When military files are classified, it tends to be for a reason. Most usually, you would imagine that the files concern a military secret to do with the defence of the country. During a war, for example, you’d think that all of the files would be kept private. It’s necessary that the enemy doesn’t find out what you know, or what you’re planning.
Over time, however, it no longer makes sense to keep files classified. Times move on, and the projects that were kept secret are already finished or discontinued. The wars finish, and the gathered intelligence is no longer relevant. No one cares anymore. In some cases, it actually makes more sense to reveal the secrets and stop gossip about what really went on.
But when some military files are declassified, they can end up raising more than a few eyebrows. It turns out that some conspiracy theories really are grounded in fact. Sometimes, the government really is plotting against its own citizens. Whether they are covering up evidence of UFOs, plotting crazy plans to outwit the enemy forces, or exploring psychic powers, the government sometimes really is up to no good.
These 15 examples of declassified files prove that the secrets kept hidden for decades sometimes really are as big as we thought they might be. You won’t find any proven secrets which are any creepier than these. Knowing what has been kept from us until these documents came to light might just make you question everything that you know.
15. Project 1794 – Building A Spaceship
The US Air Force declassified lots of files in late 2012, although they weren’t all available to read unless you visited the files in person. One of the files that eventually came to light was the plans for Project 1794. This unassuming title was given to the plot to create a flying-saucer type aircraft which would be able to target Soviet bomber planes. Started in the 1950s, it went through many incarnations, with a team of engineers tasked with creating the disc-shaped craft. They wanted it to be able to reach Mach 4, which is four times the speed of sound, and reach 100,000 feet in altitude. It was set to cost $3 million, which in 2017 dollars would be more like $26 million – a bit of a bargain for a homemade UFO. It was cancelled in 1961, but the fact that it was even explored could go some way towards explaining many UFO sightings.
14. Churchill’s Plans For Hitler
It turns out the Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the UK during WWII, had some interesting plans for what would happen to Hitler if he was ever caught. He wanted to bring him back to the UK and execute him in an electric chair. This is despite the fact that the electric chair was never actually used in Britain as a method of execution. More declassified documents revealed other snippets about the leader. He wanted to summarily execute other leading figures in the Nazi regime, and would also like to wipe out some German villages in retribution for the atrocities committed in Czechoslovakia. Outside of the German issue, he had other controversial thoughts. He was quite content for Gandhi to starve to death when he went on hunger strike in 1943. This would be a very unpopular view now, and if it had happened, there’s no telling how the course of history might have changed. Though a strong wartime leader, it seems that Churchill had a too violent and vengeance-driven nature for peacetime politics.
13. Operation Northwoods – Terrorism By the US, Against The US
Operation Northwoods is one of the most shocking ideas every conceived of and seriously considered by the US government. They actually thought about faking acts of terrorism on US soil – killing defenceless citizens just so that they could blame someone else. The chairman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all signed off on the operation, which would have involved multiple points of attack. Innocent citizens would be shot on the streets, boats carrying Cuban refugees would be deliberately sunk, and bombings would frame particular suspects. Planes would even be hijacked. The idea was to blame it all on Castro. When John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, he almost fell victim to the operation too. The plot decided that if Glenn’s rocket exploded and killed him by accident, they would frame Cuba for sabotage. It’s horrific to think of American citizens being murdered in the name of politics, especially now in a post-9/11 world. Many who think the attack was an inside job draw on these declassified files as evidence.
12. Project Iceworm – A Secret Nuclear Base
During the 1960s, the US government was keen to find new ways of attacking the Soviet Union, mostly just in case they were needed. The Cold War didn’t see much action, but there was certainly a lot going on behind the scenes. Project Iceworm was one of the more outlandish plots that they came up with. This involved building some mobile nuclear missile launch sites under the Greenland ice sheet. There was also a second project, Camp Century, which was put in place to cover up their real intentions. A real base was built and was in operation for seven years before it was cancelled in 1966 due to unstable and shifting ice. The remains of the project are buried under the snow – meaning there might actually be usable nuclear launch sites there, just waiting to be rediscovered. Another chilling thought is what might have happened if the project had seen the installation of nuclear weapons before the shifting ice conditions were explored and understood to be a danger.
11. Cat Bombs
The name kind of says it all. During the Second World War, the US military strategists really, genuinely, and honestly thought about the idea of strapping bombs to cats. The idea was that the cats would then be dropped from planes with parachutes above naval targets. Cats hate water so much that they would steer themselves towards the boats, therefore landing on the deck instead of harmlessly exploding in the water. Needless to say, this never got past the testing phase. It was found that cats who are dropped at terminal velocity with something strapped to their backs tend to lose consciousness. All we can say is, we pity the poor cats who had to lose at least one of their nine lives before someone figured this inevitable conclusion out. We’re also very happy that none of the cats stayed awake, as it would have damned their fellow felines to a lot of deaths.
10. The Truth About Area 51
According to legend, Area 51 is the place where the US government secretly holds and studies UFOs that have been captured along with alien lifeforms. For many years, speculation was rife. It was fuelled by the fact that the government refused to acknowledge existence of the secret base, and that the area was heavily patrolled to keep out intruders. Declassified documents suggest that it has been used as a testing ground for spy planes and other military vehicles. This only raises more questions than it answers. If that’s all it was, why not admit that it was a military base? Why keep it so secret and encourage people to wonder? If we knew it was just a testing ground, we’d all have grown bored of it and moved on. But there has been more scrutiny into the area over time exactly because of the secrecy. If Project 1794 was tested there, it might explain a lot more about the UFO theory, too.
9. Project Sunshine: The Baby-Snatching Project
Did you know that the US government stole babies and children during the 1950s? It’s absolutely true. The US Atomic Energy Commission and the US Air Force teamed up to experiment on the global health effects that might be caused by the fallout from nuclear weapons testing. Strontium-90 was a particular area of concern for the AEC. They secretly collected tissue samples from the dead bodies of more than 1,500 babies and children from all around the globe, without getting consent from the parents. The project was declassified in 1959. Rather than being relieved that we weren’t all going to die off in the next few years thanks to radiation poisoning, people who read the report were more likely distressed by the scale of the operation. Taking samples from that many children wouldn’t have been a problem if they had had consent from the families of the deceased. It’s awful to think that such testing could even be carried out today, and we would never know the difference.
8. A Whole Database Of UFO Photos
One of the most interesting files to be declassified was a whole hoard of suspected photographs of UFOs. Taken at different times and in different places, they all purport to show UFOs, and are sometimes accompanied by eyewitness testimony and analysis. This trove is fantastic for believers in extraterrestrial lifeforms. While it’s not the kind of conclusive proof that you might wish for, it certainly shows that a lot of time and resources have been spent on investigating UFOs. Some of them are more convincing than others, but the grainy quality of the scans definitely leaves a lot to be desired. Wherever the original photos reside, they have to be worth a look. Of course, it also makes you wonder about what they might still have lurking in classified documents. If this is just the stuff they could make public, what else is lurking under the tip of the iceberg?
7. Detention And Interrogation Secrets
One of the big sections of declassified files in the database is titled ‘Documents related to the former detention and interrogation program’. It includes documents all the way up to the early 2000s, and talks about the methods of torture and questioning that would have been discussed for use. Some of the emails which are included make for very interesting reading, despite the fact that most of the communication is heavily redaction. One says, “This morning I informed the front office of CTC that I will no longer be associated in any way with the interrogation program due to serious reservation[s] I have about the current state of affairs. Instead, I will be retiring shortly. This is a train wreak [sic] waiting to happen and I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens.” Another reads, “Although these guys believe that their way is the only way, there should be an effort to define roles and responsibilities before their arrogance and narcissism evolve into unproductive conflict in the field.”
6. The CIA Helped Spread An Illegal Substance
It sounds like an urban myth or crazy conspiracy theory, but it’s true. The CIA decided that they needed more money to finance the covert war they were waging against Nicaragua’s Sandinistas. Best way to do this? To smuggle cocaine into the US, take a healthy cut of the profits, and let US citizens get hooked on the drug. This was during the 1980s, and the CIA actually contributed to the widespread use of cocaine in poor parts of LA by bringing the drugs in. A journalist was able to bring it all to light, but then a smear campaign was directed against him. He ended up killing himself. At no point in this story does the CIA look good. Not during the clandestine war, not during their encouragement of drug addiction, and certainly not when driving the one person brave enough to blow the whistle to suicide. It’s a potent reminder of the fact that not all conspiracy nuts are just making it all up.
5. Project Stargate: The Use Of Psychic Powers In Warfare
One file which was declassified in the 1990s talks about the use of psychic powers and telepathy in warfare. The idea, evidently, was to develop these powers for military use. The reports in this section talk about remote viewing by telepathy, and the possibility that the Soviet Union was using parapsychology. There are a lot of other creepy finds in this haul, like an advertisement for the Buffalo Bill Wax Museum in Colorado which appears to have no place in the file. This certainly begs a lot of questions about what the research turned up, and whether anyone ever actually exhibited these kinds of powers. Were they inspired by someone real, or just fishing to see if a fictional concept could be based in reality? One could argue that if psychic powers really did exist, those kinds of files would never be made available to the public anyway. It’s likely that we will never know.
4. Operation Washtub: Normal Citizens Becoming Spies
During the 1950s, the US government came up with a lot of contingency plans for what they would do in the event of a Russian invasion. One of the points they wanted to be clear on was what to do if the Russian forces invaded and occupied Alaska. The idea was simple: instead of trying to infiltrate the area, make everyone who was already there into a spy. Ordinary Alaskans would become like federal agents, reporting back to Washington while living a life in hiding from the enemy. There was a whole report on this program, so clearly the general feeling was that it would work. It’s super creepy to think of an alternate history where Alaska was turned into a Russian-occupied state full of double agents trying to help the rest of the US to fight back. In fact, what with the popularity of The Man in the High Castle, we’re somewhat surprised that it hasn’t been turned into a TV show already.
3. Starfish Prime: A Nuclear Explosion In Space
First of all, who comes up with these names? Starfish Prime was launched in 1962 as a test of nuclear explosions at high altitude. 400km above the Pacific Ocean, a Thor rocket carried a W49 thermonuclear warhead into the sky and then exploded it. Three satellites which were in low earth orbit were disabled fairly quickly afterwards. A further seven failed over the next few months. Radiation from the blast had damaged the electronics and the solar arrays. One of those affected was the first commercial relay communication satellite, Telstar. We’re guessing that there were a lot of people who were none too happy about the disruption to service, or the replacement of hugely expensive pieces of equipment. There’s also no word on whether the radiation might have had any effect back on earth. It seems like one of the most irresponsible experiments we could think of, with consequences that could have included widespread death.
2. Project Thor – Weapons In Space
Thor rockets were used to launch Starfish Prime, but they were also part of a much more horrific operation. Project Thor was all about being able to hurl missiles from space, meaning they could be aimed to fall anywhere in the world. Kinetic projectiles would be launched from the Earth’s orbit to hit ground targets. Reports describe it as “an orbiting tungsten telephone pole with small fins and a computer in the back for guidance.” The rods were satellite controlled and would only take a few minutes to leave orbit and hit their target. They wouldn’t need support from other vehicles and could be fired more or less secretly. The system would actually be permitted because it was not covered under the Outer Space Treaty or the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and they could be as strong as small nuclear bombs. Essentially, what we have learned is this: agreeing not to use certain forms of attack only frees up scientists to deploy more chilling and destructive ideas which fit between the lines.
1. The Gulf Of Tonkin Incident Never Happened
The Gulf of Tonkin incident was one in which North Vietnam faced off with the USA. North Vietnamese boats engaged the USS Maddox in fire. This is the version of events that the US military still stands by. The confrontation was followed by a second, similar attack, allowing the US forces to engage in the Vietnam War. Radar images appear to back this up. NSA documents which were declassified in 2005 proved that the second attack never actually took place. The blips seen on the radar were actually “ghosts”, or false radar readings caused by other factors. This means that the whole justification for going to war was based on a lie. There’s no wonder that many also doubt the military’s reasons for getting involved in the second Iraq War or many other conflicts since 2005. If they can falsify that, what else have we been lied to about?
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