Human Deception at Play during the UFO Wave of 1947
1947 – the year that kick started the modern UFO era and included some of the most seminal events in its history, from the Maury Island incident to the June, 1947 Kenneth Arnold sighting to the July, 1947 Roswell event, as well as the coast to coast flying saucer sightings that dominated the world headlines. In the span of just a few weeks in the summer of 1947, UFOs, then popularly known as flying saucers had become as much a part of Americana as apple pie.
To the modern day UFO believer, the UFO events of 1947 provide a rationale for their beliefs - documented evidence that defy explanation and give hope to their view that an extraordinary extraterrestrial intelligence is at the root of the phenomenon. To their debunking detractors, these events are just chalked up to mass hysteria - only of interest to social scientists.
But I propose there was an extraordinary intelligence behind the events of 1947, not extraterrestrial in nature, but as flesh and blood as you or I, an intelligence born out of the exigencies of World War 2 but extended into peacetime as threats of renewed war loomed on the horizon. The humans behind the UFO wave of 1947 were a special breed of soldier – the human deception planners of an organization known as Joint Security Control - subordinate directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Joint Security Control (JSC) was founded during WW2 as the US deception planning counterpart to the British deception organization knows as the London Controlling Section (LCS). Together, JSC and LCS perfected the art of strategic wartime deception, initially in North Africa but then throughout the theater of the European war, including the deception planning that contributed to the success of D-Day. Even after Germany was defeated, JSC developed additional deception plans that would have been carried out during the invasion of the Japanese homeland but these were obviated by Japan’s unconditional surrender after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In May of 1947, JSC received a revised charter, one that authorized it to continue its deception mission not just under wartime conditions but also during times of peace. JSC was tasked with preventing important military information from falling into the hands of the enemy, to control classified information through proper security classification, to correlate, maintain and disseminate all of the information furnished to JSC by the War and Navy Department Bureau of Public Relations, and finally the very important mission of cover and deception planning and implementation.
Before I conclusively draw a connection between early UFO events and JSC personnel, it is important to review the history of US post war deception planning. A Top Secret July 5, 1946 memo from the Office of the Chief of Staff assigned responsibility for the supervision of War Department cover and deception matters to the Director of Plans and Operations.
In July 1946 the Joint Chiefs of Staff appointed Major General Lauris Norstad as the Director of Plans and Operations and Norstad would retain that role until November of 1947 when he was succeeded by General Albert C. Wedemeyer. Norstad therefore was in charge of War Department deception plans during both the timeframe of the 1946 Ghost Rockets as well as all of the UFO related events of 1947.
The same July memorandum details that Norstad was charged with “coordination of Army deception matters with the interested joint agencies. (Until the reorganization of Joint Security Control, the Plans and Operations Division, will advise the Senior Army member of Joint Security Control on all matters pertaining to cover and deception of a joint interest.)”
Joint Security Control was reorganized when JSC received an updated charter in May of 1947 that authorized the agency to operate not just during wartime but also during the peace. The senior JSC army member that Norstad was asked to advise was General Stephen J. Chamberlain, the Director of Intelligence of the War Department General Staff. Chamberlain had just replaced Lieutenant General Hoyt Vandenberg as the senior army member of Joint Security Control on June 12, 1946.
Another prominent JSC member during the same 1946-1947 timeframe was Major General George C. McDonald, the Assistant Chief of Air Staff Intelligence who represented the Army Air Force. Both Chamberlain and McDonald played prominent roles during the Ghost Rockets of 1946 as documented in my book Anachronism.
McDonald wrote a Top Secret memorandum (undated but prior to the Army Air Force becoming a separate military service) that indicated the importance to the Army Air Force and by extension the newly minted US Air Force of having its own deception focused organization.
The McDonald memorandum reiterates that the “responsibility for cover and deception matters within the Joint Chiefs of Staff rests with the Joint Staff Planners and Joint Security Control and within the War Department with Plans and Operations Division.”
The memorandum goes on to explain that:
“there is at present no organization within the Headquarters, Army Air Forces, designated to plan, recommend, train personnel for, or assist in the implementation of Army Air Force cover and deception measures, or to advise the Commanding General, Army Air Forces, in discharging his responsibilities regarding training for, or employment of, tactical cover and deception.
With the development of a separate air strategy, it is believed that a need exists for an organization within the Headquarters, Army Air Forces, which is thoroughly familiar with the application, capabilities and limitations of military cover and deception with relation to air strategy, tactics and air war plans. Such an organization would accomplish the functions listed in the preceding paragraph, and would be available to closely coordinate the Army Air Force participation in strategic cover and deception with the other Services.
It is important to differentiate between what the memo describes as tactical deception vs strategic deception. Strategic deception is a practice employed at the highest level of a government to deceive an enemy nation. In other words it is one nation deceiving another. Tactical deception on the other hand is subordinate to strategic deception – implementing at the military level those actions that contribute to the overarching strategic plan.
Strategic deception was employed during WW2 against the axis powers, first by the British and then the Americans. The Soviet Union also practiced strategic deception to some degree. The masters at strategic deception however were the British and they essentially wrote the blueprint for how strategic deception could be used to great success.
If you are interested in learning more about WW2 strategic deception, it is chronicled in the multi-volume series British Intelligence in the Second World War in Volume V: Strategic Deception by Michael Howard, which is now out of print, but you can purchase an abridged version on Amazon here. For some free resources on WW2 strategic deception, you can download this paper as well as this one.
One of the hallmarks of strategic deception is that in order to deceive your enemy, the deception must be universally believed. In other words, a nation that employs strategic deception has to be OK with deceiving their own citizens in the process in order to make the deception appear plausible. Only very few individuals are in on the deception and the planners closely guard their deception plans. In wartime this is deemed necessary collateral damage. In peacetime, the collateral damage of deceiving your own citizenry is more controversial. The ethical and moral implications of deceiving not only your enemy but your own citizens were discussed at a 2003 conference: Strategic Deception in Modern Democracies: Ethical, Legal, and Policy Challenges.
Regardless if deception is employed by the military during wartime or deception planners in peacetime, the principles of deception have been well established. A good primer on the principles of deception can be found in Joseph Caddell's DECEPTION 101―PRIMER ON DECEPTION.
Strategic deception requires very closely coordinated operations with the central planners assigning carefully guarded roles and responsibilities to the participants. Each participant is only told their role and they do not know the big picture of the deception. This selective dissemination is detailed in the Joint Security Control 1942 Charter, Joint Security Control 1943 Charter , Joint Security Control 1944 Charter, Joint Security Control 1945 Charter and the revised Joint Security Control 1947 Charter. Individuals in government, military and business leadership roles are often recruited to play their part in a strategic deception to bolster the overall message that the deception is trying to produce.
Strategic deception takes time and patience because clues must be dangled in front of the enemy with very precise timing so that the enemy believes they have stumbled on to the truth - a truth that is in fact the deception. Strategic deception employs psychological pressures to maximum effect, preying on the human traits that can be exploited to get the enemy to swallow the deception whole - hook, line and sinker.
Strategic deception can only be effective if the planning and execution is restricted to a very small central group. At the core of strategic deception are the deception planners who formulate the plans, designate the timeline, and coordinate the execution of the deception. They are the masterminds who have a complete view of the goals, resources and methods of the deception.
Insulating the deception planners from the public are the government and military organizations from which high level select individuals are recruited to play a role in the deception. Although they know their part, they don't know who else is playing a role or what the overall goals of the deception are.
In addition prominent members of the public are also recruited to play a role in the deception, and like their counterparts in Government and the military, they only know their small part and are ignorant of the other participants or the ultimate goal of the deception. This can be illustrated by the Strategic Deception Circle of Trust.
The effect of this extreme compartmentalization is that the majority of the public is deceived as well as the majority of those in government and the military who are not in on the deception.
If we extrapolate this circle of trust to the UFO events of 1947 and hypothesize they were part and parcel of a strategic deception against the Soviet Union, those in the “know” would have included select members of Joint Security Control, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and perhaps but not as a given, the President of the United States. Those peripheral to the deception who were recruited and played a select part in the deception would not know the overall deception plan.
It is all good and dandy to hypothesize, but the real question, I am sure you want answered, is what proof do I have of a connection between Joint Security Control deception planners and 1947 UFO events?
Hard Evidence of Deception
A July 21, 1947 FBI memo from E. G. Fitch to D. M. Ladd, Subject: Flying Discs detailed how Colonel Carl Goldbranson (misspelled Golbranson) of the Intelligence Division of the War Department advised Special Agent S. W. Reynolds of the FBI’s Liaison Section that the War Department had received the following telegram:
New York, NY July 5
Major Paul Gaynor
AAF Hqts Wash DC
“For Further Details Concerning Flying Disks Suggest Immediate Contact Of (blacked out) Illinois Who May Have Important Information Concerning Their Origin.” Unsigned.
Paul Gaynor, whom the telegram was addressed to was the chief of the Services Branch of Public Relations, office of the Secretary of the Air Force. Gaynor made the international news just two days prior telling newspaper reporters that the Army Air Forces had looked into the flying saucer issue but had dropped interest due to lack of concrete evidence.
Colonel Goldbranson also furnished Mr. Reynolds with a copy of another memorandum titled “Report on Flying Saucers,” dated July 7, 1947, addressed to the Commanding General, 32nd AAF Base Unit, Bolling Field, Washington, D.C. from John D. Schindler, Jr.
The July 21, 1947 Goldbranson memo continued:
“The attached memorandum sets forth information and statistics regarding two reportings of incidents of flying disks. There is also attached hereto a map of the Illinois River area which was furnished to Mr. Reynolds by Colonel Golbranson. Colonel Golbranson stated that according to this map the incidents reported in the attached memorandum are in the general vicinity of (blacked out) which was given as the address of (blacked out) in the anonymous telegram received by the War Department.
Colonel Golbranson advised that in view of the fact that the observation of the flying saucers was made on July 7th and the date of the unsigned telegram on July 5th, together with the proximity of (blacked out) to the points where the objects were observed, he desired the Bureau conduct some investigation of Shaver to determine whether or not he has any information pertaining to the origin of the flying saucers.
Mr. Reynolds advised Colonel Golbranson that his request would be made known to you and the results of any investigation would be brought to his attention.
Garbled Section Heading
It is recommended that the field be directed to make inquiries regarding (blacked out) and, if deemed advisable, interview him regarding any information that he has relative to flying discs. The result of any investigation should be forwarded to the liaison section for delivery to the Intelligence Division of the War Department.”
This July 21, 1947 FBI memo is extremely important. It unequivocally documents the connection between US strategic deception planners and early UFO events by relating how Colonel Carl Goldbranson petitioned FBI assistance in investigating UFO events. Goldbranson was a WW2 member of Joint Security Control and one of its principal deception planners.
Goldbranson had been working in military deception since August 1943, having joined soon after another important Joint Security Control member, Colonel Newman Smith. Goldbranson was made second in command to Smith and “was in charge of analyzing overall and theater plans; developing and recommending plans for continuity of deception, and theater personnel and material requirements, selection and allocation, and compiling information for dissemination to theaters.”[i]
In September 1942 Goldbranson was initiated into the mother of all deception organizations – the British London Controlling Section (LCS).
“When Eisenhower formed an Anglo-American staff for his new job as supreme commander of the Allied expeditionary force for the TORCH, the post of chief intelligence officer fell to an experienced British officer, Brigadier E.E. Mockler-Ferryman. Mockler-Ferryman designated an American officer who had been assigned to his staff, Lieutenant Colonel Carl E. Goldbranson of the 34th ‘Red Bull’ Division, Iowa National Guard, as his liaison with the London Controlling Section with the designation ‘Cover Officer’. Along with Newman Smith, Bill Baumer, and ‘Baron’ Kehm, Goldbranson was destined to be one of the four key American officers in strategic deception”[ii]
Longest serving LCS member Dennis Wheatley found Goldbranson “both competent and cordial,” and others who worked with him later were equally complimentary.” He became one of the most skilled deception planners in the Allied service.”[iii]
Posted to Africa where he unfortunately crossed the wrong side of British deception master Dudley Clarke of WW2 deception fame, Goldbranson was sent back to G-2 in Washington.
“Goldbranson had learned the (deception) work thoroughly, was highly competent, and was of inestimable value to American deception for the rest of the war (and in a postwar career in the United States Air Force as well).
Goldbranson was back in the States by July 25, 1943 and in Washington by July 27, 1943. After a home leave in Council Bluffs he joined the deceivers in the Pentagon, where for the next two years he would be Newman Smith’s right-hand man.”[iv]
Goldbranson was sent in May of 1945 to Manila to join General McArthur’s staff specifically to assist in developing the deception plans codenamed Pastel for Operation Olympic – the anticipated invasion of Japan. He worked alongside Douglas Fairbanks in this endeavor.[v]
Goldbranson who had a brief return to civilian life after the war, “returned to the service, this time in the Air Force, and was evidently again engaged in deception activity for the rest of his career. By December of 1948 he was a full colonel, assigned at that time to the “Special Plans Section” of the Strategy Branch, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. He died in 1957.”[vi]
We know from newspaper articles that Goldbranson separated from the Army in January 1946 and in October 1946 he was made chief of staff with the rank of Colonel of the Iowa National Guard’s 34th division. Another newspaper article shows that he was still with the 34rd division in January, 1947. Sometime prior to July, 1947 Goldbranson left for Washington to resume his deception duties but this time with Army Air Force and then the US Air Force.
The significance of Goldbranson’s involvement cannot be understated. Goldbranson had one role to fill on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – deception. Interestingly, JSC’s May 1947 charter details how the organization was paired down after the war. The JSC peacetime staff allotment was only one Air Force full Colonel who would work in the Executive section and also pull double duty as a member of the JSC Special Section, the section specifically charged with deception planning and implementation. Air Force Colonel Carl E. Goldbranson would have been the officer to fill that billet. JSC which was directly subordinate to the Joint Chiefs of Staff was staffed with representatives from all of the service branches.
The Special Section of JSC consisted of only seven individuals including Goldbranson who as a full bird Colonel would have been the senior member. So for those who question the importance of Goldbranson to this analysis, only one question need be answered. What are the odds that the senior member of the principal US organization and specific section charged with planning and implementing U.S. strategic deception is on record in FBI official memorandum, getting his hands dirty in the UFO controversy of 1947? Goldbranson had no reason to be involved unless he was actively promoting a deception plan.
Did the FBI know of Goldbranson’s deception role? Apparently not, because they would have never agreed to Goldbranson’s request if they thought they were being played in an unwitting deception game. The depth of the US deception planners’ involvement in the UFO events of 1947 and their motives for perpetrating strategic deception will be revealed in my upcoming book The Roswell Deception. Stay tuned.
[i] Holt, T. (2004). The deceivers: Allied military deception in the Second World War. New York: Scribner. pp. 431-432.
[ii] Holt, T. (2004). The deceivers: Allied military deception in the Second World War. New York: Scribner. p. 253.
[iii] Holt, T. (2004). The deceivers: Allied military deception in the Second World War. New York: Scribner. p. 254.
[iv] Holt, T. (2004). The deceivers: Allied military deception in the Second World War. New York: Scribner. p. 354.
[v] Holt, T. (2004). The deceivers: Allied military deception in the Second World War. New York: Scribner. pp. 750-753.
[vi] Holt, T. (2004). The deceivers: Allied military deception in the Second World War. New York: Scribner. p. 795.