An investigation into
suspicious circumstances surrounding the sale of the former Huffman Aviation
has unearthed an explosive secret at the heart of an otherwise unremarkable
Almost since its inception,
the specter of heroin trafficking has hung over the airfield which would later
become the Venice Municipal Airport.
During World War II, when it
was known as the Venice Army Air Field, it was home to the Stateside operations
of a man widely and credibly accused of using proceeds from international heroin
trafficking to prop up the war machine of a corrupt Chinese warlord whose army,
even after its defeat, hung on to a lion's share of Southeast Asian real estate
which became known as the Golden Triangle.
Contemporary newspaper clips
from the time show that the Venice Airport has had an extraordinary six-decade
long history, and been the scene of covert activities including gunrunning,
international heroin and cocaine trafficking, and being used as a launch pad for
coups in the Caribbean and Central America.
These activities required,
available evidence will show, the regular and systematic corruption of officials
in Venice and Sarasota County.
The recent infamous and
still-painful history of the Venice Airport, home base for Mohamed Atta and his
crew of terrorist hijackers, it turns out, is just the most recent in an
extraordinary history of elite deviance, criminal mischief, and international
In an ironic twist, without the
FAA’s remarkable campaign of arm-twisting and bullying of hapless local
officials to secure their approval of the new owners of what used to be Huffman
Aviation, hand-picked by a federal receiver who a U. S. District Court Judge in
Tampa had appointed to unravel the financial affairs of Art Nadel six days
before Nadel had even turned himself in... we might never have sifted
through decades of newspaper clippings, and the remarkable story of the Venice
Municipal Airport, which is the very definition of America's secret history,
might never have come to light.
Historical plaque build up
the early days of the Second World War, when it was still known as Venice Army Air
Field, the pattern of covert activity at the Venice Airport has remained
remarkably consistent over six decades.
Ironically, it was an attempt
to continue to conceal the airport's original mission,
an elaborate cover-up in 1992 seemingly designed to prevent the airport’s clandestine role
from ever becoming public knowledge, which
first piqued our interest in the story of the
man whose operations shaped the Venice Airport's early history.
But the cover-up backfired, and became visible, where
it remains to this day, in an unlikely location:
across from the Venice Airport sits an historical plaque dedicated in a ceremony
in 1992 to commemorate
the airport’s beginnings as a U.S. Army Air Base during World War II.
The Venice Airport, states the plaque, has its origins in the early days
of WW2, when it was known as the “337th Army Air Field Base.”
there is no such entity: there is not, and never has been, anything called the
337th Army Air Field Base. At the inception of what became
the Venice Airport, as is fairly widely known, it was known as the Venice
Army Air Force Base.
So, what is going on?
An American Patriot... and heroin trafficker
"The plaque commemorates the
337th Army Air Field Base and was erected by the Venice Aviation Society
Inc. in October 1992."
The designation is meant as “a joke:”
"The plaque has numerous
errors including referring to the Base as the 337th and the entire second
sentence. The caricatured mosquito, symbolic of the striking power of the
P-51 and of the bloodthirsty pests of the area, was designed by Capt. James
H. Archibald as the ”official” insignia of the ”337th AAF Base Unit”, the
VAAF’s permanent ”Party” outfit. Both the insignia and unit designation were
intended as a joke!"
We've never heard of an
official historical plaque “intended as a joke,” and doubt anyone
at the Venice Archives and Area Historical Collection has, either.
Moreover the point of the
"joke," and/or why
it should be considered funny, remains unexplained.
But while there was no 337th
Army Air Base, we have heard of the 337th, we seemed to remember dimly... There was a 337th
The Shrine of the Empty Suit
At the Clearwater St.
Petersburg International Airport, home of the
infamous DC9 "Cocaine One" caught with 5.5
tons of cocaine aboard in Mexico's Yucatan in 2007, we first saw a shrine to an aviation outfit
from World War II which used to train there:
The famous Flying Tigers.
They were first known as the
American Volunteer Group, states an informational wall of photos on the
second floor of the nearly empty airport.
They were a "band of American pilots who literally built a
fighting air force from scratch to stop the Japanese from gobbling up all of
One of their units, the
wall indicates, is the 337th Fighter Group.
Was the 337th Army Air
Field plaque in Venice some kind of cryptic reference to the Flying Tigers?
Synonymous with the Flying
Tigers is the name of General Claire Chennault. While he lived, Chennault was
one of the most controversial American military figures in this nation's
history. He was widely disliked by his peers, though not, it must be said, by
those who flew for him.
His military career, according
to newspaper reports at the time, was
sidetracked by his superiors, who may have heard hints of things ordinary
Americans would begin to hear whispers about only many decades later.
The Flying Tigers in Venice Florida
General Claire Chennault's
Flying Tigers had a strong presence in Venice.
We found numerous references in local newspapers from the
time indicating that the Venice Army Air Field training pilots for General
Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers and later for his 14th Air Force, which took
over from the Flying Tigers when they were disbanded.
In fact, Venice seemed
to specialize in Chinese flyers, even
training an all-Chinese squadron
for Chennault, supposedly at the express request of
Madame Chiang Kai-Shek.
Moreover one of Chennault's aces,
left China to became the Deputy Base Commander at the Venice Army Air
According to American was
correspondent Clyde Farnsworth, Chennault even created a composite Chinese and
American Air Wing in which Chinese and
American aviators "live together, work together, and enter
These aviators came together,
received their training, and learned to fly at the Venice Airport. Chennault's
presence in Venice is well-established.
So why are there so few
references to the
role played by the Venice Army Air Field in the CBI (China-Burma-India) Theater?
Old Soldiers Sometimes Lie
Let's take a look.
Claire Chennault, according to numerous reporters and
credible news sources, was there at the start when the American military and
intelligence services began their use of narcotics to fund their anti-communist
Chennault helped Chinese
warlord Chiang Kai-Shek fund his civil war against the Communist
Red Army through heroin trafficking, both during, and after World
According to Joseph Trento in
"The Secret History of the CIA:
"General Claire Chennault
organizer of the Flying Tigers during World War II, was put in charge of Civil
Air Transport as well as Taiwan's other air service while his wife Anna spent
her time lobbying in Washington for more aid to help her husband's effort
against the Communist Chinese."
"Chiang Kai-Shek's men, funded
by the CIA, became the foot soldiers of Asia's drug armies... Hundreds of tons
of opium and heroin... were carried on these CIA flights."
From Douglas Valentines "Strength
of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs:"
"Despite the July 1949
seizure in Hong Kong reported by the New York Times of 22 pounds of heroin
emanating from a CIA-supplied outpost in Kunming... the China Lobby launched a
massive propaganda campaign based on the allegation by the head of the Federal
Bureau of Narcotics that the Red Chinese were the source of all the illicit dope
"The China Lobby raised $5
million which the CIA used to purchase General Claire Chennault's fleet of
planes and convert them into the CIA's first proprietary Air Force."
Modern China: An Encyclopedia, by Ke-Wen
"No one could have foreseen
that one legacy of the Flying Tigers would become Air America. Claire Chennault
and the Flying Tigers symbolize the... failure of American foreign policy in the
the Influence" by Preston Peet:
"The practical effect of all
of this was to turn Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers into flying dope peddlers.
"Think. It ain't illegal yet."
are dozens of examples. A clear consensus of investigative reporters, authors,
and scholars have reached the same conclusion...
Something is rotten in the
state of Denmark.
But don't tell that to the
Sarasota Herald Tribune.
It was clear that
the plaque at the Venice Airport had not just made a bad joke, or a simple
mistake. It was
They have a word for the type
of communication displayed on the historical plaque commemorating the Venice
Army Air Field.
That word is disinformation.
Seventy years after elements of the U.S. military connected with
the “China Lobby” began a long flirtation with heroin trafficking, it still
serves that purpose.
Moreover, its source, the
Venice Aviation Society, was
a belligerent (supporting the "Dark Side of the Force) during the recent war for
control of the Venice Airport waged between elected city officials and the FAA.
The story of Claire Chennault
proves that U.S. Major Generals can be excused if they have a second job as an
international drug kingpin... as long as they're anti-communist.
What makes the story of
General Claire Chennault at the Venice Airport germane to the present
situation? As we reported several weeks ago, (and we'll have more about it
later), the new
owners of the former Huffman Aviation are in business with a private military contractor
in Georgia who was involved in
extraordinary renditions for the CIA.
Curiously, former Huffman
owner Wally Hilliard was in business with the same man.
But then, recent owners of
Huffman Aviation share a lot in common.
Just like prior owner Wally Hilliard
(but even more inexplicably, since at least
Hilliard was a pilot, even if a narcoleptic one), Art Nadel, for example, used substantial
portions of his ill-gotten gains to purchase dozens of airplanes and aviation
One of America’s
groundbreaking muckrakers, author Upton Sinclair, once said "It is
difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his
not understanding it.”
NEXT: HUSH HUSH. TOP
SECRET. AND VERY CONFIDENTIAL...
What happens when you get
caught red-handed at the Venice Airport with weapons caches, P-38 Warbirds,
tanks, and plans for a coup in Central America?
A textbook illustration of how things
get (and stay) "All hushed up" in Venice Florida.