It does us no good to confirm the Gunther text without finding out who Dan Cooper was, where he was from, and what happened to him after the hijacking. It may seem an impossible undertaking as we are given very few clues about the real Dan LeClair, and any or all of these clues may be purposefully false or misleading. Here’s a rundown of what Gunther tells us about LeClair: He was born French-Canadian, later moved to Detroit, then to Newark, he enlisted in the Army during WWII and became a paratrooper, he went to college on the GI Bill, he went into sales for an industrial chemical company and later worked his way up to an executive position, he started a family and had two children, he left his family sometime before the hijacking and permanently left the grid using a stolen identity.
The only clue we can be nearly 100% sure of is that Dan LeClair was a white collar worker in industrial chemical field. According to Alan Stone at the 2011 Cooper Symposium (Smith, p150) there were only four places in the United States where Cooper could have picked up those titanium particles. Employment records from five decades ago are probably scarce to nonexistent. However, family photo albums from company picnics, surviving employees and other records are probably available. Publicity would be our most important ally; people need to know we’re looking for these sources. The Cooper case has a good following, but the latest research needs enough media attention to produce leads. Cooper would be easy to spot, his swarthy complexion and above average height should make him stand out in any photos.
If Dan LeClair really did have children like Clara claims in the Gunther book, they would be in their 60’s or 70’s now and still quite capable of identifying our suspect. We might even be provided some details of his life that we didn’t get from Clara. There would be family photos and other documentation to possibly prove the story. The greatest treasure would be to finally photo-match the tie. This would be quite easy, despite how common his style of tie tack was, because Cooper put the tie tack on backwards.
There are other records to check as well. We have WWII enlistments and WWII casualty records, as well as about 20% of the service records from the war (the rest were destroyed in a fire). Military historians might be able to place LeClair in a certain military unit based on the clues given in the Gunther text. We can compare those records with Census data. The 1940 Census has been available since 2012 and all the records are digitized and available for searching. There are about 400 men born between 1915 and 1939 who were born in Canada and lived in Newark in 1940. If LeClair was really from NYC, the number increases to over 3000. It’s a big list and would take a lot of work to vet all the details, but if any of the information from the Gunther book is true, a few names will stick as possible suspects.
If LeClair was not born in Canada, finding his true identity may prove particularly difficult. Being Canadian by birth reduces the number of people who could be LeClair by a factor of ten. If the French-Canadian lead turns out to be a misrepresentation by Gunther or Clara, only through the leads from the chemical companies will we be able to find viable Cooper suspects. Though I do hold out some hope that, sometime in the future, all records from that era become searchable by electronic means. Death in Absentia records, obituaries, military service records, etc. Unfortunately, this digitization is decades away from completion.