The Odyssey of the Lost Apollo CM
Communication to the Editor, February 2017
Aulis Online has received a lengthy commentary from Edwin Pugh. He writes, 'You might like to consider the attached as you obviously missed it during your exhaustive research into the return of an Apollo boilerplate capsule at Murmansk in September 1970'. Titled 'A Curious Case of Mistaken Identity’, it appears to be intended for an audience somewhere, an observation we put to Edwin Pugh which has not been denied.
Setting aside the fact that ‘the attached’ document could hardly have been missed, since it was written as a result of the Aulis publication, we were soon disabused of any kindly intentions or constructive comments. Edwin immediately questions the validity of the claim that exhaustive research was undertaken for this analysis, which in his opinion 'avoids the obvious to concentrate on the obscure and irrelevant' in order to make a case for 'a hidden agenda' behind the actions surrounding the Murmansk return.
Edwin Pugh states that 'it is beyond the scope of his piece to point out all the the errors and misconceptions that run throughout The Odyssey of the Lost Apollo CM', and calls it 'a piece of fiction'. Condemned as such, it shouldn't require any further comment. Yet he thinks it necessary to analyse the investigation, albeit intending to deal with a single aspect – and this is the nub of his matter – to show that 'the capsule returned at Murmansk in September 1970 was exactly what it was claimed to be, an ordinary Apollo boilerplate that was designated BP-1227'.
The way Edwin Pugh goes about this is astonishing. In an attempt to paint a picture of the analysis as a sloppy bit of unreliable research which 'stretches the imagination to breaking point', he employs misquotes. He uses his own words to insinuate intentions unclaimed by the investigation. In order to construct a point he reinterprets the words he is reading. Moreover, a significant lack of research on his own part leads to factually wrong evidence which ends up totally destroying his case.
Edwin first attempts to establish that the USCGC Southwind was not sent deliberately to pick up this Apollo module, as is suggested by the Aulis investigation. To do this he picks apart the discussion of the Southwind’s Antarctic Deep Freeze tour, establishing a precedent for the Murmansk section of the Arctic East tour. He states that the lack of a gun during the Deep Freeze operation was not ‘sinister’. His choice of word implying a conspiratorial tone not present in the investigation; the Deep Freeze gun removal exercise was used as an example of a deliberate operational procedure for one mission which was evident in the later Murmansk operation.
He confidently states that the removal of the gun for this Deep Freeze tour was merely 'a mundane necessity' in order to conform with the requirements of the Antarctic treaty of 1961. However, Article I (section 2) and Article VI of this 1961 Treaty utterly refute his statement. The removal of any military equipment was NOT a requirement. This fact is supported by the official photographs of post-treaty Deep Freeze operations with the USCG cutters, including the Southwind complete with their foredeck guns. If that were not enough, it is on record that in February 1967 USCG Eastwind (W279) – again with its foredeck gun – hosted the US State Department inspection team who were engaged in ensuring that the restrictions of the Antarctic Treaty were being upheld by the land-based stations of the member nations.
It follows therefore that the removal of the foredeck gun was an exceptional matter rather than a mundane affair.
In an attempt to justify the lack of a gun on the Southwind during the Murmansk Arctic East tour he asserts – albeit with no actual proof – that the Southwind’s gun would not have been replaced after its return to the US in April 1969, and that it was still absent in January 1970. The official USCG records, and the relevant crew members’ reports have apparently passed him by, as Eddie gets his dates entirely wrong. The Southwind actually returned to Baltimore from Deep Freeze on 7 May 1969. Following a grounding in August 1969 during the first part of it’s Arctic East tour, the Southwind made temporary repairs in Thule, Greenland and then continued on its tour for another two months, returning to Curtis Yard, Baltimore some time around the end of November 1969.
In dry dock for repairs, the icebreaker did not leave for the second part of its Arctic East tour (and destination Murmansk) until some seven months later, in June 1970. So whether the gun was in situ or the ship was still under repair in January 1970 is irrelevant to the matter in hand.
Uncharitably, if Mr Pugh really does know of the actual timetable for Southwind’s adventures, one can surmise that these dating errors were intended to validate his next statement: 'One has to ask if the authorities would sanction the expense of replacing a gun only to remove it again a few weeks later'. The question is irrelevant, but ask away! Removing and replacing the gun can hardly be described as an expense when a) it is required for the mission and b) the exercise takes place within the vessel’s very own Norfolk Navy Yard, and takes less than a day to execute.
Again without proof, Edwin finally asserts that it's 'highly likely' the Southwind remained gunless for the rest of its career. Which is utter speculation and again irrelevant to the matter in hand. Edwin’s dealings with this aspect of the investigation fall at the first hurdle and nothing he has written on the matter diverts attention from the fact that the Southwind travelled to Murmansk without its gun. And that the pallets used to transport the Apollo module were tailor made to fit both the empty gun emplacement and the Apollo hardware.
Having dealt with intentions to his own satisfaction, Edwin then takes another tack and says that the Aulis investigation 'would seem to lead the reader into making assumptions that BP-1227 did not exist'. As we have never said that, either he was using this quote: “was boilerplate BP-1227 simply the alias attributed to the Murmansk handover of the Apollo 13 CM?” to set up his next section (explaining the post-1970 listings and career of the boilperplates), or he truly does not understand the Aulis hypothesis:
The recovered Apollo 13 CM was disguised as a boilerplate simply in order to get it from the Soviet Union to the USA. After its return to the US, the identity of BP-1227 was attributed to this event, and established in the minds of the public as such, when a boilerplate was later exhibited as being that of the Murmansk handover. The Apollo 13 module, freshly rehabilitated, was incorporated into the Apollo exhibitions.
Edwin takes Aulis to task for writing, “Importantly, the boilerplates were nearly as complicated as the actual command modules.” When the original sentence read: "Importantly, the boilerplates were nearly as complicated as the actual orbital command modules." You couldn’t make it up! But he does, when he adds 'to claim that the 1200 series of capsules were the same is stretching the point way too far', Edwin is deliberately distorting the original text, since ‘were the same’ is not an equivalence of ‘nearly as complicated’.
Then, in order to justify the existence of the BP-1227 as a separate item from the Apollo 13 module, while also inferring that these data that were not present in the Aulis investigation, he sets out the post-1970 CV of the BP-1227. Taking into account that the US authorities, despite having sight of the serial numbers in Murmansk, did not actually call this module BP-1227 until after it was back in the States, a post-Murmansk curriculum vitae for a boilerplate does not prove that there was no duplicity at Murmansk.
So perhaps Edwin Pugh should read Eddie Pugh on the matter of the BP-1227’s history prior to the 1970 Murmansk event at least one more time. Oh, but wait, we referenced Eddie Pugh when we wrote the next point he objects to: 'Whilst on the general topic of the 1200 series of boilerplate capsules, the article goes on to suggest that there was an attempt to hide from the public the location of BP-1227. To quote, “…No one knows to which outfit BP-1227 was assigned or on what Apollo mission, because the relevant documentation is either missing or has been destroyed.” ’
Perhaps he should redirect his complaint to Eddie Pugh since Eddie clearly states that the records concerning BP-1227 are untraceable for the period between its delivery to the CTF-140 and its eventual emergence as the Murmansk capsule. Instead Edwin straps his objections onto a description and a summary of boilerplates and their uses, all of which was covered in the Aulis investigation.
Edwin finally comes back to his original issue, namely the Aulis hypothesis, when he repeats the quote “In the light of what we are discovering, was boilerplate BP-1227 simply the alias attributed to the Murmansk handover of the Apollo 13 CM.” He then covers the Apollo training modules regimen, location and attribution as best he can, (as if it wasn’t present in our investigation) and in a methodology now familiar strings all this to a perceived incorrect description of module training conditions in the Atlantic Ocean. Which simply reveals his unfamiliarity with the Beaufort scale and its terminology relative to wind and wave height. While his choice of language: ‘the photos probably referred to’ and even his description of these photos reveals that he has no desire to address the issues under discussion, preferring to insinuate that Aulis hadn’t covered this ground correctly.
He skates swiftly over the rest of the investigation, but attempts to assert that the Murmansk module was found in the Bay of Biscay and has trouble avoiding the fact that the exterior of the Murmansk module is not like the other NASA Apollo modules, and yes, there are enough images of boilerplates (and they do not have to be in the water) to justify that comment. He ends up with this: ‘Whilst it is true that how an Apollo boilerplate identified as BP-1227 came to be on the quayside in Murmansk in September 1970 remains unclear despite some determined efforts to resolve this, it is equally true that it most definitely was not the Apollo 13 command module’ [emphasis added].
Surely the key here is that this matter is indeed unclear. When it comes to the Murmansk event no one, other than the authorities concerned, can make a complete evaluation of the case and they aren’t telling. It follows that all discussions of this matter are not in competition but instead complement the subject by bringing different points of view to the moot. If Eddie Pugh wrote 'It may be that I’m on the wrong side of the Atlantic to unlock the doors that might lead to providing a definitive answer to the circumstances surrounding the loss and recovery of BP-1227. I’m more than happy to turn over this investigation with the hope that whoever takes it up has more success than I have had.' Edwin Pugh apparently sees things differently.
The bottom line: While having no effective ammunition, Mr Pugh has gone to great lengths trying to play down the findings of the thoroughly-researched Aulis investigation. The unprofessional tactics employed in this ‘report’ might better be seen as an indication that our investigation into this Murmansk handover really has hit home.
Aulis Online, February 2017
See also The Odyssey of the Lost Apollo CM: Detailed analysis of the April 1970 Event
and Was the Command Module too Light?