Majestic 12 (also known as Majic 12, Majestic Trust, MJ 12 or MJ XII) is the code name of an alleged secret committee of scientists, military leaders, and government officials, supposedly formed in 1947 by an executive order of U.S. President Harry S. Truman. The purpose was to investigate UFO activity in the aftermath of the Roswell incident, the purported crash of an alien spaceship near Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947. This alleged committee is an important part of the UFO conspiracy theory of an ongoing government cover up of UFO information.
The primary evidence for the existence of a group named Majestic 12 is a series of questionable documents that first emerged in 1984 and which have been the subject of much debate. The original MJ-12 documents state that:
The Majestic 12 group… was established by secret executive order of President Truman on 24 September, [sic – see discussion] 1947, upon recommendation by Dr. Vannevar Bush and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal.
Dr. Bush was named as head of the group. The existence of MJ-12 has been denied by some agencies of the United States government, which insist that documents suggesting its existence are hoaxed. The FBI investigated the documents, and concluded they were forgeries, based primarily on an opinion rendered by AFOSI, the U.S. Air Force counter-intelligence office. Opinions among UFO researchers are divided: Some argue the documents may be genuine while others contend they are phony, due primarily to errors in formatting and chronology.
In 1985, another document mentioning MJ-12 and dating to 1954 was found in a search at the National Archives. Its authenticity is also highly controversial. The documents in question are rather widely available on the Internet, for example on the FBI website, where they are dismissed as bogus (linked below).
Since the first MJ-12 documents, thousands of pages of other so-called MJ-12 documents have also appeared, all of them controversial. Some have been proven to be unquestionably fraudulent, usually retyped rewrites of other totally unrelated government documents. The primary new MJ-12 document is a lengthy, linotype-set manual dating from 1954. It deals primarily with the handling of crash debris and alien bodies. Objections to its authenticity usually center on questions of style and some historical anachronisms.
However, before the appearance of the various dubious MJ-12 documents, unquestionably authentic Canadian documents dating from 1950 and 1951 were uncovered in 1978. These documents mention the existence of a similar, highly classified UFO study group operating within the Pentagon’s U.S. Research and Development Board, and again headed by Dr. Vannevar Bush. Although the name of the group is not given, these documents remain the most compelling evidence that such a group did exist. There is also some testimony from a few government scientists involved with this project corroborating its existence.
MJ-12 is sometimes associated in recent UFO conspiracy literature with the more historically verifiable but also deeply secretive NSC 5412/2 Special Group, created by President Eisenhower in 1954. Although the Special Group was not specifically concerned with UFOs, and post-dates the alleged creation of MJ-12 in 1947, the commonality of the number ’12’ in the names of the two groups is intriguing. As the highest body of central intelligence experts in the early Cold War era (the Group was alleged to include the President but exclude the Vice President), the Special Group certainly would have had both clearance and interest in all matters of national security, including UFO sightings (actual or imagined) if they were considered a real threat.
As noted above, the primary source for MJ12’s alleged existence is a series of documents mailed anonymously to UFO researchers in 1982. However, the earliest mention of MJ-12 in any context was in a document given to Paul Bennewitz in 1980 as part of a disinformation campaign against him after he misinterpreted a secret Air Force project as evidence of extraterrestrial UFOs active on earth. As most of the information given Bennewitz was spurious, it immediately calls the accuracy of this early MJ12 document into question. One sentence in a lengthy document read:
The official US Government policy and results of Projest Aquarius is [sic] still classified TOP SECRET with no dissemination outside channels and with access restricted to “MJ TWELVE.”
As Greg Bishop writes, “Here, near the bottom of this wordy message in late 1980, was the very first time anyone had seen a reference to the idea of a suspected government group called ‘MJ Twelve’ that controlled UFO information. Of course, no one suspected at the time the colossal role that this idea would play in 1980’s and ’90s UFOlogy, and it eventually spread beyond its confines to become a cultural mainstay.”
Majestic 12 first entered the public consciousness in 1984 (Susan Wright writes that the documents first surfaced in 1982, but all other sources support a 1984 date). Television producer (and amateur ufologist) Jamie Shandera says he received a roll of film in the mail from an anonymous sender. Once developed, the film was of two documents: The first document was supposedly written by Harry Truman, authorizing the formation of a committee called “MJ 12″, charged with evaluating the 1947 Roswell UFO incident.
The second document was supposedly prepared by MJ-12 in 1952, to brief incoming president Dwight Eisenhower on the committee’s progress. The documents discuss United States Air Force investigations and concealment of a crashed alien spacecraft near Roswell, New Mexico.
All the alleged members of MJ-12 were notable for their military or scientific achievements, and all (except Edward Teller) were deceased when the documents first surfaced.
The alleged members of the Majestic-12 committee were:
- Rear Adm. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter
- Dr. Vannevar Bush
- James Forrestal (replaced after his death by Gen. Walter Bedell Smith)
- Nathan Twining
- Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg
- Dr. Detlev Bronk
- Dr. Jerome Hunsaker
- Rear Adm. Sidney Souers
- Gordon Gray
- Dr. Donald Menzel
- Maj. Gen. Robert Montague
- Dr. Lloyd Berkner
Four of these men had reliably documented activities related to UFOs: Menzel wrote or co-wrote several debunking books; Hillenkoetter was a member of NICAP; while Twining and Vandenberg oversaw early U.S. Air Force UFO investigations, like Project Sign.
Shandera first publicly discussed the MJ-12 documents in a 1982 made-for-television documentary, The UFO Experience (Wright, p95-96). MJ-12 remained something of a fringe topic–even in ufology–until a few years later after the publication of Timothy Good’s best-selling book, Above Top Secret (1988), which reprinted the MJ-12 documents. Good also reported receiving photos of the MJ-12 documents from an anonymous sender.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation then began its own study of the MJ-12 documents: The MJ-12 documents were supposedly classified as “Top Secret”, and the FBI’s initial concern was that someone within the U.S. government had illegally leaked secret information.
Other MJ-12 documents have since surfaced, and again, opinions differ as to their authenticity. Susan Wright agrees with the mainstream consensus that the MJ-12 documents are phony, and speculates that they may have been disinformation.
Others have speculated that MJ-12 may have been another name for the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit, an officially recognized military group active from the 1940’s through the late 1950s.