Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 17th, 2009
March 17th is more that just St. Patrick’s Day!
The date March 17th keeps surfacing in an almost ritualistic way, as a “chosen” date for activities that have ties to oil, certain people, Tibet, Yetis, and more.
Wonder and wander with me in this temporal landscape and stream of consciousness as we rush to our next St. Patrick’s Day.
First, it is intriguing to note that March 17th was a pivotal date in the wealthy Oklahoma/Texas oil family that was the origins of the cryptozoologist Tom Slick.
Tom Slick’s father was also named Tom Slick, and comes down to us in history as the “King of the Wildcatters.” Wildcatting was the practice of going about the oil-rich farm lands, in his case, of Oklahoma, buying up oil lease rights, and drilling for oil on pure speculation.
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 on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. From that day forward, 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, was not allowed to inherit any of the principal of his father’s money until he was 30, 45, and 55 years of age. But the will stated he was to live off the interest. By the year 1960, Tom Slick has inherited 15 million dollars.
Slick had decided to invest in oil and beef, but he had creative ideas also for what to do with some of his money. Part of what he began to do was search for cryptids. I document his quests for the Loch Ness Monster, Sumatran rhinos, Trinity Alps’ Giant Salamanders, Bigfoot, and Orang Pendek.
In 1957, Tom Slick personally headed his first-sponsored expedition into Nepal in search of the Yeti, with Peter Byrne and Sherpa guides along for his deadly serious reconnaissance. From noting the timeline for Slick’s trek, remarkably I discovered that Slick began his 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 law was specifically targeted at Slick’s expedition.
What seems to have been one of the other missions of the 1957 expedition? Apparently, it could 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.”
Exactly 50 years ago, 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. I go into further details in my book, Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology (Fresno: Linden Press, 2002).
Is it a coincidence that today, six years ago, is seen by some as the date 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 this special date, the start of the US invasion of Iraq is keyed to then-President George W. Bush’s announcement in a televised speech that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons have 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.
Watch what happens on March 17, this year! Will the focus be Tibet, on the 50th anniversary of the forceful change that occurred there in 1959?
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 Yetis of the Himalayan Mountains. He wanted to be someplace special on March 17th.
The downside may be here. Will I have to kick back to selling Yeti hair to pay the bills?
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