The UFO Iconoclast(s)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why do most UFO buffs concentrate on the older sightings?

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The early flying saucer and UFO sightings were more exotic than those of today.

Today’s sightings are generally of amorphous lights, abstract triangles, and benign fly-overs.

The earlier sightings often involved landings, with entities, electromagnetic disruptions of car motors or house lights and electricity, and interactions of various kinds, including alleged abductions of sighters.

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Also, earlier sightings were free of modern accretions: cynical skepticism, fakery and embellishment for fame, or psychosomatic stress, and media waywardness.

Yes, some contactees, Adamski, the worst of the bunch when it came to fame-seeking, and a slew of teen-agers or wannabes and never-were corrupted the study of flying saucers and UFOs but they were meticulous, pretty much, in their follies.

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Today, the fakery and search for fame is cavalier, often slovenly, dismissive even, just a lark for a few minutes of attention.

And UFOs seem to perceive that human dismissiveness, appearing nonchalantly as a phenomenon nowadays, whereas back in the day(s), UFOs or flying saucers really put on some shows.

Where are the Roswell-like events today, or a Socorro, or a Rendlesham, or a Hill experience, a Travis Walton episode, or a Pascagoula?

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There are none.

Just lights in the sky, orbs, or triangular craft.

No Flatwoods monsters. No Villas Boas examinations. No Aztec concoctions. Nothing sensational or exotic at all.

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That’s why UFO mavens keep harking back to the old-tales, the old sightings. Those sightings and UFO events had something.

RR

39 Comments:

  • Just a couple of notes that probably have no merit . . . but here goes, anyway.

    1. Electromagnetic effects, particularly on automobiles, have diminished. Automotive technology has come a long way in the last 50-60 years. Maybe today’s more sophisticated autos are not as susceptible to electromagnetic disruptions. And heck, back in the day cars were made mostly of steel. Today, they’re made mostly of plastic and aluminum. That might put a damper on interference.

    2. Abductions haven’t gone away; they’ve moved indoors. I don’t believe today’s alleged abductees are any more or less credible than those of yesteryear. I have a bucketful of serious doubts about all of them. I hold to the electromagnetic interference with brain functioning theory. Folks weren’t actually abducted, they just reconstructed the experience that way. And let’s not forget the ever present high quotient of liars, hucksters, and wannabes.

    3. People still see weird things in the woods. Only today we call it Cryptozoology, which has its own set of acolytes. Sometimes the Cryptos and UFOs cross and sometimes not.

    4. “Where are the Roswell-like events today, or a Socorro, or a Rendlesham, or a Hill experience, a Travis Walton episode, or a Pascagoula?” Well, if you look at these incidents along a timeline they don’t happen that often, whether you believe they’re real or not. In my mind, the latest big hurrah with any substance is the O’Hare sighting in 2006, so the beat does go on.

    5. Hoaxers use more sophisticated technology today, but most of the hoaxes are so easy to spot they’re just laughable. Today’s perpetrators are most likely bright, bored kids with too much time on their hands and the adolescent quality of the hoaxes gives them away.

    Anything viewed backwards through the mists of time is always more romantic, mysterious, and appealing than what's happening now, which seems mundane. Given enough time, current sighting reports will gain that historical luster as well.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Saturday, September 10, 2011  

  • PG:

    The only quibble I have with your assessment is your equating the O'Hare sighting with those I noted.

    O'Hare is a non-event.

    It is archetypal of modern sightings; benign and boring.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, September 10, 2011  

  • The reason modern sightings are boring is that they offer nothing new. They are merely repeats of sightings of the distant past. The sightings of today will never reach the status of those of the 40s and 50s unless they offer something really new and different.

    Also, so many are of night lights behaving oddly that nobody is interested anymore. Why worry about night lights? Boring!

    The almost complete lack of photographs/films is also a factor. Think of all those camcorders, digital or not, that proliferate. Why no recent convincing photos/films? Why no hard evidence, i.e. real hardware? (Yeah I know, the military security guys got it all, ha ha!)

    The trouble with ufology is it is too repetitive. Today's younger generation may get excited with some recent sightings, but the older generation know these are, in the overwhelming majority of cases, merely repeats of earlier ones. Keyhoe was dotty about radar-visual cases. Would anyone care much about a radar-visual now?

    By Blogger cda, at Saturday, September 10, 2011  

  • RR - You just made my point.

    Thirty years or more on and the O'Hare sighting will gain all the magical appeal of Roswell (the grand-daddy of all non-events). It's just too current for this generation to see it as anything more than prosaic.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Saturday, September 10, 2011  

  • One of my hypotheses (of which I have several) is that the big heyday flaps of yesteryear were, in fact, among the last and that most subsequent reports are fabricated. In effect, who or whatever these things were, they came around the middle of the last century for a bit, and then checked out. However, they instilled in us such awe and fascination that they've borne all subsquent sightings by nothing more than sheer inspiration. Excuse me, while I duck the rotted fruit soon to be thrown my way.

    By Blogger Cullan Hudson, at Saturday, September 10, 2011  

  • Nice takes, fellows, but you're all wrong, all of you. (I kid, sort of.)

    What UFOs are or were has changed, in essence, in appearance, in dynamic.

    How we find the phenomenon today is startlingly different than how we (some of us) found them back in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s.

    PG -- O'Hare is nothing. Just a thing seen over an airport, with no spectacular dynamic to grab the public, media, or UFO aficionados, save one, evidently.

    CDA -- the UFO scene is boring, just as UFOs are boring, in their essence.

    Cullan -- early flying saucer sightings were fabricated? I'm shocked.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, September 10, 2011  

  • Approximately two thirds of the 1947 Wave sightings were daylight of discs (some ovoid). Personally, I know of one good daylight sighting of a disc several years ago. The witness will not report it. "Why bother", she said.

    Regards,

    Don

    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Saturday, September 10, 2011  

  • Yes, Don, apathy (or even ennui) plays a part in what we're getting in the way of UFO reports.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, September 10, 2011  

  • "apathy"

    I think it has more to do with the public face of ufology, which is ugly and repulsive, having more in common with the subjects of the horror and slasher genres than with unidentifiable objects in the sky.

    What does her sighting have to do with abduction, hybrids, cryptozoology, mutilation, alien vampires, space werewolves, and their goateed, love-bead wearing advocates who are only half as psychotic as their patients?

    But, enough of me. How was your day?


    Regards,

    Don

    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Saturday, September 10, 2011  

  • I'm in my 30s and much of the heyday of ufos was over before I'd started school. As such, if people of my generation and younger didn't concentrate on older sightings, we'd be forced to discuss YT videos or look elsewhere. Maybe even out into the Badlands of Exos and Project Camelot with their narrative beliefs...

    These older sightings have one thing that few modern ones do - substance.

    For example, a credible observer makes a claim that is supported by another credible observer ( e.g. Nash-Fortenberry). This report is then acknowledged by various authorities (project reports), experts (books) and media (radio/TV interviews). All of this adds substance.

    A couple of months back, a BBC reporter claimed to have encountered a 'disc-shaped craft' in the early hours en route to work. He had no more evidence than his word. The sound of bemusement and embarrassment in his voice, for me, added substance and represented a classic encounter reminiscent of those from the 'saucer' heyday. I refer to this to highlight the dearth in similar reports.

    Presumably the trashier and mundane reports have maintained their frequency for decades, but the extraordinary ones have diminished to the point of near non-existence. This allowed the BBC reporter's account to become more remarkable.

    I guess then, that some of us are in search of substance and much of it is to be found in the past.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Sunday, September 11, 2011  

  • Kandinsky:

    Almost everything of substance will be found in the past.

    A piece in the current New Yorker, by Adam Gopnik, about the decline of America, incorporates much about Oswald Spengler and his masterpiece, The Decline of the West, which is a thorny tome you might find interesting. It tells how cultures thrive but civilizations die, no matter what those civilizations try to do to thrive and continue.

    My point? That things of the past are, Spengler tells us, full of substance and meritorious value, whereas today's cultures produce ephemeral nonsense that naturally accompanies the death throes of all things.

    This is what has happened and is happening in the UFO arena, as I keep writing about.

    The UFO topic, and even UFOs themselves, have declined over the years, and that's a natural devolution, as Spengler might see it.

    It happens with everything. And it's happened with much that was once rivulent with a substantive essence: art, music, philosophy, science, et cetera.

    So, whew, I'm a windy person...the past is fraught with worth that isn't extant today, UFOs among that.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, September 11, 2011  

  • Great post Rich!

    As you know from my books, I have certainly spent a lot of time revisiting the past re my books Contactees; The Real Men in Black; Body Snatchers; Saucer Spies etc.

    The reason is precisely as you say: there seemed to be more of a substantial phenomenon then, and more "things" to investigate.

    Today's Ufology is largely about who in the field can shout the loudest.

    By Blogger Nick Redfern, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • And Nick, I hate to bring this up (almost) but what Kevin Randle's blog is doing at the moment -- a screed or protracted rant about Phil Klass's demonstrably execrable behavior duing Klass's foray in the UFO arena -- doesn't have anything to do with UFOs, what they might be.

    This comment also sidetracks the issue or topic.

    But that's ufology as our ami Gilles Fernandez often points out.

    In the old days, contactees and UFO friends (Keyhoe, Friedman, Hynek) were excoriated but not to the exclusion of UFOs.

    I think UFO buffs are frustrated beyond reason: time spent, money wasted, books written, conferences attended, et cetera have brought nothing but bitter fruit as The Shadow might say.

    That aside, there was a substance to older sightings -- what that substance was exactly remains obscure but it was palpable, whereas todays UFO sightings and events are evanescent.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • Personally I'd be happy if the ufo community would have a 5-minute discussion on better ways to improve prospective data collection, so that when sightings do occur, the quality of data is better.

    By Blogger nycjeff, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • NYCJeff...

    I agree. There's been much data accumulated over the years but no one has done anything systematic with that data.

    Yes, there have been some half-hearted stabs at what the data show.

    But nothing "scientific."

    Shameful.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • There comes a time when you literally run out of new things to talk about. This is now the case with UFOs. Nobody in the ET camp in the early days ever supposed that by the year 2011 we would still not have either an official admission of ET presence or some sort of scientific proof of it.

    So such people and their followers are bitterly frustrated & disappointed. And that is how it goes and will continue to go.

    Hence the nostalgia for those early cases. They seem 'better' somehow, but are they really? Mantell and Washington '52 once sounded great. Look at them now. Meanwhile the 'conspiracists' are still as vocal as ever, and more so. But we all know who these are, so I shall shut up before going any further.

    By Blogger cda, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • CDA:

    Those older sightings were pungent, almost literally.

    People being overheated by flying saucers -- Desverges for one, Michalak for another.

    Then we have the Gill sighting in New Guinea; the Kentucky "monkey-like aliens" et cetera.

    These were full-blown accounts, whether faked or not.

    Today with have preces, not fleshed out stories or even creative hokum.

    The Mantell case was juicy, until we all found out he was chasing a skyhook balloon.

    Who chases skyhooks today, or chases anything?

    Nope, Christopher, the old sightings were intriguing, odd, even charming sometimes.

    Not like the pabulum we get nowadays.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • The momentum toward pragmatic investigation of this phenomenon has been at at a full stop for a long time. Most have not noticed any discernible difference between talk and hard nosed research which says a great deal editorially about the sophistication of the majority who claim to have an interest in making progress toward even preliminary steps , that is to say, when it comes to playing with concepts versus determining their veracity. The topic has been so dumbed down, domesticated, and rutted in stereotypes that some experts notoriously peddle with yellow journalism, that one has to ask at this low level of general intellectual curiosity, anyone will believe anything.
    However, I remember a famous Broadway producer who said, never mind what others are thinking, or what sidewalk superintendents have on their mind, the real test is when the chips are down, to keep pushing against whats the public allegedly wants. You have done a fine job of provoking tough love on dewy eyed romantics with a comparatively hard boiled resistance to packaging a complex phenomenon into palatable jelly jars. Yes, now is not the time to become nostalgic, there's still more sand to shovel into the tide.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • But Bruce, nostalgia is so soothing....

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • From personal experience, nostalgia as a safe form of voyeurism can be a masochistic urge to go home again only to find that in reality, those rose colored glasses that magnify the past as a fixed haven of wonder, ignore all the b.s that was as common then as it is now.
    The issue is intellectual entertainment, a empirical mystery full of red meat to chew on. There's just not much of anything faintly stimulating in this sense anymore, or as G would say, it's all leftovers from "a two thousand year old frozen turkey."
    I had a teacher who said he loved to be amused by what some of students came up with because it was stimulating and provocative in a uniquely entertaining way. Not fantasy, not politicking but bracing, like a slap across the brain that comes up with new suspects, clues and further extensions or revisions in working out a problem. The issue is that any actual research is and always has been largely a myth, and unless some serious money is placed on the table to chase down this chimera, there's not much left that has not been already said. Yet, what has been done? Nothing. What is left? Not much except the comfort of an illusion that the old lies were better than the current ones. At least the old ones were plied with a more creative bent, Ill give you that. Maybe it is that they were new, ones we had not heard a hundred times over before we became bored with this game of stereotypes and it's accompanying ennui.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • In fairness to Kevin Randle, there's an old post on UFO Updates where he tried to rally a peer review system. Skimming through the next couple of weeks of posts showed little or no response.

    This isn't to say that peer review doesn't happen; it certainly does, but the consensus of opinion tends to be formed from disparate groups rather than an appointed selection of folk.

    I think this is a good thing and yet consensus is often formed by unpleasant verbal combat. As Nick points out, 'those who shout loudest' can sway the discussion. This might well work with a lot of ufological aficionados, nevertheless there remains a decent collection of thinkers with the reasoning to identify 'naked emperors' and keep their own counsel.

    For whatever reason, quite a few of them gravitate to this blog and generate more ideas for the rest of us. For me, these are the folk who keep the subject alive regardless of whether the better UFO reports are vintage or recent.

    Incidentally, the UFO phenomena are apparently getting tardy. They're overdue a new iteration by some 20 years by my reckoning. How many more 'black triangle' sightings do we need?!

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • Bruce and Kandinsky:

    We've been cleaning my trove of detritus that I've saved from eons past...notes, letters [sic] from friends, UFO materials (correspondence among it) and lots of other stuff, meaningless in an objective sense.

    But it shows, circumstantially, that life, and debates too, were more civilized and sensible a while back.

    Also, flying saucers tales, whether true or not, were spicy and enticing, opening the door to imaginative conjecture or intellectual rumination.

    There was meat on the bones of friendships (in my case) and a gourmet feast of UFO tales that provoked awe and study or, at least, burly discussion.

    Not so nowadays.

    My past life is remembered fondly (with items to corroborate the fondness).

    And UFO interaction, even as close as 1979, was rich with possibilities and bonhommie, such as the Villas Boas case or the Scoriton episode(s).

    Contact with Richard Hall, after a bout of nastiness from others at UpDates, was therapeutic and enlightening.

    Today I get some of that from a few who visit here, and from good friends like Nick Redfern.

    Again I reiterate that the old UFO cases gave us something, and still do, that we could or can sink our teeth into.

    Today's sightings are like cotton candy, neither filling nor nutritious -- vaporous, or as I am wont to say: evanescent.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • Rich and company, you've had the pleasure of straddling the heyday and the present...no bad thing really.

    For guys like me, there's a sort of wistfulness for a past we haven't known. Listening to the old John Nebel tapes and early radio shows (St Wendy Connors)will have to do. Even as a kid, I was listening to 50s/60s music and getting the same sense of misplaced nostalgia. I was likely the only 10 year old in NW England who wanted a bootlace tie and Chuck Berry LPs.

    Guys like Tim Binnall and Greg Bishop have captured that spirit in some of their interviews.

    Despite all our differences, maybe there's an element of 'misplaced nostalgia' at the heart of 'most UFO buffs?'

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • Oh to be youngish, Kandinsky, and longing to embrace the pleasures of the past.

    Fortunately, you have access to the past, so you live, vicariously, in the old days, that some of us, CDA, me, and UFO geezers, experienced first hand.

    Virtual nostalgia is as good as the real thing, as far as I'm concerned.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • I think Kandinski is really on to something there. I too am a huge Long John fan but wasn't born during his heyday.

    Through my Long John interest, I became a big Jean Shepherd fan.

    I do listen with a false sense of nostalgia.

    Lance

    By Blogger Lance, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • Lance...."false"???

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • False in the sense that I feel nostalgia for something that is not actually part of my past.

    Lance

    By Blogger Lance, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • From an AOL "opaque" reader, not an RRRGroup member:

    It was exactly 20 years ago last month that the Cold War ended with the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. Perhaps the interaction of the phenomena with society is intimately involved with the major sociological and scientific endeavors of our species.

    From the foo fighters sightings and the alleged crash of the saucer in Cape Girardeau, MO. coinciding with WWII; to the classic UFO cases converging with the introduction of fission and fusion weaponry and accompanied by the politically backed policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD), the phenomena seemed to be screaming for our attention on all levels, including militarily (i.e. the Maelstrom and Minot incidents and its Soviet counterpart among others).

    As for hard-nosed scientific research, I can't imagine it without: capitulation by the intellectual elite regarding the study of the paranormal (a necessary and sufficient condition), and federal grant money (a sufficient condition).

    Few respectable researchers would risk their intellectual capitol (their credibility, reputation etc.) without a transmogrification of the academic upper class wrt paranormal or even peri-normal phenomena. Case in point, look at how Brian Josephson was treated after formally acknowledging the paranormal, and he was a Nobel prize winner!

    And finally, why would the federal govt. offer grants to research something publicly (especially a political hot potato, subject to criticism and ridicule by hardcore skeptics) when they can just as easily do it covertly, utilizing contractors and researchers that aren't subject to the FOIA?

    Anonymous

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 12, 2011  

  • I have been reading a lot about abductions lately, in anticipation of the golden anniversary of the Hill case (which has zero hype, oddly).
    Abduction proponents (not a mistake in word choice, I should note) keep harping on the same thing: the consistency of the reports means this is real!
    Of course, that means all the early quirky abduction reports are false, right? Nope, abduction advocates pretend the old reports are just primitive forms of the modern reports.
    But reading the early Hill material, it's abundantly clear this is not true. For instance, the Hills' aliens were NOT grays. The Hills descriptions don't "conform." They consistently refer to their captors as "men." Betty emphasised this in 1999 when interviewed by New England folklorist John Horrigan. (See 5:19 mark here:)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g93YoWsHjU
    BH: "No, no, no. They were a form of human being." She describes them. JH asks: Nothing like the classic grays? Betty responds dismissively: "I’ve never seen those. I don’t know what they’re talking about."
    But you won't learn that reading anything put online or printed in books today. The New Revised Abduction Syndrome insists the Hills' aliens were grays from Zeta 1 and Zeta 2 and, don't you know it, that's what abductees report today! The Hills actual testimony be damned...

    By Blogger terry the censor, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • Interesting Terry...

    Thanks.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • I agree with Terry that the Hill case has been whitewashed (greywashed?) to make it more acceptable and less ridiculous.

    Betty's aliens originally had long noses "like Jimmy Durante" a detail that has been more or less forgotten.

    Betty's aliens spoke in a curiously earthy way, at one point telling Betty to "wait a minute", for instance.

    It is quite telling that the very doctor who did the original recorded Hill regression sessions "absolutely" didn't believe that the stories represented a real experience.

    Leave it to a blowhard like Friedman to hang his hat on such a shaky hook. After embarrassing himself for years by supporting the MJ12 documents that everyone knows are fakes, he decides to support another dubious UFO story. I guess you go with what you do best?

    Lance

    By Blogger Lance, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • Rich, what was the last case, chronologically, that fits your "exotic" criteria?

    Regarding the Hills, and Lance's comment, can we determine when aliens became greys? What was it that made greys emblematic of aliens?

    Regards,

    Don

    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • Don:

    I think the Pascagoula 1973 event is the last "exotic" UFO event for me.

    (There might be another, but that's the one which comes to mind at the moment.)

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • I too have wondered why the cases from the 40-70s are so different and so much more compelling than the goofiness we see today. I keep coming back to the idea that whatever was visiting us back then has simply moved on. We can't be so arrogant as to think we would hold a visitor's interest indefinitely.

    By Blogger Department 47, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • D47...

    My feelings too.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • @ Don – I’ve tried to back-trace the originator of the ‘Grey’ as a specific entity and it’s damn near impossible due to the cross-pollination of ideas and schemes by disreputable sources. Bill Cooper, Lear, Valerian and Branton had a huge influence in defining the ‘modus operandi’ of these critters. Historically, I think the popular conception of what a Grey is kind of coagulated around their assault on ufology in the 80s. Subsequent books by Strieber, Hopkins and Jacobs have helped to solidify the concept and they took on a life of their own.

    The actual image of a ‘Grey’ predates the mythology, but once more is rooted in fiction. In this case, honest fiction rather than the stories pushed by Lear et al. For example, Spielberg’s Close Encounters and 70s sci-fi depict similar critters with huge eyes and vestigial noses and mouths.

    The fascination with eyes (as we all know) goes back to vintage cases like the Hills, Villas Boas and even Joe Simonton. They all described ‘humanish’ folk with slightly larger eyes that were somehow compelling. Fast-forward to the 70s and 80s and it seems telling that the guys injecting ‘dark ufology’ into the field had drawn from these classic cases (short, humanoid, big eyes) and caricatured their descriptions into the familiar Grey. Some of the more outlandish abduction proponents built on this and have mischaracterised the original descriptions as being ‘classic’ Greys when you and many others know this wasn’t the case at all.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • Just to add that Charlie Hickson has recently died.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2011/09/13/3907018/ufo-abduction-figure-dies-at-80.html

    http://blog.gulflive.com/mississippi-press-news/2011/09/charles_hickson_ufo_abductee_w.html

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • Thanks, Kan...

    I thought Hickson was a good ol' boy.

    And he and Parker had a real experience; what that consisted of exactly is yet to be determined.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

  • "Despite all our differences, maybe there's an element of 'misplaced nostalgia' at the heart of 'most UFO buffs?'"

    I agree Mr. K. There's definitely a lot of that.

    More practically with a number of cases, the whole truth, or the tall tale telling, can often trickle out over the years with new facts coming to light through oral histories, declassification of documents and follow up by researchers who ask questions that were never asked in the first place.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Tuesday, September 13, 2011  

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