Ah, politicians. They’re controversial to be sure. That said, the story of House Majority Leader Hale Boggs is one-of-a-kind. And with that, I want to clarify something before we continue. While I could ramble on about Boggs’ achievements as House Majority leader, I don’t feel it necessary as politics isn’t the main focus of this entry. Rather, once the quick bio is out of the way for Boggs, we’re going to jump directly into his disappearance. If you want to know more about him as a politician, I suggest reading his Wikipedia page or simply Googling about him. That said, let’s dive in.
Born February 5, 1914, Hale Boggs was a politician through and through. Although he failed to win governorship of Louisiana, Boggs would later become a representative for his district and subsequently become the House Majority leader and a member of the Warren Commission (the nickname to the Lyndon B. Nixon administration), a title that comes with quite a bit of recognition. As House Majority leader, Boggs made a name for himself in more ways than one—from his disappearance (which is the focus of this blog entry) to actually doubting the “one bullet theory” claim in regards to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in spite of being a member of the Democratic party. This we’ll get into later though.
On October 16, 1972, Boggs was flying to Anchorage, Alaska to campaign for fellow Democratic representative Nick Begich, who was in a close race against his Republican opponent, Don Young. On board with Boggs and Begich were Russell Brown—who was Begich’s assistant—and Don Jonz, the pilot of the twin engine Cessna 310. This flight, however, never made it to Anchorage.
In the wake of Boggs’ disappearance, an enormous search was launched. The United States Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Army, Civil Air Patrol, and civilians all came together to help in the search to find the House Majority leader. However, in spite of a 39 day search, neither the passengers (or their remains) or the plane could be found. Both Boggs and Begich were re-elected when the general election was held in the weeks following their disappearance. The following year, in January, their deaths were recognized and special elections were held.
No distress transmission was sent out if/when the plane began its descent; in spite of an emergency transmitter being required on every plane. Whether one was on the plane is unknown, but a witness claims to have seen one in pilot Don Jonz’s briefcase—though the color was apparently different.
That’s the end of the story, so now it’s theories time and goodness do we have a Bingo with this entry. I don't think any other entry is quite as perfect with the silliness as Hale Boggs’ story is, so let's get to it!
Our first theory is that a Republican Party team did find House Majority leader Boggs, but left him and the other two congressmen out there to die. This is easily the weirdest of the theories as it’s one that requires an exceptionally heartless pool of characters to have been involved in the search and, well, for Boggs and his two companions to have survived the plane crash. I’m not well versed on the death-to-survival rate when it comes to those, but I don’t believe them to be particularly high. Still, there’s never been any proof to back this theory up, but I’m sure there are a few people out there that believe it for one reason or another.
Theory number two is bad weather. This is something I personally can’t verify as I’m unsure as to what the weather was like on the day that the group was en route to Anchorage. Considering that it’s Alaska however, I think it’s safe to assume that it was cold and likely overcast, if not snowing. If it was snowing, then depending on how hard it was coming down may or may not provide a solid clue as to why the plane went missing and why it was never found. Exactly why no distress transmission was sent off however, I can’t say and I don’t think anybody can. Unless the pilots intention was to kill both himself and the congressmen.
Theory three is an airplane malfunction. This is the most likely theory (in my eyes anyways) though a few questions still remain. In any case: the theory states that an engine or some other important part of the plane failed or burst into flames and thus, they crashed. This is, realistically, extremely likely, though it still doesn’t explain why no transmission was sent out or why the plane was never found. Unless one dictates that the plane went off course and crashed into a mountain, though one must wonder why nobody saw the plane crash. It’s not uncommon for plane wreckage to never be found (look at MH370), but this plane was en route on land. Unless it, for some absurd reason, went off course and crashed into the sea, there should have been wreckage somewhere. Alas, there isn’t, though our next theory explains why.
The fourth theory is an encounter of the fourth kind: alien abduction! And while this has been something of a meme when it comes to this blog series (and will no doubt remain one in future series that I’ll be writing), the prospect of aliens being a part of Boggs’ disappearance is actually not that far fetched when it comes to mysterious incidents centering on or involving aircrafts of some sort. There are been a plethora of sightings by experienced and seasoned pilots that have left both them and their superiors and fellow pilots baffled, pilots who saw strange lights in the sky before disappearing, and a whole bundle of other oddities. Two of the most recognizable aircraft mysteries that both have aliens as culprits are Malaysia Airlines Flight 370—a mystery that likely has nothing to do with aliens—and the legendary Flight 19; the airplane that vanished while over the Bermuda Triangle.
With that said, while UFO sightings and airplanes have had a history, with some pilots seeing or having seen UFOs before vanishing, that doesn’t mean that I can discard my joking that aliens are behind Boggs’ disappearance… because in all likelihood: they aren’t.
There are a plethora of more likely possibilities as to why Boggs vanished—everything from the aforementioned weather to him passing out for some inexplicable reason. While there are undoubtedly people out there that believe that aliens either whisked both the plane and the passengers away, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that this theory isn’t it, chief.
Our fifth theory is the men faked their deaths and ran away. I don't know why either, but there are some out there that think that Boggs and his compadres faked the entire thing and fled to elsewhere. Whether that’s Canada or the Soviet Union, I can’t say, but it’s one theory that I’m throwing out there because whenever someone goes disappearing, there’s always the “maybe they ran away!” theory lingering around somewhere like a lost puppy.
Theory number six is that Boggs was killed under orders by President Richard M. Nixon.
As stated near the start of this entry, Hale Boggs gained a bit of recognition for questioning the official “one bullet” theory when it came to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While I didn’t mention it earlier as I wished to save it, that wasn’t the only reason that some believe he was killed by the United States government. In April of 1971, Boggs made a speech on the House floor wherein he attacked the FBI and its director: J. Edgar Hoover. Later that month, Boggs was quoted as saying, “Over the postwar years, we have granted to the elite and secret police within our system vast new powers over the lives and liberties of the people. At the request of the trusted and respected heads of those forces, and their appeal to the necessities of national security, we have exempted those grants of power from due accounting and strict surveillance.” Now, the focus of this part will be on his statements on JFK, but everything here applies equally to the abovementioned quote and what he said about the FBI and Hoover. That said, as is the case with any case where someone went against the official report and subsequently died, there’s a theory that President Nixon and/or the “Deep State” wasn’t/weren’t pleased by this. So, by either Nixon’s word or the word of the CIA/FBI, Boggs was “offed”. Exactly how, I’m not sure. Some may say the plane was tampered with, others may say it was blown out of the sky, while there may be people who say that an assassin was on board and then fled. If this is the case though, I’m pretty sure that the plane was likely tampered with in some way as to not attract any suspicion.
With that said though: what is the likelihood that President Nixon had Boggs killed? That’s a question that can go one of two ways depending on what lens I view it through and it’s one I will absolutely cover in a future blog, but for now, I’m going to view it through the lens of a skeptic.
While there would’ve absolutely be a reason for both President Nixon and the CIA/FBI to want to silence Boggs, assassination via plane crash doesn’t exactly fit the MO of any of them. In the case of a President, even nowadays, they’d more likely demand their resignation. In the case of the CIA, they’re more the espionage type and would likely have them “commit suicide”. The FBI, meanwhile, may have them arrested for corruption.
In the future when I cover JFK and the conspiracies surrounding him, I’ll no doubt revisit Hale Boggs and why it’s likely those characters would’ve done it this way, but for now: I think it’s safe say that they didn’t kill him.
The seventh and final theory is that this was the work of evil spirits. As funny as that may read, Alaska is home to many Native Americans—and stories of everything from Wendigos to Skinwalkers and other ghoulish spirits aren't uncommon. Whether or not you believe in such entities however is entirely on you and you alone.
The disappearance of House Majority leader Hale Boggs is a tragic one. No matter what your political affiliation, to lose someone that represents not only you, but your state and likewise your country is saddening. The most likely scenario is that House Majority leader Boggs and the two congressmen died on impact in a very remote part of Alaska. Whether or not any wreckage is ever found, only time will tell. Until that day, we can rest sound at night knowing that in the end: the House always wins.