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 theBlackVault.com.

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 theBlackvault.com.
Click on image for a closer view, thanks to theBlackvault.com.

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.

What?

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 theBlackvault.com.

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?

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?

I don’t think Louis Jolyon West wrote the research proposal to develop a hypnotic messenger after all*

*But that doesn’t mean we should throw out our entire theory

When you’ve read as many MKULTRA documents as I have lately, you get to know people. You learn what their favorite subjects are. Their pet words and phrases. You recognize their go-to stats and data points when they’re sharing their expertise with a new audience or making a pitch for research dollars. You learn how they like to format a page as soon as they’ve cranked a sheet of onionskin paper into the old Smith Corona. You develop a feel for their gloriously, uniquely idiosyncratic THEM-ness. 

Sometimes, if a person has authored a lot of works and those documents have made their way into the public arena, we can identify something else they’ve written, even without being told who the author was. Even if their name is blacked-out. We can tell because it has their DNA all over it, figuratively speaking.

For example: let’s say that a person in the future stumbles upon an old document. The writer in question is going on and on about the topic of Ronald Tammen, her FOIA requests to the FBI and CIA that have been largely ignored, and a missing interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary. Some of her other quirks include a predilection for the word “ostensibly”; a tendency to use “who” even if “whom” is probably correct (but who the heck really knows?); and an unapologetic fondness for the Q&A format. If the document finder has ever been to this blogsite, I think they could easily conclude that the author was yours truly. This is who (whom?) I’ve become, DNA-wise. 

(NOTE: We won’t be discussing AI-generated content at this time, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is a topic that I find concerning. Please be assured that every word on this blogsite is written by yours truly. Personally, I think writing is a craft that should be performed by an honest-to-goodness human if other humans are supposed to relate, deep down, to what they have to say. Besides, isn’t human-to-human connection what writing—not to mention life here on planet earth—is all about? Controversial, I know. OK, moving on.)

And so, Good Man readers, after getting to know several key MKULTRA players a lot better lately, I find myself forced to modify my initial theory by reporting to you that Louis Jolyon West did not, I repeat did not, write the proposal to develop a hypnotic messenger during the summer of 1957.

George Hoben Estabrooks did.

I can see you have questions.

Who’s George Hoben Estabrooks?

George Hoben Estabrooks (his friends called him Esty, so we will too) was born in 1895 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, a beautiful and vibrant city on the Bay of Fundy, which is known for its primo whale watching. His education was about as stellar as you can get. He received his undergraduate degree from Acadia University, in Nova Scotia; he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar; and he earned his Ph.D. from Harvard. He became a psychology professor at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, specializing in both educational psychology and abnormal psychology. He was named chair of the department in 1938. 

Esty Estabrooks had a passion for hypnosis, a skill he’d developed during WWII when he ostensibly worked in intelligence in the U.S. Army. (Interestingly, Colgate University’s president, George Cutten, had a similar passion. According to a December 1997 article in The Ottawa Citizen, Cutten had written a book on the psychology of alcoholism, for which he studied the use of hypnosis as a possible treatment.)

In 1943, when the United States was still very much at war, Esty Estabrooks published the book Hypnotism,which explained the concept of hypnosis to a general audience. He viewed hypnosis as having tremendous potential for a number of practical purposes and wanted to allay the fear and stigma attached to it. Truth be told, he was a pretty good communicator with lay audiences,  employing analogies and everyday language and even humor to help keep readers interested. (One story he shared involved a group of people who Esty was going to hypnotize using a recording he’d made of himself giving the instructions for going into a trance. When he discovered that he’d loaned his record out, he put on another record to hold the group’s attention, while he fetched the hypnosis record. When he returned, he discovered one subject had fallen into a trance-like state while listening to the other recording, which happened to be of a Swiss yodeler. I mean, that’s pretty funny, right??) As a result, Esty’s book did very well, and was even recommended reading by the Book-of-the-Month Club. In 1957, he published a revised edition, which is the version I have. Chapter 9, Hypnotism in Warfare, is a topic that was especially near and dear to his heart. We’ll discuss portions of that chapter momentarily.

The name Estabrooks may sound familiar to you. I mentioned him in my blog post titled MKULTRA and ‘U.’ His name is frequently tied to the term “Manchurian Candidate” by people who study this topic because, in a May 13, 1968, interview with the Providence (R.I.) Evening Bulletinhe very nearly admitted to creating one. (The original article isn’t available online so I’m linking to sources who have quoted him.) 

Here’s the quote that’s attributed to Esty Estabrooks: “The key to creating an effective spy or assassin rests in splitting a man’s personality, or creating multipersonality, with the aid of hypnotism. This is not science fiction. This has and is being done. I have done it.” And then he added: “It is child’s play now to develop a multiple personality through hypnotism,” which is decidedly not funny—not even a little bit.

Granted, it’s unclear if he was (merely?) admitting to splitting a man’s personality or to going all-in with the creation of an assassin, aka a Manchurian Candidate. But in 1971, he published an article that appeared in Science Digest in which he readily admitted to having created hypnotic couriers that were used as spies during WWII. I find this admission especially surprising since, in chapter nine of the 1957 edition of Hypnotism, he only says that the idea of a hypnotic courier is a proposed use of hypnosis—a possibility, as in we’re just brainstorming here. If the development of a hypnotic courier was already old hat by WWII—I mean, let’s ponder on that for a moment: he claims they were using hypnotic couriers as well as multiple personalities during World War TWO!—I’m guessing he wouldn’t have been shy about taking it to the next level and creating an assassin soon thereafter.

In a quote in the 1997 article of the Ottawa Citizen Sun, author, psychiatrist, and MKULTRA researcher Colin Ross, M.D., said, “In terms of Manchurian Candidate experimentation, he’s the number one person.”

All the while that Estabrooks was being incredibly chatty about his endeavors, particularly between 1957, when he published the second edition of his book, and 1971, when he admitted to creating the hypnotic courier during WWII, the CIA was attempting to keep its MKULTRA-related matters hidden. In the same Providence Evening Bulletin article, Estabrooks revealed that he’d consulted for the FBI and the CIA, which I’m sure pleased both organizations to no end. It also tends to make me question his assertion, since, in my experience, people who brag about being employed by the CIA are generally quite full of it. What’s more, in 1942, the FBI had already scolded Esty about making pronouncements that he was affiliated with the Bureau when they hadn’t even requested his help, which, in that case, had to do with research he was conducting on crime and hypnosis. Yet, in 1968, there he was again…bragging to a reporter about his FBI ties…while J. Edgar Hoover was still alive and well and cranky as all get out. His eagerness to go public on such highly sensitive matters as well as his tendency to state his abilities with so much swagger surely led at least several people from both agencies to view him leerily. I’ll show you what they had to say in a minute.

How do you know he wrote the proposal and not Louis Jolyon West?

Now that I know George Esty Estabrooks far better than I used to, I’m 100% positive that he was the author of the February 1957 proposal to develop a hypnotic messenger. I’m actually a little embarrassed that it took me this long to figure it out, since so many of his go-to words, phrases, and fun facts are scattered throughout the proposal, which was long on promises and short on details. (I think I’ve mentioned before that it would be considered a “trust me” proposal in research circles—a three-pager that basically says “You know me. I’m the best person to do this so can I please have $10K asap?”)

That said, it’s not as if Louis Jolyon West didn’t have an interest in developing a hypnotic courier for use by the military. He most definitely did, and he said so on page one, item #5, of his short-term goals in a six-page letter he wrote to the CIA’s Sidney Gottlieb (S.G.) in June 1953.

Page 1 of a letter written by Louis Jolyon West to Sidney Gottlieb

Also, the title of the February 1957 proposal adheres to the formula Jolly used for titling his own research proposals, which was always “Studies in blibbity blobbity blah blah blah.” Also Major Jolly West had recently ended his obligatory service in the U.S. Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base when the proposal was submitted. Who but a military guy with expertise in hypnosis would write a proposal on the application of hypnosis in the military? Nevertheless, for the reasons I list below, I can tell you with 100% certainty that the hypnotic messenger proposal was written by George H. Estabrooks and not Louis Jolyon West.

Here’s the link to the proposal, with special thanks to The Black Vault for making these MKULTRA documents available to all.

Hypnotism

One of the telltale words in the proposal is “hypnotism,” which was rather out-of-date by then. People still used it sometimes, but just not so much. But Esty used the word hypnotism all the time. That’s what he titled his book, including the 1957 version, and he uses it throughout the book as well. He used the word hypnosis too, but hypnotism was his preference. West, on the other hand, was using the term “hypnosis” in all of his documents from that era. So if he’d been using “hypnosis” in 1953, why would he refer to “hypnotism” in 1957? He wouldn’t. But Esty would.

Psychology

In the first sentence, the author says that “Hypnotism is now a recognized branch of the science of psychology…” yada yada yada. Why would Jolly West open his proposal with a reference to psychology instead of psychiatry? Answer: He wouldn’t. If you’re going to spend all of the time and money required to pursue a degree in psychiatry you wouldn’t lead with a field in which you didn’t pursue a degree. Furthermore, in his budget on page 3, the author says that a “psychiatrist should also be available.” Jolly West was a psychiatrist. If he was the author of the proposal, he would have made himself available. (How did I not catch that earlier?) For this reason, I believe the proposal’s author was a psychologist, namely George “Esty” Estabrooks.

Hypnotic messenger

On June 22, 1954, George H. Estabrooks submitted a memo to someone within the CIA titled “The Military Application of Hypntism [sic].” In that memo, he describes the creation of a courier, but refers to it as a “hypnotic messenger,” adding “if I may use the phrase.” That sounds as if he feels he coined the term. In his book Hypnotism, Esty refers to the hypnotic messenger almost exclusively when discussing the topic. A comparison of the wording and subject matter between the 1954 memo, which is still redacted, and Estabrooks’ book tells us that he wrote the 1954 memo, just as the similarity between those two documents and the proposal tells us that he wrote the proposal too. Oddly enough, in his 1971 Science Digest article, he didn’t call it a messenger but instead referred to it as a courier. He also cut way back on his use of the word “hypnotism” for that article, though not entirely. What can I say? People change. As for Jolly West, in his 1953 letter to Sidney Gottlieb, he used the word “courier.”

The statistic

Esty Estabrooks had one statistic that he used more than any other, and that statistic was that one out of every five adults was capable of going into the deepest hypnotic trance, which he referred to as somnambulism. He never cites the source—which probably means that he’s the source—but that statistic permeates his book to an annoying degree. (One of my chief criticisms of his book is that he’s very, very, VERY repetitive.) On page 44, he states it most strenuously: 

“One out of every five subjects will, on the average, go into deep hypnosis or somnambulism and no operator, whatever his skill, can better this average.” 

Does Esty’s mantra appear in the February 1957 proposal? Oh, you betcha. You can find it in the second paragraph, line two of the Introduction. Honestly, the moment I read that line after having read Esty’s book, I knew Esty had written the proposal. “One out of every five” was the singular phrase that sealed the deal for me.

The sign-off

We all have a favorite way of signing off in a letter. The proposal writer’s cover letter closed with a friendly and less common “Cordially yours.” Jolly West was strictly a “Sincerely” or a “Sincerely yours” kind of guy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him swerve from that sentiment even once. But Esty? He preferred “Cordially yours.” It’s all over his letters in the file that the FBI kept on him. Sure, he occasionally slipped in a “Sincerely yours”—who among us hasn’t?—but “Cordially yours,” just like “hypnotism,” just like “hypnotic messenger,” was Esty’s M.O.

The file number 

Something I’ve started focusing on lately are the numbers and letters at the top righthand corner of the lion’s share of the MKULTRA documents. They begin with an A/B, a notation that Colin Ross, M.D., says means Artichoke/Bluebird, which makes sense. The A/B is followed by a number from 1 through 7, which is sometimes written as a Roman numeral. I’m not sure of the meaning of those numbers but it appears to be some type of grouping. The grouping that interests me most is group 5, or V, which appears to include various academics and others with whom the CIA may have consulted. The number after that has the broadest range. I’ve seen them reach upwards into the 300s. Following that number, sometimes after a slash mark, is another number that isn’t very big and seems to progress in numerical order. So you may find a document marked 353/1, another one marked 353/2, and so on.

Let’s direct our attention to the tops of the pages of MKULTRA document 147025 and concentrate only on the last two numbers. You’ll see a series of documents, beginning with the first, which is numbered 90/4, the next is 90/5, and the next is 90/6. (You can ignore the last two pages since they appear to have been misfiled. They have nothing to do with the preceding memos.)

Now look at the notations on the proposal. They are A/B, 5, 90/8. There’s that 90 again. I think the second-to-last number—the 90 in this case—is assigned to a particular person, and I think the last number—the 4, 5, 6, and now 8—is the number assigned to the particular piece of communication that pertains to that particular person. If Esty was the subject of the three memos from 1954, and I strongly believe he was, then I believe someone at the CIA assigned the number “90” to Esty’s records, which means that I also believe that he’s the author of the proposal.

By the way, when you have a chance, I recommend that you read the three 1954 memos. You’ll see that the CIA guys weren’t that impressed with him. Neither was the FBI for that matter.

Wow. This is a big shift in your theory.

Yes, it is, and I’m not going to lie, it bummed me out big time when I figured it out. But if we’re going to solve this mystery, we need to let go of the things that aren’t true. It’s taken me a week or so, but I’ve managed to do that and I’m hoping you’ll be able to do it too.

Does anything strike you as weird about Esty’s proposal?

As a matter of fact, yes! If Esty had indeed created a hypnotic messenger during WWII, as he claimed in 1971, I wonder why he didn’t mention that fact in his proposal. Here he was, a known braggart, and he didn’t think to mention this to his potential funder? Why did he make it sound as if this would be the first time? 

Incidentally, another copy of the proposal can be found here, and the person Esty was writing to was Morse Allen. Apparently, they were on a first-name basis, or at least Esty felt as if they were. (Morse may have felt differently.) Louis Jolyon West’s communications, on the other hand, were usually directed to the man on top—Sidney Gottlieb.

Do you think St. Clair Switzer worked with George Estabrooks instead of Louis Jolyon West in the summer of 1957?

Here’s what we know: St. Clair Switzer had been approved for a sabbatical for academic year 1956-57. However, the researcher he’d originally been planning to work with, Marion A. “Gus” Wenger (no relation), a UCLA psychologist, had decided at the last minute to travel to India to study yogis instead. There’s no way Switzer would have returned to Miami that year—not after waiting so long for his sabbatical. Not after writing in a December 1954 letter to Gus that “It’s quite a job to break out of this teaching straitjacket.” He was working with someone.

We also now know that George Estabrooks had someone working with him for the summer who was “thoroughly familiar with hypnotism at the theoretical level.” That could certainly describe Switzer, since he’d assisted Clark Hull with his 1933 book, “Hypnosis and Suggestibility,” which was both an experimental and theoretical study of hypnosis. Also, a CIA staffer had made the notation “H/B-6” next to that person’s crossed-out name, which I believe indicates that Esty’s helper was a military officer who was affiliated with a military base with an on-site hospital. Again, that could apply to Lt. Col. Switzer, particularly if he was working closely with Wright Patterson AFB.

On the other hand, Jolly West was deep into his research on POWs that year. The focus of that research—interrogation methods—happened to be the reason Switzer’s expertise in hypnosis and drugs was likely being sought by the CIA and military. As you know, I believe the January 14, 1953, memo on “Interrogation Techniques” mentions both Louis Jolyon West (I’m 100% sure) and Switzer (I’m pretty sure) for a “well-balanced interrogation research center.” So it could be that Switzer was at the University of Oklahoma helping West in the use of hypnosis and drugs for the interrogation of POWs, while Esty Estabrooks was across the country working on his hypnotic messenger.

I guess what’s really throwing me off right now are the two letters.

What two letters?

Around the time that Esty submitted his hypnotic messenger proposal to Morse Allen, someone who sounded a lot like St. Clair Switzer wrote two letters to a colleague of his, Griffith Wynne Williams, who was a renowned hypnosis expert and professor of psychology at Rutgers University. (Here’s a link to the December 6, 1956 letter. Here’s a link to the February 8, 1957 letter.) Williams and Switzer both studied under Clark Hull at the University of Wisconsin. Their time with him overlapped when Williams was pursuing his doctorate degree and Switzer was working on his master’s. The letters are congenial, if a little on the obsequious side, and they’re filled with extremely specific questions on hypnosis that quickly enter into the realm of the disturbing. 

The letter writer appears to be working with another researcher on a project of great importance. He makes it clear that the subject is “very highly classified” (December 6, 1956) and “sensitive” (February 8, 1957) and instructs Williams to destroy both letters immediately after he’s read them. Thankfully, we know for sure that Williams is the recipient even though his name is redacted because the CIA staffer with the black pen accidentally forgot to redact the word “Rutgers” (December 6, 1956) and he or she also allowed the word “arthritis” (February 8, 1957), which Williams was burdened with for much of his life, to remain exposed. I love when that happens.

So here’s where the letters are throwing me: in some ways they might support a collaboration between Switzer and Estabrooks, while at other times, they might be more indicative of a collaboration between Switzer and Jolly West, or someone else of his stature.

Do the letters pertain to Estabrooks’ research…

The letters are written around the time of Esty’s proposal, with the second letter being written just two days after the proposal was written. So that might lead us to presume that they were related to a collaboration between Esty and Switzer. 

Also, the letters indicate that the two secretive researchers had visited with Williams in person, once in his office, though they suggested a less visible place for their second meeting, such as the local hotel. It would be a lot easier for them to make a 4-hour drive from upstate New York to New Brunswick, N.J. than if they were traveling from Oklahoma. Of course, I’m sure the CIA could afford the plane fare, but I’m inclined to think that their interest in having multiple in-person meetings instead of talking by phone makes it sound as if it was relatively easy for them to do so. 

Or do they pertain to a researcher of higher stature, such as Jolly West?

At first, the questions that the letter writer asks in the December 1956 letter could be considered relevant to the development of a hypnotic messenger—such as the ones having to do with the production of amnesia (#1), concealed induction methods (#2), and problems with post-hypnotic control (#5). But the other questions go way beyond the scope of a hypnotic messenger, including the series of questions that are focused upon the hypnotizing of large groups of people through various means, such as TV broadcasts, speaking techniques, lighting, stage effects, and so on.

In addition, the letter writer appears open to any guidance that Williams could provide in 12 areas. But in the second edition of Esty’s book, which came out after the December letter was written, he said that the carotid artery technique (he calls it a “neck nerve”) is being done with jujitsu, and has nothing to do with a hypnotic trance, and that of course people can be hypnotized to do something that goes against their beliefs. Therefore, if it was Esty’s project, I can’t see him even asking questions #10 and #12.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier, the letter writer makes a very big deal of the fact that this is a secret project. He even uses the term “very highly classified.” Did you read what the guys in the CIA had to say about Estabrooks behind his back? Plus, you also know what a chatterbox this guy was. I’m just asking: Would those guys have given George Estabrooks a Secret or Top Secret classification? 

They had no problem designating the Top Secret classification to Louis Jolyon West, however.

******

P.S. I’d like to share one additional piece of evidence that St. Clair Switzer wrote the letters to Griffith Williams. You can find most of my reasoning in this blog post, and I’ll let those reasons stand as-is. 

However, one thing I mentioned in that post is the letter writer’s use of the term “Ph.D. thesis” in his December 6, 1956, letter. For most of us who don’t have a Ph.D., we think of a “master’s thesis” and a “doctoral dissertation,” and those terms are absolutely correct. But for some odd reason, some academics with doctoral degrees, not all of them, but some, will refer to a Ph.D. thesis. I don’t know why they do it, but they do.

Here’s a piece of evidence that St. Clair Switzer did it too.

In a letter he wrote to psychologist Ernest (Jack) Hilgard, St. Clair Switzer refers to his dissertation as a thesis. (See page 2, second paragraph.)

Some mothers are a bit more…complicated

A meditation on mothers and Manchurian Candidates

It’s Mother’s Day, and like you, I’ve been spending the day poring over MKULTRA documents. Oh, you haven’t been doing that today? I’m the only one? Well, not for long!

Because today, I’ll be sharing a document that could very well be the official start of the whole Manchurian Candidate thing. What’s more, it’s a true account—of the non-fiction variety.

As you may already know, “The Manchurian Candidate” was a novel by Richard Condon that came out in 1959. The movie, which starred Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey, and Frank Sinatra, was released in 1962. The film is so good that it has a permanent home on my DVR.

The story is about an American POW from the Korean War who was hypnotically programmed to assassinate a U.S. presidential candidate when given a special trigger. He was also instructed to promptly forget what he’d done afterward through a post-hypnotic suggestion. I won’t tell you any more than that, just in case you haven’t seen it yet. Lansbury, the programmed assassin’s mother, is phenomenal. (Spoiler alert: Jessica Fletcher, she is not.) The “Manchuria” reference is based on the fact that POWs passed through that region between China and Russia after being freed from North Korea. (Here’s a map to help you picture it.)

As the world would learn decades later, that wasn’t too different from what the CIA was dreaming up through Projects ARTICHOKE and MKULTRA. What’s more, some of the people in charge probably wouldn’t have felt the need to stop at just one Manchurian Candidate. Once they had the bugs worked out, they could…well, to quote one redacted expert who was bragging to U.S. intelligence officers: “Two hundred trained [BLANK] operators, trained in the United States, could develop a unique, dangerous army of hypnotically controlled agents.” (See document from March 4, 1952.)

I suppose I considered Condon to be incredibly prescient to have written his book 20 or so years before everyone else discovered that a Manchurian Candidate was a thing, of sorts, or at least something that some people within our government had set their sights on. But as John Marks, author of “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control,” footnoted, “Condon consulted with a wide variety of experts while researching the book, and some inside sources may well have filled him in on the gist of a discussion that took place at a 1953 meeting at the CIA on behavior control.”

That’s the meeting that I was reading about as I was blearily clicking on some documents from July 1953 this morning. The meeting had occurred on June 18, 1953, two months after the first POWs had been exchanged with the North Koreans and Chinese (called the Little Switch), yet before the war had ended. I’m linking to the full document here, thanks to The Black Vault.

Probably after the first hour had passed in the meeting, someone had this to share:

Click on image for a closer look.

As Marks noted in his book, “The CIA and military men at this session promised to seek more information but the matter never came up again in either the documents released by the Agency or in the interviews done for this book.”

What do Manchurian Candidates have do with Ron Tammen’s story? Probably, hopefully, nothing. But the fact that these issues were being discussed at the same time that Louis Jolyon West (for sure) and St. Clair Switzer (I strongly believe) were being sought after for their expertise in hypnosis and drugs means that this topic, as well as all other related topics, automatically becomes our business.

Part 2: Desperately seeking Dorothy

Before we conduct our search for Dorothy Craig, let’s think a little about how unusual it was for Dorothy’s name to be written at the top of Carl Knox’s notepad. In those dwindling days before Ron Tammen disappeared, all of his other check-writing or check-cashing or check-depositing activities pertained to businesses or organizations: places like Cleveland Trust, Delta Tau Delta, Shillito’s, and whatever entity had given him a loan. But Dorothy Craig wasn’t a business. She was a person. And weirder still, Dorothy Craig happened to be a female person. 

In the year 1953, women weren’t generally known for their business transactions. Women were known for getting married. And once a woman was married, her identity was pretty much subsumed by her husband’s. Even her name. Once she was married, her signature would no longer begin with the name she was lovingly given on day 1 of her life—be it Helen, Margaret, Sadie, and, yes, Dorothy. Rather, she was now expected to use her husband’s name with the title “Mrs.” slapped in front. She was now Mrs. William this or Mrs. A.K that. 

A woman in the 1950s was frequently told not to worry her pretty little head about something she was worried about. She would be asked to leave the room so the men could discuss something that was way too complicated for her cute, loveable brain. Actually, men in the 1950s were pretty ingenious. By telling women over and over (and over) that their place was in the home, they’d essentially removed half of the competition for the jobs they were vying for. Plus after a long, hard day of glad-handing and 2-hour lunches, they could come home to a clean house with sparkling children, not to mention dinner and a cocktail. Brilliant, boys…brilliant.

Sorry. I realize that last part comes off as a bit harsh, and I also realize that it doesn’t hold true for every ‘50s-era man. However, if you’ve read as many articles and ads from back then as I have lately, well, it can make a girl cranky. 

Back to Dorothy Craig. What could this female person of the feminine persuasion have to do with Ronald Tammen that would have warranted her writing him a check? Conversely, what good or service could Ronald Tammen have provided in order to have earned said check?

As I began my search for Dorothy Craig, I soon realized that lots of women back then were named Dorothy. The surname of Craig was also common. I needed to establish some criteria. Here’s what I came up with:

First, she must be at least 18 years old in 1953 in order to have her own checking account.

Second, because the check was written on Oxford National Bank, which had no branches, she should live relatively close to Oxford, preferably within an hour’s drive.

And third, although this isn’t a requirement, I think it would be helpful if she had a job outside the home, since she would need some form of income in order to have her own checking account. Look at it this way: If Dorothy Craig had been single and living on her own, she would have needed a job—and a checking account—until she got married, that is. But if she were married and not working outside the home, Dorothy Craig would likely be the second name listed on a joint checking account. And if that had been the case, then Carl Knox would in all probability have written her husband’s name at the top of his notepad. See how it worked back then? If a man’s name had been anywhere near that check, even if Dorothy had written the check and signed it at the bottom, he would be given top billing and Dorothy would be largely ignored.

Keeping the above in mind, I conducted a search of the 1940 and 1950 censuses for all of the relevant counties and, if available, 1953 city directories for the tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. I looked for anyone named Dorothy Craig who fit the first two criteria, and I also kept track of each contender’s employment status. I also checked Miami University’s 1953 student directory as well as the alumni database to see if Dorothy Craig could have been a fellow student. (Answer: no.) I also checked the census forms of any Miami students in the 1953 directory who had the last name of Craig to see if their mother’s name might be Dorothy. (Answer: again, no.) Then I made an interactive map. 

So let’s interact, shall we? Here’s how:

  1. Click on the map above, which links to the interactive map.
  2. In the legend at the left, there are three categories. The first category is the location of unemployed Dorothy Craigs. The second category is the location of employed Dorothy Craigs. The third category is the location of Miami University.
  3. Start by checking the box next to each list so you can see all of the Dorothys at once and where they were located in comparison to Miami University.
  4. Now uncheck the Dorothys who were employed to see only the stay-at-home Dorothys and their location in comparison to Miami University. Click on each pin or the address in the legend to learn a little more about each person.
  5. Now uncheck the Dorothys who were unemployed and check the Dorothys who were employed and their location in comparison to Miami University. Click on each pin or the address in the legend to learn a little more about those Dorothy Craigs.

The best I can tell, there were 10 Dorothy Craigs that fit the criteria. Four Dorothy Craigs lived in Cincinnati; one lived in Newport, Kentucky, but worked in Cincinnati; one lived in a rural township in Montgomery County that later merged with the small town of Clayton; one lived in Dayton; one lived in Hamilton; one lived in Covington, Kentucky; and the last lived in Richmond, Indiana. 

Let’s start by discussing the unemployed Dorothy Craigs. I don’t know about you, but I’m having trouble imagining how Ron’s life would have intersected with a random home-bound housewife whose husband worked in a factory or on a farm. It might happen if Ron were selling something door-to-door, but I’ve seen zero evidence of that—especially if said door was 40 miles away. 

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that, if Dorothy had anything to do with Ron’s disappearance, she might have been covertly working for a government agency—the CIA perhaps—and had purposely sought Ron out. Where better to conduct clandestine activities than a farmhouse in Randolph Township, Ohio?

Well, maybe. But she herself would have to be discovered by the CIA in the first place. If Dorothy were married to a mechanic or salesman and living in a brick bungalow in Cincinnati, well…I don’t think she would have been hobnobbing with the sorts of people who might have approached her with an opportunity filled with mystery and intrigue. If Roscoe Craig, husband to the Dorothy in Dayton, had been working for Wright Patterson Air Force Base, I suppose it would be somewhat possible, but he wasn’t. He was a maintenance worker at General Motors. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see how a housewife named Dorothy Craig could have sashayed her way into the CIA.

Only three Dorothy Craigs were employed. One was a single woman of 24 who worked at a drugstore in Cincinnati. The second was a 34-year-old married mother of four sons under 12, who commuted to Cincinnati from Kentucky to work for Gibson Art, forerunner to Gibson Greeting Cards. The third was a 51-year-old married mother of three adult children who worked at a paper mill in Hamilton.

Speaking of children, one issue that I began to consider a potential dealbreaker was the issue of offspring. Raising kids can be a lot of work, or so I’ve been told. They can take up a lot of their parents’ time and resources, particularly if they’re school-aged. No matter if Dorothy Craig was employed or unemployed, I think it would be way more difficult for her to have the motive, means, and opportunity to develop some sort of business relationship with Ron Tammen if she was raising one or more children under the age of 12 or 13. If Ron had been known to make some side money through babysitting, then maybe, but we have no evidence of that.

Which Dorothy Craig was it?

Let’s imagine that we have a bunch of ping pong balls, and each ball represents a different Dorothy Craig on our list. Now imagine that each individual ball is magically weighted according to how well that particular Dorothy Craig meets the criteria we’ve set for Ron’s Dorothy plus a few bonus attributes. The heavier the ball, the better the candidate. If we put the balls into one of those wire Bingo cages, and turned the crank, the heaviest ball would tumble out first, which would indicate that the Dorothy Craig it represents is more likely than the rest to have written the check to Ronald Tammen. And the most likely candidate to tumble out first is…

…51-year-old Dorothy Craig, on Carmen Avenue, in Hamilton, Ohio!

Here’s why:

She lived and worked roughly 12 miles from Oxford, Ohio.

The Dorothy Craig on Carmen Avenue was the closest of all the Dorothy Craigs to Miami University—roughly 17 miles closer than the second-closest Dorothy Craig, who lived in Richmond, Indiana. It would have been more convenient for her to open a checking account at Oxford National Bank in comparison to the others. Likewise, it wouldn’t have been too out-of-the-way for her to make periodic in-person visits if she needed to make a deposit or withdrawal. 

For those of you who are in your 20s, 30s, or, good grief, even your 40s, this may be new information to you, but that was something that people used to do in those days. They would make a trip to the bank, in person, all the time, especially on pay day. There was no such thing as direct deposit. There were no ATMs. What’s more, banking hours were super tight in those days. In that part of the state, the commonly observed hours of operation back then were 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Friday nights for people who weren’t able to get there during the day. There were no Saturday hours.

If my experience as a bank teller in the late 1970s and early ‘80s is any indication, we used to see the same customers routinely—some every day, others weekly. We knew people by name. We had conversations with them that had nothing to do with banking. We had our favorites and they had theirs. From the sound of it, Dorothy Craig was a friendly, likeable woman, and Oxford was a tiny little town. I’d venture to say that one or more of the cashiers at Oxford National Bank had probably gotten to know her by face and name as well.

She had an income.

Dorothy Craig didn’t just have an income—she had a good income.

This is despite the fact that, in her youth, Dorothy Mueller (her maiden name) had dropped out of high school after the 10th grade. At first, it seemed odd to me that she would end her education so soon, but I don’t judge. Apparently, people, especially women, did that a lot more back then. (See paragraph two.) I mean, if a young girl was constantly being told that a woman’s place was in the home, would she really need to learn about Euclidian geometry?

But Dorothy had ambition. She mastered the skill of stenography and landed herself a good-paying job at the local paper mill. For many years, she worked as an order clerk in the General Scheduling Division at the paper mill, a job for which accuracy would be imperative. From what I gather, Dorothy and her colleagues in Scheduling helped ensure that enough paper was being manufactured from pulp in order to meet the demand of customer orders. That seems important.

In 1939, Dorothy had earned $1300, which was $180 more than her husband Henry, a laborer at a stove foundry, had earned. Although that may not sound like a big difference, salaries back then were distributed along a much narrower spectrum. A person earning a salary of $5000 was at the upper end of the pay scale, according to the U.S. census. In the 1940 census, if you made more than that—if, for example, you were the boss of a major corporation or if, say, you were the beloved exuberant singer of show tunes known as Ethel Merman—your salary was marked down as “$5000+.” 

Back at the paper mill, a secretary with two years of college had earned $1000 in 1939, $300 less than Dorothy. An order clerk with two years of college had earned $1800 that year, just $500 more than Dorothy, and he was male, which was always more lucrative. Another high school classmate of Dorothy’s—also male—with a bachelor’s degree and a lofty post in personnel at the paper mill, made $2000—just $700 more than Dorothy had earned that year. So she was well compensated. In 1949, her salary had nearly doubled to $2500. 

By 1951, all three of Dorothy’s children were married and living their own lives. She and Henry were officially empty nesters, which allowed her to concentrate more on her work as well as the outside activity that seemed to buoy her most: her church. In the 1955-56 Hamilton city directory, Dorothy was listed as an order editor, which ostensibly was a promotion from clerk. In 1960, Henry passed away after a lengthy illness, but Dorothy kept working. In 1961, she was listed as an office secretary at the paper mill. According to her obituary, she retired in 1967 after 30 years of service. She died at the age of 80 in 1982.

Dorothy didn’t just work at any paper mill. She worked at THE paper mill.

It was probably sometime around 2012, not long after reading Carl Knox’s note for the first time, that I’d found Dorothy Craig of Hamilton in the 1940 census. So I’ve known about her for a while. When the 1950 census was released last year, I’d looked her up there too. Both said she worked at a paper mill, and my reaction was, “?” I figured she must be the wrong Dorothy Craig. I couldn’t imagine Ron Tammen ever bumping into someone who worked as a stenographer at a paper mill, just as I couldn’t imagine a stenographer at a paper mill writing a check to Ron Tammen.

But that changed last month. As I’ve mentioned earlier, in his book Baseless, Nicholson Baker described a person who was high up in the CIA—Col. Kilbourne Johnston, the assistant director of the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination, AKA covert activities, from 1950 to 1952. Shortly after his time at the CIA, Johnston had joined the Champion Paper and Fibre Company, one of the most successful paper manufacturers in the country. He started at their Texas location in 1955, and in 1957, he moved to their headquarters, which was based in Hamilton, Ohio, and worked as director of operations programming staff. (He chose to go by “Pat” instead of Kilbourne now.) He was named vice president in 1962. 

Col. Kilbourne Johnston aka Pat Johnston, credit: The Log, November 1958; Fair Use

“Hold on,” thought I, “The number two guy in the CIA’s covert activities division moved to Hamilton, Ohio?”

I love Hamilton. It’s an easy-going, walkable city that celebrates its art, music, and history—everything I adore in a town. It has a fantastic library too. You should go there sometime.

Could I picture the assistant director of the CIA putting down roots there in the mid-1950s? Not really. I knew that St. Clair Switzer would have loved having a fellow military officer and former CIA guy living close by. I wondered who or what might have lured Johnston there.

Several weeks later, when I set out on my Dorothy Craig search, I reread the census forms for the Dorothy Craig who lived in Hamilton, and was reminded that she’d worked for a paper mill. Those words had suddenly taken on new relevance. I wanted to know which paper mill, since there was more than one in Hamilton. Sure enough, Dorothy Craig had worked at Champion Paper and Fibre. In the company’s vernacular for all of its valued employees, Dorothy Craig was a Champion.

I have no idea how well Dorothy Craig and Kilbourne Johnston knew one another. Nevertheless, I’m 100 percent confident that the two of them were sharing the same hallways for years, beginning when he arrived in Hamilton in 1957. That realization led me to ask if anyone else of importance was sharing those hallways with her in the days before Dorothy Craig wrote the check to Ronald Tammen.

It’s Sunshine Week! Let the Sunshine In

It’s March 12, 2023, the first day of Sunshine Week, a time when journalists, authors, bloggers, documentarians, archivists, librarians, historians, students, teachers, and inquisitive citizens of all stripes pay homage to our right to review government files. Whether they’re old or new, hard copy or electronic, sleep-inducing or eye-opening, pristine or heavily redacted to the point of being laughable, public records can help us develop a better understanding of how our tax dollars are spent. It’s a way of holding public officials accountable.

In writing this, I’ve been humming that one song from the musical HAIR—starting with “Aquarius” and ending with “Let the Sunshine In.” As the lyrics have been going through my head, I’m like “Dang, gurl! These lyrics are apropos to Sunshine Week in a trippy sort of way!” But song lyrics are copyrighted. If I print them on my blog site, I’ll be going straight to song lyric jail, and I don’t think I’d last very long there. (Titles are OK though.)

Here’s what we’re going to do: I’m including a link to the lyrics here and you can fill in the blanks in your heads as you read along, Mad Libs–style.

Does everyone have the two web pages open, so you can toggle back and forth? Good. Let’s begin by focusing on PARAGRAPH 3 of the lyrics.

*************************

Thanks to our right to seek public records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state sunshine laws, 

we can achieve _____________________________________________,

PAR 3, LINE 1

__________________________________________________________,

PAR 3, LINE 2

__________________________________________________________,

 PAR 3, LINE 3

maybe even the occasional____________________________________,

 PAR 3, LINE 4

plus, if we’re lucky, __________________________________________,

 PAR 3, LINE 5

and, ultimately, if the CIA finally comes clean about what’s still hiding in the MKULTRA documents,

__________________________________________________________.

 PAR 3, LINE 6

What then? Maybe, just maybe, if our ongoing quest for transparency inspires our government institutions to do their jobs ever more responsibly, and more responsively, for the citizens it serves, 

__________________________________________________________,

PAR 1, LINE 3   

__________________________________________________________!

PAR 1, LINE 4

*************************

Clearly, we have a ways to go.

Incidentally, if you’ve never heard the above sung by a Broadway cast, it’s time. I’m posting two renditions that were performed in NYC’s Ed Sullivan Theater. The first aired on March 30, 1969, on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the second was performed 40 years later, on April 30, 2009, on the Late Show with David Letterman. If you have a little time, consider watching both, paying close attention to the audiences’ reactions at the end. Fellow Boomers, I know we get mocked a lot these days, but if there’s one thing we’ve managed to accomplish, it was that, on our watch, people loosened up a bit more. 

That was fun, but, in all seriousness, transparency in our public institutions is extremely important. We’d never have gotten as far as we have in our fact-finding mission on Ronald Tammen without FOIA and Ohio’s Public Records Act.

And now, in the spirit of Sunshine Week, I’d like to make several announcements on the topic of FOIA and public records requests as they pertain to Ron’s story. Announcement #1 is enlightening, #2 is vindicating, #3 is…what it is, and you’re not going to believe how cool announcement #4 is.

Announcement #1

You should totally read:

 “Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act,” by Nicholson Baker

Thanks to a reader’s recommendation, I recently finished reading Baseless (etc.), by Nicholson Baker, and maaaan, could I relate with the frustration he’s experienced when submitting FOIA requests to the CIA and Air Force. It appears that he has similar views about how the CIA treats its FOIA requesters—they’re just waiting for us to die. 

For years, Baker has been studying whether there’s truth to the rumors—which U.S. officials have summarily denied—that the United States had deployed biological weapons during the Korean War. He presents a strong case that they did. On the face of it, it might appear as if bioweapons research has little to do with the mind control research that we’re interested in, however, it is related. As you may recall, Frank Olson, who’s discussed in Baker’s book, was a prominent bioweapons researcher at Camp Detrick (later named Fort Detrick), in Maryland, in 1953. He’d had a bad reaction to some LSD that had been slipped into his drink at a CIA-sponsored retreat that took place November 18-20, 1953, and, on November 28, just two days after Thanksgiving, he fell (read: was likely pushed) out of a tenth-story hotel window in Manhattan. His case is directly linked to MKULTRA. 

I also learned a few things that are tied somewhat to Ron’s story, or, more specifically, to Ron’s former psychology professor, St. Clair Switzer.

First, Baker discusses several organizations that I’ve been bumping into in my research on Switzer. He has a lot to say about the Department of Defense’s Research and Development Board (RDB) as well as the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB), both of which were advocating for the use of bioweapons during the Korean War. In my post from May 20, 2021, I discuss Switzer’s possible relationship with both the RDB and the PSB. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen no evidence that links Switzer to possible bioweapons research—I still believe he was focused mostly on interrogation techniques, such as hypnosis and drugs, and the possible development of a hypnotic messenger—but he may have been running in the same circles as people who were.

Second is a random factoid that I find particularly fascinating. A man who has received a sizable word count in Baker’s book is Frank Wisner, the former director of the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), the epicenter for the CIA’s covert operations. Wisner had his hand in pretty much all of the CIA’s misdeeds at that time, including the importation of Nazi scientists after WWII through Operation Paperclip and the CIA’s overthrow of the democratically elected president of Guatemala in 1954 because they felt like it. He was a huge supporter of the use of bioweapons, and, naturally, he was involved in MKULTRA too. 

The person I find even more compelling was Wisner’s assistant director, Col. Kilbourne Johnston, who was an expert on biological and chemical warfare and who, according to Baker, was employed with the Air Force at the same time he was with the CIA. 

Let me just say that Baker has some seriously mad research skills, because I’ve found no online sources linking Kilbourne Johnston to the Air Force—only documents pertaining to his stint with the Army Service Forces during WWII. But Baker found hard copies of documents that identify a Mr. Johnson—which was Johnston’s original surname—in the Air Force who had the same phone number as the CIA’s Kilbourne Johnston. According to Baker’s citations in the back pages of his book, Johnston was in the Air Force’s Air Targets Division, which, well…I think we have a pretty good notion of their area of expertise.

After an extended illness following a trip to Asia in May 1952, Johnston left both the CIA and the Air Force and started a lithograph business. (I don’t care who you are;  when your inner voice tells you that life’s too short and that you need to start something new, like lithography, for example, it’s best to heed the call.) In 1955, at the still-youthful age of 48, he signed on with the Texas Division of Champion Paper, a name that probably rings a bell for readers who are familiar with the paper mill that used to occupy 601 N. B Street in Hamilton, Ohio. And for good reason. Because in the late 1950s, this highly decorated Air Force colonel and assistant director of the CIA moved to Hamilton to work at the headquarters of Champion Paper, and in 1962, he was named vice president. He remained in that position until 1966. 

In other words, this Army/Air Force colonel who knew everything there was to know about what the CIA was up to in the early 1950s was living 10 miles from Miami University not too long after he left the Agency. Did he and Lt. Col. Switzer ever meet up for coffee or a cold one to, you know, talk about sensitive stuff? If Switzer had known who was living nearby, I think he would have conjured up a way.

The third take-home I learned from Baker’s book could turn out to be a game-changer. It has to do with a more efficient, more effective way to search for CIA documents that are posted in their Electronic Reading Room. If you visit the search page for the CIA’s FOIA Electronic Reading Room and type in a word or term such as “hypnosis,” you’ll probably bring up a huge number of pages to wade through, most of which have no bearing on what you’re actually looking for. But if you type “hypnosis” site:cia.gov into the Google search bar, a more digestible list of documents will pop up, with short descriptions that give you a clue what they’re about and quick links that take you straight to the document instead of an intermediary page that the CIA has set up. It’s usually faster too.

This search technique plus a document that Baker describes in his book concerning the CIA’s sanitization process directly applies to…

Announcement #2

The unredacted July 15, 1952, memo still hasn’t turned up

Remember the CIA memo dated July 15, 1952, in which a group of panelists is named for a [BLANK] Study Group? As I mentioned in my May 20, 2021, blog post, I think that the letters RDB (abbrev-speak for the Department of Defense’s Research and Development Board) occupy the blank next to “Subject” and I also believe, based on the chronology of various related memos, that the RDB’s study group had to do with Project ARTICHOKE.

All of the names listed in the memo are blanked out as well. Here’s that memo: 

In August 2016, I submitted a FOIA request to the CIA asking them to lift the redactions from the list of names. Almost three years later, on May 12, 2019, they responded as follows: “Please be advised that we conducted a thorough and diligent search in an effort to locate a full-text version of the document, but unfortunately were unsuccessful.” 

In other words: Sorry, but we only have the whited-out version.

I appealed on the basis of, well, here’s an excerpt: “I find it inconceivable that a government employee charged with the critical responsibility of declassifying national security documents would be so sloppy and abusive in his or her handling of this information as to somehow misplace or destroy the original document, particularly given the CIA’s already embarrassing history with mishandling documents pertaining to MKULTRA.” 

I also quoted Senator Edward Kennedy, who said the following during the Joint Hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence on MKULTRA in August 1977:

The intelligence community of this Nation, which requires a shroud of secrecy in order to operate, has a very sacred trust from the American people. The CIA’s program of human experimentation of the fifties and sixties violated that trust. It was violated again on the day the bulk of the agency’s records were destroyed in 1973. It is violated each time a responsible official refuses to recollect the details of the program. The best safeguard against abuses in the future is a complete public accounting of the abuses of the past. [bold formatting added]

On June 11, 2021, they wrote and said that I should receive a ruling sometime around December 8, 2022. I’m not sure what I was doing on December 8, 2022, which was a Thursday, but I know for sure that I wasn’t reading the CIA’s ruling on my appeal, which has yet to arrive.

Last week, I called the CIA and left a message asking for a status update on my appeal. Still no word. 

But in the book Baseless, Nicholson Baker discusses a CIA document from 1975 (the year when the Church Committee was investigating the intelligence activities of the CIA and other agencies) that describes a process by which the CIA sanitized its records in response to requests from members of the House and Senate. Its title, “Workers’ Kit for Sanitizing Documents,” is friendly and adorable and almost sounds as if they could create a child’s version to sell on Amazon. I’m including it here:

In that process, for every original document that was requested, the worker made two Xerox copies. On copy 1, the worker drew lines through words that they felt needed to be covered up, and on copy 2, they put correction tape over those words and typed less specific words to take their place. Then they made more copies of the taped-over version for people up the chain to review and for the worker to keep as a record. I’m sure this protocol is different than the one used in declassification—at least from my experience, they don’t type over their redactions in declassification—but I’m guessing it’s not that different.

If you look at the July 15, 1952, memo, you can see that it’s a copy, and a really bad copy at that. Also, the whited-out parts are super straight, as if it was done with correction tape. My guess is, not only is there an original version, but there are likely several versions of this memo, including the original, the taped-over version, and at least one of several copies that were made of the taped-over version for the higher-ups. They can’t have lost all of those copies, can they? 

Besides, what would it say about the CIA’s declassification process if the original copy—the one containing all the ostensibly classified information—is the one that gets mislaid somewhere while the taped-over copy is the only one they can find?

Speaking of taped-over copies…

Announcement #3

Most of the posts on Carl Knox’s former secretary and/or the Miami Stories Oral History Project have been pulled down

If you’ve been wondering what happened to my posts concerning my search for an interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary—the ones where I talk about edited tapes, missing tapes, the recorded-over tape, and ice hockey—I’ve pulled most of them down for now. They still exist and there may come a time when I repost one or more or all of them, but for now I’ve decided to handle things this way.

If I have something truly significant to share, I will, however, most activity on this topic is now being conducted behind the scenes.

I just don’t want you to feel out of sorts when you run searches for them and come up empty.

But speaking of sorts and searches…(😬 …too lame?)

Announcement #4

For the first time ever, you can download a sortable, searchable MKULTRA index here, on this website!

I’ve saved the best announcement for last. I am totally pumped to let you know that Julie Miles, AGMIHTF reader, frequent commenter, good book recommender (she’s the one who recommended Nicholson Baker’s book to me), and computer sorceress, has taken the CIA’s mammoth index of MKULTRA titles and…

…wait for it….

…made a spreadsheet out of it. 

I’m. Not. Joking.

Anyone who’s explored the MKULTRA collection understands that you have to start with the index to figure out which documents are pertinent to whatever you’re researching. But the index is 84 pages long and incredibly random—dates, topics, you name it, are all over the place. It’s almost as if the CIA made it that way on purpose. Plus, the PDF pages that are posted online aren’t searchable. Until now, you had to scroll through the index, page by page, to figure out which documents you’d like to review, and then you opened one of four folders originally provided by the CIA, now posted on the Black Vault website, and searched for the ID number. In 2018, the Black Vault posted additional MKULTRA documents that they’d obtained from the CIA. 

Now, thanks to Miles, the index is transcribed as a spreadsheet into Google Sheets. You can copy/paste it as-is to your hard drive, or download or copy/paste it to a preferred software, such as Excel. Then, run with it, have fun with it! You can organize it however you’d like: alphabetically, topically, chronologically, etc., which makes it sooooooo much easier to find what you’re looking for. Then you can locate the pertinent document or documents from the Black Vault site.

As far as I can tell, not only has no one attempted this before, but no one has even considered attempting it before. It’s that daunting. But Miles thought it seemed doable, and then she went ahead and did it. 

[Wait for applause.]

Meryl Streep Applause GIF by SAG Awards - Find & Share on GIPHY

And now, without further ado, here’s the link to the MKULTRA index:

LINK TO INDEX

User notes as well as other helpful info can be found at the bottom.

If you prefer to have it in Excel, here you go:

Although I happen to think it looks perfect, Miles says that it’s still a draft, so there may be tiny corrections or style changes in store. If anyone wants to assist in proofing it, please contact me at rontammenproject@gmail.com and I’ll pass along your info. Also, Miles has created an email address specifically related to the MKULTRA index for questions, comments, suggestions, whatever. But please bear in mind that this isn’t her full-time job, so she can’t guarantee a response: mkuitranscribed@gmail.com. Nevertheless, she’s interested in your feedback.

So happy Sunshine Week, y’all! If you have any FOIA stories to share to help us celebrate, please feel free to comment below. Also, this is a reminder that the 70th anniversary of Ron’s disappearance is fast approaching. If you have ideas on how we might observe the date of April 19, 2023, please feel free to suggest those below as well.