It's Always Sunny in Gulf Breeze, Florida, Pt. 1
The Gang Goes AWOL (A Gulf Breeze Six Primer)
On July 9th, 1990, six soldiers stationed with the 701st Military Intelligence Brigade in Augsberg, Germany left their assignments.1 This was nothing to sneeze at, as the Augsberg listening post (USASA Field Station Augsburg, near the Gablingen Kaserne complex claimed by the US in WWII) was the largest one in the world at the time, providing crucial signals intelligence to western forces during the Cold War.2 Each of the soldiers held top secret security clearances. Some of them were armed with valid leave papers and others with falsified ones. They left notes in their bunks and swiftly made their way to the Munich airport. With nothing blocking their passage back to the United States, they flew into Atlanta. This was not a spur of the moment decision. Another soldier in their unit spoke to European Stars & Stripes and reported that they had been selling their possessions to fund their life on the run.3 They bought a van in Chattanooga, Tennessee and sent $2,000 worth of “supplies” to a friend in Texas to be picked up later. For the time being, they waited in in Gulf Breeze, Florida, a beachside town outside of Pensacola. Gulf Breeze was embroiled in its own kind of oddball fervor at the time, having gained a reputation as the location with the most UFO activity in the country—spurred on by the famous saucer photographs taken by Ed Walters and the reports of local sky-watchers spreading throughout the ufological field. Perhaps the soldiers’ choice of locale for their AWOL adventure was influenced by the then-current craze in ufology—MUFON chose the area for its annual UFO symposium, which was held just before the soldiers made their exit from Germany.
The six missing soldiers are Specialists Kenneth Beason and Vance Davis, Sgt. Annette Eccleston, and first-class Privates Michael Hueckstaedt, Kris Perlock, and William Setterberg. Although they all hailed from different parts of the United States, they found themselves drawn together by not only their work in intelligence, but an odd assortment of spiritual/paranormal interests including Ouija board communication, remote viewing, altered states, and hypnosis. Through a series of messages received through Ouija board sessions, the soldiers receive startling predictions of the future to pass. The nature of the messages was so terrifying that it shook the soldiers into a sense of urgency, so urgent that they left their posts—a charge which carries penalties ranging from loss of pay, years of confinement, and even death if during wartime. Additionally, as military authorities may or may not have know at the time, the six were carrying classified documents with them.
Four of the servicemen were laying low at the home of Anna Foster, a local psychic who ran a new age shop and had attended the 1990 MUFON symposium mentioned earlier.4 Foster supposedly knew Kenneth Beason from his time learning cryptology in Pensacola at Corry Station and welcomed him and his friends into her home. Michael Hueckstaedt went on the road “to go out to a club”5 and Annette Eccleston was at the group’s prospective campsite at the Gulf Islands National Seashore with her two children.6 Everything was relatively calm for the group, who by this point expected the pressure to be more intense for their AWOL status. It was a routine traffic stop of Hueckstaedt that threw the proverbial wrench in the gears. A Gulf Breeze police officer pulled over the group’s 1970 Volkswagon van due to a broken taillight. Hueckstaedt gave his name to the officer which was found to be flagged with a warrant for desertion. The missing soldier then begged the officer not to call in his discovery: “You’re going to kill me! This is going to kill me! You don’t know what you’ve done.”7 Nevertheless, the officer turned him in to military authorities and they attempted to get a handle on the situation. The Gulf Breeze Police Chief Jerry Brown soon learned that five others were wanted along with Heuckstadt and on the morning of July 14th, four were arrested at the home of Foster. Eccleston, still at the group’s campsite, was arrested later that day.
The Gulf Breeze Six were on the move again, this time not of their own volition. They were taken to Ft. Benning and then transferred to Ft. Knox as the investigation into their motives and possible espionage took place. While the military was staying tight-lipped—either out of caution or embarrassment—the national and even international press was speculating on the situation with what little information they could get from those who knew the soldiers. Rumors swirled that the group belonged to a cult called The End of the World, which a fellow member of their unit said had more members on the Augsberg base. “There are others who are upset because they didn't get invited,” the anonymous source told European Stars & Stripes.8 The man who sold the van to the group, Stan Johnson, said that their stated purpose was to prepare for the rapture, guided by purported disciples and other spirits: “The real interesting part was that, when the second coming of Christ occurred, Jesus Christ was going to arrive in a spaceship.”9
The group certainly had developed some idiosyncratic religious ideas from their Ouija board communications, but what was the Army, CIA, and NSA to make of them? With their predictions of vast changes in environment, culture, world politics, and religious occurrences, would these defense organizations classify them as a doomsday cult like an anonymous member of their unit did? With their top secret security clearances and access to bundles of important military intelligence, would they consider them a threat to the United States? Jacques Vallee sums up the strangeness of the resulting investigation well: “The Army simply cleared them in a routine espionage investigation, issued them general discharges, and turned them loose!” He notes that immediately afterwards, “Anna Foster refuses to talk to anyone, and the newspapers, including supermarket tabloids that might have been expected to display the whole story under screaming headlines, have mysteriously lost all interest in the case.”10 Beyond this odd hush that took over the story, more foreboding factors seemed to be at play. A mysterious message was sent to Florida media outlets shortly before their release:
FREE THE GULF BREEZE SIX
WE HAVE THE MISSING FILES, THE
BOX OF 500+ PHOTOS AND
THE PLANS YOU WANT BACK.
It seems like nothing will be straightforward when dealing with the Gulf Breeze Six, but the mystery beckons.
This is the first in a series of articles on the Gulf Breeze Six. Future installments will get into specifics of the cast of characters and the circumstances surrounding this series of odd events. This installment is intended as a primer to introduce key figures, locations, and circumstances that will be dissected more closely in articles to come. I have previously covered another group of individuals with idiosyncratic UFO beliefs in the series St. Peter at the Sonic Drive-In which bears numerous similarities to the Gulf Breeze Six if anyone wants further reading to tide them over. The thumbnail for this article is taken from the badge on the Getting Spooked promotional artwork that was beautifully done by the talented Robert Voyvodic whose other work can be found on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/r.voy_/. Something new for this series, I’ve curated a “soundtrack” that matches the subject matter at hand which you can find here:
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Much of this information stems from James Carrion’s pdf document collating various GB6 news articles and other sources. This document can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByaETuY4MjY8ODhTVDU4Rk5FMEk/view?resourcekey=0-QXHK7Em9_f4TIQsXZIIsvg but specific sources will be mentioned in the article along with page numbers.
Brewer, Jack. “Revisiting the Gulf Breeze Six.” The UFO Trail, 12 February 2017. http://ufotrail.blogspot.com/2017/02/revisiting-gulf-breeze-six.html.
Carrion document, page 28.
Vallee, Jacques. Revelations: Alien Contact and Human Deception. New York: Ballantine Books, 1991. Page 173.
Morton, Sean David and Vance Davis. The Gulf Breeze Prophecies. Self-published booklet, 1 October 1993. Pages 11-12.
Clausen, Christopher. “Deserters returning to lives as civilians.” Pensacola News Journal, 29 July 1990. Accessed 24 January 2023. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/112635381/pensacola-news-journal/
Morton, Sean David and Vance Davis. The Gulf Breeze Prophecies. Self-published booklet, 1 October 1993. Page 11.
Associated Press. “6 AWOL soldiers say they aimed to kill Antichrist.” NW Florida Daily News, 20 July 1990. Carrion document, page 79.
Sullivan, Christopher. “6 AWOL soldiers are mystery to family, Army.” The South Bend Tribune, 26 July 1990. Accessed 24 January 2023. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109522586/the-south-bend-tribune/
Vallee, Jacques. Revelations: Alien Contact and Human Deception. New York: Ballantine Books, 1991. Page 174.