Nixon
© abc10.com
Former President Richard Nixon
New evidence suggests he did — and that Lyndon B. Johnson also stole gold from the same base in a separate criminal operation.

On November 17, 1973, in the midst of the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation, President Richard Nixon famously told a group of newspaper editors at Walt Disney World in Florida that he had "never profited from public service. I've earned every cent. I am not a crook."

According to John Clarence, author of The Noss Gold (Soledad Publishing, 2022), days after Nixon made those remarks, over the Thanksgiving holiday, he orchestrated a massive criminal scheme that resulted in the theft of 36.5 tons of gold from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.[1]

On Monday November 26, 1973, a Washington, D.C., lawyer David Austern, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who taught as an adjunct at Georgetown and American University law schools, called George Brazier at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, to report on the theft of gold from White Sands, which was valued at around $118 million (around $2 billion in 2022).[2]

The theft was also reported by Army intelligence agents and in a heavily redacted Secret Service report, with evidence of dynamiting at the scene.

2 books
In an interview before his death from cancer, Austern did not deny his involvement in the scheme which, according to researcher Robert Morrow, implied a "confirmation by non-denial."

Nixon's motive was very clear: He needed lots of money to pay off his blackmailers (the Watergate burglars) in an attempt to defuse the Watergate scandal and save his political career.

On the White House Watergate tapes, Nixon was heard telling White House Counsel John Dean, who had estimated that Nixon would need $1 million to pay off the Watergate burglars:
"If you need the money you can get that. You could get a million dollars. You could get it in cash. I know where it could be gotten. It is not easy, but it could be done."
Dean/Austern
Nixon was allegedly told about a fortune in gold for the taking in New Mexico some time in July 1970 by Keith Alexander, a geologist from Northern California and guest at his San Clemente home.

Lilburn "Pat" Boggs, a deputy director of the Secret Service who worked with Nixon, had also allegedly been present at a secret operation on August 1, 1961, at Victorio Peak.

Peak/Shinkle
© ocregister.com/Wikipedia
Victorio Peak • White Sands Missile Range New Mexico • John G Shinkle
The operation was thought to have been led by White Sands Missile Range Commanding General John G. Shinkle, a West Point graduate from Boston who, according to Clarence, was "up to his neck in the thefts," removing gold bars from the Victorio Peak site.[3]

Brent Bauer, an engineer from Palmdale California who ran gold mining operations in Alaska and Nevada, said that he knew of thirty-five people who were killed in connection with the gold thefts after 1965, including some right at White Sands. According to Bauer, one third of those involved in the conspiracy to remove gold and who received dividends were military personnel.

Many political figures similarly benefited along with businessmen and organized crime.[4

Doc Noss and the Origins of the Treasure
3 peep
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Milton 'Doc' Noss • Ova 'Babe' Noss • Apache Chief Victorio
There are four theories surrounding the origins of the Victorio Peak treasure, which included silver coins, jewels and other rare artifacts:
  1. It was plundered from Mexico.
  2. It was stored by Spanish conquistadors, such as Juan de Oñate who founded the New Mexico colony in the 17th century, or possibly by a Jesuit missionary, Padre LaRue, who operated gold mines in the 18th century.
  3. The gold belonged to Maximilian I, the emperor of Mexico in the 1860s who feared an assassination plot.
  4. It belonged to an Apache war chief named Victorio whose band had raided California stagecoaches during the Gold Rush.[5]
The treasure was discovered in 1937 by Milton E. "Doc" Noss, a traveling medicine showman with a string of arrests for drunkenness, and his wife Ova "Babe" Noss, whom he had met in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Nosses extracted some of the gold bars manually from Victorio Peak but then caused it to cave in when they deployed dynamite in an attempt to make the extraction process easier.

In March 1949, Noss was killed by Charlie Ryan of Alice, Texas who had offered to buy most of his existing bars. Ryan was acquitted of murder on the grounds of self-defense and, six years later, Doc's wife, Ova Noss, was evicted from her legally held claim as the land where the treasure was buried was taken over by the White Sands Missile Range.

Then in 1958, the gold stash was rediscovered by a treasure hunting team led by Air Force Captain Leonard V. Fiege and Thomas Berlett who found a new passage into the peak.[7]

Evidence Against "Tricky Dick"

Strong evidence implicating Nixon comes from money-laundering documents that were provided to John Clarence by Betty Tucker, the widow of Lloyd G. Tucker, a Tulsa-based real-estate agent from Reno, Nevada, who worked for the CIA and as a courier for Lyndon B. Johnson [whose involvement in stealing gold from Victorio Peak will be discussed below].

An expert in handling, mining, smelting and refining gold who worked in Nigeria probably for the CIA,[8] Tucker knew "Doc" Noss personally and had been in the caves of White Sands where the gold was stored and was a key part of Nixon's theft scheme.
Passport pics
© John Clarence
During a 1993 interview, Tucker — who held a Treasury Department license arranged for him by LBJ to move gold bullion around legally — said that
"the government had the pictures. The government knows it, they're people in the government that know it. I can tell you one right now...Richard Nixon knows it as well as about anybody. His brother knows it better than most...there [were] some pretty powerful people in that deal. Lyndon Johnson [knew] it as well as Nixon...."[9]
The Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, featured a document in one of its exhibits that mentioned an unexplained and unusually large amount of money in Nixon's Riggs bank account.

The money-laundering documents mention an assortment of criminals who were allegedly involved in the 1973 gold theft — many of them were clients of David Austern and F. Lee Bailey, all of whom had connections to Nixon.

They included: a) Bill Shriver, a Florida-based dealer in gold and precious metals who was murdered in May 1982, probably due to his connection with the 1973 gold theft[10]; b) Keith Alexander, the geologist who told Nixon about Victorio Peak in July 1970; and c) Kenneth Meadows, a business partner of LBJ associated with Texas con man Billie Sol Estes who was part of Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). Meadows owned a phony gold smelting company in Cerrillos, New Mexico, which was used as a "front to move [the looted] gold through the banks," according to John Clarence.[11]

4 Guys
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F. Lee Bailey • Billie Sol Estes • John Mitchell • H.R. Haldeman
According to Phil Koury, Ova Noss's attorney, F. Lee Bailey was secretly involved with the Pentagon in an effort to allow his clients to enter the White Sands Missile Range and search for the gold. Off-the-record negotiations were carried out by Attorney General John Mitchell and H. R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff.

The most important Bailey "gold hunter" client was Fred Drolte, a Dallas importer-exporter and former "one-armed airplane pilot" and CIA contract employee, who served as the "lead man in the Noss gold theft," according to John Clarence.

Drolte called Nixon "Tricky Dick" and said "ya gotta keep an eyeball open on him." Drolte himself had been named in a $1 million lawsuit involving stolen Colombian emeralds. He also spent three months in jail for smuggling 371 stolen M-2 automatic carbines and .30 caliber ammunition into Mexico to "unidentified revolutionary Latin American factions." BAD PIC Find other??

Prior to the November 1973 heist, "Pat" Boggs and another of Nixon's secret service agents, Robert Newbrand, met with Drolte in Arrey, New Mexico — as Clarence reported — to arrange a meeting between Drolte and President Nixon to discuss the Noss Gold at Victorio Peak.

On November 18, Nixon flew from Key Biscayne in Florida and, according to Clarence, met with Drolte in a private jet in El Paso, Texas, next to the Biggs Army Air Field which is about 40 miles away from the White Sands Missile Range.

At the meeting, about which Drolte told Richard Moyle — a heavy equipment operator and prospector who worked for Drolte[12]Nixon handed Drolte a key to the west gate near the rim of the Hembrillo Basin where the Noss Gold was hidden.[13]

That this meeting took place is suggested by the fact that there was a gap in Nixon's diary on that day, and his whereabouts were not officially accounted for — which is odd since virtually every minute of a president's time and whereabouts are routinely memorialized in official records.

After the meeting Drolte told Moyle: "I'm gong to Victorio Peak, I've got it all arranged." On November 21, 1973, Drolte and his crew drove to the range and met with military personnel. During the next few days, 36.5 tons of the Noss gold was loaded onto trucks and stolen from the range.[14]

Dewey Millay, a doctor present during the theft, told John Clarence that he had witnessed a one-armed man at the site, and said that Bill Shriver and Edward F. Atkins, a Decatur Illinois oilman, who were both involved in the theft, told him that it was not the first time they had worked with the military to remove gold from Victorio Peak.
3 guys
© ww1.prweb.com/wikipedia.org
Dewey Millay • Charles Fletcher • John Ehrlichman
Nixon at White Sands

Joe Essary worked for his cousin Lonnie Boyd "Jock" Essary, who had a contract with White Sands Missile Range to remove downed aircraft scrap from the Range, Joe claimed he saw Nixon, wearing a long gray trench coat, get out of a helicopter in November 1974 — a few months after his resignation — at Fort Bliss which is just north of El Paso and attached to White Sands.

Just one and a half months later, President Ford made it legal for private citizens in the U.S. to hold, purchase, sell or deal gold.

John Clarence wrote that "Nixon's unexplained appearance so close to the scene of the crime in time and distance is more compelling evidence he was deeply involved in the November 1973 gold theft."

White Sands Whitewash

In March 1974, Major General Arthur H. Sweeney, Jr., the 11th Commander of White Sands Missile Range who had previously commanded U.S. troops in Danang, South Vietnam, and led a military advisory group in Cambodia, held an official military inquiry into the Thanksgiving gold theft.

The military had been alerted about the heist when it was reported by Army intelligence, a heavily redacted Secret Service report, and David Austern's report to the Pentagon.

During Sweeney's inquiry, military personnel who had been in on the heist and may have individually profited from it, gave false testimony while witnesses at the hearing were handpicked.

The report, released on March 11, 1974, was named after U.S. Army Deputy General Counsel Bland West, who worked under Army General Counsel Robert W. Perry, a Nixon appointee, and the U.S. Army's Assistant Secretary for Real Property, Gordon B. Hobbs, who worked under Army Secretary Howard "Bo" Callaway, another Nixon appointee from the state of Georgia who served a term in Congress.

FBI agent Herb Greathouse had had considerable evidence to pursue an investigation but instead suppressed it, according to Clarence.

This cover-up may have been designed to protect not only Nixon but also high-ranking military and reportedly CIA officers who had stolen a considerable amount of the gold.

One Army captain, William Orby Swanner, whose son performed polygraph tests for the CIA at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, brazenly left proof he had been inside one of the treasure rooms by inscribing his name, date and serial number on the wall inside a cave called "soldier's hole."[18]

Nazi Gold at White Sands?

In September 1961, Michael Geesling was out poaching deer illegally on the White Sands Missile Range with a friend when they witnessed several members of the U.S. Army removing boxes from an opening on the side of Victorio Peak into a large Dodge truck.

One theory is that the boxes were looted Nazi gold worth $71.4 million. The Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany's largest newspapers based in Bavaria, suggested that U.S. Army soldiers had stolen this gold, which disappeared from a hiding place in the Bavarian Alps.

Some of the bars found at White Sands has shiny hallmark bars, a trademark of Nazi gold.

Bavarian State Police Chief Michael Freiherr von Godin said that advancing American soldiers had found Nazi gold in Weilheim, 20 miles south of Munich, and took possession of it as the war was ending. It then allegedly made its way to White Sands, possibly with the assistance of Nazi scientists recruited under Operation Paperclip.
3 guys
© wikipedia/wsmrmuseum.com
Lyndon B. Johnson • Wernher von Braun • John Connally
Wernher von Braun, who had helped develop the German V-2 rocket, is in the White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame, having served there from 1945 to 1950.[19] Other Paperclip Germans reportedly worked at White Sands up until about 1958.

Was LBJ in on it too?

John Clarence writes that Nixon was not alone when it came to presidential theft of the Noss gold; Lyndon B. Johnson also stole some of the gold from Victorio Peak.

John Atkins, the son of gold-hunter Edward F. Atkins who died under suspicious circumstances because of his involvement in the 1973 theft, had the opportunity to listen to a recording of Johnson talking to Fred Drolte.

Johnson discussed how he and John Connally, former Texas Governor appointed by Nixon as Treasury Secretary, went to Victorio Peak.

The two were both spotted in a remote area near there in the late 1960s by a White Sands Missile Range security guard who said that they headed a team which brought in sophisticated excavation equipment to remove gold from the peak; "the most modern I've ever seen," he said. "They even brought in their own security guards."[20]

Johnson further discussed in the recording how he had transported gold from White Sands to a landing strip that had been constructed at his 108,724 acre ranch in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico near the towns of Camargo and Jimenez.

Extending through his presidency, Johnson and his family (and friends) would fly every February to Acapulco and stay in Alemán's elegant villa.[21]

On June 5, 1963, President Kennedy and Johnson had visited White Sands to view several missile firings and later that day visited the Noss treasure site, which Johnson had allegedly learned about from a boyhood friend from Johnson City, Texas, Dick Richardson, who was a former U.S. army officer.[22]

1963 was the year of a major theft from Victorio's Peak, according to Major Raymond Burns, the assistant Provost Marshal under Provost Marshal Colonel Richard E. Wade, chief of security from 1963-1974.

Burns described another incident during LBJ's presidency when four men seeking access to the Noss gold arrived at the White Sands Provost Marshal's office in a Cadillac, including a Mr. Moon, who was from the White House Division of the Secret Service, and Dick Richardson, who claimed to have been in Victorio's Peak before.

Tom Whittle interviewed a man spotted waiting in the Cadillac, who told him that he had helped mastermind the illegal removal of at least some of the gold on Johnson's behalf.[23]

Fern Hamill, LBJ's pilot, said that he flew gold bars from Johnson's Las Pampas ranch in Mexico to Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Men from the White Sands Missile Range dressed in civilian clothes accompanied him, as did a U.S. Army General on one of the flights.

A resident of Juarez, Mexico, told Charles Berg, managing editor of The Investigator, that he had been told that the gold was flown into Johnson's ranch at Las Pampas on a big four-engine airplane two months after Johnson ended his term as president.

That the gold had been brought there was common knowledge among local residents in Camargo (in Chihuahua where LBJ's illegal ranch was located).

Lloyd Tucker's wife Betty told John Clarence that her husband, who happened to have been at the Dallas airport on the day JFK died, had a close association with LBJ, who provided him with a license to handle and deal in gold bullion.

Betty also told Clarence that Lloyd had unfettered access to the west gate on the range with the permission of the Commanding General and claimed that Lloyd had been inside Victorio Peak on numerous occasions.

Once, while Tucker was working there during one of his removal operations, he received a message that someone was waiting for him at the gate: it turned out to be Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird. Johnson instructed Tucker to return to Victorio Peak and search at a certain location where Tucker uncovered two wooden crates, which he delivered to the Johnsons' back at the gate.[24]

When the Johnson's opened one of the boxes, Tucker said it contained Russian China.

A source who asked to remain unidentified told Tom Whittle that he had interviewed several men who had brought a large load of the peak's gold to Johnson's ranch, where Tucker had witnessed the prevalence of underground bunkers. According to this same source, Victorio Peak "was just like a private vault to certain high-ranking people" — including evidently Johnson.

A Political Criminal of Spectacular Proportions

That Johnson might have been involved should not be surprising in light of the assessment of Barr McClellan, who worked for the law firm that represented him, that Johnson was "not just vulgar and disgusting...[but] a political criminal of spectacular proportions operating at the highest levels of the American government."

According to McClellan, Attorney General Robert Kennedy was planning, right after his brother John's trip to Dallas in November 1963, to take the Noss gold into custody until its ownership could be resolved, a claim held firmly by the Noss family.

Mrs. Noss was allegedly informed by Kennedy that a meeting had been scheduled in Denver after the Dallas trip with Ova Noss and members of her family, to resolve the ownership of the gold.

Staggering Government Criminality

The saga of the Noss gold reveals staggering levels of governmental corruption, criminality and coverup involving high ranking members of the armed forces and executive branch.

Many questions about the Noss gold remain of course unanswered.

If both Nixon and Johnson got away with the theft, how much might each have gotten away with and where did the money go? Why did the government not ultimately pursue any of the culprits if it was known that gold had been stolen?

If John Shinkle and other military officers took a large percentage of the gold, how much did they get away with and where did their money go? Another question centers on the CIA — to what extent were CIA-connected figures like Lloyd Tucker and Fred Drolte stealing the gold to fund covert operations? And why did the military permit CIA operations to be carried out on U.S. soil?

Finally, it would be nice to know how much of the original treasure was taken and how much might still be left? It would also be nice to know what the government intends to do to keep thieves away from White Sands Missile Range, and what it intends to do with what is left of the vast treasure that has consumed so many men's dreams and lives.
About the Author:
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine. He is the author of four books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama's Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).
References:
  1. John Clarence, The Noss Gold (Las Cruces, New Mexico: Soledad Publishing, 2022).
  2. Clarence believes that Austern's report was designed as a diversion. In January 1974, then-FBI Director Clarence Kelley received an airtel from the FBI's Washington Field Office stating: "They went to Victorio Peak area. They took several trucks and removed 37 tons of artifacts and gold from various caves." The airtel also revealed: "Their sale is being transacted through the First National Bank in Albuquerque...two individuals with the Bank are handling the sale...the firm of Handy & Harman, an El Monte, California, gold refining firm, is handling the sale of the gold overseas."
  3. John Clarence and Tom Whittle, The Gold House: The True Story of the Victorio Peak Treasure: Book 2: The Lies, the Thefts (Las Cruces, New Mexico: Soledad Publishing, 2011), vii. A September 1981 affidavit by Sam Scott estimated that Shinkle took around 700 gold bars. According to a witness, William Gaddis, head of the Gaddis Mining Company, which performed excavation work at Victoria's Peak in 1963, hired a European investigative firm which confirmed Shinkle's theft, though Gaddis chose not to pursue the matter. Another official army report on the exploration by Chester R. Johnson Jr., a credentialed museum of New Mexico archeologist and cartographer, wasaltered to underscore the past involvement of Shinkle and other army officers. Shinkle was later assigned to NATO command in Europe and was appointed Director of the Apollo Manned Space projet at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to researcher Robert Morrow as a reward for his collaboration with Lyndon B. Johnson.
  4. Clarence and Whittle, The Gold House, 288, 533. Bauer told Whittle that Shinkle and Fred Drolte had had six to eight GIs killed after they had helped them remove gold from the peak in the early 1960s. The GIs were promised a share of the loot, transferred to widely scattered posts around the world and then killed off, one by one. According to Bauer, for certain high-ranking people in the military, including Shinkle, the Peak was just like a private vault. "They would go in periodically and get what they wanted. They would have the proper persons on guard duty." Bauer said that Shinkle made trips back to White Sands throughout the period 1963-1979, after he had left the base.
  5. See Unsolved Mysteries, with Robert Stack, Season 1, Episode 24, Victorio's Gold, Part 1 and II, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCMi8SzjYSI; James P. Sterba, "The Legendary Treasure White Sands Missile Range," The New York Times, October 13, 1973, https://www.nytimes.com/1973/10/13/archives/the-legendary-treasure-of-the-white-sands-missile-range-gold-bars.html
  6. Sterba, "The Legendary Treasure White Sands Missile Range." Ryan testified that Doc had promised him 51 bars of gold in return for his $27,000 investment.
  7. Tom Whittle, "Gold! The Mystery of the $30 Billion Treasure," Freedom Magazine, June 1986, https://www.freedommag.org/english/vol18I10/. Fiege and Berlett both passed lie detector tests about their findings.
  8. Tucker was also alleged to have had links to organized crime.
  9. Clarence and Whittle, The Gold House, xiii.
  10. Shriver owned Pyramid Enterprises. He was pistol-whipped by Mafia men, according to an official autopsy report from the medical examiner in the Sixth Judicial District in Florida, which listed his death as a homicide.
  11. Meadows died after he was shot in the head by his wife, Lola, while he slept. She said she had been physically abused.
  12. Moyle lived in Arrey, New Mexico. He lost both his legs when equipment he was operating struck a high tension line and walked with artificial legs. He told John Clarence that two Secret Service agents representing Richard Nixon had met with Drolte at his private residence on November 11, 1973, to arrange the meeting between Nixon and Drolte.
  13. According to Clarence, a January 1974 FBI report confirms the key was used to gain entrance to the range.
  14. Drolte admitted to Dick Moyle that he had taken the gold from Victorio Peak.
  15. In the 1990s, three executives at Handy & Harman's Connecticut plant were indicted for a wide range of crimes.
  16. Nixon's pardon at the hands of Gerald Ford and Congress' repeal of the Gold Act of 1934 limiting private gold ownership, which Ford signed into law, allowed Nixon to legally possess the gold bullion he allegedly stole from the Victorio Peak treasure. Clarence and Whittle, The Gold House, xxi.
  17. Elsewhere Clarence and Tom Whittle characterized the report as "an expensive, taxpayer sponsored hoax."
  18. Swanner died a horrible death in 1968; his wife Joanne suspected he was murdered through poisoning.
  19. Von Braun's brother Magnus, a former Luftwaffe pilot, also worked at White Sands.
  20. Clarence and Whittle, The Gold House, 256. Bill Shriver, before his death, told Tom Whittle that he had a copy of a transcribed order from Lyndon Johnson describing in detail how the president wanted a military escort to handle the supply of gold taken out of Victorio Peak and taken to his ranch. Shriver also said that he had copies of other "presidential messages, several initiated by LBJ," dealing with the clandestine, illegal removal of the gold.
  21. Madeleine Duncan Brown, Texas in the Morning: The Love Story of Madeleine Brown and President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Baltimore: The Conservatory Press, 1997), 212.
  22. Joan Mellen, Faustian Bargains: Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace in the Robber Baron Culture of Texas (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016), 189. Doc Noss's killer, Charlie Ryan, as noted heralded from Alice, Texas which was under the domain of political boss George Parr who had assisted Johnson in his career. Oil billionaire Clint Murchison Jr. and a Johnson supporter, allegedly helped remove the gold from Victorio Peak.
  23. Clarence and Whittle, The Gold House, xxi, 171, 266. Tom Whittle interviewed a man in the Texas panhandle who claimed to have been involved in the removal of gold from Victorio's Peak on behalf of Lyndon Johnson. He described to Whittle how private vehicles, including cars and pickups, had been used to remove relatively small amounts of gold bars from the Peak, then transport them across the border. As he described it, there was a continued shuttle operation with no vehicle every carrying so much gold that it would ride too low or otherwise attract attention.
  24. Clarence and Whittle, The Gold House, 200. Letters confirm that Johnson knew the location and value of the Noss treasure. They would "go in periodically and get what they wanted. They would have the proper persons on guard duty." Whittle, "Gold!" Sources later reported to Whittle that in 1977, during Operation Goldfinder, yet another expedition to extract gold from Victorio Peak, Lady Bird called the White Sands Missile Range every day for the latest news.