|Response to Douglas Dean Johnson Page 1
TRINITY : THE INCONVENIENT REALITY A response to Douglas Dean Johnson’s « Crash Story »
By Jacques Vallee (May 15th, 2023)
Those people audacious enough to claim « Hoax ! » Have you been to the site yourself ? Have you interviewed the witnesses ? Have you analyzed the recovered materials ? If not, then by what information do you make such dismissive claims ?
Sid Goldberg, two-time Emmy Award director
In the course of any research, it is natural and healthy for people to disagree about facts and methods. In the ensuing debates, differences get resolved and facts are clarified to help new information emerge. Unfortunately, the fledging field of « ufology » has never learned to conduct its business in this way, and attempts to reform it into a decent, scientifically-oriented field have faltered. Instead, its history is littered with interminable fights, meaningless boastings and pretentious proclamations, more often designed to denigrate an opponent than to elevate a debate.
The attack against the work that Mrs. Harris and I have conducted in New Mexico since 2018 with the guidance of a scientific research team is a case in point.
For half a century, the beautiful landscapes of New Mexico have seen especially nasty arguments come and go about the reality and significance of UFO crashes. Roswell, in particular, has had its share of conflicting claims, with many basic facts still in doubt after a string of arguments and expensive lawsuits. (1)
1. INCONVENIENT DATA, BIASED AGENDAS
« Debate » in ufology is an empty word. It has rarely taken a form leading to creative results. Contrary to what happens in science or in a Court of Law, personal attack is allowed to replace intelligent argument; instantly amplified through the Internet, it leaves scant opportunity for timely response. The damage done to the field by this behavior is considerable : Why would an outside scholar or investigator step into such a contentious environment where calumny is encouraged and false accusation applauded for the sake of ratings, while valuable data, as we are about to see, gets repressed, distorted or forgotten ?
Four years ago, in the real world, a historic breakthrough occurred in Washington, freeing this field of research from decades of neglect and ridicule: the long-delayed recognition of the « UFO » (aka « UAP ») phenomenon by US military, academic and Intelligence authorities was a real fact. As a signal of recognition for the UFO research community, it was expected to result
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in a more organized and dignified approach to the public study, given the mass of valuable material already gathered by teams of dedicated civilian investigators spending their own time and money.
Instead, we continue to witness uneasy arguments between various parts of the government : Several agencies have now claimed authority over the field, armed with biased agendas, some trying to hide the data while others assert their intent to reveal them. In this environment, public trust continues to be foiled by efforts to denigrate « whistle-blowers, » defeating the attempts by a few members of Congress to allow them to speak on the record. The inital hopes of full public accounting and data validation have faded into uncertainty. The most valuable evidence, which would be in the heads of highly specialized scientists, is sheltered by clearances that cannot be « acknowledged, » placing them beyond straightforward Congressional access and public disclosure.
The result, so far (with a few exceptions such as the work of Mr. Robert Salas and others about sightings over nuclear sites) has not been debate but a pattern of lower-level personal attacks across the field, instead of renewed professional dialogue conducted on the basis of good analysis and real due diligence. As private researchers, our fervent hopes are that honest, unbiased, unfiltered public disclosures will eventually happen, and open a new era of research. In the meantime, we have to live in a climate of social media carnage, denigration and strife where any kind of attack is allowed.
2. BREAKTHROUGH AT TRINITY
This paper is concerned with a series of claims against « Trinity – The best-kept secret, » the book that Paola Harris and I published in 2021, and expanded into a new edition a year later (2). The claims are broad and invite no debate. We are accused of promoting a hoax based on the testimony of two kids, ages 7 and 9, who claimed to have witnessed the crash of an oval object on a family-owned ranch, one month to the day after the explosion of the first atom bomb at the Trinity site in 1945. Their names are Reme Baca and Jose Padilla.
The revelation implied in that 1945 date is important because it resets the beginning of the major UFO « waves » in the United States two years before Roswell (3). This seems to have upset some of the advocates closest to that event. Actually, the Trinity case could bring much- needed support to Roswell, as we will see below. But it is also inconvenient, possibly because it might disturb a sizeable, highly profitable cottage industry of Alien entertainment well- established in the area or for other reasons which might very well be legitimate, but remain hidden from view.
More importantly, it could also place before authorities the urgent need to reveal some documents from the past. For purely administrative reasons, essential records about the old atomic site have remained beyond the reach of public researchers like Paola and me, and even of Congress. No wonder this situation has triggered feverish speculation among ufologists of every stripe.
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In summary, at a time when public opinion expects more clarity about the phenomenon, the statements made by the Trinity witnesses, who kept them secret for 50 years, could inform the research and upset many plans.
Within the cogs of Government there are parties (supported by Congress members) intent on honest revelation of data about UFO reality, but there are also forces that seek to further delay such a disclosure, either because they assume it would cause harm to human society, or simply to preserve the monetary gains from future, profitable industrial breakthroughs on Earth and in space.
Such is the context of the present controversy, where potential « whistle blowers » are putting their livelihood and reputation in danger, and open themselves up to the kind of reprisals and violent personal attacks to which our witnesses are subjected here.
3. THE BASIC FACTS
On May First, an incendiary document to which we will refer here as « Crash Story » was widely distributed on the Internet (4). It is structured into thirteen articles of accusation, each bearing on one particular item from the story told in our book : it asserts that Mrs. Harris and I were negligent when we published Trinity. It starts off by making fun of the fact that we spent so much effort on a case that had been summarily dismissed by well-known investigators such as Ryan Wood, Stanton Friedman and Timothy Good.
• That first claim, which could have been easily ascertained, is simply wrong. Our book explains that Mr. Good did hear of the case but tried to follow-up in person without success. Stanton Friedman, as we also report, was intrigued by what he heard, but he told Mrs. Harris that all his time was taken by the Roswell business. As for Ryan Wood, he devotes no less than six pages to the case in his excellent analysis of UFO crashes, Magic Eyes Only (5). Hardly the work of a dismissive researcher, since it gave the case a rating of 60 to 80% credibility.
Beyond this, « Crash Story » lists thirteen heads of accusation against us. Upon close study, they can be grouped into two major sets, with different characteristics and relevance to the actual case. Two of the items are personal attacks to which I will not respond (6).
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accuracy. We have sound reasons to differ on interpretation : In only two cases, we have not reached a firm conclusion on some aspects of the case, and we will take the critics’more cogent arguments into account in future queries. In our response, we will show that our book presented what we knew in good faith at the time. We also believe that some of the extreme assumptions and extrapolations in « Crash Story » may come from having only heard one side of the Trinity story, and relying on biased information from local parties with an axe to grind.
4. WHY THE CRITICS ARE WRONG
When I was brought into the Trinity case by my friend and co-researcher Ron Brinkley in October 2017, Mrs. Paola Harris had already spent four years conducting interviews in the area. In particular, she had brought to the crash site a team of researchers from MUFON. Later, James Fox visited the place and filmed extensive interviews there. That initial phase of research uncovered the possibility that the crash site had been deliberately « interdicted » to humans and animals through seeding with poisonous plants found nowhere else on the property (7). The testimony by Mr. Baca and by Mr. Padilla, reproduced in our book, was generally consistent, although details were recalled differently, as any experienced investigator would expect. It is when all witnesses tell exactly the same story that one must suspect fraud and collusion.
• Why aren’t these important initial facts acknowledged in « Crash Story » ? Instead, the reader is led to believe that the statements by the witnesses rest on no visible evidence and are internally inconsistent.
As research developed, Mrs. Harris found that Reme Baca, possibly inspired by the wildly expanding hype and financial bounty around Roswell, viewed the case as a personal opportunity and tried to promote it. To that effect, he wrote a fairly well-developed amateur book in which he did give himself the better role, and published it. (8)
Jose Padilla, in contrast, was never interested in such promotion and kept to the attitude he had adopted back in 1945, which was to avoid most interviews and mind his own business.
In Trinity, we recognized this appetite for fame on the part of Mr. Baca, and as a result I wrote the book very much from the point of view of Mr. Padilla who was our primary source of information.
• The accusation of naivety and negligence against us made in « Crash Story » is inaccurate: As the primary author, I only used the recorded data originating from Reme Baca when it could be compared and verified against other statements of fact. Why support the fictitious tale that our book relies primarily on Baca’s version of the story ? That is simply inaccurate.
Granted that Mr. Baca may have seen an opportunity for fame in the events at Trinity (not illegal, and commonly accepted in the glow of Roswell), the attack against him makes much of the fact that he must have been the leader in a plot to hype it : according to « Crash Story », he must have invented the entire tale of the crash and recovery as a hoax to make money and to satisfy his need for self-aggrandizement ; he must have urged Jose Padilla to lie about it, and he boasted of highly-placed connections. Thus, Reme Baca is presented as a dishonest person who cannot be trusted. All that is idle speculation.
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• This narrative rests on no data and it contradicts the facts of our multi-year investigation at the site with witnesses our critics never met. Any judge would disqualify it as theoretical conjecture. It even contradicts the geography of the site itself, which was reshaped in 1945 (and later) by the Army in its multiple operations to open a special large gate (still visible), dig a road for its heavy vehicles, and take control of as much physical evidence as they could gather.
Even with our own reservations about the man’s ambition, which we discounted in our book, the extensive research in Stanford archives reported in « Crash Story » actually supports our contention that Mr. Baca was a real businessman, influential in the Spanish-speaking community, and a man legitimately active in local politics. He did support the campaign of Dr. Dixie Lee Ray and, contrary to another head of accusation, she did not violate any law if she did show him a folder (which he wasn’t allowed to read, copy or keep) about the recovery of the craft at Trinity.
• The lengthy argument in « Crash Story » implying that the Governor would have violated United States secrets in revealing the existence (but not the contents) of the document to Mr. Baca is in error. Our critic appears to misunderstand the nature of « Restricted Data » within the Atomic Energy Act.
The harsh character attack on Reme Baca in « Crash Story » is, in my opinion, largely unwarranted and an insult to his family. What we presented about him in our book still stands. Our treatment of his role, which was secondary to that of Mr. Padilla, is cautious and respectful even as we take issue with his claims. « Crash Story », in contrast, is needlessly injurious to his memory.
• The accusation ignores Mr. Baca’s positive initiative in seeking support from scientists (notably, at Los Alamos) to ascertain the nature of recovered materials. Again, the critique is partial and incomplete : it does not acknowledge his active role in encouraging independent analysis of the « bracket » by yet another group of scientists in Australia. Would he have done that if he had known that the device was a worthless artifact?
Why base an evaluation of a man’s role and personality on only half the data ? Why deny the reality of his laudable research effort when it is evident ?
Reme Baca was dead by the time I became involved in the case but Mrs. Harris was well aware of his boasting, a frequent source of contention between him and the sober accounts of Mr. Padilla that are the primary basis of our continuing interest in the case.
Accusing us of being naïve about Reme Baca’s claims is a false argument. While we relied on his primary observations as a child, which could be checked against Jose Padilla’s recorded statements, it is true that I chose not to write a special exposé of his boastings : first, because it would have no bearing on the future of our research, and also out of respect for his surviving family. Readers of my previous books know that character attacks are not my style or my
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motivation for doing the work, and that I detest the incendiary verbiage that passes for research in « retail ufology », even if it earns thousands of clicks on the Internet.
Similarly, trying to heap ridicule on our work for studying the « bracket » as if it was an extraterrestrial instrument is a non-starter : Nowhere can you find such a statement in Trinity.
From the very beginning, my stated hypothesis was that the soldiers had used this common artifact in support of the work they did inside the craft. By the way, it probably doesn’t come from a local windmill either, contrary to the claims of some MUFON members who joined in the accusations against the book. This was one of many technical issues we did check with professionals in the area. Yet that obsolete argument is constantly recycled.
• Here again, the accusation is irrelevant and misses the target. It is our team that established and published the news that the four holes in the device were machined in metric dimensions and the artifact probably originated in a country that didn’t use fractional inch dimensions. Here was another gratuitous accusation of incompetence with no basis in fact. Nowhere in our book do we suggest that the bracket could be an Alien artifact.
Another false accusation suggests that I am claiming ownership of that object, entrusted to me by Mr. Padilla. That is not now and has never been the case. I had custody of it during the period of analysis and it has now been donated to a major research institution, according to the wishes of Mr. Padilla.
In all of these : my supposed error in embracing the boastful claims of Mr. Baca, my implicit naïvety in thinking that the « bracket » was an interplanetary device, and my blindness in accepting the preliminary conclusions of the early researchers in the case, including the MUFON team (7), are provably inaccurate.
At this point, we have examined, and dismissed, SEVEN heads of accusation against our research.
In the next section, the reader will see that other situations have arisen, in which our book may benefit from improvement in matters where we did not yet find detailed information at a sufficient level. We will examine these items one by one, and determine how relevant they are to our conclusion. Where we find that we have missed some important fact, we will of course make the appropriate corrections.
5. WHY THE TRINITY CASE STILL STANDS
The items in question here relate to four areas where « Crash Story » accuses us of being incomplete or inaccurate. Let us review the actual situation.
1. The most complex item arises from various public declarations, some of them garbled, made by the son of the pilot who reported the destroyed tower, namely William J. Brophy. We did not rely on these contradictory declarations. The data we use in the
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book comes from Mrs. Harris’ live interview with him, in which he states that his father was the pilot of the B-29 aircraft that was directed by Alamogordo to investigate the « Marconi » tower when communication was lost. Brophy reported that the tower was damaged, and then went on to describe the crash site from the air. This is the closest we could come to a relevant testimony. Everything else is second- or third-hand and possibly garbled in the heat of random interviews.
It is true that on this day, we do not yet have proof for the version we published. An authoritative statement about what happened and which pilot was involved could only come from official records. My hope was (and still is) that publication of that initial story may incite those officials with access to Alamogordo archives to join the research. As this needlessly aggressive controversy arose, the opportunity is probably lost.
2. The second area of contention concerns Mr.Padilla’s life story, injuries and records. Here again, the reason for some of the uncertainty comes from the fact that he has resided in many places during his long life, had several marriages, misplaced or forgot records along the way, and that any remaining private documents would still be in California where he used to live. In other words, he’s human.
The few specific questions raised have simple answers, however. Jose was 16 in 1953, the last year of the Korean War, but no Peace treaty was ever signed. After the theoretical « cease fire, » the US Army still needed boots on the ground for clean-up, repatriation of matériel, documentation and the like. Mr. Padilla has told us repeatedly that his service in Korea was during that phase, and that he was shot as part of mop-up operations, but not in regular combat.
Mr. Padilla never claimed to be a hero. He found civilian employment when he returned to the US, eventually working as a contractor for CHP as a truck inspector, although not as a sworn officer. It is in that work that he was shot by a crooked driver carrying illegal passengers. The latest attempt by his doctors to remove the bullet from his abdomen was just a few months ago. As we all know, it was decided that the operations carried more risk than the bullet, given his age and frail condition.
3. The third area, much heralded in the attack against our book, centers on the police officer
(reported as « Eddy Apodaca ») who drove with Jose Padilla’s father to the crash site. An officer by that name did exist, but he was in the war in France at the time. Therefore, it is implied, Mr. Padilla is a liar.
What if he is telling the absolute truth ?
The real question should be « Was there only one policeman named Apodaca in that region of New Mexico at that time ? » Or is it possible that he got the name wrong ?
There were already 668 families named Apodaca in the US around 1880, concentrated in the Southwest and in New Mexico in particular, where they kept growing and spreading. « Eddy » is not an uncommon first name in that community. The 1980 census lists six men named Edward « Eddy » Apodaca in the State of New Mexico.
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Our investigation into the « Eddy Apodaca » matter will obviously continue.
4. In July 1994, Mr. Baca and his wife, a confirmed skeptic on religious grounds, experienced an unusual sighting from the porch of their house in Gig Harbour, State of Washington. It so impressed Mrs. Baca that she started crying and went through a crisis of faith, even asking, « Why didn’t the Lord tell us about such things? »
« Crash Story » takes me to task because I mention this episode. I would think I should be blamed if I did NOT include it! Here is a major character in the initial report who has a later sighting of a UFO above his house, along with his deeply religious wife, profoundly shaken by it, and I should NOT mention it ? Come on ! Our book takes no position about what the sighting means, it simply makes a note of it for the reader’s benefit. As it should be.
One final request for this section : It doesn’t help the cause of the authors of « Crash Story » that some of their followers have been calling Mr. Padilla at all hours to harrass him about the case, based on the accusations spread over the US and internationally in clear prejudice. Jose Padilla is ill with multiple conditions including a lung ailment, and these calls are offensive. Please recall the dogs.
6. BEYOND TRINITY : THE LARGER PROBLEM FOR SCIENCE
So far we have examined – and rejected – no less than seven faulty arguments (actually, « insinuations » would be more apt) and there are only two pending questions left out of four others, namely about the pilot (was it Brophy ?), and about the police officer who went inside the craft (was he called Eddy Apodaca and if so, from which town, and if not, what was the name of this officer?)
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The question about Jose’s service in Korea is resolved, although our account of it in the book requires updating. He served, was wounded, returned to civilian life, was shot again when he worked for law enforcement. Similarly, the issue of the Bacas and their sighting is relevant in general, but not a factor in the book I wrote.
We continue to work on the two open questions, of course, and we will report on the findings, as I wrote to the primary author of « Crash Story » when he demanded spur-of-the-moment answers to his blog. I said that « some technical and historical questions are still unresolved. » They still are, as often happens in research, and no instant answer can be fabricaged on the spot.
Having said this, our turn to ask our accusers, « Why did you choose to stop here ? »
The case is much richer than a common hoax by two urchins. Many interestings facts have been found (or « dug up, » to be more precise). Why don’t we talk about them, since they have taken most of the time we and our associates have spent on the site ?
If we are going to have a dialogue about Trinity, it should be about the whole thing: What about the four categories of very unusual materials we have described, reported by multiple witnesses ? And the disfiguration of the landscape that was conducted for a purpose ? The behavior of reported beings in correlation with what we now know about our « visitors, » which couldn’t be known then ? Those are some of the things upon which we spent most of our time and money, assisted by scientists such as Mr. Larry Lemke, a retired NASA expert in aeronautics and space, and professor Garry Nolan, of Stanford University, who performed some of the analyses. All that was done with the help of later residents on the property, long after the craft had been recovered, long after Reme Baca and Jose Padilla had moved on to their professional lives.
Obviously, we will continue to work on these topics, since we have custody of similar materials from other cases for comparison, whose analysis has never been published.
Our main interest, which the book reflects throughout, goes beyond the fascinating episode of the crash. The later reports we have uncovered point to four different types of high-performance materials that excite our interest, and those of the Silicon Valley experts we have consulted. The reported physical features are internally consistent, yet they couldn’t have existed in operational settings in 1945 if they were human-made.
Our research on Trinity, naturally, will continue. Two papers summarizing scientific findings so far have been drafted, then withdrawn in the face of the current controversy, which creates an environment making scientific debate impossible. They may be resubmitted at some point, and adjudicated on a purely scientific basis when the raucous accusations dissipate on Facebook. But the larger question remains : At a time when Congress is looking for historical data about direct observation of UFO phenomena, is there a deeper motive in suppressing what could be an important contribution to its knowledge ? The answer remains buried at Trinity.
For how long ?
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advanced age, and implying dishonesty. It is not worth a response. Gratuitous insinuations are too repulsive to address and have no place in this kind of debate, even if they have become common currency in the messy corners of ufology.
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