Didn't go there, didn't do that
BY GEOFFREY A. FOWLER AND ANDREW CURRY
"We deny that we have anything to deny," an Army spokesman told
U.S. News. Well, except for one thing. When rumors of strange
doings won't go away, the military services may feel compelled to
say they didn't do it.
NOW YOU SEE IT . . . Conspiracy theorists think that in the fall of
1943, the USS Eldridge became the world's first invisible ship,
then teleported from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Va. Based on an
anonymous letter and other spurious evidence, they claim scientists used
Einstein's unified field theory (don't even ask) to make the
destroyer disappear. But the crew went bonkers, ending the so-called
Philadelphia Experiment. Regarding "innumerable queries," the
Navy noted: "[We] have not located any official documents that
support the assertion that an invisibility or teleportation experiment
involving a Navy ship occurred at Philadelphia or any other
location." The apocryphal tale most likely arose from electromagnetic
experiments to make a ship "invisible" to magnetic mines.
CAMP VAN DORN. Carroll Case's 1998 book The Slaughter
detailed a shocking racial crime hidden in 50 years of government
cover-up: In 1943, the U.S. Army urdered 1,200 African-American
soldiers at Mississippi's Camp Van Dorn, then buried them in a
mass grave. Outraged, Congressman Bennie Thompson and the
NAACP requested that the Army investigate. After interviewing
surviving veterans of the all-black World War II unit and scrutinizing
personnel records, the Army branded the book a "work of fiction." Says military spokeswoman
Martha Rudd: "All of these men said that nothing like this ever occurred. If you have a 3,000
member unit and 1,200 disappear in one night, it tends to be noticed."
ROSWELL. It started with a
headline in the July 8, 1947, Roswell (N.M.) Daily Record:
"RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch In Roswell Region." Reports of a crashed unidentified
flying object and a military effort to hide the evidence (and perhaps a couple of alien bodies)
turned into a small industry, with newspaper articles, books, and
TV shows creating elaborate conspiracy theories based on little
information. The Air Force released a detailed denial in 1994.
The "flying saucer" was a high-altitude balloon from Project
Mogul, an experimental effort to monitor nuclear tests.
OUTER SPACE AID. X-Filers, take note: On April 18, the Penta
gon denied that satellite images of Area 51, the top-secret Air
Force test site 90 miles north of Las Vegas, revealed alien-American collaborations. "I think I can
say beyond a shadow of a doubt, we have no classified program
that relies on aliens from outer space," said a Pentagon
spokesman of the pictures, which were posted on the Internet on April 17. "I wouldn't
believe the government if they told me all the tea in China was free," scoffs Connie Calvaruzo of the
LITTLE A'LE'INN (get it?) outside Area 51 in Rachel, Nev.
THE LIGHTHOUSE JOKE. In October 1995, a U.S. naval ship off
the Newfoundland coast sends a radio message: "WE ARE A LARGE
WARSHIP OF THE U.S. NAVY. DIVERT YOUR COURSE NOW!!"
The reply: "This is a lighthouse. Your call." The incident is just a joke, but
E-mail forwarders made it seem real, naming specific ships. The
Navy says, ". . . It never happened. It is an old joke like those
found in popular magazines."