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?

The book project

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In November 1935, Hull wrote this to Doc:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As in all of it.  

As in every last bit.  

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

Click on image for a closer view.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on image for a closer view.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a capital S.

And here’s a lower-case r. 

Let’s go!

Paragraph 1 – The transfer

Click on image for a closer view.

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

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

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

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

Click on image for a closer view.

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

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

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

Click on image for a closer view.

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

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

Paragraph 3 – The colonels 

Click on image for a closer view.

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

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

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

Major General Harry George Armstrong

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

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

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

So…there’s that.

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

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

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

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

So…there’s that too.

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

Click on image for a closer view.

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

Click on image for a closer view.

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

Click on image for a closer view.

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

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

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

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

Where have we seen that phrase before?  

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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.)

More evidence that St. Clair Switzer was on the CIA’s payroll

Plus a bonus puzzler: Let’s make a little history and break some CIA code

Have you had enough holiday yet? Same. You want to do something kinda wild during this down week before New Year’s? Me too.

Let’s break some CIA code.

The CIA code I’m referring to can be found on a large number of MKULTRA documents that have already been released to the public. According to Google, the project I’m proposing has never been done before. If we can do this—and I believe that we can—we’ll be ripping open a whole new portal into the top secret world of MKULTRA. 

You heard me right. Us. Remember us? The ones who, I believe, first put two and two together to reveal Commander Robert Jay Williams as the former project coordinator of Project ARTICHOKE? The first ones who let the universe at-large know about St. Clair Switzer’s MKULTRA connections? The ones who discovered—much to the consternation of the FBI—why they’d purged Ron Tammen’s fingerprints 30 years ahead of schedule? We’re qualified to do this. We’re credentialed. The good news is that we won’t even be starting at square one. I do believe I’ve figured out some of the code already. And the better news is that the code I’ve figured out tells me that St. Clair Switzer was indeed working for the CIA at some point of his career. They said so themselves. Let’s do this!


At an unknown point in time, one or more persons within the CIA had gone through every surviving MKULTRA document and, on many of them, had written a letter of the alphabet and sometimes an accompanying number alongside key places of redacted text. The alphabetical list isn’t very long. It starts with the letter A and ends with H.** To the best of my knowledge, only three numbers were used: 3, 6, and, on the rarest of occasions, 1.

The letters or letter-number combos appear to refer to a person who is employed by an organization, the organization as a whole, or, very generally, a place, be it domestic or international. The CIA categorizers, as we shall refer to them, probably did this because lots and lots of names are dropped in CIA memos. It’s useful to have some additional identifying information about who Joe Blow is and what his role is in the grand scheme of things. 

I don’t know who the intended audience is or was of this helpful, categorized information. The CIA staffers of the future? The guys and gals in the business wing at Langley who were keeping the books? (If you’ll recall, most of the MKULTRA docs had been destroyed in 1973, so the only surviving records originated with the people in accounting.) Given the CIA’s distaste for the Freedom of Information Act, I doubt very much that they were doing it to help out you and me. 

But therein lies the poetic justice in all of this: even as someone at the CIA was busily crossing out names and job titles and hometowns and whatnot, someone else at the CIA was actually offering up a clue into a certain person’s identity. Very, VERY cool of you, CIA. 

The puzzle

You know the letter that I believe was written by Louis Jolyon West to the CIA on February 6, 1957? In that letter, the man whom I believe to be Jolly West refers to another man who is spending the 1956-57 academic year helping him with his research. It was (I believe) West’s intention to create a hypnotic messenger during the summer of ‘57 and to have his eminently qualified helper, well, help him. And it’s my hypothesis that his helper was St. Clair Switzer, who was Ronald Tammen’s psychology professor the semester that Tammen disappeared.

At that point in our country’s history, the CIA and U.S. military wanted to learn as much as possible about interrogation techniques that could be used on prisoners of war, such as those involving hypnosis and drugs. They wanted to learn how they could elicit treasure troves of intelligence from POWs that the Americans had captured, and, conversely, how to ensure that American POWs wouldn’t give away the store to their captors. The interrogation aspect of the CIA’s mind control endeavors was known as Project ARTICHOKE, which was later broadened in scope beyond POWs. The creation of a hypnotic messenger—someone who could be hypnotized to deliver a detailed message of high sensitivity to an intended recipient without ever knowing what the message was—would’ve been right up the CIA’s alley back then. 

Let’s begin by reexamining that letter, which was mailed to the CIA’s Morse Allen to accompany the hypnotic messenger proposal. The author (who, again, I believe to be Louis Jolyon West) has the letter C written next to his blacked-out name. The letter-number written next to his associate’s name is H-B/6. If we could figure out the meaning of H-B/6, we could further strengthen, or weaken, our argument that Jolly West’s helper was St. Clair Switzer. 

Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view

After rereading a lot of MKULTRA documents—especially those pertaining to Project ARTICHOKE—and comparing notations from one document to the next, I think I’ve figured out the meaning of H-B/6. And (spoiler alert!) I believe that our argument has been strengthened. What’s more, I think I’ve found additional evidence to show that the CIA welcomed St. Clair Switzer to its cadre of hypnosis researchers with open arms.

The letters

The letters and letter-number combinations that the CIA uses throughout the MKULTRA documents, some more frequently than others, are as follows:














That list may not seem too terrible, but there’s a reason that (to the best of my knowledge) this project has never been attempted before by a layperson. Reading MKULTRA documents is always irritating. No one does it for fun.

The ones I think we know for sure

Let’s start with the easy letters—the meanings for which I’m 99.9% certain:

A is the Agency itself. Anyone with an A next to his or her name is employed by the CIA. It’s written next to a lot of important job titles in the “To” and “From” lines of a CIA memo, and it’s often written next to an author’s name at the bottom of a CIA-composed letter. It’s written next to the names of CIA staffers whose identities have been revealed—people like Morse Allen and Robert Jay Williams. It’s this simple: if you have an A next to your name, you, my friend, are in the CIA.

B, I believe, stands for a Business or Organization that conducts the type of research in which the CIA was especially interested. And, in the early to mid-1950s, the type of research that the CIA’s ARTICHOKE program was especially interested in pertained to hypnosis and drugs. As you can see on the February 6, 1957, letter, an address at the top right is blacked out and marked with a B, which is likely Jolly West’s business address. 

Here’s a table in which the letter B clearly signifies a Research Organization, versus C, which stands for…

C stands for Consultant. Anyone with a C next to their blacked-out name is employed by another entity, likely a university or research organization. They may be partially supported by the CIA through a grant or contract or some other temporary means for their expertise, although not everyone with a C was paid. Some offered up their expert opinions free of charge. In the February 6 letter, ostensibly, Jolly West was considered a C, but his workplace was categorized as a B.

F is for Foreign. The letter F is used to signify a country whose name has been redacted, sometimes as a location to conduct ARTICHOKE experiments or perhaps to denote other related overseas travel or consultation.

Clever, right? Our friends at the CIA came up with alphabetical shorthand that uses the first letter of the word it represents. I don’t know if that will apply to all of the categories, but it’s a nice way to start. As you can probably imagine, the letters A and C are by far the most frequently ones used in the ARTICHOKE documents.

The tougher ones

The Bs and Hs gave me the biggest trouble, since they appeared alone as well as with numbers. I also knew that the three main branches of the military were heavily involved in ARTICHOKE, but I was having difficulty identifying which branch might be represented by a corresponding letter. I won’t bore you with why I thought this, but for a while, I thought the B might mean Navy, the H might mean Air Force, and the G might be the Army. But that system didn’t play out in the documents.

Just an example of a confusing document; click on image for a closer view

And then I started to think like the bean counters in the CIA. You know what? If they can lump all the research orgs together, and they can lump all the consultants together, and they can lump everyone in the CIA together, then they can certainly lump all of the people in uniform together. I’d concluded that the B/3s and B/6s were part of the military because of their “tour of duty” and war talk and their inclination to measure hours in a day by the hundreds. That’s when I determined that B/3 meant a military base and B/6 meant an officer who is affiliated with a military base. As for the H that precedes the B/3s or B/6s, I figured out what that meant when I read the following two paragraphs from page 5 of a lengthy document in which the writer was kvetching about how no one, particularly researchers affiliated with the military, ever briefed him on any of their ARTICHOKE-related activities. Here are the two most awesome grafs:

So, now we know, and I just want to thank the CIA categorizers for practically handing us the working definitions of an H-B/3 and an H-B/6. H-B/3 ostensibly refers to a hospital or clinic on a military base and an H-B/6 ostensibly refers to an officer, and most likely a medical specialist, who is affiliated with a military base that has a hospital or clinic on site. A hospital on a military site would be considered a huge plus in conducting ARTICHOKE research. You, as an ARTICHOKE researcher, would be among friends. You wouldn’t have to hide what you’re doing nearly as much as if you were in a non-military hospital. 

Aaaaand, guess what? Wright-Patterson Air Force Base had just completed a 314-bed, 7-floor, state-of-the-art hospital facility in June 1956. So, yeah, if psychologist St. Clair Switzer was still active in the Air Force Reserves in 1957, and he very much was, and he was known in the hallways of Wright Patterson AFB, and he no-doubt was, then an H-B/6 next to his name would be apropos. I’d think that having an H-B/6 next to your name would be one of the more glowing attributes in the eyes of Morse Allen, the recipient of (ostensibly) Jolly West’s letter.

The ones that could use more research

Before I get to the most exciting part of this post, here are the categories that I’m still stuck on. If anyone has an inkling to visit The Black Vault’s MKULTRA collection to find occurrences of the following and to help figure out their meaning, I’d be grateful:

D – The March 25, 1952, letter that (ostensibly) refers to Clark Hull, St. Clair Switzer, and Griffith Williams, the Rutgers professor and hypnosis expert who’d also worked under Clark Hull, is studded with handwritten letter Ds. Because Ds weren’t used very frequently in the MKULTRA documents I’ve examined, I haven’t yet figured out a pattern. Perhaps it indicates referrals for consideration, but I don’t know. I don’t think it stands for drugs, since neither Clark Hull nor Griffith Williams had expertise in that area.

G – I think G stands for an internal group within the CIA, such as the gadgetry group mentioned in this memo. (Good Lord, do you think it stands for Gadgetry?) A letter for various separate internal groups makes sense if we’re considering the perspective of an Agency accountant. If they need to expend money from a specific line item for a designated group within the Agency, then that would be an important distinction.

H – I’m most stymied by the letter H when used on its own, with no B/3s or B/6s nearby. At one point I thought it represented hypnosis, but I don’t think so. When I noticed the blurb about the pilots, that’s when I thought it might mean the Air Force. But that would be weird to have a special designation for the Air Force and not the other military branches, wouldn’t it?This one definitely needs to be investigated further. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

B/1 (H-B/1) – I haven’t seen enough of this designation to ascertain how it differs from the B/3 and B/6 designations, but I think it’s probably similar. I don’t think it matters for our purposes though.

The most exciting part: why I think St. Clair Switzer was on the CIA payroll

In my blog post about how St. Clair Switzer spent his 1956-57 sabbatical, including the summer of 1957, I introduced two letters that I believe were written from St. Clair Switzer to his former colleague under Clark Hull, Griffith Williams. In the letters, Switzer is hoping to obtain guidance from Williams, who was, by then, an internationally recognized expert in the field of hypnosis.

Let’s have another look at those letters with our newfound knowledge.

Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view

As you can see, any references to Williams have a C attached to them—in CIA lingo, he was considered a Consultant. But in the December 6, 1956, letter, references to West and Switzer were bestowed with As. They were considered Agency. Curiously enough, in the February 8, 1957, letter, West and Williams were designated as Cs, while the letter writer, whom I believe to be St. Clair Switzer, was an A-lister once again.

You may ask: are you sure that it was Switzer who wrote the two letters? Couldn’t it have been Morse Allen? I honestly don’t think so. First, the letters aren’t written in Allen’s style. Allen wasn’t an academic. The two letters were written by someone who clearly was. His words, “We grant that the above list is long and that any item individually could well deserve a Ph.D thesis,” tells me that the writer held his own doctorate degree, and he was acknowledging that the recipient did as well. He’s comfortably collegiate. In addition, the letter writer is gracious and deferential, both to the recipient, who is unquestionably Williams, but also to the researcher with whom the writer is working. He uses the term “we” quite a bit. Morse Allen worked alone. There was no “we” when he wrote his letters and memos about ARTICHOKE. From what I’ve read, Morse Allen didn’t do gracious. Switzer was no sweetheart either, but he knew how to write as if he were.

If St. Clair Switzer was the letter writer, and I continue to believe that he was, then he wasn’t a wannabe sitting on the sidelines. Switzer was CIA, at least for part of his career. That’s big. I also think he was running in those circles for quite a while.


P.S.: This post came to be because of one person’s recent email asking a question about Lackland Air Force Base. His question led me back to the MKULTRA documents, which was when I started fixating on the H-B/6 notation. I’m not sure I would have tried to figure out its meaning without that email. So…thank you…to all of you, for your input. You really do contribute to this process and influence my thinking in new ways.


** Late in the process, I noticed a faint S at the top of several documents, and on one document to date, several Js and Es. These are the exceptions to the rule. I’m going to ignore them for this blog post, since they don’t pertain to the question at hand, but I acknowledge their existence. If you can figure out what in the heck they mean, let me know!

More evidence that St. Clair Switzer was involved in something in 1956-57 that he didn’t want to talk about

I’ll keep this short. 

I’ve been thinking more about St. Clair Switzer. 

You know how I have this theory that Doc Switzer was on a sabbatical in academic year 1956-57 with Louis Jolyon (Jolly) West, the world famous psychiatrist and MKULTRA researcher who was at the University of Oklahoma at that time? And you know how I also believe that Jolly West was the author of a February 1957 CIA research proposal seeking funding for himself and a visiting academic (Switzer, imo) who was “thoroughly familiar with hypnotism at the theoretical level” to create a hypnotic messenger that summer for use by the military?

Gosh, when I put it like that, it does seem a wee bit far-fetched, doesn’t it?

Well, I have a little more info to help back it up.

Don’t get too excited—it’s not that big. But it’s not nothing either.

We already know that Switzer had been granted permission for a sabbatical for that academic year. His original plans had been to work under psychophysiologist Marion A. (Gus) Wenger (no relation) at UCLA the prior year, but those plans had to be postponed. Everett Patten, chair of Miami’s psychology department, felt that he needed Switzer around to help with a curriculum change that was taking place at that time, and he suggested that Switzer’s sabbatical be pushed back a year. With this turn of events, Switzer checked with Wenger to see if the change was OK with him and Gus said that the new timeframe should still be fine. But in December 1956—three months into the 1956-57 academic year—Gus wrote to Switzer telling him that he’d decided to travel to India to study yogis instead. He offered a space for Switzer in September 1957, but, because Switzer’s sabbatical would have ended by then, that would be too late.

How do we know that Switzer found somewhere else to go?

We know that Switzer was definitely not working in Miami’s psychology department that year because his earnings sheet shows a total of $00 for the year 1956-57. Here’s the document:

Click on image for a closer view

The stray mark to the right of the “7” had first made me wonder if the earnings line for that year just hadn’t picked up enough inkjet toner, but I don’t think so. To me, it looks more like something had been written there but was erased. For this reason, I think it’s safe to conclude that Switzer made zero dollars and zippo cents that year from Miami.

That’s a little odd, since Clarence Kreger, Miami’s cantankerous provost, had informed Switzer that he could earn half his salary while on sabbatical. (These days, sabbaticals are usually fully paid, but times were different then.) (I feel like I say that a lot on this blog.) (I feel like I use parentheses a lot too.) Anyway, somehow, Switzer was able to make ends meet without needing that little boost. He was out of the office all year, including the summers of 1956 and 1957.

Click on image for a closer view

How do we know that he was gone during the summers too?

We know it because Switzer was a self-promoter. If there was an achievement that he wanted other people to know about, he’d alert one of the local rags, especially the easier ones to get into, like the Miami Student or the Oxford Press. This was especially true when he was an assistant professor in the 1930s. Often the hard-hitting news blurbs were about prize money he’d won for an ad or slogan he’d submitted in a contest, which he did frequently as part of his business psychology course. If he spent the summer doing something prestigious-sounding—like the time he’d worked with prisoners at Northeastern Penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA—you can bet that Switzer would make sure it was brought to the attention of fellow faculty members, administrators, and the surrounding Oxford community. Promotions received, degrees earned, joining the war effort, returning from the war effort—he liked to have such things documented. (As a historical researcher, I’m not opposed to this practice.) 

Later on, as his extracurricular activities became more, um, stealth, he reined in his need for newsprint. 

During the year of his sabbatical, Switzer found two occasions to show off a little for the folks at home. In August 1956, an article appeared in one of the local papers announcing that Switzer had returned from a “tour of duty” at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado. (According to his military records, his tours of duty averaged 15 days.) During that visit, he’d helped develop the psychology curriculum for the new Air Force Academy, which had been temporarily located there while the permanent school was being constructed in Colorado Springs. A year later, a much shorter article was published saying that he’d just returned home after spending three more weeks at the Air Force Academy. 

What I’m trying to say here is that Switzer had been on a sabbatical for roughly 64 weeks, yet we only get to know what he did for five or six of those weeks. Whatever he was doing between the two Augusts, he wasn’t saying. And trust me, if Switzer was ever presented with the chance to boast about his accomplishments, he seized it. If he’d spent the year conducting psychophysiological research in Gus Wenger’s lab, the world would have heard about it. 

It was uncharacteristic for him to be so tight-lipped in those circumstances, which leads me to wonder if he used the second news item to bookend his time away. Maybe then people wouldn’t ask questions about all that time in between.

How did he manage to find a spot with Louis Jolyon West so soon after Gus Wenger let him down?

This is where the timeline gets murky. Gus Wenger’s letter was dated December 1, 1956, and by the sound of it, it was late in coming. 

“Dear Doc, I have been meaning to write you for some time about our plans,” he said. He then proceeded to describe a number of monkey wrenches that had been thrown into their original arrangements while offering an alternative date that was much too late.

The letter was addressed to Switzer’s office in the Department of Psychology, which Switzer surely wasn’t occupying by then. The department secretary would’ve probably forwarded the letter to Switzer’s home address, but that would have taken even more time away from his eroding sabbatical.

It’s possible that Switzer was biding his time at Wright Patterson as he waited on Wenger. But patience isn’t exactly a virtue that I would ascribe to St. Clair Switzer. Sometime after returning from Colorado, I can see him giving up on the prospect of spending a year in California and seeking assistance from his highly decorated contacts with the Air Force. By late fall, I think they’d put him in touch with Jolly West.

You’ve already seen the letter that I believe Switzer had written to a colleague he knew from his Clark Hull days, Griffith W. Williams, who was then at Rutgers. That letter, dated December 6, 1956, had been a follow-up to a discussion that had taken place between the three hypnosis experts, likely over the phone, on November 27. 

Here it is again:

Document provided with thanks to The Black Vault at https://www.theblackvault.com/
Document provided with thanks to The Black Vault at https://www.theblackvault.com/

By the time Wenger finally wrote to Switzer on December 1 saying “no can do,” I think Switzer had already moved on.

How about you—what do you think? 

A rift between friends: Did Doc Switzer and Everett Patten have a falling out?

Well hello there! Good to see you. As you may know, we’re currently awaiting word from Miami University officials regarding the two remaining Oral History Project recordings that weren’t posted to the university’s bicentennial website back in 2009. We’re especially interested in the recording that was ostensibly titled “Miami Hockey Coaches,” since our running theory is that there really isn’t a recording of Miami hockey coaches at all, but rather a tape of Carl Knox’s former secretary that had been mislabeled. As soon as I receive their response, no matter what it is, I have a blog post all raring to go. Here’s a sneak peek at the three possible headlines:

A. Amazing news: Miami U has just released the recording of Carl Knox’s former secretary; OR

B. Miami U found the tape. It really is just a bunch of hockey coaches; OR

C. Miami U can’t produce the hockey coach tape. Here’s why that’s a very big deal.

So, that’ll be fun, even if it turns out to be Option B, which is clearly the least thrilling one. (Sorry, Miami hockey coaches, but we’re on a mission here. Maybe under different circumstances, we’d be more interested in hearing your tales of puck hoisting, flip passing, sweep checking, and whatnot, but now’s just not that time.) 

In the meantime, let’s talk a little more about St. Clair Switzer and Everett Patten, the two heavyweights in Miami’s psychology department when Ron Tammen was a student. As you’ll recall, both men had studied under the eminent psychologist Clark Hull and both had expertise in hypnosis. Doc Switzer was Ron’s general psychology professor during both the fall and spring semesters of 1952-1953, though, for whatever reason, Ron had dropped his course both times. Patten, who’d been teaching psychology courses at Miami for roughly 30 years by then and had served in its highest post for 20 of those years, was also a familiar face in the corridors of old Harrison Hall. Based on everything that I’ve read, Patten and Switzer had gotten along well. 

In the early days of their association, the dynamic between Patten and Switzer was one of mentor and student. Patten was seven years older than Switzer. In 1924, as Switzer was beginning his undergraduate courses at Miami, Patten was an assistant professor there. He’d completed his master’s degree under Hull at the University of Wisconsin and would soon be working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. It’s a near certainty that Patten had talked Hull up to his promising protégé. And in 1928, when Switzer had decided he’d like to pursue his master’s degree under Hull too, I’m sure Patten wrote to Hull on Switzer’s behalf enthusiastically recommending him as a graduate student. 

If it hadn’t been for Everett Patten, St. Clair Switzer likely wouldn’t have encountered Clark Hull, let alone been able to hitch his wagon to Hull’s luminous star. 

By the early 1930s, Switzer’s relationship with Hull appeared to be growing closer than Patten’s had been, which seemed to alter the dynamic between Patten and Switzer. While Patten had only worked with Hull for his master’s degree, Switzer had earned his master’s with Hull and was now working with him for his doctorate too, this time at Yale. Though Patten had continued to correspond frequently with Hull and performed experiments for him at Miami, Switzer was on the receiving end of more in-person Hull time. There would be regularly scheduled tête-à-têtes; impromptu pop-ins; and the occasional bonding over breakfasts, brown bag lunches, dinners, and post-Prohibition drinks with Hull and his stellar cadre of graduate students. Switzer was playing in the big leagues now and it appeared to be going to his head. 

Such was the backdrop in March 1934, as Hull and his team were still riding high on the recent publication of his book Hypnosis and Suggestibility, that Switzer typed a letter to Patten on cream-colored Yale letterhead. In the space of three pages, he exudes unbridled arrogance as he first discusses an experiment that he and Hull would like Patten to conduct for them—an experiment for which Patten had needed some additional clarification.

“Dear Pat,” Switzer opened, “When your letter arrived this morning the boss and I decided that it was time for us to go into a huddle and find out where we had confused you on the program of running subjects.” 

I mean, it’s not quite “Pat, Pat…What were you thinking?”, but it’s close. He then explains step-by-step what he and Hull needed Patten to do for them. 

Switzer gets even higher and mightier on page 2, when he broaches one of his favorite subjects: money. At that time, psychology at Miami was part of the Philosophy and Psychology Department, with Everett Patten heading up the psychology side. (Psychology became its own department in 1943.) Patten was the person who’d granted Switzer leave to pursue his Ph.D. at Yale. Now, Switzer is informing him that a professor in philosophy, W.W. Spencer, and President Upham had been discussing Switzer’s possible return between themselves, sans Patten. Spencer had expressed interest in having Switzer teach a course in logic on top of his psychology courses, and Upham was in favor. Here’s where Switzer makes his big ask:

“So I’m anxiously waiting to hear what [President Upham] has to offer in the way of salary. If you have a talk with prexy [a nickname for a university president that I’d never heard of before St. Clair Switzer came into my life] I hope you’ll try to persuade him that I’m worth not a cent less than $2000, and more if possible! Also, as I have held the position and rank of instructor here you might suggest the rank of associate there. I know that I’m not likely to get these things, but there is a possibility and now is the time to take advantage of it. I feel that if I’m worth $2500 to Yale I must have at least an equal value for Miami, but there’s no use trying to get it. However, I like Miami and I like to work with you, and I like to teach psychology, so I’m willing to pass up some things to come back.”

Seriously, St. Clair? His ballsiness and fake modesty all smushed into a single paragraph is bizarre. But I think my biggest beef is with his use of an exclamation point when making a salary request. Who does that? It’s important to note that the $2000 figure is actually $300 less than what he was earning as an assistant professor before he left Miami for Yale. But this was the Great Depression, and Miami had been cutting salaries, not handing out raises. His request to be promoted to an associate—as in an associate professor—at this stage in his career is laughable, even back then when the rules were a little more relaxed than they are today. As it turns out, Miami offered him a salary of $2100. As for the promotion to associate professor, Switzer wouldn’t get that until 1939.

Here’s a little more of what Switzer had to say to his boss and former mentor further on in his letter: “I’ve been terribly busy during the last two weeks trying to put the finishing touches on my dissertation. Boy, am I anxious to get things finished and get back and have a look at you again. It certainly will be great to sit across the desk from you again—if I may have my old desk back again.”

I mean, we’re all adults here. We’re able to discern a load of disingenuousness when we hear it, right? Despite Switzer’s supposed eagerness to have a look at Patten from across their shared desk in the west tower of old Harrison Hall, I’ve learned from other letters he’d written over the same period that he was upset at how tight money had become in Oxford. He’d been putting his feelers out elsewhere. A month earlier, he’d attempted to secure a fellowship from the National Research Council so that he could work at Stanford alongside fellow Yale graduate Ernest “Jack” Hilgard, thus bolstering his research credentials and opening up new doors to who knows where. A month after he wrote his letter to Patten, he applied for a job in the Office of Industrial Relations at Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati. But the fellowship didn’t pan out and neither did P&G and, by September 1934, he was back at Miami, staring at Patten’s pencil mustache and receding hairline from across their communal desk. 

Whether Switzer was happy about returning to Miami or not, Patten had come through for him once again.

But that was Patten’s management style. He aimed to keep his staff happy while also meeting the demands of tuition-paying students. Switzer, who didn’t seem to relish the part of academia that involved teaching—he liked doing research far better—was always on the look-out for prestigious side gigs, particularly those having to do with the federal government, the U.S. military, or both. Usually, the opportunities were temporary, summers mostly, and Patten could be counted on to lend his support.

During World War II, Switzer left the psychology department for a much longer period than normal, although he wasn’t alone. Many professors at the university joined the armed services. In June 1942, he signed up to work in test development at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. By August, he was commissioned as an officer in clinical psychology for the U.S. Army Air Forces, and there he remained for 3 ½ years, continually advancing in leadership posts all the way up to his role as chief of demobilization procedures at U.S. Army Headquarters in Washington, D.C. When the war was over, he returned to Oxford in December 1945, yet he still didn’t return to the psychology department. Instead, he worked as chief vocational appraiser for returning GIs in the Veterans Administration Guidance Center at University Hospital. Not until the fall of 1948-49 did he return full-time to the Department of Psychology to teach some courses. 

Think about that—Switzer was away for over six years and he still had a job to come back to. 

Switzer’s career continued to flourish thanks in large part to Patten’s benevolence and accommodating nature. In the post-WWII years, Switzer would continue to periodically request leave from his departmental responsibilities whenever Uncle Sam sought his services as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves. He made himself available for other opportunities as well, including briefly working as a consultant for the Air Research and Development Command in Baltimore in 1951. If, as I strongly believe, he was approached in 1952 to help out the CIA with their interrogation endeavors, aka Project ARTICHOKE, I’m sure he went all in with that effort too.

We already know what happened in the spring of 1953. Doc Switzer was back to teaching full-time in the classroom when a student of his—Ron Tammen—disappeared after dropping Switzer’s course for a second time that year. It probably irked old Doc that Ron had left his psychology book open on his desk before disappearing, since it brought some unwanted attention his way. He was questioned by investigators, though if he knew anything, the information he provided was never made public. Likewise, Switzer’s name never made it into news articles concerning the Tammen case. Instead, it was his old friend and mentor, Everett Patten, who would occasionally speak to reporters (particularly those reporters who were affiliated with the university) on the topic of Ron Tammen and why Miami was leaning so hard toward amnesia as the most likely reason Ron disappeared.

The tl;dr of all of the above is that Everett Patten had Switzer’s back for as long as he was in a position of power at Miami, and he proved it over and over and over.

In 1961, Everett Patten stepped down as department chair, recommending that Switzer be named to replace him. For a long time, I was bemused by that move. Why would he step down as department chair but not retire at the same time?

I think I know now. It had to do with the university’s retirement policy back then. In 1960, Patten had turned 65, the age at which the university required that a faculty member’s tenured appointment be converted to an annual appointment (which is insane and no longer the case). He would then have the opportunity to work an additional five years, with his appointment being renewed each year until he reached the age of 70, at which time he would be required to retire.

But Patten had a slight advantage. The university’s cut-off date was July 1, so if a person turned 65 by that date, their tenured appointment ended June 30 of the current academic year. But Patten was born on July 7, which meant that he could work through another entire academic year—until June 1961—before being switched over to an annual appointment. Likewise, even though he’d be turning 70 on July 7, 1965, he could feasibly work until June 1966 before mandatory retirement. It’s confusing, and this paragraph took me an embarrassing amount of time to write, but it’s important for this story. Just hang with me, people!

So the short answer is that in 1961, Patten was preparing to change over to an annual appointment. He couldn’t serve as chair of a department without knowing where he’d be from year to year, could he? So he stepped down and got his long-time colleague, St. Clair Switzer, to take over for him while he would continue teaching until he’d finally retire.

But retirement is a complicated prospect. The word itself sounds so old and exhausted. (I think it’s the root word “tire” that brings everyone down so much.) I’ll never forget the time I was stewing about my own early retirement with two friends over lychee martinis and dim sum near Dupont Circle. One of them looked at me and said very matter-of-factly, “Don’t think of it as retirement, think of it as rewirement.” Which is brilliant, right? Think of it as a chance to do the stuff that you never had the chance to do before because you never had the time—like dive into the Ron Tammen case, for example. So yeah! Rewirement, baby!

Man, I could really go for some dim sum right about now; Photo by K8 on Unsplash

Unfortunately, Everett Patten didn’t have the pleasure of meeting my friends over lychee martinis when he was at his crossroads. He was harboring different thoughts. According to university documents, Patten first thought he might like to retire in June 1964 because of “ill health,” and he told Switzer as much. Switzer actually told him to think it over a little more, and Patten indeed changed his mind and decided to retire in June 1965.  Switzer agreed. But then, Patten must have remarked to one or more people that he was considering making use of the July 1 cut-off and retiring in June 1966. When Switzer found out, he wasn’t having it. Instead of talking with Patten one-on-one, he wrote a letter to acting President Wilson, telling him:

“Dear Ray: I notified Dean Limper several months ago that I plan to terminate Professor Patten’s appointment as of June 1965. Technically, he would be eligible for an additional year since his 70th birthday falls on July 7, 1965, one week after the official deadline. However, for reasons which I have outlined to Dean Limper, it seems that the best interests of the department will be furthered by termination of his appointment next June.”

Later on, he says: “I have not yet informed him of my decision to relieve him of his duties next year (June 1965), since I’m hoping that he will make this choice himself. However, it has come to my attention from other sources that he now hopes to invoke the technicality of his 70th birthday falling one week after July 1, 1965 to request an extra year. In this case I shall have the unpleasant task of refusing this request.”

And he ends with this:

“I thought you should have these notes for your file in the event that he should appeal my decision. I can only say in advance that under no circumstances would I alter this decision.”

In a follow-up memo to the president, several months later, he wrote:

“My decision to ask for termination of his appointment in June is based on consideration of the best interests of the Department of Psychology. I have explained to Dean Don James some of the reasons that impelled me to this decision.”

That memo was dated December 28, 1964, and on January 7, 1965, Everett Patten submitted his resignation to acting President Charles Wilson at the request of Dean Don James. It was short, but painful.

“Dear Ray: In order to comply with your request, transmitted to me by Dean Don James, I hereby tender my resignation from the Miami University Staff, this to take effect June 30, 1965. Sincerely, E.F. Patten.” (President Wilson’s reply is lovely and deserves a read.)

Sorry, but I can’t tell you why Switzer had taken his harsh stance against his former boss and mentor who had helped him get to where he was in life. Switzer made a point of not putting his reasons in writing. I will say this: I don’t know what the health issue was that was affecting Patten in 1964,  but it’s my understanding that the health issue that Patten died of in September 1966 happened quickly. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that his brain was deteriorating or that he was somehow showing worrisome signs of aging. In February 1963, 1½ years before Switzer wrote his letter to President Wilson, Patten had joined on with other psychology professors in the tri-state area to form a behavioral science firm. That doesn’t sound like someone who was slipping.

I’ve wondered if perhaps Ron Tammen’s disappearance might have had something to do with it. Had Patten put two and two together and asked Switzer if perhaps he’d orchestrated it? 

I don’t know, but something must have set him off.


Correction: Letters that I’ve rediscovered between Switzer and Pres Upham indicate that Switzer was offered $2100 to return to Miami from Yale, not $2160. I’ve made the change.

The second man, part 2: a Friday-night document drop

Good evening, dear AGMIHTF readers. Tonight I’ll be dropping three historic documents for your perusal. Please be advised: the forthcoming document drop will not be answering any major questions. Rather, these documents are more corroborating in nature. But, hey, corroboration is a good thing too, right? In fact, imho, there’s nothing quite like a little corroboration to get the weekend off to a half-decent start.

Tonight’s documents have to do with Richard Delp. As I explained two blog posts ago (and for those of you who are keeping score at home, that was post #79. Can you believe we’re now at #81?!), Richard Delp was an assistant professor in psychology who, for whatever reason, was listed in the number two spot of three professors in Carl Knox’s notes concerning Ron Tammen’s disappearance. 

Here’s a quick refresher from that post:

In October 1952, Richard Delp had been called onto the carpet by an unidentified supervisor, most likely department chair Everett Patten, to discuss his lack of a Ph.D., a crucial thing for someone in his position to have. He was given until the end of the 1953-54 academic year to finish his thesis, otherwise, his job would be in jeopardy. 

In a follow-up report of the conversation, the supervisor described admonishing Delp thusly: “I pointed out to him that he was now in his third year as an assistant professor, that the probation period was from two to four years, and that if he didn’t have his Doctor’s degree by the end of 1953-54, the question of his retention might arise.”

For those of you who are still keeping score at home, the end of academic year 1953-54 would be sometime in late May or early June of 1954, depending on whether or not you’re counting finals week in your calculations. Therefore, Delp had been given roughly 20 months in which to double down on getting his doctorate degree. Twenty months sounds totally doable, but it’s not realistic. Since Delp had such a taxing teaching schedule, and since he was pursuing his degree at Ohio State, he did most of his graduate work in the summers. Essentially, he had one summer—the summer of 1953—to get everything done.

He didn’t.

Most people would guess that Delp’s job in psychology would have come to an abrupt end, but that’s not what happened. A one-page administrative sheet documenting his salary and promotions while in the psychology department said that, in 1954, not only didn’t he receive a pink slip, but he received tenure. 

This concludes the refresher.

In academia, tenure is a prestigious perk that assures a professor that, unless they do something egregious, their job will always be safe. It’s a big deal. In order for Richard Delp to receive tenure, his nomination would have to be approved by the president of the university—who was Dr. John Millett—and the Board of Trustees, which met every year at the end of the spring semester. But at that level, the list is pretty much rubberstamped. The more in-depth conversations would have taken place earlier in the year with the provost, Dr. Clarence Kreger; the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Dr. W.E. Alderman; and of course, the chair of the psychology department, Dr. Everett Patten.

So I wondered: were university administrators a little more lenient back then? I don’t know much about Dean Alderman, but I’ve read about how Kreger operated, and he was legendarily tough as nails. It wasn’t a secret that he intimidated people—a lot—Everett Patten being one of those people. How could Patten have convinced Kreger that Delp should be rewarded with tenure when his job performance in 1954 was so lackluster and he still didn’t have his Ph.D.? Was the one-sheeter accurate? I mean, look at it. It’s a mimeographed form with notations hand-scrawled in ink or pencil lead. It hardly looks like an official document. However, I’d seen records on professors in other departments, and they had the same penned-in forms. It seemed to be factual, but I wanted to be sure.

I went back to the university. The Board of Trustees meetings are posted on Miami’s Digital Collections, so I located the one that seemed to be the most promising contender for granting Delp’s tenure: June 4, 1954. However, when I read the minutes, I discovered that the handouts containing the names of the employees who were being voted on weren’t included online. I submitted a public records request to Miami’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC), asking if they still had them, and if so, could I have a copy.

Yesterday, the OGC sent me a scanned copy of the handout.

Document #1: Board of Trustees handouts – June 4, 1954

Two things jumped out at me: Not only did Richard Delp indeed receive tenure on June 4, 1954 (see page 7), but he’d been on leave during the spring semester of that year as well (see page 1).

So it all boils down to this:

  • In October 1952, Richard Delp is warned that he has until the end of the 1953-54 academic year—by June 1954—to get his Ph.D., and he promises to ask his thesis adviser and others at Ohio State how he can do that. 
  • Except for the year he took off from Miami to work full-time on his doctorate degree, Delp was mainly commuting to Ohio State during the summers to work on his Ph.D.
  • The only summer between October 1952 and June 1954 was the summer of 1953. But Delp didn’t register for graduate work at Ohio State that summer.
  • Also, he took time off from teaching during the spring of 1954, though we don’t know why. Perhaps he was writing his thesis, but, if so, he never defended it. He never registered for graduate work at Ohio State after summer 1951.
  • June 4, 1954, Richard Delp is approved for tenure by Miami’s Board of Trustees.
Richard Delp’s transcripts from Ohio State University. He never attended after summer 1951.

I may be wrong, but I think something happened between October 1952 (when Richard Delp was warned to get his Ph.D.) and June 1953 (when he should have been enrolled in graduate work at Ohio State) to make Richard Delp think that his position was safe with the Department of Psychology.

Documents 2&3: Men’s Disciplinary Board nomination

The other two documents I’m dropping tonight were written in August 1956, when Richard Delp was invited to sit on the Men’s Disciplinary Board, a board by which male students who veered outside the university’s rules were dealt with accordingly. Delp felt conflicted about sitting on the board, and he wrote to Kreger to explain why. Mainly, it was because Delp had been informally counseling students and he felt that assuming the two roles—informal counselor and disciplinary board member—would be problematic.

Dr. Kreger was not pleased. The next day, he wrote Delp, telling him that he wasn’t aware that Delp was acting in that role, and adding: “If you have assumed a personal counseling function which is taking a sufficient amount of your time to interfere with intellectual growth and scholarly productivity, I think we ought to know about it.” In a postscript, he reminded Delp that any extra time should be devoted to working on his Ph.D. instead. Kreger invited Delp in for a meeting, though I don’t know if it took place. I do know that Delp served as a member of the Men’s Disciplinary Board for academic year 1956-57 and possibly the following year as well.

My point is this: Clarence Kreger was definitely not a softie and the fact that Delp still didn’t have his Ph.D. in 1956 did not escape his notice. I just wish I knew what convinced Kreger and all the others to nominate Delp for tenure in 1954.

Again, I’m just putting the question out there. If you have thoughts/comments/questions, please feel free to DM me or write rontammenproject@gmail.com. Have a great weekend, everyone.