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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our sixth calendar year
    PCR #258  (Vol. 6, No. 9)  This edition is for the week of February 28--March 6, 2005.

A Case of Microwave Mayhem or Misinformation in Northwest Florida? Part 2 of 2
 by William Moriaty
"Be Cool"
 by Mike Smith
MegaCon '05: Brief Encounters, Missed Lunches, and Loads of Fun!
 by Andy Lalino
MegaCon and Beyond....Oscars Still Doesn't Have a Sense of Humor...."Gay" a Naughty Word in the NFL?....The Crazed Fanboy is Pronounced as Cool
 by Brandon Jones
Movies: Million Dollar Baby vs The Aviator vs Hell's Angels....Comics: The Utimate Iron Man....The Seventh Shrine
 by John Lewis
The Oscars....Mega Conned Again....Latest Kong DVD News
 by Matt Drinnenberg
I Didn't catch The Name....Captured....Oscar Notes....Yo Adrian, You're Dead....Am I Blue?....Movie Notes....Jaws: The Story, Part 8
 by Mike Smith
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"Will, remember that story your mother told us about a few weeks ago about that strange electrical thing that happened to her when she was driving up to Biloxi? Well, I lied to her about that - - I know damn well what happened to her and a few others that night!" -- Colonel "K", Spring 1973.
A Case of Microwave Mayhem or Misinformation in Northwest Florida?

The story that my mother shared with Colonel "K" at Keesler Air Force Base in the late summer of 1949 or 1950 that was in last week's PCR would come back to life some twenty years plus later.

In the early spring of 1973 I had purchased a book on U.F.O.'s by the late George Adamski at Your Book Nook Newsstand on South Dale Mabry Boulevard in Tampa. As was customary, when my mother and I would leave 3016 Villa Rosa Park in Tampa to visit Colonel "K" and his wife for the weekend at the Top of the World condominiums in Clearwater I would often take reading material (generally comic books) to pass away the time.

When Colonel "K" saw the book, he commented rather wryly, "I don't believe in any of that U.F.O. crap! I remember that Marine who always use to call us (USAF) on the carpet over those damn things! Keyhoe! Major Don Keyhoe! We used to joke that he was just a "Major Ass-ho!"

Well, I could tell this was gonna be a long weekend, then out of the blue my mother interjected the following…

"You know "K", it's a big universe out there. Who's to say that there isn't intelligent life out there capable of visiting our planet? Say "K", do you remember that strange thing that happened to me when I was driving Bill (my father-WM) and Patton (my stepbrother) up to the military academy in Biloxi?"

Colonel "K" responded with "No, Flossie, I don't know at all what you're talking about."

A little adamantly, my mother interjected "I can't believe that you don't remember that "K"!" She then went into detail on the story, which was covered in last week's edition of PCR. It would be the first time I would ever hear this tale.

Colonel "K" again responded, "Flossie, I just don't remember anything like that!"

Well, one thing was glaringly obvious, she remembered it, but chose to break the spoken oath of silence Colonel "K" asked of her two decades earlier.

On Friday and Saturday nights, Colonel "K" and I would stay up into the wee hours of the night talking airplanes, USAF, Viet Nam, family, politics, and his World War Two exploits. He would nurse a gin and tonic while I would gulp down a Coke.

The more gin and tonics he had, the more the ghosts of his past began to haunt him. These were not the garden variety of ghost discussed in my PCR article about 3016 Villa Rosa Park, no, these were the unseen faces of tens of thousands of people that died literally under his command while his aircraft filled the skies over Germany with bombs during the Second World War.

How tragic that in his pursuit of trying to save our country from the sickness of Adolph Hitler and his kind, this American hero, that I admired so immensely, would suffer the agonies of the damned because of his deep respect for life and humanity. In the course of defending freedom he would have to live with the paradoxical consequences of defending it for the remainder of his life, as all such guardians inevitably do.

But this evening's haunting would be much more up close and personal - - it would not be the corpse of the baby crushed beneath the rubble in Germany a quarter of a century earlier seeking revenge of the Colonel, wondering why its young life had been stolen. No, the haunting memory that Colonel "K" would invoke on this fateful evening would be one that would involve those of the living at that time - - my own family…

After generously rewarding himself with several gin and tonics to salve the wounds of an irreparably torn psyche, the Colonel suddenly blurted out the following admission…

"Will, remember that story your mother talked to me about a few weeks ago, about that strange electrical thing that happened to her when she was driving up to Biloxi? Well, I lied about that - - I know damn well what happened to her and a few others that night…"

I could feel my heart pounding loudly.

"We (USAF or some other U.S. Government agency) were conducting microwave experiments at the Eglin Reservation. That evening. We were trying to project a microwave beam about thirty miles out into the Gulf when a horrific accident occurred. The trajectory of the beam did not arc properly to reach its target, and instead shot almost straight out from its projector. Two of my technicians were killed and your mother was caught several miles away in the stray beam…"

Now I had difficulty swallowing.

"Immediately upon being informed of the incident at Keesler, I was summoned to fly to Eglin in order to investigate the accident. When I got there, smoke was pouring out of every orifice in the two techs bodies - - eyes, nostrils, ears. They were literally cooked from the inside (I was not even aware of what a microwave oven was or how it worked until the 1980's when I used to see them at the Montgomery Ward store I worked at-WM). I was not aware at that time that your family was caught in that beam. I flew back later that morning to undergo debriefing at Keesler. Once I established from her what time she estimated her incident took place, it corresponded with the time of the mishap."

I was totally stunned.

"Yeah Will, I knew all about her story…I knew more than I wish I ever knew…"

I mustered up the courage to tell my mother about Colonel "K's" revelation on our way home that weekend. She didn't say too much for the next few hours afterward.

As we headed into the summer of 1973, Colonel "K" and his wife would attend my high school graduation at T.R. Robinson High School in Tampa, but my mother no longer frequented their condominium at the Top of the World. She would say that since we then lived at Georgetown Manors in Tampa instead of at her sister's at 3016 Villa Rosa Park, there was no longer the need to get away for the weekend. In addition Colonel "K's" youngest son and my sister stopped dating and my mother said she no longer felt welcomed there.

But were those the real reasons, or was her reasoning much deeper, possibly having its roots in a perceived betrayal of trust dating back to that fateful evening on US 98 in Okaloosa County, Florida?

As we headed into the summer of 1973 news reached us that my stepbrother was placed in Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital as a melanoma he developed on his inner thigh at the young age of 27 recurred. On September 18, 1973, this black death would claim Preston Patton Pender II at the tender age of 33. If indeed he was a unintended part of a top-secret microwave experiment, could that experience have possibly caused cell mutations that led to his premature skin cancer death?

As we headed into the summer of 1973, Colonel "K" was convinced that a CIA agent moved into an adjacent condominium to spy on his activities. Had Colonel "K" talked more than he should have to that sixteen then to turn eighteen-year-old kid that would visit him and his wife along with his mother on the weekends?

Did the Colonel simply concoct the story, or use a cover story that was part of a Government misinformation campaign?

Only Colonel "K" alone knows that if he is still alive.

If he is not, and if his story is not a fabrication, there may well be an Eyes Only Classified document in some Government file somewhere that contains the names of my immediate family (with the exception of my sister) and two unfortunate technicians that have been made a part of America's dark secret past.

I could go to the trouble of searching to get to the bottom of this through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, but I suspect that it would be more trouble than it's worth and that the information gleaned from that research may be the most troubling part of all.

"La Floridiana" is ©2005 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.