Jeb is reading a Clive Cussler book I got him got him for Christmas called Mirage and told me about a historical event described in the first chapter. Cussler typically begins his stories with semi-historical events. Which is to say, they’re mostly true but something, either a name or a date, has been changed in order that he might either take fictional license about it or (and this is typical for both historical and sci-fi writers) to talk about something true that isn’t condoned to be talked about factually by the powers that be.
Either way, it sounded like a Bermuda Triangle event and the ship in it sounded exactly like the USS Eldridge, destroyer class, number 173. In fact, the picture on the cover had the number 173 visible on it but the name was blurred out. Cussler called it the USS Mohican.
The real-life USS Eldridge pulled its fancy disappearing act in the Philadelphia experiment of 1943, aka Project Rainbow. The USS Mohican really existed too, but I don’t know about its number. It was a Civil War ship, a wooden 3-master, decommissioned long before the Eldridge was ever launched. The USS Mohican in the book, however, was doing a USS Eldridge in 1902.
Curious about how Cussler was juggling his historical facts with his fiction, we decided to Google USS Mohican destroyer number 173. What came up puzzled us both: USS Eldridge (DE-173) on Wikipedia. After listing the ship’s history, which didn’t include any mention of Philadelphia or certain other things I know about the ship. The information appeared seriously juggled, and not just by Clive Cussler.
So I looked up the Philadelphia experiment proper and found more cut off and juggled information.
I should mention here that back in the 1990s, I stumbled across an old book at a some sale or other that described the Philadelphia experiment in great detail, even to the dates, with only the names of people and places being changed, except for a few key ones. I recognized many of these details from a book I’d read back in the 1970s by Charles Berlitz. Back then, there was almost nothing known about the experiment to the general public. Berlitz’s mention of it was barely more than a paragraph, but I’d remembered it and been instantly fascinated.
I was even more fascinated to find notes in the margin and a name inscribed inside the cover: Morris Jessup. I figured Morris was just the previous owner of the book, but several years later when I was finally able to search information on the internet (somewhere between 1994-1997), I looked his name up out of curiosity and found more than I’d bargained for. Way more, as you will see if you look it up yourself.
The book, aside from describing the experiment, also described it’s terrible effects on the sailors involved as well as the institutionalization of many of the survivors. Some few without physical dammage appeared to be suffering some extreme form of PTSD, but others, not so much. Their failing was only that they wanted to talk about what had happened to them. They were shut up in mental institutions anyway. As for Morris Jessup, possibly the very guy that had made the notes in the book’s margin, he appears to have died from a case of hostile assisted “suicide.”
Some of the notes were names and dates. I couldn’t figure out what they all meant, but the names appeared to be alternate names of the characters in the book – two of them at least: Al Bielek and Duncan Cameron.
The names turned out to be that of a pair of sailors that survived the Philadelphia Experiment. Brothers… sort of. It’s complicated. I’m not going to try to explain it here. Dig it if you’re curious. I dug a lot and talked to a lot of people including the nurse of a man named Carlos Miguel Allende, who’d recently passed away. Carlos, she said, had claimed to have witness the USS Eldridge’s vanishing and reappearance from the deck of the merchant mariner he was on at the time. She also told me that his real name was Carl Allen and that he’d taken the Hispanic form of the name just because he thought it sounded more romantic. He was not in fact Hispanic.
Anyway, the thing is, if the experiment actually happened as it sounds like it did, a great deal of effort went into shushing it up.
In late 1997, having told a coworker in the shipping department at Microsoft about the book, I then loaned it to him so he could see for himself. It was a really good story one way or the other. Unfortunately, my assignment there ended before I got my book back. It was an 11-month temp assignment, you see. Microsoft had this policy – or the agency did (not sure which) that if a temp worked there for a year, they’d have to hire them on permanently. So they were ending my assignment and planned to bring me back a month later. Meanwhile, I’d started working for Aerojet, which seemed intent on keeping me and was treating me very well, so I declined their offer of taking me back. But I lost my book in the process. Wish I could at least recall the name of it. Maybe I can find it again somewhere.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a lot of information available about it and no longer much effort to hid it, especially after Hollywood, well, Hollywoodized the story in a couple of sequential movies. The movie version wasn’t half as weird as the things that really appeared to have happened, but still… My surprise was that the Naval sources were suddenly back-peddling and denying it ever happened or even could have happened.
Why? The cat’s already out of the bag, so what’s the point?
I asked that of Jeb, laughing, and he said something to the effect of, “They always cover it up.”
He had a point there, so I told him about an incident back in my early college days, 1981 or thereabouts, when I experienced an odd sign of that being done.
Being in a political science class, I’d gone to the library to look up some old newspapers and magazines stored on microfiche. I can’t recall what exactly I was looking for, but serendipitously, I found articles about “The Pentagon Papers” instead. I hadn’t heard of them before but read the several articles with growing fascination. This Daniel Ellsberg had leaked information about deliberate war crimes perpetrated in Vietnam war during the Johnson administration with the express purpose of enlarging the war while all the while this administration lied to the American people and Congress about it. He’d photocopied it and given it straight to the newspapers as proof of that.
When they finally caught up with Ellsberg… Hm. There was something about his being institutionalized and labeled as crazy. They were calling him crazy, shutting him away, and saying he’d manufactured everything the papers had gotten from him.
Wikipedia just says this about it: “For his disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage and theft of government property, but the charges were later dropped after prosecutors investigating the Watergate Scandal soon discovered that the Nixon administration had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.”
Not quite what the articles of the day had said, but then I hadn’t read much past his capture at that time because the library was getting ready to close. Frustrated, I took my index cards with the microfiche numbers written on them up to the library and asked when I could come back to get copies of the articles, having at that point decided on the Pentagon Papers as the subject of my political essay.
Getting copies from microfiche wasn’t self-service like printing articles off computers is today. No. Not there anyway. You had to get the librarian to do it for you.
I came back the next morning to collect my articles only to find that every last one and all of the references to them had been removed. The librarian even went so far as to claim she couldn’t even recall my having asked about them… and why would I have when they didn’t exist? The microfiche numbers I had were no longer valid.
I was baffled. Had someone really spent the night removing all that so I wouldn’t write a college paper about it? How ridiculous! But I was still married to the Iranian at the time. We hadn’t yet gone to Iran and he hadn’t yet shown his true colors, but he was insisting vehemently that it wasn’t at all ridiculous. What other explanation could there be?
“See? They shut you up,” Jeb said me after I told him about all that. “You didn’t write about it after all, did you?”
I hadn’t. I been reading far too avidly to take notes. It would have been far too lacking in detail and references to do a proper job of.
Meh. It’s too ridiculous. But I guess that doesn’t mean it definitely can’t or won’t happen.
Grumbling to myself (hey, it was a rough day!), I Googled The Pentagon Papers and found this at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_Papers:
“The Pentagon Papers, officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, is a United States Department of Defense history of the United States‘ political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers were discovered and released by Daniel Ellsberg, and first brought to the attention of the public on the front page of The New York Times in 1971. A 1996 article in The New York Times said that the Pentagon Papers had demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress.“
More specifically, the papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scale of the Vietnam War with the bombings of nearby Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, none of which were reported in the mainstream media.
For his disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage and theft of government property, but the charges were later dropped after prosecutors investigating the Watergate Scandal soon discovered that the Nixon administration had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.
In June 2011, the entire set of the Pentagon Papers were declassified and publicly released for the first time in history.”
I posted this here on the off chance that some goes and removes it from the site I found it on just because I found it. That would be patently ridiculous but the ridiculous does sometimes happen, especially if there’s government involved.
So if you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know what happened.
Have you ever experienced something odd like this where you felt someone might be trying to shut you up or discredit you?