Real Name: Paul Byron Whipkey
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Fort Ord, California
Date: July 10, 1958
Occupation: U.S. Army
Date of Birth: 1932
Marital Status: Unknown
Characteristics: Caucasian male. Blond hair
Details: Twenty-six-year-old US Army Lieutenant Paul Whipkey had grown up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was a R.O.T.C. honors graduate, who after basic training, started at Army aviation school. In July 1956, he was posted at Fort Ord, California, and then in the summer of 1957, at Camp Desert Rock in Nevada. While there, he flew an observation plane during atomic bomb testing and was exposed to several doses of radiation. This caused several blotches on his skin and damaged his teeth, which had to be removed. Late in the afternoon on July 10, 1958, he left Fort Ord, saying his destination was Monterey, California, less than a mile away. He never returned to the base, and a week later, he was declared AWOL and finally declared a deserter thirty days after he vanished.
A few weeks later on August 17, 1958, a Fish and Game Warden in Death Valley, California, discovered his abandoned car 500 miles away from Fort Ord; the keys were in the ignition and there was no evidence of foul play. Army investigators traced a gas receipt to Mojave, California, where he purchased gas there on July 11. The evening before, he signed the guest register at the White Sands motel and apparently spent the night, and the next morning, drove out and vanished. The army's report said that he drove to Death Valley, and, while stressed about his assignment, left his car and walked into the desert, where he perished. However, his brother, Carl, does not believe the story and has found evidence to suggest that he did not die in Death Valley. Decades later, he still wants to know what happened.
The first thing that cast suspicion by Carl was that on the day of Paul's disappearance, two soldiers cleared out his room at Fort Ord; everything including his personal possessions were removed. This was a bizarre and illegal procedure, because the next of kin was supposed to be notified about the belongings, and nobody in his family found out until weeks later.
Another strange clue was that four weeks after he vanished, a rancher noticed his car driving by him in Death Valley. The eyewitness claimed that the man driving his car was in military clothes, but he was wearing his civilian ones when he left Fort Ord. When the car was found a week later, a pile of cigarette butts were found next to the car, even though he did not smoke.
Even more shocking to his family was that the army did not start a search for his body until eight months after his car was found. Also, the only way Carl found out about Paul's abandoned car was by accident when a enlisted man called him about the car. The man later called back saying that the information about the car was classified.
Lt. Col. Charles Lewis, his commanding officer, was surprised that he was declared a deserter, and Charles was told not to look in the case anymore. He then remembered a strange encounter that occurred while he and Paul were stationed in Nevada in 1957. He claims that two men in civilian clothing approached Paul and another soldier. The unidentified men did not report to operations first, which they should have done for security reasons. Carl asked for their identification, and it verified who the two were, although he did not see what agency they were from. The men met with Paul several more time within the next few weeks, and his personality soon began to change. Charles now believes that the two men may have been from the CIA and that they may have met with Paul in order to recruit him into the CIA and have him go on secret missions.
In January of 1958, Paul told Carl that he was going on an assignment and that he was going to "make a name for himself" but he could not tell him what it was. Carl theorizes that Paul was recruited into an army CIA program that was occurring at the time, and that when he left the base, he met with CIA agents while at the White Sands motel, and that he was transferred from nearby Edwards Air Force Base to Southeast Asia. Also, he believes that he turned his car over to the army, which then placed it in Death Valley to "get rid of it". In June 1977, Carl contacted the FBI in order to find more information about Paul from their files, but he was later told that the files on Paul's case were destroyed.
Then, Carl found one final puzzling twist to Paul's case; a friend of his, Lt. Charlie Guess, who served with him at Camp Desert Rock and again at Ft. Ord, had vanished while flying a plane eleven days after Paul vanished. Over a year later, Charlie's remains were found with his plane north of Death Valley. Curiously, the plane that was supposedly found with his remains had a different serial number than the one that he took off in.
In 1982, the army changed his status from "deserter" to "died in the line of duty", and believed that he died the day after he vanished while he was in the desert. Carl, however, believes that the truth has yet to be revealed, and wants the army to tell him what really happened to him. He hopes that someone who was with Paul at Ft. Ord around the time of his disappearance to come forward with information about the case. However, his case remains unsolved.
Suspects: Paul's family and friends suspect that the army or the CIA may have been involved in his disappearance and that he may have died on a secret mission.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 3, 1991 episode. For unknown reasons, the case was originally classified as "Wanted" instead of "Missing Persons".
- Lt. Paul Whipkey on Unsolved.com
- Brother still pursues mystery of army pilot who vanised on coast in 1958
- Vanished - Servicemen's Families Demand More Answers
- Lt. Paul Whipkey at Find a Grave