By Billy CoxMaybe it was inevitable - given as how conflict had been hammered into his consciousness since the U.S. occupation of Vera Cruz in 1914 - that Douglas MacArthur would frame his farewell address to West Point in apocalyptic terms.
The old Army general went head-to-head with some of the 20th-century's biggest militarists (Kaiser Wilhelm, Tojo, Chairman Mao); surely, his 1962 warning to cadets about an "ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy" was a glib metaphor.
Except for a niggling little controversy that won't go away. And on the 36th anniversary of the termination of Project Blue Book - the official U.S. Air Force study that concluded unidentified flying objects weren't a threat to national security - examining government failures should be an annual media ritual each December.
For decades, MacArthur's name has been linked to the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit (IPU), a top-secret military outfit allegedly founded in the 1940s to investigate UFOs. Long regarded as apocryphal by critics, the IPU's existence - if not its mission - was confirmed by the Army on at least three different occasions in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.
In its most recent accounting, the Army Intelligence and Security Command stated in 1990 that "the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit, Scientific and Technical Branch, Counterintelligence Directorate, Department of the Army . . . records pertaining to the unit were surrendered to the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations in conjunction with Operation Bluebook."
Naturally, there's no mention of the IPU in the Blue Book archives. In Indian Harbour Beach, retired USAF colonel Bill Coleman, once the top Blue Book spokesman and former chief PIO for the Air Force, has a succinct reaction to the IPU: "Never heard of it."
"Majic Eyes Only," a new book by UFO investigator Ryan Wood, offers fragmentary glimpses into the IPU from government documents. Most intriguing - although it's been around for some time - is a letter from Gen. George Marshall to President Roosevelt. Shortly after American anti-aircraft batteries opened up on a UFO gliding over Los Angeles in 1942, Marshall claimed the Army Air Corps recovered debris that was "in all probability of interplanetary origin."
"The challenge is, you become a buff on military intelligence history," says the author from his home in Broomfield, Colo., "but you never find what you're looking for. Anything truly damning and powerful has been cleaned up."
George Orwell, who would've appreciated that sort of precision, once put it this way: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." But in this less articulate era, we just say it's time to stop pointing fingers and move on.
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