In 1987 three UFO investigators announced that they had proof of a secret group within the government that had conspired to keep the truth about extraterrestrial contact from the public.
The documentary filmmaker Jamie Shandera claimed that in December 1984 he had received two rolls of undeveloped 35-mm film in the mail. Once he developed the film, he discovered what appeared to be a briefing report to President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower from a group of twelve prestigious and top-secret investigators who worked under the code name of Operation Majestic-12. The document described details of the recovery, analysis, and official cover-up of the 1947 UFO crash outside of Roswell, New Mexico.
Within the report was a description of the four “humanlike beings” found near the wreckage of what had been determined to be a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft. The secret analysis of the beings acknowledged their humanlike appearance but concluded that “the biological and evolutionary processes responsible for their development has apparently been quite different from that observed or postulated in Homo sapiens.” According to these documents, all four of the entities were dead, and their corpses had been mutilated by desert scavengers and were badly decomposed due to exposure to the elements.
From what Shandera could ascertain, some unknown source had leaked the documents to him just a few weeks after the death of the last member of the “Majestic-12” group. To help him develop a more complete analysis of the papers that had somehow been delivered into his hands, Shandera enlisted the assistance of prominent UFO researchers William Moore and Stanton Friedman.
On June 14, 1987, at the 24th Annual National UFO Conference in Burbank, California, Shandera, Friedman, and Moore made public their investigations into what they purported to be documentary proof of a government cover-up of UFOs that began in 1947. According to the documents leaked to Shandera, the Majestic-12 (or MJ-12) group consisted of the following individuals:
Lloyd V. Berkener, known for scientific achievements in the fields of physics and electronics, special assistant to the secretary of state in charge of the Military Assistance Program, and executive secretary of what is now known as the Research and Development Board of the National Military Establishment.
Detlev W. Bronk, physiologist and biophysicist of international repute, chairman of the National Research Council, and member of the Medical Advisory Board of the Atomic Energy Commission.
Vannevar Bush, a brilliant scientist who served from 1947 to 1948 as chairman of Research and Development for the National Military Establishment.
Gordon Gray, assistant secretary of the army in 1947, secretary of the army in 1949.
Dr. Jerome C. Hunsaker, an aeronautical scientist and design engineer, chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
Maj. Gen. Robert M. Montague, Sandia base commander, Albuquerque, New Mexico, from July 1947 to February 1951.
Gen. Nathan F. Twining, commander of the Twentieth Air Force, whose B-29s dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In December 1945 he was named commanding general of the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field. In 1950 he became acting deputy chief of staff for personnel at air force headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Donald H. Menzel, director of the Harvard Observatory, long acknowledged as a leading authority on the solar chromosphere, and coformulator of the calculations that lead to initial radio contact with the moon in 1946.
James V. Forrestal, undersecretary, then secretary of the navy. In 1947 he became secretary of defense, coordinating the activities of all U.S. armed forces.
Rear Adm. Sidney W. Souers, deputy chief of Naval Intelligence before organizing the Central Intelligence Office in January 1946.
Hoyt S. Vandenberg, commanding general of the Ninth Air Force before being named assistant chief of intelligence in 1946. He was appointed the director of Central Intelligence in June 1946.
Rear Adm. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, the first director (May 1947 to September 1950) of the CIA, the permanent intelligence agency that evolved from the office organized by Sidney W. Souers.
Upon seeing the list of MJ-12’s alleged personnel, UFO researchers agreed that if a UFO had crashed and been recovered in Roswell in 1947, this was the kind of panel that could have accomplished a thorough investigation of the craft. All of these individuals had been at the top in their respective areas of expertise during the late 1940s and had the added benefit of high-level government experience.
The more skeptical investigators agreed that “Document A,” which purported to be a letter dated September 24, 1947, from President Harry S. Truman to Secretary of Defense Forrestal, appeared to be genuine—but they pointed out that even though Truman did refer to “Operation Majestic Twelve” in the letter, there was nothing clearly linking the group to UFO investigations.
Others questioned why Hillenkoetter, head of the CIA, listed as the briefing officer on the MJ-12 document, would remain quiet about the crashed flying saucer and the alien bodies when he became active in civilian UFO research in 1957.
The biggest shocker to longtime UFO researchers was the discovery of the name of Donald Menzel, the Harvard astronomer, on the MJ-12 list. Menzel was well known as a passionate debunker of flying saucers and the author of three anti-UFO books.
Stanton Friedman continues to investigate the MJ-12 enigma and strongly defends his original research and conclusions. Other investigators claim to have found supportive evidence in a secret memo from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, written as early as February 1944, in which he calls for a special committee on nonterrestrial science and technology and urges that group to face the reality that Earth is not the only planet harboring intelligent life in the universe. Some UFO researchers suggest that there was a crash of an extraterrestrial spaceship near Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 1941 that prompted astonished scientists to evaluate the potential in discovering such advanced technology.
In spite of defenders in the UFO research field, the authenticity of the MJ-12 documents remains highly suspect. Skeptical researchers have labeled them as clearly false and fraudulent, pointing out that a thorough search of the records of the Truman administration reveals no executive order for such a UFO investigative group. Researchers who have served in the military have stated that the clearest indication of a hoax lies in the many incorrect military terms used in these allegedly “official” documents, suggesting that the creators of the papers had never served in the armed forces.