But the way Gilson Wright phrased things, it sounded as if Ron had slept at the fraternity house a few times before and Chuck had simply presumed he was staying there again. 

I needed to pin down whether Ron ever stayed all night at the Delt house, and if not, whether Ron had used that excuse before with Chuck. In other words, was it a pretend alibi he used if he was planning to be somewhere that he didn’t want Chuck to know about?

According to Bob Schuette, it’s extremely doubtful that Ron ever stayed all night at the house.

Here’s Bob’s and my conversation about it in our first phone call:  

BS: “…We all slept upstairs in bunk beds. We didn’t have a roommate to sleep with or anything. Everybody was up there.” 

JW: “Oh, really? You guys all shared this giant room?” 

BS: “Yeah, it was almost like the attic. Let me tell you something, it was not plush.” 

JW: (laughs) “So it was like a barracks or something, just a giant room with a bunch of bunk beds?” 

BS: “Yes, it was just like being up in the attic.”

So if you were a Delt and you lived in the Delt house, you shared a room with someone, but that room would be where you could go to study or to have a little privacy and to store your stuff. But you couldn’t have a bed in your room. All of the beds were up in the attic. 

Also, at bedtime, the attic was characteristically loud and rowdy, and Bob, who needed his sleep, would frequently have to yell at his fellow Delts to knock it off and go to sleep.

Bob doesn’t ever recall seeing Ron up there. 

And why would he? Why would quiet Ron want to spend the night with a bunch of noisy Delts instead of in his own bed, which was a short walk away?  Answer: I don’t think he would.

In late 2014 or early 2015, I was chatting by phone with Charles Findlay. It wasn’t the first time we spoke, and I had a long list of topics I wanted to cover with him. Here’s what Charles was able to recall when I brought up the issue of Ron’s night life:

JW: “So you had mentioned when we were talking last that [Ron] really wasn’t around a lot, right?” 

CF: “No, we really didn’t have much contact. We went our separate ways.”

JW: “Yeah…did he stay out of the room a lot…like stay all night elsewhere?”

CF: “Sometimes he would stay at the fraternity house, I’m pretty sure.”

JW:  “Uh huh…so he would tell you, ‘I’m going to be staying at the fraternity house’?”

CF: “You know, it’s been so many years ago. You’re trying to build facts or something and I don’t want to sidetrack you. I don’t remember.”

(I totally get that. Chuck wanted to be helpful, but he also wanted to be careful not to say something that wasn’t factual, which I can appreciate.) 

JW: “OK. But you thought he was staying at the fraternity house?”

 CF: “Yes.”

Several years later, in 2017, I tried reaching out to Chuck again after learning new details concerning the case. That was when I’d learned the sad news from Chuck’s son that Chuck had passed away in May of that year.

So this is where things stand: Chuck Findlay had remembered thinking that Ron had stayed overnight at the Delt house, possibly more than once. However, based on Bob Schuette’s description, the Delt house wasn’t exactly amenable to overnight guests. And neither Bob, nor any other fraternity member I’ve spoken with, remembers Ron every spending the night in the Delt house.

Bob Schuette went on to lead a remarkable life. Every time we talked, he’d share stories about his wife and family, who were the center of his universe. He earned a business degree from Miami in 1955. From the mid-1950s through the early ‘70s, he worked hard in the food service and bar industry, becoming owner of two legendary Oxford establishments, the College Inn and The Purity. In 1972, he went into real estate, and remained active in that field, not just into the ‘90s, when many of his friends were retiring, but into HIS 90s. I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who loved Miami University and the city of Oxford more than Bob Schuette. His office on High Street was a veritable museum filled with some of the most incredible Miami memorabilia and photos I’ve ever seen. 

Bob Schuette gives me a tour of his office in May 2017.

But that’s just the froth on the pilsner—there’s so much more to Bob Schuette. When you have a moment, I encourage you to read the beautiful obituary his family wrote. And be sure to play the video montage at the bottom. You’ll see what I mean.

The book project

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

Once upon a time, a person that we both know set out to write a book. 

 It started out as an idea—a random, what-if, out-there sort of idea that the person happened to think up one day, and then…as time wore on…became accustomed to. 

After all, lots of people have written books. Why not this person? This person knew some things. They had a perspective to provide. And besides, they liked to write. 

And so…outlines were drafted. Notes compiled. Words typed. Pages paginated. 

It wasn’t long before the book began to dominate the person’s thoughts and even how they were feeling on a given day. On days when they could work on the book non-stop, they’d feel satisfaction and, if things were going particularly well, exhilaration. If a day or two slid by with no progress, they’d feel frustration and guilt.

It goes without saying that the book became their go-to answer when someone asked them how they were doing. 

As the years rolled by, the topic of the book became a little embarrassing. After all, a person can only talk about the book they’re writing for so long without there being, well, an actual book to point to. 

That’s why, in 1937, I’m sure St. Clair Switzer was feeling the heat. By then, he’d been talking about his book for nearly three years with nothing to show for it.

Oh, wait. Did you think I was talking about my book? Nah…we’re talking about Doc Switzer’s book. Mine is…you know…still in the works.

Switzer had started talking about writing a book since at least September 1934, shortly after he’d earned his Ph.D. under psychologist Clark Hull. He’d already had some experience in book publishing, having assisted Hull with Hypnosis and Suggestibility: An Experimental Approach, which had been published in 1933. 

The page-turner Switzer envisioned would focus on the topic of conditioned reflexes. After all, the title of Switzer’s dissertation was “The Modifiability of the Conditioned Reactions,” and it yielded publications such as thisthis, and oh yeah this one too in scientific journals. His master’s degree had something to do with eyelids and the blinking of said eyelids upon the presentation of some sort of stimulus. So he had the requisite expertise to write about conditioning—forward conditioning, backward conditioning, all the different directions of conditioning. 

What are forward and backward conditioning, you ask? Remember Pavlov’s dogs, where a bell is rung before the dogs were given their food to the point where the ringing bell alone would cause the dogs to salivate, even if no food arrived? That’s forward conditioning. If Pavlov had used backward conditioning instead, the bell would ring after the dogs were given their dinner. Because the dogs wouldn’t associate the bell with a soon-to-arrive dinner, a ringing bell alone wouldn’t cause the dogs to salivate. It might bring about some very annoyed doggy looks though. 

Whew! Fun, huh? I’m sure there’s a lot more to the subject—there’s got to be—but I don’t think we need to dig any deeper for this blog post. (You’re welcome.)

At first, Doc thought he might like to coauthor the book with a fellow psychology professor at Miami University who’d received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin two years before Switzer had gone there. Hull knew that person too, but, for some reason, didn’t care for him. I know this because I’ve read letters that Hull had written to Switzer that are on file at the National Museum of Psychology, in Akron, Ohio, and some of his comments were mean and petty.

When Doc wrote to Hull in September 1934 telling him of his plans, Hull was unenthusiastic. Not about the book, mind you. Hull had nothing but encouragement for Doc’s book. He said his choice in book topics was “extremely fashionable,” and that he genuinely felt that Doc was wholly qualified to write it. He just didn’t think he should write it with the other professor, whom he viewed as Switzer’s competitor, or worse, his nemesis, who would take all the credit while doing little of the work.

“Surely you have turned out as much experimental work on conditioned reflexes as Hilgard or Razran, and I am sure you are able to write more readily and more effectively than either one of them,” said Hull.

That was quite the compliment. Agewise, Ernest (Jack) Hilgard and Gregory Razran were peers of Switzer’s (Hilgard was actually two years younger than Doc and Razran was a year older) but they were well on their way to becoming world authorities on conditioning and other psychological principles. Switzer had become friends with Hilgard during his time at Yale when Hilgard was still an instructor there, before he moved on to Stanford. Switzer had hoped to work in Hilgard’s lab at Stanford the following academic year with the assistance of a fellowship from the National Research Council. Unfortunately, in April 1934, Doc learned that the fellowship hadn’t come through. Two months later, he learned of Hilgard’s intention to write a book on conditioning. Switzer encouraged Hilgard in his letter, though, for some reason, he didn’t mention that he, too, was contemplating such a book. Who knows, maybe he was still mulling things over.

“I think you are just the man to give the subject a sane and lucid treatment,” Doc had told Jack.

It’s important to point out here that, fashionable as the topic was, in 1934, there was still plenty of room for someone to make a name for himself or herself by publishing a definitive work on conditioning. Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov had published his landmark book, Conditioned Reflexes, relatively recently, in 1927, and Razran, who’d emigrated from Russia to live in the U.S., had published Conditioned Responses in Children in 1933. But America’s heaviest hitters still hadn’t published. You’ve heard of B.F. Skinner? His first book, The Behavior of Organisms, An Experimental Analysis, wouldn’t be published until 1938. Hilgard’s book, Conditioning and Learning, which he coauthored with another Yale guy, Donald Marquis, didn’t come out until 1940. In September 1934, Switzer had the opportunity to truly become a household name in conditioned reflex circles both domestic and abroad, and Hull was doing all he could to push him in that direction.

“I suggest that you go after that,” encouraged Hull in his letter written September 27, 1934. “Anything that we have here or that we are likely to have should be available to you, and I will undertake to use what influence I have to help you get a publisher. As a matter of fact, a book written as well as you can write one should not need any influence.”

Clark Hull was being his usual magnanimous self. Without question, if St. Clair Switzer had written his book on conditioned reflexes, Clark Hull would have helped him secure a good publisher. And if that had happened, if the book were as good as Clark Hull had predicted, then Switzer’s name might have been likened to the names of Jack Hilgard, Donald Marquis, and Gregory Razran. Maybe even Clark Hull himself.

But Switzer fretted and stewed. He didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, certainly not Jack Hilgard’s or Donald Marquis’. Or maybe he didn’t want to compete with those two. How would it look if their book took off and his tanked?

“My dear Switzer,” Hull began in a letter written November 13, 1934—the same way that he began all his letters to Switzer. “Yesterday Marquis was in and told me that you were worrying about the propriety of your going ahead and writing your book on conditioned reflexes. He asked me if I wouldn’t write you and assure you that you should go ahead with it. As you know, I have felt all along that there was no ethical question involved in any number of people writing books on any subject at all. Surely you have as much right as anyone else to write a book on conditioned reflexes.”

He went on to say this about Marquis, who seems to be a very above-board kind of guy: “He believes, as I myself do, that while an increase in the number of books will doubtless cut down the royalties which should be received from anyone, it is a distinctly wholesome thing for the development of this branch of science that a number of good works should be published. From all indications this seems assured.”

The Marquis-Hull intervention must have worked. For the time being, Doc stuck with it.

In September 1935, Hull had this to say to Doc:

“I was under the general impression when I talked with you at Ann Arbor that you were a little despondent about the progress of your book. I am writing this letter mainly to remind you in a somewhat emphatic manner that the writing of a good book will make a tremendous difference in the possibilities of your getting into a better job without waiting for some perfectly healthy person to die off. I wonder if you get my meaning?”

Oh, Clark Hull, I believe I do get your meaning. I could be wrong, but I think Hull was referring to the professor on Miami’s faculty whom Hull didn’t like very much. I sincerely doubt that he was referring to Everett Patten, Miami’s psychology department chair and a former Hull student whom Hull did like very much. But let this be a lesson to readers: be careful what you put in writing, because it might end up in an archive somewhere and everyone may see the darker side of you. As it turns out, the person whom I believe Hull was referring to died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1940 at a very young age.

In November 1935, Hull wrote this to Doc:

“I am very happy to know about the encouraging prospects of your book. You must set your teeth into that and stick to it until it is done. I believe that the publication of this book may do you a lot of good. After that you must get back into the laboratory, if you hope to save your scientific soul!”

He sounds, I don’t know…exasperated? Hull was probably sort of kidding around, but for him to tell Switzer that he was in danger of losing his scientific soul is harsh. I’m sure Doc cringed over that line.

And that’s it. That’s the last time Clark Hull had anything to say to Doc Switzer about his book according to my records, which tells me that Doc had either told him that he’d given up or he’d just stopped talking about it. 

About a year and a few months later, on February 20, 1937, Hull had one thing and one thing only to say to Switzer and he did it in a letter that contained one terse sentence. He said:

“A day or so ago I heard that Hilgard has a leave of absence from Stanford for the last quarter, and is coming here to finish the book on conditioned reflexes by himself and Marquis.”

Was he scolding Switzer? Was he trying to shame him into finishing his own book? The answer, I think, could be a little of both. It was as if he was saying, “See? This is what authoring a book actually looks like.”

As I mentioned earlier, Hilgard’s and Marquis’ book came out in 1940. It’s now a classic. That same year, Hull was part of a team that published a 329-page book titled Mathematico-deductive Theory of Rote Learning. Three years later, he published his classic, Principles of Behavior.

But by then, Doc was doing something else entirely. In 1942, he did an about-face and enlisted in the Army Air Forces to do his part during World War II. There, he was warmly welcomed for his skills in psychological testing, which involved assessing and placing Army Air Forces personnel according to their vocational strengths. By the war’s end, he’d worked himself into a lofty post at the Pentagon, where he was chief of the demobilization procedures section, and, according to a letter Doc wrote to Miami’s vice president, was “partly responsible for speeding up the release of a quarter million Air Forces men.” After the war, Doc was given the rank of lieutenant colonel, and he became a member of the Air Force Reserves. From that point on, he had two bosses: Miami University and the United States Air Force.

So there would be no book on conditioned reflexes. But that doesn’t mean Doc didn’t think he had a book inside him.

On June 30, 1951, as Doc was writing to Major H.G. Rollins of the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) about a temporary job opportunity in Baltimore, he had this to say:

“Incidentally, I can be reached at my office at the university in the mornings. The number is 277-J. I am in the midst of writing a text on INDUSTRIAL PSYCHOLOGY and my afternoons are taken up with that task, which I carry on at home. The home phone is 487-M.”

A book on industrial psychology would have been perfect for Doc. He’d developed the business psychology course at Miami and, as with conditioning, he knew the subject backwards and forwards. And even though he seemed to be out of touch with his former mentor, Clark Hull, I’m sure there were no hard feelings between them. If Hull could have helped him get it published, I believe he would have. Also, even though Miami University didn’t have its own publishing operation at that time, other universities did. If he’d finished his book, I’m confident that he could have found a publisher.

But he didn’t finish that one either. From what I can tell, he didn’t work on his book during his sabbatical in 1956-57, and by his retirement in June 1966, he didn’t mention any plans to complete his book when asked how he’d be spending his newfound time. 

No, after Doc Switzer worked for the ARDC in 1951, he seemed to lose all interest in publishing a book on a topic he’d been passionate about for so long.

Could it be that he became busy doing other things? Depending on what those other things were, and who they were for, not only is it possible that Doc had lost his scientific soul, but there’s a chance that he ended up selling it to the devil. 

Why I think the USAF Surgeon General’s Office wanted St. Clair Switzer to be their liaison to Project Artichoke

In the spring of 1951, St. Clair Switzer was in a predicament. The war was on in Korea, and he’d been ordered to report to Maxwell Air Force Base, in Montgomery, Alabama, for a four-day processing period to determine his eligibility for active duty as an instructor at Air University. Making matters worse, he’d received his orders at around noon on April 14, a Saturday, and he was expected to show up at Maxwell by 2 p.m. on Monday, April 16, which isn’t a whole lot of notice. Although he may have managed to make the trip to Alabama for the required four days, there wasn’t enough time for him to obtain a written statement from Miami officials as to whether they approved his release for active duty or if they would request a delay. On April 21, Ernest Hahne, Miami University’s president, wrote a letter to George C. Kenney, commanding general of Air University, scolding him for the ridiculously tight turnaround, and letting him know how important Dr. Switzer was at Miami, what with his teaching and advising responsibilities and all. 

“It is our urgent request that Professor Switzer be released from this call to duty at this time,” Hahne wrote.

Hahne’s letter worked. Switzer didn’t become an instructor at Air University in 1951.

Nevertheless, the Air Force didn’t put Switzer’s name at the bottom of the pile either. In June of that same year, Major H.G. Rollins, chief of the Military Training Branch at the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in Baltimore, Md., had reached out to Switzer, seeking assistance. Rollins had been placed in charge of a high-level project that involved the recruitment of scientific personnel, and a friend of Switzer’s from his WWII glory days had volunteered his name as someone who could potentially help in that cause. As usual, Doc Switzer was ready and willing to hightail it out of Oxford. (Truth be told, I think he’d have been happy to relocate to Alabama too if President Hahne hadn’t interceded.) Doc submitted his lengthy application one day after receiving the form, and by August 6, 1951, he was on the government’s payroll, working in the Sun Building at 5 West Baltimore Street. 

I’m sure he loved it. Who among us doesn’t adore that gritty city with its glittery Inner Harbor, its memorial to master poet and writer of scary stories Edgar Allan Poe, and its crab cakes? (My God, the crab cakes.) As for his living arrangements, he was staying in room 1022 of the iconic Emerson Hotel. Niiiiice, Doc.

According to records I’ve obtained, Switzer worked for the ARDC from August 6 through the pay period ending September 22, 1951, and he was paid $35 per day. That may not sound like much, but during that month and a half period, Switzer earned a gross income of $910, which translates to roughly $10,679 in today’s dollars. That’s pretty good in this girl’s opinion, especially when you factor in the prestigiousness of the position.

Because, make no mistake, working for the ARDC was pretty huge. It was officially established in April 1951 to oversee all research and development for the Air Force.

I probably need to say that last part once more with the caps lock turned on: the ARDC oversaw ALL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FOR THE AIR FORCE.  

As in all of it.  

As in every last bit.  

Although its initial home was Wright Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio—a place I’ve mentioned before on this blogsite—in June 1951, an “advanced echelon” was moved to Baltimore and “charged with recruiting additional scientific personnel,” according to that month’s Air Corps Newsletter.

Click on image for a closer view.

So if the ARDC was started in April of 1951 and an advanced echelon of the ARDC had moved to Baltimore in June of 1951, then St. Clair Switzer, who’d been approached by Major Rollins also in June of 1951, was getting in on the ground floor. As far as Switzer’s role in the operation goes, he submitted the following blurb to a Miss Marshall for publication in the autumn 1951 issue of Benton Bulletin, a newsletter that was ostensibly written for university administrators occupying Miami’s Benton Hall:

“Prof. S.A. Switzer spent August and the first part of September as a civilian consultant with the headquarters of the Air Research & Development Command in Baltimore. Dr. Switzer assisted in formulating the long-range training program for Reserve officer scientists who have research and development assignments in the Air Force.”

Doc went on to tell Miss Marshall that “I am enjoying this work very much, and I believe that I am being much more useful to the Air Force in this assignment than I would have been in the one for which they planned to call me to active duty last June.” 

He’s probably referring to the Air University gig in that last comment. Sadly, nowhere in his four-page letter does he mention the crab cakes.

So, in sum, the ARDC was very big and very important and, consequently, it would have had the attention of big and important people within the Air Force.

With all of this in mind, let’s now direct our attention to a CIA memo that had been written on September 23, 1952.

Click on image for a closer view.

The memo was written almost a year to the day after St. Clair Switzer had ostensibly stopped working for the ARDC. I say “ostensibly” because there were signs that he had some sort of ongoing working relationship with them. On January 2, 1952, again, ostensibly after his ARDC stint was over, he’d applied for a Social Security account number and listed the Air Force as his employer. For his employer’s address, he wrote down ARDC’s address on West Baltimore Street. (If you’re wondering why he didn’t already have a Social Security number, he hadn’t needed one before that time. Then as now, Miami University employees were enrolled in a separate public retirement system.) 

St. Clair Switzer’s Social Security application; click on image for a closer view.

The number assigned to Doc Switzer was 216-32-8226, with the “216” prefix designated for Baltimore applicants. Based on the history of how Social Security numbers were assigned in those days, his number tells me that he must have been in Baltimore the day after New Year’s in 1952, when Miami U was still on break, to submit his application. He would’ve had to get back on the road soon, however. Classes were scheduled to start the next day.

So the question of whether he continued working for ARDC every so often—be it remotely, at Wright Patterson AFB perhaps, or through some other arrangement—or if his work ended in September 1951 remains a small mystery.

Back to the memo of September 23, 1952, which is four paragraphs long. I’d now like to dissect this memo, paragraph by paragraph, to see if anything new can be gleaned from it. But first, to help with our dissection, I’ve isolated a couple letters that were typed within that same memo which I think will come in handy in certain places.

Here’s a capital S.

And here’s a lower-case r. 

Let’s go!

Paragraph 1 – The transfer

Click on image for a closer view.

We really don’t care about paragraph 1. When the memo was written, Project Artichoke had been handed over to the Inspection and Security Office by the Office of Scientific Intelligence, and they were busily working through the logistics of that transfer. No big revelations here.

Paragraph 2 – The doctor who had ‘nothing to contribute’

Paragraph 2 focuses on a doctor whose redacted name is mentioned in the first line. The consensus concerning the doctor was that he had “nothing to contribute in the line of research.” Above the noncontributing doctor’s name are the words “U.S. commander,” which is a clue to his identity.   

A “commander” could be someone in the Navy or the Coast Guard as is shown on the below chart.

Click on image for a closer view.

But if you look above those lines on the chart, you’ll see that the rank of commander is the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the Army, Marines, or Air Force. Indeed, in military speak, lieutenant colonels are also considered commanders, in that they are put in command of various types of squadrons. The person who wrote the term above the doctor’s crossed-out name could have been referring to a Naval officer, sure, but they also could have been using the term generically. 

We can whittle down the possibilities even further since only the Army, Navy, and Air Force were involved with Project Artichoke. I happen to believe the person with the pen was referring to someone in the Air Force. You’ll see why in the next section. 

Next, if you zoom in on the redacted name of the U.S. commander, a few letters appear to stand out, with some standing out more than others. Do I think the first letter of the first name looks a lot like a capital S? I do, but, admittedly, it’s iffy. Does there appear to be a second capital S beneath the “n/d” in commander? There kinda does, but again, I wouldn’t stake my life on it. We’re going to go the conservative route here and say that it appears that the last letter in his last name is an r. 

Click on image for a closer view.

Finally, as we discussed in a previous post, someone from OTS—the Office of Technical Service, which was run by Sidney Gottlieb—may have visited the doctor/U.S. commander on September 19, 1952, to explore the question of whether he might be able to contribute to Artichoke research. 

To summarize, I believe the 2nd paragraph is telling us that a commander in the U.S. military (which will be narrowed down further in the next paragraph) whose last name ends with an r had been considered for Artichoke research, though the consensus was that he had nothing to contribute. Someone affiliated with Sidney Gottlieb’s group may have explored that question with him during a visit on September 19, 1952. Moving on… 

Paragraph 3 – The colonels 

Click on image for a closer view.

Although there are still areas of uncertainty, I think we can put together a few more pieces to the puzzle that is paragraph 3.

The first thing we notice is that the term Col. is placed in front of a number of names throughout paragraphs 3 and 4, which means we can eliminate the Navy. The Navy doesn’t have colonels. Therefore, the writer is speaking about people from the Army or Air Force. And because we already know from paragraph 3 of the January 14, 1953, memo that a major in the USAF’s medical corps (whom I believe to be Louis J. West) is being considered for a well-balanced interrogation research center in addition to a certain lieutenant colonel (whom I believe to be St. Clair Switzer), I think we can safely conclude that they’re talking about the Air Force in this memo too. So Air Force it is. On this I will stake my life.

If it’s the Air Force we’re talking about (and it is), then the surgeon general who’s referenced in paragraph 3 has to be the Air Force’s surgeon general at that time, Major General Harry G. Armstrong.

Major General Harry George Armstrong

In order to be a surgeon general, you need to have a medical degree, and Major General Armstrong had received his in 1925 from the University of Louisville, Kentucky. He was the second person to serve as surgeon general of the Air Force, succeeding his mentor, General Malcom Grow, in 1949.

In 1939, Armstrong published Principles and Practice of Aviation Medicine, which was groundbreaking at the outset and remained the field’s authoritative text for decades. According to a write-up in the February 2011 issue of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, his research focused on protecting the body against the dangers of high altitudes, such as extreme temperatures and reduced oxygen levels. After General Grow successfully spearheaded the creation of the Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB, Armstrong became its first director, overseeing the laboratory from 1934 to 1940. I’m sure when he moved to the Surgeon General’s Office, in Washington, D.C., in 1949, he continued to have a soft spot for his old stomping ground in Dayton, Ohio.

Despite the above accomplishments, Armstrong and Grow were the men whose brains had conjured up Operation Paperclip. As you may recall, Operation Paperclip was the infamous military operation in which Nazis with strong scientific credentials were brought to the United States, many to Wright Patterson AFB, so that the U.S. could benefit from their expertise. Operation Paperclip was also viewed as a defensive move, to prevent the Soviets from getting to those scientists first. The name originates from the sanitized cover sheets that were paperclipped to the Nazis’ papers to help move the process along.  

So…there’s that.

Back to paragraph 3. Let’s skip over the first part, especially the part about the person they were going to go easy on from a security standpoint because he had a “propensity to talk.” I still don’t have an inkling of who that person was, and I can’t understand why someone from the CIA would want to go easy on anyone who had such a propensity.

Instead, let’s focus on the last sentence of paragraph 3. 

Without worrying too much about the owners of the names that have been redacted, let’s first concentrate on what the writer is saying: According to the new Artichoke protocol, OTS (aka the Office of Technical Service, which was led by Sidney Gottlieb) “will be obligated to check with OS” (aka the Office of Security, led by Sheffield Edwards) and OS (the Office of Security) “would automatically check with REDACTED in view of the fact that REDACTED is a consultant of, and of primary interest to the Surgeon General.”

In other words, according to the last sentence of paragraph 3, even though Harry G. Armstrong’s name has never been officially linked to Project Artichoke, certainly not to the degree in which Sidney Gottlieb’s has, he appears to have had veto power over Sidney Gottlieb when it came to the Air Force’s involvement in Project Artichoke. 

So…there’s that too.

And what of the person with whom the Office of Security was supposed to check? That person’s name—likely his surname—began with the letter S. Clearly. There is no other letter that fits. 

Click on image for a closer view.

Paragraph 4—the person who needed to be ‘cut into the picture’

Click on image for a closer view.

In 1952, the USAF’s Office of the Surgeon General was composed of the following people:

Click on image for a closer view.

The colonel from that office—the one with whom another colonel had recently spoken—was in all probability Col. Jack Buel, who was in charge of special projects for the Surgeon General’s Office. (The other colonel in the office was an assistant for veterinary service, so it couldn’t have been him.) As it so happens, Jack Buel had earned a Ph.D. in psychology from UC Berkeley in 1935, one year after Switzer had earned his Ph.D. at Yale. Before his time with the Office of the Surgeon General, Buel had published articles on finger mazes and polygraphs. A few of his later publications are listed on the National Library of Medicine’s biomedical research website known as PubMed.

I believe that it was Col. Buel who advised the other colonel whose name is redacted that “he thinks very highly of REDACTED and that it will be essential to keep him cut into the picture.” As I’ve stated in a previous post, I think that Doc Switzer is the person that the Surgeon General’s Office thought very highly of and whose involvement they wished to retain. But I was having a tough time figuring out how they would have known him. As you may recall, I thought perhaps Switzer had conducted behind-the-scenes book research for the Air Force or CIA since he lived so close to the Armed Services Technical Information Agency, in downtown Dayton. Who knows, maybe he still did that. I also thought the word “research” above the person’s redacted name was how they wished for him to be used in the Artichoke project—to do book research for them perhaps.

I guess what bothered me about that theory was the illegible word in front of the word “research” above the redacted name. It appeared to be a short word of three letters. The letters are light and slanty and difficult to decipher. 

But after spending some time zooming in on those letters very closely, I now believe I know what’s written there. Air. As in Air Research.

Where have we seen that phrase before?  

OK, so let’s put together everything we’ve learned to see if we can make sense of things:  

A doctor—maybe an M.D., maybe a Ph.D.—who was also a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and whose last name ended with an r had been considered by the CIA for possible Artichoke research. However, the consensus was that they didn’t feel he could contribute.

On another front, according to a new protocol, a person whose name starts with the letter S was to be the USAF surgeon general’s point person for Project Artichoke. The CIA’s Office of Technical Service would first check with the Office of Security, which, in turn, would approach the surgeon general’s point person, a Mr.—or Dr.—S for his input and approval. 

Finally, an official in the Office of the Surgeon General whom I believe to be Jack Buel made it clear to a fellow colonel that someone that the CIA was on the fence about—quite feasibly the doctor/lieutenant colonel from paragraph 2—was essential to the program. And the reason was because Buel (and, by extension, Harry G. Armstrong) thought highly of this person, who had experience in “air research.”  

And what do we know about air research? We know that if a person had experience with air research, then they likely had connections to the ARDC, since the ARDC oversaw all research and development for the Air Force. 

Final thoughts

There are still plenty of details we can’t be sure about. We don’t know if the doctor/lieutenant colonel whose name ends in r is the same guy as the surgeon general’s point person whose name starts with S.

We don’t even know if the surgeon general’s point person whose name starts with S is the same person as the consultant who was of “primary interest to the Surgeon General.”

With that being said, I think it’s likely that the doctor/lieutenant colonel (whose name ends in r) was the person that the CIA was considering cutting out of the picture, and therefore, the person that Jack Buel stood up for. For that reason, I think the doctor/lieutenant colonel was the same person who had work experience with the ARDC. 

Was this person St. Clair Switzer? If it was, then Doc Switzer had the ear of the USAF Surgeon General’s Office, and they had requested him as their liaison to Project Artichoke.

I can’t imagine him saying no, can you?

In recognition of the upcoming July 4th holiday and the 57th anniversary of FOIA, I give you the Psychological Strategy Board report from Sept. 5, 1952

DC’s Union Station all decked out for July 4th; photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

If you haven’t seen my announcement on Facebook, you may be bummed to learn of my recent discovery that the September 5, 1952, report for the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) was not, I repeat was not written by St. Clair Switzer. Instead, it was written by a psychiatrist by the name of Henry P. Laughlin, M.D. Dr. Laughlin was also a professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, which is located in the Foggy Bottom section of DC, near the State Department, the National Academies. and as luck would have it, the CIA’s former location at 2430 E Street, NW. People in the CIA were hot hot hot for the Sept. 5., 1952, PSB report. If asked, they would loan their copy out, but they would also make sure that it was returned to them asap. It was that much in demand.

So Doc Switzer didn’t write it, as I’d originally thought.

It’s fine. I’ve moved on.

In honor of the Freedom of Information Act’s 57th birthday, which is this coming Tuesday, I’m posting the report in its entirety here. Unfortunately, the bibliographies mentioned in the Table of Contents aren’t included with the report that I received. But that’s OK. The 110 pages that we do have has cost me the equivalent of a day pass to Disneyland in scanning fees, which is as much as I care to spend at present. Plus, although I’d love to see the bibliographies, if they still exist, I’m not sure we would have learned that much more.

My reasoning is that, for a while, I’d wondered if perhaps Doc Switzer might have at least helped in compiling the bibliographies. I thought this because he was so close to Dayton, Ohio, where, at that time, every technical study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) was being filed at the Armed Services Technical Information Agency (ASTIA). If we saw any mention of a military study in the bibliography, then it would have been safe to presume that ASTIA would have been the source, and, by extension, Switzer the likely researcher. But, from what I can tell, it doesn’t appear that Switzer assisted with this report in any way. Otherwise, I think Dr. Laughlin would have thanked him for his help. He seems as if he was that kind of guy. Mind you, I still believe that Doc Switzer likely helped with report writing for Project Artichoke—just not this report. I’ve been doing some additional digging in this regard, and plan to discuss this topic with you in the future, once my bruised ego has fully healed.

One bonus is a second report that has been tacked on at the end of this report, titled “Brain-Washing: A Supplemental Report.”

I should add that I’m posting this even before I’ve had a chance to read it. So far, I’ve only done an initial skimming. If you find something interesting, let us know. Enjoy, and have a happy fourth!

Did St. Clair Switzer know Sidney Gottlieb, the father of MKULTRA? A document from March 1953 tells us he did

What’s more, I think Sidney Gottlieb (or someone who worked for him) was on Miami’s campus in September 1952

Remember the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? (If you don’t, you can read about it here.) Back in the 90s, my brother and his partner, who live in NYC, had two Akitas named Oscar and Chanel. Oscar was the smaller of the two, a chocolaty brown color, while Chanel was big and white, a chaise lounge on four furry legs. They were sweet, mellow doggies. When they went out on their walks, everyone knew them by name. “Hi Oscar! Hi Chanel!” people would say to them, and Oscar and Chanel would say hi back in their sweet, mellow way. Two of the people who used to say hello to them on a regular basis were Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. No lie. According to the game, that would make Oscar and Chanel one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon. And because I, too, was a friend of Oscar and Chanel’s, that would make me two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, which, to this day, is something I’m enormously proud of. I can’t believe we haven’t talked about this before.

Oscar and Chanel’s baby pics ❤️

So, what if we were to play the same game with the father of MKULTRA, Sidney Gottlieb? Most people would hope for as many degrees of separation as possible from that guy. And in 1953, anything fewer than 10 degrees would be much, much too close. But, as I’ll be showing you today, St. Clair Switzer was, I strongly believe, one degree of separation from Dr. Gottlieb, which means that he knew the man. And because Ronald Tammen knew St. Clair Switzer, that would place Ron at two degrees of separation from Sidney Gottlieb, which, in 1953, is uncomfortably close for anyone, let alone a vulnerable college student who respected persons of authority. And that’s presuming that they didn’t meet. There’s a chance that Ronald Tammen and Sidney Gottlieb actually did meet.

I have a lot of info to share, and not much time today in which to write it all down. Let’s do it this way. I’ll be posting several documents that explain why I believe St. Clair Switzer was of vital importance to the CIA in the days of MKULTRA. I’ll also be showing you how Sidney Gottlieb and St. Clair Switzer likely came into contact with one another as well as the actual date when I believe Sidney Gottlieb or one of his associates paid a visit to Switzer in Oxford, Ohio. For each case, first I’ll post the document, and below that, I’ll include a brief narrative regarding why I think it’s important, pointing out some of the can’t-miss parts. Of course, the documents are heavily redacted—you won’t see anyone’s name except for Sidney Gottlieb’s—but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their clues.

Sound fun? Let’s go! 

Setting the stage

As we discussed in my last blog post, someone whose writing style had a Switzer-y ring to it had written a report for the Psychology Strategy Board (PSB), a high-level group of military and intelligence officials who oversaw the military’s psychological operations. The report was a thorough review of Artichoke-related research findings to date with extensive bibliographies for each chapter, except for two. For some reason, the researcher’s thoughts on lobotomy and electric shock and memory had no bibliography. The report was dated September 5, 1952, which happened to be exactly two weeks to the day before the start of the fall semester at Miami University. 

At the time of the PSB report, the CIA had been seeking guidance from the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Research and Development Board (RDB) regarding the feasibility of using hypnosis, drugs, and other mind-altering methods as part of the process of interrogating prisoners of war. Because the PSB membership had many of the same people as the CIA and DoD, someone in that group likely figured that the PSB could lend a hand in providing a literature review, which is how I believe the PSB report and its accompanying bibliographies came to be. 

In the blog, I argue that St. Clair Switzer was indeed the report’s author, since he was in the perfect place in which to write it—Dayton, Ohio, home of the Armed Services Technical Information Agency, or ASTIA, which contained all of the technical studies funded by every branch of the U.S. military. In addition, Switzer was supremely qualified to conduct such a study. His name had recently been given to Commander Robert J. Williams, of the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence, who at that time was the project coordinator of Artichoke. Switzer was an Air Force lieutenant colonel who had studied under the eminent psychologist and hypnosis expert Clark Hull and who had earned a pharmacy degree to boot. Switzer had another connection. Sidney Souers, adviser to President Truman and the creator of the PSB, was a Dayton native and Miami University graduate. Needless to say, the PSB study was well-received by both the military and intelligence people. Switzer’s report and its accompanying bibliographies were in high demand. 

Therefore, in the fall of 1952, I’m guessing that St. Clair Switzer was feeling rather full of himself. People who held our nation’s most sensitive jobs were clambering for his report. From what I can tell, they were even referring to the report by his name—the Switzer Report. 

September 23, 1952

Credit: Thanks to The Black Vault for use of this document. Click on image for a closer view.

This memorandum describes a couple conversations that had taken place concerning Artichoke on September 22 and 23, 1952, a Monday and Tuesday. In the first paragraph, the writer is discussing the transition that’s been in the works for a while. The oversight of Project Artichoke had been passed from the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) to the Inspection and Security Office (I&SO, or just plain OS), and therefore, a couple staffers were planning to spend some time in OS on the 24th to help them process files. They also said they’d keep an eye out for anything that might be of interest to OTS, which stands for the Office of Technical Service, the office that was now responsible for overseeing Artichoke research. Even though OTS was headed by Willis Gibbons, the office’s point person on Project Artichoke was Sidney Gottlieb, who ran OTS’s Chemical Division. When MKULTRA officially kicked off on April 13, 1953, Gottlieb would be put in charge. However, according to Poisoner in Chief author Stephen Kinzer, even though Gibbons was Gottlieb’s boss on paper, Gottlieb answered to Richard Helms, who was the chief of operations in the Directorate of Plans, the extremely powerful group that directed all of the CIA’s covert activities. When you see an OTS in these memos, think of Sidney Gottlieb, since he was running the show in the area of Artichoke research.

It’s paragraphs 2, 3, and 4, that interest me the most, especially 2 and 4. In paragraph 2, the writer is discussing a person whose name is crossed out, above which I believe someone has written “U.S. commander.” Here’s the full paragraph:

On the subject of Dr. REDACTED, REDACTED thinks that the consensus is that he has nothing to contribute in the line of research. I asked him whether Dr. REDACTED might not have been exploring this further on the occasion of his 19 September visit and, although Mr. REDACTED does not believe this to be the case, he will check with OTS.

Here’s why I think they’re talking about Doc Switzer:

  • Switzer had just produced a noteworthy document for the CIA and military, and his background would have seemed a perfect fit for Project Artichoke. It would be normal for them to wonder if they could continue using his services in some way.
  • In the Air Force, the term “U.S. commander” can be translated to lieutenant colonel, which is Switzer’s rank. If you’re wondering if they could have been discussing Commander R.J. Williams, we know that they aren’t, since Williams was neither an M.D. nor a Ph.D.
  • It’s true that Doc Switzer didn’t have the same research capabilities as, say, a Louis Jolyon West, who’d moved to Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, in July 1952. West had access to a laboratory and other facilities for conducting the sort of testing that the CIA was interested in, whereas Doc Switzer’s role at Miami University was that of a professor.
  • On the date of September 19, 1952, a Friday, someone associated with OTS had visited with the person they’re discussing. The writer asks if perhaps they were exploring the person’s research capabilities, and the other person said they’d check with OTS.

    As I’ve mentioned, September 19, 1952, was the first day of classes at Miami University. Oddly enough, a few days prior to that, several men were reportedly on the front porch of Fisher Hall recruiting students for a hypnosis study through the Psychology Department. Could someone from OTS—possibly Sidney Gottlieb himself—have notified Dr. Switzer that he would be paying a visit, and in preparation, people affiliated with the Psychology Department were rounding up volunteers for the OTS representative’s visit? I mean…it’s possible, right?

Paragraph 3 is harder to discern. The writer is discussing the Surgeon General’s Office. You may not know this (I certainly didn’t) but each branch of the military (Army, Navy, and Air Force) has its own Surgeon General in addition to the “main” Surgeon General, which is the Surgeon General of the U. S. Public Health Service. Because of documents that I’ll be providing momentarily, I believe they were referring to the Surgeon General of the Air Force. The CIA writer in the Office of Security is discussing working with them, and he also said that they plan to go easy on someone’s security clearance because they’re a talker, which doesn’t sound like Switzer at all. I’m still trying to figure out this paragraph and whether it’s relevant. Let’s skip it for now and move on to the fun stuff.

Paragraph 4 seems more clear, especially in light of the January 14, 1953, memo below. As luck would have it, the person who would have had to give his OK to interrogation research on an Air Force Base was a guy by the name of A. Pharo Gagge. (The A stood for Adolph. I’m sure you can understand why a WWII officer would avoid using it.) Before he was in his position as chief of the Human Factors Division in the USAF Directorate of Research and Development, he was chief of the Medical Research Division of the Surgeon General’s Office, and before that, he was director of research and acting chief of the Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. He was born in Columbus, Ohio. Without question, he would have known Doc Switzer. 

It makes sense that the CIA would refer to anyone in the Directorate of Research and Development as being part of the Surgeon General’s Office, since the directorate was directly overseen by the Surgeon General’s Office. In addition, A. Pharo Gagge was a Ph.D. and a colonel. Here’s the paragraph that I adore:

On 23 September, Col. REDACTED called to say that he had talked to Col. REDACTED of the Surgeon General’s Office and that REDACTED had advised him that he thinks very highly of REDACTED and that it will be essential to keep him cut into the picture. I advised REDACTED of my conversation with Mr. REDACTED and of the procedure outlined by him. Col. REDACTED is very pleased with this arrangement and considers that this coordination will give him maximum CIA support.

Here’s why I think they’re talking about Switzer again:

  • From what I can tell, there’s only one person in this memo that the CIA was considering dropping, and that person was the man in paragraph #2, the person I believe to be St. Clair Switzer. And if it is indeed Switzer that they were considering not using further, someone in the Surgeon General’s Office put an end to that talk. The word they used was essential—as in, it would be “essential to keep him cut into the picture.” After the writer seemed to assuage the colonel’s concerns, he was “very pleased,” and the CIA was that much closer to moving forward on their project.
  • Above the person’s scratched-out name on line three of the fourth paragraph, it appears as though someone has written the word “research.” I can see Pharo agreeing to the use of Switzer in this capacity—the book kind of research, versus the laboratory kind—which is an idea that was reinforced later on.

January 14, 1953, page 1

Credit: Thanks to The Black Vault for use of this document. Click on image for a closer view.

You’ve seen this memo already—I’ve referred to it many times. It’s the one where, in the third paragraph, they’re seeking three people, two of whom are named, for a “well-balanced interrogation research center.” 

The first person, Major REDACTED, USAF (MC), is Louis J. West, without question. If you zoom in on the paragraph, you can actually see the word Louis at the front of his name, and you can make out other key letters too. They describe him as being “a trained hypnotist,” which is a colossal understatement. He was chief of the Psychiatric Division at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Maybe the writer of the memo figured his audience already knew that part?

The second person, who is not named, is described as “another man well grounded in conventional psychological interrogation and polygraph techniques.” 

And the third person, Lt. Col. REDACTED, isn’t described at all. The only thing they say is that they’re hoping that “the services of Lt. Col. REDACTED” can be obtained, along with the other two men, for their well-balanced interrogation research center.

So this fits too. Lt. Col. Switzer’s name would be there because A. Pharo Gagge wanted it there. They don’t specify the services he’d provide because they’re leaving the possibilities open. I probably would have called him a liaison/researcher. You’ll see why in a second.

March 5, 1953

The last memo I’m sharing with you has to do with one of the regularly scheduled Artichoke meetings—this one having occurred on February 19, 1953. For some reason, the only participant whose name isn’t redacted is Sidney Gottlieb, representing OTS. (Many thanks to the redactionist for this act of kindness!)

Because these minutes cover a lot of territory, we’re only going to concentrate on two sections. The memo is also difficult to read, so I’ve typed a transcript of the entire document in case you’re interested.

First is section 2B., the first paragraph of which reads as follows:

REDACTED pointed out that REDACTED and REDACTED had come aboard and both REDACTED and REDACTED discussed the project at REDACTED involving REDACTED and the using of his facilities for a testing and research ground for our material. It was pointed out that REDACTED was to be our liaison between Headquarters and REDACTED since he knows REDACTED personally and has numerous contacts in the essential city.

The writer is discussing three people, which we’ll call person 1, person 2, and person 3. The first sentence describes persons 1 and 2 coming on board and how they’d be working together on a testing and research ground at someone’s facility “for our material.” (By “material,” I’m pretty sure they mean mind-altering chemicals.) I believe strongly that Louis Jolyon West is person 1 and, based on letters that I have between him and Sidney Gottlieb, the facility they’re speaking about would be at Lackland AFB. As for person 2, I believe that he is Donald W. Hastings, another psychiatrist, who was at the University of Minnesota’s Hospital, and who was very gung ho about the program. I don’t have time to discuss him today, but he’s mentioned in the letters between Jolly West and Sidney Gottlieb, which I’ve included copies of at the end of this post.

Person #3, I believe, is St. Clair Switzer. If I try to fill in the blanks of the second sentence in that paragraph, I believe they’re saying that Switzer was to serve as a liaison between the CIA’s Headquarters and the USAF Surgeon General’s Office since he knows General Gagge personally and has numerous contacts in….Dayton? Could Dayton be the “essential city” because it’s home to Wright Patterson AFB and ASTIA?

Section 2B. continues:

REDACTED pointed out that REDACTED [a consultant] was to be used in a very broad survey of the entire field. He also pointed out that REDACTED was not going to be used specifically to dig into one particular field but would study all ideas across the board and in connection with REDACTED, Dr. Gottlieb and REDACTED would help determine where important lines of interest lie and whether or not discoveries in the scientific and medical field are worthy of our interest, research and study.

The writer appears to be elaborating on Person #3. It’s here that he says that he’ll be used as a consultant to conduct a broad survey of all of the potential areas of interest regarding Project Artichoke. And get a load of who’s going to help him: Sidney Gottlieb plus another person whose name is redacted.

Now let’s jump to section 11, where the group is discussing the Research and Development Board’s Ad Hoc Study Group’s Report. As you’ll recall in my last post, people who were up to their necks in Project Artichoke weren’t enamored with the RDB Report because A. they disagreed with some of the members’ views, and B. it wasn’t focused on the sorts of operational things that they were already doing. Here’s what they had to say:

Following the above, a general discussion was held concerning the RDB Report and the REDACTED Reports. REDACTED pointed out certain differences in the point of view of the members of the Ad Hoc Committee and those engaged in actual operation work. REDACTED stated that the RDB Report was an overall survey of projects going on in the field and was not pointed at the type of work ARTICHOKE is engaged in since this was at the operations level and not in the broad research-experimental field.

Immediately following those comments, the REDACTED Report was brought up—what I believe to be the Switzer Report. Here’s that part of section 11:

During the discussion, REDACTED pointed out to REDACTED and  REDACTED that he anticipated receiving from Dr. Gottlieb the bibliography attached to the REDACTED Report soon and he would have it photographed and would turn over a copy to REDACTED for study. Dr. Gottlieb stated he expected the report soon and he would turn it over to REDACTED when he received it. (Bibliography is now being processed.)

So there we have it. Sidney Gottlieb, who was now in charge of all research pertaining to Project Artichoke, had taken a great interest in Doc Switzer’s PSB Report. Surely, he would have followed up with Doc to discuss the report as well as the accompanying bibliographies. And once that door was opened, who knows what other areas of collaboration might have come to pass.


As an added bonus, here are the letters between Louis Jolyon West and Sidney Gottlieb, who disguised his name as Sherman Grifford. These letters are part of West’s papers that are held at the UCLA Archives, which I visited a few summers ago. In these letters, West and Gottlieb discuss how to create a research facility at Lackland AFB involving hypnotizing human subjects. At the end of his letter dated July 7, 1953, West adds this:

“It makes me very happy to realize that you can consider me “an asset.” My interest in the entire body of work on which you are engaged is a keen and perhaps even a relatively enlightened one. Any services that I can render, along the lines you have indicated or in any other way, are gladly and eagerly offered. Surely there is no more vital undertaking conceivable in these times.”

The OTHER report: How I think Doc Switzer spent the summer of ’52

On February 18, 1952, a Monday no less, H. Marshall Chadwell was fuming. The previous Friday, Chadwell, who was no slouch—he was the assistant director of the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI), for heaven’s sake—had been summarily snubbed by his contact for Army intelligence, and, needless to say, he was piiiiiiiiissssssed.

The issue had to do with Project Artichoke. Since March 1951, OSI had been placed in charge of this highly confidential, wildly controversial project, which was all well and good, except for one thing. As far as Chadwell was concerned, they didn’t have access to the necessary brainpower with which to lead such a project. In April 1951, several members of the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC) agreed to assist the CIA with its program. These included Army intelligence, whose shorthand name is G-2; Naval intelligence, or ONI; and Air Force intelligence, or A-2. For nearly a year, the CIA representatives and IAC designees had been meeting on an as-needed basis on Artichoke matters. An advisory panel of outside experts was also created, but the panel lacked direction and momentum. Chadwell felt as if OSI could use more help.

His reasoning was that Project Artichoke was way out of OSI’s bailiwick. It was focused on studying phenomena related to the human mind, including the feasibility of a little-understood technique called brainwashing that was appearing in news stories about U.S. prisoners of war. Because this was new territory for the OSI, Chadwell thought it would be beneficial to obtain guidance from people who understood how brains actually worked. He wanted to pick the brains, so to speak, of the Research and Development Board’s Committee on Medical Sciences. As we’ve discussed in another blog post, the Research and Development Board, or RDB, was the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) powerful arm that directed all research and development for the entire military.

The RDB’s Committee on Medical Sciences “is the only group with the requisite security clearance which has the technical competence to advise on this problem,” Chadwell wrote.

But this couldn’t be done with a phone call. The CIA and the DoD were sprawling bureaucracies.  Chadwell would need to navigate the correct path in order to get the green light. Their agreed-upon plan was that the OSI would draft a memo from the director of central intelligence (DCI), who was Walter Bedell Smith, to the chair of the RDB, who was Walter G. Whitman. Once the draft was written, they’d run it by various CIA offices, getting their needed approvals. After that, they’d pass the memo to the IAC’s designees for G-2, ONI, and A-2, who would take it to their superiors for their OK as well. Then, once eeeeeeeeveryone had given their blessing, Walter Bedell Smith would sign the memo and off it would go to Walter Whitman, who hopefully, fingers crossed, would say OK, and, bada bing, bada boom, Chadwell would get some long-needed help from the medical specialists. 

WELL, everything was going along as planned, the memo was making its way up the chain, when the G-2 designee decided that he needed more input from on high. Instead of handing off the memo to his boss and maybe his boss’s boss, he decided to give it to the Joint Intelligence Committee, or JIC, which was an intelligence advisory committee to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and 100% unrelated to the question at hand. It would be as if you were attempting to get your driver’s license renewed and your local DMV insists that you need to have your application approved by your auto mechanic before your renewal form can be processed. 

So now Chadwell was faced with this ridiculously unnecessary new step that the G-2 had inserted that would only slow things down.

Moreover, Project Artichoke was highly classified. As in C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T-I-A-L. As in the fewer the number of people who knew about it, the better. He didn’t want people to be passing Artichoke memos around willy nilly, especially to groups outside the CIA. 

Of course, Chadwell wasn’t having it. In his February 18 memo, he asked Walter Bedell Smith to kindly ignore the goofball from G-2, not to mention the JIC, and sign the memo, which eventually happened on March 5, 1952. On March 13, 1952, RDB chair Walter Whitman agreed to provide assistance, although, rather than committing his Medical Sciences committee, he offered to create an ad hoc study group which he felt could devote their full attention to the issue. 

So hooray, right? One big hurdle had been cleared. Not so fast. They now had to find a study group chair, plus some members, plus obtain the necessary security clearances for those individuals before they could actually start meeting in person, which, it turns out, was no easy prospect. That seemingly straightforward task would wind up taking months.

There was something else going on at the CIA. At the same time in which representatives were pulling together the ad hoc study group, the reins for Project Artichoke were being handed over from OSI to the Inspection and Security Office (I&SO) whose director was Sheffield Edwards. The I&SO Technical Services Staff (TSS), which was overseen by Willis Gibbons, would be responsible for working with the new RDB ad hoc study group. This change was made official in September 1952. 

The person whose role seemed to be the least affected by the changeover was Morse Allen, whose position was with I&SO as part of the Security Research Staff (SRS). (Yeah, I know, the CIA’s organizational structure gets confusing.) While everyone else was busy bringing their successors up to speed, Morse could go on doing what he was already doing. 

Interestingly for us, the transition hadn’t yet occurred before OSI’s project coordinator for Artichoke, Commander Robert J. Williams, had been informed by Morse Allen that two of Clark Hull’s protégées, St. Clair Switzer and Griffith Wynne Williams (no relation to the commander), would make excellent scientific consultants for Artichoke. Oh, sure, the names Clark Hull, St. Clair Switzer, Griffith Williams, and even Morse Allen are redacted, but I’m confident that those individuals were indeed mentioned. Hopefully, one day, the CIA will finally reveal the names of those men, all of whom have been dead for ages and whose disclosure would have zero effect on anyone’s safety and security. As you’ll recall, Morse Allen’s memo was dated March 25, 1952, which was 12 days after Whitman had given Chadwell the OK for an ad hoc study group for Project Artichoke.

On August 15, 1952, six months after Chadwell’s draft memo, the Ad Hoc Medical Study Group had their first meeting. The members were:

Haha. Just kidding. The CIA still won’t let us see the membership of the ad hoc group for the same reason they won’t let us see the names on the March 25 memo. They don’t feel like it.

By the time of the ad hoc group’s first meeting, Project Artichoke had evolved. Although it had originally been created to focus on special interrogations concerning POWs, its purpose was now broader.

As someone in Chadwell’s OSI operation put it in a July 1952 memo, “in spite of various interim definitions, the scope of Project Artichoke is research and testing to arrive at means of control, rather than the more limited concept embodied in ‘special interrogations.’”

So the goal was now control.

As for the RDB’s ad hoc study group, their purpose was: “to determine whether effective and practical techniques exist, or could be developed, which could be utilized to render an individual subservient to an imposed will or control.” Also: “Complete effectiveness of such techniques would require the individual to be subsequently unaware of their use.” 

So the goal is control, and P.S.: don’t let anyone know they’re being controlled.

The RDB Ad Hoc Medical Study Group Report

The RDB’s ad hoc study group met a grand total of four times—in August, October, November, and December of 1952. Although a summary report of their meetings is light on detail, it didn’t sound like they did much work between those meetings. The most productive meeting was the one in October, which included presentations and discussions on POWs, interrogation, LSD 25, and other redacted topics. They’d started producing drafts of their report in November, and by December, they felt they’d seen all they needed to see.

On January 15, 1953, the study group released their report, which turned out to be, in the viewpoint of Artichoke’s insiders at the CIA, a real clunker. Its 14 pages, two of which are the title page and the table of contents, take about 20 minutes to read. There’s also a 3-page appendix that includes a chart of pertinent military-funded projects, a membership roster (which, of course, is blank), and a meeting schedule. That’s it. That’s what four months of dialogue among a roomful of experts produced. 

Here ya go: Ad Hoc Medical Study Group Report

In all fairness, they weren’t given much material to work with. Their analysis was limited to six measly studies. Also, it can be difficult to get a group of people to agree on anything, so 14 pages may be a stunning feat in that regard. Still, they offer no citations to back up why they believe something to be true. With all due respect, their report possesses the in-depth analysis and higher-order thinking of a high school book report. One of my favorite lines—and it truly is only one line—addresses the extremely important question of how to safeguard information from being intercepted by an enemy. Here’s their esteemed response that occupies the entirety of section 1.7:

“The only sure method of safeguarding secret information is to limit the amount possessed by any one person and to prevent those who must know much from coming under the influence of the enemy.”


That’s it? Couldn’t they at least suggest, I don’t know, speaking in pig latin or something?

In a January 23, 1953, memo, a blacked-out name was reported as saying “the RDB study was not of optimum use in view of the fact that much information on classified work in progress had not been made available to the group.”

The chief of the Technical Branch, which is under SRS in I&SO (I know, I know—so confusing!) was less forgiving. Although his name is blacked out, I’m sure this person is Morse Allen, since I’ve found other documents corroborating that this was his job title at another point in time, though I haven’t yet found anything documenting his job title for this time period. 

On February 16, the branch chief wrote: “In general, the writer agrees in [sic] the overall statements set out by the BLANK group, but wishes to point out certain elements in the BLANK report that are subject to dispute.” He then went through his litany of grievances, which included that he didn’t think the group had been sufficiently informed about Project Artichoke and some of the techniques that were already in use; they were too focused on long-range planning versus short-term workable strategies; and he disagreed strongly with their assertions that “drugs, hypnosis, and brain-damaging processes” are “elaborate, impractical, and unnecessary” in interrogations or that hypnosis can’t make someone do something that goes against their beliefs. Who but Morse Allen would be this defensive about Project Artichoke—his beloved baby?

But honestly? I don’t think he was as upset as he comes across. Several months before the Ad Hoc Medical Study Group had issued their 14-page final report, another report had been making the rounds among a specialized audience in D.C. This report was far more detailed about Artichoke’s main interest areas. It exceeded 84 pages. It also included an appendix containing bibliographies—plural—that cited actual research studies that could support comments made within each chapter. Whereas the RDB study group report was likely already collecting dust on office shelves in Langley, this report was in high demand—so much so that people were having trouble hanging onto their personal copies. 

“Unfortunately, copies of the Report itself are so limited that I must request return of same when you have finished with it,” the Technical Branch chief (aka Morse Allen, I’m quite sure) instructed the chief of the Psychiatric Division on May 7, 1953. 

If you’re wondering why they didn’t make more copies on the agency’s photostat machine, I have no idea. But apparently this was exactly the kind of information that everyone affiliated with Project Artichoke was hungering for.

The OTHER report

The report that was surpassing expectations was produced on September 5, 1952, for the Psychological Strategy Board, or PSB. The PSB was created on April 4, 1951, by President Truman “to authorize and provide for the more effective planning, coordination, and conduct, within the framework of approved national policies, of psychological operations.” Any initiatives designed to influence the enemy psychologically were in their purview. This would include propaganda, like sending leaflets in balloons over enemy territory through Crusade for Freedom, for example. But it would include other activities too. Needless to say, Project Artichoke would have interested them quite a bit.

The PSB’s members were the undersecretary of state, the deputy secretary of defense, and the director of central intelligence or “their appropriate designees,” as well as other agency representatives as needed. Officials representing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Mutual Security Agency took part, as did the PSB director, Gordon Gray, and his staff. The PSB reported to the National Security Council (NSC). 

How the PSB initially got involved in Artichoke is anyone’s guess. Here’s mine: when the chair of the RDB, Walter Whitman, was asked by CIA Director Walter B. Smith for some assistance, he likely told his boss, Robert A. Lovett, who was deputy secretary of defense. Lovett probably thought this sounded, um…pertinent?…to the PSB’s mission, and brought it before the group. 

“The military has been funding technical studies for a while now,” he may have said. “Let’s pay a consultant to produce a report of our own that summarizes the applicable studies in psychiatric and psychological research! All in favor?” 

“AYE!!,” they’d respond.

He might have followed up with: “Does anyone know someone good?”

A second possibility is that Walter B. Smith may have brought it up to the group instead. It really makes no difference. Two key players who knew that the CIA was in need of relevant background research in the PSB’s area of responsibility were seated in the same room. Whoever raised the topic first is almost a moot point.

We’ve discussed the PSB report before. Very little of it has survived: a title page, a preface, and a table of contents. The highly sought-after meat of the report and its accompanying bibliographies are long gone. The subjects in the table of contents are: hypnosis (narcohypnosis and narcoanalysis); comments on certain drugs; transorbital lobotomy; electric shock and memory; communism and communists (some thoughts in attempted analysis); psychology and psychiatry in the U.S.S.R.; prisoner treatment; and sleep deprivation.

Here it is: the PSB Report.

As some of you recall, I’ve theorized that the report was written by St. Clair Switzer—even going so far as to suggest that people back then used to call it “The Switzer Report” informally. The preface was what sold me. The verbiage just sounded as if it had been written by Switzer, especially the part about the assistance he’d received “so cheerfully given.” I know, on its own, that’s pretty weak. 

Today, I’m presenting several additional pieces of evidence regarding why I’m more convinced than ever that St. Clair Switzer was indeed the author. Moreover, I believe that Switzer was the only person on the planet with the ideal credentials for doing what the powers-that-be felt needed to be done. It was his moment to shine, and, apparently, shine he did.

The timing

We already know that Switzer’s name was likely being bandied about ever since he was mentioned in the March 25, 1952, memo from Morse Allen to Commander Robert J. Williams. That memo was written 12 days after the RDB had been asked for assistance with Project Artichoke. It could be that Commander Williams brought his name up to Marshall Chadwell, suggesting him for the RDB’s Ad Hoc Medical Study Group, and Chadwell alerted RDB chair Walter Whitman. That seems pretty feasible.

But you know what? Even if that’s how Switzer came to the RDB’s attention, I no longer think that Switzer was on their ad hoc study group. For a reason that I’ll be getting to in a second, I think there was something unique about him that made people in the DoD think that they could use him in a more productive way. Perhaps they thought he could help bolster whatever the RDB’s ad hoc group came up with. After all, more information can’t be a bad thing, can it? 

In addition, as any professor knows, one of the true perks of being in academia is to have summers off. Doc Switzer would have been free to work on this research project from early June until classes started back up in September. Interestingly, the PSB report was completed exactly two weeks before the start of classes at Miami, giving Switzer time to prepare for the 1952-53 academic year. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

His whereabouts

In the summer of 1952, Doc Switzer was in Oxford, Ohio, which seems as though it would have put him at a disadvantage for conducting research for the PSB. But the opposite was true.

In May 1951, Secretary of Defense George Marshall issued a directive to consolidate all military libraries into one agency, which he called the Armed Services Technical Information Agency, or ASTIA. He assigned oversight responsibilities to the U.S. Air Force and the RDB.

I’ll give you one guess where its headquarters was located. 

Yep! Wright Patterson Air Force Base. What’s more, it wasn’t even located on the base itself, but in downtown Dayton, at 4th and Main Streets. The building was known as the United Brethren (UB) Building at the time, which later became the Knott Building, and is now the Centre City Building. Whatever its name, it’s 42 miles from Oxford.

Although ASTIA had an office at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., all technical resources were provided through the Dayton facility. According to a June 29, 1952, article in the Dayton Daily News, “More than 900 individual military and government agencies and industries depend on ASTIA to keep them abreast of developments in the field of foreign technical progress. During the past four years, the organization has abstracted, catalogued, and filed more than 150,000 highly technical documents, dealing with 65 fields of knowledge.”

Need more proof? In the preface, the consultant has this to say: “Several librarians have devoted from part to nearly full time in aiding various parts of the research.”

In 1952, there was exactly one library building that contained all of the military’s technical studies and that library was located in Dayton, Ohio. Whatever you’re inclined to believe about the consultant who wrote the PSB report, I think we can all agree on this: he was working out of the UB Building in Dayton, Ohio, during the summer of 1952.

The people he knew

The consultant closes his preface with this: “The helpfulness and many kindnesses from the P.S.B. staff are gratefully acknowledged.”

Before I knew about ASTIA, I thought the consultant might have been working in the offices of the PSB, but we now know this wasn’t the case. He was working out of a brick building in Dayton, and any interactions he had with the PSB staff would primarily be by mail or telephone. 

I’m sure the staff were helpful, since the PSB was paying the consultant for his services. But I also think that there was one more person who helped grease the wheels for him. 

That person was Sidney Souers, a 1914 graduate of Miami University (born in Dayton!), who’d maintained strong ties with the university. During WWII, Souers was an officer in the U.S. Navy, serving in increasingly responsible posts in Naval intelligence. In 1945, he was awarded the rank of Rear Admiral. 

In January 1946, Souers was named the first director of the Central Intelligence Group, forerunner to the CIA, a position he held for five months. He then served as the first executive secretary of the NSC from 1947 to 1950. From 1950 to 1953, he served as an adviser to President Truman. It was while he was working in this role that Souers helped create the PSB in 1951. He maintained a connection with the PSB at least through the spring of 1952, when he was consulted for a one-year report for President Truman on the group’s organization and achievements.

Switzer’s connection to the university that Souers loved, in a city that Souers also loved, could be a real boost to his dealings with the PSB—don’t you think?

What do you think? Did St. Clair Switzer write the PSB report?