A Mysterious Medal
I want to thank NDC staffer Stephanie Coon for her discovering these records and writing the following article.
Inside a box of recently declassified records related to awards presented to foreign nationals, the NDC discovered a certificate and medal for Exceptional Service presented by the United States Air Force to Dr. Cristjo Cristofv, in recognition of his Patriotic Service from 1947 to 1963. When the medal was discovered, the question came to mind, why was this medal part of records accessioned into the National Archives instead of with the family of Dr. Cristofv?
Cristofv, a Bulgarian scientist who escaped following World War II, came to the attention of the U.S Air Force through A. E. Stoll for his theories related to electrometric pulse, known as the “Cristofv Effect.” Dr. Cristofv voluntarily disclosed information related to a “physical phenomenon which opened new horizons in the detection of explosions.” Following this initial disclosure the theory was used to develop an electromagnetic system for detecting explosions, which the U.S. disclosed to the world during the Geneva Conferences of the atomic testing moratorium.
A Google search revealed multiple newspaper articles dated from 1963 to 1965 related to Dr. Cristofv, including one from New Orleans Times-Picayune, that military leaders in Bulgaria and Germany were aware of the “Cristofv Effect” in the early 1930s, but the work was kept secret. According to the Times-Picayune article, the United States was comfortable signing the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty because of this method for detecting the explosions. Today, the “Cristofv Effect” is more commonly known as electromagnetic pulse detection and as recently as 2011 was being used in experiments for underground nuclear tests.
Whether the medal was ever officially presented to Dr. Cristofv remains a mystery that even the Air Force Historian’s office acknowledges.
• The medal, the certificate and a copy of the citation were at the front of the box outside of the folder labeled Cristofv, Cristjo. The rest of folder related to Cristofv has been withdrawn. The withdrawn material includes the Air Force’s decision to withhold the medal pending further investigation into Cristofv. The investigation included his finances, whether he qualified for a TS clearance, and whether the information he provided to the AF was actually original or if he acquired the information from another source. The source of these records is United States Air Force (USAF) Military Personnel Center (MPC), Randolph Air Force Base Records (RG 341 UD-UP 228; NND 59468; Box 1).