Some kids play video games. Some collect baseball cards. Others draw. Or run lemonade stands.
When the late United States Air Force veteran (and distinguished diplomat and military historian) Robert F. Dorr was a teenager, he had a hobby too. It was similar to these, with one exception: his pastime got him an espionage file with the FBI, via the Pentagon.
Yes. They thought the 14-year-old was a spy. For a foreign government. Maybe.
The whole crazy story was unearthed by the online journo outfit Gizmodo (on its blog Paleofuture), who obtained Dorr’s government dossier via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Now, the fact that two of the most powerful authorities in the U.S. were fearful that a young, acne-troubled teen was attempting to peddle their military secrets to alien threats is ridiculous, sure, but how they reasoned themselves from their trailing of the high schooler may be even richer.
We’ll get to those unintentional punchlines, but first, let’s delve into how it all started.
In 1953, Dorr sent a letter to Boeing requested glossy photos of one of their newfangled planes, a KB-47.
Soon thereafter, the FBI (via a Pentagon tipster) opened up a file, explaining that not only was this person asking to see images that were classified (because the aircraft was “experimental”) — he was using an alias, F.B. Newman.
A year later, the FBI justly concluded that Dorr was just a kid obsessed with airplanes, and not a threat to national security.
But Dorr’s fascination didn’t die and, a few months later, he started writing again. This time though, he was asking about not just aircraft, but air bases.
The dossier that was once closed shut was pried opened once again. And it even went one step further: USAF agents were sent to Dorr’s hometown to investigate.
AND here’s what they found:
Their summation is … incredible. Their words: “considers SUBJECT loyal American boy.”
Which, in hindsight, was absolutely true. When he died last year of a brain tumor at 76, he left behind one of the most patriotic, service-focused careers in American history.
However, this was the 1950s, and Dorr’s curiosity — still white hot — prompted yet another letter … which prompted yet another evaluation by military personnel.
This time, they had airmen go and interview one of his schoolteachers, who kind of exposed him?
For being a less-than-stellar student.
And to think, all he wanted was a better look at the Northrop F-89D Scorpion OR the Navy’s Vought F7U-3 Cutlass.
Poor kid. He would’ve loved the internet.