- B. Cooper is the name used to refer to the unidentified man who had formerly hijacked a Boeing 727 airplane in November of 1971. “Cooper” extorted about two hundred thousand dollars and then parachuted out of the aircraft.
The plane was hijacked somewhere between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington while in flight. The fate of D. B. Cooper was never known. The FBI investigated this case while there was an ongoing manhunt for the criminal, however he was never found. Not only was he not found, but he was never even identified. This is a rather infamous case since it is the only unsolved case of air piracy in history.
Although it would logically make sense that he did not survive such a high jump, the FBI continued search for him for 45 years post the crime being committed. His airline alias was “Dan Cooper” but media mistakes gave him the now infamous name of D. B. Cooper. The ongoing investigation was finally suspended in 2016, but the FBI is still willing to accept evidence that may be presented to them.
Now, a team of FBI now claims to have proof of D. B. Cooper’s actual identity. Thomas Colbert, who had led the investigation into the cold case for seven years, says the really D. B. Cooper is a now 74-year old Vietnam veteran by the name of Robert Rackstraw. He claims that the proof is in letters that are allegedly written by Cooper in the months that followed the hijacking.
Rackstraw is a former Special Forces paratrooper, pilot, and explosives expert. He was a person of interest in the case in the past. However, he was eliminated by the FBI in 1979, but he remained a viable suspect for years.
Colbert told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “This has been a cover up, they are stonewalling”. Thomas thinks that Rackstraw was protected by the FBI since he was involved in several classified units during his service, and could have possibly worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He calls it an “old fashion scandal”. A representative for the FBI Seattle field office has told Rolling Stone they they have previously received “an immense number” of tips since the incident. They did however say that “none to date have resulted in a definitive identification of the hijacker”. No responses were made as to whether or not the FBI had previously stonewalled the Rackstraw investigation.
Colbert, along with forty members if his team, say that D. B.’s identity has been in an FBI file this whole time, along with a series of hidden letters that were sent to several newspapers in the months following the hijacking. The first four letters were made public, but the fifth and sixth letters were kept hidden by the FBI. Colbert managed to gain the letters after suing under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). According to him, both of the “secret letters” contained coded messages, pointing directly to Robert Rackstraw. Rackstraw was contacted by the Post-Intelligencer newspaper, and he did not confirm or deny any questions. He instead told the reporter to “verify Colbert’s facts”. This is assumably a very frustrating comment for someone who has been working on this case for so long.
Former member of the Army Security Agency, Rick Sherwood, cracked the code. The Army Security Agency decoded signals during the Vietnam War, so this seemed to be right up his alley. Robert Rackstraw had formerly severed under Rick Sherwood in two classified units. Due to that, he was already familiar with the writing style of Rackstraw who he had previously decoded messages from in his other letters. He believed that the “odd letter and number combinations” indicated coded messages when looking at the fifth and sixth letters that had formerly been concealed. Sherwood spent several weeks working on solving the letters, which supposedly referred to three different specialized army units, according to the Post-Intelligencer. Colbert went on to tell the Seattle PI that Rackstraw “was the only man in the entire American Army that was with those three units”.
Although the case was already closed, Colbert was continuing the make breakthroughs. He and his team made headlines after releasing Sherwood’s analysis of the fifth decoded letter which pointed to Rackstraw being D. B. Cooper. But the sixth letter that was sent to Oregonian newspaper in Portland in 1972 turned out to be “the icing on the cake,” according to Colbert.
Sherwood told The New York Daily news, “I read it two or three times and said, “This is Rackstraw, this is what he does”. Continued by, “I noticed he kept on repeating words in his sentences and thought he had a code in there somewhere. He was taunting like her normally does and I thought his name was going to be in it and sure enough the numbers added up perfectly”. That was an understatement. This was what he found after decoding:
“I want out of the system and saw a way by skyjacking a jet plane.”
“I am 1st Lt. Robert Rackstraw, D. B. Cooper is not my real name.”
The letter contained no watermarks or fingerprints. The FBI claims that they were not able to confirm a true connection between the previous letters, limiting its evidentiary value. According to Sherwood and Colbert, it contains a coded confession, but that is denied by the FBI.
Thousands of suspects were considered over the course of 45 years, however the FBI says they never had hard evidence that pointed to one suspect. It is currently unconfirmed if the FBI will reopen the case or not based on the new analysis by Sherwood. They started in 2016 when they closed the case that they would only review new evidence related to the four parachutes that were involved in the hijacking and the $200,00 that was never found along with the unknown hijacker.
Colbert believes that this case is completely closed. He tells the Seattle PI, “We now have him saying ‘I am Cooper’”. “Rackstraw is a narcissistic sociopath who never thought he would be caught. He was trying to prove that he was smarter than anyone else. But he couldn’t fight 1500 years of brainpower on our team. We beat him. I didn’t expect it, but it’s the icing,” he states.
It would be nice to come to a solid conclusion on this case seeing as though it is the only unsolved case of air piracy in the United States; however, it may remain an unconfirmed mystery.