Notes on Col. Philip J. Corso

A number of years ago my father received from Lt. Col. Philip J. Corso US Army (Ret.) an outline for his book project, a memoir of his Army Intelligence, the US Congress, and exploits in the Cold War. My father had retired from IBM and is a literary agent and editor. Sen. Strom Thurmond wrote the foreward for that book. The foreward would be used in the book which later came out and which my father was not involved with. That was Pocket Books' 1997 "The Day After Roswell" with William J. Birnes. Many books came out close to the 50 year mark of the alleged crash of an alien spaceship in Roswell New Mexico, but this one smacked of the seeming authority of a former military intelligence officer. Without an index or cited references, it lacks what is needed most - back up evidence and research above reproach. When Thurmond's staff saw the Roswell book with HIS foreward in it, they naturally reacted negatively. Regardless, Corso's information of UFO-related government projects amounted to something much less than hoped for. He did recall, as part of Gen. Arthur Trudeau's Army Research & Development branch, a piece of something made of an extraordinary material given to testing firms he remembered as "Delta Technologies in Connecticut, or maybe it was Triangle, or Triad?" Something having to do with three sides or points. He was either uncertain or purposely being oblique. The reverse engineered UFO was not far off, at least in Corso's mind. My father passed on the book project only to have me bother him for a few years for copies of the draft manuscript and research notes that I came to affectionately call the "Corso File".

Corso had commanded the 552nd 90mm Battalion that was reorganized into the 71st Missile Battalion in West Germany. He does confirm the radar tracks at ungodly altitudes at similarly irrational speeds. Yet information in the outline for Corso's memoir contain little of extraterrestrial interest and much in behind-the-scenes CIA vs. State Department internal warfare. In addition to the redacted outline for the unpublished personal memoir of Corso's, "A Thousand Battles: A Memoir", there are some notes that help fill in the story of one of America's real behind the scenes patriots. The Colonel's outline did not benefit from the declassified FBI files re: Allegations Oswald was an FBI informant for example.

Powerful Friends and Enemies:

Chapters 17, 19, 24 & 25 include references to Frank Hand of the CIA. Hand is said to be the conduit to Oswald's wife via Ruth Paine - variously described as a Quaker, a speaker of the Russian language, the estranged wife of a man who worked at Bell Helicopter, a friend of the local Texas Russian exile community and participant in a U.S. State Department sponsored foreign exchange program, the East-West Friendship Committee. Corso is the unnamed "colleague" (in Anthony Summers December 1994 Vanity Fair magazine article on the JFK Assassination) who was told by Hand that the CIA had someone close to Oswald and his wife before November 22nd, namely - Ruth Paine. Corso's assistance is also seen in Summers 1993 book about J. Edgar Hoover, "Official & Confidential". Hand was also involved with the plots to assassinate Fidel Castro with Gen. Ed Lansdale. "Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American", Cecil B. Currey 1988, Houghton Mifflin, Boston MA, pg. 242. (In Chapter 23 of the outline Lansdale meets with Corso, Frank Hand, Col. Sam Wilson, Jim Kellener and Gen. Don Blackburn). Corso and the "Oswald as FBI informant and/or Russian spy" story are documented in Dick Russell's 1992 book, "The Man Who Knew Too Much", Carroll & Graf, NY, NY. Pg. 529.

Better still is John Newman's "Oswald and the CIA", 1995, Carroll & Graf, NY, NY. Pg. 342, when Lansdale is asked on August 1st 1963 by a Readers Digest editor about Ed Butler and the New Orleans Louisiana based Information Council of the Americas, he makes a note to "discuss this with Frank Hand… there is tricky background, which is where FH comes in." Five days later Hand recommended Lansdale not follow up with INCA as it was a known entity. Butler then appeared on Bill Stuckey's New Orleans "Carte Blanche" show on WDSU when Lee Harvey Oswald was interviewed on August 21st. The need to further explore Frank Hand's activities may do much to fill in many lines of research in parapolitics. Hand was profiled in L. Fletcher Prouty's 1975 Genesis magazine article titled, "How the CIA Controls President Ford". The final brush strokes on the portrait being Prouty's 1959 account of Hand's friend from First Boston interested in Textron's buyout of Bell Helicopter with the CIA in Laos and Vietnam. Placing Frank Hand firmly in the Bell Helicopter picture could support Corso's information on Ruth Paine as a CIA asset of some sort.

Chapters 17, 18, 19, 20, 24 & 25 mention Charles Douglas (C.D.) Jackson, formerly Psychological Warfare Advisor under Eisenhower and employee of Henry Luce's Time-Life-Fortune publishing empire. The history of Luce financed projects to "make things happen" in the style of William Randolph Hearst trace back to the China Lobby which supported Nationalist interests and who assisted in the witch hunt for those who "lost" China to Mao and the Communists in 1949. Blanche Wiesen Cook, history professor at John Jay College, wrote a detailed chronicle of Jackson's Cold War propaganda activities in her Fall 1990 article in Covert Action magazine titled, "C.D. Jackson: Cold War Propagandist". Jackson worked with Corso on the 1954 Guatemala Coup and was instrumental in Life Magazine procuring the Zapruder Film, coincidence or grist for the conspiracy mill? Luce and his wife Clair Boothe Luce, a congresswoman and former Ambassador to Italy often had ideological motives for the stories published.

In his outline for the memoir Corso notes how he went over the head of the CIA's Counter Intelligance Chief James Jesus Angleton and had C.D. Jackson have CIA Director Allen Dulles deliver to Corso a Russian KGB defector while he, Corso, was on the staff of Eisenhower's National Security Council to be interrogated by US Air Force Major General Dale Smith, also a staffer at the NSC. The defector, Yuri Rastvorov, spilled his guts about the taking of American Korean War POW's, especially pilots, to Moscow for debriefings. The information was not made public by Eisenhower and Corso made his report to the Defense Department. His contacts helped him become involved with a U.N. Mission to assist in looking into the Chinese Nationalist Navy's seizure of a Polish oil tanker, the Soviets cried "piracy on the high seas" and for once the State Department agreed on a course of action to keep the tanker, Corso's recommendation - since the ships crew had in fact defected and they were willing to say so at the United Nations if the Soviets pressed their international piracy case, which they didn't. Corso alleges sources in the State Department had tipped off the Soviets.

Richard Billings is another associate of C.D. Jackson and Luce who has interested para-political researchers through the years. CIA agents had been using commercial cover, including posing as legitimate journalists, for many years. Eddie Bayo Perez, William Pawley, Richard Cain, John Martino and Life Magazine's role in the anti-Castro (and anti-Kennedy) 'Bayo-Pawley Affair' dovetails with what we know about overzealous government officials and the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee with Sen. Eastland and counsel Julien Sourwine. Sourwine is mentioned several times in Corso's outline. William Pawley is a human link between covert operations in Asia, Claire Chennault's Civil Air Transport and Air America and the CIA trained anti-Castro Cuban exiles 'terrorists' of Operation 40 and Alpha 66. Intelligence agents like Lansdale, Ted Shackley and Paul Helliwell also had hands in both the Cuban and Southeast Asian areas. Good resources would include; "Ike's Spies: Eisenhower and the Espionage Establishment" by Stephen Ambrose, 1981 Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY, "The Dragon's Wings: The China National Aviation Corp. and the development of commercial aviation in China" by William M. Leary, Jr., 1976, Univ. of Georgia Press, Athens GA., "Perilous Missions: Civil Air Transport and CIA Covert Operations in Asia" also by Leary, 1984, Univ. of Alabama Press, "Luce and his Empire" by W.A. Swanberg, 1972, Scribners, NY, NY. and "The China Lobby in American Politics" by Ross Y. Koen, 1974, Harper & Row, NY, NY. Corso also had various opinions about the role and motives of Harry Anslinger of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, George White and Sidney Gottlieb of the CIA. C.D. Jackson and the crossroads of journalism and intelligence is a fertile area of further investigation and research.

Corso mentions State Department employees Frances Knight and Otto Otepka as being instrumental in attempting to screen out, or vet, incoming foreign nationals and Americans traveling abroad for intelligence purposes. These included Oswald and his wife Marina. The use of Oswald's birth certificate and/or passport in the US while he was a "defector" in Russia was another FBI concern, specifically William Sullivan of the Domestic Intelligence Division. This angle is in Summers "Official & Confidential", pg. 373. This "wilderness of mirrors" is the nexus of many conspiracy theories. Double agents and "moles" and the mole hunters of James Angleton's CIA counter-intelligence office are all involved. Sullivan was responsible for Orest Pena, (who Corso met with, in the outline he is ID'd as "Armand")- a name of note to JFK Assassination researchers. (Corso was underwhelmed by Angleton as detailed in Chapter 8 of the outline and elsewhere)

Corso was in the midst of being appointed to the staff of the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee when he was hit with the old Oswald-FBI allegations that made him look unreliable. On April 11, 1965 an interesting newspaper story in support of the besieged Corso appeared in the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin, penned by none other than Edith Kermit Roosevelt. Another interesting article showing the crossroads of journalism and intelligence work was the Chicago Tribune piece dated April 4th 1965 again in support of Corso. One may easily wonder if CIA friendly journalists like Edith Kermit Roosevelt and Tribune writer Willard Edwards were not briefed by the same person at the same time orchestrating this shrill chorus of support. NOTE: Edwards was the beneficiary of Corso's leaking Walt Rostow's policy draft document on the USSR as cited in Chapter 23 of the manuscript outline.

Besides working for Sen. Strom Thurmond, with the likes of Harry Dent and J. Fred Buzhardt on many national security related issues on Capitol Hill, he also worked for Sen. Richard Russell of Georgia who was on the Warren Commission. There are many details of this work not included in the outline. Corso described how a company he called "Suisse-Romano-Knecht" had test fired rifles similar to Oswald's and they were not convinced he could have done the shooting as alleged. It was this area I had been of interest of originally and found the relevant article in the Corso File, Washington Post, Jan. 19, 1970, Pg A2, "Russell Says He Never Believed Oswald Alone Planned Assassination" by Don Oberdorfer. Strange stuff indeed...

Corso's work on the Korean War POW-MIA "cover-up" is another area of deep investigative interest not entirely fleshed out in the manuscript outline, but was in the research notes. Many North Korean POW's did not want to return after the truce and forced repatriation happened. After the truce, many captured pilots and crew were apparently voluntarily sacrificed as part of a larger Cold War strategy for many years. Corso provided valuable assistance to the authors of the 1992 book "Soldiers of Misfortune: Washington's Secret Betrayal of American POW's in the Soviet Union", National Press Books, Washington DC, in particular Mark Sauter. Newsweek quoted Corso in an October 5, 1992 article titled, "Counting the Ghosts", about suspected lost airmen captured by the KGB to be "played back", or at least personal details used by their spies within America as part of a 'legend' suited to fooling a cursory inspection. A U.S News and World Report cover story on America's Top-Secret Spy War (March 15, 1993) documented many of Corso's allegations of Soviets holding Americans who had been on spy missions, totaling 138 missing from 1950 to 1969. Some were said to have been transported by train to Siberia. Witnesses, including KGB defector Yuri Rastvonov, reported seeing the POW's changing trains at the Chinese-Soviet border where the track gages were of different sizes. Newspaper articles on the same subject quoting Corso include; The Tacoma Morning News, July 24, 1992, USA Today November 10, 1992 and The Washington Times November 10, 1992. November 10th was the day Corso testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA affairs. Quintessential Corso-speak, State Department softies and the UN in cahoots with the Commies are to blame.

The Book that Never Was?:

So, it is regrettable that his memoir outline did not become the book that was published before his death. Once filtered for self-aggrandizing embellishments, it would have been a treasure trove for researchers of the para-political, sub-rosa Cold War era. Trained by MI-19 (a division of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, part of the War Office that during WWII was responsible for getting information from enemy POWs) when he was a second lieutenant during World War II he went to North Africa to work with the Fifth Army to prepare for the Salerno Italy amphibious landing. He met with Chief of Italian Intelligence General Pompeo Agrifoglio and was appointed liaison officer with the Italian Army. In Rome he worked with 20 British Field Security Service agents, 12 Italian Customs guards, Italian Police Force, Carabinere and remnants of Mussolini's OVRA fascist secret police in rounding up the German Gestapo, SS and Russian NKVD "stay-behind" networks. His superior Gen. Dasher defended Corso from British charges that he was soft on some Italian military officers. His Vatican relations were also mentioned in Chapter 6 of his outline, namely their having harbored two Gestapo officers, the Vatican Banks questionable operations and propaganda in their newspaper "Osservatore Romano".

Corso was there in Rome when the British Embassy was bombed by elements of the Irgun Zei Leumi, the predecessor to the Israeli Mossad, and the Stern Gang. Chapter 8 of the outline states Corso's distrust for James Jesus Angleton, then head of the Central Intelligence Group, successor to the OSS in Rome. In Chapter 9 he would have told us about how he sent a prisoner, Nazi Lt. Col. Karl Haas to the Counter-Intelligence Corps in Germany to be used to find escaped war criminals in South America. In Chapter 10 Corso was befriended by shipping magnate Marchese Serena known as the "Pirate" and how while staying at his home on the Isle of Capri he arrested a U.S. Army colonel who was a black marketer in Naples. In Chapter 11 he explains how he was visiting his grandparents village of Campo Felice near Palermo and catches two British Soldiers looting abandoned homes in small villages. With more name dropping in what would have been Chapter 12, the colonel finds himself at separate occasions in the esteemed company of Umberto, the Crown Prince of the House of Savoy, Princess Borghese and gangster Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Chapter 13 mentions the arrest of a pair of Brits operating a casino at Lugano who had passed themselves off as representatives from Allied Command in Germany. It was during this time Corso used a very special knife to kill Russians in Italy - The Devil's Blade.

Ahead to Chapter 15 for his start in Gen. MacArthur's Far East Command as Chief of Special Projects, Intelligence Division now as a lieutenant colonel, first on Okinawa then in Pusan Korea, eventually receiving the Legion of Merit award for his exploits only partially revealed including the "accidental" bombing of the Manchurian (Chinese) side of the North Korean border when the hydro-electric plants were targeted. In Chapter 16 he defines the U.S. silence on the Soviet role in the Korean War, especially their MiG Pilots pretending to be North Koreans, as the "fig leaf policy" cooked up by Communist "softies" in the State Department AND the CIA. He was involved with the U.N. Truce Delegation at Panmunjom and runs into two British reporters, Alan Winnington and Wilfred Burchett. Tales of torture and brainwashing are under-reported according to Corso. He traced the no-win policy to National Security Council Action memorandums 68, 68/2 and 135/3 and blames Dean Rusk, Paul Nitze and Dean Acheson. Chapter 17 is very interesting indeed, featuring the details behind the disinformation policy playing up a fake Sino-Yugoslav split, but typical of the undramatic aspects of national security intelligence work, it includes a vignette of his stopping a Sun Oil Co. (Sunoco) oil tanker leaving Texas for Havana which was being trans-shipped to Russia. The manifest listed crude oil but contained highly refined oil used for weapons production purposes.

Chapter 18 hints at more details regarding the suicide of the CIA's Frank Wisner and a leak that resulted in the deaths of over 200 agents in the Balkans akin to the 300 in Albania attributed to the acts of Kim Philby. Then there were the CIA's drug operations in the Far East (formerly the French's 'Operation X'), Harry Anslinger of the B.N.D.D, Mellon Bank and Lucky Luciano too. In Chapter 19 he mentions Wisner in the context of his attempt to smear and neutralize Corso's co-worker in anti-communism on Ike's NSC staff - Roy McNair. Corso threatens to leak information on his Rumanian activities during WW II, including photos of Wisner's liaison with a female agent. It also outlined his role in documenting Russian responsibility for the Katyn Massacre of over 10,000 Polish officers. Lastly of note for those in the UK is the bit in Chapter 23 on how a Soviet atomic explosion in space deadened a British satellite. While the Roswell book is interesting, including the chapter on the Tesla Death Ray, the book that could have been makes it pale in comparison and the fact it has not seen the light of day may be more by design than by some error or accident in the world of publishing.

To be continued...