Presidential X-Files: JFK and the UFO Memorandum

In 2011, a UFO investigator named William Lester unearthed a memo, courtesy of a Freedom of Information Act search, which he suggested provided evidence of a motive for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, one connected to UFOs. The letter was written by President John F Kennedy to the head of the CIA ten days prior to his assassination. In the letter, Kennedy demanded to be shown highly confidential documents about UFOs. The secret memo is one of two letters written by JFK asking for information about the paranormal on November 12 1963.

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Author William Lester said that the CIA released the documents to him under the Freedom of Information Act, after he made a request while researching his book entitled ‘A Celebration of Freedom: JFK and the New Frontier.’ According to Lester, Kennedy’s interest in UFOs adds some fuel to conspiracy theories about his assassination. Some ufologists that Lester spoke with say that the documents released to Mr Lester by the CIA, add weight to the suggestion that the president was killed in order to stop him discovering the truth about UFOs. In one of the secret documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, JFK writes to the director asking for the UFO files. In the second memo, sent to the NASA administrator, the president expresses a desire for cooperation with the former Soviet Union on mutual outer space activities.

In an interview with AOL news, Lester said of Kennedy "One of his concerns was that a lot of these UFOs were being seen over the Soviet Union and he was very concerned that the Soviets might misinterpret these UFOs as U.S. aggression, believing that it was some of our technology. I think this is one of the reasons why he wanted to get his hands on this information and get it away from the jurisdiction of NASA so he could say to the Soviets, 'Look, that’s not us, we’re not doing it, we’re not being provocative.'" In the memo, datedNov. 12, 1963, the president ordered the CIA director to organize the agency's intelligence files relating to UFOs, and to debrief him on all "unknowns" by the following February.

Lester used the FOI procedure as part of his research. He said, "The government regularly declassifies documents after a certain amount of time goes by, and then you have to file a request for those documents. When I was in the process of filing, those letters had just become declassified and released to the public. At the time, I think other people were getting them too."

But some archivists have questioned the authenticity of the top secret memo. A research technician at the JFK Library in Boston said that he was unable to find a carbon copy of it in its presidential archive, which holds copies of all of JFK's letters, including his confidential ones. He said, "We did some research into the presidential papers to try to find any evidence of the Nov. 12, 1963 letter to the director of the CIA, John McCone, and in searching through the president's office files -- CIA, NASA and National Security files -- we could find no evidence of this memo or anything like it." He went on to say, "Something is a little odd about it. It is sanitized in very odd places: the director's name, the top heading of the document (which usually distinguishes which agency is generating it) and then the tiny 'top secret' print at the top of letter. Top secret items are usually stamped in large dark ink on the letter."

Lester believes the document to be authentic and claimed that the memo provides the "missing link" in a conspiracy theory surrounding another document, one which many conspiracy theorists argue shows that the CIA killed Kennedy to prevent his involvement in a UFO cover-up. This document, called the "burned memo," was allegedly passed to the some members of the non-mainstream media in 1999 by an anonymous source who claimed to be a former CIA operative. The alleged leaker claimed to have worked for the CIA between 1960 and 1974. He said that he pulled the memo from a fire when the agency was burning some of its most sensitive files. In the "burned memo," the CIA director at the time llegedly wrote: "Lancer [the CIA's codename for JFK] has made some inquiries regarding our activities, which we cannot allow. Please submit your views no later than October. Your action to this matter is critical to the continuance of the group."

Lester argues that the memo he found proves JFK really was probing the CIA about UFO intelligence, and that the CIA might have taken steps to prevent this.

Many historians believe the "burned memo" is a fake. They argue that even if the memo is Lester uncovered is real, there are perfectly logical reasons why Kennedy might have written it. Lester cites three reasons why he believes that JFK was interested in UFOs:

1. Kennedy was concerned that UFOs seen by the Soviets would be misinterpreted by them as being U.S. aircraft behaving provocatively. The argument goes that this may be what Kennedy implied when he supposedly wrote, "It is important that we make a distinction between known and unknowns in the event the Soviets try to mistake our extended cooperation as a cover for intelligence gathering of their defense or space programs."

2. Kennedy's inquiry could have been connected to his obvious interest in space travel. At the time of its alleged composition, NASA was a new agency and the whole question of outer space and potential life in outer space something that may people speculated about.

3. There was a natural concern about UFOs at the time due to a spurt of incidents thought to be sightings.

Following is a video clip from the History Channel show "Ancient Aliens" in which the show proposes the possibility that Kennedy was assassinated in order to keep the truth about aliens on Earth from getting out in this clip from Season 12, Episode 9, "The Majestic Twelve".


Presidential X-Files: Was Zachary Taylor Murdered?

Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States, was buried in Louisville, Kentucky. Twice. Taylor was the second president to die while holding the office of President. When Taylor died, rumors began that his death may have not been from the causes attributed, and that he was actually the victim of foul play. These rumors persisted for over a century, well into the latter part of the 20th century, and likely they continue in some circles to this day. They gained so much strength that in 1991, Taylor's body was exhumed and an examination was performed by the Kentucky state medical examiner to determine whether or not Taylor had been poisoned.

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On Independence Day, the fourth of July in 1850, Taylor attended some of the holiday celebrations in Washington. While there, he consumed raw fruit and iced milk after attending holiday celebrations. He was attending a fund-raising event at the Washington Monument, which was then under construction. Over the course of the next several days, he became severely ill, suffering from an unknown digestive ailment. His doctor diagnosed the illness as "cholera morbus", which was a mid–nineteenth-century term for a number of different intestinal ailments. There was nothing suspicious about this at the time because several of his cabinet members had come down with similar illnesses.

Taylor developed a fever that concerned his attending physicians. Even Taylor himself was not optimistic about his chances of recovery as he began to feel worse. On July 8th, Taylor told one of his medical attendants, "I should not be surprised if this were to terminate in my death. I did not expect to encounter what has beset me since my elevation to the Presidency. God knows I have endeavored to fulfill what I conceived to be an honest duty. But I have been mistaken. My motives have been misconstrued, and my feelings most grossly outraged."

Taylor's condition worsened and finally he died at 10:35 p.m. on July 9, 1850. He was 65 years old.

Taylor was interred in the Public Vault of the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. for just over three months, from July 13, 1850 to October 25, 1850. This was always understood to be a temporary resting place for Taylor. In late October of 1850 his body was transported to the Taylor Family plot where his parents were buried, on the old Taylor homestead plantation known as 'Springfield' in Louisville, Kentucky. Today this sight is known as the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.

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Almost immediately after his death, rumors began to circulate that Taylor was poisoned by pro-slavery Southerners. Despite being a slaveholder himself during his life, as well as a southerner, Taylor was opposed to the spread of slavery in the territories obtained from Mexico during the Mexican War. Nothing much was done to follow up on these theories, but in the latter part of the 20th century, conspiracy theories began to gain traction again, perhaps because of distrust of governments in the wake of Watergate.

In 1978, Hamilton Smith wrote a scholarly article in the Journal of the Forensic Science Society, theorizing that Taylor had been assassinated. Smith based his assassination theory on the timing of drugs, the lack of confirmed cholera outbreaks, and other reasons.

In the late 1980s, Clara Rising, a former professor at University of Florida, persuaded 84 year old John McIlhenny of Baton Rouge Louisiana, then Taylor's closest living relative, to agree to an exhumation of Taylor's body so that his remains could be tested for possible arsenic poisoning. She was able to obtain the necessary consents and court order and on June 17, 1991, Taylor's remains were exhumed and transported to the Office of the Kentucky Chief Medical Examiner. Samples of Taylor's hair, fingernail, and other tissues were removed, and radiological studies were conducted. The remains were returned to the cemetery and reinterred, with appropriate honors, in the mausoleum shown in the photo above.

Neutron activation analysis tests were conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. These tests failed to find any evidence of poisoning. The tests concluded that Taylor's arsenic levels were too low to support proof of poisoning. The analysis concluded Taylor had contracted "cholera morbus, or acute gastroenteritis". At the time of Taylor's death, Washington had open sewers, and his food or drink may have been unsanitary. Unfortunately, any potential for Taylor's recovery was frustrated by the state of medical science at the time. His doctors treated him with ipecac, calomel, opium and quinine. They also bled him, another erroneous medical treatment then in use.

In 2007, Clara Rising's book The Taylor File: The Mysterious Death of a President was published. While Professor Rising maintains her belief that Taylor was poisoned in order that Millard Fillmore, a man more sympathetic to the plight of the slaver power, would become president, many more historians and forensic scientists disagree with this conclusion.

An interesting Cspan video about Taylor's exhumation can be found here.

Presidential X-Files: Did John Wilkes Booth Escape Capture?

Some conspiracy theorists believe that John Wilkes Booth actually escaped capture following his assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and that the man killed at Garrett's Farm near Port Royal, Virginia was not Booth. That theory has been dismissed by most historians as the product of overactive imaginations. In 1907, Finis L. Bates authored a book entitled "Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth" in which he contended that someone who looked like Booth was mistakenly killed at the Garrett farm while Booth eluded his pursuers. According to Bates, Booth had assumed the pseudonym "John St. Helen" and later settled on the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas, before moving once again, to Granbury, Texas. According to Bates' book, St. Helen/Booth fell gravely ill and made a deathbed confession as to his supposed true identity. The man then recovered and fled, eventually committing suicide in 1903 in Enid, Oklahoma, under the alias "David E. George". By 1913, over 70,000 copies of the book had been sold, and Bates exhibited St. Helen's mummified body in carnival sideshows.

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In response to Bates' claim, in 1913 the Maryland Historical Society published an account authored by Baltimore mayor William M. Pegram, who claimed that he had viewed Booth's remains upon the casket's arrival at the Weaver funeral home in Baltimore on February 18, 1869, for burial at Green Mount Cemetery. Pegram, who had known Booth very will, since a young man, submitted a sworn statement that the body which he had seen in 1869 was actually Booth's. Others also positively identified this body as Booth at the funeral home, including Booth's mother, brother, and sister, along with his dentist and other Baltimore acquaintances.

The rumor spread by Bates was revived in the 1920s when a corpse was exhibited on a national tour by a carnival promoter and advertised as the "Man Who Shot Lincoln". According to a 1938 article in the Saturday Evening Post, the exhibitor said that he obtained St. Helen's corpse from Bates' widow.

Inj 1977, a book entitled The Lincoln Conspiracy by David W. Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. contended that there was a government plot to conceal Booth's escape. The book sold more than one million copies and was made into a feature film called The Lincoln Conspiracy, which was theatrically released later that year.

In 1998 another book, The Curse of Cain: The Untold Story of John Wilkes Booth contended that Booth had escaped, sought refuge in Japan, and eventually returned to the United States. In 1994 two historians, as well as several of Booth's descendants, sought a court order for the exhumation of Booth's body at Green Mount Cemetery. The applicants hoped to prove or disprove the many theories concerning Booth's supposed escape. But the application was denied by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the ruling.

In December 2010, descendants of Edwin Booth reported that they obtained permission to exhume Booth's body to obtain DNA samples to compare with a sample of his brother John's DNA. The family hoped to obtain samples of John Wilkes's DNA from remains such as vertebrae stored at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Maryland. This application was also denied.

Recently, in an April 15, 2019 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer written by Edward Colimore, the author alleged that facial-recognition software had performed an analysis of the faces of John Wilkes Booth with that of the man known as David George. According to the article, in less than a minute, results came back that showed a strong possibility that the photographs were of the same man. The article acknowledged that these results are not as definitive as DNA results, but facial recognition is used by law enforcement agencies and has some credibility. The test results support the contention that Booth lived 38 years more after Lincoln's assassination as St. Helen and George.

After researchers obtained the best images available, they were fed into a high-resolution scanner. According to those performing the test, George’s photo was nearly a perfect match with Booth’s, within the top 1 percent of those bearing similar facial features, according to researchers who worked with the creator of the New York Police Department’s first dedicated facial-recognition unit. St. Helen’s photograph was damaged and had to be repaired for the test. The experiment was used for a feature episode of a television show on the Discovery Channel.

History records Booth as having shot Lincoln in the back of the head at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865, before fleeing through Maryland and Virginia. It was there that he was reported to have been cornered by soldiers and detectives shortly after 2 a.m. on that Wednesday in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Booth is reported to have said, “Draw up your men before the door, and I’ll come out and fight the whole command. Well, my brave boys, prepare a stretcher for me!” A soldier lit some hay, threw it inside the barn where Booth was believed to be hiding. When a soldier named Boston Corbett spied a silhouette of a man on crutches with a carbine resting on his hip, Corbett is supposed to have shot Booth, mortally wounding him in the neck. People who saw the body at the barn questioned the official account. Some claimed that the dead man didn’t resemble Booth, and even though others had identified the corpse as Booth’s, doubt remained.

The new technology is not foolproof, and as Rob D’Ovidio, associate professor of criminology and justice studies at Drexel University, states, "the evidence needs to be strong if you’re going to rewrite history.” Facial characteristics are not as compelling evidence as DNA or even a fingerprint. Much depends on the quality of the photos and if the photos are of questionable quality, the results will also be questionable.

The Death of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln died on the morning of April 15, 1865 (156 years ago today.) He was 56 years of age. It was Holy Saturday, the morning before Easter Sunday.

Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865 by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth while Lincoln was attending a performance of the play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC. There is not general agreement as to the time when Lincoln was shot, but the time most sources quote is at around 10:13 p.m. Although army surgeon Charles Leale recognized wound as fatal, Lincoln managed to hold on to life until the following morning, remaining in a coma for over 9 hours before passing away at 7:22 a.m. on the morning of April 15, 1865. Lincoln died at the William Peterson Boarding House, across the street from Ford's Theatre.

When Lincoln died, (the official time is recorded as 7:22 a.m. 10 seconds on April 15, 1865), the crowd around the bed knelt for a prayer, and when they were finished, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton is quoted as having said, "Now he belongs to the ages". (There is some disagreement as to Stanton's words after Lincoln died. All agree that he began "Now he belongs to the..." with some stating he said ages while others believe he said angels.)

In Team of Rivals, author Doris Kearns Goodwin describes Lincoln's death as follows, at page 743:

No sooner has "the clocks struck seven" one observer recalled, than "the character of the President's breathing changed. It became faint and low. At intervals it altogether ceased, until we thought him dead. And then it would be again resumed." Lincoln's nine hour struggle had reached its final moments. "Let us pray," Reverend Phineas D. Gurley said, and everyone present knelt.

At 7:22 a.m., April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was pronounced dead. Stanton's concise tribute from his deathbed still echoes. "Now he belongs to the ages."

When Mary was told that he was gone, she piteously demanded, "Oh, why did you not tell me that he was dying." Her moans could be heard throughout the house. Finally, with Robert's help, she was taken to her carriage, which had waited in front of the house through the long night.

Until the moment of Lincoln's death, Stanton's "coolness and self-possession" had seemed "remarkable" to those around him. Now he could not stop the tears that streamed down his cheeks. In the days that followed, even as he worked tirelessly to secure the city an catch the conspirators, "Stanton's grief was uncontrollable," recalled Horace Porter, "and at the mention of Mr. Lincoln's name he would break down and weep bitterly."

While Stanton's raw grief surprised those who had seen only his gruff exterior, John Hay understood. "Not everyone knows, as I do," he wrote Stanton, "how close you stood to our lost leader, how he loved you and trusted you, and how vain were all the efforts to shake that trust and confidence, not lightly given and never withdrawn. All this will be known some time of course, to his honor and yours."

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Lincoln's body was wrapped in a US flag and taken in the rain to the White House by Union officers, while the city's church bells rang. Vice President Andrew Johnson was sworn in as President at 10:00 am that morning. Lincoln's body lay in state in the East Room, and then in the Capitol Rotunda from April 19 through April 21. For three weeks, his funeral train brought the body to cities across the North for large-scale memorials attended by hundreds of thousands, as well as many people who gathered in informal trackside tributes with bands, bonfires and hymn singing. On May 3, 1865 the train arrived in Springfield, Illinois where Lincoln was interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Today is the 156th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He was shot on Good Friday, April 14, 1865 (156 years ago today), while attending the play "Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. The Civil War was almost at its end, but Lincoln would not live to see the aftermath of the war, nor to play a part in his nation's reconciliation. His life would end the following morning.

Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated. (An unsuccessful attempt had been made on the life of Andrew Jackson in 1835.) The assassination of Lincoln was planned and carried out by the prominent stage actor John Wilkes Booth, as part of a larger conspiracy in a bid to revive the Confederate cause. Booth's co-conspirators were Lewis Powell and David Herold, who were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, and George Atzerodt who was supposed to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson. By simultaneously eliminating the top three people in the administration, Booth and his co-conspirators hoped to sever the continuity of the United States government. Lincoln was shot while attending the play at Ford's Theatre with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln. He died early the next morning. The rest of the conspirators' plot failed. Powell only managed to wound Seward, while Johnson's would-be assassin, Atzerodt, lost his nerve and got drunk instead.

Lincoln's day had started well. Hugh McCulloch, the new Secretary of the Treasury, said on seeing the President that morning, "I never saw Mr. Lincoln so cheerful and happy". At around noon, while visiting Ford's Theatre to pick up his mail, Booth learned that the President and General Ulysses Grant would be attending the theatre to see Our American Cousin that night. Booth decided that this was the perfect opportunity for him to take action. That afternoon, Booth went to Mary Surratt's boarding house in Washington, D.C. and asked her to deliver a package to her tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland. He also asked her to tell her tenant who resided there to have the guns and ammunition that Booth had previously stored at the tavern ready to be picked up later that evening. She complied with Booth's requests.

At seven o'clock that evening, Booth met for a final time with all his fellow conspirators. Booth assigned Lewis Powell to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward at his home, George Atzerodt to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson at his residence, the Kirkwood Hotel, and David E. Herold to guide Powell to the Seward house and then out of Washington to rendezvous with Booth in Maryland. Booth planned to shoot Lincoln with his single-shot Derringer and then stab Grant with a knife at Ford's Theatre. They were all to strike simultaneously shortly after ten o'clock that night. Atzerodt protested, saying he had only signed up for a kidnapping, not a killing. Booth told him he was in too far to back out.

Contrary to what Booth expected, General and Mrs. Grant had declined the invitation to see the play with the Lincolns. Mrs. Grant was not fond of Mrs. Lincoln and convinced her husband to decline the President's invitation. Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris (daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris) joined the Lincolns instead.

The Lincoln party arrived late and settled into the Presidential Box. The play was stopped briefly and the orchestra played "Hail to the Chief" as the audience gave the president a rousing standing ovation. Ford's Theatre was full with 1,700 in attendance. Mrs. Lincoln whispered to her husband, who was holding her hand, "What will Miss Harris think of my hanging on to you so?" The president replied, "She won't think anything about it". Those were the last words ever spoken by Abraham Lincoln.

Presidential X-Files: Julia Grant's Premonition

On the night when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre, the Lincolns had planned to share their theatre box with then-General Ulysses Grant and his wife, the former Julia Dent. Although it may have been seen as disrespectful to beg off a Presidential invitation, the accepted explanation for the Grants doing so was because future first lady Julia Grant had a strong dislike for the current first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. That explanation may have been understandable, given the first lady's mercurial personality. Today some have theorized that she may have had bipolar disorder in an age before proper medication was available for such condition.


The Grants gave the explanation that the General was in need of rest from his long campaign that had resulted in the end of the war, and that the couple were anxious to visit with their children. In his memoirs, Grant wrote of that evening:

"I replied to the President's verbal invitation to the effect, that if we were in the city we would take great pleasure in accompanying them; but that I was very anxious to get away and visit my children, and if I could get through my work during the day I should do so. I did get through the work and started by the evening train on the 14th, sending Mr. Lincoln word, of course, that I would not be at the theatre."

In Julia Grant's memoir, she talks about a premonition that she had that something bad would happen if her husband attended the play that night. According to her account, she states that as soon as the General awoke on the morning of the 14th she "asked him earnestly if we would not leave for Burlington today." She goes on to describe how a messenger arrived with a message from Mrs. Lincoln and how, on reflection, she firmly believed he was one of the conspirators and not from Mrs. Lincoln at all. On having this feeling, she sent a note to her husband asking the General to leave that evening. She also asked three of his staff officers to "urge the General to go home that night."

Julia Grant also mentions in her memoirs how she saw John Wilkes Booth eating at a nearby table with three other men (one of whom she was certain was the messenger she had seen earlier in the morning. She states that she told the wife of John Rawlins with whom she was dining, "I believe that they are part of Mosby's guerillas and they have been listening to every word we have said. Do you know, I believe there will be an outbreak tonight or soon. I just feel it, and am glad I am going away tonight." She also described how Booth rode up next to their carriage, looking at her in a very aggressive and menacing way.

Ulysses and Julia Grant had a very close relationship and throughout their marriage, Mrs. Grant claimed to have premonitions from a voice inside her head which assured her that Ulysses was destined for greatness. She claimed that it was this premonitory voice that not only saved her husband’s life but change the course of history. Earlier during the war, she had made the effort to live in camp with her husband when possible. From the time he took charge of the Union Army, Ulysses Grant had received a number of threats on his life, and Julia Grant believed that he had emerged unharmed because some sort of force for good was protecting him, thanks in large measure to her urging. She believed the ordained path of her husband's fate destined him for greatness and it is said that she reveled in the cheers and applause with which he was met by the masses at public events.

One might think that the prospect of enormous applause and praise from a theater full of admirers would have been just what Mrs. Grant would enjoy. It was expected that if Grant had attended the theatre with Lincoln, he would have received a standing ovation along with Lincoln when they entered the presidential box. Yet Julia Grant claimed that her inner sense that some type of danger was imminent was one she could not ignore and so she took steps to avoid Ford's Theatre that night.

As it turned out, Grant was not that difficult to convince. He was said to be a very loving husband to Julia, and both he and his wife wished for some private time alone with their children, who were then staying with relatives in New Jersey. This gave Julia Grant the cover she needed for refusing the honor of being seated with the President and Mrs. Lincoln on the night of April 14, 1865.

The Grants were well on their way to New Jersey that night as the Lincolns arrive at Ford’s Theater to see the play Our American Cousins. It was later learned that the conspirators who assassinated the President that night believed Grant was to have also been there and that Booth had planned to murder him as well.

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Perhaps it was just coincidence that Grant avoided the same fate as Lincoln, though Julia Grant believed that it was some form of divine or supernatural force that alerted her and warned her off of attending Ford's Theatre that night 156 years ago, saving her husband's life, in order that he would later occupy the White House as Chief Executive.

Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson

In the first part of the 18th century, Great Britain and it's colonies operated under what was known as the Julian Calendar, (named for Julius Caesar.) It didn't accurately record the orbit of the earth around the sun and so in 1752, the British Empire switched to the Gregorian Calendar (named for Pope Gregory XIII.) In 1743 when Thomas Jefferson was born, the date of the (Julian) calendar read April 2nd. But after the change to the Gregorian Calendar, Jefferson's birthday fell on April 13 and that's when his birthday is now generally acknowledged and celebrated. Today is his 279th birthday. Jefferson's was the 3rd President of the United States, but he is also remembered as one America's Founding Fathers and as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

At the beginning of the American Revolution, Jefferson served in the Continental Congress, representing Virginia. He then served as a wartime Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. After the war ended, Jefferson served as a diplomat in Paris in 1784 initially as a commissioner to help negotiate commercial treaties. In May 1785, he became the United States Minister to France (essentially an Ambassador).

Jefferson was also the first United States Secretary of State from 1790 to 1793 during the very first cabinet in the administration of President George Washington. He resigned the office and with his close friend James Madison he organized the Democratic-Republican Party. He was elected Vice-President in 1796 at a time when the office was the prize for the candidate who finished second in the presidential election. When President John Adams passed the Alien and Sedition Acts as a means of silencing his administration's critics, Jefferson and Madison secretly wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which formed the basic manifesto for states' rights.

Jefferson was elected President of the United States in the very close election of 1800. As President his administration purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the new west. His second term was more problematic. With Britain at war with Napoleon, he tried using economic warfare against them, but his embargo laws did more damage to American trade and the economy. Jefferson has often been rated in scholarly surveys as one of the greatest presidents, but some historians have criticized him for his failure to oppose slavery.

Jefferson was a very intelligent man, and had a variety of interests. Once, at a dinner of Nobel prize winners, President John F. Kennedy quipped, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." Jefferson spoke five languages and was keenly interested in science, invention, architecture, religion and philosophy. He designed his own mansion on a 5,000 acre plantation near Charlottesville, Virginia, which he named Monticello. His helped found the University of Virginia in his post-presidency years. He even wrote his own version of the New Testament, known as the Jefferson Bible.

As a tobacco planter, Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves throughout his lifetime. Like many of his contemporaries, he viewed Africans as being racially inferior. Although he was a slave owner, he was a leading American opponent of the international slave trade, and as President he signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves on March 2, 1807.

After Martha Jefferson, his wife of eleven years, died in 1782, Thomas remained a widower for the rest of his life. In 1802 allegations surfaced that he was also the father of his house slave Sally Hemings' children. In 1998, DNA tests revealed a match between her last child and the Jefferson male family line. The paternity of these children remains a matter of debate among historians.

Jefferson' health began to deteriorate and by June 1826 he was confined to bed. His death was from a combination of illnesses and conditions including uremia, severe diarrhea, and pneumonia. Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and a few hours before John Adams. Jefferson wrote his own epitaph, which reads:


Presidential X-Files: The Strange Death of Warren Harding

Warren G. Harding is one of four presidents to die in office of natural causes. Or was he? Conspiracy theorists surmise that Harding was actually murdered and that his murder was covered up. This theory has been promoted by a number of sources, including a disreputable former FBI agent named Gaston Means, who wrote a book about his "investigation" into the alleged conspiracy.


In June of 1923, President Warren G. Harding set out on a cross-country "Voyage of Understanding", a kind of national dog-and-pony show in which Harding hoped to showcase his policies and escape the stench of scandal back home. Rumors of a number of scandals within Harding's administration were just coming to the surface, and while Harding was never directly implicated in them, at the time of his western trip, he was certainly aware of them. He asked his Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, “If you knew of a great scandal in our administration, would you for the good of the country and the party expose it publicly or would you bury it?” Hoover recommended that Harding expose the scandal, stating that at least Harding could get credit for doing the honorable thing. But Harding never got the chance to take that advice.

Harding's political advisers had given him a physically demanding schedule, even though he had ordered it to be cut back. He gave speeches in Kansas City, in Hutchinson, Kansas, in Denver, and in many other stops along the tour. He visited Yellowstone and Zion National Parks, and dedicated a monument on the Oregon Trail. On July 5, Harding embarked on USS Henderson in Washington state. He became the first president to visit Alaska, stopping at Seward to take the Alaska Central Railway to McKinley Park and Fairbanks.

On the way back, Harding's ship stopped at Vancouver Harbor on July 26, where Harding became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Canada. He was greeted dock-side by the premier of British Columbia and the mayor of Vancouver. Thousands lined the streets of Vancouver to watch as the motorcade of dignitaries moved through the city to Stanley Park, where Harding spoke to an audience estimated at over 40,000. In his speech he proclaimed, "You are not only our neighbor, but a very good neighbor, and we rejoice in your advancement and admire your independence no less sincerely than we value your friendship." Harding also played golf at a Vancouver golf course, but completed only six holes before becoming too tired to continue.

From Vancouver, Harding went to Seattle and then to San Francisco, arriving at the Palace Hotel on July 29th, where it is believed that he developed pneumonia. His public events were cancelled. By the afternoon of August 2, he appeared to be recovering. That evening, around 7:30 pm, while Florence Harding was reading a flattering article to the president from The Saturday Evening Post titled "A Calm Review of a Calm Man", he began twisting convulsively and collapsed. Doctors attempted stimulants, but were unable to revive him. Harding died at the age of 57. His death was initially attributed to a cerebral hemorrhage, but it was most likely the result a heart attack.

Naval physicians surmised that he had suffered a heart attack. However, this diagnosis was not made by Dr. Charles Sawyer, the Surgeon General, who was traveling with the presidential party. Sawyer recommended to Mrs. Harding that an autopsy be performed to determine the actual cause of death, but Mrs. Harding refused permission for the autopsy. Her refusal brought out the conspiracy theorists of the day, leading to speculation that the President had been the victim of a plot.

Harding was succeeded by Vice President Calvin Coolidge, who was sworn in by his father, a justice of the peace, in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. Harding's body was returned to Washington, where it was placed in the East Room of the White House pending a state funeral at the United States Capitol. White House employees at the time were quoted as saying that the night before the funeral, they heard Mrs. Harding speak for more than an hour to her dead husband. One of the most controversial remarks attributed to Mrs. Harding at the time was: "They can't hurt you now, Warren."


Harding was entombed in the receiving vault of the Marion Cemetery, Marion, Ohio, in August 1923. Following Mrs. Harding's death on November 21, 1924, she too was temporarily buried next to her husband. Both bodies were moved in December 1927 to the newly completed Harding Memorial in Marion, which was dedicated by President Herbert Hoover in 1931.

In 1930, a former private investigator with a sketchy reputation named Gaston Means wrote an exploitative book, called The Strange Death of President Harding. In the book, Means suggested that many people had a motive to murder the President, including Mrs. Harding. Means claimed that Mrs. Harding poisoned the President. But Means lacked the pedigree of a reliable informant. He was a convicted perjurer who had corruptly used his office as an FBI agent, selling his services to local Washington bootleggers during Prohibition.

In 1924, following Harding's death, Congress held hearings on the Justice Department's role in failing to oversee their Prohibition duties under the Volstead Act. Means testified against former Attorney General Daugherty. In his testimony he admitted to handling bribes for senior officials in the former Harding Administration. The congressional investigation revealed evidence of Means's role in the issuance of Prohibition-era liquor permits. Means was indicted for perjury and tried before a jury. In his testimony, Means accused both Harding and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon as being part of a cover-up. The jury did not believe him. Means was found guilty of perjury and sentenced to two years in federal prison.

In his book, The Strange Death of President Harding, published in 1930, means alleged that Harding had been consciously complicit in all of the major scandals of his administration. In the book, Means claimed that the President had been murdered by his wife, First Lady Florence Harding, with assistance from the couple's personal physician, Charles E. Sawyer. Mrs. Harding's alleged motivation was that she had become aware of her husband's corruption and marital infidelity and wanted to protect his reputation.

In 1933, a counter-exposé published in Liberty Magazine, claimed that the book was a hoax. Mae Dixon Thacker said that she had ghostwritten the book for Mean and that Means had cheated her out of her share of the profits. Means himself later admitted that the book was untrue according to another questionable source, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. That didn't present Means from collecting and keeping all of his royalties

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Any credibility that Means had was eroded further following the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932. Means was contacted by the Washington socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean, owner of the Hope Diamond, who asked him to use his connections in the East Coast underworld to assist in the recovery of the Lindbergh child. Means claimed that he knew the whereabouts of the victim and offered his services as a go-between. He asked for $100,000 to pass on to the kidnappers. McLean sent the money to Means, who kept the cash for himself. A co-confederate of his fed McLean false details and Means later came to McLean at her home again and said he needed an additional $4,000 to pay the expenses of the kidnappers. She gave him the money once again. Means met McLean in a southern resort, promising to deliver the baby. He showed up with a man he introduced as the "King of the Kidnappers", who told her how and when the baby would be delivered. When the missing baby did not show up, Means demanded another $35,000. Failing to raise it, the heiress demanded all the money back. Means said he he would do so. He later pretended that he had given the money to a messenger to deliver to her. McLean called the police, Means was captured, and later found guilty of grand larceny. He was sentenced to serve 15 years in a federal penitentiary but the money was never recovered. Means died in 1938 while serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Presidential X-Files: Harry Truman and the Majestic 12

A number of conspiracy theorists believe that President Harry Truman created a group known as the Majestic 12, or MJ-12 for short. This is said to be the code name of an alleged secret committee of scientists, military leaders, and government officials, formed in 1947 by one of Truman's executive orders. Its mandate was to facilitate recovery and investigation of alien spacecraft, including one that had allegedly crashed near Roswell, New Mexico. Belief in the existence of the supposedly secret organization originated out a series of government documents that were said to have been leaked. These were first circulated by members of the ufologist community in 1984.

The original 12 members of the band were:

1. Lloyd Berkner-a physicist, engineer and inventor and a leader in atmospheric studies
2. Detlev Bronk-a biophysicist who went on to become President of Johns Hopkins University
3. Vannevar Bush-an engineer, inventor and science administrator; during World War II he was head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development through which almost all wartime military R&D was carried out, including important developments in radar as well as the initiation and early administration of the Manhattan Project
4. James Forrestal-the last Secretary of the Navy and first Secretary of Defense
5. Gordon Gray-a lawyer who went on to become Truman's Secretary of the Army
6. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter-an Admiral who was the third Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), and the first director of the Central Intelligence Agency
7. Jerome Clarke Hunsaker-a mechanical engineer and former army pilot, and chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
8. Donald H. Menzel-a Harvard educated theoretical astronomer and astrophysicist and the Vice President of the American Astronomical Society
9. Robert M. Montague-an army Lieutenant General who had served as deputy commander of the Army’s Air Defense Artillery Center at Fort Bliss, Texas and who wasthe commander of the Sandia Missile Base near Albuquerque, New Mexico
10. Sidney Souers-an Admiral and intelligence expert who Truman had appointed at the first Director of Central Intelligence (DCI); he was the person Truman talked to most regarding national security issues
11. Nathan F. Twining-commander of the Air Materiel Command, and of the Alaskan Air Command; on September 23, 1947, he a memo entitled “AMC Opinion Concerning 'Flying Discs'”
12. Hoyt Vandenberg-an Air Force general who served as the second Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and the second Director of Central Intelligence

A number of ufologists have posited the theory that there was a cover-up of the Roswell UFO incident and that members of the upper tier of the United States government was responsible. In 1984, ufologist Jaime Shandera received an envelope containing film which, when developed, showed images of eight pages of documents that appeared to be briefing papers describing "Operation Majestic 12". The documents purported to reveal a secret committee of 12, and the memo was supposedly authorized by Truman in 1952.

The memo explained how the crash of an alien spacecraft at Roswell in July of 1947 had been concealed, how the recovered alien technology could be exploited, and how the United States should engage with extraterrestrial life in the future. Shandera and his colleagues Stanton T. Friedman and Bill Moore claim to have later received a series of anonymous messages that led them to find what has been called the "Cutler/Twining memo" in 1985, through a search of declassified files in the National Archives. This memo was said to have been written by President Dwight Eisenhower's assistant Robert Cutler to General Nathan F. Twining. It contained a reference to Majestic 12.

A man named Richard Doty claimed to be connected to the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He told filmmaker Linda Moulton Howe that the MJ-12 story was true. He showed Howe documents purporting to prove the existence of small, grey humanoid aliens originating from the Zeta Reticuli star system. He also promised to supply Howe with film footage of UFOs and an interview with an alien being, but no footage ever materialized.

Controversy over the authenticity of the MJ-12 documents erupted, even within the ufology community. Bill Moore was accused of taking part in an elaborate hoax. Philip J. Klass, a journalist and ufo researcher, conducted an investigation of the MJ-12 documents found that Robert Cutler was actually out of the country on the date he supposedly wrote the "Cutler/Twining memo". He also concluded that the Truman signature was what he called "a pasted-on photocopy of a genuine signature — including accidental scratch marks — from a memo that Truman wrote to Vannevar Bush on October 1, 1947".

The FBI began its own investigation of the supposed "secret" documents and soon came to the same conclusion about the memorandum's lack of authenticity. The United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations stated that no such committee had ever been authorized or formed, and that the documents were "bogus". The FBI subsequently declared the MJ-12 documents to be "completely bogus".

In 1996, another document called the MJ-12 "Special Operations Manual" was being circulated among ufologists, but its authenticity is also highly doubted. In spite of this, Linda Moulton Howe and Stanton T. Friedman maintain their belief that the MJ-12 documents are authentic. Friedman believes that the United States government has conspired to cover up knowledge of a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft. If nothing else, Majestic 12 has made for some interesting fiction. A cartoon version of Harry Truman made an appearance in the animated TV show Futurama, in the episode entitled Roswell that Ends Well, the shows 51st episode. This episode won the 2002 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour), winning the show its first Emmy. Truman was voiced by Maurice LaMarche.

Remembering FDR

Seventy-six years ago today, on April 12th, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died at Warm Springs, Georgia at the age of 63. He looked much older. He died just over a month into his fourth term as President, and about four months before the end of the second world war.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States, and held the office longer than any person before or since. A member of the Democratic Party, he won a record four elections and served from March 1933 to his death in April 1945. He was a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic depression and a world war on two continents. His program for relief, recovery and reform, known as the New Deal, involved the great expansion of the role of the federal government in the economy. He was a dominant leader of the Democratic Party who built the New Deal Coalition that united labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans, and rural white Southerners. The Coalition realigned American politics and defined American liberalism.

Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882 to an prominent Dutch family from upstate New York. He attended the elite schools of Groton School and Harvard College. In 1905, he married his fifth cousin Eleanor Roosevelt, with whom he had six children. At their wedding, the bride was given away by another cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt. Franklin entered politics in 1910, serving in the New York State Senate, and then as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. In 1920, Roosevelt ran for vice president on a Democratic Party ticket with presidential candidate James M. Cox. The pair lost to the Republican ticket of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Roosevelt was stricken with polio in 1921, which cost him the use of his legs and put his political career on hold for several years. Roosevelt attempted to recover from this illness, and founded a treatment center for polio patients in Warm Springs, Georgia. After returning to political life by placing Alfred E. Smith's name into nomination at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, Roosevelt was asked by Smith to run for Governor of New York in the 1928 election. Roosevelt served as a reform governor from 1929 to 1932, and promoted the enactment of programs to combat the Great Depression that occurred during his governorship.

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Roosevelt defeated incumbent Republican president Herbert Hoover in November 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression. Energized by his personal victory over polio, FDR used his persistent optimism and activism to renew the national spirit. In his first hundred days in office, which began March 4, 1933, Roosevelt spearheaded major legislation and issued a profusion of executive orders that instituted the New Deal—a variety of programs designed to produce relief (government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (economic growth), and reform (through regulation of Wall Street, banks and transportation). He created numerous programs to support the unemployed and farmers, and to encourage labor union growth while more closely regulating business and high finance.

He won reelection by a landslide in 1936. The economy improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937, but then relapsed into a deep recession in 1937–38. The bipartisan Conservative Coalition that formed in Congress in 1937 prevented him from packing the Supreme Court (his plan to increase the number of members of the court so he could add more of his own appointees). They also blocked most of his proposals for major liberal legislation (apart from a minimum wage law), and abolished many of the relief programs when unemployment practically vanished during World War II. Some of his reforms still exist, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Social Security.

As World War II loomed after 1938, with the Japanese invasion of China and the aggression of Nazi Germany, Roosevelt gave strong diplomatic and financial support to China and to Great Britain, while remaining officially neutral. His goal was to make America the "Arsenal of Democracy", which would supply munitions to the Allies. In March 1941, Roosevelt, with Congressional approval, provided Lend-Lease aid to Britain and China.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which he called a "date which will live in infamy", he made war on Japan and Germany. Assisted by his top aide Harry Hopkins, and with very strong national support, he worked closely with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in leading the Allies against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan in World War II. He supervised the mobilization of the U.S. economy to support the war effort, and also ordered the internment of 100,000 Japanese American civilians. As an active military leader, Roosevelt implemented a war strategy on two fronts that ended in the defeat of the Axis Powers and the development of the world's first nuclear bomb (commonly called the atom bomb at the time). His work also influenced the later creation of the United Nations and Bretton Woods. During the war, unemployment dropped to 2%, relief programs largely ended, and the industrial economy grew rapidly to new heights as millions of people moved to wartime factory jobs or entered military service.

Roosevelt had attended the Yalta Conference two months earlier, where he was reported to be in poor health. Lord Moran, Winston Churchill's physician, said of Roosevelt's health: "He is a very sick man. He has all the symptoms of hardening of the arteries of the brain in an advanced stage, so that I give him only a few months to live". Lord Moran was spot on in his prediction.

On March 29, 1945, Roosevelt went to Warm Springs, Georgia, a community famous for its spas. Roosevelt had a home there which was referred to as his "Little White House". He went there to rest before his anticipated appearance at the founding conference of the United Nations. It was rumored that he was considering resigning from the presidency to become the first Secretary General of the United Nations.

On the afternoon of April 12, while sitting for a portrait, Roosevelt said, "I have a terrific pain in the back of my head." He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom. The president's attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed a massive cerebral hemorrhage (stroke) and Roosevelt at 3:35 pm that day, Roosevelt died.

At the time he died, Roosevelt had been sitting for a portrait painted by the artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff. That portrait is now famously known as the "Unfinished Portrait of FDR". In his later years at the White House, Roosevelt was increasingly overworked and his daughter Anna Roosevelt Boettiger had moved into the White House to provide her father support and she had been at Warm Springs with him when he died, Anna had also arranged for her father to meet with his former mistress, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. The artist Shoumatoff, who maintained close friendships with both Roosevelt and Mercer, rushed Mercer away to avoid negative publicity and implications of infidelity.

On the morning of April 13, Roosevelt's body was placed in a flag-draped coffin and loaded onto the presidential train. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt was transported back to Hyde Park by train, guarded by four servicemen from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. According to his wishes, Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of the Springwood estate, the Roosevelt family home in Hyde Park on April 15. Eleanor, who died in November 1962, was buried next to him.