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Victorio Peak Treasure - Page 4

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White Sands Missile Range

White Sands Missile Range

 

 

 

 

Berlett and Fiege formed a corporation to protect what they had found, as well as making a formal application to enter White Sands for a search and retrieval of the gold. However, White Sands issued an edict expressly forbidding them to return to the base. In the summer of 1961, upon the advice of the Director of the Mint, Major General John Shinkle of White Sands allowed Captain Fiege, Captain Orby Swanner, Major Kelly and Colonel Gorman to work the claim. On August 5, Fiege and his party returned to Victorio Peak, accompanied by the commander of the Missile Range, a secret service agent, and fourteen military police. Try as he would, Captain Fiege was unable to penetrate the opening he had used just three years earlier. General Shinkle finally had enough and ordered everyone out. Later, Fiege would take a lie detector test, which would allow Fiege back on the missile range. This time, the military began a full-scale mining operation at the Peak.

Fueled by suspicions that the military was working her claim, Babe Noss hired four men to surreptitiously enter the range.  Though caught trespassing and escorted from the area, the men reported that they had observed several men in Army fatigues upon the peak. An affidavit dated October 28, 1961, was signed to this effect, also claiming to have seen a military jeep and a weapons carrier on the mountain. Immediately reporting the activity to Babe Noss, Babe contacted Oscar Jordan with the New Mexico State Land Office, who in turn, contacted the Judge Advocate’s Office at White Sands. In December 1961, General Shinkle shut down the operation and excluded anyone from entering the base who was not directly engaged in the missile research activities.

 

In 1963, the Gaddis Mining Company of Denver, Colorado, under a contract with the Denver Mint and the Museum of New Mexico, obtained permission to work the site. For three months beginning on June 20, 1963, the group used a variety of techniques to search the area; however, they failed to turn up anything.

 

In 1972, F. Lee Bailey, became involved in the dispute, representing some fifty clients including Babe Noss, the Fiege group, Violet Noss Yancy, Expeditions Unlimited (a Florida based treasure hunting group), and many others. Reaching a compromise the military based allowed Expeditions Unlimited, representing all of the claimants to excavate the peak in 1977. However, the Army placed a two-week time limit on the group and they had hardly started before they were forced to leave, without finding anything. The Army then shut down all operations stating that no additional searches would be allowed.

 

In 1979, Babe died without ever finding the treasure. However, Terry Delonas, her grandson, continued the family tradition and formed the Ova Noss Family Partnership. By this time, Babe’s story had spread across the nation, profiled in several magazines and newspapers. Hearing about the story, a man by the name of Captain Swanner, who was stationed at White Sands Missile Range in the early 1960’s came forward. Speaking to a Noss family member, he stated that he had been the Chief of Security in 1961 and was sent to inspect the report made by Airman Berlett and Captain Fierge. After determining the accuracy of the two men’s reports, the entire area was placed off-limits until an official investigation could be conducted. Reportedly the military was able to penetrate one of the caves and inventory the contents. The gold was supposedly removed from the cave and sent to Fort Knox. Though the military confirmed that Swanner had served at White Sands during this time, they claimed there were no documents to support an investigation into the mine nor the removal of the gold bars.

 

Today, the Army’s official position on the whereabouts of the gold remains cautious, maintaining that the burden of proof rests with the accusers.

 

Many members of the Noss family and friends believe that the military exploited Babe’s claim and that the treasure is now gone. However, Terry Delongas stated, "We're not accusing the military of stealing the gold, but I do feel that the Department of the Army in the 1960’s treated my grandmother unfairly..... However, we’ve worked very hard over the years to establish a working relationship with the military, and we're certainly not going to jeopardize that by accusing them of theft."

 

The whole truth will probably never be known, but there is no doubt that a treasure existed. Too much evidence supports the treasure including photographs, affidavits and relics still held by the Noss family.

 

In a special act of Congress passed in 1989, the Hembrillo Basin was "unlocked” for Terry Delonas and the Noss heirs; however nothing has been found.

 

 

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated April, 2017.

 

 

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