Then there was another point: although the radars at Washington National and Andrews overlap, and many of the targets appeared in the overlap area, only once did the three radars simultaneously pick up a target.
The investigation brought out a few more points on the pro side too. We found out that the UFO's frequently visited Washington. On May 23 fifty targets had been tracked from 8:00 p.m. till midnight. They were back on the Wednesday night between the two famous Saturday- night sightings, the following Sunday night, and again the night of the press conference; then during August they were seen eight more times. On several occasions military and civilian pilots saw lights exactly where the radar showed the UFO's to be.
On each night that there was a sighting there was a temperature inversion but it was never strong enough to affect the radar the way inversions normally do. On each occasion I checked the strength of the inversion according to the methods used by the Air Defense Command Weather Forecast Center.
Then there was another interesting fact: hardly a night passed in June, July, and August in 1952 that there wasn't an inversion in Washington, yet the slow-moving, "solid" radar targets appeared on only a few nights.
But the one big factor on the pro side of the question is the people involved—good radar men—men who deal in human lives. Each day they use their radar to bring thousands of people into Washington National Airport and with a responsibility like this they should know a real target from a weather target.
So the Washington National Airport Sightings are still unknowns.
Had the press been aware of some of the other UFO activity in the United States during this period, the Washington sightings might not have been the center of interest. True, they could be classed as good reports but they were not the best that we were getting. In fact, less than six hours after the ladies and gentlemen of the press said "Thank you" to General Samford for his press conference, and before the UFO's could read the newspapers and find out that they were natural phenomena, one of them came down across the Canadian border into Michigan. The incident that occurred that night was one of those that even the most ardent skeptic would have difficulty explaining. I've heard a lot of them try and I've heard them all fail.
At nine-forty on the evening of the twenty-ninth an Air Defense Command radar station in central Michigan started to get plots on a target that was coming straight south across Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron at 625 miles an hour. A quick check of flight plans on file showed that it was an unidentified target.
Three F-94's were in the area just northeast of the radar station, so the ground controller called one of the F-94's and told the pilot to intercept the unidentified target. The F-94 pilot started climbing out of the practice area on an intercept heading that the ground controller gave him. When the F-94 was at 20,000 feet, the ground controller told the pilot to turn to the right and he would be on the target. The pilot started to bring the F-94 around and at that instant both he and the radar operator in the back seat saw that they were turning toward a large bluish-white light, "many times larger than a star." In the next second or two the light "took on a reddish tinge, and slowly began to get smaller, as if it were moving away." Just then the ground controller called and said that he still had both the F-94 and the unidentified target on his scope and that the target had just made a tight 180-degree turn. The turn was too tight for a jet, and at the speed the target was traveling it would have to be a jet if it were an airplane. Now the target was heading back north. The F-94 pilot gave the engine full power and cut in the afterburner to give chase. The radar operator in the back seat got a good radar lock-on. Later he said, "It was just as solid a lock-on as you get from a B-36." The object was at 4 miles range and the F-94 was closing slowly. For thirty seconds they held the lock-on; then, just as the ground controller was telling the pilot that he was closing in, the light became brighter and the object pulled away to break the lock-on. Without breaking his transmission, the ground controller asked if the radar operator still had the lock-on because on the scope the distance between two blips had almost doubled in one sweep of the antenna. This indicated that the unknown target had almost doubled its speed in a matter of seconds.
For ten minutes the ground radar followed the chase. At times the unidentified target would slow down and the F-94 would start to close the gap, but always, just as the F-94 was getting within radar range, the target would put on a sudden burst of speed and pull away from the pursuing jet. The speed of the UFO—for by this time all concerned had decided that was what it was—couldn't be measured too accurately because its bursts of speed were of such short duration; but on several occasions the UFO traveled about 4 miles in one ten- second sweep of the antenna, or about 1,400 miles an hour.
The F-94 was getting low on fuel, and the pilot had to break off the chase a minute or two before the UFO got out of range of the ground radar. The last few plots on the UFO weren't too good but it looked as if the target slowed down to 200 to 300 miles an hour as soon as the F-94 turned around.
What was it? It obviously wasn't a balloon or a meteor. It might have been another airplane except that in 1952 there was nothing flying, except a few experimental airplanes that were far from Michigan, that could so easily outdistance an F-94. Then there was the fact that radar clocked it at 1,400 miles an hour. The F-94 was heading straight for the star Capella, which is low on the horizon and is very brilliant, but what about the radar contacts? Some people said "Weather targets," but the chances of a weather target's making a 180-degree turn just as an airplane turns into it, giving a radar lock-on, then changing speed to stay just out of range of the airplane's radar, and then slowing down when the airplane leaves is as close to nil as you can get.
What was it? A lot of people I knew were absolutely convinced this report was the key—the final proof. Even if all of the thousands of other UFO reports could be discarded on a technicality, this one couldn't be. These people believed that this report in itself was proof enough to officially accept the fact that UFO's were interplanetary spaceships. And when some people refused to believe even this report, the frustration was actually pitiful to see.
As the end of July approached, there was a group of officers in intelligence fighting hard to get the UFO "recognized." At ATIC, Project Blue Book was still trying to be impartial—but sometimes it was difficult.
Hoax or Horror?
To the military and the public who weren't intimately associated with the higher levels of Air Force Intelligence during the summer of 1952—and few were—General Samford's press conference seemed to indicate the peak in official interest in flying saucers. It did take the pressure off Project Blue Book—reports dropped from fifty per day to ten a day inside of a week—but behind the scenes the press conference was only the signal for an all-out drive to find out more about the UFO. Work on the special cameras continued on a high- priority basis, and General Samford directed us to enlist the aid of top-ranking scientists.
During the past four months we had collected some 750 comparatively well-documented reports, and we hoped that something in these reports might give us a good lead on the UFO. My orders were to tell the scientists to whom we talked that the Air Force was officially still very much interested in the UFO and that their assistance, even if it was only in giving us ideas and comments on the reports, was badly needed. Although the statement of the problem was worded much more loosely, in essence it was, "Do the UFO reports we have collected indicate that the earth is being visited by a people from another planet?"
Such questions had been asked of the scientists before, but not in such a serious vein.
Then a secondary program was to be started, one of "educating" the military. The old idea that UFO reports would die out when the thrill wore off had long been discarded. We all knew that UFO reports would continue to come in and that in order to properly evaluate them we had to have every shred of evidence. The Big Flap had shown us that our chances of getting a definite answer on a sighting was directly proportional to the quality of the information we received from the intelligence officers in the field.
But soon after the press conference we began to get wires from intelligence officers saying they had interpreted the newspaper accounts of General Samford's press conference to mean that we were no longer interested in UFO reports. A few other intelligence officers had evidently also misinterpreted the general's remarks because their reports of excellent sightings were sloppy and incomplete. All of this was bad, so to forestall any misconceived ideas about the future of the Air Force's UFO project, summaries of General Samford's press conference were distributed to intelligence officers. General Samford had outlined the future of the UFO project when he'd said:
"So our present course of action is to continue on this problem with the best of our ability, giving it the attention that we feel it very definitely warrants. We will give it adequate attention, but not frantic attention."
The summary of the press conference straightened things out to some extent and our flow of reports got back to normal.
I was anxious to start enlisting the aid of scientists, as General Samford had directed, but before this could be done we had a backlog of UFO reports that had to be evaluated. During July we had been swamped and had picked off only the best ones. Some of the reports we were working on during August had simple answers, but many were unknowns. There was one report that was of special interest because it was an excellent example of how a UFO report can at first appear to be absolutely unsoluble then suddenly fall apart under thorough investigation. It also points up the fact that our investigation and analysis were thorough and that when we finally stamped a report "Unknown" it was unknown. We weren't infallible but we didn't often let a clue slip by.
At exactly ten forty-five on the morning of August 1, 1952, an ADC radar near Bellefontaine, Ohio, picked up a high-speed unidentified target moving southwest, just north of Dayton. Two F-86's from the 97th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Wright-Patterson were scrambled and in a few minutes they were climbing out toward where the radar showed the UFO to be. The radar didn't have any height-finding equipment so all that the ground controller at the radar site could do was to get the two F-86's over or under the target, and then they would have to find it visually.
When the two airplanes reached 30,000 feet, the ground controller called them and told them that they were almost on the target, which was still continuing its southwesterly course at about 525 miles an hour. In a few seconds the ground controller called back and told the lead pilot that the targets of his airplane and the UFO had blended on the radar-scope and that the pilot would have to make a visual search; this was as close in as radar could get him. Then the radar broke down and went off the air.
But at almost that exact second the lead pilot looked up and there in the clear blue sky several thousand feet above him was a silver- colored sphere. The lead pilot pointed it out to his wing man and both of them started to climb. They went to their maximum altitude but they couldn't reach the UFO. After ten minutes of unsuccessful attempts to identify the huge silver sphere or disk—because at times it looked like a disk—one of the pilots hauled the nose of his F-86 up in a stall and exposed several feet of gun camera film. Just as he did this the warning light on his radar gun sight blinked on, indicating that something solid was in front of him—he wasn't photographing a sundog, hallucination, or refracted light.
The two pilots broke off the intercept and started back to Wright- Patterson when they suddenly realized that they were still northwest of the base, in almost the same location they had been when they started the intercept ten minutes before. The UFO had evidently slowed down from the speed that the radar had measured, 525 miles an hour, until it was hovering almost completely motionless.
As soon as the pilots were on the ground, the magazine of film from the gun camera was rushed to the photo lab and developed. The photos showed only a round, indistinct blob—no details—but they were proof that some type of unidentified flying object had been in the air north of Dayton.
Lieutenant Andy Flues was assigned to this one. He checked the locations of balloons and found out that a 20-foot-diameter radiosonde weather balloon from Wright-Patterson had been very near the area when the unsuccessful intercept took place, but the balloon wasn't traveling 525 miles an hour and it couldn't be picked up by the ground radar, so he investigated further. The UFO couldn't have been another airplane because airplanes don't hover in one spot and it was no atmospheric phenomenon. Andy wrote it off as an unknown but it still bothered him; that balloon in the area was mighty suspicious. He talked to the two pilots a half dozen times and spent a day at the radar site at Bellefontaine before he reversed his "Unknown" decision and came up with the answer.
The unidentified target that the radar had tracked across Ohio was a low-flying jet. The jet was unidentified because there was a mix-up and the radar station didn't get its flight plan. Andy checked and found that a jet out of Cleveland had landed at Memphis at about eleven-forty. At ten forty-five this jet would have been north of Dayton on a southwesterly heading. When the ground controller blended the targets of the two F-86's into the unidentified target, they were at 30,000 feet and were looking for the target at their altitude or higher so they missed the low-flying jet—but they did see the balloon. Since the radar went out just as the pilots saw the balloon, the ground controller couldn't see that the unidentified target he'd been watching was continuing on to the southwest. The pilots didn't bother to look around any more once they'd spotted the balloon because they thought they had the target in sight.
The only part of the sighting that still wasn't explained was the radar pickup on the F-86's gun sight. Lieutenant Flues checked around, did a little experimenting, and found out that the small transmitter box on a radiosonde balloon will give an indication on the radar used in F-86 gun sights.
To get a final bit of proof, Lieutenant Flues took the gun camera photos to the photo lab. The two F-86's had been at about 40,000 feet when the photos were taken and the 20-foot balloon was at about 70,000 feet. Andy's question to the photo lab was, "How big should a 20-foot balloon appear on a frame of 16-mm. movie film when the balloon is 30,000 feet away?"
The people in the photo lab made a few calculations and measurements and came up with the answer, "A 20-foot balloon photographed from 30,000 feet away would be the same size as the UFO in the gun camera photos."
By the middle of August, Project Blue Book was back to normal. Lieutenant Flues's Coca-Cola consumption had dropped from twenty bottles a day in mid-July to his normal five. We were all getting a good night's sleep and it was now a rare occasion when my home telephone would ring in the middle of the night to report a new UFO.
But then on the morning of August 20 I was happily taking a shower, getting ready to go to work, when one of these rare occasions occurred and the phone rang—it was the ATIC OD. An operational immediate wire had just come in for Blue Book. He had gone over to the message center and gotten it. He thought that it was important and wanted me to come right out. For some reason he didn't want to read it over the phone, although it was not classified. I decided that if he said so I should come out, so I left in a hurry.
The wire was from the intelligence officer at an air base in Florida. The previous night a scoutmaster and three boy scouts had seen a UFO. The scoutmaster had been burned when he approached too close to the UFO. The wire went on to give a few sketchy details and state that the scoutmaster was a "solid citizen."
I immediately put in a long-distance call to the intelligence officer. He confirmed the data in the wire. He had talked briefly to the scoutmaster on the phone and from all he could gather it was no hoax. The local police had been contacted and they verified the story and the fact of the burns. I asked the intelligence officer to contact the scoutmaster and ask if he would submit to a physical examination immediately. I could imagine the rumors that could start about the scoutmaster's condition, and I wanted proof. The report sounded good, so I told the intelligence officer I'd get down to see him as soon as possible.
I immediately called Colonel Dunn, then chief at ATIC, and gave him a brief rundown. He agreed that I should go down to Florida as soon as possible and offered to try to get an Air Force B-25, which would save time over the airlines.
I told Bob Olsson to borrow a Geiger counter at Wright Field, then check out a camera. I called my wife and asked her to pack a few clothes and bring them out to me. Bob got the equipment, ran home and packed a bag, and in two hours he and I and our two pilots, Captain Bill Hoey and Captain David Douglas, were on our way to Florida to investigate one of the weirdest UFO reports that I came up against.
When we arrived, the intelligence officer arranged for the scoutmaster to come out to the air base. The latter knew we were coming, so he arrived at the base in a few minutes. He was a very pleasant chap, in his early thirties, not at all talkative but apparently willing to co-operate.
While he was giving us a brief personal history, I had the immediate impression that he was telling the truth. He'd lived in Florida all of his life. He'd gone to a private military prep school, had some college, and then had joined the Marines. He told us that he had been in the Pacific most of the war and repeated some rather hairy stories of what he'd been through. After the war he'd worked as an auto mechanic, then gone to Georgia for a while to work in a turpentine plant. After returning to Florida, he opened a gas station, but some hard luck had forced him to sell out. He was now working as a clerk in a hardware store. Some months back a local church had decided to organize a boy scout troop and he had offered to be the scoutmaster.
On the night before the weekly scout meeting had broken up early. He said that he had offered to give four of the boys a ride home. He had let one of the boys out when the conversation turned to a stock car race that was to take place soon. They talked about the condition of the track. It had been raining frequently, and they wondered if the track was flooded, so they drove out to look at it. Then they started south toward a nearby town to take another of the boys home. They took a black-top road about 10 miles inland from the heavily traveled coastal highway that passes through sparsely settled areas of scrub pine and palmetto thickets.
They were riding along when the scoutmaster said that he noticed a light off to his left in the pines. He slowed down and asked the boys if they'd seen it; none of them had. He started to drive on, when he saw the lights again. This time all of the boys saw them too, so he stopped. He said that he wanted to go back into the woods to see what was going on, but that the boys were afraid to stay alone. Again he started to drive on, but in a few seconds decided he had to go back. So he turned the car around, went back, and parked beside the road at a point just opposite where he'd seen the lights.
I stopped him at this point to find out a little bit more about why he'd decided to go back. People normally didn't go running off into palmetto thickets infested with rattlesnakes at night. He had a logical answer. The lights looked like an airplane crashing into the woods some distance away. He didn't believe that was what he saw, but the thought that this could be a possibility bothered him. After all, he had said, he was a scoutmaster, and if somebody was in trouble, his conscience would have bothered him the rest of his life if he hadn't investigated and it had been somebody in need of help.
A fifteen-minute radio program had just started, and he told the boys that he was going to go into the woods, and that if he wasn't back by the time the program ended they should run down the road to a farmhouse that they had passed and get help. He got out and started directly into the woods, wearing a faded denim billed cap and carrying machete and two flashlights. One of the lights was a spare he carried in his back pocket.
He had traveled about 50 yards off the road when he ran into a palmetto thicket, so he stopped and looked for a clear path. But finding none, he started pushing his way through the waist-high tangle of brush.
When he stopped, he recalled later, he had first become aware of an odd odor. He couldn't exactly describe it to us, except to say that it was "sharp" or "pungent." It was very faint, actually more like a subconscious awareness at first. Another sensation he recalled after the incident was a very slight difference in temperature, hardly perceivable, like walking by a brick building in the evening after the sun has set. He hadn't thought anything about either the odor or the heat at the time but later, when they became important, he remembered them.
Paying no attention to these sensations then, he pushed on through the brush, looking up occasionally to check the north star, so that he could keep traveling straight east. After struggling through about 30 yards of palmetto undergrowth, he noticed a change in the shadows ahead of him and stopped to shine the flashlight farther ahead of him to find out if he was walking into a clearing or into one of the many ponds that dot that particular Florida area. It was a clearing.
The boy scouts in the car had been watching the scoutmaster's progress since they could see his light bobbing around. Occasionally he would shine it up at a tree or across the landscape for an instant, so they knew where he was in relation to the trees and thickets. They saw him stop at the edge of the open, shadowed area and shine his light ahead of him.
The scoutmaster then told us that when he stopped this second time he first became consciously aware of the odor and the heat. Both became much more noticeable as he stepped into the clearing. In fact, the heat became almost unbearable or, as he put it, "oppressively moist, making it hard to breathe."
He walked a few more paces and suddenly got a horrible feeling that somebody was watching him. He took another step, stopped, and looked up to find the north star. But he couldn't see the north star, or any stars. Then he suddenly saw that almost the whole sky was blanked out by a large dark shape about 30 feet above him.
He said that he had stood in this position for several seconds, or minutes—he didn't know how long—because now the feeling of being watched had overcome any power of reasoning he had. He managed to step back a few paces, and apparently got out from under the object, because he could see the edge of it silhouetted against the sky.
As he backed up, he said, the air became much cooler and fresher, helping him to think more clearly. He shone his light up at the edge of the object and got a quick but good look. It was circular-shaped and slightly concave on the bottom. The surface was smooth and a grayish color. He pointed to a gray linoleum-topped desk in the intelligence officer's room. "Just like that," he said. The upper part had a dome in the middle, like a turret. The edge of the saucer- shaped object was thick and had vanes spaced about every foot, like buckets on a turbine wheel. Between each vane was a small opening, like a nozzle.
The next reaction that the scoutmaster recalled was one of fury. He wanted to harm or destroy whatever it was that he saw. All he had was a machete, but he wanted to try to jump up and strike at whatever he was looking at. No sooner did he get this idea than he noticed the shadows on the turret change ever so slightly and heard a sound, "like the opening of a well-oiled safe door." He froze where he stood and noticed a small ball of red fire begin to drift toward him. As it floated down it expanded into a cloud of red mist. He dropped his fight and machete, and put his arms over his face. As the mist enveloped him, he passed out.
The boy scouts, in the car, estimated that their scoutmaster had been gone about five minutes when they saw him stop at the edge of the clearing, then walk on in. They saw him stop seconds later, hesitate a few more seconds, then shine the light up in the air. They thought he was just looking at the trees again. The next thing they said they saw was a big red ball of fire engulfing him. They saw him fall, so they spilled out of the car and took off down the road toward the farmhouse.
The farmer and his wife had a little difficulty getting the story out of the boys, they were so excited. All they could get was something about the boys' scoutmaster being in trouble down the road. The farmer called the Florida State Highway Patrol, who relayed the message to the county sheriff's office. In a few minutes a deputy sheriff and the local constable arrived. They picked up the scouts and drove to where their car was parked.
The scoutmaster had no idea of how long he had been unconscious. He vaguely remembered leaning against a tree, the feeling of wet, dew- covered grass, and suddenly regaining his consciousness. His first reaction was to get out to the highway, so he started to run. About halfway through the palmetto thicket he saw a car stop on the highway. He ran toward it and found the deputy and constable with the boys.
He was so excited he could hardly get his story told coherently. Later the deputy said that in all his years as a law-enforcement officer he had never seen anyone as scared as the scoutmaster was as he came up out of the ditch beside the road and walked into the glare of the headlights. As soon as he'd told his story, they all went back into the woods, picking their way around the palmetto thicket. The first thing they noticed was the flashlight, still burning, in a clump of grass. Next to it was a place where the grass was flattened down, as if a person had been lying there. They looked around for the extra light that the scoutmaster had been carrying, but it was gone. Later searches for this missing flashlight were equally fruitless. They marked the spot where the crushed grass was located and left. The constable took the boy scouts home and the scoutmaster followed the deputy to the sheriff's office. On the way to town the scoutmaster said he first noticed that his arms and face burned. When he arrived at the sheriff's office, he found that his arms, face, and cap were burned. The deputy called the Air Force.
There were six people listening to his story. Bob Olsson, the two pilots, the intelligence officer, his sergeant, and I. We each had previously agreed to pick one insignificant detail from the story and then re-question the scoutmaster when he had finished. Our theory was that if he had made up the story he would either repeat the details perfectly or not remember what he'd said. I'd used this many times before, and it was a good indicator of a lie. He passed the test with flying colors. His story sounded good to all of us.
We talked for about another hour, discussing the event and his background. He kept asking, "What did I see?"—evidently thinking that I knew. He said that the newspapers were after him, since the sheriff's office had inadvertently leaked the story, but that he had been stalling them off pending our arrival. I told him it was Air Force policy to allow people to say anything they wanted to about a UFO sighting. We had never muzzled anyone; it was his choice. With that, we thanked him, arranged to pick up the cap and machete to take back to Dayton, and sent him home in a staff car.
By this time it was getting late, but I wanted to talk to the flight surgeon who had examined the man that morning. The intelligence officer found him at the hospital and he said he would be right over. His report was very thorough. The only thing he could find out of the ordinary were minor burns on his arms and the back of his hands. There were also indications that the inside of his nostrils might be burned. The degree of burn could be compared to a light sunburn. The hair had also been singed, indicating a flash heat.
The flight surgeon had no idea how this specifically could have happened. It could have even been done with a cigarette lighter, and he took his lighter and singed a small area of his arm to demonstrate. He had been asked only to make a physical check, so that is what he'd done, but he did offer a suggestion. Check his Marine records; something didn't ring true. I didn't quite agree; the story sounded good to me.
The next morning my crew from ATIC, three people from the intelligence office, and the two law officers went out to where the incident had taken place. We found the spot where somebody had apparently been lying and the scoutmaster's path through the thicket. We checked the area with a Geiger counter, as a precautionary measure, not expecting to find anything; we didn't. We went over the area inch by inch, hoping to find a burned match with which a flare or fireworks could have been lighted, drippings from a flare, or anything that shouldn't have been in a deserted area of woods. We looked at the trees; they hadn't been hit by lightning. The blades of grass under which the UFO supposedly hovered were not burned. We found nothing to contradict the story. We took a few photos of the area and went back to town. On the way back we talked to the constable and the deputy. All they could do was to confirm what we'd heard.
We talked to the farmer and his wife, but they couldn't help. The few facts that the boy scouts had given them before they had a chance to talk to their scoutmaster correlated with his story. We talked to the scoutmaster's employer and some of his friends; he was a fine person. We questioned people who might have been in a position to also observe something; they saw nothing. The local citizens had a dozen theories, and we thoroughly checked each one.
He hadn't been struck by lightning. He hadn't run across a still. There was no indication that he'd surprised a gang of illegal turtle butcherers, smugglers, or bootleggers. There was no indication of marsh gas or swamp fire. The mysterious blue lights in the area turned out to be a farmer arc-welding at night. The other flying saucers were the landing lights of airplanes landing at a nearby airport.
To be very honest, we were trying to prove that this was a hoax, but were having absolutely no success. Every new lead we dug up pointed to the same thing, a true story.
We finished our work on a Friday night and planned to leave early Saturday morning. Bob Olsson and I planned to fly back on a commercial airliner, as the B-25 was grounded for maintenance. Just after dinner that night I got a call from the sheriff's office. It was from a deputy I had talked to, not the one who met the scoutmaster coming out of the woods, but another one, who had been very interested in the incident. He had been doing a little independent checking and found that our singed UFO observer's background was not as clean as he led one to believe. He had been booted out of the Marines after a few months for being AWOL and stealing an automobile, and had spent some time in a federal reformatory in Chillicothe, Ohio. The deputy pointed out that this fact alone meant nothing but that he thought I might be interested in it. I agreed.
The next morning, early, I was awakened by a phone call from the intelligence officer. The morning paper carried the UFO story on the front page. It quoted the scoutmaster as saying that "high brass" from Washington had questioned him late into the night. There was no "high brass," just four captains, a second lieutenant, and a sergeant. He knew we were from Dayton because we had discussed who we were and where we were stationed. The newspaper story went on to say that "he, the scoutmaster, and the Air Force knew what he'd seen but he couldn't tell—it would create a national panic." He'd also hired a press agent. I could understand the "high brass from the Pentagon" as literary license by the press, but this "national panic" pitch was too much. I had just about decided to give up on this incident and write it off as "Unknown" until this happened. From all appearances, our scoutmaster was going to make a fast buck on his experience. Just before leaving for Dayton, I called Major Dewey Fournet in the Pentagon and asked him to do some checking.
Monday morning the machete went to the materials lab at Wright- Patterson. The question we asked was, "Is there anything unusual about this machete? Is it magnetized? Is it radioactive? Has it been heated?" No knife was ever tested so thoroughly for so many things. As in using a Geiger counter to check the area over which the UFO had hovered in the Florida woods, our idea was to investigate every possible aspect of the sighting. They found nothing, just a plain, unmagnetized, unradioactive, unheated, common, everyday knife.
The cap was sent to a laboratory in Washington, D.C., along with the scoutmaster's story. Our question here was, "Does the cap in any way (burns, chemicals, etc.) substantiate or refute the story?"
I thought that we'd collected all the items that could be analyzed in a lab until somebody thought of one I'd missed, the most obvious of them all—soil and grass samples from under the spot where the UFO had hovered. We'd had samples, but in the last-minute rush to get back to Dayton they had been left in Florida. I called Florida and they were shipped to Dayton and turned over to an agronomy lab for analysis.
By the end of the week I received a report on our ex-Marine's military and reformatory records. They confirmed a few suspicions and added new facts. They were not complimentary. The discrepancy between what we'd heard about the scoutmaster while we were in Florida and the records was considered a major factor. I decided that we should go back to Florida and try to resolve this discrepancy.
Since it was hurricane season, we had to wait a few days, then sneak back between two hurricanes. We contacted a dozen people in the city where the scoutmaster lived. All of them had known him for some time. We traced him from his early boyhood to the time of the sighting. To be sure that the people we talked to were reliable, we checked on them. The specific things we found out cannot be told since they were given to us in confidence, but we were convinced that the whole incident was a hoax.
We didn't talk to the scoutmaster again but we did talk to all the boy scouts one night at their scout meeting, and they retold how they had seen their scoutmaster knocked down by the ball of fire. The night before, we had gone out to the area of the sighting and, under approximately the same lighting conditions as existed on the night of the sighting, had re-enacted the scene—especially the part where the boy scouts saw their scoutmaster fall, covered with red fire. We found that not even by standing on top of the car could you see a person silhouetted in the clearing where the scoutmaster supposedly fell. The rest of their stories fell apart to some extent too. They were not as positive of details as they had been previously.
When we returned to Dayton, the report on the cap had come back. The pattern of the scorch showed that the hat was flat when it was scorched, but the burned holes—the lab found some minute holes we had missed—had very probably been made by an electrical spark. This was all the lab could find.
During our previous visit we repeatedly asked the question, "Was the hat burned before you went into the woods?" and, "Had the cap been ironed?" We had received the same answers each time: "The hat was not burned because we [the boy scouts] were playing with it at the scout meeting and would have noticed the burns," and, "The cap was new; it had not been washed or ironed." It is rumored that the cap was never returned because it was proof of the authenticity of the sighting. The hat wasn't returned simply because the scoutmaster said that he didn't want it back. No secrets, no intrigue; it's as simple as that.
Everyone who was familiar with the incident, except a few people in the Pentagon, were convinced that this was a hoax until the lab called me about the grass samples we'd sent in. "How did the roots get charred?" Roots charred? I didn't even know what my caller was talking about. He explained that when they'd examined the grass they had knocked the dirt and sand off the roots of the grass clumps and found them charred. The blades of grass themselves were not damaged; they had never been heated, except on the extreme tips of the longer blades. These had evidently been bending over touching the ground and were also charred. The lab had duplicated the charring and had found that by placing live grass clumps in a pan of sand and dirt and heating it to about 300 degrees F. over a gas burner the charring could be duplicated. How it was actually done outside the lab they couldn't even guess.
As soon as we got the lab report, we checked a few possibilities ourselves. There were no hot underground springs to heat the earth, no chemicals in the soil, not a thing we found could explain it. The only way it could have been faked would have been to heat the earth from underneath to 300 degrees F., and how do you do this without using big and cumbersome equipment and disturbing the ground? You can't. Only a few people handled the grass specimens: the lab, the intelligence officer in Florida, and I. The lab wouldn't do it as a joke, then write an official report, and I didn't do it. This leaves the intelligence officer; I'm positive that he wouldn't do it. There may be a single answer everyone is overlooking, but as of now the charred grass roots from Florida are still a mystery.
Writing an official report on this incident was difficult. On one side of the ledger was a huge mass of circumstantial evidence very heavily weighted against the scoutmaster's story being true. On our second trip to Florida, Lieutenant Olsson and I heard story after story about the man's aptitude for dreaming up tall tales. One man told us, "If he told me the sun was shining, I'd look up to make sure." There were parts of his story and those of the boy scouts that didn't quite mesh. None of us ever believed the boy scouts were in on the hoax. They were undoubtedly so impressed by the story that they imagined a few things they didn't actually see. The scoutmaster's burns weren't proof of anything; the flight surgeon had duplicated these by burning his own arm with a cigarette lighter. But we didn't make step one in proving the incident to be a hoax. We thought up dozens of ways that the man could have set up the hoax but couldn't prove one.
In the scoutmaster's favor were the two pieces of physical evidence we couldn't explain, the holes burned in the cap and the charred grass roots.
The deputy sheriff who had first told me about the scoutmaster's Marine and prison record had also said, "Maybe this is the one time in his life he's telling the truth, but I doubt it."
So did we; we wrote off the incident as a hoax. The best hoax in UFO history.
Many people have asked why we didn't give the scoutmaster a lie detector test. We seriously considered it and consulted some experts in this field. They advised against it. In some definite types of cases the lie detector will not give valid results. This, they thought, was one of those cases. Had we done it and had he passed on the faulty results, the publicity would have been a headache.
There is one way to explain the charred grass roots, the burned cap, and a few other aspects of the incident. It's pure speculation; I don't believe that it is the answer, yet it is interesting. Since the blades of the grass were not damaged and the ground had not been disturbed, this one way is the only way (nobody has thought of any other way) the soil could have been heated. It could have been done by induction heating.
To quote from a section entitled "Induction Heating" from an electrical engineering textbook:
A rod of solid metal or any electrical conductor, when subjected to an alternating magnetic field, has electromotive forces set up in it. These electromotive forces cause what are known as "eddy currents." A rise in temperature results from "eddy currents."
Induction heating is a common method of melting metals in a foundry.
Replace the "rod of solid metal" mentioned above with damp sand, an electrical conductor, and assume that a something that was generating a powerful alternating magnetic field was hovering over the ground, and you can explain how the grass roots were charred. To get an alternating magnetic field, some type of electrical equipment was needed. Electricity—electrical sparks—the holes burned in the cap "by electric sparks."
UFO propulsion comes into the picture when one remembers Dr. Einstein's unified field theory, concerning the relationship between electro-magnetism and gravitation.
If this alternating magnetic field can heat metal, why didn't everything the scoutmaster had that was metal get hot enough to burn him? He had a flashlight, machete, coins in his pocket, etc. The answer—he wasn't under the UFO for more than a few seconds. He said that when he stopped to really look at it he had backed away from under it. He did feel some heat, possibly radiating from the ground.
To further pursue this line of speculation, the scoutmaster repeatedly mentioned the unusual odor near the UFO. He described it as being "sharp" or "pungent." Ozone gas is "sharp" or "pungent." To quote from a chemistry book, "Ozone is prepared by passing air between two plates which are charged at a high electrical potential." Electrical equipment again. Breathing too high a concentration of ozone gas will also cause you to lose consciousness.
I used to try out this induction heating theory on people to get their reaction. I tried it out one day on a scientist from Rand. He practically leaped at the idea. I laughed when I explained that I thought this theory just happened to tie together the unanswered aspects of the incident in Florida and was not the answer; he was slightly perturbed. "What do you want?" he said. "Does a UFO have to come in and land on your desk at ATIC?"
Digesting the Data
It was soon after we had written a finis to the Case of the Scoutmaster that I went into Washington to give another briefing on the latest UFO developments. Several reports had come in during early August that had been read with a good deal of interest in the military and other governmental agencies. By late August 1952 several groups in Washington were following the UFO situation very closely.
The sighting that had stirred everyone up came from Haneda AFB, now Tokyo International Airport, in Japan. Since the sighting came from outside the U.S., we couldn't go out and investigate it, but the intelligence officers in the Far East Air Force had done a good job, so we had the complete story of this startling account of an encounter with a UFO. Only a few minor questions had been unanswered, and a quick wire to FEAF brought back these missing data. Normally it took up to three months to get routine questions back and forth, but this time the exchange of wires took only a matter of hours.
Several months after the sighting I talked to one of the FEAF intelligence officers who had investigated it, and in his estimation it was one of the best to come out of the Far East.
The first people to see the UFO were two control tower operators who were walking across the ramp at the air base heading toward the tower to start the midnight shift. They were about a half hour early so they weren't in any big hurry to get up into the tower—at least not until they saw a large brilliant light off to the northeast over Tokyo Bay. They stopped to look at the light for a few seconds thinking that it might be an exceptionally brilliant star, but both men had spent many lonely nights in a control tower when they had nothing to look at except stars and they had never seen anything this bright before. Besides, the light was moving. The two men had lined it up with the corner of a hangar and could see that it was continually moving closer and drifting a little off to the right.
In a minute they had run across the ramp, up the several hundred steps to the tower, and were looking at the light through 7x50 binoculars. Both of the men, and the two tower operators whom they were relieving, got a good look at the UFO. The light was circular in shape and had a constant brilliance. It appeared to be the upper portion of a large, round, dark shape which was about four times the diameter of the light itself. As they watched, the UFO moved in closer, or at least it appeared to be getting closer because it became more distinct. When it moved in, the men could see a second and dimmer light on the lower edge of the dark, shadowy portion.
In a few minutes the UFO had moved off to the east, getting dimmer and dimmer as it disappeared. The four tower men kept watching the eastern sky, and suddenly the light began to reappear. It stayed in sight a few seconds, was gone again, and then for the third time it came back, heading toward the air base.
This time one of the tower operators picked up a microphone, called the pilot of a C-54 that was crossing Tokyo Bay, and asked if he could see the light. The pilot didn't see anything unusual.
At 11:45P.M., according to the logbook in the tower, one of the operators called a nearby radar site and asked if they had an unidentified target on their scopes. They did.
The FEAF intelligence officers who investigated the sighting made a special effort to try to find out if the radar's unidentified target and the light were the same object. They deduced that they were since, when the tower operators and the radar operators compared notes over the telephone, the light and the radar target were in the same location and were moving in the same direction.
For about five minutes the radar tracked the UFO as it cut back and forth across the central part of Tokyo Bay, sometimes traveling so slowly that it almost hovered and then speeding up to 300 miles an hour. All of this time the tower operators were watching the light through binoculars. Several times when the UFO approached the radar station—once it came within 10 miles—a radar operator went outside to find out if he could see the light but no one at the radar site ever saw it. Back at the air base the tower operators had called other people and they saw the light. Later on the tower man said that he had the distinct feeling that the light was highly directional, like a spotlight.
Some of the people who were watching thought that the UFO might be a lighted balloon; so, for the sake of comparison, a lighted weather balloon was released. But the light on the balloon was much more "yellowish" than the UFO and in a matter of seconds it had traveled far enough away that the light was no longer visible. This gave the observers a chance to compare the size of the balloon and the size of the dark, shadowy part of the UFO. Had the UFO been 10 miles away it would have been 50 feet in diameter.
Three minutes after midnight an F-94 scrambled from nearby Johnson AFB came into the area. The ground controller sent the F-94 south of Yokohama, up Tokyo Bay, and brought him in "behind" the UFO. The second that the ground controller had the F-94 pilot lined up and told him that he was in line for a radar run, the radar operator in the rear seat of the F-94 called out that he had a lock-on. His target was at 6,000 yards, 10 degrees to the right and 10 degrees below the F-94. The lock-on was held for ninety seconds as the ground controller watched both the UFO and the F-94 make a turn and come toward the ground radar site. Just as the target entered the "ground clutter"—the permanent and solid target near the radar station caused by the radar beam's striking the ground—the lock-on was broken. The target seemed to pull away swiftly from the jet interceptor. At almost this exact instant the tower operators reported that they had lost visual contact with the UFO. The tower called the F-94 and asked if they had seen anything visually during the chase—they hadn't. The F-94 crew stayed in the area ten or fifteen more minutes but couldn't see anything or pick up any more targets on their radar.
Soon after the F-94 left the area, both the ground radar and the tower operators picked up the UFO again. In about two minutes radar called the tower to say that their target had just "broken into three pieces" and that the three "pieces," spaced about a quarter of a mile apart, were leaving the area, going northeast. Seconds later tower operators lost sight of the light.
The FEAF intelligence officers had checked every possible angle but they could offer nothing to account for the sighting.
There were lots of opinions, weather targets for example, but once again the chances of a weather target's being in exactly the same direction as a bright star and having the star appear to move with the false radar target aren't too likely—to say the least. And then the same type of thing had happened twice before inside of a month's time, once in California and once in Michigan.
As one of the men at the briefing I gave said, "It's incredible, and I can't believe it, but those boys in FEAF are in a war—they're veterans—and by damn, I think they know what they're talking about when they say they've never seen anything like this before."
I could go into a long discourse on the possible explanations for this sighting; I heard many, but in the end there would be only one positive answer—the UFO could not be identified as something we knew about. It could have been an interplanetary spaceship. Many people thought this was the answer and were all for sticking their necks out and establishing a category of conclusions for UFO reports and labeling it spacecraft. But the majority ruled, and a UFO remained an unidentified flying object.
On my next trip to the Pentagon I spent the whole day talking to Major Dewey Fournet and two of his bosses, Colonel W. A. Adams and Colonel Weldon Smith, about the UFO subject in general. One of the things we talked about was a new approach to the UFO problem—that of trying to prove that the motion of a UFO as it flew through the air was intelligently controlled.
I don't know who would get credit for originating the idea of trying to analyze the motion of the UFO's. It was one of those kinds of ideas that are passed around, with everyone adding a few modifications. We'd been talking about making a study of this idea for a long time, but we hadn't had many reports to work with; but now, with the mass of data that we had accumulated in June and July and August, the prospects of such a study looked promising.
The basic aim of the study would be to learn whether the motion of the reported UFO's was random or ordered. Random motion is an unordered, helter-skelter motion very similar to a swarm of gnats or flies milling around. There is no apparent pattern or purpose to their flight paths. But take, for example, swallows flying around a chimney—they wheel, dart, and dip, but if you watch them closely, they have a definite pattern in their movements—an ordered motion. The definite pattern is intelligently controlled because they are catching bugs or getting in line to go down the chimney.
By the fall of 1952 we had a considerable number of well-documented reports in which the UFO's made a series of maneuvers. If we could prove that these maneuvers were not random, but ordered, it would be proof that the UFO's were things that were intelligently controlled.
During our discussion Major Fournet brought up two reports in which the UFO seemed to know what it was doing and wasn't just aimlessly darting around. One of these was the recent sighting from Haneda AFB, Japan, and the other was the incident that happened on the night of July 29, when an F-94 attempted to intercept a UFO over eastern Michigan. In both cases radar had established the track of the UFO.
In the Haneda Incident, according to the sketch of the UFO's track, each turn the UFO made was constant and the straight "legs" between the turns were about the same length. The sketch of the UFO's flight path as it moved back and forth over Tokyo Bay reminded me very much of the "crisscross" search patterns we used to fly during World War II when we were searching for the crew of a ditched airplane. The only time the UFO seriously deviated from this pattern was when the F- 94 got on its tail.
The Michigan sighting was even better, however. In this case there was a definite reason for every move that the UFO made. It made a 180- degree turn because the F-94 was closing on it head on. It alternately increased and decreased its speed, but every time it did this it was because the F-94 was closing in and it evidently put on speed to pull out ahead far enough to get out of range of the F-94's radar. To say that this motion was random and that it was just a coincidence that the UFO made the 180-degree turn when the F-94 closed in head on and that it was just a coincidence that the UFO speeded up every time the F-94 began to get within radar range is pushing the chance of coincidence pretty hard.
The idea of the motion analysis study sounded interesting to me, but we were so busy on Project Blue Book we didn't have time to do it. So Major Fournet offered to look into it further and I promised him all the help we could give him.
In the meantime my people in Project Blue Book were contacting various scientists in the U.S., and indirectly in Europe, telling them about our data, and collecting opinions. We did this in two ways. In the United States we briefed various scientific meetings and groups. To get the word to the other countries, we enlisted the gratis aid of scientists who were planning to attend conferences or meetings in Europe. We would brief these European-bound scientists on all of the aspects of the UFO problem so they could informally discuss the problem with their European colleagues.
The one thing about these briefings that never failed to amaze me, although it happened time and time again, was the interest in UFO's within scientific circles. As soon as the word spread that Project Blue Book was giving official briefings to groups with the proper security clearances, we had no trouble in getting scientists to swap free advice for a briefing. I might add that we briefed only groups who were engaged in government work and who had the proper security clearances solely because we could discuss any government project that might be of help to us in pinning down the UFO. Our briefings weren't just squeezed in either; in many instances we would arrive at a place to find that a whole day had been set aside to talk about UFO's. And never once did I meet anyone who laughed off the whole subject of flying saucers even though publicly these same people had jovially sloughed off the press with answers of "hallucinations," "absurd," or "a waste of time and money." They weren't wild-eyed fans but they were certainly interested.
Colonel S. H. Kirkland and I once spent a whole day briefing and talking to the Beacon Hill Group, the code name for a collection of some of the world's leading scientists and industrialists. This group, formed to consider and analyze the toughest of military problems, took a very serious interest in our project and gave much good advice. At Los Alamos and again at Sandia Base our briefings were given in auditoriums to standing room only crowds. In addition I gave my briefings at National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics laboratories, at Air Research and Development centers, at Office of Naval Research facilities and at the Air Force University. Then we briefed special groups of scientists.
Normally scientists are a cautious lot and stick close to proven facts, keeping their personal opinions confined to small groups of friends, but when they know that there is a sign on a door that says "Classified Briefing in Progress," inhibitions collapse like the theories that explain all the UFO's away. People say just what they think.
I could jazz up this part of the UFO story as so many other historians of the UFO have and say that Dr. So-and-So believes that the reported flying saucers are from outer space or that Dr. Whositz is firmly convinced that Mars is inhabited. I talked to plenty of Dr. So-and-So's who believed that flying saucers were real and who were absolutely convinced that other planets or bodies in the universe were inhabited, but we were looking for proven facts and not just personal opinions.
However, some of the questions we asked the scientists had to be answered by personal opinions because the exact answers didn't exist. When such questions came up, about all we could do was to try to get the largest and most representative cross section of personal opinions upon which to base our decisions. In this category of questions probably the most frequently discussed was the possibility that other celestial bodies in the universe were populated with intelligent beings. The exact answer to this is that no one knows. But the consensus was that it wouldn't be at all surprising.
All the briefings we were giving added to our work load because UFO reports were still coming in in record amounts. The lack of newspaper publicity after the Washington sightings had had some effect because the number of reports dropped from nearly 500 in July to 175 in August, but this was still far above the normal average of twenty to thirty reports a month.
September 1952 started out with a rush, and for a while it looked as if UFO sightings were on the upswing again. For some reason, we never could determine why, we suddenly began to get reports from all over the southeastern United States. Every morning, for about a week or two, we'd have a half dozen or so new reports. Georgia and Alabama led the field. Many of the reports came from people in the vicinity of the then new super-hush-hush Atomic Energy Commission facility at Savannah River, Georgia. And many were coming from the port city of Mobile, Alabama. Our first thought, when the reports began to pour in, was that the newspapers in these areas were possibly stirring things up with scare stories, but our newspaper clipping service covered the majority of the southern papers, and although we kept looking for publicity, none showed up. In fact, the papers only barely mentioned one or two of the sightings. As they came in, each of the sighting reports went through our identification process; they were checked against all balloon flights, aircraft flights, celestial bodies, and the MO file, but more than half of them came out as unknowns.
When the reports first began to come in, I had called the intelligence officers at all of the major military installations in the Southeast unsuccessfully trying to find out if they could shed any light on the cause of the sightings. One man, the man who was responsible for UFO reports made to Brookley AFB, just outside of Mobile, Alabama, took a dim view of all of the proceedings. "They're all nuts," he said.
About a week later his story changed. It seems that one night, about the fourth night in a row that UFO's had been reported near Mobile, this man and several of his assistants decided to try to see these famous UFO's; about 10:00P.M., the time that the UFO's were usually reported, they were gathered around the telephone in the man's office at Brookley AFB. Soon a report came in. The first question that the investigator who answered the phone asked was, "Can you still see it?"
The answer was "Yes," so the officer took off to see the UFO.
The same thing happened twice more, and two more officers left for different locations. The fourth time the phone rang the call was from the base radar station. They were picking up a UFO on radar, so the boss himself took off. He saw the UFO in air out over Mobile Bay and he saw the return of the UFO on the radarscope.
The next morning he called me at ATIC and for over an hour he told me what had happened. Never have I talked to four more ardent flying saucer believers.
We did quite a bit of work on the combination radar-visual sighting at Brookley. First of all, radar-visual sightings were the best type of UFO sightings we received. There are no explanations for how radar can pick up a UFO target that is being watched visually at the same time. Maybe I should have said there are no proven explanations on how this can happen, because, like everything else associated with the UFO, there was a theory. During the Washington National Sightings several people proposed the idea that the same temperature-inversion layer that was causing the radar beam to bend down and pick up a ground target was causing the target to appear to be in the air. They went on to say that we couldn't get a radar-visual sighting unless the ground target was a truck, car, house, or something else that was lighted and could be seen at a great distance. The second reason the Brookley AFB sighting was so interesting was that it knocked this theory cold.
The radar at Brookley AFB was so located that part of the area that it scanned was over Mobile Bay. It was in this area that the UFO was detected. We thought of the theory that the same inversion layer that bent the radar beam also caused the target to appear to be in the air, and we began to do a little checking. There was a slight inversion but, according to our calculations, it wasn't enough to affect the radar. More important was the fact that in the area where the target appeared there were no targets to pick up—let alone lighted targets. We checked and rechecked and found that at the time of the sighting there were no ships, buoys, or anything else that would give a radar return in the area of Mobile Bay in which we were interested.
Although this sighting wasn't as glamorous as some we had, it was highly significant because it was possible to show that the UFO couldn't have been a lighted surface target.
While we were investigating the sighting we talked to several electronics specialists about our radar-visual sightings. One of the most frequent comments we heard was, "Why do all of these radar- visual sightings occur at night?"
The answer was simple: they don't. On August 1, just before dawn, an ADC radar station outside of Yaak, Montana, on the extreme northern border of the United States, picked up a UFO. The report was very similar to the sighting at Brookley except it happened in the daylight and, instead of seeing a light, the crew at the radar station saw a "dark, cigar-shaped object" right where the radar had the UFO pinpointed.
What these people saw is a mystery to this day.
Late in September I made a trip out to Headquarters, ADC to brief General Chidlaw and his staff on the past few months' UFO activity.
Our plans for periodic briefings, which we had originally set up with ADC, had suffered a bit in the summer because we were all busy elsewhere. They were still giving us the fullest co-operation, but we hadn't been keeping them as thoroughly read in as we would have liked to. I'd finished the briefing and was eating lunch at the officers' club with Major Verne Sadowski, Project Blue Book's liaison officer in ADC Intelligence, and several other officers. I had a hunch that something was bothering these people. Then finally Major Sadowski said, "Look, Rupe, are you giving us the straight story on these UFO's?"
I thought he meant that I was trying to spice things up a little, so I said that since he had copies of most of our reports and had read them, he should know that I was giving them the facts straight across the board.
Then one of the other officers at the table cut in, "That's just the point, we do have the reports and we have read them. None of us can understand why Intelligence is so hesitant to accept the fact that something we just don't know about is flying around in our skies— unless you are trying to cover up something big."
Everyone at the table put in his ideas. One radar man said that he'd looked over several dozen radar reports and that his conclusion was that the UFO's couldn't be anything but interplanetary spaceships. He started to give his reasons when another radar man leaped into the conversation.
This man said that he'd read every radar report, too, and that there wasn't one that couldn't be explained as a weather phenomenon—even the radar-visual sightings. In fact, he wasn't even convinced that we had ever gotten such a thing as radar-visual sighting. He wanted to see proof that an object that was seen visually was the same object that the radar had picked up. Did we have it?
I got back into the discussion at this point with the answer. No, we didn't have proof if you want to get technical about the degree of proof needed. But we did have reports where the radar and visual bearings of the UFO coincided almost exactly. Then we had a few reports where airplanes had followed the UFO's and the maneuvers of the UFO that the pilot reported were the same as the maneuvers of the UFO that was being tracked by radar.
A lieutenant colonel who had been sitting quietly by interjected a well-chosen comment. "It seems the difficulty that Project Blue Book faces is what to accept and what not to accept as proof."
The colonel had hit the proverbial nail on its proverbial head.
Then he went on, "Everyone has a different idea of what proof really is. Some people think we should accept a new model of an airplane after only five or ten hours of flight testing. This is enough proof for them that the airplane will fly. But others wouldn't be happy unless it was flight-tested for five or ten years. These people have set an unreasonably high value on the word 'proof.' The answer is somewhere in between these two extremes."
But where is this point when it comes to UFO's?
There was about a thirty-second pause for thought after the colonel's little speech. Then someone asked, "What about these recent sightings at Mainbrace?"
In late September 1952 the NATO naval forces had held maneuvers off the coast of Europe; they were called Operation Mainbrace. Before they had started someone in the Pentagon had half seriously mentioned that Naval Intelligence should keep an eye open for UFO's, but no one really expected the UFO's to show up. Nevertheless, once again the UFO's were their old unpredictable selves—they were there.
On September 20, a U.S. newspaper reporter aboard an aircraft carrier in the North Sea was photographing a carrier take-off in color when he happened to look back down the flight deck and saw a group of pilots and flight deck crew watching something in the sky. He went back to look and there was a silver sphere moving across the sky just behind the fleet of ships. The object appeared to be large, plenty large enough to show up in a photo, so the reporter shot several pictures. They were developed right away and turned out to be excellent. He had gotten the superstructure of the carrier in each one and, judging by the size of the object in each successive photo, one could see that it was moving rapidly.
The intelligence officers aboard the carrier studied the photos. The object looked like a balloon. From its size it was apparent that if it were a balloon, it would have been launched from one of the ships, so the word went out on the TBS radio: "Who launched a balloon?"
The answer came back on the TBS: "Nobody."
Naval Intelligence double-checked, triple-checked and quadruple- checked every ship near the carrier but they could find no one who had launched the UFO.
We kept after the Navy. The pilots and the flight deck crew who saw the UFO had mixed feelings—some were sure that the UFO was a balloon while others were just as sure that it couldn't have been. It was traveling too fast, and although it resembled a balloon in some ways it was far from being identical to the hundreds of balloons that the crew had seen the aerologists launch.
We probably wouldn't have tried so hard to get a definite answer to the Mainbrace photos if it hadn't been for the events that took place during the rest of the operation, I explained to the group of ADC officers.
The day after the photos had been taken six RAF pilots flying a formation of jet fighters over the North Sea saw something coming from the direction of the Mainbrace fleet. It was a shiny, spherical object, and they couldn't recognize it as anything "friendly" so they took after it. But in a minute or two they lost it. When they neared their base, one of the pilots looked back and saw that the UFO was now following him. He turned but the UFO also turned, and again it outdistanced the Meteor in a matter of minutes.
Then on the third consecutive day a UFO showed up near the fleet, this time over Topcliffe Aerodrome in England. A pilot in a Meteor was scrambled and managed to get his jet fairly close to the UFO, close enough to see that the object was "round, silvery, and white" and seemed to "rotate around its vertical axis and sort of wobble." But before he could close in to get a really good look it was gone.
It was these sightings, I was told by an RAF exchange intelligence officer in the Pentagon, that caused the RAF to officially recognize the UFO.
By the time I'd finished telling about the Mainbrace Sightings, it was after the lunch hour in the club and we were getting some get-the- hell-out-of-here looks from the waiters, who wanted to clean up the dining room. But before I could suggest that we leave, Major Sadowski repeated his original question—the one that started the whole discussion—"Are you holding out on us?"
I gave him an unqualified "No." We wanted more positive proof, and until we had it, UFO's would remain unidentified flying objects and no more.
The horizontal shaking of heads illustrated some of the group's thinking.
We had plans for getting more positive proof, however, and I said that just as soon as we returned to Major Sadowski's office I'd tell them what we contemplated doing.
We moved out onto the sidewalk in front of the club and, after discussing a few more sightings, went back into the security area to Sadowski's office and I laid out our plans.
First of all, in November or December the U.S. was going to shoot the first H-bomb during Project Ivy. Although this was Top Secret at the time, it was about the most poorly kept secret in history— everybody seemed to know all about it. Some people in the Pentagon had the idea that there were beings, earthly or otherwise, who might be interested in our activities in the Pacific, as they seemed to be in Operation Mainbrace. Consequently Project Blue Book had been directed to get transportation to the test area to set up a reporting net, brief people on how to report, and analyze their reports on the spot.
Secondly, Project Blue Book was working on plans for an extensive system to track UFO's by instruments. Brigadier General Garland, who had been General Samford's Deputy Director for Production and who had been riding herd on the UFO project for General Samford, was now chief at ATIC, having replaced Colonel Dunn, who went to the Air War College. General Garland had long been in favor of trying to get some concrete information, either positive or negative, about the UFO's. This planned tracking system would replace the defraction grid cameras that were still being developed at ATIC.
Thirdly, as soon as we could we were planning to gather together a group of scientists and let them spend a full week or two studying the UFO problem.
When I left ADC, Major Sadowski and crew were satisfied that we weren't just sitting around twiddling our UFO reports.
During the fall of 1952 reports continued to drop off steadily. By December we were down to the normal average of thirty per month, with about 20 per cent of these falling into the "Unknown" category.
Our proposed trip to the Pacific to watch for UFO's during the H- bomb test was canceled at the last minute because we couldn't get space on an airplane. But the crews of Navy and Air Force security forces who did go out to the tests were thoroughly briefed to look for UFO's, and they were given the procedures on how to track and report them. Back at Dayton we stood by to make quick analysis of any reports that might come in—none came. Nothing that fell into the UFO category was seen during the entire Project Ivy series of atomic shots.
By December work on the planning phase of our instrumentation program was completed. During the two months we had been working on it we had considered everything from giving Ground Observer Corps spotters simple wooden tracking devices to building special radars and cameras. We had talked over our problems with the people at Wright Field who knew about missile-tracking equipment, and we had consulted the camera technicians at the Air Force Aerial Reconnaissance Laboratory. Astronomers explained their equipment and the techniques to use, and we went to Rome, New York, and Boston to enlist the aid of the people who develop the Air Force's electronic equipment.
Our final plan called for visual spotting stations to be established all over northern New Mexico. We'd picked this test location because northern New Mexico still consistently produced more reports than any other area in the U.S. These visual spotting stations would be equipped with a sighting device similar to a gun sight on a bomber. All the operator would have to do would be to follow the UFO with the tracking device, and the exact time and the UFO's azimuth and elevation angles would be automatically recorded. The visual spotting stations would all be tied together with an interphone system, so that as soon as the tracker at one station saw something he could alert the other spotters in the area. If two stations tracked the same object, we could immediately compute its speed and altitude.
This visual spotting net would be tied into the existing radar defense net in the Albuquerque-Los Alamos area. At each radar site we proposed that a long focal-length camera be synchronized to the turning radar antenna, so that any time the operator saw a target he could press a button and photograph the portion of the sky exactly where the radar said a UFO was located. These cameras would actually be astronomical telescopes, so that even the smallest light or object could be photographed.
In addition to this photography system we proposed that a number of sets of instruments be set out around the area. Each set would contain instruments to measure nuclear radiation, any disturbances in the earth's magnetic field, and the passage of a body that was giving off heat. The instruments would continually be sending their information to a central "UFO command post," which would also get reports directly from the radars and the visual spotting stations.
This instrumentation plan would cost about $250,000 because we planned to use as much surplus equipment as possible and tie it into existing communications systems, where they already existed. After the setup was established, it would cost about $25,000 a year to operate. At first glance this seemed like a lot of money, but when we figured out how much the UFO project had cost the Air Force in the past and how much it would probably cost in the future, the price didn't seem too bad—especially if we could solve the UFO problem once and for all.
The powers-that-be at ATIC O.K.'d the plan in December and it went to Washington, where it would have to be approved by General Samford before it went to ADC and then back to the Pentagon for higher Air Force official blessing. From all indications it looked as if we would get the necessary blessings.
But the majority of the effort at Project Blue Book during the fall of 1952 had gone toward collecting together all of the bits and pieces of data that we had accumulated over the past year and a half. We had sorted out the best of the "Unknowns" and made studies of certain aspects of the UFO problem, so that when we could assemble a panel of scientists to review the data we could give them the over- all picture, not just a basketful of parts.
Everyone who knew about the proposed panel meeting was eager to get started because everyone was interested in knowing what this panel would have to say. Although the group of scientists wouldn't be empowered to make the final decision, their recommendations were to go to the President if they decided that the UFO's were real. And any recommendations made by the group of names we planned to assemble would carry a lot of weight.
In the Pentagon and at ATIC book was being made on what their recommendations would be. When I put my money down, the odds were 5 to 3 in favor of the UFO.
The Radiation Story
The idea for gathering together a group of scientists, to whom we referred as our "panel of experts," had been conceived early in 1952— as soon as serious talk about the possibility that the UFO's might be interplanetary spaceships had taken hold in both military and scientific circles. In fact, when Project Grudge was reorganized in the summer of 1951 the idea had been mentioned, and this was the main reason that our charter had said we were to be only a fact-finding group. The people on previous UFO projects had gone off on tangents of speculation about the identity of the UFO's; they first declared that they were spacecraft, then later, in a complete about-face, they took the whole UFO problem as one big belly laugh. Both approaches had gotten the Air Force into trouble. Why they did this I don't know, because from the start we realized that no one at ATIC, in the Air Force, or in the whole military establishment was qualified to give a final yes or no answer to the UFO problem. Giving a final answer would require a serious decision—probably one of the most serious since the beginning of man.
During 1952 many highly qualified engineers and scientists had visited Project Blue Book and had spent a day or two going over our reports. Some were very much impressed with the reports—some had all the answers.
But all of the scientists who read our reports readily admitted that even though they may have thought that the reports did or did not indicate visitors from outer space, they would want to give the subject a good deal more study before they ever committed themselves in writing. Consequently the people's opinions, although they were valuable, didn't give us enough to base a decision upon. We still needed a group to study our material thoroughly and give us written conclusions and recommendations which could be sent to the President if necessary.
Our panel of experts was to consist of six or eight of the top scientists in the United States. We fully realized that even the Air Force didn't have enough "pull" just to ask all of these people to drop the important work they were engaged in and spend a week or two studying our reports. Nor did we want to do it this way; we wanted to be sure that we had something worth while before asking for their valuable time. So, working through other government agencies, we organized a preliminary review panel of four people. All of them were competent scientists and we knew their reputations were such that if they recommended that a certain top scientist sit on a panel to review our material he would do it.
In late November 1952 the preliminary review panel met at ATIC for three days.
When the meeting ended, the group unanimously recommended that a "higher court" be formed to review the case of the UFO. In an hour their recommendation was accepted by higher Air Force authorities, and the men proceeded to recommend the members for our proposed panel. They picked six men who had reputations as being both practical and theoretical scientists and who were known to have no biased opinions regarding the UFO's.
The meeting of the panel, which would be held in Washington, was tentatively scheduled for late December or early January—depending upon when all of the scientists who had been asked to attend would be free. At Project Blue Book activity went into high gear as we made preparations for the meeting. But before we were very far along our preparations were temporarily sidetracked—I got a lead on the facts behind a rumor. Normally we didn't pay attention to rumors, but this one was in a different class.
Ever since the Air Force had become interested in UFO reports, the comment of those who had been requested to look them over and give a professional opinion was that we lacked the type of data "you could get your teeth into." In even our best reports we had to rely upon what someone had seen. I'd been told many times that if we had even one piece of information that was substantiated by some kind of recorded proof—a set of cinetheodolite movies of a UFO, a spectrum photograph, or any other kind of instrumented data that one could sit down and study—we would have no difficulty getting almost any scientist in the world interested in actively helping us find the answer to the UFO riddle.
The rumor that caused me to temporarily halt our preparations for the high-level conference involved data that we might be able to get our teeth into.
This is the way it went.
In the fall of 1949, at some unspecified place in the United States, a group of scientists had set up equipment to measure background radiation, the small amount of harmless radiation that is always present in our atmosphere. This natural radiation varies to a certain degree, but will never increase by any appreciable amount unless there is a good reason.
According to the rumor, two of the scientists at the unnamed place were watching the equipment one day when, for no apparent reason, a sudden increase of radiation was indicated. The radiation remained high for a few seconds, then dropped back to normal. The increase over normal was not sufficient to be dangerous, but it definitely was unusual. All indications pointed to equipment malfunction as the most probable explanation. A quick check revealed no obvious trouble with the gear, and the two scientists were about to start a more detailed check when a third member of the radiation crew came rushing into the lab.
Before they could tell the newcomer about the unexplained radiation they had just picked up, he blurted out a story of his own. He had driven to a nearby town, and on his return trip, as he approached the research lab, something in the sky suddenly caught his eye. High in the cloudless blue he saw three silvery objects moving in a V formation. They appeared to be spherical in shape, but he wasn't sure. The first fact that had hit him was that the objects were traveling too fast to be conventional aircraft. He jammed on the brakes, stopped his car, and shut off the engine. No sound. All he could hear was the quiet whir of a generator in the research lab. In a few seconds the objects had disappeared from sight.
After the first two scientists had briefed their excited colleague on the unusual radiation they had detected, the three men asked each other the $64 question: Was there any connection between the two incidents? Had the UFO's caused the excessive radiation?
They checked the time. Knowing almost exactly when the instruments had registered the increased radiation, they checked on how long it took to drive to the lab from the point where the three silver objects had been seen. The times correlated within a minute or two. The three men proceeded to check their radiation equipment thoroughly. Nothing was wrong.
The rumor stopped here. Nothing that I or anyone else on Project Blue Book could find out shed any further light on the source of the story. People associated with projects similar to the research lab that was mentioned in the rumor were sought out and questioned. Many of them had heard the story, but no one could add any new details. The three unknown scientists, at the unnamed lab, in an unknown part of the United States, might as well never have existed. Maybe they hadn't.