An army lieutenant disappears and is declared AWOL, but his family thinks he may have been sent on a secret CIA mission.

Paul Whipkey

Paul left base one day and never returned

CASE DETAILS

Five weeks later Paul’s car was found

On August 17th, 1958, a fish and game warden in Death Valley, California, found a car abandoned in the desert 42 miles from the nearest town. The keys were still in the ignition and there was no sign of foul play.

The car was registered to Lt. Paul Whipkey of Fort Ord, California, almost 500 miles away. The Army reported that Whipkey had been missing for five weeks and, in fact, was wanted as a deserter. But, there was a problem: by all accounts, Paul Whipkey was the perfect soldier. No one who knows him believes he could have been a deserter. Carl Whipkey is Paul’s brother:

“I don’t think Paul deserted. It was completely out of character for Paul to do such a thing. He was a loyal American soldier, devoted to his work. I think the Army knew exactly what had happened to him. I think it was part of a big smokescreen cover up.”

Paul Whipkey was an R.O.T.C. honor graduate. After basic training, he won a spot in the Army aviation school. In 1957, at Camp Desert Rock in Nevada, Paul flew an observation plane during testing of the atomic bomb. He was exposed to radioactive fallout, and it soon after that when unusual blotches appeared on his skin. Several months later, stationed at Fort Ord, California, Paul had to have all of his teeth removed.

Why was Paul’s room stripped so fast?

On July 10th, 1958, late one afternoon, Paul left Fort Ord. He told friends that he was headed for the town of Monterey, less than a mile away. But Paul never returned. The next morning, Paul was reported AWOL and 30 days later, he was declared a deserter. The following week, his car was discovered in Death Valley.

The army says that on the day Paul left, he apparently ended up at Whites Motel in Mojave, California, some 350 miles from the base. Paul had signed the motel’s guest registration. Army investigators say they found a gasoline receipt in Paul’s car. It showed that he had bought gas in Mojave, before his car ended up in Death Valley, 145 miles away.

On the very morning Paul turned up missing, two soldiers stripped his room at Ft. Ord.  Everything was removed, including Paul’s personal belongings. According to his brother Carl, this was an odd and perhaps illegal procedure:

“Regulations state that the next of kin or legal representative must be notified before packing belongings. And they didn’t notify us at that time. I was very suspicious of this action as soon as I discovered it had taken place.”

Mystery men met with Paul at the base

Four weeks after Paul was reported AWOL, a witness driving through Death Valley saw his car. He said it was being driven by a man in military uniform. However, when Paul left Fort Ord, he was wearing civilian clothes. When the car was found, a pile of cigarette butts was on the ground next to it: Paul didn’t smoke. Also troubling to Paul’s family was the fact that the Army waited nine months before looking for his body. And it was only by accident that Carl Whipkey heard anything about the car at all:

“The only way that I learned about the car was due to an unofficial call I placed to an enlisted man at Fort Ord. Within half an hour, he called back very excited and he said this is classified information and requested that I not tell anyone where I had heard it.”

The investigation into Paul’s disappearance also troubled his commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Charles Lewis:

I found it almost unbelievable that he would be classified as a deserter. I was curious what the basis for it was. And I was quickly and promptly told ‘Charlie, forget this. The case has been closed and I would recommend that you don’t carry it any further.’ In essence I was told to shut up and drop it and blow away.”

Charles Lewis and Paul Whipkey were both stationed in Nevada during 1957. Lewis recalls the day he saw two men in plain clothes talking to Paul:

“I noticed that they had gone directly to the airfield instead of reporting to operations, which was required for a purpose of security. So I asked them for their identification.
They showed me their military identification cards and the picture did verify who the two were.”

Over the next few weeks, Lewis often saw Paul talking to the same two men:

“When Lt. Whipkey would come in after they had departed, you could feel a rigidity in his personality traits and his mannerisms.”

In hindsight, Lewis now believes that Paul may have met with the two men for one simple reason:

“During that era, there was a tremendous amount of nationwide recruiting conducted by the CIA. And with Lt. Whipkey’s qualifications, he would’ve been an exceptional candidate for such an assignment.”

Paul’s brother, Carl, thinks there may be some truth to this as well:

“January of the year he disappeared, he told me during a telephone conversation that he was going to be going on an assignment, that he was going to make a name for himself.  Before he could tell me what it was, he was interrupted by some officers moving in the proximity of his desk and he could no longer talk to me about the subject. I theorize that Paul was recruited into an Army/CIA joint program that was going on at that time. When Paul left Fort Ord, he drove to the town of Mojave, California and checked into White’s Motel. There’s a possibility that he was met there by Army intelligence agents or the CIA and transported to Southeast Asia, possibly from Edwards Air Force Base, which is nearby.”

Carl now believes that his brother was assigned to a secret mission and left his car with the Army. He thinks they kept it four weeks before driving it into the desert. But not knowing the answer leaves him always wondering:

“I think the Army took his car out to the desert to get rid of it. Out of sight, out of mind.  If they would just say, ‘Yes, he died on a secret assignment,’ we could live with that. We’re all loyal American citizens in our family and we would buy that. And until the Army tells us what happened, there will be no peace in our family.”

In 1982, the Army reviewed Paul Whipkey’s case and found no basis to support his status as a deserter. Two months later his final status was officially changed from “deserter” to “died in the line of duty.”


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and n season seven with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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5 Comments

  1. J. Jackson

    J. Jackson

    I’m adding some important details to the story I told previously, above. On the second occasion 1st Lt. Whipkey had the other recruit and myself come to the Ft. Ord airfield, to talk about us joining the special mission, we saw those two mysterious men in suits, waiting in the back of a hanger. Nothing was said about who they were. At the time, I spoke no foreign languages, but the other recruit was born and raised in Belgium and spoke French, as well as English. Since French was one of the official languages of South Vietnam, that’s another reason I suspect that’s where we would have been going, to take aerial photos and make maps. I and the other soldier were sent to advanced training at the same Army base, although we were in different schools. I saw him once, during our time there. I asked if he’d heard anything more about our secret mission, but he said no and then chided me for talking about it, as it was supposed to be kept completely secret. I never saw or heard anything of him again. When my training was finished, I was shipped out to duty at a stateside base, but no special orders came. At my duty base, I asked our company’s training and education sergeant to make a confidential search for possible orders that might have come for me, from Fort Ord. He understood that it was about a secret mission, which I didn’t describe and sent a personal message to an old friend who worked at the Ft. Ord personnel office. But nothing was found and I just put it out of my mind, until i saw the TV program, 33 years later. I never mentioned the name of Lt. Whipkey or said anything about aviation being involved. I came to the attention of Lt. Whipkey, because I was selected to go to helicopter training, although I declined the offer.

    Reply

  2. kat

    Paul Whipkey was my mother’s first cousin. I have heard different stories from the family. All we know is he is gone and my Grandfather’s brother never knew what happened to his son. The military NEVER gave our family a straight answer!!

    Reply

  3. Titus Stauffer

    Can anyone please advise? I would like to buy a copy of the “Episode 84”, (Season 3), Aired: April 3, 1991 (repeated August 7, 1991), “Viacom” owned TV show from “1991 unsolved mysteries”, which covers this, but my internet research is coming up short. If you can help me, please post here, or email me at Stauffer01@SBCGlobal.net. Thanks! -Titus

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    Check the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) with his name and Social Security # to see he is on the index. I am a genealogist and recently found the grandfather of a friend on the SSDI (with the help of another genealogist). The grandfather had left home in Sept. 1938 and said he was going to San Francisco and would be back that day but he never returned. The genealogist that helped me find him had searched his name and birth date in the SSDI and found that he died in Phoenix, Arizona in 1975 and was buried in a cemetery in Phoenix (she found that in a death notice in a local newspaper). The SSDI is available on Ancestry.com and also by writing the correct federal agency with his name and birthdate.

    Reply

  5. J. Jackson

    The story told here on this website is almost totally different than the one that is told on the 1991 Unsolved Mysteries TV program. Watch that old program and you’ll see what I mean. I had personal contact with this Army Lieutenant two days before his disappearance and was told about a secret detail he would be leading, which I think most likely was to be in SE Asia. I and another person had been summoned to the post airfield and there, he invited us to join that detail, which he said was to be aviation-based. He said we would go to Australia and spend two months learning to speak with the accent of that country. We would then pose as employees of a civilian Australian map-making and aerial photography company, flying in planes marked accordingly and go to an unnamed place. My best guess is that this place was to be Vietnam. Afterwards, he drove us back to our barracks in his red, ’55 Chevy convertible. He was supposed to contact us later about getting orders back to Fort Ord and joining the detail. But I heard nothing more and no special orders ever came. I didn’t know about his disappearance until 33 years later, when I saw the TV show.

    Reply

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[DO WE DO THIS??]

 

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ARTICLE 1. Personalization
1.1 We may use the contact information you give us to better tailor your Website experience to your interests, and to send you information about Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. and its services as well as promotional material on behalf of some of our partners. We may use other information that you provide to us to show you content in which you may be interested and to display the content according to your preferences. We will also share this information within Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. in order to enhance your experience on this and other Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. Websites.
1.2 In addition, we may share this information with advertisers or other third parties that are not part of the Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. family on an aggregate or other basis that does not disclose your identity or contact information.

ARTICLE 2. Online Surveys/Contests
2.1 From time to time, we may conduct online surveys and contests. These may ask you for contact information (like name or email address) and demographic information (like zip code or age).
2.2 We may use this contact information from our surveys and contests to provide you with information about our company and promotional material on behalf of some of our partners, and to contact you when necessary.

ARTICLE 3. Shopping/Commercial Services
3.1 This Website may offer shopping services, which may be offered by us or by a firm that operates a store under contract with us. If our Website offers shopping or other commercial services, you will use a customer order form to request information, products, and services. The order form will ask you to give us contact information (like name or email address), financial information (like account or credit card numbers), and demographic information (like zip code or age).

3.2 We will use the financial information that you provide to bill you for products and services. By giving our Website your credit card and related personal information, you are authorizing our store to give that information to the merchant and credit card company in order to confirm and fulfill your order.

3.3 We will use contact information from the order form to fulfill your orders. We may also use contact data to get in touch with you when necessary. We will not otherwise use or distribute your financial information without your prior approval.

ARTICLE 4. Public forums
4.1 This Website may make available chat rooms, blogs, forums, message boards, and news groups. Please remember that any information that you disclose in these areas becomes public information and you should exercise caution when deciding to disclose your personal information. Information disclosed by you or by others enters the public domain and may be freely used by any other persons or entities using the site.

ARTICLE 5. Information Sharing With Third Parties
5.1 From time to time we may enter into a special relationship with another company that is not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. to provide additional features at this Website. These special relationships may include “powered by” partners, business partners, sponsors, and co-branded sites (referred to here as “co-branded pages”). These might include, for example, pages that share our name and that of another entity. You should look for a specific privacy statement on any such co-branded page. Any personal information that you provide when signing up at one of those co-branded pages may be shared with our third party partner. You should also check our partner’s website for information regarding its privacy policies.

5.2 Also, the nature of some features of our Website may require that we share personal information about you with persons or companies outside of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. For example, this may occur at a feature that enables you, via our Website, to ask questions of persons or entities that are not part of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. By responding to those features of the site, whether by email or direct entry of information on our Website, you are consenting to our transferring that information to such persons or entities.

5.3 With respect to specific registration modules, like contests, we may disclose personal information collected, and we may post a conspicuous statement on the registration module to the effect that we will be disclosing the information collected with third parties.

5.4 Finally, we may share any of the information collected from you with these other non- Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc companies in an aggregate basis. The aggregated information is not linked to any information that can identify you.

ARTICLE 6. IP Address and Log Files
6.1 We may use your IP address to administer our Website, to help diagnose problems with our server, to analyze trends, to track users’ webpage movements, to help identify you and your shopping cart, and to gather broad demographic information for aggregate use.

ARTICLE 7. Cookies
7.1 This Website may use a standard technology called a “cookie” to collect information about how you use the Website. Cookies reside on your computer and help our Website to recognize your computer’s browser as a previous visitor. This information allows us to customize delivery of information. For example, our Website may use cookies to save and remember registration information or preferences that you may have set while browsing the Website, to keep track of your shopping cart, to ensure you don’t see the same ad content repeatedly, to deliver content specific to your interests, and to save your password so you do not have to re-enter it each time you visit our site. We use cookies only to gather information as indicated in this policy.

7.2 In addition, on occasion our site may also set a “session cookie” which helps us administer the Website. The session cookie expires when you close your browser and does not retain any information about you after it expires.

7.3 Finally, we may also use an ad network provider to help present advertisements on this and other Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. websites. This ad network provider, like other advertising service vendors, uses cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies on the hard drive of your computer to serve you advertisements tailored to interests you have shown by browsing on this and other sites you have visited, and to determine whether you have seen a particular advertisement before and to avoid sending you duplicate advertisements. In doing so, the provider collects non-personal data such as your browser type, your operating system, web pages visited, time of visits, content viewed, ads viewed, and other clickstream data. The use of cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies by these ad network providers is subject to their own privacy policies, not ours, and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. assumes no responsibility for the collection or use of such information.

ARTICLE 8. Banner Advertising
8.1 We have contracted with an ad-service to place banner advertising on our Website. All of the data provided and generated by the ad-server software remains in our possession. This feature of our Website may, on occasion, set “cookies” on your computer. Any information collected or stored by the ad-service or the cookies is treated in the same manner as other information described in this statement.

ARTICLE 9. Children’s Personal Information
9.1 Consistent with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act:

9.1.1 This site does NOT collect, use, or disclose personal information (including online contact information) of children under the age of thirteen (13).

9.1.2 In the event that a child under the age of 13 attempts to register on our site, we will NOT accept the registration and will delete information received from the child.

9.1.3 In the event that a child posts personal information in a public forum such as a chat room, we will attempt to delete that information once we become aware of it.

ARTICLE 10. Security of Your Personal Information
10.1 Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for information collected through this Website. We believe that we have adequate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of the information we collect on our Website. We also use internal protections to limit access to users’ personal information to only those employees who need the information to perform a specific job.

ARTICLE 11. Sale or Merger
11.1 If this Website is sold to, or merges with, another company not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc., you should expect that some or all of the information collected from this Website may be transferred to the buyer/surviving company. If so, CMP will seek to obligate the acquiring company to use any personal information transferred by this Website in a manner consistent with this statement, but cannot guarantee that it will be able to impose that requirement or that the acquiring company will comply.

ARTICLE 12. Legal Process
12.1 You should be aware that Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. may be required to disclose your personal information to the government or third parties under certain circumstances, such as in court or regulatory proceedings.

ARTICLE 13.  Contacting the Website

13.1        If you have any questions about this Privacy Statement, the practices of this Website, or your dealings with this Website, please contact us at: unsolved@unsolved.com.

ARTICLE 14.  general information

14.1        Choice of Law:  This Agreement and the Additional Terms shall be governed by, construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the State of California , as it is applied to agreements entered into and to be performed entirely within such state, without regard to conflict of law principles.

14.2        Choice of Forum:  You agree that any cause of action you or Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. brings to enforce this Agreement and/or the Additional Terms, or in connection with any matters related to this Website and/or the Privacy Statement, shall be submitted to arbitration in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, United States of America in accordance with the commercial rules and regulations of the American Arbitration Association then in effect (as amended herein), provided that said arbitration shall be heard before a single arbitrator, who shall be a retired judge, selected pursuant to such rules and regulations, and shall be conducted on an expedited basis and in confidence. The arbitrator’s decision shall be controlled by the terms and conditions of this agreement and any other agreements I may enter into with you, and shall be final and binding, and shall provide for each party to bear its own costs of arbitration and attorneys’ fees.  Each party expressly waives any right to a jury.  Judgment upon the award of the arbitrator may be entered or enforced in any court of competent jurisdiction. 

14.4        If any provision of this Agreement, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, is held invalid or for any reason unenforceable then such provision shall be deemed superseded by a valid, enforceable provision that matches, as closely as possible, the original provision, and the other provisions of this Agreement shall remain in full force and effect.  The failure of either party to insist upon strict performance of any provision of this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver of any provision or right.  Unless expressly provided otherwise, this Agreement is the entire agreement between you and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. with respect to the use of this Website and shall not be modified except in writing, signed by an authorized representative of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc.

ARTICLE 15.  European Union and Other Foreign Nations

15.1        This Website is governed by and operated in accordance with the laws of United States of America and is intended for enjoyment of residents of the United States.  Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. makes no representation that this Website is governed by or operated in accordance with the laws of other nations.  By using this Website and submitting any personal information, visitors from outside of the United States acknowledge this Website is subject to U.S. law, consent to the transfer of personal data to the U.S., and waive any claims that may arise under their own national laws.