Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 17th, 2011
Stay with me here. These are games that boys into men play, deadly, yes, but happening on a strange landscape that takes into account Oklahoma, Texas, Tibet, Nepal, Iraq, and Libya – and some characters all too familiar to you.
Libya? March 17th? Yes, the American involvement in Libya is tied to that specific date.
In 1957, from March 17 to 20, in the wake of the 1956 Suez Crisis, Ambassador James P. Richards, Special Assistant to President Eisenhower, visited Libya. His mission resulted from the President’s earlier address to Congress, in which Eisenhower promised that the United States would defend countries in the Middle East against communist aggression and would supply development and security assistance as needed (the Eisenhower Doctrine). Richards made a second visit to Libya on May 4. A joint U.S.-Libyan communiqué announced that the United States was prepared to assist in a survey of Libyan development needs, development of broadcasting and telecommunications, assistance in education, electric power development, and domestic water supplies.
James Richards of South Carolina served in World War I and played professional baseball before his election to his first of twelve terms in the House in 1932.
Also in March 1957, Vice President Richard M. Nixon visited Libya. Then on June 30, 1957, the United States and Libya signed a military assistance agreement, and a Military Assistance Advisory Group was later established in Libya. Two years later, on April 9, 1959, Standard Oil of New Jersey discovered oil in Zelten. By 1961, Libya had 10 fields producing oil for export. By 1965, Libya was the sixth-largest oil exporting nation.
In 1957, on March 17th, an Abominable Snowman expedition was creating media attention. Who was the head of that expedition? Tom Slick, of course.
The date March 17th keeps surfacing in an almost ritualistic way as a “chosen” date for activities that has ties to oil, Tom Slick, Abominable Snowmen, and more.
Wonder and wander with me in this temporal stream of consciousness on this St. Patrick’s Day.
First, always intriguing to me has been the fact that March 17th is seen as a pivotal date in the history of the wealthy Oklahoma/Texas oil family of the cryptozoologist Tom Slick.
Tom Slick’s father was also named Tom Slick, and history remembers him as the “King of the Wildcatters.” Wildcatting was the practice of going about the dry, harsh farm lands of Oklahoma and Texas, buying up oil lease rights, and drilling for oil, on pure speculation. For years, his nickname was “Dry Hole Slick” and “Mad Tom.”
But then in 1912, Tom Slick, Sr. made the “biggest discovery of his life” when the Wheeler Well Number 1 in the Cushing Field of Oklahoma struck oil with a giant gusher on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. Slick controlled the information about the discovery, however. He rushed to the Cushing farm, and cut the telephone lines. He hired out all the horse and rigs thereabouts so the news would not travel out. Slick also bought up all the nearby leases for one dollar an acre. Two weeks later, Harry Sinclair had to buy up leases for $200 an acre. The Cushing Field has been called one of the greatest oil fields ever found. Think James Dean as Jett Rink in the 1956 motion picture Giant.
From March 17, 1912, henceforth, “crazy ole Tom” Slick was called “Lucky Tom Slick.” He made millions from the Cushing leases. Slick’s family moved to Texas to follow the oil boom of the 1920s. When Tom Sr. died at the early age of 46, his estate was estimated to be worth seventy-five million dollars in 1930 dollars!
Tom Slick, his son (who really never used the “Jr.” too often), was to inherit his parts of the principal of his father’s money when he reached 30, 45, and 55 years of age. But the will stated Tom could live off the interest and he did, as an investor, jetsetter, playboy, friend of Howard Hughes and Jimmy Stewart, and adventurer. By the year 1960, Tom Slick had inherited 15 million dollars. By 1962, Tom Slick was dead in a mysterious air crash, at 46 – the same age his father died.
While Slick had decided to invest in oil and beef, he had creative ideas for what else he wanted to do with some of his money. Part of his inheritance went into his search for cryptids. I document in my Slick biography his quests for the Loch Ness Monster, Sumatran rhinos, Trinity Alps’ Giant Salamanders, Bigfoot, and Orang Pendek.
Tom Slick (above, after his March 15, 1957, near-death accident in Nepal) was most famous, of course, for his expeditions in search of the Abominable Snowmen, the Yeti of the Himalayan Mountains.
In 1957, Tom Slick personally headed his first of many sponsored expeditions to Nepal in search of the Yeti, with Peter Byrne and Sherpa guides along for his deadly serious initial reconnaissance. From noting the timeline for Slick’s trek, remarkably, I discovered that Slick began his actual search in earnest in the Arun Valley on March 17, 1957.
On March 18th and 19th, 1957, the Government of Nepal issued press releases and answered reporters’ questions that they officially forbade all foreign mountaineers from “killing, injuring, or capturing a Yeti.” Slick’s party was allowed to carry guns for their self-defense. But they also had steel traps to capture a Yeti, and the new law was specifically targeted at Slick’s expedition.
Especially interesting to me is a question I have never had fully answered: Was the character in the movie The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas of the American Yeti hunter and exploiter “Tom Friend” (shown above next to the film’s Yeti body) based, in some part, on the real Texan Yeti hunter Tom Slick?
What was one of the other missions of Tom Slick’s 1957 expedition? Apparently, it may have been spying on the Chinese in Tibet. Certainly that was what the Russians thought.
This April 27, 1957, article (above) in The New York Times carried the claims that Tom Slick was behind an effort to subvert the Chinese and free Tibet. (It would be revealed years later that Tom Slick and his Slick Airways were working closely with the OSS and the CIA.)
Two years later, what date would the CIA pick to begin the exit of the Dalai Lama from Tibet? March 17, 1959. Who may have been helping with that trek? Tom Slick and Peter Byrne. Perhaps it was Tom Slick that picked the date, not the CIA?
Colonel Fletcher Prouty has written about this secret mission to Tibet. In 1955, Prouty was appointed the first “Focal Point” officer between the CIA and the Air Force for Clandestine Operations per National Security Council Directive 5412. He was Briefing Officer for the Secretary of Defense (1960-1961), and for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Prouty, in his 1973 book about the CIA, Secret Team, writes: “This fantastic escape and its major significance have been buried in the lore of the CIA as one of those successes that are not talked about. The Dalai Lama would have never been saved without the CIA.”
On March 17, 1959, three groups, the Dalai Lama, his immediate family and senior advisors, escaped from Lhasa, Tibet.
John Prados writing in The Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II (New York: Morrow, 1986), notes: “Tenzin Gyatso [the Dalai Lama] was disguised as a common soldier of the guard…. The best information [about the fleeing Dalai Lama] came from the CIA…. The CIA was so well informed because it had furnished an American radio operator, who traveled with the Dalai Lama’s party…There may have been other CIA agents with the party as well.”
Who were these individuals? Who helped the Dalai Lama’s party get out of Tibet? None other than Peter Byrne, Tom Slick’s man in Nepal. He may forget it, but he told me so in 1988, when I was interviewing him about his years of work, overt and covert, with Tom Slick of San Antonio, Texas. I go into further details in my book, Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology (Fresno: Linden Press, 2002).
Is it a coincidence that on this date, seven years ago, some view this same calendar date as being the one that another Texan, linked to oil, began the present Iraqi War? While most historians use the date of March 20, 2003, as the start of the Iraqi War, others point to March 17, 2003. On that special date, the start of the US invasion of Iraq is keyed to President George W. Bush’s announcement in a televised speech that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons had 48 hours to leave Iraq, or the United States will initiate preemptive military action against Iraq. On March 17, 2003, Robin Cook, Leader of the British House of Commons, resigned from the UK cabinet over the plan to invade Iraq. The UK and the USA withdrew a proposed UN Security Council resolution on Iraq. The United States advised UNMOVIC and the IAEA to withdraw all weapon inspectors out of Iraq. This all occurred on March 17, 2003.
What will happen on March 17, 2011? In Libya? In Japan?
Texas, Tibet, Nepal, Iraq, Egypt, Libya?
Oil, Yeti, Espionage?
Once is happenstance.
Twice is coincidence.
Three times is enemy action.
– Ian Fleming, Goldfinger
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.