David Booher. No Return: The Gerry Irwin Story, UFO Abduction or Covert Operation. Anomalist Books, 2017.
The story of Gerry Irwin is one of the spookiest in ufology, at least as presented as the opening sequence of chapter 4 of Jacques Vallee’s “Passport to Magonia”. Private First Class Gerry Irwin was travelling south-east on Highway 14 out of Cedar City Iowa on 28th February 1959 when he saw what he thought might be a plane in trouble. He left a hurried note and a message by his car and set out on foot to see what he could do.
He was found some 90 minutes later by a rescue party but there was no sign of an air crash. He remained unconscious for the best part of a day, and woke up worried as to what happened to his jacket. He was taken to Fort Bliss but fainted while out walking in El Paso.
He was taken back to hospital but discharged on April 17th, only the next day to go AWOL and take a bus to Cedar City and go out into the scrub, find his jacket and a message attached to it, which he burnt. He then woke as if from a trance and handed himself in. He wens back to hospital and then on August 1 he failed to report for duty and was never seen again. The implication is that he had been taken to Magonia, never to return.
However, as David Booher found out, Gerry Irwin is (or was at time of writing) alive and well at the age of 78 in 2014 and living in Idaho. He confirms some of the basic story but his memory of that time is still severely compromised so Booher has to try and reconstruct what happened from newspaper reports, articles by Jim and Coral Lorenzen, a sheriff’s report, reports of Irwin’s court martial and so on. As he does so the already blurry picture becomes ever more confused.
What seemed like a simple story at first, Irwin sees a bright fireball, fears it might be a crashed plane and risks his life to try and help, falls and suffers significant brain damage and is scandalously maltreated, seems to dissolve in a hall of mirrors.
It turns out that the event actually happened in Friday 20th February not the 28th as stated by Vallee, or the 22nd by the Lorenzens and the site of the incident was off Highway 20 way to the north of Highway 14 , though it was pretty clear that it was off Highway 14 that the jacket was found.
The case of the two locations is clearly one for Sherlock Holmes, and Booher is no Holmes as he becomes bogged down as to how the jacket had moved, that it must have been moved by air (?spaceship) etc. Holmes’ precept was “once you have eliminated the impossible what is left, however improbable, must be the truth". The truth here is surely blindingly obvious; Irwin must have left his jacket at the Highway 14 location before he moved on to Highway 10!
That jacket, or the message that he left with it is clearly the first thing on his mind, so much so he goes AWOL to go and (at least according to his account) go and get the jacket and burn the message. That must have been a very important and sensitive message.
There are some clues as to what all this might be really about. Irwin in his first assignment in the Air Force, which he first joined under age was on the front line of the cold war on the Distant Early Warning Line in the north of Alaska, where he would see on the radar planes coming from Canada and flying over Russia, planes they were careful not to log. When he went into civvie street he found himself promoted over much more experienced members of staff in a job which opened up unexpected prospects.
He then worked for the forestry service crop spraying, and then went back into the army. Later, despite the apparent doubts about his mental health and being sent to Leavenworth for a year for being AWOL he was sent to Germany and promoted to Sergeant before being given a top secret assignment in neutral Austria. Booher is rather annoyed that Irwin keeps wanting to talk about that latter period and not about the “crash”. Perhaps he just can’t take a hint, even when Irwin talks about a 'special intelligence' that has directed him not to tell what happened, and that it began at what the investigator thought was meant to be “the age of three years." I suspect was something “from 3 onwards”, meaning 1953, when he was on that defence front line. You might think that Gerry Irwin was a CIA agent or asset but I couldn’t possibly comment.
Here’s a hypothetical possibility of what really happened. On his way back to base along Hw14 Gerry Irwin saw something that he thoight might be the crash of a secret plane, not one you want all and sundry to find. He left some details with his jacket at the scene and then raced back into Cedar City to phone the appropriate people. They agreed that this is something to be kept secret and ask him to create a diversion, so he headed up north to Hw10 and created a fake crash scene to direct attention away from the real crash site (if there was one).
Whether he then fell and hit his head and suffered amnesia and some continuing brain damage, or perhaps this was all part of the cover-up is conjectural. Nevertheless he was concerned that his jacket had not been picked up and at earliest opportunity went to retrieve the note which gave the real crash site. It’s even possible that all his problems with psychiatric treatment and truth drugs etc. were both a training exercise and the build-up of a false story for the possible role as a fake defector. Perhaps this starts to remind you of one Lee Harvey Oswald. I suspect that the secrets he knew were not for uninitiated army ears.
The second story behind the Irwin affair is how it became assimilated into UFO lore. The answer seems to lie with the Lorenzens and their friend Olavo Fontes who were starting to construct the narrative of UFO hostility. For example the January-February 1959 issue of APRO Bulletin featured the Gustavsson/Rydberg alleged attempted kidnapping, by things that looked like skittles (now known to be a hoax) and a headline saying “Family Disappears-Saucer Seen” (much less dramatic in plain text).
The March-April 1959 issue that featured the Irwin story also included an article entitled 'Strange Disappearances and Pursuing Saucers' and an article on car chases by Olavo Fontes. The former seemed to entirely anticipate the Hill case. These developments may have been influenced, as Booher, suggests, by underground knowledge of the Antonio Villas Boas case, but that story itself, along with the hostility stories, seem to have been promoted as secular alternatives to the contactee tales.
Booher himself clearly to a large degree buys into the UFO mythos and hints that the story is an alien abduction, or alternatively that Irwin was the victim of various kinds of mind control experiment such as those associated with MKultra and does consider the possibility that the Hills also were pushed over the edge by people out to discredit them.
I don’t believe in alien abductors but for the rest I suspect Gerry Irwin will take the truth, if he really knows it, to the grave. As it is we are left with is that hall of mirrors.
- Peter Rogerson.