When Doc met Jolly: the sequel

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

So…THEN what, right?

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

But first, let’s have a little recap.

Our running theory 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hot shot and his rival 

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

the flowers were blooming… 

the birds were singing…

 the bees were buzzing… 

…and, on April 13… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2002, he said the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Schuette in May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob doesn’t ever recall seeing Ron up there. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 CF: “Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

The book project

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In November 1935, Hull wrote this to Doc:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As in all of it.  

As in every last bit.  

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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. 

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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 

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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. 

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

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

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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?

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.


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.


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.)

Part 4: Was someone from Champion Paper and Fibre helping support St. Clair Switzer’s research activities in 1953?

The last time we talked (which could be 5 minutes ago, 5 days ago, or 5 weeks ago—it’s totally your call), we were discussing the life of Reuben B. Robertson, Jr., the president of Champion Paper and Fibre Company from 1950 to 1955 and from 1957 to 1960. During the interim two years, Robertson was deputy secretary of defense under Secretary Charles Wilson.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that the part about his being the deputy defense secretary is impressive and all, but that was two years after Ron Tammen disappeared. Come to think of it, all of those hires he’d made of top-tier military and intelligence personnel happened during or after his Department of Defense (DoD) gig. What was he doing on a national level in the spring of 1953?

You make a good point. In the spring of 1953, Reuben Jr. had just returned from a trip. In February, he’d been named by President Eisenhower and Harold Stassen, director of the Mutual Security Agency, to lead a team of businessmen on a tour of Germany to assess the effects of U.S. spending there. The Mutual Security Agency was created in 1951 to facilitate the military and economic recovery of America’s allies after WWII. As director of the MSA, Stassen was a member of the National Security Council. He was also a member of Eisenhower’s cabinet. For this trip, 55 businessmen traveled to 14 Western European countries, and Reuben Jr. had led the German contingent, which included six other men. After two days of training, they arrived in Germany on February 16, 1953. Although news articles that I’ve read don’t state how long the trip lasted, I’m guessing that they were back by the end of February or early March.

One month earlier, in January 1953, Reuben Jr. had been elected to serve as one of four vice chairmen on the executive committee of the Business Advisory Council. The Business Advisory Council, now called the Business Council, was, at that time, an esteemed advisory group to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which was headed by the newly-appointed Secretary Sinclair Weeks. President Eisenhower had selected a number of his other cabinet posts from individuals who sat on the BAC, including Defense Secretary Charles Wilson, who was formerly president of General Motors.

So, in a nutshell, in the spring of 1953, Reuben Jr. was in Hamilton, while he was also helping out two of President Eisenhower’s cabinet members when he was asked, which seemed to be on a regular basis. He was traveling in powerful circles and making headlines while doing so. 

Because I’m writing this on a deadline, and because much of this post involves speculation, I think we’ll go back to a Q&A format. Hope you’re cool with that?

Yeah, that’s fine. So you say he was making headlines. Is that how Miami University officials came to know him?

Headlines and word of mouth certainly contributed to his visibility in southwest Ohio. If you have a strong business school—and Miami University certainly does—you’re going to notice the most successful businesses in your area, especially if the company president’s network of friends and associates extends as broadly as Reuben Jr.’s did. People in the business school did take notice. In May of 1951, the School of Business Administration sponsored an industrial management conference and Reuben was the luncheon speaker. He spoke on wage stabilization, a topic he knew well, since his appointment on the federal Wage Stabilization Board was coming to an end in June.

Max Rosselot, an assistant professor of secretarial studies and office management in Miami’s School of Business Administration, spent the summer of 1952 working with Champion’s pool of stenographers, immersing himself in the company’s business practices to enhance his courses for future stenographers and secretaries. Rosselot would later go on to become Miami’s Registrar in the early- to mid-1960s.

Champion had noticed Miami too. In 1947, a staff member in Miami’s Psychology Department, R.C. Crosby, director of student counseling, taught a course in business psychology to 24 Champion employees. According to the December 1947 issue of The Log, “This course deals with some general principles of the psychology of human relationships and their application to business and industrial groups.” If you’re wondering why St. Clair Switzer wouldn’t be teaching the course—after all, business psychology was his baby—this was at a time when Switzer was still counseling veterans after the war and he hadn’t yet gone back to teaching courses at Miami. I’m sure he would have been interested though.

Another way that Miami officials would have known about Reuben Jr. was through his aunt. 

His aunt? Who was Reuben Jr.’s aunt?

Rueben Robertson, Jr.’s aunt was Mary Moore Dabney Thomson, wife of Alexander Thomson, who, in turn, was Reuben Robertson, Sr.’s brother-in-law. (If you need to work that through your heads a minute, I can wait.) Alexander Thomson was a longtime executive with Champion Paper and Fibre, and was chairman of the board from 1935 until his death in 1939. 

But Mary Moore Dabney Thomson did stuff too. From 1933 to 1941, she was a member of the Western College for Women’s Board of Trustees, and during the years 1941 though 1945, she was president of the college. As many of you know, Western College for Women was across the street from Miami University and, in 1974, it became part of the university. In fact, Thomson Hall was named for Mary Moore Dabney Thomson.

Credit: Miami University Special Collections

But here’s the rub: you know how I discussed in part 2 that women in those days tended to relinquish their first names when they got married? One case in point is Mary Moore Dabney Thomson, who was often referred to in the press as Mrs. Alexander Thomson. Seriously. She was president of a prestigious women’s college, and people still referred to her by her husband’s name, even when he was no longer alive. I say this with all due respect, but what the bloody hell is up with that, members of the 1930s…’40s…and ‘50s press?

Mary Moore Dabney Thomson was well-known in the Oxford community before the Champion Coated Paper Company merged with Champion Fibre Company in 1935, and well before her nephew Reuben Jr. arrived in Hamilton in 1937. I’d even bet that it was through her that some Miami officials became familiar with the Thomson and Robertson names.

In what can only be described as pure coincidence, Mary Moore Dabney Thomson’s portrait was revealed on April 18, 1953, in Western’s Clawson Hall, the day before Ron Tammen disappeared.

You mentioned previously that Reuben Robertson, Jr., sat on Miami’s Board of Trustees from 1957 until his death in 1960. Did Miami officials seek his input on anything earlier than that, such as when Ron was still a student?

Yes, they sure did. Shortly after President Ernest Hahne died in November 1952, Reuben Robertson, Jr., was asked by the vice president of Miami’s Board of Trustees to sit on the committee that would select the next president. Rueben Jr. represented the public on the six-member committee, which included the president of the Board of Trustees as an ex-officio member. Several months later, that committee decided upon John D. Millett, who was affirmed by the 27-member board in March 1953.

President Millett must have been equally impressed with Reuben Robertson, Jr. In 1956, he would invite him to be a commencement speaker, and, at that time, Reuben was bestowed an honorary law degree.

So…what’s your theory?

I’m thinking that someone contacted Lt. Col. Reuben Robertson, Jr., for help in funding research that was being conducted by Lt. Col. Switzer in Miami’s Department of Psychology. (Using military rank might go a long way when making the ask.) The asker might have come from Miami University, from the military, or from somewhere else. Reuben Robertson, Jr., knew a lot of people.

The reason that someone may have asked for his help is that universities are usually strapped for cash and the restrictions placed on the government’s spending of taxpayer dollars are tight. Perhaps they asked Reuben Jr. if he’d be willing to support students taking part in a university study that would benefit national security. That doesn’t sound too different than asking him if he’d be willing to buy a box of cookies to support the Girl Scouts. Reuben Robertson, Jr., believed strongly in education and national security. He was also a busy man. Maybe that’s all he felt he needed to know.

How might Dorothy Craig have fit into the picture?

Dorothy Craig was a loyal employee of Champion Paper and Fibre Company. In 1953 she’d been working there for 16 years as an order clerk, a job that carried a lot of weight. She was well-liked, and, like Reuben Jr., she treasured her family. Her main activity outside of work was church. 

Even though Dorothy Craig dropped out of high school after her sophomore year, she still attended her alumni reunions—that’s how much of a people person she was. In a Hamilton Journal-News photo of their 45th class reunion, which took place in the summer of 1965, Dorothy is standing on the far righthand side of the third row. When I first saw the picture, I was hoping that Dorothy was the woman who was standing two people to her left. The other woman was tall with short, jet black hair, white-rimmed glasses with dark lenses, and dark lipstick. She looked like a spy who wouldn’t take sass from anybody. Dorothy, on the other hand, looked a little more doughy, a little more motherly—a gentle woman with a genuine, sweet smile. If someone needed a go-between to provide payments to Ron Tammen—someone who could handle an errand without asking too many questions—Dorothy Craig would have been perfect. Besides, she probably would have wanted to help support college students and protect national security too.

(I tried to obtain permission to post the photo, but I haven’t heard back from my contact. If I ever do, I’ll post it. In the meantime, if you have access to Newspaperarchives.com, you can view it here.)

What do you find most telling about the check from Dorothy Craig?

The quiet…always the quiet. When Carl Knox wrote his note about Dorothy, he didn’t include any additional information about the check—the date, the amount, and where it was cashed—even though I’m sure that information was provided to him. He didn’t include contact information for Dorothy Craig either, even though that information would have been given to him as well. And he kept Dorothy’s identity to himself or among a very small circle of people. Neither he nor the Oxford PD ever mentioned her in the news. If someone had contacted her, and her transaction with Ron was deemed inconsequential, they could have still provided an update to news reporters while protecting her anonymity. Something like: “An area woman had written a check to Ron for X dollars, but it turned out to be for (fill in the blank).” 

Likewise, Dorothy Craig had just written a check to Ronald Tammen, a smart, serious-minded college student who disappeared shortly afterward. The news coverage would have been hard to miss, especially for someone who happened to be sitting in a roomful of order clerks at a paper company. Early and often, investigators lamented the lack of clues in the case. If I were Dorothy? I think I would have come forward and told someone about that check, be it the university, the Oxford PD, or even the FBI when they stepped in. Something like: “I just saw him on Saturday when I wrote him a check for (fill in the blank). He seemed OK.”

That is, unless I was instructed not to.

Do you think Dorothy Craig was the ‘woman from Hamilton’?

Let’s put it this way: I think Dorothy Craig was a woman from Hamilton who may have been acting as a liaison to help compensate Tammen for some activity he was involved with, such as a university study, perhaps. Whether she was the woman from Hamilton who I believe drove Ron away from Fisher Hall, I really don’t know.

You know what I’m thinking? 

No, what?

I’m thinking that this new Hamilton connection could make Ron’s blood type test a little more significant. 

Interesting. Also, we may have landed on some new words that Carl Knox’s secretary was told not to say in front of a reporter.


Whew! This concludes today’s posts. I’d love to hear any comments or questions you might have about Dorothy Craig, Reuben Robertson, Jr., or any other topic you feel like discussing concerning Ronald Tammen’s disappearance.

Part 3: The military-industrial complex in Hamilton, Ohio

Hamilton, Ohio, may seem like a long way from our nation’s capital, but in the 1950s, Champion Paper and Fibre Company had garnered the attention of some powerful people at the top. “What people?” you ask. Oh, only Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. Both Harry and Ike had a lot of respect for Champion Paper. They or people in their administrations would frequently turn to the company’s leadership for their expertise in business and matters pertaining to national defense. 

You heard me. National defense.

Mostly, it had to do with the company’s president, Reuben Buck Robertson, Jr. Reuben Jr. was intelligent, innovative, and oh my gosh, the man had charm. He had looks too, especially in his youth. His dimples could stop traffic. (He was probably told that a lot.) You could say that he attained his position as a birthright—his father, Reuben Sr., had preceded him as company president—but Reuben Jr. was very good at his job. Exceptional, really.

Reuben Buck Robertson, Jr.
Credit: Office of the Secretary of Defense

Before I tell you anything more about Dorothy Craig’s larger-than-life boss, let’s have a quick run-down on the company’s history and how Reuben Jr. got where he was.

The Champion Paper and Fibre Company had its official start in 1893 as the Champion Coated Paper Company. Its founder, Peter G. Thomson, was a bookstore owner, publisher, and printer from Cincinnati. Because of Thomson’s love for the printed word, he had a high regard for paper as well. When printers started using halftones—tiny dots of ink—to reproduce illustrations instead of hand-drawing or etching them, Thomson knew that the paper needed to be coated to create a smooth surface that would hold the ink in place. If the paper weren’t coated, the ink would sink into little crevices and spread. In 1891, Thomson purchased 200 acres in Hamilton to build a coating mill, and in 1894, his new business was up and running. But there were a few snags: in order to operate a fully-functioning coating mill, he needed sufficient quantities of paper to coat. As a remedy, he constructed a paper mill in town. Next Thomson discovered that, in order to operate a fully-functioning paper mill, he needed a consistent supply of wood pulp. Thomson found an ideal spot in Canton, North Carolina, an area so thick with pine trees, it probably smelled like the world’s best car freshener 24/7. The pulp mill was constructed in 1908, and, with that addition, Thomson now had a self-sufficient paper-manufacturing operation that would continue to develop and grow.

The pulp mill in North Carolina was named the Champion Fibre Company, and Thomson’s son-in-law was put in charge. That son-in-law was Reuben Buck Robertson, and his marriage to Peter’s daughter Hope Thomson would be the start of the Thomson-Robertson dynasty of Champion Paper. Peter’s three sons, Peter Jr., Alexander, and Logan Thomson, would all assume positions of leadership in the company, as would other family members, including Reuben’s son, Reuben Robertson, Jr., who was born in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1908.

Reuben Jr. graduated from Yale Sheffield Scientific School in 1930 with a degree in chemical engineering. That same year, he started working at Champion Fibre for his father. Reuben Jr. was the ultimate Undercover Boss. He started low—as a laborer in the woodyard—and worked his way up the ladder. He toiled and sweated along with everyone else. He asked a ton of questions. In doing so, he developed a keen understanding of every aspect of the papermaking business and the people on whose backs the business relied upon.

In 1935, the two companies were merged to form Champion Paper and Fibre Company, which included adding a new paper mill in East Texas. With the merger, Logan Thomson was made president, Reuben Jr. was vice president, and Reuben Sr. was executive v.p. Two years later, Reuben Jr. moved from North Carolina to work in the General Office Building in Hamilton, a stately building on North B Street that housed roughly 75 Champion office staff. That same year, Dorothy Craig was hired by Champion to work in its General Office Building as an order clerk. 

Seventy-five people is a relatively small number of occupants, and Reuben Jr. was a people person. He would make a point of knowing his employees—both those in the office building, and those in all the other buildings too. Dorothy strikes me as a people person too. 

Why do I think that? A man named Bill McDulin used to write a folksy column for the Hamilton Journal-News titled “Got a Minute?” that shared newsy tidbits for the locals. McDulin’s guiding principle seemed to be to leave people with a good feeling about themselves and their community. Because they happened to be neighbors, Dorothy Craig, of Carmen Avenue, was mentioned several times in McDulin’s column. In one of his “Remember when” blurbs from 1976, he asked his readers “Remember when Charlie Betz was a member of the Hamilton police department?…Mrs. David (Geraldine) Adkins started writing poetry?”…[and so forth, and then]…Dorothy Craig worked at Champion?”

Literally thousands of people worked at Champion Paper and Fibre Company. For Bill McDulin to have singled out Dorothy over everyone else seems…well, it seems like she must have been known by quite a few people. So without question, Dorothy and Reuben Jr. would have known each other, and not just to say “hello.” Reuben Jr. would have asked Dorothy about Henry and the kids, or sometimes he likely would’ve wanted to know “How are the orders coming in today, Dorothy?” Dorothy would have felt at ease with Reuben Jr. and could answer him honestly, without sugarcoating, even if the news was less than favorable. 

Reuben Jr. got his first taste of policymaking on the national stage in 1942, when he was asked to serve on the War Production Board. Although its name sounds as if it was a small group of men in suits sitting around a table and talking about war stuff, the War Production Board was an entire agency tasked with readying the country for WWII. The War Production Board was responsible for converting a variety of domestic manufacturing plants into weapons manufacturers. They’re the agency that coordinated the collection and recycling of aluminum, tin, rubber, steel, and other materials to be used for military purposes. For its part, the Champion Paper and Fibre Company had developed a paper substitute for the aluminum liner that went inside packs of cigarettes. They were brainstorming to that level of detail. And even though people today don’t normally think of foods like coffee and meat as commodities with implications for combat, the War Production Board did, and they formulated strict rules to ration certain foods to conserve resources.

But serving on the War Production Board didn’t stop Reuben Jr. from taking part in the war itself. He also enlisted. From 1942 to 1945, he was an officer in the Control Division of the Army Service Forces, advancing to lieutenant colonel by V-J Day. 

Shortly after Reuben Jr.’s return to Hamilton, the Champion Paper and Fibre Company experienced another musical-chairs-style shift in leadership. Logan Thomson died in 1946, and with his death, Reuben Sr. became president. Four years later, Reuben Jr. would be elected president of the company, and his father would be elevated to chairman of the board.

Even with Reuben Jr.’s added responsibilities in running the entire company, Washington continued to call. Over the next five years, he was asked by the Truman and Eisenhower administrations to serve in the following ways:

So, yeah. The people in the highest posts of all the land were interested in hearing what Reuben Jr. had to say. And…are you ready for this? In 1955, President Eisenhower asked Reuben Jr. to serve as deputy secretary of defense under Secretary Charles Wilson. Which. Was. Huge. Reuben’s company would continue to be in good hands while he was away, since Reuben’s father would take over as president in the interim.

Some have described the deputy secretary of defense as the secretary’s alter ego. The deputy secretary knows everything the secretary knows, including issues pertaining to national security. I would hasten to remind readers that the U.S. was now engaged in the Cold War, so there was a lot to know, national-security-wise. I would quickly add that, on an org chart, the deputy secretary is immediately below the secretary and above anyone else having to do with the Department of Defense (DoD), including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Research and Development Board, the heads of all the military branches, you name it. It was Reuben Jr.’s job to oversee the day-to-day matters involved with managing the largest agency in the federal government. Of course, he was a natural. 

Still, while he was in that awesomely important role at the DoD in the middle of the Cold War, Reuben Jr. would commute between Hamilton and D.C. by plane almost daily, according to a knowledgeable source. This was made possible thanks to an airstrip on his home property in Glendale, a small community about 12 miles from Hamilton. With that airstrip, plus the use of the company’s fleet of aircraft maintained at Lunken Airport, and Champion’s team of licensed pilots, Reuben Jr. could rub elbows with the nation’s top brass in the morning and still be home in time for dinner with wife Peggy and their six kids.

Oops, my bad. Did I neglect to mention that Reuben Jr. was an amazing husband and dad? Well, dude was an amazing husband and dad. There’s a photo in the company newsletter, The Log, in which he’s walking hand in hand with two of his children, who were dressed like a cowboy and a cowgirl, and he’s beaming away, dimples fully deployed. It’s so clear that Reuben’s children adored their father, just as Reuben’s employees adored their boss.

You may be wondering what papermaking could possibly have to do with the nation’s defense (other than the manufacture of paper liners for cigarette packs, that is). It had to do with the times they were living in. Back then, paper was—let’s see, I need to be careful not to overstate this—paper was everything. If someone from the DoD had an idea they wanted to put into motion, then they were going to need a sh*t-ton of paper to get that idea across to other people. It’s how the government communicated. It was how information was disseminated. After all, they didn’t earn the name “paper pushers” for nothing. Those ration books?  Paper. The Uncle Sam posters asking people to bring in their toothpaste and shaving cream tubes for the tin? Paper. And maps. Millions of paper maps. In an August 1995 article, Jim Blount, a former editor for the Hamilton Journal-News who was also a treasured local historian for many years, shared this information that he’d found in a Champion newsletter concerning the importance of paper during WWII:

“For army maneuvers in 1942 in the Carolinas, 95 tons of paper went into 4.5 million maps. Every soldier in that operation received 21 maps covering the 12,000-square-mile area. 

‘All ration cards and instructions must be printed on paper, and there is hardly a branch of this defense wherein paper is not used wholly or in part,’ noted The Log, a Champion publication. ‘It is necessary to plotting systems, giving instructions for air raid precautions, first aid instructions, communications and records of all kinds. Bonds, tax stamps, notes, orders, correspondence, even money itself is paper required by the Treasury Department, and the chances are that the bond you buy or the revenue stamp which is canceled on the can of tobacco is made by Champion.’

The 1942 article said ‘in this greatest of all wars in the history of mankind, there is needed for this year alone, 18 million tons of paper.’”

And that was just WWII. The United States needed paper during the Cold War too, for which 1950 was a banner year. On June 27, 1950, which happened to be Reuben Jr.’s 42nd birthday, the United States had entered the Korean War. On September 4, 1950, then-General Eisenhower—he wouldn’t be president until January 1953—kicked off Crusade for Freedom, a CIA-backed endeavor to raise funds for Radio Free Europe, which, at that time, was a U.S. propaganda tool based in West Germany. Even though it was said to be supported privately by everyday Americans, government dollars were also invested into the printing of stamps, posters, and leaflets by the millions. Some leaflets were used for fundraising at home and abroad. Others were dropped from balloons behind so-called Iron Curtain countries, such as East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, denouncing communism and advertising radio wavelengths and program schedules. Crusade for Freedom, which ran from 1950 to 1960, was a paper-palooza, and Champion Paper was there for it. Reuben Sr. oversaw the crusade’s two-state region of North and South Carolina. You can watch a 5-minute video on the Crusade for Freedom on C-Span’s Classroom program. 

There was talk that Reuben Jr. would become defense secretary after Charles Wilson stepped down, but Reuben wasn’t interested. He wanted to be more present for his family, and he tendered his resignation in 1957. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t still have an avid interest in defense. In 1955, the same year in which he started at the DoD, Reuben Jr. kicked off the Chapaco Council—“Chapaco” being the initial letters from the three words Champion, Paper, and Company—which was a series of retreats for company management at Lake Logan in North Carolina. The line-up of speakers was a mix of military might with big names in business, industry, higher education, and journalism.

Speakers representing the U.S. government for the five years in which the retreats were held were:

Reuben Jr. also hired some of the highest military and intelligence officials the country had to offer to work for Champion Paper and Fibre Company. Conversely, one man, Thomas D. Morris, would be propelled from Champion to the DoD. Here’s the list that I’ve been able to assemble of Reuben’s most decorated hires. To keep things brief, instead of including their entire resume, I included the last position(s) held before they made their career change.

  • Col. Kilbourne “Pat” Johnston
    • Assistant director of CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination, 1950-52
    • Champion Paper and Fibre in Texas, 1955
    • Champion Headquarters in Hamilton, 1957
    • Vice president of Champion Paper and Fibre, 1962
  • Thomas D. Morris
    • Director of management and planning, asst. to the president of Champion Paper, and Fibre 1958-60
    • Assistant secretary of defense 
      • Installations and Logisitics, Jan 29, 1961-Dec 11, 1964
      • Manpower and Personnel, Oct 1, 1965-August 31, 1967
      • Installations and Logistics, Sept 1, 1967-Feb 1, 1969
  • Col. Karl Bendetsen
    • Assistant secretary of the Army, 1950-52
    • Undersecretary of the Army, 1952
    • Vice president, Texas Division, Champion Paper and Fibre, 1955
    • Vice president of operations, Champion Paper and Fibre, Hamilton, 1957
    • Vice president, Champion Paper and Fibre, 1960 
  • Admiral Arthur Radford
    • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1953-1957
    • Consultant for Champion Paper and Fibre, 1957, Washington, D.C. office
  • Major General Frederick J. Dau
    • Assistant for materiel program coordination to the commander, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, August 1952
    • Deputy director of supply and services, WPAFB, November 1952
    • Director of supply and services, WPAFB, May l954
    • Awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest military award during peacetime, 1959
    • Accepted position at Champion Paper and Fibre, 1959

I’d challenge anyone to find a similarly elite cadre of military brass working together at one civilian business anywhere. I have to believe that Reuben Robertson, Jr., was the reason.

Look, there’s no easy way to tell you what happened next. In the early hours of Sunday morning, March 13, 1960, Reuben Jr. was driving home with his wife Peggy from a social engagement in Cincinnati. On a dark stretch of highway, the Robertsons were startled by a car that was sitting in the center lane, unable to move. According to an Associated Press account: “Robertson swerved his Cadillac, but he clipped the stalled car and grazed a passenger who was standing outside.” Evidently, the other car had run out of gas. Of course, Reuben got out of his car to talk to the people in the disabled vehicle, probably to find out if they were OK and to tell them that his insurance would cover the damage to their car. I wouldn’t be surprised if he also offered to bring them back some gas. Suddenly, a drunk driver came careening down the road and knocked into Reuben, throwing him 50 feet into the air. Reuben Buck Robertson, Jr., died almost instantly at the age of 51.

I’m sure you can imagine the news coverage. Everyone who knew him was devastated, including, I’m sure, Dorothy Craig. His memorial service was attended by dignitaries, Champion employees, and family and friends. A memorial issue of The Log was dedicated to his life and career. (I encourage you to download it so you can view all of the pictures.) Miami University’s Board of Trustees, of which Reuben Robertson had been a member since 1957, issued a statement on the loss of their friend and colleague. 

Oops, sorry. Did I neglect to mention that Miami University had known Reuben B. Robertson, Jr., quite well? My bad.


UPDATE: Two readers have asked for more details about the accident, wondering if its cause could have been more nefarious in nature. The driver of the car that killed Reuben Jr. was Willie Lee Griffin, age 31, of Rockdale Avenue, in Avondale, Ohio, which is part of Cincinnati. Oddly, he was only charged with drunk and reckless driving even though he killed someone. Vehicular manslaughter, a felony, was definitely a charge that could have been brought against him at that time. Later, in 1967, Ohio law divided the category into first and second degree vehicular manslaughter, with drunk and/or reckless driving considered to be first degree offenses, and therefore, still a felony. I don’t know why they didn’t hold him accountable for Reuben Jr.’s death.

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.