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Black Box Down

"'Hey, what's that?'

'Arc light. B-52 strike.'
'Every time I hear that, something terrible happens.'"
-- Chef and Willard, Apocalypse Now

World War Two is officially gaming material now. It was the Good War, with moral clarity on all sides, and plenty of
Spielbergian footage of scrappy heroes giving it up with gusto. Which leaves Vietnam as the Suppressed War, a war
seemingly designed for Secret History, for Conspiracy, and for the Horror . . . the Horror. With clarity the first casualty
of the murk of Indochina, we begin, then, with a single scene -- a B-52 resting, seemingly unharmed, in the middle of
the jungle. Inside it, of course, we'll find all the murk, and horror, we need to go in country.

"When we got there, what we found was pretty bizarre. First of all the aircraft was fully intact. It had not crashed. It
looked like a great big hand had grabbed it and just set it down in the jungle. There was no crash trail or anything."
-- testimony of William S. English (1992)

The central core of Bill English's story is so perfect that, like a soap bubble, one hesitates to touch it for fear that it will
disintegrate. English, he claims, was attached to a specialized unit of American Green Berets in Vietnam. "In April or
May of 1970," he and his team went to recover the survivors from a B-52 Stratofortress bomber that had crashed
somewhere in Laos. The bomber, however, had not crashed, but had somehow been landed intact in the jungle. The
hatches were still intact, and English's crew had to blow them open. Even stranger, the crew were still strapped in, but
had been horribly mutilated -- although the interior of the bomber was remarkably unbloodied. English and his men
took pictures of the mutilations, grabbed the dog tags, maps, and "everything else we needed to" (gun camera films,
most likely), blew up the plane, and returned to Saigon.

Later, as a civilian analyst working for the DIA (or, possibly, the NSA) at RAF Chicksands air base in England, he
saw his own photographs in a packet labeled "Grudge/Blue Book 13." This legendary report remains the only one
never released to the public by the Air Force -- the Air Force claims it doesn't exist, having skipped "unlucky" 13 in
the series. When, based on his knowledge of the photos' authenticity, he approved the packet as genuine, he was
summarily fired, deported, and then hounded into hiding by the authorities. Attempting to clear his name, he tried to
dig up a crashed UFO on the grounds of White Sands AFB, but his associates were killed by security helicopters. The
whereabouts of Grudge 13, the nature of the unknown force that grounded a B-52, and the role of the NSA in
evaluating UFO reports remain enigmatic shadows around the stark image of a close encounter in the Vietnam War.

"Before we go any further, let me tell you, I have over the years publicly acknowledged that the material that I viewed
could very well have been misinformation. I've never denied that possibility."
-- testimony of William S. English (1992)

Well-respected UFOlogist Peter Brookesmith investigated English's story and discovered any number of problems with
it. First, every B-52 ever made can be easily traced by serial number and tail number; no B-52 crashed under any
circumstances between July 1969 and July 1972. Second, the Green Berets were not tasked for air crew recovery; the
Air Force either used its own 3rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group or, in inaccessible locations, tasked
MACV/SOG's SOG-80 "Recovery Studies Division." (A division, in any event, that English doesn't claim to have
belonged to.) English does claim to have been part of Operation Phoenix, but their job was infiltration and
assassination, not UFO crash investigations. And, needless to say, none of his story about White Sands checks out at
all. On the other hand, he seems credibly informed about Chicksands, and Brookesmith concludes that he got fired
from the American intelligence services there for mistaking a disinformation op for a real dispatch, and confabulated
the rest to delight the days of people like Peter Brookesmith, and me, and you.

"As a specialized aspect of its overall materiel exploitation program, Headquarters USAF has established Project
Moon Dust to locate, recover, and deliver descended foreign space vehicles."
-- Col. Betz, U.S.A.F. memo, Nov 13 1961

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Of course, jurisdictional issues may not be the insuperable obstacle that Brookesmith believes they are. Project Moon
Dust began in 1953 (or 1957, depending on which Air Force official you believe) as part of the Air Force's crash
recovery teams, based out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Its job, officially, was to identify, track, and recover space crash
debris, specifically foreign space debris. (Operation Blue Fly was the specific group within Moon Dust tasked with
recovery missions.) A later Department of State communique clarified Moon Dust's mission: "the examination of non-
US space objects or objects of unknown origin." At least two Moon Dust missions are public knowledge: a recovery in
Nepal in 1968, and one in the Sudan in 1967. (Rumor also puts Moon Dust operations in Chad, Botswana, Bolivia, and
several domestic crash sites.) At some point, at least according to indefatigable UFO Freedom-of-Information gadfly
Clifford Stone, Project Moon Dust has been put under the Department of State rather than military command per se.
Moon Dust may now have its own teams of paramilitary commandos, much as the CIA does for use in tumultuous
ground situations. And it may have "borrowed" Green Berets for its own use in 1970, especially if its primary team
was off somewhere else at the time.

"It was while there that I discovered that there was a tremendous amount of UFO and alien activity in Vietnam. It was
always reported in official messages as 'enemy helicopters.' Now any of you who know anything about the Vietnam
war know that the North Vietnamese did not have any helicopters, especially after our first couple of air raids into
North Vietnam. Even if they had they would not have been so foolish as to bring them over the DMZ because that
would have insured their demise. Our troops were fired on occasionally by these 'enemy helicopters,' enemy troops
were fired on occasionally by these 'enemy helicopters,' and occasionally people would disappear. And on one instance
that I know for sure at least one entire village disappeared one night due to alien activity." -- William Cooper, "UFO
Cover-Up: Alien Nation or Conspiracy Theory?"

Certainly there were plenty of UFO incidents in Vietnam for Blue Book, or Moon Dust, or anyone, to investigate. In
June 1966, a UFO blacked out the power at the army base at Nha Trang; a bat-winged "bird woman" (perhaps a
Spring-Heeled Jill?) appeared to U.S. Marine Earl Morrison near Da Nang in the summer of 1969. Two separate
reports exist of a spherical UFO piloted by Greys landing near Tonle Sap, Cambodia; at least once (in September,
1971), U.S. forces reportedly engaged them in combat. The region is even more famous for its USOs, Unidentified
Submarine Objects. As early as June of 1909, a cigar-shaped USO flew over Dong Hoi and submerged off the coast.
Two underwater "wheels of light" appeared in the South China Sea in 1891 and 1910; another two appeared in the
Gulf of Siam in 1962 (to the S.S. Telemachus) and 1970 (to the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mellon). Did the massive U.S.
deployment to Southeast Asia serve to screen (or even to cover up, or better yet to justify) a reconaissance-in-force
against Sub-Oceanic Aliens, or against the remnants of the Lost Continent of Mu?

"You came up my river -- in that small boat. So simple. I always thought the final justice would come from the sky, like
we did."
-- Col. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now (early draft screenplay)

Around the central core of "UFO operations in Vietnam" much can be spun. Whether the player characters are Moon
Dust special ops, black ops fighting a long-term battle against the denizens of Vietnam's "lost world" of dinosaurs and
Reptoids, VC guerrillas battling any number of indistinguishable "aliens from the sky", or even Zeta Reticulan grunts
stuck "in country", the potential is there for darkness, confusion, and terror. GURPS Atlantis GMs can pit their gill-
men and sentient octopoids against Navy SEALs; GURPS Atomic Horror GMs can send their MJ-12 agents to
salvage the intergalactic inertial trackers from Angkor Wat before the war spreads to Cambodia. Any number of
mysteries, from the aerial predators like the Rods to the vegetable hallucinocthones from Mandrake Country, can lurk
underneath the canopy and behind the scrim of official prevarication. The struggle is there, the jungle is dark, and the
aliens are waiting. Move in.

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